APRIL, CONT.

The bees are back. You may remember that our colony of last year suddenly swarmed up and moved on to a better neighborhood. A mystery, and their owner, Allen, doesn’t know where they went. Or why. They just did.

So he had to buy a new queen and her colony, put them in a box, bring them here, and pour them into the beautiful hand-crafted hive under the little oak cluster. This operation had to wait until the cows were moved out of this pasture, as they would otherwise surely rub against and knock over the bee’s home.

“So how do honey bees survived the winter, anyway?” you ask. “Don’t most of them simply die?” Good question. Most do, I learn, but this particular species of bee, apis mellifera, has a strategy which has them huddling together, surviving all winter on the honey they’ve stored and something called bee bread. When extra cold, they shiver as if to fly, but stay stationery and the friction of hundreds of the little creatures warms them all.

“Very cool, but what happens when we’ve stolen their honey?” Right. Apparently the colony produces two to three times the volume of honey they need in order to survive the winter. Bee keepers can thus harvest the excess without compromising the colony. Why, exactly, the bees over-produce I do not know.

Anyway, the cows have been moved away from the pasture near the house and down toward the barn. Much better. While the chickens are cute, rushing to meet me with their funny two-legged waddle, the steers, not so much. They’re not threatening, exactly, just imperious. Entitled. Give us what we want, right now, or we’ll bellow your silly little fence down. (On consideration of their future, okay, carry on?)

When a young child, I wanted to be a cowgirl. I realize now that I didn’t really want anything to do with actual cows. It was all about the horse I longed to have. Me and the purple sage. That didn’t work out, but here I am! Be careful what you wish for! (Don’t misunderstand. I love these ugly, dirty, noisy, bossy animals. At a distance.)

“You’re so lucky, living in the country, with the animals and chores you probably don’t have to go to some gym to get your exercise.” Hahahaha. Good one.

Like the rest of you, who probably had a gym somewhere and a trainer or zumba classes, or tai chi, or yoga, we also had a gym. Up until. For a while we worked out in our garage “gym” outfitted with a few accessories, like a TRX scrappy thing, a couple of benches, some weights, and a treadmill. Going out there on a cold winter’s morning, in between the cars, boots, recycling bins, spare refrigerator? I’m not complaining! Yes, we are lucky, thank you for reminding me. (Jesus.)

But we did it. Sometimes. Then our son Peter suggested that we might like to join him and Allison once a week on Zoom-like training sessions with their personal trainer, Nancy. Why not? It seemed to work, and although Nancy is very, very good, she was simultaneously managing two active Californians and two old Oregonians. Whatever that means. We’d be exhausted for the rest of the day. Then Peter had another bright idea. He works out alone with Nancy on Fridays, and we could join him then, for half-hour sessions. That worked for a time, until Peter was unable to take his Friday one day, and did we want the time, alone, with Nancy? Okay, sure.

We’ve only done it once, but we have seen the future. It is sweet to see our family, briefly, once a week, but seriously. I didn’t think I’d like working out via Zoom, but, I do. (Vik says their grand kid Jordan suggested that they should buy Zoom stock. Don’t know if they did, but, smart kid!) Now I think we’ll never go back to “our” gym, Snap Fitness, even when Covid is a distant, dim memory.

Thank you for coming to my rescue with book recommendations after my little rant last post! Here are two ideas which are exactly what I wanted: Miss Benson’s Beetle, by Rachel Joyce, which Jeanne Ederer (Jenny’s m-in-law) suggested. “Two spirited women, one journey to the edge of the world.” I haven’t read it yet, but Jeanne says she laughed out loud reading it. Perfect.

And: One Long River of Song, by David James Duncan. As he’s an Oregonian, you may have read some of his fiction. But this! OMG. Vik said she actually sobbed while trying to read a bit to Gordon. Vik? Sobbed? You have to pay attention to that. It’s because it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful and profound and and . . . it’s a collection of thought pieces, whew. Try to find both of these books.

