Archive | August 2012

Saturday Night

 

Even the nasty wasps up close show tremendous beauty.

 

Adaptations boggle the mind.

 

Look at the tip of this tongue!

My honeybees have opened up a whole new world for me. I don’t see too well close up without glasses for the past decade or so, and I let the joy of seeing tiny things slip away. Bees brought that back, and then some.

“Stand down!” she hollered at me…

la pièce de résistance

 

 

Saturday, August 25, morning

juniper detail

The week has flown by. The weeks fly by. Torrential but brief rain from the northeast last evening, after a gorgeous sunset, behind Grand Mesa, behind sheets of storm.

First beet harvest

This little pot of basil has given me three batches of pesto so far and shows no intention of slowing down. Bless its little heart.

The chocolate pepper I planted last summer overwintered in the sunroom, and, potted up this spring, has been bountiful. Rich chocolaty brown outside, the flesh is deep red and very tasty.

Not quite ripe yet, the other side of the chocolate pepper.

After doing everything possible to avoid it, the morning glory has finally started to climb the cat ladder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday in the Garden

Out the back door, winter sunroom plants thrive on the summer patio.

Morning Glory has finally started climbing the cat ladder, after growing into Cousin It.

Russian sage and blue mist spirea ‘Worcester Gold’, on a cool overcast morning.

Beeplant behind the Bombay Wall by the feeder tree.

The single leek proceeds to from fertile flower to seed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, August 12

Bee friends again!

They appear to have forgiven me. Perhaps they are simply drunk on Rocky Mountain beeplant, which thrives like a weed from recent rains. I kind of suspected the bees might be taking me on to the next level, but I didn’t expect the challenge would take quite this form. The beetastrophe has forced me to quiet the voices inside my head, and really hear the sounds outside. The buzzing of a single bee. I give this yard to the honeybees, a keystone species; indeed, a top predator as much as any mountain lion, tiger, or bear. Layers of flowers circle this chair.

Happy Bumblebee!

You can see the shadow of this bee’s tongue inserted into the flower.

 

 

Saturday, August 11, Appeased

Hard-earned honey (for me and the bees) and ripe tomatoes, summer’s bounty pours indoors.

The bees appear to be appeased. This morning I sat down at the pond with my tea and tried to find pleasure in the buzz again. They drink in the rushes near the chairs in the shade. It’s the first time in a week I’ve been able to relax outside, and even so every fly that landed on my toes made me flinch. As I walked in from the pond a bee buzzed straight at me and nearly flew into my ear, but that appeared to be a simple collision rather than an attack. The sort of thing I would not have even noticed before. I need to regain my confidence and composure with my bees, a little bit at a time. I sneaked a peek into their window, unprotected, and felt very brave. The hive looks as full this morning as it did last Saturday. Perhaps the Peaceable Kingdom is back.

Yum. Fresh tomatoes dressed with mayonnaise, chopped basil, cracked pepper, and Ume plum vinegar. So lovely to pull this out of the yard and serve it to a friend for dinner.

A long-eared owl on the fencepost along the driveway, sunset through haze from western fires.

Peach harvest! Birds conglomerated on the peach tree yesterday so I knew it was time. All the soft peaches had already fallen prey, so as with the apricots I picked every perfect fruit left, and left the rest. Every few hours another one is soft enough to eat.

Accidental Harvest. At dusk last night I went to move water and realized I hadn’t thinned carrots in awhile. Kaleidoscope Mix. Some are almost full size, and there are plenty still growing.

All washed in the colander, carrots looking for a recipe.

The temporary turtle left today on her first leg of a multi-stage journey to the Colorado Reptile Humane Society in Longmont. Thanks, Emily, for taking her to Colorado Springs, where she’ll hitch a ride with a CoRHS board member up to Boulder, and catch another ride on to the facility. There, she’ll be in a big outdoor pen with some other box turtles, and be able to burrow underground and hibernate for the winter, which she couldn’t do here. Apparently it’s against the law to release a once-captive reptile back into the wild; she could transmit a pathogen that could harm her wild kin. CoRHS has stringent requirements for people wanting to adopt, so if she does find another home it should be a good one. Kind of hard to say goodbye, but she’s going into good hands.

Beetastrophe!

A Sazerac at 626 Rood on Saturday night took a bit of the sting out of a traumatic hive opening Saturday morning. Picked up a friend at the airport and treated ourselves to a fancy meal, before coming home to deal with the aftermath of the morning’s beetrastrophe.

The yard looks entirely different to me when the bees are angry. The pervasive, comforting hum I’ve grown accustomed to has become an ominous, threatening buzz. For three days I couldn’t walk through the yard even to move a hose without an angry bee dive-bombing my head.

