Daddy longlegs in love

At least I think they're in love...

10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 2

It's riotously funny that conservative columnist William Kristol has this to say in his most recent op-ed piece entitled, "How McCain Wins":

"Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past. The most famous of these is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright...."

Is everyone out there aware of Caribou Barbie's radical associates—namely, her pastor, Thomas Muthee? Fasten yer pagan seatbelt.


10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 1

Happy Monday!

Over the next few weeks (which will no doubt feel like eons), we're going to explore just a handful of the galaxy of reasons why Caribou Barbie has no place anywhere near the White House.

Here's as good a place as any to start:

1. She supports the barbaric, sadistic, morally indefensible activity of aerial hunting of wolves.
(If the utterly psychotic nature of tracking, harassing, exhausting, and then shooting wild animals from helicopters is not immediately apparent, please watch this illuminating video and decide for yourself if someone who thinks this is "OK" will make an "OK" president...because if we let this insanity continue, she'll be president all right.)


Sunflower Honeybee


Recent Things (Joni Mitchell Brackets)

"See the geese in chevron flight, flappin' and a-racin' on before the snow...they got the urge for going and they got the wings so they can go..."—Joni Mitchell ("Urge for Going")

Corn dog on the fly.

Pink corn.

Acorn takes the high road.

Birdhouse in which wrens spent the summer...
...and a mouse spends the fall.
Tomato plants covered at dusk on the night of first frost.

Snake skin in the bee yard. (Note outline of eye and jaw on the left portion of skin.)

Grass shadows on a great book by Jim Harrison.

A mushroom I thought was the shiny cinnamon polypore but now I think isn't.

Ambivalent leaves of staghorn sumac.

A tiny nest.

Grouse crossing!

"Hey farmer, farmer, put away the DDT now—give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees—please."—Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"


Fab Farmer Gets "Genius Award"

Meet Will Allen, founder of the Milwaukee-based organization, Growing Power. Here's the kind of person America needs more of.

Indeed, with all the nonsense going on lately, it's refreshing to hear a good story about a sane person contributing to the well-being of his community—and the earth—through those most potent of exertions, sustainable ag and yes, community organizing. And naturally, bees are part of the package.

Super-psyched to see Mr. Allen's great work recognized and rewarded by the MacArthur Foundation. Check out this video interview.

Live long and prosper, Will Allen!

We're Living in a Disney Nightmare

Sarah Palin = Disney nightmare.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll write another check to Obama.

(By the way, since I keep bees and "bee" rhymes with "free" and this is the "land of the free," I'm qualified to be V.P. At the very least, since I can see cows from my window, I should be qualified for the Secretary of Ag post. Incredibly, amazingly, astonishingly, Palin is continuing to push the "I can see Russia from my house" argument to tout her foreign policy "creds." It's really quite beyond comprehension. She should stick to what she knows—like slaughtering wolves from helicopters.)


Zinnia Zap

I love the dollops of cheerful color zinnias contribute to the end of the summer and early fall. It's like they're pitching in to make the shifting season a bit less depressing. The palette reminds me of those jumbo boxes of Crayola crayons—you know, the much-coveted 64-pack of the mid-1970s.The zinnias—in their "Different Brilliant Colors"—provide one of the garden's last nectar sources for the honeybees and other pollinators. Zinnia + borage + sunflowers + tomatillo blossoms = all that remains on the garden front, nectar-wise. (Fortunately, even after last week's light frost, the fields remain rich in goldenrod and aster, which the bees are working with frenzied effort as the foraging season winds down.)The zinnia is also popular with the bumblebees, who—like the honeybees—are in a race against time to gather enough food to overwinter.

This bumblebee captured my attention the other day, not only for its impressive size, but because it was slow-going, which made it possible for me to enjoy the sight of the morning sunlight illuminating its fuzzy exterior. Bumblebees are usually more skittish than honeybees, and quicker to buzz off, as it were, when the paparazzi arrives. But then something else caught my attention. If you click on the photo immediately above and look closely, you'll get a sense of what I mean.

See the pic below for a better look.What we had here was an interesting stand-off between a flower spider and a very ample bumblebee. The spider—which relies on ambush (rather than a web) to capture its prey—gingerly probed the bumblebee (as shown below) and apparently decided against a tussle. (Another case for the annals of the Don't-Bite-Off-More-Than-You-Can-Chew Dept.)Here's a better look at the spider in question.About an hour later, I returned to the scene of the non-crime and found that the spider had succeeded in biting off something it could chew—namely, an unlucky honeybee. In the pictures below, taken over the course of about a half-hour, you can see the spider feeding on its prey.
Within the hour, the bee had been discarded and the spider was lying it wait for its next victim (and, I suppose, digesting).

Some beekeepers become incensed when predators "get" their bees. Birds, for example, are described in some beekeeping guides as "pests" of the honeybee. So are frogs, which have enough troubles of their own without being maligned by beekeeping textbooks. I've even read posts from people on organic beek groups threatening to shoot cardinals or scarlet tanagers who "dare" to pick off their bees.

Please. That's the way the food chain crumbles. Yes, I'm saddened to see a bee taken by a spider or bird or whatever, but I also know that bees are no more exempt from the food chain system than the rest of us (lest we forget that we too become grist for the nature-mill, by and by). One reason Mother Nature, in her pretty much infinite wisdom, creates colonies consisting of tens of thousands of honeybees is that danger, predation, mortality are part of the game. Deal with it.

