Tag Archive | pollinators

Are Dahlias Worth the Trouble?

You decide.

It seems like a lot of trouble to dig them up in the fall and store them through winter, a necessity in this climate, but to me the rewards are great once they start to bloom.

The best way I’ve found to overwinter dahlias is to leave them in a pot of dirt and cut them back, (or dig them out of a bed and plant shallowly, even in layers, in dirt in a pot), and bring them into the cool mudroom, then cover it lightly with something so no light gets in. I lift the cardboard, or other pot, or whatever I have on top, periodically to make sure it’s not getting moist or moldy. In spring, I pull the pot or pots out and either just begin watering them, or dig up the dahlias and replant them in the garden.

All manner of bees and other insects find ample delight in them when they bloom, which makes it all worthwhile to me. With regular deadheading, they provide a long season of fabulous color and rich pollinator provisions.

Coreopsis, above, is an abundant self-sowing perennial and a great source for all kinds of pollinators. Though I have not the luck of some whose snapdragons self-sow, it’s worth buying a few four-packs each spring to feed the bumblebees!

This year, cilantro has gone wild in my raised vegetable beds, and flowering now hosts tiny wasps and flies as well as some bees. Its lacy flowers interspersed with the vegetables and other blossoms looks lovely, and its precious white buds resemble the green coriander seeds they morph into. This year, I snipped most leaves off the plants just as their stalks began, chopped them in the blender with a smidge of water, and packed them into an ice tray. Now I have a tablespoon of ‘fresh’ cilantro whenever I need it for the kitchen.

Out in the woods, deep in the canyon, we discovered a turkey vulture nest last week. At first sight, these two chicks still had luxurious white ruffs around their necks descending well down their breasts. Since last Thursday, most of this down has transformed into mature feathers. Rumor has it that they are not common nesters in Colorado, though I can’t imagine why not, so I feel lucky to have found a nest in my canyon. It’s not a nest in the sense we generally think of: their mother laid her eggs behind a big rock in this pile.

Western tiger swallowtails are not as common this summer as they were ~ was it just last summer? ~ but still I see one or two a day. This tired butterfly straggled into a hanging basket, and then sought respite on the painting that hangs on my east wall. Recently unearthed from storage, this fanciful creation was painted by my brother when he was an early teen, and even then captured my love for the wild world. I’ve finally found the perfect location for it.

Beenundrum…

The first crocuses opened this morning, bereft of bees.

The first crocuses opened this morning, bereft of bees.

One day a month or so ago I saw bees flying in and out of the hive. It was very early, some time in January, but it was a warm day. I was a little surprised but had enough else on my mind that I didn’t pay attention to it other than to pause a moment to watch them. There weren’t a great many, which made sense for the time of year. I wish now I’d watched longer, paid close attention to what they were doing, where they were going, if they were only bringing carcasses out of the hive or were flying for water or what. I may have been in the midst of the Raven crisis, or it might have been even earlier, in December. It struck me as only a little odd, and easily explained by climate change (or just weather). I failed to write it down.

Then it was cold again for awhile. And then it was warm again. Early last week the eerie absence of bees came over me like a chill when I suddenly realized it was warm enough for them to be out. We were just days away from crocus blooms, and I’d heard the occasional bee buzz by during the week before. I went to the hive with foreboding. Sure enough, dead silence. I unhooked the insulating panels and looked in the window. No bees.

In the doorway, a couple of dead bees. I pulled them out and more dead bees fell into the doorway. I scooped out three or four spoonfuls with a twig, until they stopped coming. I did what I always do with a shock: acknowledged it and moved on to something else, set it aside until I could pull together the wherewithal to face it. In this case that meant, in addition to emotional fortitude and another pair of hands, a big chunk of time free of other obligations and demands, uncluttered and scrubbed kitchen counters and sinks, and a collection of sieves and containers.

