...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)



We were just sitting around relaxing when something caught my eye Friday night.
There was a honeybee swarm waaaaaaaaaaaay up in one of our pine trees!

 It's been a long-time dream of mine to see a swarm.
I always thought I'd have to be deep in the woods somewhere to find one.
Never in my wildest imagination did I think 
that I'd just see one while lounging in our Adirondack chairs.

The way they gathered on the pine branches...
 It reminded me of a winged and gorgeous thrumming heart.  
It really did resemble
the aorta, the pulmonary artery, and the vena cava!

Finding something like this in nature, 
let alone in your own yard,
feels so incredibly special.

It took me back to moments as a child when I'd make a discovery 
and it felt like I had just struck gold.


It felt like a good omen or a blessing.

That swarm stayed suspended in the pine tree Friday night 
and then left Saturday afternoon.

Fly away, beautiful heart.
Thank you for visiting us ever so briefly!
 Choose your new home wisely so that you may live long and prosper...

All Hail the Queen!!!


I had thought about contacting the local beekeepers club,
because they happily remove swarms and add them to their apiaries.
But I didn't want it to be removed.
I wanted to just watch it and enjoy it, 
the natural process and intensely alive thing that it was.

And I felt, deep in my own heart, that the bees wanted to be free.
They didn't want to be shaken into some beekeepers box, mine or anyone else's.  
They wanted to be wild women.
And I want that for them, too.

There's something about beekeeping that I have truly mixed feelings about.
I'm not in it for the honey.
Sure, some honey is a bonus, don't get me wrong...

But I really just want to share my life with the bees, to be a friend to them.
To enjoy the benefits of their pollination, and to witness what they do,
both in the hive and out of the hive.
My main goal is to help them survive in this modern world 
full of so many things that are causing their decline.

You'd never know that honeybees are in trouble if you were at our house this weekend.
I'm very happy about that!

I'll never know where they flew off to...
Hopefully a wild tree somewhere that they won't be bothered.


But that isn't the end of our swarm saga...!

Yesterday when I was walking down to check on that swarm before they left,
 I stopped dead in my tracks as I approached our two hives.  
There was SO much activity!!!  

I've seen busy foraging days, and high activity levels around the hive plenty of times, 
but never had I seen anything like this. 
Then I figured it out.  They were swarming, too!
 My camera was in the house and if I had gone back to get it, 
I would have missed the whole thing.

I didn't get too close to all of the activity 
because I had no idea what would happen if I did.
I just stood back and watched their amazing magic.

It was like a bee tornado!
Bees were literally pouring out of the entrance hole!
The air was teaming with bees zipping all around. 
For a 20' radius around the hive,
the air was dense with bees darting about.
Slowly they started raising up.
and up.
and up.
and up.
The force and the energy was so strong...
I felt like if I had been any closer, I might have lifted up a little with them.

It was a breathtaking sight to behold!
I felt utterly blessed to witness it.
Another bee dream from my list.
To watch a swarm in action!

The whole thing was over in about 10 minutes, I would guess.
Then I got to sit in my Adirondack chair, with one swarm in the pine to my left,
and another swarm in the maple to my right.
Surrounded by swarms.
I was in heaven.


The beehive on the right is the one that swarmed...
And they swarmed right up into that maple tree
(the one with the poison ivy creeping up it!)

  They landed in a different type of formation 
up at the tippy top.

 You can see some of the scout bees 
coming back to the swarm to communicate what they discovered.
They do a "waggle" dance to talk about it.

Apparently the longer they waggle, the further away the new potential hive site is.
They get more and more scout bees to join them
and it seems that when there's a strong consensus,
the swarm will move to that location.

 Good-bye, dear friends!

There's a lot to look out for in the big world...
Stay away from those big farm fields that use GMO crops and spray RoundUp.
Stay away from residential areas with ChemLawn!
And don't get tricked by those flowers from Lowe's and Home Depot
that have been treated with neo-nicotinoids!!!


I imagine that most beekeepers would not be thrilled with their hive swarming, 
especially those who are trying to make money at it and maximize their honey crop.   
They would try to prevent swarming at all costs.
Typically this is done by "splitting" the hive which I have no clue how to do,
and I'm not sure I'll ever bother to learn. 
We don't have room here for dozens of hives, 
so I can't let this interest of mine get out of control.

But in the future, if we have another swarm,
rather than climbing 40-50' on a ladder and scaring the bejesus out of myself,
I will simply offer the bees another home.  
It's called baiting a hive, and I just ordered one for this very reason.