Besides, I like spiders. Is that so wrong?


I'm a Cover Girl!

And so is Wren. Our beekeeping proclivities were recently featured in the 9/11/08 issue of our hometown paper, The Park Slope Food Coop's Linewaiter's Gazette. Check it out.

Can I run for Vice President now? I think I'm qualified.


And the Rubber Dodo Award Goes to...Mrs. Sarah Palin!

This just in from The Center for Biological Diversity:

Sarah Palin Earns Prestigious Rubber Dodo Award

The second annual Rubber Dodo Award goes to... Sarah Palin. The Center for Biological Diversity honored her with the 2008 award for her valiant efforts to protect her state's oil industry -- sacrificing the well-being of our earth, our climate, the polar bear, and numerous other warming-threatened species in the process. Starting in 2006, Palin worked hard to block the government from protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act -- and when the bear was declared "threatened" anyway, she sued, joined shortly thereafter by her oil-industry friends. According to the Center's executive director KierĂ¡n Suckling, Palin's lawsuit will put her in the history books as perhaps the only person ever to have accused the Bush administration of excessive use of the Endangered Species Act.

The Center's Rubber Dodo Award is reserved every year for the person in public or private service whom we feel has done the most to contribute to endangered species' extinction. Last year, we gave the award to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
Check out the full Dodo Award press release here.

Dodo. Palin. Dodo. It's just so perfect in so many ways.


Recent Things


On Plumbing, Snakes, & Hay

Warning: If you do not wish to see my septic tank, read no further!
A couple of weeks ago, our ancient septic system of unknown whereabouts began to act up. Quick as a whistle, Mr. Rooter was on the scene, and before long, earth-moving machines had arrived to dig about the lawn in search of said septic device.Using interesting high-tech methods, Mr. Rooter actually narrowed down the location fairly quickly. The cement, 1,000-gallon tank (which had not been excavated since who-knows-when) was revealed, pumped, and repaired where a broken pipe was creating technical difficulties resulting in ominous sound effects emanating from sundry plumbing fixtures, shaving years off my life with each and every resentful burble.
After the job was done, a large tract of dirt was left in its wake, a sort of surface-level, Turin-like effigy of the septic tank itself. At the stern instruction of my Lawn Guy, Jerry, who brooks no interference with the health of our lawn, Wren and I purchased a small sack of grass seed at the local Agway.

The other day, after much procrastinating, I finally got around to sprinkling the seed on the now hard-as-rock ground, raked it in (not really), and then covered it (sort of) with a light layer of hay, as per the Lawn Guy's directive.

I did this all half-heartedly because: (a) I don't really care about the lawn; (b) I don't think terribly well of lawns as an ecological proposition, but am too lazy to painstakingly rake leaves off a moss garden once a week or plant a million shrubs in its place; and (c) I have a trillion other outdoor projects to attend to. But the Lawn Guy told me to do it, and I never mess with the Lawn Guy.
Fortunately, I had plenty of hay on hand. I use it to build compost piles, mulch the asparagus, and put the various vegetable beds "to sleep," covered and safe from weeds, for the winter. Last winter, I made windbreaks for the beehives using "walls" of hay bales, which I subsequently recycled back into garden use. (This winter, in the spirit of experimentation, I'll try burlap windbreaks instead—an idea proposed by Beekeeper Andrew during his visit).

The truth is, I love playing with hay. For one thing, I adore the smell. It reminds me of being a kid at farm camp and jumping into mounds of soft, dry, sweetly aromatic hay in the Pennsylvania hayloft, as August light eked through the slatted barn beams and Richard Nixon resigned. Happy memories!

I also love playing with hay because it's full of fabulous life forms that, in hauling, disassembling, and redistributing the bales, I get to commune with. For example, after unloading my first bale from the wheelbarrow, I met these cool spiders.What kills me about this last arachnid (below) is how well it camouflages with the wheelbarrow! Talk about being ready for anything.
Spiders rock, but nothing floats my boat like a good snake. Again, youthful memories of pet snakes—green grass snakes, garter snakes—and of catching snakes. I was the best at that. Still am.

I didn't have to catch this one, though. S/he was found slithering around in the wheelbarrow after I removed one of the bales. A lovely garter snake. Haven't seen many this summer; too cool and damp. They're out there, of course, but they're keeping a low profile.
Between sections of the first bale (these segments being referred to, interestingly enough, as "books"), I found this exquisite young red-bellied snake. I'd never even heard of red-bellied snakes before coming here, but I now encounter them quite often. They are delicate, gentle, shy, and gem-like. I love everything about them.
Both snakes (along with all the spiders) were carefully returned to the hay bale pile, but before doing so, I couldn't resist snapping this glamorous closeup.
Check out that two-toned tongue. Snakes use their tongues not only to taste and touch, but also as a scenting device. It seems the forked tongue allows the snake to determine from which direction a given scent—whether prey, mate, predator, or anything else of interest—is coming from.

Having finished my reverie amongst the snakes and spiders, I found my attention grabbed anew by the subtle, intricate beauty of the cut, dried, and compacted grasses and other herbaceous material that populate a bale of hay. It's the ultimate still life: a segment of field pressed like a flower in a book—a book that tells the history of a meadow at summer's pinnacle—a book that looks, thinks, and smells like hay.