Bear Attack!!!!!

Remind me not to complain about slugs.

Last night at 3:30 am, I awoke to the sounds of munching, snuffling, and the clatter of wooden boxes being destroyed beneath our bedroom window.

I knew at once there was a BEAR IN THE BEE HIVES!

When I yelled “BEAR!!!!!” in Jim’s ear, he too leaped up and joined me to race downstairs, bang on windows, flick on every light, then tumbled out into the night.

Only to find we were too late to stop most of the damage.

What a mess! Frames were ripped, torn, and scattered all over the yard. Bees covered the ground where the hives had been and whirled in the air above their wrecked homes.

As we surveyed this scene of bee carnage with flashlights, we heard more snuffling.

Abruptly, a young brown bear climbed down out of the oak tree just twenty feet from where we stood. He blinked at us, then ambled off into the woods, but not before pausing to sit back on his heels with a look that said, ” HONEY, HONEY, HONEY.”

Quickly, I donned one of our bee suits and tried my best to reassemble the three hives. I was the better choice for the job than Jim, who reacts more to bee stings than I do. Because understandably, the bees were MAD and wanted to sting me any way they could.

And they sure could! They stung me right through the bee suit and especially on my ankles which were bare because I had pulled on my old hiking boots, instead of the more protective mud boots. Soon my ankles were so covered in stinging bees that I yelped at Jim to go find me some BOOOOOOOOTS!.

Better garbed, I went back at it.

One hive was so heavy with honey, it took every bit of my strength to get it back onto its platform. Somehow its two hive boxes had not fallen apart when the bear pulled it over and this saved it from the kind of damage the other hives suffered.

As I jammed plopped frames back into hive boxes and reassembled the hives as best I could, I hoped each of the three queens had somehow survived the raid and would live to keep their colonies together.

When everything was assembled as best I could manage, we went back to bed to stew about how we would protect the bees from another raid tomorrow night

WHEN SUDDENLY

we heard chomping again. THE BEAR WAS BACK and settled in for another serious meal next to a hive he had just destroyed AGAIN.

And this time, he would not leave. We yelled. We threw my hiking boots. We banged on windows. Finally, Jim went onto the roof above the hives and threw rocks at the bear until he took off with a new look that said, ” I’LL BE BACK.” I swear I could almost hear the Arnold Schwartzeneggar accent.

So Jim and I sat up ’til dawn, watching the hives and pondering our next move. Tonight we think we are going to try to build a natural barricade of wild rose canes. That should be fun.

So thank you Greg, for the tried and true caramel apple recipe! I need a sugar high as badly as the bear, especially if I am going to have to build a barricade of rose canes then spend the night in banshee bear yelling!

Facebook Deflation Syndrome

If I was a twenty something, I would surely be spending copious amounts of time on Facebook seeing all the signs that everyone on earth was having a more hip, more fun filled, and more glamorous young adulthood than me.

Yesterday I got the taste of this Facebook Deflation Syndrome when I googled caramel apple recipes.

Yes, I know that sounds unlikely, but let me tell you what happened.

At present, everyone in the office is obsessed with caramel apples, especially Sophie, and we decided it was high time to make a few. My google search pulled up about a zillion recipes for melted Kraft caramel apples but frankly, that was just not what all of us in the office had in mind. Ours had to be from scratch.

When one site, picturing a dreamy looking caramel apple with a thick layer of caramel stuck to the apple, mentioned its recipe used only honey, heavy cream and sea salt, I believed I had the recipe to carry the day.

Then, while I was printing the recipe, I began to look at the site and read the woman’s blog and suddenly I was having a fifty year old’s version of Facebook Deflation Syndrome.

Most entries began with comments like, “Just back from two weeks in Japan and the restaurants in Tokyo were better than ever.” or, “Don’t you just love Paris in October?” or, “Had to make a last minute dinner for guests from ingredients in my practically empty refrigerator and could only find three kinds of goat cheese, some toasted pinenuts, an ordinary sort of tapenade and bunch of fresh cilantro.”