I anticipated a large honey haul, one silver lining in this bee tragedy. Another was a sense of relief. Maybe there are just those two, maybe I’ll come up with more as this loss unfolds. I’ve not been in right relationship with these bees since the beetastrophe at the end of their first summer here. I fucked it up. I learned a lot from that, and I’ve learned a lot more investigating this beenundrum.

So far the honey haul hasn’t materialized, and the relief has darkened with sorrow. The only comfort I can take is that in the fall, before I hooked on the insulating panels, I could see there were far fewer bees in the hive than there had been going into the preceding two winters. They must have swarmed sometime during the summer and I missed it. I wasn’t outside as much as usual. I was away five days in September. It could have happened any time.

All along in this adventure my primary reason for keeping the hive has been to provide habitat for bees, a garden for them to feed in and a home base for them to swarm from, intending that they would spread out from here, colonize the canyon, some of the hollow trees in the woods. In short, especially since the beetastrophe, I have regarded my hive as a conduit for the propagation of this superorganism rather than as a honey source for me. So if they swarmed at least once they’re on their way.

We used the hive tool to scrape propolis and separate the false back and the first bar.

We used the hive tool to scrape propolis and separate the false back and the first bar.

Deb and I opened the hive on Sunday afternoon. The lid was sticky with a big wad of propolis in one back corner, but there was nothing trapped within it to suggest an invader. The bars were tightly sealed together and to the hive frame with propolis as well, and a good comb had been started on the back of the false back. It took forever to get the back off and the first bar separated, and when I lifted it out it was solid honey, and I mean solid. It had all crystallized, like maple sugar candy only honey instead. It was delicious.

Clean empty comb on the back side of the false back. Hmmm.

Clean empty comb on the back side of the false back. Hmmm.

The first bar of honey was SO heavy, and even the comb had been crystallized. Eating a mouthful yielded only a tiny bit of wax.

The first bar of honey was SO heavy, and even the comb had been crystallized. Eating a mouthful yielded only a tiny bit of wax.

We worked apart the next three bars one at a time, a tedious sticky task, and the scene became macabre. Dead bees littered the floor, and clung scattered to the combs in various positions as though frozen, some emerging from the combs, some heads in; some with an arm raised or tongue out, wings open or closed. As we worked, a lone honeybee sipped from the exposed comb oblivious to us. This was heartening; at least there are some bees in the yard from somewhere.

Small and large blackish patches showed on the walls and the floor and we wondered if they were mold. As we pulled each bar we scooped dead bees off the floor. Those next three combs each had a lot of capped honey and a little bit of empty comb. Much of the capped comb looked greyer than I thought it should, and we wondered if that was mold, but when I sliced off the caps the honey inside looked clear and dark and perfect.

A robber bee from somewhere else drinks from exposed comb as we work.

A robber bee from somewhere else drinks from exposed comb as we work.

We see dead bees on the floor after we've removed the first two bars.

We see dead bees on the floor after we’ve removed the first two bars.

Three bars full, heading for the kitchen to see what we can salvage.

Three bars full, heading for the kitchen to see what we can salvage.

Slicing off the caps reveals clear dark honey inside the cells.

Slicing off the caps reveals clear dark honey inside the cells.

I decided the honey was clean and the caps look grey just because the honey is so dark and distilled; these back combs must be two years old. I didn’t open the hive last spring because I was dizzy, and never quite had the confidence or energy to tackle that task. I have only harvested honey twice, and the first time was the beetastrophe. The second time, with the bee doctor here, went well. We pulled three combs that were golden and full, but only about half the honey had been capped; the rest were cells that were half-full of half-formed honey, more like thick nectar. So I don’t really know what fully capped honey should look like especially if it’s been there awhile, or what range of colors is normal for healthy comb.

