Tag Archives: Fruit Trees

The Boys and the Bees

Daylight Savings Time has started and we were still a bit stunned on Monday when we left, late, on our daily walk.  I slept in because it was dark at 7:00 a.m.  The Bearded One dreamed that a bear was chasing him, and he was pondering the episode at breakfast.  It’s spring and everything is waking up.  Time to eat and mate and pollinate!

“Got somethin’ for ya.”  Our neighbor, a Scandinavian-accented 75-year-old man, waved us into his driveway.  He has a small orchard and last fall had promised us some Mason bee tubes, and here they were.

The gift of bees; we put the cookie can in the black planter nailed to the stump for rain protection

The males will emerge from the mud-packed tubes first and wait for the females.  Then they’ll mate, the males will die, and the females will do the pollination work in our fruit tree orchard, three circle gardens, and berry trellises as part of their nest building.  I know this because our neighbor left us instructions in an envelope with the bees.  We used to have peach and apricot trees too, but we had to dig them up from leaf curl.

Bare branches still on the fruit trees. Plum, pie cherry, Spartan and Granny Smith apple

The female bees pack the tubes like this:  pollen/egg/mud/pollen/egg/mud/pollen/egg/mud.  There can be 10 eggs in a tube, all set to feed on the pollen in their little cell through the winter and emerge next year.  They’re called Mason bees because they’re mud workers.  They don’t make honey, they are not aggressive, and they don’t have much of a sting.  They’re all about getting pollen and they’re good at it.

Her furry legs are the main attraction. She can pollinate 1,600 flowers in one day.

I will keep watch, and, as farmers do, I will count.  When did I do that last year?  And the year before?  How many seeds in how many rows, how many poles in how many holes?  Calendars are very important to gardening.  Time springs ahead and falls back, it takes big leaps and giant tsunami gulps and never flows like sand through the hourglass.  This Sunday we’ll celebrate the Spring Equinox when the length of night and day will be nearly equal everywhere on the planet. 

When we got back from our walk, 6-year-old Hansel and 4-year-old Gretel (not their real names) from next door came over.  “We’re making cupcakes,” Hansel said breathlessly.  “We need to borrow an egg.”  Gretel smiled. 

“One egg coming up,” I said.  I am a good witch, and they were not afraid to follow me into the house.  They’ve been here before several times with their folks.

I opened the refrigerator and thought about offering them two eggs.  They both looked at me with large eyes.  They were on a mission, and they wanted just one egg.  Not two.  To offer two would confuse and dilute the moment.  Two would have been a pain in the butt.  Sometimes you don’t want more, and I decided not to risk messing them up.

“One egg?” I said.

“ONE,” Hansel said, holding up his index finger.  “For CUPCAKES.”  He took the egg, they both thanked me, and then they raced out the door and down the steps.  We’ve lived here for four years and watched both of these kids growing up at what seems like a furious pace.

“Time changes everything,” my younger Twenty-Something daughter said to me as she arrived later that afternoon with her boyfriend.  She was talking about her brother maybe changing his college major, but her words resonated across the landscape.  We lose track, our gauges break, we fall in love.  The two of them held hands and kissed, yet appeared to be interested in the as-yet-unconstructed hoop house.

$250 of hoop house supplies -- lumber, zipstrips and zipstrip tool, braces, hinges, guy wire, and hemp rope. The special plastic and chicken wire will probably be another $300.

The Bearded One's contribution on the hoop house this week

Then the two lovebirds headed for the trampoline, where they jumped and laughed and the boyfriend did so many sequential back flips that we all gasped.  We even forgot to count.