Geography And Other Loving Relationships

An acquaintance of mine, a friend of a friend, once said to me:  “You need to get your life philosophy straight.”

Well, it’s hard to argue with that advice.  Actually I quite agree.  A life philosophy, however, needs a little time to germinate…you know, while you are in the process of actually living it.

I do not have a comprehensive life philosophy (yet) but I do have a couple of, shall we say, tenets, that are fully-fleshed.  One of them is:

Humans are meant to be in relationship with their geography by moving across it.

And by that I mean on foot, and preferably every day.  Think about it; we are built to move across a landscape, one foot in front of the other, a pace that allows us to absorb sight and sound and touch but also give our minds a chance to relax and process and, dare I say, dream.  (I get crazy-wonderful ideas when I’m out walking.)  Walking is the perfect pace for our brains to capture data and assimilate it.

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I am lucky to be accompanied every day by two beagles who would rather give up eating than be denied a long walk through the fields.  The dogs give themselves over to the experience and, being hounds, literally follow their noses.  Last month one of the beagles was hospitalized for an entire day for minor surgery and she was too groggy that night to go for more than a little wobbly stumble in the back yard.  But she was raring to go the next day and announced her triumphant return to the fields by baying at the top of her lungs.  It was great and I knew exactly how she felt.

I am lucky to have as-yet undeveloped land in which to traverse and after 14 years of trudging daily through the hay fields I have learned the terrain well.  I have learned the gentle rise and fall of the fields, which fencerows harbor deer and wild turkey, which old fence lines have the eye-popping dogwoods and are not to be missed and which fence lines have fall persimmons that must be avoided by beagles.  In the spring I know my boots and jeans will be damp from the dewy first-growth hay, that the beagles will come home soaked and most likely full of ticks.  In the summer we know to watch for hornet’s nests in the swells of the grass hay.  In winter we can plow through the fields unhindered, tickled by the shadows of the bare bones of trees revealed by long shafts of winter sunlight.

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I take all of this in and it gives me my bearings.  I know where I am in the hemisphere based on the slant of the sun in the sky, the look of vegetation, the peeping of spring frogs and the chuckle of wild turkeys.  And I must not forget the night skies.  Here the skies are dark and reveal a carousel of constellations, some of which I know but most of which I don’t.  The fireflies in summer are breathtakingly spectacular as they bridge the starry skies with the trees and I have learned to watch for them in the grass when I am walking at night so as not to step on them.  At night, as the crickets chirp away, I often think of the horses out in the fields covered in an inky blanket of stars just like their ancestors and mine, and the thought comforts me to the point of sleep.

I have learned this place by moving through it, experiencing it in every season.  The daily walks have never become dull; rather, I feel as though I can never be sated by the experience, like I can’t be outside long enough, that there is just too much ever-changing scenery to digest.  I never find walks to be tiring (but thankfully, the beagles do) and instead I return home rejuvenated and also relaxed and very reluctant to do anything that will alter that mood.  I feel deprived when life’s demands keep me out of the fields.

What have I gained from the relationship with this geography?  I think it is a sense of peace brought on by familiarity, the sense of connection one gets from being a caretaker, and certainly I find comfort in the daily routine.  There is a gentle rhythm to stable life and that is what I find most fulfilling.

Yes, I love this place.

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The Doors

This month’s DIY lays the foundation for all future tinkering…

I may have mentioned that we bought a drafty new farmhouse about 15 years ago.  It was built by the owner, a man who was, sadly, a bit challenged at the skill of installing interior doors.  Even before we moved the furniture in we had permanently removed several doors as they were awkwardly placed and some were downright dangerous as they opened into traffic areas.  A few doors were never replaced and their openings turned into casements, whereas a couple of others were replaced with bi-fold doors.

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So what can you do with a pile of extra doors? This.

Materials (total cost approximately $30)

2  ten foot 2″ x 4″ boards for the sawhorse legs

1   six foot 2″ x 6″ board for the table base that sits atop the sawhorse legs

2   sets of metal sawhorse brackets (4 brackets total)

1   50 count package of 6 x 3/4 flat phillips wood screws

1   interior door (the one I used is 36″ wide and 80″ long) with all hardware removed

 

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Each of the eight table legs are 27″ long and are cut from the 2″ x 4″s. They are then inserted into the metal sawhorse brackets and screwed into place.