Sunday evening I cut and sliced and tried to chop two of the combs into pieces to strain through a screen colander into a stainless steel bowl. Much of it was crystallized or so thick it just wouldn’t drip from the comb. The next day I tried the the third comb in a stainless colander with bigger holes, and it still drained sluggishly. I put both bowls in the sunroom, and warming the comb helped it drain better. Still, for all the pounds of honey in those combs precious little fell through to the bowls.

Moving toward the front two bars at a time the dead bees on the floor become thicker.

Moving toward the front two bars at a time the dead bees on the floor become thicker.

Frozen in time.

Frozen in time.

Dark old comb near the nest holds more dead bees, and what are those weird nipple-like things in the caps on the top right?

Dark old comb near the nest holds more dead bees, and what are those weird nipple-like things in the caps on the top right?

As we proceeded pulling bars the next afternoon, the honey caps continued to look grey, and most of the empty comb darker and darker brown the farther forward we got. That made sense; this was the original brood comb, yet parts of these combs were also full of honey.

Another couple of bees flew in from somewhere to scavenge with us. We found more black stains on walls and floor, more dead bees on the combs, and more and more on the floor. In the front corner where they clustered there was a mound just behind the door. I slid all the full bars toward the back and we scooped out the dead bees, then I put fresh bars in the front of the hive and we closed it back up temporarily.

The rest of the honey salvage operation will have to wait until I process the three combs we pulled Monday, and I’m still puzzling over the best way to do that. Will it all be as thick as the first three combs? Should I try to cut off all the caps or just mash the comb? And where in hell did I put my honey-straining kit that I spent good money on and saw when I was cleaning out the storage unit last fall but can’t for the life of me find right now when I need it?

Deb doesn’t like the look of the capped comb, which is funny because I’m usually the germaphobe and I feel oddly secure about this honey. She doesn’t want me to put any more of it in my mouth until I’ve ascertained whether it’s safe, i.e., exactly what happened in the hive, and is the honeycomb moldy or otherwise tainted?

I’ve looked online and found a few videos of dead hives, all of which look similar to mine: Bees frozen in place, comb of all colors, capped honey from gold to grey, masses of dead bees on the floor. Some of the narrators concluded that their hives froze; another sent his bees off to a lab and confirmed varroa mite infestation. One showed how to look for tiny white specks of mite poop in the cells. Nobody mentioned the various comb and honey colors.

So I pulled out the microscope, and shook some of the dead bees out of the jar I’d collected them in onto a piece of freezer paper. Sure enough, mites. Lots of them. Maybe it was mites alone that killed the bees, weakening them or infecting them with a virus. Maybe the extra warm winter combined with the insulation caused a ventilation failure and mold contributed to the die-off. Maybe they did freeze, one bitter cold day in January following their first foraging. Maybe all these challenges stemmed from the mess I made of their hive that first terrible time I opened it. Probably some combination of the above wiped them out.

Now that I've seen the mites through the microscope I can see them in this image. Naked eye not so well, especially in the first flush of discovery. But now I know what to look for.

Now that I’ve seen the mites through the microscope I can see them in this image. Naked eye not so well, especially in the first flush of discovery. But now I know what to look for.

Same thing here: mites everywhere in and around the pile that dropped in front of the door.

Same thing here: mites everywhere in and around the pile that dropped in front of the door.

Once I dumped some of the dead bees onto white paper and looked under the microscope it was easy to discern the varroa mites.

Once I dumped some of the dead bees onto white paper and looked under the microscope it was easy to discern the varroa mites.

Zoom. Two mites. Nasty creatures.

Zoom. Two mites. Nasty creatures.

I’ll continue to investigate and inquire. Meanwhile, the house is redolent with honey. I need to clean up the kitchen and jar the honey I’ve already collected. I need to decide whether to try to salvage the rest of it, or simply cut the combs off the bars and fling them willy-nilly over the cliff for spring bears to find and feast on. I need to steam clean the hive at the car wash. I need to look up how to make mead. I need to take a nap.

