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
Back in late August I spent a week exploring in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Those folks and places (and many others) have been on my mind while listening to all the wind, damage and flooding from Hurricane Sandy this week. I was lucky enough to be in New England during exquisite warm fall weather and I hope to share some of the trip with you over the next several posts. I’ll begin though, at the end.
Flying home out of the Burlington International airport I was mesmerized by the art near my departure gate. Tiny wooden blocks fixed like rows of mosaic tiles were printed with words from two women, one writing in her diary in the mid-1800’s and one writing poems (like the one above) that brought tears to my eyes. This despite standing in an airport hallway among busy travelers reading their so-called smartphones and walking forward without looking ahead at all for navigational cues like other people, etc. Don’t get me started on that! Back to the artwork.
I love it that these two women so enmeshed in their relationship with the land are featured in the most manmade of places, an airport. I love it that the Burlington airport features art and poetry. Vermont is a mecca for in-love-with-the-land worldview. There is a huge emphasis on local farms, food and farmers everywhere you go, not just the usual foodie hangouts. There are farmers markets—all locally grown and overwhelmingly organic—in every city and most tiny villages. The one I attended on a Thursday in Waterbury was like a town celebration with whole families picnicking with hot food and treats purchased from vendors. If not for the winters and property values, Vermont would no doubt be overwhelmed with those of us who love the land crowding in to be near others who understand this feeling.
What struck me about the diary from the mid-1800s was how similar it might be to notes in my own in 2012, with the notable exception of “washed the sheep.” The diarist noted comets and geese passing overhead, fair weather, harvest dates. My favorite was from October 1858, “Got in all our garden.” Oh sister, the joy. That’s exactly what has been happening at Larrapin in October. Fall finally arrived with cool days, crisp air and endless blue skies. After an early hot June, severe drought that burned till Mid-August, then unusual and oppressive humidity till September, FINALLY the fall garden season is back. I feel resurrected.
In this frenetic world, so overfilled with busyness that barely looks up from the screen, much less look around at the green world, there is a sense of connection, even relief, to read a woman’s words from a century and a half ago. I can easily imagine a conversation with her that we would both understand. I understand the bittersweet beauty of watching the geese fly over in the Fall. I understand relishing bright weather and apple harvests. I would ask her about why sheep need washing, and I bet I’d understand her answer. There is such joy in being a part of the lineage of soil, not just by virtue of living in a biological body that is built of and will return to soil, but in sharing it with others. Today, lucky enough to be standing in a day of perfect Autumn, I’m sending out a thought to a woman working her farm in 1858. And I’m going out to get in all our garden.Read More
Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all. —W. Somerset Maugham
I think WSM speaks a truth, but forgot a few things too! This rose, for example, is a beauty to both smell and see. The petals feel like silk and make exquisite rose-infused honey. The thorny canes are sheltering a cardinal’s nest with three turquoise-sprinkled-with-chocolate eggs. The rose itself came from Austin, Texas and that springtime trip is a wonderful memory… The perfume of a rose, can hold a lifetime of memories..and yes, is indeed an ecstasy of beauty!
..they know you well enough to send a card like this. Thank you Charity and best of luck with all the goings on at Chicken Moon Farm!
I find that a real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers;
he is a man who cultivates the soil. He is a creature who digs
himself into the earth and leaves the sight of what is on it to us
gaping good-for-nothings. He lives buried in the ground. He
builds his monument in a heap of compost. If he came into the
Garden of Eden, he would sniff excitedly and say:
Good Lord, what humus!
- Karel Capek, The Gardener’s Year, 1931
(Photos from Fall 2011, Larrapin Garden)
—A Larrapin Garden. Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Please subscribe to get the posts in one weekly email. You can also get bonus links, giveaways and recipes by “liking” our Facebook page or following on Twitter.Read More