O Easter Egg Radishes, with your multitude of colors and strange bulbous shapes, how delicious you are pulled right from the garden, thinly sliced, and put on a plate with thick dutch cheese, bread, and mustard (and a nice cold beer). We felt very European, and also, even though the chilly spring and our beginner-gardener-flailings means we aren’t pulling our radishes until mid-June, pretty proud of ourselves.
This is our fox, he doesn’t have a name, but if he did, we’d call him Vulpes Vulpes. He spends his days skirtling around in the overgrown honeysuckle and mulberry next to our little old beach house, flushing out mockingbirds, sunbathing, and ignoring our attempts to give him baguettes. He is stately and smart and slender and oh-so-foxlike. Vulpes Vulpes, you are welcome to stay here forever.
The south is getting ready to storm vine.co/v/bLqWFQpIXWn
— Susannah Hornsby (@loiseaufait) June 7, 2013
We were out playing music for a party on the big old river last night, I’d call her the first American river, the first one that mattered before we got out to the Mississip, the James, and this old beauty, this magnolia on her banks at the actual site of the America’s first town, Jamestown, blowing hard in anticipation of the torrent of Tropical Storm Andrea. It’s been raining for hours. So ends a week at the beach, scoping rockets, playing music, making delicious noshes, and eating lots of fried seafood. We’ll be back to adventures in country and city life next week (if Andrea doesn’t bury us under feet of water). Happy weekend, dears.
If you need me, I’ll be right here.
We’ve been spending our mornings drinking coffee and watching the bees zoom in and out of their hives. They leave the hive, shot out like a bullet, up and over the house making, yep you guessed it, bee-lines towards the ancient and gigantic blooming tulip poplar in the neighbor’s yard. On the way back, they weave woozily, back and forth in a zig zag, lady bees laden down with yellow bolls of pollen on either side of her back legs, under the wing, like saddlebags. And after much discussion (and minor confusion about which one was which “the one on the left is bringing in more pollen than the one on the right” which left? which right?) we have decided to name our hives: Shangri-La and Xanadu. Paradise.
Mama took the picture of the bee with the pollen. Isn’t she good?
In the short almanac days of dark December, a care package came from Miss McKay. A burnished new short story and a bright yellow envelope, rattling and full of purpose, marked “open with care”. Inside the envelope, a dozen (magic?) seeds, labeled McKay’s Moon Vine, and accompanied by these instructions:
In May soak seed overnight. Plant in sunny spot where she can climb, a spot you walk by every evening. Enjoy big, white, fragrant blooms with sweetheart at cocktail hour.
Oh heart, those are my kind of instructions. And, through the trials of this strange and cold spring, almost at the very tail end of May, it is finally warm enough to plant them. Welcome Home.
Actually, TODAY was the day. Mama and I went out to the east side of town to pick up our two nucs from a very sweet beekeeper named Jacob who I immediately wanted to set up all of my friends with (laaaaaadies? he breeds his own queens!). You can see our two nuc boxes resting on top of the two hive bodies above. A “nuc”, or nucleus hive, is a short box containing a fully-functioning mini-hive, five frames (as opposed to the 10 in a standard hive) of bees who have already drawn out and built the wax comb every aspect of their lives is based on, who have already been storing honey and pollen in those combs, and a beautiful queen painted with a red dot who has already been diligently laying brood to make more bees to go off and harvest the sweet nectars that are flowing as we speak. Last night, we strapped down the two long, audibly buzzing, rectangular boxes to the back of our little pickup and began the hour long trek home. When we got back, not only was it dark (ok for bee move-in day) it was also raining (NOT ok for bee move-in day). So we had to put the bees under cover and wait for the morning to move them in. When we woke up, the pent-up bees were making so much heat trying to cool down their plugged up hive, it fogged up my camera lens, air hot to the touch being beaten out of any vent hole by the flapping of 40,000 wings.We puffed them with smoke to calm them down, then sprayed them with sugar water to zuzz them up and then moved them, slowly and surely, frame by frame, from their temporary cardboard hutches to their forever-homes. They immediately took up ancient established positions- some moved to the empty frames to start exploring, some situated themselves at the door of the hive, fanning their wings with a special perfume to let any sister-bees know that this was home, so come on in, and some of them alit on the dewey honeysuckle nearby to cool off after a hot night in cardboard city. Needless to say, after our very first time handling our very own bees, meeting our very own beauties, Mama and I are two very happy beekeepers.
Today THE BEES ARRIVE! I hoofed it back from a whirlwind time in New York specifically for their arrival. A Bee Meeting. My Mama and I will don our suits and veils and drive “Yota” (our little old pickup truck that has a tape player and only two tapes in it- Bob Marley’s “Natural Mystic” and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s “Deja Vu”, not too bad if you have to only listen to two tapes for eternity) and drive out past Zion’s Crossroads to pick up our little ladies. When we bring them home we’ll install them in the hive bodies and frames we’ve built from scratch, the frames numbered with the year so, with hope for the future, we’ll be able to re-use comb and frames and know which hive the wax came from, the hive bodies themselves painted a very pale pink (my mother’s day present to sweet Maman). Photos and beeswaxing poetic to come later.
After a weekend of bossing around the men with machines, Mama decided that we would spend Sunday roadtripping down the lusty curves of our favorite country roads to Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat, Poplar Forest. The destination proved totally appropriate as the removal of a bunch of junk trees in our own backyard has revealed our own small tulip poplar stand, ringing a clearing in our woods. TJ himself called the Tulip Poplar “The Juno of our Groves” when he sent some seeds on to a friend in Paris, and we too are enamored of them since their yellow flower will be a favorite nectar source of our beloved yet-to-arrive-due-to-ongoing-unseasonable-cold-weather bees. The afternoon, glorious, our little family borne about the grounds of the old estate like seeds on the breeze, and we are certain Jefferson would have approved of our continental picnic of crusty bread, various charcuteries, olives, a ripe pear, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses- favorites Mt. Tam and Red Hawk, and, of course, cold rosé. In short, a perfect day for Mamas and everyone. Poplar Forest is to Monticello what Rockaway is to East Hampton- more casual, less people, a little rough around the edges, but if you know what you’re looking for and enjoy simple pleasures, it’s just as good (if maybe not a little better), vegetable garden small and do-able, serpentine wall in elegant decay, slightly falling down.
Today the men are coming, and they are bringing their machines. The big diggers and claws and shovels and saws will take care of 50 years of brush piles, fallen trees, wild honeysuckle, deadstands, and brambles, revealing wild cherry and strawberry and apple and hickory nut already (and that’s just before 9am). I’ve never seen a more beautiful sight. They might as well put this backhoe in a centerfold.