I don't know enough to say what I'm seeing here. Some of these cells may have held bee larvae. The white speck top center might be mite feces. The glistening blobs inside the cells could be calcified honey. The bee doctor identified some cells as such when he opened the hive two years ago, and he was perplexed by the phenomenon.

I don’t know enough to say what I’m seeing here. Some of these cells may have held bee larvae. The white speck top center might be mite feces. The glistening blobs inside the cells could be calcified honey. The bee doctor identified some cells as such when he opened the hive two years ago, and he was perplexed by the phenomenon.

In the center cell in this image there are a couple of white things that look like the discarded skins of the last stage of mite metamorphosis.

In the center cell in this image there are a couple of white things that look like the discarded skins of the last stage of mite metamorphosis.

Just another cool picture of the comb.

Just another cool picture of the comb.

A poor dead bee like so many just hanging out where it expired. It strikes me as odd: Did they all die at once, instantaneously? Why are some frozen in mid-stride and others fallen to the bottom? Complex and full of mystery.

A poor dead bee like so many just hanging out where it expired. It strikes me as odd: Did they all die at once, instantaneously? Why are some frozen in mid-stride and others fallen to the bottom? Complex and full of mystery.

“Will you get more bees?” the friends ask. I don’t know. Not this spring, unless they move in on their own. “How do you feel about this?” they ask.

The bees gave me three summers of ecstasy photographing them, and three years of living intimately with them. I learned a whole lot. They inspired me to buy close-up binoculars and an excellent macro lens, opening a grand new universe of tiny creatures in the garden that I had never seen before. They enhanced and expanded my world view. I feel exceedingly grateful. If they did swarm, those bees know where the garden is and will be back. I feel hopeful. The silence in the garden makes me ache like the absence of a dead pet. I feel sad, but not guilty.

I did not have great success with mammals initially either. The hamster died when I was six or seven, the rabbit a couple of years later, both probably from neglect. It took decades to learn the patience and the language required for each species, each individual dog or cat that followed those first ill-fated pets. Animal care is a steep learning curve, and mistakes can be costly. Now I’ve got the mammal thing down. I’ll try again with bees eventually, and I’ll be a better bee guardian for all I’ve learned during these first few steps into the realm.

The Last Hummingbird

Not quite last, this very tired young hummingbird roosted on a broken sunflower stalk a couple of inches above the ground for hours on October second.

Not quite last, this very tired young hummingbird roosted on a broken sunflower stalk a couple of inches above the ground for hours on October 2nd. Intermittently he’d fly up and drink some nectar from the bountiful hummingbird mint, Agastache, that seemed to be a godsend for a lot of late birds. It’s still blooming! I’ve seen two more since this one, the latest last Wednesday, October 8th: a record in my 14 years taking note.

Not only the hummingbirds but bumblebees and wasps are enjoying the long-lasting blossoms of Agastache

Not only the hummingbirds but bumblebees and wasps are enjoying the long-lasting blossoms of this licorice-scented Agastache. 

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Sandhill cranes spiral up and out..

Sandhill cranes spiral and soar overhead on their raucous way south.

A lone monarch was lucky to find some nectar left on late-blooming Gallardia.

A lone monarch was lucky to find some nectar left in late-blooming Gallardia.

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Snapdragons still blooming profusely are also providing late nectar for hummingbirds and bees, their colors and velvety texture keeping some hot spots in the garden’s yellowing autumn palette.

 

 

A honeybee seeking something along the turning leaf of the Amur maple beside the hive.

A honeybee seeking something along the turning leaf of the Amur maple beside the hive.

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For a few weeks, rabbitbrush was buzzing...

For a few weeks, rabbitbrush was buzzing…

Saddlebags

Preparing for a show in spring, we’re naming all the bees again. This one is Saddlebags.

...and in photographing bees, I found this tiny little creature which appears to belong to a group called Micromoths.

