Saturday, 26 May 2012

THE WILD BEES AND THE HONEY MAN - PART I


I received a message by way of my father, via the local grocery store, from the resident bee-keeper and honey man.  The message was that news had reached him, via a neighbour, that there was a nest of wild honey bees in an old tree on my property - which of course I already knew.  The bees have never bothered me and I have never bothered the bees, though I often wondered what the honey might taste like after they have fed abundantly on the flowering basil, rosemary and thyme that grow in my kitchen garden.

Having lost a good number of his own bees recent, possibly to Colony Collapse disorder, the bee-keeper was anxious to visit and make the acquaintance of "my bees", in the hope of coaxing some (?) of them to take up residence in one of his hives.  The message ended, "he will come after church on Sunday".  As the aforementioned bees are about 40ft up in an old tree, that stands over 60ft high, this sounded like a very interesting, and possibly entertaining Sunday adventure, and I hoped that he had prayed well at church that morning before arriving.

So Sunday came, as did the honey man and his assistant as promised, and the process began.  There was much inspecting of the tree and eventually it was deemed that this was indeed a very good colony and that there was evidence to suggest that a huge part of the tree was already filled with honeycomb and wild honey. So the smoker was lit with a handful of dried grass, and overalls donned.  No fancy bee-keepers' whites here - good old work overalls and a straw hat with some rather manful stitching that secured the net was all that was required. Up went the ladders, followed by the honey men, into the canopy, and all I could think of was Alfred, Lord Tennyson and "The Charge of the Light Brigade":

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred: 

'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Onwards and upwards they went, puffing smoke and peering into the great abyss.  Bees began to hum and the area immediately around the honey men began to darken. There was shouts and exchanges of insults in French creole - "stand on there, you fool" - "no not there, stand here!" - "let me do it! - "stop being a coward" - "look out....." and then came an almighty crash as a rotten tree limb came crashing down, taking a section of the perimeter fence and my neighbour's banana tree with it and the bees burst forth.  Much waving of hands and "I told you so's" and down came the honey men. Thankfully, the bees did not swarm, but buzzed and patrolled their air space - like MIG fighters that had been dispatched to investigate intruders in a no-fly zone.

Eventually as the heated debate died down, I slowly emerged from my hiding place whence I had dove when the commotion begun.....thankfully, no one was hurt (apart from the possibility of a bruised ego for the senior honey man who was now being chastised by his assistant for pussy-footing around).

The honey men concluded that they needed the "big guns", and must return with a chain saw and better ladders or a platform.  In the meantime, all that could be done was to try to repair my fence and make the property secure.  As both have day jobs - the return match would have to wait until the weekend, and eventually it was decided that it should be the following Sunday.....after church.  I can see now why the trip to church is such a very integral part of the whole operation.

Closing score: Bees 1 - Honey men 0
Rematch Sunday (weather permitting). 



"Into the Valley of Death rode the....two" 


The first few bees decide to see what all the disturbance is about





  

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

THE GARDEN WITHIN A GARDEN UPDATE - THE TOPSOIL RELOCATION PROGRAMME

Finally, a break in the huge system that has hung over our tiny island home these last two weeks (though I believe it is only a temporary respite).

A combination of dry weather, and the appearance of Handy Andy - something akin to the alignment of the planets - meant that we finally managed to make some progress on what had become a fenced  quagmire, rather than a garden, and home to the local frog population where they could be totally safe from dog-kind. As of yesterday, I have reclaimed my vegetable garden!

With the wood for the two raised beds duly installed, Handy Andy began the unenviable task of hauling the huge pile of delivered topsoil from the side of the drive, up the steep slope and across to its new resting place.  Sadly, it was not until this moment that I was able to get a really close look at the quality of the soil, which turns out to be a heavy clay, made ultra sticky and dense by the recent heavy rain. No bagged, graded or carefully prepared soil here! It's a case of Russian roulette and you take what you can get, huge boulders, tree roots and all.

No matter, an application of composted leaves, grass, wood chippings, and possibly some well-rotted seaweed, gathered on my next trip to the beach, should bring it to the quality that I had hope it was. 

Leaving Handy Andy to complete this soil relocation programme, I headed out to run a few errands, and get supplies for the old folks.  A couple of hours later, on my return, excited to see how things were shaping up, I hurried to check the progress.  It seems that:

a) my communication skills in the local French Creole is poorer than I thought;

b) one should always stay close when Handy Andy is doing something new, and

c) Handy Andy has not fully grasped the concept of the raised bed.....for if he had, he would  not have filled the area OUTSIDE of the raised bed with topsoil to the same level as inside, rendering the raised bed, raised no more!!