In exactly the same state of half dread and half fascination that I look at my kid’s Facebook accounts, I dove into this woman’s blog deeper and deeper. And then I had to pull the plug. After all, how much shredding could my ego take?

Because unlike this wonder woman, I have not been to all six continents in the last six months while simultaneously winning so many literary and culinary awards that my resume goes to two pages. And when my refrigerator is nearly empty, it has things in it like strange relish and empty orange juice cartons, not tapenade.

As I bid adieu to this site, I tried to beef myself up with a reassuring inner monolog. I began with the topic of travel and reminded myself it really is okay that the farthest I have been from the farm in six months is East Ryegate, Vermont where puppy Reina was born. I soothed myself with sweet words about how special it is that a far flung day for me is several trips to the compost pile.

Then, taking on the topic of awards, I racked my brain for a few mintues and recalled that I HAD won a prize once. It was a door prize for an ugly picture frame when I was in sixth grade. So useful for someone who is twelve.

Really, dear readers, have no fear reading this blog is going to cause you any Facebook Deflation Syndrome. It is not going to make you think you have not done enough peak bagging or made enough marvelous food. In fact, today, you have a real treat in store for yourselves when you get to see how MY special from scratch caramel apples turned out.

I tried wonder woman’s recipe for honey and cream caramel apples. I boiled my caramel to 255 degrees per her directions then watched in happy anticipation for well covered caramel apples to take shape before my eyes. And this is what happened.

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It’s a Grandpuppy!

This weekend saw the arrival of our first grandpuppy.

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I am as besotted as a grandmother can be. Here is the adorable Reina arriving at the farm. It was her last day with her ears down. By the next morning she had them both up.

Reina is a siberian husky born to run, a perfect dog for Elizabeth whose idea of a walk is well… you know…walking across a country.

How we enjoyed Reina’s every moment this weekend ( except that moment when she ran over to the beehives to take a sniff and I had to tear in there after her to pull the annoyed bees off her ears).

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Besides the bees, her world proved a most accomodating place.

Then today, the besotted fan base grew larger when all the staff aunties arrived to find Reina settled into the office for her first day.

Now everyone is officially gaga except for MayMay who retains the right to be miffed, even as she has been polite to the new arrival.

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Oh Puppies!

PS Reina’s first Flower Essence mix, given to her for the first time when we loaded her into our car for the ride home from northern Vermont, contains New Beginnings, Anxiety, Animal Emergency Care, and Digestive Woes. No doubt the Angels will be tweaking that soon but so far, things are going swimmingly!

Of Rocks and Pumpkins

This spring we had a load of composted manure delivered to the farm and dumped in its usual place down by all our compost heaps.

When I began to carry wheelbarrow loads of the stuff up to the garden, I was chagrined to find the manure was chock a block full of fist sized rocks. There was just no way this stuff had come straight from a cow. Something had gotten lost in translation. Well, eventually the farmer admitted that he had composted this manure on a pile of rocks and I got the lucky scoop that picked up all these rocks.

Meanwhile down at the manure pile, I was having a hard time enjoying this situation. I have spent enough years here taking rocks OUT of the gardens to relish putting any back INTO the garden, and sifting through manure was not exactly high on my priority list for spring chores.

I did my best to get over myself and dutifully carted twenty or thirty loads of sifted manure up to the roses. Then I quit. Left the big pile to rot some more. Tried to ignore it. But there it sat, our own version of rocky road ice cream.

So one day on a whim, hoping to lessen my guilt about not making the most of this manure, I smoothed the top of the pile a wee bit and threw in a half dozen GIANT ATLANTIC PUMPKIN SEEDS. And let me tell you, within days I was feeling like Jack and the Beanstalk. This mighty pile of manure combined with our endless rain made for the perfect pumpkin growing matrix. Now covering an area about the size of a tennis court, these plants have gone NUTS!