I had to suit up Saturday afternoon to water the potted patio plants, after we had opened the hive in the morning. I could appreciate that. Opening the hive was traumatic for everyone. The combs were crooked and not well attached to the bars, and we ended up having to remove three of them. Each one came out in sections, falling to the hive floor, dropping lots of honey, smothering bees. We filled three pots with pieces of dripping comb, trapped and dying bees, only later discovering a few sections with larvae. We had inadvertently removed some brood comb as well. No wonder they were so angry.

We scooped what we could from the hive floor, a mess of honey and honey-covered bees, but left plenty they’d have to clean up themselves. Joseph was matter-of-fact and calm, and so I was. It could have been worse. They were agitated as we did this operation, but not overly aggressive. Ideally, we would have taken one or two combs of capped honey, and they would have been hanging cleanly on the bars and come out easily, with minimal disruption to bee harmony.

Aftermath: we left pans of carnage and honey near the hive for a few hours so that what bees could would fly back into the hive.

We had the best intentions. Removing these combs in early August theoretically ensured that they did not get honey-locked and swarm out looking for a new home too soon before cold weather. It gave them space to rebuild and have a hive just full enough to provide thermal mass and food for winter. Had it gone well, I might have gone in another time or two to remove a comb before fall, keeping pace with their construction frenzy.

I removed every bee from each pan as quickly as I could, setting aside those still alive, sticky with honey, and putting them a dozen at a time in grass under a running sprinkler, hoping some would survive the rinsing.

By the time I got to the last bowl they had all died, along with some larvae. So sad! But the honey that emerged from the strainer was clear and good.

Know that it broke my heart to see these hundreds of bees drowned in their own gold. I kept a stiff upper lip and did what I had to do to salvage something good from the mess we made of harvesting, but I did not enjoy it.

Sunday morning a bee buzzed the head of my out-of-town guest, driving us inside from tea at the pond. That afternoon I got stung on the shoulder as soon as I started with the watering wand. Monday I was almost done, two pots left, when I was stung on the elbow. These two bees didn’t even threaten me. While another bee was distracting me, they each settled quietly, flattened onto my arm, and stung so subtly it took a second to realize what was happening.

This last sting felt inconsequential at the time, but overnight swelled into a big red knot with a quarter-sized white center, and I began to worry. What if I develop an allergy? Have I created a monster superorganism that will keep me locked inside all summer? Will they ever settle down, forgive me, let me be a peaceful bee guardian again? Can I ever again sit in a silk slip three feet from the hive with a friend drinking cocktails and marvel at their industry and beauty? Is there a standard time limit on their aggravation? Does saving wild bees really mean that much to me? Does honey?

Some of these questions matter more than others. I can live without sitting near the hive, but I can’t keep the bees if I develop an allergy to their stings. I made a substantial commitment, both emotionally and financially, to being a Bee Guardian. I believe in the philosophy, and I do like honey. I’ve been growing a wildlife habitat yard for almost twenty years, and I’m committed to providing birds, insects, and any animal in the vicinity who can benefit from my yard with  sanctuary in a human-dominated world that is increasingly hostile to wild life. I’ve made a haven for creatures of all species, and now my newest, most precious golden children have locked me in the tower, shut me out of the wild flowering, ripening landscape humming with life.

What to do?

Joseph suggested I go back in in a few days to see if they’re building straight comb, and straighten it if necessary, before they get too far along. He also suggested putting a full, capped comb from another hive midway to prevent the queen from laying brood comb too far back in the hive. I am currently inclined to leave them alone until spring, because I don’t want to go through another week under house arrest this summer. More company is coming, more weeds growing that must be pulled, more vegetables to harvest. I can’t afford more inside time.

“It’s a long-term relationship,” Joseph reminded me in a cloud of angry bees, after we’d closed up the hive on Saturday. Hmmm. I’ve never been very good at those. But I’ve been learning in recent years to let things go; I’ve been practicing forgiveness; I’ve formed a secret group of two, so far, whose motto is Love ‘em anyway. I can only hope the bees will do the same.

Both Joseph and Corwin Bell have shown me by example with bees, When in doubt, wait it out. So I will find plenty of projects to accomplish inside for the next few days, and sneak out periodically to slip unobtrusively along the paths moving hoses, and wear the damn bee suit to water the patio plants, and send the damn bees my loving intentions. I will juggle the fear that rises when I hear their buzzing close to me, with the investment I’ve made in their future, with the satisfaction I feel in those six small jars of golden honey on my kitchen counter, and the taste of it with toast and tea. In the words of Favorite Auntie, “We’ll know more later.”