Thankfully, he had only filled part of this lower area, so I managed to stop him in his tracks, aided by an unexpected and sudden downpour which brought the work day to a convenient close.  Returning today, I've re-directed him to another task on the pretext that this new job is more pressing.

I haven't got the heart to tell him that the raised beds are wrong after his huge effort and great pride in managing to shift so much soil whilst I was out.  I will, instead, have to do some "adjusting" when he is off at the weekend, and explain afterwards that I changed my mind and doesn't it look better? It is so very much easier this way......

So, bottom line, we are making good progress in spite of the heavy weather and mis-communications. The seedlings are more than ready to be transplanted - I just hope they can hold on a little longer for the move to their new home. What a labour of love this little vegetable patch has turned into, but I feel sure it is worth it and we will be rewarded with much bounty for sharing and with which to barter.

The new shed/gazebo for which I have seen some most inspirational pictures this week (and yes, all are rustic, can be made from reclaimed timber, some of which I already have to hand, and within budget ; ) will have to wait a while longer.

In the meantime, Handy Andy's enormous capacity for hard work, has been diverted to another small  retaining wall ahead of the rainy season (proper) and making the shed that houses the gravity-fed water storage tanks, a little more aesthetically pleasing.  In the process, I have added a little platform to the front of the watertank shed, just big enough for a couple of chairs, as this happens to also be the perfect vantage point from which to view the setting sun.  So all in all, a good few days work and another few tasks ticked off the master plan.


The area surrounding the vegetable garden, now cleared of the elephant grass, will be planted with fruit trees, eventually.

Stopped in the nick of time, the outer area being filled with soil to the same level as the "raised" beds!
 
Garden with a view : )

 

Meanwhile back at the water "tower" and terracing project...
The new terracing will prevent landslides, evidence of which is already showing as the soil begins to "creep".
What projects do you have occupying your time and mind right now?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

HOLIDAYS ARE COMING....

ADDENDUM:

I wrote this post ten days ago and published.  So what's wrong with that, I hear you say? As written below, I headed off to the posh paint store, and to the only upscale home accessories shop on the island, with a real determination to buy something pretty.....(sadly, we do not have any vintage, junk or retro shops here).....then suddenly it hit me! What was I thinking?
  • Isn't this exactly what I purport to have left behind? A hankering for things, just because there's a new dazzling colour in this season's paint chart or on the catwalks of London Fashion Week?
  •  Isn't the little blue guest room functional, pretty and clean? And isn't that all holiday guests really want; somewhere clean and comfortable to rest after a day at the beach, or exploring the rainforest?  
So, I came home empty-handed and deleted the post.  However, on further reflection, I considered it was a good lesson for me, and one should learn one's lessons.  So I am re-publishing the original post, so that the next time I have an uncontrollable urge to spend money that could be better spent on something more useful (or even simply given away to someone in greater need), I will revisit this post. 

So here is the post in its original form. In fairness to Design Seed, they are doing a marvellous job of providing inspiration and great insight for those who do need help, and are seeking some creative guidance, and if that is you, dear reader, then you need look no further, because I feel sure you will find precisely what you need on their website. Unfortunately, I temporarily forgot, that I have no such need.....for now:

THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING....
NOT "THE HOLIDAYS" - as in a certain soft drinks jingle ...but the summer holidays!

My brother has his first paying guests of the season flying in this evening - it's May, it's St Lucia Jazz Festival.....it's that time of year!

The time of year, when friends begin to make enquiries about when I will be around, and who else I have coming down to stay.  I often say to friends and relatives - "come anytime", and like to feel confident that when I say "your room is always ready" that this will be true.

To that end, I found myself looking at the little blue guest room and wondering if it needs a bit of a freshen up.  It hasn't been done that long, but high humidity and other tropical oddities, means that one needs to "freshen up" almost seasonally to keep things looking bright and welcoming. The truth is that a recent Facebook post by Design Seeds® ( http://design-seeds.com), suddenly made that particular room look a tad flat, and one-dimensional, and in need of a bit of a colour kick-in-the-pants!  After all this is meant to be a "tropical" home!  

THE INSPIRATION:  

http://design-seeds.com
http://design-seeds.com

Lord Leighton - The Music Lesson

freya art & design © all images contained 2012.

I foresee two issues:

1) Deco wise, the stores here seem to be way behind, so finding a reasonable match to the paint colour that Design Seed have inspired me to use, could be quite a challenge;

2) I am still firmly in the camp of less is more, and the most I may consider buying would be a few new throw pillows or some new fabric to bring the colours together, and of course just enough paint to bring an accent into the room.