…and in photographing bees, I found this tiny little creature which appears to belong to a group called Micromoths.

A honeybee hovered at a single late flax flower at my feet; I ran in to get the camera. In that one minute, the bee flew and its breeze blew four petals off the bloom.

A honeybee hovered at a single late flax flower at my feet; I ran in to get the camera. In that one minute, the bee flew and its breeze blew four petals off the bloom.

Checking on the medicinal herb I found this tiny white spider.

Checking on the medicinal herb I found this tiny white spider.

Garlic chives are the early October "bee-tree," swarming with honeybees, flies, and small wild bees...

Garlic chives are the early October “bee-tree,” swarming with honeybees, flies, and small wild bees…

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...and also appealing to a few moths.

…and also appealing to a few moths.

Full On Summer

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Today the garden is full of yellows, oranges and greens, and full of buzzing bees. Summer is a full on ride, roller coaster or tilt-a-whirl, it’s hard to know; reeling through colors and days so full.

July arrivals in the garden, the variously colored Ratibida, or Mexican Hats, and an unusual, fast bee that flies with its tip up.

July arrivals in the garden, the variously colored Ratibida, or Mexican Hats, and an unusual, fast bee that flies with its tip up.

At first I blamed the damn deer for demolishing one of my Roma tomatoes, until I looked closer. Love the little manatee hands.

At first I blamed the damn deer for demolishing one of my Roma tomatoes, until I looked closer. Love the little manatee hands.

Why do you think they call it Hornworm?

Why do you think they call it Hornworm?

Little solitary bees work the tomato blossoms diligently.

Little solitary bees work the tomato blossoms diligently.

And at last, overnight, one of the Early Girls begins to ripen.

And at last, overnight, one of the Early Girls begins to ripen.

The new raised bed in the south yard grows squashes from Earth Friendly Farm.

The new raised bed in the south yard grows squashes from Earth Friendly Farm.

I transplanted them into walls-o-water, then implemented a trick I learned at a dinner party recently: keep the walls on longer than you'd think you need to, and turn them down into collars, to hold water better and protect the plants from wind.

I transplanted them into walls-o-water, then implemented a trick I learned at a dinner party recently: keep the walls on longer than you’d think you need to, and turn them down into collars, to hold water better and protect the plants from wind.

All the squashes are thriving.

All the squashes are thriving.

One of three visiting catahoulas, Jupiter, Last Son of Sundog, with Raven's birthday bunny, still remarkably intact six weeks later.

One of three visiting catahoulas, Jupiter, Last Son of Sundog, romps with Raven’s birthday bunny, still remarkably intact six weeks later.

I could not figure out what these tiny green beads were that the ants were so busy around. Husks of tiny beetles! What's up with that?

I could not figure out what these tiny green beads were that the ants were so busy around, scattered in clusters along the path through the woods. Husks of tiny beetles! What’s up with that?

Dragonflies are zipping all over the pond.

Dragonflies are zipping all over the pond.

 

The Roller Coaster

Bloody Mary with a lovage straw. This huge tropical-looking herb grows well in wet soil north of the pond, and its aromatic stalks are hollow, the perfect garnish.

Bloody Mary with a lovage straw. This huge tropical-looking herb grows well in wet soil north of the pond, and its aromatic stalks are hollow, the perfect garnish.

This Memorial Day Sunday, a week early if you ask me, has truly signaled the beginning of the roller coaster that is the summer season. Despite last night’s fresh snow on the mountains. We got half an inch of rain! It was great to wake up and not have to water anything; I had a pie to bake. After a kickoff brunch with Bloody Marys, arugula-ricotta-wild mushroom tart, veggie and homegrown-beef kebabs and venison ribs, fresh-picked wild asparagus, garden salad, and a homegrown-rhubarb pie with whipped cream, I returned home to my desk, and looked out the window to see a Bullock’s Oriole peering in at me. They winter in Central America and summer here; ergo, it must be summer! It’s a rare sighting, I’m lucky if I see one in a year. I hope he’ll stay around. I’ll buy an orange tomorrow, as incentive.