And here’s a suggestion of my own: Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m listening to, not reading it, and my suggestion is to follow my example, as the reading is so good. I’m rationing it because I’m addicted. Great writing (duh) and a compelling, amazing story.

Now the sun is shining, I found a frozen chunk of Gumbo in the freezer, so dinner is thawing. I’ll go see if there are any eggs today, and if so, post a photo. Excuse me, be right back.

Three chickens, two eggs. Someone taking the day off, but that’s fine. Go enjoy this nice day, ’cause I’m going to! See ya.

APRIL

Cows lick each other¬†around the head and neck to show affection and help forge strong friendships, a new study reveals.” Or so says Mr. Google. I’ve been wondering! Our boys are, as I mentioned, feisty teen-agers, here without their moms (or certainly their dads). They spend their time grazing, head-butting and shoving, mounting one another, kicking up their heels. But now and then, we’ll see one licking another, both still, mesmerized. Really?

And they talk to us. Last year, with cow/calf pairs, there was a lot of communication, and the vocabulary is surprisingly translatable. “Where are you!” “I’m hungry!” But what do our boys have to say to one another? I don’t know, but if they don’t talk among themselves, they sure do talk to us. Right now, the herd is grazing in two joined pastures , each abutting the driveway. They wander freely, not, so far as we can tell, herded up. When one or several spot us, however, they come rushing up to the fence. The others notice and soon, some 25 cows are jostling and, get this, mooing at us. Plaintively. “We want to be in that other pasture over there where it’s greener. We’re tired of this grass. We’re stuck here and it’s your job to move us!” They’ll follow along as we walk, and they’re noisy!

Here’s one, assessing me, looking picturesque behind the daffodils:

Yes, daffodils! Spring! We walked down through the copse on Wednesday, and were surprised to see all the fawn lilies in bloom under the trees:

The camas lilies are not quite out yet, but here’s an early pilgrim:

Soon the wetland will be covered with blue. Under the ash woods, the trillium are arriving:

Buttercups. And who is this? Any ideas?

You should get your shots and come visit us! But hurry, these wildflowers won’t last long.

What else? The garden, of course. Every living creature is stirring, even this cabbage half, spending the lonely winter in the veg drawer of the back refrigerator. In the dark. Still:

Don’t question my reason for having this moldy thing still in the refrigerator. I didn’t know it was there, okay?

Here’s Larry at his chores:

I’m in a race to use all last year’s squash before the new crops start arriving. I’m not complaining! Well, just a little.

And while I’m complaining: I never imagined a day would come when I would be tired of reading, but here it is. Same goes for listening. I never want to read or hear another story in which there’s a dead body. Three generations of Southern women. A sassy female lawyer, cop, teacher. Anything based in New York City because I don’t get those people. Rich people with a cottage in the Hamptons. I don’t even know exactly where “the Hamptons” are. Anything involving WWII — I mean nothing! Yeah, no, I don’t want something inspiring or intellectual or historical. I want to be entertained. To laugh. Is that so much to ask? Any good ideas?

I’ll tell you a story I just learned about an uncle I never even met: Uncle Buzz. My mom’s brother. Speaking of WWII. So in civilian life he was an elevator engineer for Otis, but some way found himself in the Navy, serving on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. His ship was attacked by a Japanese bomber, with the result of 29 dead. The system which moved the planes from a lower to top deck for takeoff was destroyed, thus disabling the ship’s mission. It was thought that they would have to return to San Francisco, spending at least half a year out of service. But my uncle to the rescue! This is about elevators, after all. He figured out a way to replace the plane’s lift system from one area of the ship to another, and so the ship lived to fight another day. A war hero!

Why didn’t I ever meet this man? Good question. One of the ways my family has been strange and weird, and don’t we all have strange, weird families? Yes, we do.

Now it’s 11:00 a.m. and I have some weeding to do in the driveway, where grass has been determined to migrate from the lawn. Larry sprayed it, but now we just have dead yellow grass in the driveway which shows no sign of blowing away. I know. I should have been doing my job all along and we’d all be free to sit in the sunshine with a good book. A good book. Anybody?