Spotted in Xanadu, the Queen Bee.
This has been our first bee-winter, and, as the weather channel fear mongerers/anyone with eyeballs can tell you, it’s been a real beast. Weeks at a time stretched with the hives covered in snow, with me just watching from the kitchen sink, hoping it was like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” when they live in the rickety store-bought-wood house in town which, unlike Pa’s hand chinked log cabin in the Big Woods, was always drafty and freezing UNTIL the huge snow, when the drifts rose to the top windows and the girls were finally snug as bugs in rugs… or snug as bees in a hive? Aaaanyway, when the temps slowly started to rise, we saw them making forays out of the hives, sweet bumbling little flights on wobbly wings, proof that they had made it through their own long, hard winter. And, bless them, they would return to the hive, woozy, riding low in the water, laden with pollen. Full saddlebags of bright yellow alder and maple’s greenish grey or dun. In the spring, this pollen is used to make bee-bread, a heady ambrosia of pollen’s protein, a little bit of honey, and some probiotics from the bees themselves that is the stuff that baby bees are nursed on to rear them strong and mighty in time for the coming nectar flow. So, seeing our bees heavy with pollen, we knew that the Queen was holding court, and that the next generation of honeybees are being groomed to flourish. Signs of spring indeed.
Sweetheart got me THREE big, thick, gorgeous books on starting a vegetable garden, so the day after the Christmas snows, I went out to walk the land. I’ve been thinking about this garden for years. Thinking big. rows of fruit trees and berries and tender lettuces and cucumbers and new potatoes and strange roots. I want them. And, I’ve decided: this is where it will go. This huge swath of gently sloping earth that gets full sun all summer and has enough funny nooks and tree-lines to the sides for any guys that like shade. This knobby, untended, johnson-grassed stretch of impermeable Albemarle Clay. I’m pretty sure it’s a good plan? Hmm.
I don’t really know what I’m doing in the garden. But, it’s in my blood. My grandfather used to cultivate flowers from cuttings and would eat a warm tomato off the bush like an apple. My mother lines her beds with precious Poet’s Laurel and twisty Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick and knows about blossom end rot and how to kill slugs (answer: with beer) and a thousand other secret earthy mysteries. Me? I’ve just stuck as many plants into whatever containers I can find, cross my heart, and know I can shake my fist at Brooklyn if it fails. Not so, this year. Perhaps it’s too much. To go from herbs planted in coffee cans to almost a full acre of possibilities? Oh. Man. BUT. We are not ones to be thwarted, we will get our hands dirty, we will grow. And- the books, with their maps and charts and diagrams, are ready to be devoured and the seed catalogs arrive next week. So now, in the time honored traditions of anyone working the land, we thank our lucky stars we have the rest of the winter to get it all together.