Saturday, February 20, 2010

Keeper of the Bees

For the past year I've been peering closely at my rosemary plants conducting my own personal bee count. Good news first. Bee count is up. But I'm biting my lip because I've given the lavender and rosemary bushes free reign, and they've taken over the front garden, along with a robust mint. All three are rudely pushing all comers out of thier way. But the bees are happy.

Support your local beekeepers. If you eat local honey, it fends off allergies. Then there is a natural antibacterial bonus too, so slather plenty on your biscuits. Beekeepers do, and that working group suffers less from arthritis than any other worldwide.Bees are drawn to blue flowers. The girls are obviously aware it shows off their yellow stripes to best advantage.
Pots of edible honey have been unearthed from Egyptian tombs. So I guess its safe to finally uncork this dark honey from Ambleside that I've been saving for ten years.

There's fun in the community too. The worker bees preform a circular dance in a particular direction according to the position of the sun. This tells the other workers the direction and distance to the closest nectar source. Bee's like yellow flowers too. Brilliant of them.

Keeping modesty in mind, I do think the bees approve of me. I rescue them when they zig-zag into my studio and I shun pesticides in my garden. On a grander helping scale, enourmous swaths of farmlands in europe have been designated as 'Recovery zones' to help against the collapse disorder, where nectar bearing plants flourish without pesticides. And in 2008 the Beekeepers of England in their protecive suits, and even carrying thier smokers, descended on Parliment and marched to Ten Downing Street to hand over a petition demanding more research for what was called in the 19th century 'Dwindling disease'. And its working. The losses are down 20 percent in the last year. I did a bee dance all my own when I read that news.

This plate, painted with a super that looks just like a clapboard cottage, is the image I painted on my very first piece of pottery. I'm still painting them every spring.

I am not at peace, though. I hanker after one of my own bee houses, vibrating with activity. And one of these wide brimmed hats with the flowing netting. If my neighbors call me the mad beekeeper of Cambria, so be it. In fact, maybe I'll get my first tattoo (strictly henna) to commemorate my hive. A bee? a skep?

nuh-uh. Just the beekeepers motto and the three words that I adore: Nothing Without Labor.

Now and then the honey bee

Laden with her treasure

Darting from the clover blooms

Hums her drowsy measure.



For Mr. Toast!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Farm fresh

Lately, I've been giving some serious leeway to my inner farm girl. Planting mounds of bulbs, filling the pantry with dry goods and painting roosts of chickens. Its my grandpa who is responsible. He who always smelled like half and half pipe tobacco and could be found in his woodshop or tending his sprawling garden. If I prodded, he'd tell me stories of life on Lakeview Farm in Munsonville. Tapping maple trees for syrup, then boiling what had dripped into the tins in vast kettles on the cast iron stove. Gathering blueberries, which his mother put to use by making a few pies before breakfast on a New Hampshire morning, before the family set their hands to the milking.
Here are a few unwritten codes to being a farmie.
1. Homemade jam on your toast, yellow flowers in the house, and very strong tea. I let mine steep until the spoon stands right up in the cup.

2. Chickens are treasures and the backbone of the farm. They even have names; Hannah, Billy, Maude. And Goliath for the rooster.

3. No turning your nose down at cracked dishes. "There's life in the old girl yet" is the farmer's refrain.There's the man himself. After working the farm all day, him and his brother would creep down the stairs with their ice skates , join their friends and jump barrels on Granite Lake. Grandpa held the record, thirteen barrels. Just takes momentum, moonlight and New Hampshire grit.

By the way, I don't care if I'm pushing it, I've decked out the house for spring. Can you get any more farmy that this? I guess you could, if there were some live chickens in this shot.

I might not be able to watch as grandpa digs around his potato vines, or listen while he helps with the washing up while Burl Ives croons on the Hi Fi, but every time I plant a bulb, roll out pie dough or even paint a chicken, I sometimes smile to myself. I'm a farmie at heart, just like him.
Happy early spring

Animals who garden

Animals who garden
Donkey with green paw