We are almost halfway through February, and I am already getting cabin fever. My winter sowing gallons have been outside since New Year’s, and I have already begun growing some of the early inside sowing species. I wish that I had a proper greenhouse, but we all make do, no?
Speaking of dream gardens, it seems that some Doctor Who fans have allowed their enthusiasm to escape out the back door:
The Daily Mail features another gardening fan’s TARDIS shed: “Something for the back YARD-is: Mother uses Doctor Who Tardis as garden shed but this one is no bigger on the inside with just enough room for a wheelbarrow.” Just imagine what substitutes as a hedgehog in her garden . . .
As you may know, I have been raising Blue Orchard Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria) for several years now. I have mentioned them before in “Spring Arrives Slowly.” An online store where I have bought supplies for this garden-friendly hobby is Crown Bees, which specializes in different species of native pollinators. Check them out; they are a treasury of information. The folks at Crown Bees do not see the company simply as a commercial venture but rather as a horticultural and agricultural crusader in the eco-conscious sustainability revolution. To spread the word, I am posting their bee-awareness campaign picture:
If you have the proper habitat for native bees in your neighborhood, consider becoming a bee farmer! It is fun, educational, beneficial to nature, and beautiful.
Happy springtime—de ephemeride if not yet fully de facto. I hope that you are having a fruitful Lent. I do not have much to write; the events of the day repel me so much that I do not have the desire to write about them. I find myself longing for some terrible catastrophe qui écrasera l’Infâme! So, I turn to distractions—or, rather, toward reality in the midst of this age’s delusions.
One such refuge for me is gardening, and there are sure signs of spring hereabouts. The lawn and the beds are full of hundreds of crocus, squill, and aconite flowers. The dwarf iris, primrose, and hellebores have proudly displayed their riches to spite winter’s greed. The hyacinthoides, Byzantine gladiolus, and daffodils are announcing their imminent arrival. This week, I have spotted some wild mason bees beginning to use my reed stations (in my mason bee “homes”). I have not yet put out my harvested bee cocoons from last year—it looks like the fruit trees will not blossom for a few weeks, and it might be a late release this year.
Speaking of Osmia lignaria, Crown Bees has created a new native bee online “community,” Bee with Me. If you are interested in raising bees but do not have the time or resources to look after honey bee colonies, you should consider mason bees. They are easy and rewarding—and rather charming with their gentle dispositions, industrious habits, and beautiful metallic blue bodies. Different regions have different native mason bees, and there are suppliers that will sell you the appropriate cocoons for your area if there is no longer a significant wild population near your home. I started raising mason bees four years ago, and their numbers increase each year. The downside is that they are active for only a short spell—less than two months. In addition to my little masons, I would like to begin honey bee keeping, but I keep deferring the project. Maybe next spring . . .
The other treat that I have to share is “What Plants Talk About” from Nature. You may watch the entire episode on PBS. I found it informative, surprising, and delightful, and I wonder what Aristotle would have said about the vegetative soul had he known.
I would first like to wish my fellow Orthodox a blessed feast of the Transfiguration!
Yesterday, I received the Touchstone newsletter, and one article immediately caught my eye: “Food for Thought: Rachel Lu on Growing Vegetables as a Primer in Moral Philosophy.” The newsletter offered this delicious morsel:
Gardening, as I discovered, is a wonderful primer in moral philosophy. It is a clear, tangible, and literally delicious way of experiencing the progression of created beings through their natural lifecycle. A well-tended garden offers resounding, joyful affirmation of the sturdy Aristotelian principle that optimal conditions enable living things to flourish. No one is a moral relativist when fertilizing his tomatoes.
I highly recommend it. I acknowledge that I am probably more enthusiastic about gardening and moral philosophy than the average person, but the article is still worth your time. It is full of insight, as in the following penultimate paragraph:
As a rule, most zealous food moralists tend to be politically liberal unbelievers, and this is not surprising. I myself, as a mother and a Catholic Aristotelian, cherish my garden as a medium through which my children and I can enjoy life and beauty together, even before they are capable of putting our shared experience into words. For unbelievers, however, gardens may provide something much more essential: reassurance that objective goodness and thriving are possible. Those same solid Aristotelian principles that were dramatically expelled out the front door can now be re-admitted through the back gate, in the innocent guise of peppers and summer squash. For such people, gardens really may be a lifeline to a moral universe that they had dismissed as the stuff of legend and fairy tale.
Lu’s article is rather appropriate for this day; we celebrate the manifestation of the savior’s glory on Mount Tabor by having the fruits of the harvest blessed.
Have you ever cried out, “I’m a gardener, not a miracle worker,” while standing helplessly as you witness a poor butterfly hobble on the ground, unable to fly due to its broken wing? Feel powerless no more; read “Butterfly Hospital.” It is a guide to performing wing surgery on injured butterflies. Earn your L.D.—Lepidopterologia Doctor!
Christus is opgestaan!
I have been quite busy lately with gardening. I set up an extensive grow light system over the winter that may have gotten me on some DEA list, and now I am sending my hundreds of little green children out into the brutal unforgiving world. It is challenging but very rewarding.
After a day of planting, I tried to explain to my mother that I feel like Adam in the garden, managing nature and cultivating my own little plot of paradise. To which she curtly replied, “I hope that heaven looks better than this.”
My mother sent me some gardening humor that she knew I would appreciate:
Conversation between God and St. Francis about grass. This puts a whole different perspective on having a green lawn.
GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of birds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.
St. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
GOD: Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?
St. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
St. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it - sometimes twice a week.
GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
St. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
St. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
St. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.
GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
St. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheers stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.
St. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD: No! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the fall to keep the soil moist and loose?
St. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
GOD: And where do they get this mulch?
St. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
GOD: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
St. CATHERINE: Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a story about . . .
GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.
Aside from the theological stupidity (and to think that Saint Catherine would feature such an idiotic movie!), it is a funny story for those of us who despise the American obsession with sterile green space.
Happy birthday to my mother, who inculcated in me a love of God’s creatures.
Last month, I came upon a charming story about medieval cats and their mischief: “Paws, Pee and Mice: Cats among Medieval Manuscripts.”
The article is instructive in many ways. I learnt, for instance, a useful curse:
Pessime mus, sepius me provocas ad iram; ut te deus perdat. [Most wretched mouse, often you provoke me to anger. May God destroy you!]
I’ll have to try that for the voles who nibble my bulbs. I cannot find the vernacular Latin for vole, but the genus name is microtus. Equidem pessime microtus.
Bonne journée du Poisson! Do not do anything stupid!
And happy Bright Week to our Western brethren.
It is also now April, which is a lovely month of rain and flowers.
Given the day, I offer you a joyful little story from Dave’s Garden, “Where the Flowers Grow.”
Enjoy the day, the month, and the season.
Lent continues, but today marks the spring equinox this year—thanks be to God! Appropriate for the day is this short testimonial by Angela Carson on Dave’s Garden: “Why Not Give Up? Gardening Despite the Challenges.” Carson rejoices in the “process” of gardening. We tillers of the soil understand; gardening is a joyful gift.