May Bliss


May is bliss and not just for cats who can hide in the Flowers.

May is bliss for bees.

And Tree Peonies.

May is bliss for Emily who graduated from high school this weekend.

May is bliss for first year teacher, Ben just about to dive summer vacation.

May is bliss for cousins William and Taylor. Taylor tries on the cap for size and finds it a good fit. Will notes that of the next four family graduations, he is the graduate at three of them; his eighth grade graduation, his high school graduation, and his college graduation. Only Emily sandwiches in there with her college graduation.


May, or at least the tail end of it, is frost free bliss for all the baby plants in the greenhouse and cold frames that can finally get planted and out of their cramped quarters into the good earth.
May is bliss for Sophie and Emily, outside at last, planting the Cherokee Trail of Tears Garden.


May is bliss in the Venus Garden. Its planted, weeded, watered, and feeling the morning sun come up from behind the barn to shine on all the new sprouting plants.


Mending Wall

Have you noticed that I always have either a bee ON my bonnet or a bee IN my bonnet about something?

This week, I am obsessing about rocks. This leaves William glad I am not obsessing about weeds.


Or mulch.

No, this week’s garden obsession is rocks.

I’m working to fix the stone walls in our entrance courtyard. These walls were built with rocks found in our hedgerow. On most farmland around here, this would mean plenty of rock to chose from. However, years before we moved here, our neighbor Teddy got permission to harvest rocks from our hedgerow from the previous owner for a beautiful wall at her house.

Our stonewall courtyard was built from leftover rocks after her harvest. I can remember the man who built her wall driving a truck up and down our field (well before I knew it would be our field). He dragged a sledge behind the truck heaped with perfect, thin, flat, big rocks.

His wall is a wonder. I enjoy looking at it every time I go to Teddy’s house. However, his work meant small chippy sorts of rocks were all that were left for us to use. That and boulders.

Ben did a great job building the wall with what he could find, but whenever dogs or anyone else leaps on the wall, it crumbles and slides. This is because big flat rocks to set across its width to anchor it together were unavailable when he was building.

Ben went on to build other walls with better rock. He built a long wall at Lynn’s, for example. She reports that nary a rock has moved. Snowplows, dogs, donkeys, and grandchildren have done no damage.

Tired of periodic collapses as well as the cluttered look of small stones on the top of wall, I asked a neighbor with literally miles and miles of rock walls, if we could harvest some perfect, thin, flat, big rocks from his walls to fix our wall. The golden words that fell from his lips were, “Take whatever you want.” This was, of course, music to my ears.

Here we are harvesting.


Here’s one stretch of the wall in question.

In the foreground is one of the parts of the wall that I have rebuilt with bigger rocks. About halfway down begins the part of the ring left for me to rework.

As I replace the little rocks with bigger rocks, there are lots of leftover little rocks. I am leaving them there for now because sometimes they are needed as chocks for the bigger rocks. I will probably try to finish this section today, leaving the inner ring around the pool to rebuild next.

Last night, a rock goddess inspected the first part of my rebuild. It seems to have passed muster.

A Rainy Day to Admire the Lilacs

It’s thundering outside with a steady downpour accompanying the booms. This means I am not out in the garden with the black flies. Instead, I am brewing up the week’s Red Shiso.

As I make the Red Shiso, the view’s not bad. The Lilacs encircling the office are just beginning their May fireworks and they grow so close to the office they almost fall into the room when I open the windows.
Here’s a gorgeous Lilac called Pocahontas.

This pink one is called Marie Frances.

Here’s the Lilac that started it all, the one called “common”. Behind it you can see the two new bee hives.

I sat down with the bee to see if we could name each hive. The one on the left is Ben-Wa. The one on the right is Menemsha. The older hives tucked out of sight to the right of these two hives are Andromeda and Lyra. I would like to paint the hives some color other than white, maybe blue because I have read that bees like blue hives. I would also like to paint their names on each hive. This project is obviously not a top priority in the busy month of May, but it will be fun to do when I get to it.

Here’s a photo of the Plum tree we pulled back into place after it fell down in the 60 mile an hour winds that blew through several weeks ago.
In the foreground on the left is a Montmorency Sour Cherry tree encircled in a cloud of happy bees. In the middle, with the rope and stake that’s keeping the tree upright, is the blooming Plum tree with a smaller Plum in front of it. There is nothing like that yellow green of early spring, is there?

Anyways, so far, so good with the rescue of this fallen Plum. It too has been a mass of blossoms and bees. So far, so good with the new honeybees settling into their new quarters. The bees have a seven acre meadow of Dandelions right out from their hives as well as all the blooming fruit trees. So far, so good with William and Jim navigating their new school days of vigilance.

So far, so good. I happily settle for that.


During the winter I thought about the possibility of more paths in our gardens.

Some of our garden beds float separately from each other. Whole garden areas like the Cherokee Trail of Tears garden seem to float within the property with no apparent relationship to other gardens. The Arbor garden and the Rose garden exist ten feet apart but have no sense of connection to each other. Paths connecting these gardens offered one way to create a greater expression of unity and oneness and make the experience of moving through the gardens a bit more organized.