So, with that in mind, I have a wonderful teal chenille throw and some turquoise china packed away, and have an idea to introduce just a splash of teal/turquoise into the blue room.   Minimal outlay, with maximum effect is the desired outcome.  Having been inspired by http://design-seeds.com's beautiful visual of a weathered, washed teal door, I'm considering painting the old white wardrobe this colour. 
I have a day off tomorrow as it's a holiday, so I will have a mooch around the delightfully, lovely home accessories store we have here to see what I can find.....I may even venture  to the Benjamin Moore paint store, which although rather expensive, will be a real treat as I don't need very much : )

I've added a canopy and mozzi net since this photo was taken

The canopy hangs from the vaulted ceiling, which can't be seen unfortunately! 

Can't decide if weathered/watered teal on that wardrobe would be too much?

A MATTER OF LIFE & DEATH....

I realise that the phrase "a matter of Life and Death " sounds rather dramatic, but it's been a strange week.

Fellow bloggers have been busily posting photos and accounts of new arrivals, and the beginnings of new life, in the form of ridiculously cute piglets, chicks, ducklings, goat kids, spring lambs, new puppies, marmalade kittens at http://aagaardfarms.blogspot.com/,  a new foal at www.stilettosinthemud.com/favorite-blogs.html, and even a baby donkey (can't recall who posted that).

And as if to maintain the status quo, my own animals have been on a killing spree, and I've had to "man up" and shovel up remains of two deceased possums (may they rest in peace). One appears to have been swiftly and cleanly despatched; the other "rent in twain" in a frenzied attack. A reminder that our cute pets are still hunters at heart, and no amount of petting, pandering or training can truly change their basic instincts that are embedded deep within their DNA.  They're just doing their job, for we ask them to keep rats away, but cannot hope to expect them to pick out a rat, mongoose or possum from a line up on a dark night. Even with a torch, I can barely tell which is which myself. In reality, my dogs are very friendly to people (perhaps they think THEY are people too?) and rarely even so much as bark at a human, with the exception of passing farm workers who go to and from their daily toil brandishing their machetes (machetes being the preferred work-tool for most here, and seen as an acceptable item to carry around - you can travel on an early morning bus and be surrounded by workers with a veritable armoury of machetes - in every shape and size. Strangely, this sight can strike terror and anxiety into the heart of any newcomer the first few times they encounter such a morning commute, but after a while one comes to realise that there is no malice, and it's no different to the carpenter with his work bag full of hammers and chisels - simply tools of the trade).    Anyway, as always, I digress........

Other matters of Life & Death, have included the passing of a dearest friend's father, who sadly lost his battle with cancer this week - a what an epic battle it was! He definitely subscribed to the "do not go gently into that good night*" school of thought.

He has been lying in state these past few days and many other friends have been to see him and bid him farewell. I have NOT - for me his body, lying in state, is just that....a body. The wonderfully charming, and gracious soul, who once occupied that body has now departed.  I will choose instead to remember, that same gentle man, as he was several weeks ago, when, although feeling rather unwell, made the time and considerable effort to call in to have afternoon tea with my mother. As though in some kind of ritual of mutual acknowledgement that time was running out for one, or perhaps both of them, and that this may be their final chance to "take tea" together.   After tea they bade each other farewell, and as I walked him to the gate, I couldn't help but wonder which one would be the first to leave us.   Since then, my mother has actually shown tremendous improvement and continues to soldier on.  Sadly, her friend John, was just too sick, and too tired.......

I have never been to a State funeral before.  The Prime Minister announced a few days ago that our dear friend had been granted this high honour. I hope that it will somehow be comforting to his family and friends, to give him this great send-off and final farewell by way of celebrating his life and his achievements. 

And whilst all this has been going on, I read of the passing of an amazing sounding lady, the artist Nancy Asbell, who although suffering from Lupus syndrome - a seriously painful and debilitating illness, continued to the end with the mantra "Celebrate the day! You never need an excuse to be inappropriately happy." - how wonderful, I like the thought of being "inappropriately happy", though I know there are those who, for some reason, feel that being inexplicably happy is in some way defiant or impertinent - either way, just simply not acceptable. I'm sure at some time in your life you've heard utter the phrase "what's (s)he got to be so ^*!%^&* happy about"?  Why do people say that? Surely we all have something to be happy about? What's so wrong with showing our gratitude with a beaming smile and infectious laughter?  I for one shall continue to be "inappropriately happy" at every opportunity possible. Are you with me?

*Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 
  
~ Dylan Thomas