I’ve spent the past two weeks managing out-of-control weeds. Mustards, cheatgrass, and Poa bulbosa, my new nemesis, and many more, are rampaging through the yard sucking spring moisture from the ground, growing as fast as I can get them cut. But they tend to stay gone when they’re pulled by hand. Some zones in the garden get this special attention, while the farther edges of the yard get weed-whacked by Chris now and then. I have surrendered to the Bad Grass. All of it. I will never win. The bumper crop of Bulbosa this year finally made me throw in the towel. The best I can hope for, I’ve concluded, is to carve my paths through the bad grasses. Maybe a good approach to life in general. Live and learn. Never let someone else spread grass seed in your yard. Also, be careful of planting a perennial that someone tells you “can spread.”

“They love to look like each other,” said Katrina yesterday morning as she was pulling dwarf goldenrod shoots from among the Penstemon strictus shoots. I’m sure these two plants resemble each other even when they’re not mingled in the same bed, but the ones you want to get rid of seem to be able to look more like the ones you want to keep the more you try to get rid of them. Bindweed, for example. And these intransigent goldenrods: At the time I planted a one-gallon pot of this ornamental goldenrod I didn’t really understand the concept of “can spread.” Like many ornamentals they are just an attractive exotic invasive. I bought a grass the other day in a small pot, thinking it was a bunch grass. When I looked it up, sweet vernal grass, it turns out to be a problem weed in some parts of the country; it “can spread.” So that one will go in a pot for the summer and probably die next winter.

The past two weeks, days have either been cold and grey or been crazy with bees.

Nepeta everywhere is covered with bees of all kinds.

Nepeta everywhere is covered with bees of all kinds.

At least five kinds of bumblebees are feeding in the garden. When I get time, when the roller coaster slows a bit, I'll turn to the Bumblebee Guide and find all their names.

At least five kinds of bumblebees are feeding in the garden. When I get time, when the roller coaster slows a bit, I’ll sit down with my bumblebee images and the Western Bumblebee Guide and find all their names.

The sphinx moth is also attracted to Nepeta, and sometimes out in the morning.

The sphinx moth is also attracted to Nepeta, and sometimes out in the morning.

The Little Red Bumblebee, I call it...

The Little Red Bumblebee, I call it…

 

May 9, the bee tree was briefly the crabapple down by the pond.

May 9, the bee tree was briefly the crabapple down by the pond.

Honeybee on Fuji.

Honeybee on Fuji.

May 17, these caterpillars are crawling the walls all over Crawford. Covering the walkways, on every living thing, looking for a place to pupate. We hope they are innocuous salt-marsh caterpillars and will turn into benign white moths. We'll know more later!

May 17, these caterpillars are crawling the walls all over Crawford. Covering the walkways, on every living thing, looking for a place to pupate. We hope they are innocuous salt-marsh caterpillars and will turn into benign white moths. We’ll know more later!

Even Marrubium, the silver-leaf horehound, is covered with tiny flowers and intermittent bees.

Even Marrubium, the silver-leaf horehound, is covered with tiny flowers and intermittent bees.

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I let the dandelions grow on the fringes of the garden beds, on the edges of paths. They're an important early source for all the species of bees.

I let the dandelions grow on the fringes of the garden beds, on the edges of paths. They’re an important early source for all the species of bees.

I've only seen a hummingbird once at this scarlet gilia that sprang up in the spring border. I sometimes sit nearby and wait with the camera. One of these days...

I’ve only seen a hummingbird once at this scarlet gilia that sprang up in the spring border. I sometimes sit nearby and wait with the camera. One of these days…

Little mat daisies spread readily, beautiful and benign. I don't mind.

Little mat daisies spread readily, beautiful and benign. I don’t mind.