And as the nights creep closer to that moment of frost, I realize that one of the really fun things about our first real frost will be finally seeing just how many of those epic pumpkins there are out there.

Right now we get a glimpse on our way to and fro from the compost heap.

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Nothing in my photo suggests the scale of these things. I will have to do better when we harvest them to show you exactly HOW BIG they are. Find a small child to cower under the things just like in the seed catalogs or something. Its like Jack’s magic beans are at work down there and not only are Jack’s needs being taken care of, but I think I have a pumpkin for Cinderella too.

I can only hope the magic extends to disappearing all those rocks in the pile.

Hope and pumpkins spring eternal here.

Packing Pollen, Packing Luggage

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If the honeybees could name this Flower, they might agree with the humans and call it “Autumn Joy” Sedum as we do.

This time of year, they can’t get enough of it or the exuberant Applemint that takes over one of the Rose beds every September. Each spring, I hope to do a better job reining in the “invasive” plants, but then I get so busy and when the dust settles in late summer and the Applemint, Tansy, and Asters are everywhere, the honeybees seem glad that I didn’t have time to tidy up these mother loads of pollen and nectar.

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I am glad that the bees enjoy the sprawling glory of the late summer gardens because there is always so much other stuff going on in the early fall here that the gardens get a bit wild by default. I have to leave the invasives to divide and multiply when the zillions of pears begin to fall off the pear trees and have to be harvested before they get too ripe, I even had more of a challenge than expected this season with keeping up with the produce that miraculously survived the Slug Wars.

This year in particular saw me packing Lizzy off to live in a cottage at a nearby farm. She is working for this farm and also here. This means that when someone named Elizabeth answers the phone here, it IS the Elizabeth who made our Camino collection of Flower Essences and now works to get the definitions for a second set that she made on the Camino this summer. All this is all good news for the farm! We are loving having her here on the phones, invoicing, bottling and shipping.

The second packing job involved getting Emily on her way back to college. She returned from her summer job at a camp on Cape Cod just long enough to pour her laundry onto the floor, sort it, wash it, and then pack up for her junior year. And yes, she was at the beach in Chatham when the great white shark ate the seal. When we call her these days, we start our conversations with our own rendition of the Jaws theme song. I guess I should just be glad she wasn’t eaten by this shark, but really I am spoiled enough to wish for more. like that her college curriculum took place in the gardens with me. Oh well.

This past week also saw us packing Will off for a camping trip that was part of starting high school. Mercifully, he came home to our nearly empty nest after just a few nights away.

Finally this week saw us packing Jess and Deb off to an Integrated Health Pet Expo in Boston. We haven’t done any shows in almost fifteen years but these two intrepid souls were game, so we went for it. Getting ready was a might process and I must say I waved Jess and Deb off the hilltop with a sigh of relief that I wasn’t going to be the one unloading the cargo at the Fitchburg Marriott .

Jess called from the show last night and sounded very cheery. They will be there all day if any of you in the Boston area and want to go meet them and see all the snazzy banners that Jess made. How much I appreciate the energy of Jess, Sophie, and Lizzie who now happily move mountains for us!

So back at the farm with the week’s orders on their way, I turned my attention to planting the garlic. This is a crop that has to go in during the fall for next season’s harvest. I also made a few more Essences and took some photos of a few Flowers that have eluded me until now, like the wonderful Bottle Gentian.

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This photo begins to suggest Bottle Gentian’s great strength at helping us hold our power and see clearly even amidst forceful change, times of chaos, or situations in which we are challenged to know our own strength. It is even good for packing frenzies. I should know.

Really, there never is a moment in the gardens or the woods when I am not bowled over by the generous and ever PRACTICAL gifts of nature, there to help us through every sort of moment. Even in a summer of rain, slugs, and packing boxes, there is so much to be grateful for!

As a community of Flowers, Angels, Nature Spirits, Dogs, Cats and even some People, Green Hope Farm can be a funny place……and I love telling you all about it!