Winter is a good time to think about changes like more paths. I read what I could about the topic of paths in order to get ready to make changes this spring. Rosemary Verey, a British gardener, refers to paths as the skeleton of a garden. She suggests they frame the beds, but also form the structure of how a garden is experienced as well as how it is composed.

The paths at the farm are mostly unplanned. They happened as a response to people and dogs moving around the property. There is the path to the compost heap. There is the path around the Venus Garden into the barn, made by all of us going to the barn for supplies. There is a wheelbarrow path up from the mulch pile. There is the path created by the dogs from the front porch to the back door. Why they need to run from one door to the other with such frequency is beyond me, but they do. Perhaps because they have a full staff of door people at every portal, they want to make sure we are ever at our posts. There are some short, almost invisible paths within the Arbor Garden that indicated how to get in and out of the garden, but not much more.

A few of these paths have that magic quality of a good path. They beckoned us to follow them and see where they go. The path to our neighbor’s house is one of these paths. It cuts a green swath through the rough yellow grasses of our meadow then disappears into a cool woods of black cherry and wild apples. As you enter the inviting copse of trees, a small cairn of stones sits on a chunk of exposed mossy ledge, marking the fact that a journey has begun.

In one of my most favorite gardening book, The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy she suggests that gardens are best when they express timeless archetypal experiences. Our first landscape is our mother. From there, we explore increasingly bigger outer landscapes that echo this first landscape.

A landscape that builds on the archetype of the sea reminds us of our watery experience within our mothers before we were born as well as our nonverbal experience of oneness before language separated us into this and that.

The archetype of the cave references our experience of safety and enclosure before birth as well as right after birth when we are safe in a parent’s cradling arms.

The archetype of the harbor is like our early experiences of sitting on someone’s lap. Contained in a grown-up’s lap we are safe but also able to look out at the world around us for the first time.

The archetype of the promontory is that territory of our first experience of independent movement. It’s a landscape where we have have wandered to places out away from our mothers, but still close enough to run back to safety. The sense of freedom is matched by a comforting sense of having our mother’s at our back. A promontory feels its connection to the mainland even as it sits at the edge of new territory.

The island archetype gives us that experience of solitude, otherness, separation, and independence. With maturity we sometimes seek this kind of separate experience and so can identify with this quality of islandness when we see it in nature or in a garden.

The archetype of the mountain reflects how our journey beyond our first experiences of independence leads us on a bigger quest for self realization. The mountain archetype represents the spiritual journey born from our own efforts.

The archetype of the sky reminds us of the wonder at the whole wide open cosmos, the glory of its bigness and its beyondness.

Messervy suggests that the journey through any garden can be a journey of experiencing these archetypal in the landscape. Thee archetypes can be communicated in tiny spaces as well as estate gardens. When we create these archetypal places in our gardens we make a walk through these gardens a journey both exhilarating and profound.

The Arbor garden is a good example of the cave archetype. The way the farm is set on a hill yet encircled by higher mountains is the harbor archetype at work. The circular pool at the entrance into the buildings speaks of the sea archetype. There are archtypal references all over the place, but the lack of paths means that these moments have not been brought together into a unified journey.

it was time to begin to translate winter musings into action. So, this weekend we began to articulate the paths we have more clearly, and set about to make some new paths connecting disconnected gardens. Above you can see the landscape cloth we laid down under the paths before spreading peastone.

After reading about possible path materials and consulting the Angels about what kind of material to use on the paths, I settled on peastone gravel like the gravel used in the entrance courtyard.

Settling on the idea of gravel and actually starting to dump load on load of gravel into the garden are two different things. I found it a bit of a leap to lay down so much gravel. It seemed so permanent. As I waffled about going for it with the gravel, the Angels arranged that every time I opened a gardening book it showed a garden with gravel paths.

I got the point. They want gravel.

We began where I felt most confident, with laying down gravel on the path that the dogs had already made in all their travel from back door to front and front door to back.
We didn’t get as far as we’d hoped because it takes a lot of gravel to do a little bit of paths but this is how it looks so far. This is the entrance to the Arbor garden. As we get more gravel to spread, we will keep this path going around the south side of the house to the back porch as well as following the dog path in the foreground of this shot all the way to the main entrance on the north of the house.


You can see where we ran out of gravel, just as we turned to corner to run along the south side of the house. I created a small circle of a garden bed between the Arbor garden and the Rose garden. I hope it will be a sort of promontory moment when gravel encircles it and it has a bit more substance.

I still have to think of how to more cohesively connect the two gardens. This small circular bed of alpine strawberries, decorated right now with a fuschia in a pot, doesn’t quite unite the Arbor Garden and the Rose Garden into a whole. But it is a beginning. I will keep fiddling until it feels right. We’ll get more gravel next weekend when I have Jim to help shovel and then we’ll see what happens.

