What I have is a small lavender-and-bee gallery for you. My 26 lavender plants in the back garden are all blooming now, and the bees have arrived by the scores to drink from those flowers, and teucrium in the front. Mostly the teucrium – goodness, that stuff is popular! I’m glad I have two long hedges of it. But we’ll start in the back:
Those are new olive leaves with lavender in the background.
Now we’ll just meander out to the front yard…
I whittled my teucrium-crazy bees down to three favorites. That’s the best I could do!
The nuns at a nearby monastery harvest lavender every summer at various neighbors’ properties up in the hills and mostly at the end of long unpaved and/or winding roads. They had asked the young people from parishes in the area to help them today, and when some families had to back out at the last minute, several adults including me pitched in.
I had to get up before 5:00 to get fueled up and make the drive to arrive early enough for the sisters to give us a hearty breakfast. But even before that, we learned that Mother Anna who recently fell asleep in death had still not been buried, and we might go into the church and say good-bye to her. Mother Angelina was reading Psalms at the head of the casket when we went in; we all filed past and kissed the little icons that were next to her, and the Gospel. It was sweet to have this opportunity.
After breakfast and chatting we caravaned to the first and most scenic spot, where we picked from a big clump of lavender bushes stuck in a low spot among olive trees at a vineyard. We were given little scythes, which seem the perfect tool for any bush you want to grab hunks of and slice off, to shear it. I plan to get one for my own garden right away, so I can give a break to my finger joints.
As we were packing tools and water, and applying sunscreen and bug spray — the sisters said they had been “chewed up” by chiggers one year — Mother Tabitha was on the phone a lot trying to arrange for Mother Anna to be buried this afternoon.
One of the lavender friends, with the most to pick, cancelled our visit because they didn’t think their insurance covered children on the property, and they had seen a few rattlesnakes lately. But the monastery had already this season delivered 200 pounds of lavender flowers to the distiller, so they were not worried. Some of what we were tackling was past its prime and too dried out to use. We sheared it off anyway but put it in the discard pile.
We eventually filled the back of a pickup truck with the blooms. Bees were thicker on them in the truck than they had been in the field. The farmer lady gave us plums and peaches for a snack, and insisted that the sisters take buckets of dahlias and gladiolas for the burial of Mother Anna.
The second, smaller harvest was at a house that had barely missed destruction in the fires of 2017. Most of their lavender bushes, which had formerly lined the long driveway, had burned and not been replaced. To the south and to the north, close to the front and back of the house, were patches of blackened trees where the wildfire had swept through erratically.
Soon we were headed back to the monastery, hot and dusty, and again they fed us very well! But Mother Macrina drove the pickup load straight to the distiller, to have its essential oil extracted. The by-product hydrosol, the lavender water that is left over, they also use, to make sprays good for cleaning and dusting, and deodorizing. Next time I have a chance, I’ll buy some lavender products from them. And maybe tomorrow I’ll look at my own lavender bushes and see if they are ready to harvest!
The clouds were beautiful this morning,
perhaps mainly in their strangeness for midsummer,
but in themselves, too.
I saw a bird flying in the light shining through, and then it “flew away” and was gone. A few raindrops fell on my head, but soon all cleared and it was sunny and warm, the kind of summer day that brought a blanket of sleepiness to lay over me, and pretty much forced me to lie on my bed, to fall asleep after reading Wendell Berry.
But before that, I was in the garden pushing around among the leaves of the pole beans to discover that the Spanish Musica are getting big! They are flattish green beans. A friend and I ate raw the only two that seemed too big to leave hanging… but afterward I thought that perhaps I should have let them go a little longer, to see just how big they might get.
My bean project has become an international event, what with Oregon Blue Lakes, Spanish Musica, and now Japanese beetles arriving on the scene. 😦
I find it the hardest thing to be in the garden and not try to take more pictures of bees! I never think about the time it will take to sort and crop and organize all those shots… I will never be known for my clean floors, but maybe someone will appreciate my legacy of bee photos.
I kneeled on the walkway in front to get close to the humming action, and marveled at the number of bees working close together. They are camouflaged among the blooms that have faded, so in the photo below I zoomed in and circled the ones I could make out.
And here is a wider view of where I sat, between the hedges of germander that is the species Teucrium chamaedrys. If total strangers weren’t walking by to see me, I would be tempted to stretch out on the warm pavers to revel at leisure and more intimately in all the sweet and flowery humming!
In the back garden, they are at the lavender, yarrow, lambs ears…
And on the oregano!
When the bees are happy in my garden, I feel that at least something is right in the world, and I’m humbled to be a participant.
The day is done now, it’s actually cold, and dark. The honeymakers have stopped working for a few hours. I will sleep, too, and be glad to see you again tomorrow, my little bee friends.
Ann Ralph does make it seem easy. She is all about the backyard gardener being the one in control, managing the tree, and not letting it decide on its own how big to get.
If you didn’t have to climb a ladder to tend your fruit trees or pick the fruit, wouldn’t you find it simpler to keep up with the maintenance and to enjoy the harvest? Most of us don’t need bushels of fruit from one tree, so it’s good stewardship to reduce the quantity of fruit likely to go unused anyway.
I read her book in the fall, and wished I had known about it when we were choosing trees at the nursery two years ago, because you can make the most of this method if you start with a specimen that has a couple of lower-than-average limbs to begin with. Mine are not ideal that way, but I think I can still be the boss. I pruned my plum trees severely before Christmas; but at the summer solstice, according to her plan, they should get their second pruning. I did that a day late, this morning. It took me exactly 50 minutes – I know, because I had set my timer so I wouldn’t be late for an appointment.
I had reviewed the pertinent paragraphs right before I set to work, so as I walked around the tree and made some preliminary cuts, and circled around to the other side to look from that perspective, and on and on in that fashion, I had some phrases lingering in my mind to guide me and give me confidence:
If you see something that cries to be corrected or pruned away, prune it. As always, prune out limbs that annoy you. Picture the height of the tree you have in mind. Don’t allow the tree to get taller. As Scenic Nursery’s Jim Rogers would remind us, “insist.”
Limbs that annoy me? Well, yes, I did find a few of those, that were angled down, or toward the center of the tree; maybe there were a couple that just seemed a little pushy in the wrong direction and not beautiful…. Must we analyze every annoyance?
I wish I had taken a Before picture. In this After picture you can see I hadn’t really finished, because the clippings are lying all over. But I have just hired someone to help me in the garden on a continuing basis — my heart is dancing for joy about it — and will let him do that part (as well as trim the wisteria vines which are coming into the picture from above, hoping to twist on down into the tree).
In the foreground below are yarrow, lavender, and hummingbird mint, favorites of the birds and bees. The picture is taken from a different angle on the same tree. Both of these pictures make me wonder if I shaped my trees enough… those gangly limbs… I trimmed them less because they had the nice curve and direction I am encouraging. They are small and not getting out of hand, so I thought they could wait until the main pruning in winter.
I’m feeling so relieved and restful about the garden now that I’ve engaged my Helper Gardener, cleaned the greenhouse, and pruned the plums. I can think about tackling a few other categories of projects and tasks on my to-do list. And also, sit down in the garden with a book, listening to the hum of contented pollinators.