Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wild Heart

Trout lilies and Ostrich fern fiddleheads.
Spring has found us at Wildermirth.

My garden is not nearly ready to be planted. I have a Reliance peach, a McLaughlin pear, an Illinois Everbearing Mulberry, a Witch Hazel and blackberry starts to put into the ground. I'm propagating my elderberry and moving most to the soggy bottom ground down-slope.

Last Thursday I became a student in the Maine Master Naturalist Program at UMF, and decided to return here to my blog, to record my adventures.

Five days into the program, I've been tramping more than I have in years. As I roam I've asked myself--why on earth haven't you explored more regularly-- and the only answer I've come up with is--for lack of good sense to don the proper clothing to keep me warm and dry.

It's one thing to dash out to the car in a snowstorm without shoes or sweater and another to set out on a brisk day to walk the fen in holey sneakers and a sleeveless shirt. Voluntary prolonged discomfort is an unnecessary trade-off. I'm now taking time to more properly equip myself, with the result, of course, that I've stayed out longer and noticed more of what is happening around me.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tenants or Robbers?

I lost both hives over the winter, and I'm still not sure why. It's the saddest thing to do a spring check and find them all dead. Both hives had plenty of honey still in the frames, and my bees hadn't vanished, their corpses lay on the bottom board. No sign of foulbrood or chalkbrood. I didn't think the mite load was that high, but I haven't been willing to treat them for mites, hoping to keep them strictly organically.

I went up to Oakland last night after work to meet with Kevin Fabian who keeps over 300 hives. I bought two nucs from him last year, (the two I lost over winter). I needed to talk with him about it and buy a new nuc. They're Carniolans, like last year. Good for Maine climate. Kev gave me a bit of a scolding for not treating the hives, which I knew was coming, and I said, "See--that's why I almost didn't tell you. I knew I was going to get this lecture." He said, "Hey, we've domesticated them. Just like cows. You're not going to let a cow go out and fend for herself. She'd never make it." So--he says use thymol in the fall after the honey harvest and I'm thinking about it. It won't affect the honey, and if it helps the bees--well, you got to figure it's like chemotherapy. Kill some to eliminate a parasite that would kill them all.

But back to March--after I'd made the crushing discovery that both hives had died, I didn't harvest the remaining honey, but ignored it. It was depressing to deal with, and the leftover honey was poor solace for my dead bees. Eventually grass started growing tall around the hive bodies, and, so Joe could mow, I moved both sets into the open stall where we'd kept the horses. I kept busy planting the garden and thus continued to put off harvesting honey while I planted.
The ground in and around the horse stall is full of well-rotted manure which I shovel into a wheelbarrow and ferry back to the garden continually. A couple days after moving my hives into the stall, I was not surprised to notice several honeybees buzzing round, moving in and out one of the hives--the one with the larger supply of honey. I say I was not surprised, because if you have an unprotected hive with easy access, you're going to have robbing. Robber bees will go half mad for a handout like this. I was just glad they'd got there before a pernicious gang of yellow jackets decided to move in. Ah well, I thought--I'll have to share the spoils with the robber bees and take whatever they've left me once I have more of the garden in. Let them have their fun.

From then on I was more cautious as I went about digging up the old manure. Robbers are known to be quite aggressive. Funny thing is, these girls acted like they hardly knew I was there, and I could see by their demeanor they weren't in a hurry to grab and get going the way robbers usually are. They were real laid back and casual, almost like they belonged there. That's when I got the idea that maybe the robbers weren't robbers, but new tenants. Late spring is the time of year when colonies that have outgrown their hives will create a new queen, split the colony in two and send out a swarm to look for roomier living quarters. It's how colonies reproduce.

So, I'm thinking with fingers crossed, it could be that I've lucked into a new colony via swarm.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Early Spring

The garlic is up. The spinach has sprouted. Collards and leeks have wintered over. Daffodils, grape hyacinth, scilla siberica and wild tulips are blooming. The sky is gray today; the windows are speckled with rain. It's a day to read and bake cookies.

I need to find a new home for our horses, Gwen and KJ.
Now that Cate isn't here to care for them, it's too much.
I haven't ridden since I broke my shoulder in a fall when KJ took off at a gallop just before the opening of Pirates of Penzance last fall. (I was afraid I'd have to dance in a sling.)

I'm living alone now, and am happy to be so. To everything there is a season.
I have been reading a lot of contemporary Nigerian fiction in preparation for my trip in Septemeber. My Anthony is due to come home mid June, and I can't wait to see him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Resurrection for Christmas

I hope this Christmas finds you healthy and happy. I am both. Joe and I continue together slowly renovating the little farmhouse, enlarging and cultivating the gardens, planting trees, building a stone fence. We’ve winnowed our livestock down to two horses, several laying hens and a rooster.

Although it feels lonely this Christmas with both Cate and Anthony in South Dakota, I've decorated my homestead with a candle in each window, fir boughs and bows in the window boxes and an enormous wreath in front of the picture window. I have been making Christmas cookies, so many, that I am getting fat.

I was able to visit Anthony in Rapid City in November to see him perform the role of “Grandpa” in You Can’t Take It With You. Lionel Barrymore couldn’t hold a candle to him. I met his friends and teachers, and the whole time there I was filled with such happiness and pride. He’s doing well academically, socially and athletically. But most of all I am proud because he’s becoming a thoughtful young man of integrity, kindness and determination. Catie flew out to SD with me to spend time with her dad, brother, sister, Alia, and Staci, Alia’s mom. Cate has taken a leave of absence from Mount Holyoke while she sorts out many things that are troubling her. It is good for her to be surrounded by the love of her SD family. She plans to return to Maine in January, and has said she’d like to return to MHC in the fall of 2011. If you remember how hard growing up can be, say a prayer for her today.

A few nights ago I watched the film, “Precious,” and I thought about how invisible most of us are to one another. We make assumptions and are dismissive of one another. I think we work to avoid relationships. For me, I sometimes don’t want to be bothered. I’m afraid the other person, if I get to know him or her, will start asking things of me, will drain my time and resources, will expect too much. This has happened. If I open myself to others, it will assuredly happen again. There are many people seeking answers, wanting to be rescued, needing to be angry and to blame, hurting.

The temptation is to withdraw into myself, into a dry comfortable cave lined with books, to greet the sunshine, grow fruit and flowers and when it rains, stay indoors making pies.
But there, when the pies are done, will it just be me to taste them? When the seedlings emerge, with whom will I share the joy? I will want to go for a walk, and on that walk, I will meet people, sentient as I, bewildering. We can wander together or simply say hello and part.

What I forget when I seek to avoid relationships is that the other always brings something too, gifts--of insight, sensation, shared emotion, comfort, many unnamed or unnameable. Even the most needy, and scared, scarred souls have gifts to share, though they may not know it. So I will try to keep a heart more open to those who pass my way. I will work to recognize when I am on the verge of a dismissive shrug, a cursory opinion, a snotty look, a judgment, and I will smile and offer a hand if there’s something I can do. I will also know that time alone is essential and nourishing, that it will enrich my soul and reconnect me to the Source of all Life and Goodness, and will allow myself, without guilt, to go away.

May you be blessed, as the Light returns, may it shine warmly and nurture you.