And in the meantime, I can keep mulching all the gardens. We had 20 cubic yards of native bark mulch delivered last week in the most enormous truck I have ever seen. The driver willingly backed the truck down to near the compost heap and then dumped the whole load in one fell swoop.


Here’s William atop the mulch pile in all its glory! That’s even enough mulch for me, the mulch queen. I have taken about thirty wheelbarrow loads off it already and it doesn’t even look like any has been used. That’s my idea of heaven, gardens to mulch and enough mulch to do the job!

Hiving the New Bees

Hiving the new bees last night was like a shortened version of toilet training several children. The bees arrived by Next Day Air UPS last night. Our UPS man sprinted off the truck with our bees, noting that it had been a very long day with a lot of noisy bees. As I cooed over the new bees, I told him being with the bee’s noise had been good for his health. I don’t think he really believed me.

I set the two boxes of wildly buzzing bees on the cool of the back porch and left them to settle down for a few hours. An overnight journey from sun warmed hives in Georgia to the still cool backroads of New Hampshire must be disconcerting, to say the least.

After supper, I donned my attractive bee suit and got to work. Will and Jim were off on a school field trip, so I did not have their assistance in hiving the new bees. They also took the camera, so I have no pictures either.

The two boxes of bees came attached to one another by thin wooden dowels, so the first thing I did was cut the boxes apart with my big pruners. Not an appropriate use of the tool, but it worked. This was necessary because I needed to work with only one box of bees at a time.

It’s not the easiest thing to use a screwdriver to pry up the opening of the bee box when you are wearing bees gloves. They are thick and cumbersome, but I prevailed without gouging myself. I managed to pry up the lid, remove the small box that held the queen bee, and then cover the box again with only a few bees airborne.

The first hiving was like toilet training my first child. Ben said one day when he was about two and a half that he was finished with diapers and we never thought about it again. I wondered what other mothers were talking about with M&M bribes for using the toilet and years of night diapers. I was certain toilet training was a piece of cake. So too hiving the first box of bees.

I removed the cork plug that kept the queen in her little box during the journey north and gently placed this box down into the hive. As I placed her, I could see her moving about the box alive and well, waiting to be united with her attentive workers. Then I poured several thousand of her worker bees on top of hive. They all poured down into the hive with such sublime order and harmony. Before I could even get the lid on the hive back on, the bees were moving towards their queen as fast as they could. It was clearly a gentle group of bees, already bonded to their new queen.

I went for a little walk in my bee suit to give the stray bees flying around the hive a chance to get settled in before I confused them by hiving the second box of bees. I ran into a neighbor who made no comment on the fact that I was wearing an enormous white suit and big black boots while out for a stroll on a summer evening. Perhaps she was thinking, “to each his own said the lady as she kissed the cow.”

Returning to hive the second box, my gathered audience of Lizzy, Emily, and our friend Heather Gallagher assumed that box two would go in as sweetly as box one, as did I. But this group of bees was feisty. The queen went into the hive, but a good half of the bees weren’t interested in following her. They didn’t want to leave the box and couldn’t be shaken out.

One beekeeper whose tomes I read last year said he hived bees by creating a ramp for them to walk up into the hive, giving them choice in the matter of whether to occupy their new home or not. I assembled a ramp and positioned the box of bees so that if they left their box they would be on the ramp with the entrance to their home dead ahead. I sat with them encouraging each bee that stared up the ramp to keep going. If I had had M&Ms to bribe them with, I would have used them. Like toilet training all my children after Ben, this hiving was more of a challenge. This second hive had attitude. The bees willing to leave the box in which they had arrived wanted to fly around my head, not walk up the ramp into the hive. I cajoled them until it got dark. Song, pep talks, everything but snacks were involved. Finally I abandoned my post, figuring that eventually the remainder of reluctant bees would join their new queen sometime during the night.

I got up this morning at six to see how things were going. Hive number one was humming quietly with nary a stray bee. Hive two was staying true to its character. Instead of abandoning their travel box, the bees had clustered together inside the box and stayed there all night.

Donning my bee suit once again, I cut the sides off this box and started to scoop these bees to the entrance of their hive. This was their signal to take off in all directions and then settle all over my bee suit. I began to lift individual bees to the mouth of the hive and that is where I have been the last two hours. Each bee that turned and headed into the hive gave me a moment of delight. Finally with only one sting for my time with the bees, I got the message that they could take it from there. The message was sort of a sassy, “Get Out of Here” not some honeyed words of thanks.

Just like surviving the arduous toilet training of child two, three, and four, there was a feeling of accomplishment that came with sort of hiving the second hive. Though as I positioned what felt like my eight thousandth bee at the mouth of the hive and scooted her towards her new home, I had to smile at cooperative hive number one which had given not a moments worry.

I guess we need the challenges to appreciate the sweet and serene moments, the easy toilet training experiences and the one that leave you feeling like spitting nails. Ah Life! Maybe it’s all that time with the bees of hive number two, but this morning it feels easier to not worry and just be happy. And grateful.