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The support boards were cut from one 2″ x 6″ pine board. Since my door is 36″ wide, I cut two 34″ support boards. They too can be screwed into place.  The door lays across these.

 

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The door lays on top of the sawhorses. Mine is not anchored into place although I often think it would be a good idea to do so.  To the right side of the table you can see a white cable underneath it that snakes toward the wall outlet; this is a cable control gizmo I bought later to keep the power cords neat.  It cost about $15.

 

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I drilled a 2″ hole at one end of the table and inserted a grommet; the lamp and laptop cords are threaded through the grommet and cabled together to the wall outlet.  No detail escapes kitty attention.

Swarm Story

~ A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.  A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon. ~

My honeybees, rebels that they are, always swarm in late April.   What exactly is a swarm in April worth?  Pardon the lack of rhyme, but let’s just say “entertainment.”

The bees spilling out of the hive entrance and taking to the air. This is one time that I find honeybee behavior a little scary. I respected their space and took photos from a distance. Thankfully, this swarming-in-air behavior only lasts about 10 or 15 minutes.

The bees spilling out of the hive entrance and taking to the air. This is one time that I find honeybee behavior a little scary. I respected their space and took photos from a distance. Thankfully, this swarming-in-air behavior only lasts about 10 or 15 minutes.

I travel once a year and always on the last weekend in April.  I am always ridiculously busy getting ready to leave so the honeybees’ sense of both timing and humor is not appreciated.  Personally, I don’t mind a swarm – it is a natural phenomenon – but I’d like to be around to witness it.

This year the swarm left me feeling conflicted.  One the one hand, I was thrilled by the fact that this colony survived a brutally cold winter and was big enough to swarm by April.  But a part of me wanted to capture them and install them in my empty top-bar hive; a part of me really wasn’t ready to let them go to live as wild honeybees.

The swarm took their time about finding a home, too.

First stop:  an old tree snag on the edge of the woods.  If I hadn't seen them settle here I may have missed them entirely.  But obviously this was only a temporary spot...

First stop: an old tree snag on the edge of the woods. If I hadn’t seen them settle here I may have missed them entirely. But obviously this was only a temporary spot…

 

Moving right along:  a couple of days later the bees relocated to a blue spruce and nestled under the branches.

Moving right along: a couple of days later the bees relocated to a blue spruce and nestled under the branches.

The same swarm but I shot this photo with a flash.

The same swarm but I shot this photo with a flash.

Not a great photo - it was snapped with a dumbphone - but the bees relocated to a clematis vine near the house.  My husband expressed some concern about this location.

Not a great photo – it was snapped with a dumbphone – but the bees relocated to a clematis vine near the house. My husband expressed some concern about this location.

When the bees had settled in the blue spruce tree I thought I had a good chance to catch them, even though I was out of town for a few days.   Two days later my husband called me and mentioned that the swarm was on the move and was in the yard behind the house; now I thought my luck had run out.  The bees thankfully calmed and nestled in a clematis vine.  At this point I decided it would be easy to capture this band of roving bees by snipping the vine and placing the cluster in my empty top-bar hive.

I hurried home a little early fully prepared to move the cluster, but this colony of course had other plans and had left the clematis vine.  I still haven’t located them but I think they are living somewhere in the tangled little woods on the edge of our farm.  I hope so.  As much as I desire for my honeybees to live successfully in the wild I am also aware that a swarm is a frightening thing to most people.  It is my fear that others would fear a swarm and spray them with chemicals and kill them.

And what of this roving around every few days?  Is that normal behavior?  Do the bees really travel about for several days until they find a suitable location?  It was a fascinating thing to watch but I must admit it made me want to capture them for their own protection.

My hunch is that the bees finally found the old decaying maple tree that has been lying in the woods for over a decade.  Gosh, I hope so.

Here is a great post about swarms on Winged.