Their little white petals have pink candy-stripes on their undersides, making little red buds.

Their little white petals have pink candy-stripes on their undersides, making little red buds.

This little red fly also enjoys the mat daisies.

This little red fly also enjoys the mat daisies.

The first big iris opened a week ago. Two days ago this one popped and the little red bumblebees love it.

The first big iris opened a week ago. Two days ago this one popped and the little red bumblebees love it.

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Friday night's rain.

Friday night’s rain.

The bee tree yesterday was the Amur maple.

The bee tree yesterday was the Amur maple, which came as a surprise…

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I expected it would be the lilac, but it took me three days to get three good shots of a bee on the lilacs, and three minutes to get three good shots of bees on the maple.

I expected it would be the lilac, but it took me three days to get three good shots of bees on the lilacs, and three minutes to get three good shots of bees on the maple.

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The first blue flax opened just a week ago, and now waves of this delicate flower flow through the garden feeding bees big and small.

The first blue flax opened just a week ago, and now waves of this delicate flower flow through the garden feeding bees big and small.

Mixed in with the flax and also in waves here and there through the garden, I let the native plains mustard grow where it will.

Mixed in with the flax and also in waves here and there through the garden, I let the native plains mustard grow where it will.

Pink chintz creeping thyme flowers between flagstones.

Pink chintz creeping thyme flowers between flagstones.

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All the bumblebees are all over the Ajuga blooms.

All the bumblebees are all over the Ajuga blooms.

This giant yellow bumblebee is twice the size of the little red one. Probably Bombus nevadensis, or morrisoni, but I'll have to study on that, compare things like tongue length and facial structure, count colored bands, all with the guide and images before me.

This giant yellow bumblebee is twice the size of the little red one. Probably Bombus nevadensis, or morrisoni, but I’ll have to study on that, compare things like tongue length and facial structure, count colored bands, all with the guide and images before me. Maybe I’ll print it and take it outside with the Papilio binoculars.

Unsettled weather. The days are a riot of ups and downs. Five days in a row of clouds and rain, then eighty degrees and shining sun for a week bake the ground. Carrots and beets emerged two days ago, and transplanted tomatoes and peppers hang on despite cold nights, while melons, zucchini, and more peppers and tomatoes in pots continue to come in at night. Arugula, parsley, lettuce and kale are popping up, and peas are two inches tall. I cling to the illusion of control in the wild ride of the summer garden. Soon the weeds will be tamed for the season, and before you know it harvest madness will be upon us. Let the party begin!

 

Words Fail Me

April 11

On April 11, the honeybees finally examined the hybrid tulips.

April 11

And I caught the elusive white butterfly.

April 11

The honeybees also started enjoying the creeping thyme.

April 14

April 14, that sweet snow decorated the forsythia.

Today the wind literally blows bees off the Nanking cherry as another spring snowstorm threatens. Inside for awhile, I catch up with images from the past two weeks.

April 17

April 17, the bumblebees showed up.

April 19

April 19, honeybees were all over the European pasqueflowers.

April 20

April 20. Surprise!

April 20

And a bigger surprise, the broad-tailed hummingbirds showed up five days early.

April 20

As the golden currant blossoms begin to open, the green (or blue?) bottle flies arrive.

April 20

Nanking cherry buds begin to burst open and the little native bees are among the first to partake.

April 21

April 21, dandelions begin to pop open throughout the yard.

April 21

Bumblebees and honeybees continue to sip at the almond blossoms.

April 22

April 22, the Nanking cherry calls all species of bees in the vicinity.

April 22

April 22

And begins to get crowded.

April 23

April 23: Meanwhile, down at the pond, the honeybees have found a sweet place in the reeds to sate their thirst.

April 24

On April 24, the Nanking cherry exploded with bees of all kinds, in clouds, drunk, like me perhaps, on all the pink beauty.

