Do Bee Do Bee Do

August 1, 2018

After the weather we’ve had, it’s been pretty depressing to set off on the bike in a jacket, gloves and tweed cap – I’ve grown rather fond of pottering round in a t-shirt and shorts. And I’m not the only one feeling the weather. Venturing out this afternoon to rescue the washing from yet another shower, I came across a dopey bumble bee that seemed to have given up the ghost.

A teaspoonful of honey* and water seemed to do the trick.

bee sipping honey

It’s rare you get to see a bee properly up close, so I made the most of it as it lapped up the water. Insect tongues seem to be all the rage this week …

bee close up

It soon perked up, had a poo (or whatever the bee equivalent** is – certainly something shot out its back end; I told you I was watching it closely), groomed itself and as I left it to it, was struggling to get airborne again. I hope in my eagerness to help I haven’t contributed to some sort of apine obesity crisis…

I hope everyone in London is enjoying their break from the heat, because I can tell you, I’d be very happy to see the heatwave return up here. And so would my new pal the bee …

*Post-hoc googling suggests I should have just used sugar and water rather than honey so hopefully I haven’t spread any nasty germs

** Googling bee poo suggests that they do … as always, you step into specialist fora at your own peril as an Internet rabbithole awaits.

Busy Bees

June 1, 2016

It’s not often we get the best of the weather, but that seems to be what’s happening in recent days.

bee on chives

I have much I should be doing indoors but, like the bees, I’m making the most of the sunshine in the garden while I can.


Meanwhile, my thoughts are turning to the new house (or more accurately the new garden). Once we move I will for a while be maintaining two gardens as I’ll be keeping on the veg plot (which has a tendency to turn into the long lost veg plot if I turn my back on it for an instance) while also getting to grips with the garden at the new house. The latter might be interesting as it the vendors have moved out a while back and apparently left no arrangements in place to get the grass cut.

overgrown veg plot

First find your veg beds

If anyone’s in the market for some hay, we may have a meadow on our hands by the time we get the keys …


August 22, 2013

I went out to try and get the fennel under control the other day (it has been ambushing the other half on his way out the door) and discovered it absolutely buzzing with hoverflies and bees of all shapes and sizes. They’re not alone, either. The pot marjoram and other plants have been alive with bees and butterflies of all descriptions – with loads of peacocks (the butterfly, not the large fowl). A combination of a warmish summer and – I confess – a backlog of weeding has turned our front courtyard into some sort of invertebrate paradise.

Unfortunately it’s also turned it into something that teeters on the brink between ‘garden’ and ‘no longer garden’. The cobbles are a mass of vegetation and the gravel drive is slowly making the transition to ‘very well drained lawn’ (which happens to be nicer to cycle over than loose gravel but that’s not really the intention). There’s a fine thistle established behind the wood pile and more dandelions than anyone could wish for. And the landlords have noticed and are now planning to sort it out with weedkiller.

I’m a bit gutted, because I have been trying not to use any chemicals at all if I can help it, while keeping things under control. The not using chemicals part has gone fine – but the under control part has not. I can’t blame the landlords, but I do feel I’ve failed on this one. I have negotiated that it won’t happen till the winter, when the butterflies and bees will be safely tucked up for the winter, but it does seem a shame to lose this little patch of space where any visitng insect doesn’t have add to the cocktail of pesticides and herbicides and general cides it will pick up everywhere else. Unfortunately, unless I get my act together soon, that’s what will happen… gardening fail.

Seeing the Flowers for the Weeds

June 15, 2011

The garden has reached the whack-a-mole* stage of the year where all thought of working through a schedule of tasks gets abandoned in favour of doing whichever bit of weeding most desperately needs to be tackled next, before a machete is needed to find your bench, car, or the way out of the house… (of course, while the weeds are growing like, well, weeds, my beans are still growing like – well something that doesn’t grow very fast. Or at all)

Yesterday’s candidate for whacking was the thistle which I’d been putting off but it had finally showed its true colours, meaning the ‘very elegant sea holly’ excuse was wearing a little thin (thanks, emma c). So donning two pairs of gloves and deploying a shovel and a pair of secateurs I managed to fell it and get it into the wheelbarrow without poking too many extra holes in myself in the process (although I did find out later that it had scattered countless little needle-sharp thorns all around where it had been so it got the last laugh). Quite satisfying to fill a whole wheelbarrow with a single weed…

The problem with gardening is that while everybody else – if they squint a bit and ignore the state of the cobbles – will probably look at that photo and see a not bad display of early summer flowers, whereas I see weeds, things about to topple over that I haven’t properly supported, things which are all flowering at once and will then sit there looking lumpy for the rest of the year, too much of one kind of purple, oh look is that bindweed, snails, the first of the solomon seal cutfly larvae, some pots which I meant to plant up and didn’t get round to …

You can never just relax and enjoy it, can you? And I’m not the only one: if this picture came with sound you’d hear nothing but the buzzing of the bees, bumbling around the flowers. They can’t relax and enjoy a garden either, although they do seem to appreciate it all the same.

*Not literally. I quite like moles, although that’s probably only because they haven’t laid waste to anything yet.

Honey, Honey

July 7, 2010

Calling in at the shop this morning, hoping to pick up some honey as well as a paper, I was horrified to find that only the premium heather* honey was in stock. ‘Have you not got any of the other honey?’ I asked, meaning of course the cheaper honey, although I wasn’t about to say so in so many words. ‘That’s all the honey that’s left,’ I was told. ‘We can’t get any more, there’s no honey at all. The bees can’t cope, apparently,’ although what the bees can’t cope with I don’t know.

Is this a thing? I did a quick search for honey shortages and – apart from discovering that, by law, it’s not possible to write an article about honey farmers without using the phrase ‘hive of activity’ – I was none the wiser. There seem to be reports of dreadful honey shortages every year, which makes me wonder whether honey farmers reporting honey shortages might not be a bit like every other farmer reporting how there will be shortages due to too much rain, not enough rain, just the right amount of rain but too much wind, too little wind, EU legislation, and people moving to the country from cities to write sarcastic blogs about country life instead of getting on with their real writing. So I’m none the wiser. There were plenty of bees around in our garden last month but not so many now – which may be due to a week of high winds, lack of flowers, or the bees buggering off to the higher ground to take up making heather honey as there’s so much more money in it.

Either way, I forked out the extra 95p to panic buy the heather honey, which had better be worth it. And it was only as I pedalled home that I wondered whether an entirely spurious temporary honey shortage might not be a good way of shifting some premium honey stock that the canny people of Papershop Village wouldn’t fork out for otherwise.

* how do they know? Do they follow the bees to make sure they’re only visiting a better class of flower?