Tag Archive | lilacs

Spring Feeding Frenzy

 

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Through the crabapple tree, Eurasian collared doves perch in the old feeder tree, with the West Elk Mountains beyond still white with recent snow.  

The first of these exotic (read invasive) birds arrived in Colorado in the mid-nineties, and twenty years later they now inhabit all 64 counties, with a recent Christmas Bird Count total of almost 20,000 individuals. Purist birders despair, hunters revel, and me, I just think about how fast our world is changing, how many species are going extinct, how arbitrary some of our values are, and how glad I am to have any doves at all in my yard. I don’t feel as tolerant of invasive exotic plant species, however, like cheatgrass, whitetop, tumbleweed… that list goes on and on, and is the bane of any gardener’s existence.

May just may be the sweetest month here. Mountain bluebirds perch on fenceposts, swooping on grasshoppers; house finches nesting in the gutter over the front door fledge in the dead juniper, and magpie babies squawk from their high nest north of the house. From inside yesterday I watched a fragile house wren flap its new wings like a butterfly, and got outside just in time to see the last one leave the nest in the adobe wall. Black-chinned hummingbirds court and feed in the yard. A large black and yellow bumblebee as big as my whole thumb circles the lilacs and leaves, a small fast hawk flaps and glides across the flat bright sky on this unusually cloudy humid day with no chance of rain.

It looks like I’ll have peaches and apples this year, as those trees transition from bloom to fruit. The mingled scents of newly flowering trees waft through the yard and into the house through open doors. I’ve stood with my face in the crabapple tree inhaling deeply, watching bees, who scatter if I exhale without turning my head away. Honeybees don’t like carbon dioxide, and who can blame them.

I can capture all the photographs and video and audio I could store and more, and never capture the scent of these flowering trees, this luscious pink crabapple, this effulgent lilac, or last month the almond tree at night. The fragrance seems to pulse, as though the trees themselves inhale and exhale at their own extended respiratory rate, slower than we notice, mostly. Certain times of days the bees will flock to one or another.  

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The crabapple has never been more beautiful than it is this year, and never had more bees.

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Possibly Bombus griseocollis, the brown-belted bumblebee.

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For a few days this ornamental plum shrub was full of bees and other bugs.

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Get your nose out of our business! cried the little bugs to the honeybee, all pollinating the apple tree.

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A tiny sweat bee drunk in a tulip cup.

My bumblebee anxiety has dissolved even further this past week, with scores of them on NepetaAjuga, and the mind-bending lilac, another tree that’s never been more full of flower and fragrance. I sit with it an hour a day all told this time of year if I can, breathing its cleansing, intoxicating scent. So moved by its power over me, I sought lilac essential oil online with mixed and disappointing results. Many sources say essential oil can’t be derived from lilac for various reasons, and there are many brands of lilac ‘fragrance’ oil for sale, but I did find a few sites with directions for infusing lilac flowers in oil or water.

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This is me, these days, wallowing in lilac like this Bombus huntii.

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Fat red Anthophora bomboides, or digger bee, and below, a moth.

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So I’ve ordered a bottle of grapeseed oil, and trust the deep purple lilacs on the north side of the lilac patch will be in perfect bloom by the time it arrives. Meanwhile, I’ll make lilac scones again this weekend. Last year Chef Gabrielle and I candied lilac flowers, and that was a lot of work for a lovely but minuscule result. The lilac scones provided much more gratification for significantly less work. The lilac, by the way, is also a non-native species, though not aggressive enough to be considered a weed…

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In other spring food news, I’m set for the next few weeks for my greens intake. I made a dandelion smoothie for breakfast the other day, with apple, flaxseed, nuts, yogurt, blueberries, and ginger root. Yum! There’s a nearly infinite supply of dandelions to share with the bees, and Biko the tortoise who relishes both flowers and leaves.

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Wild asparagus from along the neighbors’ driveway, and a secret place in the woods, chopped small for Cream of Asparagus soup: vegetable stock, sautéed onion, asparagus, and fresh cow’s milk blended with a dash each of salt, pepper, and homemade paprika, garnished with a dab of yogurt mixed with parmesan cheese and lemon zest, topped with nutmeg. 

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the Merry Month of May

Before.

Before.

One thing Katrina taught me last year is that no matter how hard it is, it’s essential to cut back your flowers early so they’ll double and triple their blooms as they grow. It’s so hard to snip those little blips of color when you pot up the annuals, but trust me ~ trust Katrina ~ you’ll be glad you did.

After. The same pot trimmed of flowers, with an Early Girl tomato behind it in a wall-of-water; again, hedging my bets.

After. The same pot trimmed of flowers, with an Early Girl tomato behind it in a wall-of-water; hedging my bets.

After After. Don't despair. Clipping back the blossoms isn't a total loss.

After After. Don’t despair. Clipping back the blossoms isn’t a total loss.

Another pot whose blossoms contributed to the vase. After a feeding and a few weeks its flowers will be spilling over.

Another pot whose blossoms contributed to the vase. After a feeding and a few weeks its flowers will flourish.