Count the bees and types of bees in this image. Spring wave of the roller-coaster is in full swing. On this day, the Colonel would have been ninety-five years old. I spent the entire day with one of his last gifts to me, my Canon 50D, in a pursuit he might have considered at one time in his life a waste of time; but he introduced me to cameras, and took great pleasure during our last visit looking through his album of special photos, seeking his personal best, a shot of a duck with water dripping off its beak. I think he would have liked these. Meanwhile, my days fly by so full I can’t keep up.

April 24

As the jonquils continue blooming the occasional bee investigates.

April 24

Prunus besseyi “Pawnee Buttes,” a ground-creeping variety of the western sandcherry, begins to draw bees.

April 24

“Pink Chintz” creeping thyme blooms.

April 24

Occasional native bees and honeybees check out this little rock-garden plant whose name I’ve forgotten.

April 24

Buff little bumblebee on the golden currant.

April 24

The frenetic beeflies are everywhere, on the sandcherry…

April 24

…the dandelions…

April 24

…and the omnipresent Nepeta

 

…the day began in cinders

The day began in cinders. All that was left of the morning's drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

The day began in cinders; all that was left of the morning’s drama a few filthy tail feathers on the ground.

Yesterday’s smoke was so thick from neighbors clearing fields with fire that it kept me inside most of the day, even though it warmed up to 75. This morning it wasn’t so bad, just a singed aroma to the air.  So warm last night, fortunately, that I didn’t light a fire in the woodstove for the first time all year. Fortunately, I say! This morning the cat leapt onto the wall by the stovepipe and the dogs jumped barking out of bed all at once. I didn’t understand why at first, then heard the desperate skritching inside the pipe: a bird had somehow fallen in.

I put the dogs out and left the door open. My woodstove has a peculiar double ceiling, which might have made it easier. I lifted the griddle out of the lid to see a pile of creosote ash on top of the false ceiling. I reached my hand up into the chimney and felt feathers, startling both me and the bird, who flapped and scratched in a panic, billowing clouds of ash out the hole. The second time, knowing better, I covered the hole with a dog towel, reached under and into the pipe swiftly, and grabbed a fistful of feathers and a leg, pulled the bird down and out into the towel, and took it outside, letting it flap under the towel to clean itself off a little. In a minute I let go, pulled away the towel, and watched a young starling flap frantically away, leaving a half dozen sooty feathers in my hand.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I've got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Watering tools. Time to sort through all the connectors for my flexogen irrigation system. I’ve got the time, home in April, long cool days. All these accouterments make moving water so much easier.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I'll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. About the best garden deal I know of.

Taking stock of hoses, measuring, assessing. Three hoses out of play this season with both ends bad on each; I’ll snip off the ends of these, mail them to Gilmour, and get three free replacements. The best garden deal I know of.

It’s been so dry and windy, despite occasional spring snow showers, that it’s time to start watering all around the yard, trees and beds. Time to sort the hoses and lay them out around the garden, make sure all connections are secure and won’t waste water with leaks.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Still no bees in the red tulips, but a passel of blooms.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

Almond blossoms opening against the warm stucco of the house.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

The new bee tree is the apricot.

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A bee fly if I'm not mistaken.

A bee fly if I’m not mistaken.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

In quest of the elusive white butterfly, moving too fast for me to get close, flittering through the nepeta.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

A tiny wild bee plastered in pollen in the mini yellow tulips.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

I love the way the honeybees dive in face first, deep into the corolla.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

Keeping up with my goal of photographing bees on each new variety of flower as it blooms. This girl made my day.

So I spent a pleasant morning, grateful for the one that got away, chasing bees and butterflies through the spring garden, then drove to Eckert to the frame shop to drop off a new print for a show next month in Salida, and to pick up a couple of framed giant bees for the Grand Opening tomorrow night of the Church of Art in downtown Hotchkiss. Slowly gearing up the first rise of summer’s roller coaster.