“Live as if today is the last day of your life,” goes the saying. At times you wish it was the last day. What to make of the frequent snows when I want to be planting in the garden? What if today’s snow was the last of my life? What if after today I could no longer see the morning sun make the snowy fields sparkle?
Or see sweet daphne buds poking out through the snow?
Or smile at long blades of grass bending under the snow?
Or feel the cold snow between my toes? What if indeed.
Is it love? Russell and Kumo-Hime 雲姫 spend a lot of time together. I’m not sure who has the thing for the other. She must like him, or she wouldn’t encourage him to hang around. It must be love.
At the end of winter, the bright yellow squash of late summer has turned to camouflage. I stopped to take a picture of pumpkin seeds and didn’t see the squash at first. The pumpkin has turned into a splattering of seeds. They are all that are left of a plump pumpkin which would have made a good pie. Why the squirrels, chipmunks, and birds haven’t absconded with all the seeds is a mystery.
When spring and winter dance, towering clouds leap over the mountains, dragging curtains of snow through the tree tops. These dances are so ephemeral that if you are driving, you have to pull over to the side of the road to stop to enjoy them.
When Sven spreads his wings, his white feathers explode. Which is why he does it. Any hen who is anywhere will see him, even it is just out of the corner of her eye. Roosters are the drag queens of the chicken world. Anytime is showtime, any hen is an audience. There is only shame in not displaying your beauty.
Today’s sullen morning skies tugged with today’s blue afternoon skies. Each day now is a tug between winter and spring. Will it be winter today or spring?
The daylily and tulip shoots say it is spring. I’ll take their word for it.
The fuzzy camellia buds are a promise of better days to come. Why are they fuzzy? Do they need to stay warm? And today’s eggs, no two alike, from the one with the crinkled tip, to the tiny pullet egg, to Kuro-hime’s blue egg. May every one of your eggs be different.
It’s a time of firsts. Two nights ago we heard the frogs for the first time this year. From now until they tire of love-making in mid June, the night air will fill with the hum and crescendo with their love songs.
The first tulip leaves have popped out of the ground, and today, in the cool, misty spring air, the first daffodils are unfolding their beauty.
The rhubarb are pushing out of the ground. Their wrinkled, leaf embryos look hot to the touch, but are as cold as the ground. Their new leaves and bulbs are so red, you think they would bleed if you cut into them. I’ve never met a rhubarb, a person with the name Rhubarb that is. I’ve met a Daisy, a Violet, a Daphne, even someone called Oak, but no one called Rhubarb, unless Barb counts.
Why is that? Rhubarbs have admirable qualities. They are among the first to stir in the spring, the first vegetable you can harvest in northern climates, and they produce well into summer. They are strong, sturdy, look magnificent when their expansive leaves unfurl. You could say someone is as trustworthy as a rhubarb, as faithful as one, as productive as one, as sweet as one, and on and on. So all you expectant parents out there, you have my permission to name your child, Rhubarb. And if you do, introduce me to them someday so I can say, “I’ve met a Rhubarb!”
Pink is a dominant color these days. The blushing flowers seem embarrassed to have opened too soon. It’s too cool yet for bees to come flirting, and so the blossoms hover delicately, waiting and waiting for love to come their way.
Blooming witch-hazel mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. These beguiling flowers remind me of colorful spiders. A few days after they open, their spicy fragrance makes you close your eyes and have pleasant dreams.
The “witch” in witch-hazel has nothing to do with the spell these flowers cast. It comes from the Old English “wice” which means that the plants are pliable.
The young chicks are ever so curious. I’m watching them eat. They are watching me, wondering what I am. Humans and dogs often tilt their heads when they are trying to figure out something. Chickens turn their head, first looking at you with one eye, and then the other.
On Tuesday I attended a webinar on Providing Habitat for Wild Bees on Organic Farms put on by eOrganic on extension.org. They are a great resource for learning about all sorts of organic farming practices. Recently they had a webinar on managing striped cucumber beetles in organic cucurbits, and another on the management of spotted wing drosophila. Such fun and exciting topics. They also have a handy YouTube Channel with videos of many of their webinars.
With this week’s snow melting quickly, I dream of warmer days when bees by the thousands fill the spring air with their constant buzzing. The pictures of bees in this post are of bees in my gardens from springs and summers past. According to the presenters of the webinar, the best things you can do to encourage bees is having a large variety of flowers, especially flowers native to your area, in bloom through spring, summer, and fall. And since most bees, more than 70%, nest in the ground, make sure you have plenty of undisturbed ground and rockeries for them to nest.
I was disappointed to learn that identifying bees down to their specific species is difficult. It usually requires examining them under a microscope, which means catching and killing them. For example, according to Joseph S. Wilson & Olivia Messinger Carril in their detailed guide to North American bees, The Bees In Your Backyard, one of the key features for identifying Andreninae bees are the two sutures at the base of their antennae, but you need a microscope to clearly see them. My best hope at identifying the bees I see is to take close-up photos of the bees, not always easy as they don’t like to sit still for me, and examining the photos later.
A nightmarish creature I learned about in The Bees In Your Backyard are Twisted-Wing Insects, Strepsiptera. The females of these insects live in the backs of bees (and other hapless insects), with only a bit of their head exposed. They have no legs, no wings, and no eyes. Males fly about for just a few hours and when they spot a bee with a Strepsiptera female head sticking out of its body, they will mate with it by stabbing through the back of it’s head and injecting semen into her body. The semen flows through her body, eventually finds her ovaries, and fertilizes her eggs. The eggs hatch and survive by eating their mother. After they gobble her up, the tiny grubs emerge from the bee, and look for a new bee or insect to attack.
Strepsiptera are a good reason not to be religious. I don’t think you want to count on the mercy of a diety who conjures up such frightening creatures.