If I had an extra hive ready to go right now, 
I could have put some propolis or lemongrass oil or beeswax in it to attract them.
And if they had found it a suitable home, then everyone would be happy.

For now, I got to just enjoy the sheer beauty of the bees 
doing what they've done for more than 100 million years.  
 Long before we started interfering.


So, two of my dreams were unexpectedly fulfilled this weekend!
What a thrilling time!!!
I'm a big dreamer, though, as anyone who knows me will attest.
Several bee-related dreams remain on the list,
and I hope I'm fortunate enough to be able to share more of them in the future.

I'd like:
- to one day gently fold my bare hand into a swarm 
(for the sensory experience of a lifetime!)

- to attract a swarm of wild bees to one of my hives

- to learn how to work various hive styles 
(I have a Langstroth on the way, but would also like to try a Warre style hive)

- to learn how to bee-line, which is essentially trailing bees back to their wild hive.
It's how the old-timers found bee trees!

Stay tuned for more adventures with the birds and the bees!
You never know when something amazing will happen!


baby robins + an amazing bird moment

Robins have built a nest right in our pool deck again. 
They've been doing it for at least half a dozen years, probably more...

I wonder if it's the same original pair 
or their offspring 
or their grand-birds?

Welcome, little friends!

It's a real treat to get to watch their development day by day,
though we try not to disturb the nest too much.  

They'll be fledglings before we know it.  
Time flies when you're growing feathers.
Speaking of fledglings... 
We had an amazing bird moment today!
You'll have to use your mind's eye to imagine it...
(I knew that if I left to get my camera, it would be gone / over...
and I'm not one of those people who has my cell phone attached to me all the time.)

Boo was near tears because it felt so lucky and so special 
that it happened right in our yard, about 10 feet or so in front of us.
I just stood there with my eyes big and mouth agape in awe,
wanting to take it all in.  
We were just out and about strolling through the gardens 
looking to see what changes the rain had brought...
and then I spotted it -- a pileated woodpecker fledgling!!!

We watched it in silence.  
It was learning so much.
It was learning about its feet 
grasping the side of an old tree branch 
that we had propped next to our fence.
It was learning about its wings
It was learning about its beak,
 tentatively pecking at a garden post.
It was learning about it's vision,
moving its head all around to look at the big world.

After a few moments, the mother swooped in next to it,
and we watched as she put her beak inside the fledgling's beak
and with those undulating movements
passing through her throat, delivering some food,
 which it gratefully gobbled down.

Then we saw the mother fly off and take a watchful stance 
not too close, but not too far. 
The fledgling tested its wings in flight,
landing in one of our garden beds
like a model airplane without enough aerodynamic lift. 

After a brief rest, 
the fledgling made it back to an old maple tree,
and slowly made the ascent up the tree 
with a combination of walking and wing-work.

It's possible that the nest is in the tree we saw it return to,
so we'll keep looking for activity there and really try not to disturb them.


 It was a totally magical bucket list moment,
and I didn't even know it was on my bucket list.  

I'm grateful to all of the birds for sharing life with us.


shiitake nettle quiche

shiitakes +  nettles
 super healthy + super delicious

They go really well together, tempering each other.
nettles have a very "green" taste
and the buttery meaty shiitakes balance out the nettles,
making a super delicious spring quiche.


It feels extra special 
when so many of the main ingredients
were grown right here at home...!

nettles: from the gardens
shiitakes: from our innoculated mushroom logs (thanks Edible Acres!)
eggs: from our flock of hennies

and the rest:
raw milk from our local dairy share
local flour and butter and cheese

We're so fortunate to have all of this edible local bounty!

 Clara getting cozy with the shiitake logs...

At first I thought I was coming into the kitchen
to see a bowl full of fresh-from-the-oven cookies...
 Nope.  Fresh from the log shiitakes.
These shiitakes got a little overly-mature on their logs, 
and got a little more sun than they should have had... still totally wonderful.
(You can read a little about the purported health benefits of shiitakes here.)
 Young stinging nettle tops.

FYI:  wear very thick, preferably leather gloves when you harvest nettles.
They "bite" you if you're not careful... and the sting really lingers!

Here's a link to an article from Mother Earth News (in 1981!) 
about the amazingness of nettles.  Click here.

 beautiful saute

(and there were some cookies after all, too!) 
quiche + cookies = weekend happiness