Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's almost May

Hello to you from the end of April, looking ahead to May, my very favorite time of the year.

As I write, it is a beautiful day, a bit crisp, but full of promise. At my house, lilacs are in bloom, tulips are hanging on, dogwoods hover, and my bees are eagerly anticipating the Tulip Poplar bloom, due in a couple of weeks. This year, I hope, I’ll have “Stoney Knob Gold” – honey from my bees. Nothing will taste sweeter.

I’ve been traveling a bunch lately. I’ve recently completed trips to Newark, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Providence. Tomorrow I go to Baton Rouge and, looking ahead I have trips to Des Moines, northern New Jersey, Pasadena and Tuscany on my list. Zounds! Each trip makes my time at home more precious.

These trips have a variety of reasons: helping spread the word about early detection of ovarian cancer; helping shape my professional woman chefs organization; speaking about bike rides; GOING on bike rides; celebrating my sister’s birthday; celebrating MY birthday; spreading the word about bees and honey. It’s a fun combination and keeps me on my toes, invigorated, and, for the most part, out of trouble.

With each trip I come home, sink into the familiarity of my deck and yard, my plants, the birds, my bees, my dog, my bed. Sometimes I do not want to leave. Actually, most times I do not want to leave. I love home. Love the smell and feel of the air. Especially now, with blooming lilac sweetening the evenings, leaving is difficult. My gardens are a mish mash of things, chaotic, rambling, unkempt in a vaguely orderly way. I tuck things in, making room where I can. Colors pile up, brighten corners, feed my bees.

The bees are coming along well. By next month I’ll have a third hive. Already their energy is palpable. They share a drinking fountain with Tye, the pup. Though there is water for them in three or four places around my yard, they choose the dish right by my front door for their most frequent visits. That spot is my favorite too and so, on a warm afternoon we all, the pup, the bees, and I, sit and nibble on lunch or sit in the sun or sip water. We get along very well and I miss them, all of them, when I go away.

Last week The Obamas visited Asheville. I was in Rhode Island but was giddy with the thrill of this special visit. And when I spoke about my home with my fellow chef/board members, and told them about what they would see on their visit this summer, I felt giddy again. I get to live in this place that is so special. I get to go home right here. I don’t need to travel to get any thrill. I’m happy to go other places but, as I continue to find, with greater and greater depth, everything I need is right here. Oh happy day. Oh happy home. Oh happy life.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Oh lovely day

April 10, 2010

Hello to you an a spectacular Saturday morning in Asheville. Last night was a bit chilly so I put blankets on the columbines I just planted. This morning I uncovered them. I might have to repeat tonight, but it promises to be a nice day and that sun will make the flowers come out. Bees love columbine, I hear. This year everything in my garden will be for them. Yee ha!

I go to Indianapolis this week to talk to a bike club about last spring’s cross-country ride. I still can’t believe I did that ride. Amazing to think that at this time last year I was in Texas. Whew! (Did I tell you I’m going to ride from North Dakota to Maine? 2011. Whee!)

And when I get back things crank up around here. We are headed into our busy season. I’m “omelet babe” for a Bat Mitzvah next weekend and then I head to Rhode Island for a board meeting for Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. We have a good string of weddings on the calendar, many of which I’ll help cook or serve. What fun.

But the very best thing right now is the pleasure of my garden and yard. This is the very best time of year. I have been cleaning out garden beds, one section at a time. On Wednesday I went to the nursery, cashed in the remains of a gift card, loaded up my car with herbs and geraniums and new toys and headed home. My pup helped me weed and watched as I gave the lawns their first mowing. Last weekend a fellow from here helped me move some heavy plants and a stone bench. On Thursday afternoon I dug around and smoothed things out and stuck those new things in the soft earth just before that lovely soaking rain came on Friday.

Now I go home, open the door and just leave it open as I putter around the kitchen. Almost everything in my house has now been dusted (I’m not the best housekeeper, but things are pretty tidy right now) and I am feeling clear and filled with that spring air.

My bees are settling into their new homes in my front yard. I’m getting more bees soon and have been assembling more bee hive parts in the early evenings. This is a calming thing to do. Listening to old-time music, tapping hive bodies and honey super frames together. Tye settles in next to me and all is good.

The other night I got to meet the man who made my bike. He’s one of my heroes and I gushed to him about my bike adventures, past and future. He probably hears that all the time but I felt very special, talking to the person whose company has been so much a part of me in these past years. I just bought a new bike for the next round of adventures and, now that my garden is clean, the biking can commence in earnest.

This afternoon I am a judge at the first “Cupcakes for Cures” contest at the Grove Park Inn. 54 cupcakes. Yikes! I’m going to NEED a bike ride by the time I’m done with all those tastes.

It has been quite a week. Full. Good. I’m glad it is spring. In many ways. I’ll be in touch next week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Bees have arrived!

April, 2010

The birds’ songs are stronger and stronger at my home these days. They wake me up, perk me up, remind me that this chill is almost done, that spring says are just about here. Finally, I say. Finally.

The arrival of my bees highlighted this past week. I drove to Hendersonville last Sunday on a grey morning, wound up to the top of a mountain, and picked up my “nucs” (the nucleus of the hive.) Each nuc contained a queen and a whole bunch of bees, four frames loaded with workers, babies, a few drones, and a lot of promise.

I tucked the boxes into my car, trying not to be concerned about the few bees hanging on to the outside of the boxes. I need not have worried. All they wanted was to be inside those boxes. They were not at all interested in me.

We drove home, notifying my sister when we were nearly there. I am the new beekeeper but she is my security blanket, standing by, assuring me, silently, that all is well. In truth, again, I had nothing to worry about. The bees had been in their nuc for time enough that all they really wanted, I suspect, was to get out, stretch, settle into their new, roomier digs.

I’d spent the afternoon before their arrival painting, organizing, readying my property for their arrival. My hives had been in my back yard but, after losing them two years in a row, I decided to shift them to the front. It’s a sunny spot and I get to see them all the time. Much better. Much.

By Sunday my excitement took over, replacing any trepidation I might feel about the transfer, the opening of the nuc box, the handling of the frames of bees. The bees hardly made a noise as I opened the lid, lifted out a frame at a time, installing them into their new spot. I breathed more easily after I’d finished the first nuc, and by the second one I took my time, looking, noticing, enjoying the exploration. Queen! Worker! Baby! Wow!.

And on Wednesday my mentor came by to check. Together we went back in, opening up each hive, looking at each frame (there 20 in each hive), identifying, cleaning, checking.

All is good so far. My bees are healthy and strong. And I am determined to do whatever I can to make sure they stay that way. I’ll keep you posted – and will hopefully share some honey with you this season. Stay tuned.