Sunday, April 27, 2014

“The keeping of bees is

like the direction of sunbeams.”  ~ Henry David Thoreau
 I have been reading lately about the demise of bees.  One of the articles was quite blunt: "Bees are pulling a disappearing act. Honeybees are vanishing from their hives. Bumblebee numbers have crashed so radically that some species are believed extinct. Even native solitary bees are in decline. Food supplies dependent upon pollinators are threatened."

Bees play a vital role in our agricultural system, making the care and protection of bees critical to the future of our planet’s food security. In fact, more than 75 percent of the plants on our planet rely on bees for pollination.
In 2006, one third of the bees in the United States disappeared, more than 800,000 hives. At 30,000 bees per hive, that’s 24,000,000 million bees. David Hackenburg, one of America’s largest beekeepers, thinks that neonicotinic pesticides may play a role in recent pollinator declines.

Hackenburg states further, “Imidacloprid is approved for everything. All I'm saying is, you go buy this stuff at Wal-Mart to use on aphids or grubs or whatnot, and the little insert from the chemical company says straight out that it, 1) makes bugs quit eating, and 2) induces memory loss and confusion. Then, 3) it gives them a nervous system disorder. And that's exactly what's happening to bees.  I know many of the scientists refuse to go out on a limb and state emphatically that there's a link here, but what about common sense? But then I'm just a dumb beekeeper who's been beekeeping for 45 years. What do I know?"
As insect pollinators, bees broaden our diets beyond meats and wind-pollinated grains. An estimated one-third of all foods and beverages are made possible by pollination, mainly by honeybees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. Pollinators also are essential for flowering plants and entire plant communities.
Bee friendly gardens are easy to create.  Eliminate or change the way you apply pesticides. Don’t use them on plants that are blooming. Apply them at night when bees are less active. Spray from ground level to reduce drift and create buffer zones next to agricultural areas. Rethink the use of herbicides, which reduce pollinator food sources by removing flowers from the landscape.
Ideally, when you are creating a bee garden, you should position your bee plants in groups since it makes it easier for the pollinators to locate. Importantly, it also conserves vital energy stores, meaning more nectar and pollen can be returned to the colony.  I also read that traditional plants not the fancy hybrids are better since they have more nectar.  Herbs are good also for attracting get flavor and so do the bees!   Of course, native wildflowers are winners also.

So, busy bees out we celebrate Earth Day again, create a little bee garden...and if you are in the area, stop in for our "bee-u-ti-ful" pillows (can be used for inside or outside and are made in the USA), candles, and other bee bling!
And, hopefully, we can prevent this--a line from Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the Bee: “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"A blossom of returning light,

  An April flower of sun and dew;
The earth and sky, the day and night
  Are melted in her depth of blue!
                 Dora Read Goodale—Blue Violets.
April is National Poetry Month, and it seems appropriate as spring blossoms inspire stanzas of poetry.

I saw that my violets are starting to bloom.  Violet also means flower in French, Italian and Latin.  In Old English, violet means "purple color." It was first used in the 1830s, making it one of the first of many popular flower names in the nineteenth century. Other forms, such as viola, had been used previously.

Violets are a perennial flower from Europe.  In Greek, the word Io means violet. Greek mythology spins a tale of Zeus falling in love with Io, the daughter of King Argos, but because he feared discovery by his consort Hera, Zeus transformed Io into a heifer. He created violets for her to eat while in her heifer form.  You have to wonder who created these tales...turned her into a cow!  Really!
The lines above come from an American poet who lived from 1866-1953.  She and her older sister, Elaine, published poetry when they were children.  Research uncovered some interesting details about the sisters.
Elaine Goodale taught at the Indian Department of Hampton Institute, started a day school on a Dakota reservation in 1886, and was appointed as Superintendent of Indian Education for the Two Dakotas by 1890. She married Dr. Charles Eastman (also known as Ohiyesa), a Santee Sioux who was the first Native American to graduate from medical school and become a physician. They lived with their growing family in the West for several years. Goodale collaborated with him extensively in writing about his childhood and Sioux culture; his nine books were popular and made him a featured speaker on a public lecture circuit. She also continued her own writing, publishing her last book of poetry in 1930, and a biography and last novel in 1935.
Dora Read Goodale published a book of poetry at age 21 and continued to write. She became a teacher of art and English in Connecticut. Later she was a teacher and director of the Uplands Sanatorium in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee.  She attracted positive reviews when she published her last book of poetry at age 75 in 1941, in which she combined modernist free verse with the use of Appalachian dialect to express her neighbors' traditional lives.

So, next time you see violets, think of Io...and cows..and spring!  Winter is gone!  Get grazing!

