Sunday, September 11, 2011

Summer wrap up

 Well, it's been a while since I blogged. Summer evaporated in a flurry of gardening, work and ultimately a wedding! Many nights I'd slump exhausted onto the couch after gardening or canning or just a hectic day at work and think "I really should blog that!" But it didn't happen. Oh well.

Our bees have buzzed along all summer, swarming a couple of times due to our over management. We captured all the swarms (beginners luck!) and went quickly from two strong and one weak hive, to five moderately strong hives. The weather this year meant poor nectar output from flowers so none off the beeks we know will have extra honey for sale. For our bees it means that we will feed them sugar water for the next four or so weeks to build up their stores in the hive in hopes they can survive the winter.

We have learned a lot from the bees this year. First of all, read everything you can about beekeeping but be aware that bees will do their own thing -- apparently they haven't read any of the books on how they should behave. Second, there are a lot of opinions out there about how to keep bees. Figure out which one works for you and your goals then stick to it if it seems to be working for the bees.Third, and most importantly, bees are an amazing way to unplug oneself from the hectic computer world and just get grounded again. Gerry has taken to coffee breaks amongst the bees and I try to sit watching them when I get home from work for at least a while. I can feel my pulse slowing as the bees come and go from the hive, some with huge pollen nuggets in neon yellow and green, sometimes grey depending on the source. Some standing guard against the ever pesky wasps and ants, others just out for their evening ablutions flight. Every one of them has a purpose. Every one of them is secure in their place in the hive and that the tasks they perform are vital for the survival of their hive. I can almost feel myself rooting to the spot as one or two investigate me to see if I am a threat and that sense of connection brings me a calm joy.

We have learned a lot from the garden as well this year. As all years, it started out with tremendous hope and excitement. Which seeds do we choose? How do we best fill the small raised beds we had constructed early in the season? Which foods do we most want stored in our cellar for the long winter ahead?

I spent a few days and many evenings tending the small seedlings then bigger plants. Interplanting heritage tomatoes with beans, carrots, beets, a tomatillo and multiple varieties of greens. Weeding was a breeze with the raised beds and healthy soil with which we filled them. Seeing it fenced and fed, I was happy with my garden's progress. We had many early summer meals full of collard greens, bok choi and swiss chard. The Kale grew steadily awaiting the first frost for its true elegance to emerge. The tomatoes were almost as tall as I, with small but plumping paste, red pear, yellow pear and german tomatoes growing. We ate beets, sweet and oozing and had just started collecting the pole beans that had been so promising all season. But there were dangers lurking.

We went away for the long September weekend, happy to visit Gerry's parents in the north of BC. A long lovely drive through the Cariboo and Chilcotin country sides, a couple days of family vists, left us feeling quite refreshed and happy. This week of wedding visiting ended late Sunday evening before Labour Day when we arrived home tired but rejuvenated. The morning broke with Gerry meeting me in the hall...breaking some bad news. The deer in our neighbourhood, always a pest but mostly controlled during the summer, had taken our absence as opportunity. Breaking down the chicken wire fence that surrounded the garden, they proceeded to use all my labour and love as a salad bar. The results were devastating. Everything destroyed. Well the Tomatillo remained untouched (I guess deer don't fancy salsa verde) but otherwise a complete write-off. I felt like crying and to be honest I have only been out there once since it happened.

The garden taught me not to take anything for granted. That life is tenuous even in a subdivision but it is also strong.  I am reminded of a quote from Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park: "Life will find a way". And all life finds a way, any way, to survive.

The summer is quickly coming to an end. You can feel it in the coolness of the night air, in the dewy mornings that quickly evaporate into warm languid afternoons. Next week we will mark one year without my mom. We will mark a year of sadness, a year of construction, a year of hope, of change, of destruction, of love and of family. As I write, our cellar is full of last years pickles, this years jams, jellies and preserves. We are now empty nesters with kids in college. We are now newlyweds with all the hope and joy that brings. We are now a larger family after our wedding, strong in its commitment to each other. All in all, for our family, Life did find a way. And for that I am eternally grateful. Now if someone could just do something about those deer!