The Fuji apple. All the apples are in bloom except the wild one, which has finished and is already leafing out. Tomorrow's predicted snow and two sub-freezing nights may do them in. I've got my fingers crossed.

The Fuji apple. All the apples are in bloom except the wild one, which has finished and is already leafing out. Tomorrow’s predicted snow and two sub-freezing nights may do them in. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

I bought a little blue tractor from Gardeners' Supply for a well-spent ninety dollars. No motor, but I can scoot along the paths sideways, sitting and weeding. After two years of consideration I finally ordered it, and assembled it, when I was hobbled a few weeks ago by plantar fasciitis.

I bought a little blue tractor from Gardeners’ Supply for a well-spent ninety dollars. No motor, but I can scoot along the paths sideways, sitting and weeding. After two years of consideration I finally ordered it, and assembled it, when I was hobbled a few weeks ago by plantar fasciitis.

The Bombay Wall and the crabapple in glorious bloom.

The Bombay Wall and the crabapple in glorious bloom.

The birch tree leafing out to shade the beehive, with grape hyacinths still in full bloom. Joseph left a message yesterday telling me he just caught a swarm, suggesting my hive could swarm any minute, wondering if I was out catching one right now. Such a thoughtful call; I wasn't, but I think the bees have been out scouting for awhile now. If in fact they did choose me this is why: I am going to let them fly.

The birch tree leafing out to shade the beehive, with grape hyacinths still in full bloom. Joseph left a message yesterday telling me he just caught a swarm, suggesting my hive could swarm any minute, wondering if I was out catching one right now. Such a thoughtful call; I wasn’t, but I think the bees have been out scouting for awhile now. If in fact they did choose me this is why: I am going to let them fly.

The delicate scent of lilacs held in limbo ~ they started to open in last week's warm weather, and seem to have stopped themselves the past few days of lingering winter.

The delicate scent of lilacs held in limbo ~ they started to open in last week’s warm weather, and seem to have stopped themselves the past few days of lingering winter.

Last year's self-sown lettuce (clipped back yesterday) spilled over the corner of the bed where yesterday I planted two types of carrots.

Last year’s self-sown lettuce (clipped back yesterday) spilled over the corner of the bed where yesterday I planted two types of carrots.

Fall-planted spinach and cilantro interspersed with feral garlic and two winter squashes I put in the tunnel a few days ago, hoping they'll withstand the next few freezing nights and get a good head start for summer.

Fall-planted spinach and cilantro interspersed with feral garlic and two winter squashes I put in the tunnel a few days ago, hoping they’ll withstand the next few freezing nights and get a good head start for summer.

Digging into the south border to plant a new little silver thyme I uncovered this chrysalis. Or casement. Bigger than my pinkie finger. So huge and unexpected I thought it might have been a stray seashell accidentally buried in the garden, I gently squeezed it. When it gave slightly, I dropped it back into the dirt. I hope it's not a giant green tomato worm waiting to hatch.

Digging into the south border to plant a new little silver thyme I uncovered this chrysalis. Or casement. Bigger than my pinkie finger. So huge and unexpected I thought it might have been a stray seashell accidentally buried in the garden, I gently squeezed it. When it gave slightly, I dropped it back into the dirt. I hope it’s not a giant green tomato worm waiting to hatch.

Mountains shrouded in winter mist and freshly weeded flagstone, with the sweet young aspen sapling in spring green.

Mountains shrouded in winter mist and freshly weeded flagstone, with the sweet young aspen sapling in spring green.

Dog and hose.

Dog and hose.

Stellar the Stardog is a hopeless lounge lizard. Seriously.

Stellar the Stardog is a hopeless lounge lizard. Seriously.

Bling on my big toe.

Big toe bling. Fresh happy nails for summer.

“How many cats do you have?” asked Andy, the young Vietnamese man massaging my calf before polishing my toenails. He was looking at the various hairs on my pants. Deb treated me to a mani-pedi when I accompanied her to Montrose for a dentist appointment.

“Just one,” I said, “and two dogs.” I realized with a slight shock as we waited our turn and I observed the shining shins of the women already underway that I hadn’t shaved my legs since last summer. “All this,” I added, sweeping my hand up my calf, “is also hair from the cat, all stuck on my legs.” I shrieked as he cleaned one of my nails. “Baby guts,” said Deb. I doubt she’ll ever take me out for a spa day again.

“You want cheese grater?” he asked, and scraped and scraped at my calloused heels. “I’m a gardener,” I explained. “You want flower?” he said, after he’d painted my nails red. I have only had a few pedicures in my life, and never a professional manicure, and never ever painted flowers on my nails. “Sure,” I said. You can’t have too many flowers. A tiny work of art is what he did, with a drop of white polish, a toothpick, and a little bead.

With all I’ve had on my mind lately ~ this inexplicable dizziness, a new foot pain, the flush of lush spring weeds and bad grasses, and peer pressure to exterminate prairie dogs ~ this little indulgence brings a jolt of joy each time I look down in bare feet.

 

“Beauty is not optional. Art is not something peripheral, but literally a strategy for survival.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams