Santa Fe Honey
I remember standing at a farmers market in Santa Fe New Mexico in front of a table lined with jars of amber and gold honey. I was surprised at how much honey the high-desert produces, given the dry scrub covering so much the hilly terrain. The bearded beekeeper in a cowboy hat explained how nearly all of what I saw as “scrub” bloomed, and the bees flourished. He was sharing samples and the tastes were spectacular.
Like the honeys in any region, the different waves of flowers throughout the seasons created different tastes, bouquets, high and low notes, like wines. “But the very favorite honey of my customers, hands down, is autumn clematis honey.” He shook his head slightly, “You can just open the jar and you smell flowers.” He closed his eyes as he said this, as if he was inhaling the scent just now. Before I had time to speak a single word he answered my next question, “I just get it in the fall and I sell out right away, so I can’t offer you any. But people are asking me if I have any the rest of the year.” That was 2010 and I’d never even contemplated keeping bees.
Sweet Autumn Clematis blooms in September and October across the Ozarks and as I drive through town I spot the big green mounds of vines on fences covered up with so small frilly flowers it looks like a blanket of white foam. It is a weedy green vine unremarkable for most of the season. Come autumn, it explodes into a starry blanket of creamy blossoms with a delicious scent. I think back to the Santa Fe honey. That trip was in 2010, before I ever contemplated keeping bees.
These days I look for good things to plant for my bees. I looked up Autumn Clematis only to find that is not native to the US can be invasive/opportunistic in some climates and I’m not really sure if it is a problem in the Ozarks. But then there’s Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana) also called woodbine, which is less showy but native. The native variety has an added bonus of being good for songbird food and nesting materials, though I’ll have to find a special spot to plant it given that it loves a moist setting…. But this is all part of the pleasant mental wrangling gardeners engage in for fun when it’s too cold or wet to dig.
But the thought of new plantings immediately runs into another, one that says I may not be here to see it. By the time it blooms I may be breaking new ground yet again on the home we hope to find when we move back to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the next year.
Ahhh, the gardener’s quandary: If you know you are going to be in a place a relatively short time, do you bother to plant things you will likely never get to see fully grown, or bearing fruits or flowers or shade?
I once read a story about a Quaker gardener, a woman, who lived in a town about to be invaded by German troops in World War II. At least that’s the way I remember the story began. Just before she left her home to escape to a neighboring country, she was planting seeds in her vegetable garden. I don’t remember what. Neighbors thought she was crazy to be planting just before leaving and said, ‘You won’t be here to eat it!’ Her answer something like ‘Whoever lives in this house next, they will need to eat.’
Oh those beautiful Quakers. This story has stuck with me for decades, the compassion of this woman willing to plant food she would never eat. Another way I’ve heard this belief is that ‘true wisdom lies in planting trees even if you will never live long enough to sit in their shade.’ It’s very hard to remember to lift up my attention from my wants, wishes and worries and to think of this land going on into the future without me. But when I do, it feels right. And oddly, I feel better—lighter—about how long I will be here. As a hospice nurse, I can’t help but note the larger echo of that realization.
So let me plant more stuff I may or may not be here to see bloom. If only for the reason that when the wash of white frilly flowers appears in some future autumn, bees will arrive at each bloom. There will be nectar for them.Are there any quotes or stories that inspire your gardening? I’d love to hear them if you leave a comment (look above or below this post for the “comments” link – the position varies depending on how you are reading this). Also, if anyone knows the source of the Quaker gardener story, I would love to find it again. Special thanks to www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com for some of my favorite online reading. —A Larrapin Garden. Where posts may be boom or bust depending on the season. If you subscribe here you’ll get one weekly email with selected posts. You are also invited to get related miscellany wherever you like to ramble online: Facebook [brand new page…needs your “like”] | Twitter |Pinterest | Instagram. Read More
As I wrote in the last post, one of my farm lessons this year is to avoid plastic farm buckets, well, except when it’s hard to replace or it’s what you have already... Still, my commitment to metal, wood, stone, pottery and concrete is growing. As the plastic stuff breaks or cracks (set your watch!) I’m transitioning to metal and concrete to hold water. The plastic wildlife dishes—which I already had and will use till they wear out—are changing to the concrete birdbath tops you can find at Lowe’s. (Like the photo below, from a previous post on providing water to wildlife.)
I’d love to make some my own wildlife bowls from concrete too…<nudge to Liz here> I would shape them with the very shallow and sloping sides that the bees love on one old birdbath shown below. They love it because even when the water level goes down, they can still reach it from the safety of dry concrete. A bee can drown in just about anything, but with this design they can climb out to safety, unlike a steep or slick side. It’s so popular we call it the bee-beach and we had to add another bath for the birds the bees displaced from that one! No, the bees do not like birds on their beach and will make that known.
The birds love the rough concrete texture and shallow pool too as it makes for safe footing while bathing. With such a shallow dish, you have to refill often, but that works to eliminate mosquitos since if you ignore it you will have a dry bowl in about 48 hours. Not that you would let it go dry since everything needs water now. The queue to every bird dish we have is several birds deep on many hot afternoons.
Even with deeper wildlife dishes, as long as you dump and refill every 5 days or so, you’ll never raise any mosquitos since they take 7 days to mature… If you are just starting to provide water for wildlife, remember to have containers at ground level as well as traditional birdbaths. There are many critters that can’t drink from an elevated birdbath…like rabbits, turtles, skinks, lizards, etc. (But nix all this info if you have free roaming cats—you don’t want to lure wild creatures to their death.)
Keeping fresh, accessible and safe water sources in many areas around Larrapin has increased the bird and wildlife more than any other single thing we’ve done. How do you provide water for wildlife in your garden?
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Don’t miss any—you can subscribe by Email here. You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page atwww.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. We’re even on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.
There is so much beauty popping up everywhere—singing, flying, blooming, buzzing, growing—that it’s hard to keep up with all of it! And of course I can’t, but it sure is fun trying. As Emily Dickinson puts it, “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”
Beauty also shows up in unlikely places, the scum pond, as we affectionately call it, for example. On the property next door there is a shallow cow pond. It’s not remarkable at first glance. In the summer, thanks to the cows and sunshine, it has a brilliant green scum on top that sticks to the cows as they cool off. When they emerge from the pond, they are covered with green confetti. A lovely sycamore that stood with feet in the pond was badly broken in the ice storm a couple years back and looks the worse for wear.
Yet the pond is such a treasure. Iridescent dragonflies emerge in shimmering colors. I watched our resident pair of hawks mate (!) in the broken sycamore just recently. In the early spring, we wait for the chorus of peepers to begin the singing season, later deeper voiced frogs take over for summer. (You can listen to a springtime chorus of peepers I recorded at the bottom of this post. If you are reading this by email, you may need to go to the actual post to play it.)
Then last week on a cold, rainy day I looked out from my home office window and saw a small duck on the pond. I dashed inside for binoculars and camera.
First ever sighting of a wood duck at Larrapin Garden. What a beauty he was! The sighting was more delightful because we’d seen our very first wood duck ever — a female standing in a tree— just the week before on a vacation to Crowley’s Ridge, Arkansas. And here was another one, this time the beautifully colored male. He stayed and dined on something in the water for a few hours, then flew on to wherever he was headed. What a great day. Here’s to beauty everywhere.
If you enjoy wildlife in the garden, I heartily recommend one of my favorite blogs, Beautiful Wildlife Gardens for inspiration and ideas. And please listen to the spring concert in the audio in the podcast player below, courtesy of spring peepers at Larrapin, and a few thoughts thrown in by yours truly. It’s about a minute and half long…just click the arrow to play. Enjoy!
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends —you can subscribe by Email here. You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. Geesh, we’re even on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.
Here at Larrapin we’ve kept suet feeders going every winter and spring for years now. The result is a cornucopia of woodpeckers! Since the feeders are outside the kitchen window, they provide lots of entertainment while doing dishes. Some, like the red-belly woodpecker above, are very bold and can be easily photographed while I lean over the sink.
Others are notoriously difficult to catch on film, like the Pine Creeper above. Not only does he blend with the pine tree bark, he is very, very fast and always in motion. Usually he’s creeping around eating the bits of suet the nuthatch stashes behind the pine bark!
Isn’t she sweet! In this photo above she discovered the suet cage door had been left open and couldn’t believe her luck! Thankfully we latched the feeder before the suet block fell out. If not, at least one of our weiner dogs would have mysteriously gained five pounds overnight and then pooped birdseed for a week!
All kinds of birds take turns at the blocks, like the Carolina Wrens.
These guys above just eat and eat! I believe I’ve read that ‘eating like a bird’ translates to eating about half your body weight every day or so…
There he is again, the flash that is the Pine Creeper. Quick, snap the picture!! OK, so it’s a little blurry, but he’s blurry even in real life because he’s always moving so fast.
Everyone wants the suet block for their own. But sometimes if you are a little junco you have to just jump on a grab a bite because Big Mr. Piggish could be here all day! Nevermind that he’s staring you down…
There are only two woodpeckers that do not show up on the suet blocks: Flickers and Pileated. (Although the Flicker has been seen on the ground under the suet feeder picking up chips that fell down…) Next week I’ll post what I saw a whole family of FIVE flickers happily eating at Larrapin. Some people call it a ‘trash tree’ but after watching the birds’ delight, I never will!
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Don’t miss any—you can subscribe by Email here. You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/aLarrapinGarden. Geesh, we’re even on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden. Thanks for stopping by—leave a comment as to what is going on in YOUR winter backyard…
Hi all! I’m still without internet at home per the prior post…but the local coffeeshop is getting quite used to me working here…even when I’m actually working rather than playing with the garden blog! (Thank you, Perk on Wedington…)
I took this choppy, grainy video at super-zoom out a window. Then tried iMovie for the first time and got that weird “My First Project” frame. But being over my head tech-wise is nothing new for me.
So here is our big, beautiful Pileated woodpecker going to town on what must be a delicious spot in a knotty oak tree. Enjoy it…he sure was!
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Don’t miss any—you can subscribe by Email here. You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. We’re even on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden. Thanks for stopping by—leave a comment and share what birds are in your backyard this holiday season!