I cannot believe it is already mid-July. This summer, more than any in my recent memory has fulfilled that old adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” So many stories have been in the making these warm months, but the telling of them may have to wait for the cold moons—my traditional writing time.
So I thought I would offer some pictures I’ve captured along the way this summer, so you have an idea what I’ve been up to (instead of blogging!):
BEES: Yes, they’ve been taking up a lot of my time this summer. I began the spring with one hive—Rose—that made it through the winter. Then, unexpectedly, a friend gave me a hive of his filled with bees! Throughout the months of March and April, I ran around my yard chasing swarms of bees that issued from these two hives of mine. In all the two hives cast seven swarms. And one of the swarms cast three more swarms of her own in June!
Just a month ago, I took over the beginner beekeeping classes for my
friend and teacher, Jacqueline Freeman. I have been missing teaching for some time now, but didn’t know what I felt called to teach about. It was bees. What an absolute joy it is to stand up and talk about caring for these wondrous boxes of love and sweetness.
In my ever-deepening enchantment with bees, I’ve become fascinated with all the other pollinating insects who do so much to feed us. My pollinator hotel is now host to carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, woolcarder bees, and gentle rust-red wasps called a grass-carrying wasps.
DUCKS also have my summer attention. I could not have done a smarter thing for my yard than to add my two lady muscovies. They eat slugs and poop fertilizer. How great is THAT? Plus, they are wonderful pets, like friendly puppies with webbed feet.
I never knew ducks could be such snugglers. My last batch of ducks from 15 years ago were the nervous sort, bringing much commotion to the farm. These girls—a different breed—are calm and engaging. They like to sit on my lap, and they follow me around begging (politely) for worms. I read an article recently advising people not to kiss their fowl. I guess it can give you salmonella. I’m at risk, I guess. I have to admit that on occasion,
I’ll bend down and plant a smooch on their feathered heads. Really, I see no reason why any fenced yard should not entertain a duck or two.
FROGS are always a feature in my life, and our bucket pond began the summer with Legs, whom we’ve had for three years now. Then, he was joined by Princess, an enormous bullfrog. She vanished after a few days, much to my sadness, but was replaced shortly with Alfred, another (and smaller) bullfrog. He and
Legs are both croaking now, day and night—those deep, bass notes only a bullfrog can sing!
COW: No, I don’t have one of these, but I occasionally go milk my friend’s cow, and get fresh milk to bring home. And if you are going to milk a cow, you simply must make butter, which John and my visiting friend, Debbie, made one evening by passing around a jar and shaking it. Yup—it was that simple!
Thanks to duck poop and the energetic kiss of bees, my yard grew and
bloomed to an extent I’ve never seen. I have never had a green thumb, but my garden helpers stepped in and made green magic happen. All through spring, MillHaven was as lush as a jungle, with even the weeds in glorious splendor. Now that late summer is on the way, and we’ve had NO rain, that lushness is fading a bit, with certain plants gone to brown
sticks. This is the time of year my fingers itch to start pulling out all the dry, spent plants and flowers, but I am learning that pollinators and other insect helpers count on all that crispy vegetation for nesting and protection. So I leave my yard mostly as is once the glory of summer is gone, let it all go brown, and clip it back in the spring.
This summer, I am learning about happiness as a vital energy that infuses all things, all plans, all dreams, and all hearts. I have dedicated this summer to joy. When things come up that impinge on simple happiness, I steer away from them quickly.
I say to myself, “Hmmmm, this is disturbing my inner harmony.” I smile to myself, and wherever possible, I move on. I let arguments pass over me. If the day is too crammed and stressful, I dial the activity down. I turn to some small thing that makes me feel good, like watching my little group of pollywogs, or picking sweet-smelling mint for a gallon of sun tea. Or I simply go sit with my bees and soak up their healing, humming vibration.
Happiness is not a fools quest. “Don’t worry, be happy,” is probably the most powerful teaching for a sane life. What would the world be like if we would all dedicate ourselves to happiness each day? Yes, I know millions live lives of abject misery and suffering, but I also want to believe that happiness can spread like phlox across a garden bed, brightening the energy of all it touches.
I am holding you all in my heart as I ramble through this summer of bright sun. I am wishing you simple, abiding moments of joy. May delight find you in the quiet moments and in the crazy ones as well. May this be the season of your heart’s blooming.
I enjoy reading insights on how the world of humans and all other beings are interconnected and interdependent. I am wondering what your thoughts are on a vegan lifestyle and if you have ever considered it for yourself.
Hi Barbara: Over the years I have considered many diet paths. I am a true believer in all things being connected, and as such, I tend to worry more about the way we treat animals and plants than whether we eat them or not. Everybody eats somebody, whether it be a plant body or an animal body, and I can live with the idea of eating animals, but I can’t handle the idea of factory farming. As maverick farmer Joe Sallatin (sp??) says, “My pigs live in paradise and have one bad day.” I can abide that notion, but not the notion of animals living in agony all their lives, and then ending it all with “one bad day.”
How we humans eat is a troubling thing, but the bigger troubling thing to me is how humans live. We do not seem capable of living in any kind of sustainable balance with any living thing, including each other. For myself, I try to only buy local grass-raised livestock. The older I get, the less desire for meat I have. At the same time, I am painfully aware that the way we farm vegetable crops leaves animals and insects dead and homeless. So I try to limit myself to organic foods and as much local from farmers markets as I can get. I’ve seen what comes through the combine tines and it can be ugly for rabbits and ground nesting birds and many other creatures.
I’m a believer in alternative energy, but am aware that tens of thousands of birds are lost to wind turbines. It is messy, complex, and painful to be a human these days, and for myself, a vegan diet would not make me feel any less destructive than I know I am. I eat animals, and I rescue animals (even insects). I wear animals (leather shoes), and I love animals. I live in a house that caused an animal diaspora when it was built, I suppose, and I feed raccoons and possums in my yard.
I can see no way to live that does not cause misery to some member of creation along the way, and it is a humbling, saddening, and shameful reality for me.
I live in San Diego and bees kept inhabiting my suburban property so to be a good steward I finally got a hive to move them into, outfit and tools and became a bee keeper. What I didn’t know at the time is that every hive in San Diego turns into African bees sooner or later so it is the LAW you have to replace your queen every year with a certified European bee. Bees are not the loving creatures you portray in your wonderful article in San Diego! In small numbers they are but once the population grows, unless they have a European queen, watch out. But keep up the fabulous work you are doing in your neck of the woods.