> Bloom April 06 2016
Each spring when I rediscover our "bloom calendar," it's like walking through the blossoms of the past few years.
You see, the bloom calendar is the same paper calendar book, dated 2008, where we record each spring's bloom, with each year being a different color ink. For example, 2009 was black pen, 2012 was blue marker and this year is purple Sharpie.
It's interesting to compare when things bloomed each year, and the difference is amazing. In 2012, when we had an early spring, I recorded on March 25, "black locust still in bloom," suggesting these trees had been blooming for a week or two. Last year, black locust didn't start blooming until late April, a whole month later.
Last year, on March 29, we had temps in the 20s, while this year cherry trees were in full bloom on the same date.
Other things find their way into the calendar. In 2009 on March 18 we found five bluebird eggs in a nest, the same day we sowed crimson clover, and on March 29 the eggs hatched. The same year also was a terrible tick year, with a notation at the end of April of "ticks everywhere!"
Also in 2009, a neighbor brought us a swarm of honeybees he found hanging from a fake floral arrangement at a cemetery, and we caught another swarm on our basketball hoop.
While beekeeping isn't typically thought of as farming, I love how this trade keeps us in touch with Nature. Everything about honey is dictated by the weather. Spring, especially in Middle Tennessee, is unpredictable, so each year we look forward to tasting our spring vintage.
It's the condensed essence of a volatile and unpredictable season, always different and always perfect.
> Spider webs September 08 2015
Spider webs are everywhere lately.
I'm not talking about Halloween decorations in stores, but between the tall grasses of our pasture and bee yard. Every morning the dogs and I ramble a bit while things are still wet from dew, and the sun breaks over the trees.
I'm guessing there aren't more spider webs this time of year, but I just happen to notice them.
You see, with the cool nights and hot days, there's an early morning fog that settles on our land, just before the sun comes up. The fog passes over and through the grasses and wildflowers, then the sun stops it in its tracks. Moisture settles on the plants like a clear glaze, before it burns off in the heat.
So, for a window of time on these late-summer mornings, the Earth in this little postcard of land is glowing with fresh light on twinkling plants and webs.
My favorite plants are the little bottle-brush-like grasses, their hundreds of short, feathery wisps glazed with dew. But they can't compare to the glistening spider webs, their symmetry stringing through the air.
Most of the webs are shaped in what I think of as "cobweb" style, a center circle or octagon that repeats itself like a pebble in a lake, echoing over and over. Many of these are straining under the weight of the dew, so they look worn out as they span the grasses. They're like tattered streamers at the end of a raucous surprise party, making me think I arrived a wee bit too late.
There's something reverent and small about these webs. Even in their wet disarray, their simplicity and complexity takes me by surprise. Like much of Nature, they're there all the time, but we don't always notice.
It just takes certain conditions — conditions in us and around us — to reveal them.
> 'Not much to look at' April 30 2015
"Well, they're not much to look at," he said, "but they make good honey."
After moving to Tennessee from coastal North Carolina a few years ago, this was our introduction to the black locust tree. The old man at the farmers market, who asked if we had black locust honey, added to his description:
"It's just a regular old tree, but in the spring they get these shabby-lookin' blossoms," he said.
This prompted a search to identify the black locust tree. And "shabby" is a good word to describe it, at least from a distance. The blooms hang in a pendulous cluster, sort of like a bunch of grapes, but from far away they look like a bundle of tattered tissues. Up close, you'll see delicate, white, sweet-smelling blossoms — which I have heard are edible (and sometimes deep fried) but haven't tasted (or fried).
Right now, at the end of April, which is a late bloom for this tree, you can see black locust trees in bloom all over the middle Tennessee area. Native to the southeast, and considered invasive in some areas, we have seen many of these trees along I-40, and on the edges of fields and pastures, where they haven't yet been crowded out by more aggressive trees.
More importantly, our bees are feasting on these blossoms! Black locust honey is sought after because it is a hard nectar flow to "catch." Tennessee springs are usually wet, and often cold, two things which keep honeybees from foraging this short-lived nectar source. It's a special treat to have black locust nectar filling out the taste of our spring honey, and we're looking forward to finding out what this vintage will taste like.
Black locust trees may not be "much to look at," but their nectar is really something to savor.