Monday, April 10, 2017

Walking the bees home

Just two days after Mian and I captured a swarm, the bees swarmed again. And this time,we had no hive conveniently ready to house them. So Mian and I called G, to call a young man we knew who had recently lost his bees and wanted some more. Instead, G came over in the afternoon. 'It is time I learnt, Madam' he said. I am vain enough to think that our efforts helped demystify beekeeping for him.

Our 'new' hive
He had come with bee keeper's tools-a veiled hat and a basket- borrowed from a friend. The hat was standard gear, the basket was homemade. Over here, it is considered essential for capturing a swarm. Rather than 'plopping' the swarm into a box, as the admittedly uncouth pair of us had done, the local beekeepers invite the bees in. The 'basket' is a woven cone covered with jute fabric. Honey and wax is rubbed into the fabric. The bee whisperer then holds this basket close to the swarm and coaxes them to move onto it.
The swarm-catching basket
Once he had seen the bees, Mian, I and G scurried around to complete his outfit. In lieu of beekeeper's overalls, we scrounged together a cooking ladle, Mian's bomber jacket and my gardening gloves for G. Mian and I followed in our shirtsleeves, Madhu was far more circumspect.
G scopes out the swarm

G sat down close to the swarm and held the basket almost touching them.
Introducing the bees to the basket
Some drones got interested enough to check it out. Soon, he began slowly directing them to the basket with the ladle. This was a gentle unhurried process with the ladle being used more to show the bees where they might like to go than to push them there.
Gently coaxing the bees in with a ladle
The relaxed pace means that the bees stay calm, but it also takes a while. G's arm rapidly tired but he refused all offers of help.
Waiting for the bees to make up their collective mind
Finally, after more than half an hour, the queen moved to the basket. While we could not see her, we knew it by the change in pace. Suddenly, the basket was the happening place to be and the workers could not get there fast enough.
They make up their mind. At this point, the bees are walking in by themselves
Soon, they were all in the basket, and a tired but triumphant G was holding up his new friends.
All aboard!

And then he turned around and trudged off for the kilometer-long walk home. Carrying a few hundred bees in an upside down basket.
The long walk home. Good thing he's got company. Lots of it

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Our garden wakes up

Just yesterday, Mian and I stood in the garden and thought, 'It's coming together..slowly, but it's happening.'
That 'it' of course is our garden. Still very much  a work in progress, still with too many 'placeholders' and blank gaps, still too many failures swaggering in front of me.
But now it is spring and time to celebrate the magic of flowers.
Here is  what is in bloom in my garden at the moment, starting with the gifts I have been given- the wild flowers on our land.
The autumn olive (Eleagnus sp). Not invasive here and fills the orchard with its fragrance. Butterflies love it!
Kilmora (Berberis Aristata), has interest all the year around, attracts pollinators and birds.

I have taken to spreading those two shrubs around our garden, and they thank me so prettily.
Another inherited flower- the 'wilson' apple. A variety with a fascinating history. And oh, the fragrance!
 And now for the plants in my garden
Lady Bank's rose (Rosa Banksiae) . Such a cheerful flower with a direct link to the interesting Joseph Banks

I have struggled with this rose.When I first planted it four years ago, I covered it with shade thinking it would protect it from scorching. Result- it never grew. And though I removed the cover later, somehow  that rose never did well. This year it has put on a massive show. Perhaps the worst is over?

Sweet peas! finally!
Another plant I have struggled with. I followed the instructions the first year and planted them in spring. The poor little seedlings got scorched almost as soon as they poked their heads out. And then I came across a passage by Gertrude Jekyll in which she boasted of getting sweetpea flowers six weeks before her neighbours by planting the seeds in the autumn. And that's what I did. I planted the seeds, G fashioned a cover for them. And throughout the frosty weeks, those peas got coddled. Well worth the effort I think as I inhale their fragrance.
An old dependable..The 'iris bed' I had planned under the pear tree is finally recognizable as such. 
I got this iris from a kind neighbour. Such lovely colours and a deep, musky fragrance.

So that's my garden right now. And everywhere there's lots of promise. Borage, and nasturtiums have sprouted and doing well. The roses are displaying fat buds. Spring, it is here.