And as Downton Abbey's Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, remarked:
          "Don't be defeatist, dear.  It's very middle class."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Ideas are like rabbits.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen
You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."
                ~John Steinbeck

Here comes Peter Cottontail...ever wonder why the rabbit is the spring symbol?  Why we eat ears off that foil-wrapped chocolate rabbit and not the tail off a chocolate robin?  And, did you know hares and rabbits are not even in the same family?
The difference between rabbits and hares appears at the moment they are born. Baby rabbits are called kittens while baby-hares are called leverets. Rabbits are born completely helpless, naked and blind. Hares are born fully furred, able to see and capable of independent movement. Hares can live on their own after one hour from they birth! Their mothers feel free to leave them on the bare ground and hop away soon after the baby is born.  Talk about being on your own!
Rabbits' mothers are much more careful and protective to their children. They line nests with grass, bark and soft stems. Over this, they place a layer of hair plucked from their own bodies. When rabbit-mother leaves the nest, she covers the bunnies with more hair and dead plants to keep them warm and hidden from enemies.
My research uncovered that the German Lutherans had an "Easter Hare" that judged the children at Easter time.  The custom was first mentioned in Georg Franck von Franckenau's De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs) in 1682.  A springtime version of a Santa, I suppose.  If children were good, they would get treats. 
The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely believed  that the hare was a hermaphrodite. The idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in illuminated manuscripts and Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child.
It may also have been associated with the Holy Trinity, as in the three hares motif.  This is from a church in Germany, Dreihasenfenster (Window of Three Hares) in Paderborn Cathedral in Paderborn, Germany.
Additionally, according to legend, "a young rabbit who, for three days, waited anxiously for his friend, Jesus, to return to the Garden of Gethsemane, little knowing what had become of Him. Early on Easter morning, Jesus returned to His favorite garden and was welcomed by His animal friend. That evening, when Jesus' disciples came into the garden to pray, they discovered a path of beautiful larkspurs, each blossom bearing the image of a rabbit in its center as a remembrance of the patience and hope of this faithful little creature."
Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. Female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first.  They mature sexually at an early age and can give birth to several litters a year (hence the saying, "to breed like rabbits").  So, for many reasons, Peter Rabbit fits nicely into the spring fertility rites!
And, feel free to burst into song!
"Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppin', Easter's on its way
Try to do the things you should
Maybe if you're extra good
He'll roll lots of Easter eggs your way
You'll wake up on Easter mornin'
And you'll know that he was there
When you find those chocolate bunnies
That he's hiding everywhere!"

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Winter passes and

one remembers one's perseverance."  ~ Yoko Ono

That is actually the final stanza of a smaller poem by Yoko:
“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.”  
For many of us in the colder climates, it has been quite a winter,
but seasons change..winter passes, and, with that, come the flowers.
I am setting up a display based on roses.  Of course, the shop is called The Dutch Rose, but that is actually a quilt pattern
and a Depression era dish pattern
And we picked the name because both my husband and I have Dutch ancestry, and I add Irish into the mix.

So, back to roses...the language of flowers is called floriography.  Ancient Egyptians gathered, collected, and displayed flowers as did ancient Romans, Greeks, and Chinese.  Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years.  Plants and flowers are used as symbols in the Hebrew Bible — particularly of love and lovers in the "Song of Songs", as an emblem for the Israelite people and for the coming Messiah— and of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. 
William Shakespeare blooms with floral references!  From The Winter's Tale...                
                                          When daffodils begin to peer,
                                          With heigh! the doxy over the dale,
                                          Why, then comes in the sweet o' the year...
Right on, William!
In the 15th century roses represented rival factions in England.  The "War of the Roses" refers to the Heraldic badges associated with the two royal houses, the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster.  The rose is still the national flower of England despite its "warring" history.
The first cultivated roses appeared in Asian gardens more than 5,000 years ago.  In ancient Mesopotamia, Sargon I, King of the Akkadians (2684-2630 B.C.) brought "vines, figs and rose trees" back from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris. Confucius wrote that during his life (551-479 B.C.), the Emperor of China owned over 600 books on the culture of Roses.

In a very modern twist to this topic, in celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's deployment into space in April 2011, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., pointed Hubble's eye to an especially photogenic group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. This image of a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273 was released to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the launch of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The distorted shape of the larger of the two galaxies shows signs of tidal interactions with the smaller of the two. It is thought that the smaller galaxy has actually passed through the larger one.
Anyway, we are in full bloom...paper roses (not the unfaithful kind--maybe you remember that song)...and bunches and bunches of color...and plates and throws...and pillows and candles...but remember...


"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." ~ Margaret Atwood