I’m back from the barn on this muggy, still, August day. The smell of horse sweat and manure clings to my clothes and hair. I took my sister’s advice this morning. After working for several hours, I went out to enjoy the world that, all too soon, will require the ritual of dressing to enjoy. My gloves and boots are for riding, otherwise I am in the least amount of clothing possible while still being respectable.
After a quick lunch I grabbed the gallon of bee syrup and headed to the garage. I carefully packed my smoker, and considered the hot beekeeper hat with its claustrophobic veil, shook my head and headed to the hive. The bees were thick at the entrance. My smoker had gone out. Before opening anything I flicked the broken lighter a million times to relight it. It flared up, burning my knuckles but I focused on getting this done quickly. The smoke settled the buzzing to a low hum.
I lifted the top gently and puffed a warning cloud of smoke under the lid. The feeder was dry. Just three days ago I had added a gallon, the ladies were burning through the syrup in preparation for fall. The hum increased as I put the lid to the side and reached for the syrup. Though there were bees in the feeder tray, I wasn’t brave enough to remove it and shake them out before refilling it. I sacrificed a few to a sweet, watery death for the sake of doing this with little protection, save the smoke. Balancing the pot of syrup I reached down for the smoker, several worker bees buzzed at my face. I held my breath. Bees are fastidiously hygienic. I’m sure the very smell of me was an alarm. Breathing on them is beyond insult. One of my cats came to see what I was up to. He rubbed incessantly against me legs as I took long slow breaths, exhaling away from the hive. The bees surrounded him and danced but he seemed oblivious. They merely looked like they were grooming him.
Mission accomplished I slid the top back in place and tightened the tie-down strap around the hive. As I walked back to the garage, I puffed the smoker both to empty it and to warn off any hitchhiker bees that might be following me. Sitting in my office later, I would smile at the wonderful scent of pine burning as it smoldered.
As I walked back up the front path, I mourned the flowers gone to seed with no new replacements flourishing. My Chinese Lantern plants have taken over one garden and this year are in full fruit. Every year, except the first when I only had 4 plants, I have struggled to dry them properly so they would maintain their outrageous, gregarious orange. This year with some advice from NHGarden Solutions I am hoping to finally accomplish this with my bumper crop.
I was snipping and collecting the stalks when a tiny toad leapt across my toes. How different the world must seem to him as I clear-cut this miniature forest? I wonder if he or she is one of the choir that serenade me to sleep every night? Soon enough their voices will be gone but for now, we can all just breathe.