Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From a Quiet Maine Island

Across this vast country, the sounds of clinking metal are a sure sign that the tomato cages are coming out of hiding. From garages and garden sheds to barns and potting benches, the stacks are being separated and set into place over fledgling vines. But, not at our cottage where the tomato cages remain on duty year 'round. You're probably thinking-who is she trying to kid? In Maine??? Yes, our tomato cages are out all year to protect our rare clusters of Pink Lady-Slipper orchids (Cypripedium-from two Greek words, cyperis and pedilion, meaning Aphrodite's slipper).

When we first moved to our cottage, we found one lone plant, which we covered with a cage. Since then, the Lady-Slippers have spread. They nuzzle into the deep duff we keep in their territory and regain the home ground once lost to a closely sheared lawn. Although the Lady-Slippers are supposed to bloom here in May, we always have them through the month of June.

I love to sit beside a Lady-Sipper and watch and listen. Our fuzzy bumblebees shoulder aside the fat pouches and push their way inside in search of food (which she won't find, but that is another story). The orchid shakes, and the bumblebee buzzes loudly as she tries to find her way out of the slippery walled flower. Finally, she pushes under a pollen laden anther, her furred body picks up a few life giving granules of pollen, and she transfers them to the stigma of the plant she is in or onto another. A bumblebee life insurance program. Sometimes I think that I am the president of the "Bumblebee Appreciation Society." Care to join?

Gardening in my nightgown (as usual).

Blessings of nature,



June said...

We've been watching the bumble bees on the catmint today, so entertaining!

It's wonderful to see your lady slippers. We left a beloved trove of them behind when we moved from deep-woods Maine to our garden-friendly four green acres. How we miss them.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

June, I hereby authorize you the first member of the newly formed Bumblebee Appreciation Society. Congratulations.

Bumblebee blessings,


Tammy Heller said...

Awesome picture of the lady slipper!....

Nan said...

There's the best advantage of living in the country - going outside in your nightgown! I love the bumblebees, but so wish I had honeybees as well. I am worried about them.

Barb said...

We have bee hives at the far end of our property put there by an area beekeeper. I called him years ago and asked if he would grace our piece of earth with his bees. Now I am the "bee lifeguard". They tend to flock to the stock tank I have here for our sheep and llamas. They start drinking and for some reason fall in the water and can't get out. I go out and very carefully put my finger just below them in the water. They crawl on board and I lift them out and put them on the gate where they can dry off and continue on with their business. I have only been stung once and that was when someone came up behind me and surprised me. I jumped and the bee reacted. I felt so bad because I knew that she would then die. So "life guarding to bees" is just another duty around here. And, I am not bees! =0)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Nan, remember that the bumblebees are our bona fide NATIVE pollinators. We also have many, many other native bees, which are shouldered out of their habitats by honey bees. I love honey and honey bees, but I appreciate and love the bumbles too-and I see their plight of not being able to compete well with the introduced honeybees. I can't remember where I read it, but I think that a hive of honeybees displaces many thousands of bumbles. Bumbles are out pollinating when temps are much lower than honeybees can tolerate. No pots of honey from the fuzzy bumbles, but plenty of healthy plants and genetic diversity as a result of their bumbling visits.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Barb, Love your story about being the friend to the bees. My great grandfather Baker was a quiet Quaker man who had a way with bees. My aunt told me that he could carry them in his pocket without ever being stung. Also that anyone who was mean to him got stung by nearby bees. Amazing.

One of my favorite books is The Secret Life of Bees. It has the same gentle feel as To Kill a Mockingbird.

All bee blessings-Sharon

Aunt Jenny said...

It was so fun to see your comments on MY blog!! I met you once at Julie W.'s shop in Cambria years and years ago.(she sold the rugs I hooked) I am going to look for the books you recomended (by David Kline) right away..sounds like my kind of author!
I have learned so much from YOUR books too...and use ideas from them in my garden each year. My grown boys grew up going up to Heart's Ease to shop at least once a month (we lived in AG) and my younger kids still at home..ages 12,12,13,and 14 are learning from you still through your books.
I see alot more hornets and wasps here than bumblebees but I am on the lookout for them all the time and saw two yesterday in my garden. Awesome. Have a great weekend!

Patti said...

Hi Sharon,
I'm so happy that you have a blog!
I used to check out my garden in my nightgown on a rambling 25 acres, but a year ago we moved to a small town. (about 1/2 an acre) It's so different, but I'm getting used to it. We have room for a large garden. I, like many others, have been enjoying your books for many years.
Have a great day!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Patti, thank your for the kind words. Here's the deal, I don't live in the country in California. I live on a small lot in a busy, busy area of town. Since I couldn't give up the nightgown gardening we built a courtyard wall around our gardens (you'll see them in the future and in the pages of my new book). Anyhow, I still garden in California in my nightgown, and here on our Maine island. I have close neighbors, but they don't mind so long as I don't parade around in a negligee!

All best to you-Sharon

Stephanie Roth Sisson said...

Hi Sharon!

Where did the time go? I got caught up in deadlines and assorted stuff and then the summer started. I can see why you LOVE your dreamy oasis in Maine! How beautiful!

xo Steph

Anonymous said...

I just read your article on Country Living's website and really appreciated it. We recently moved to the east coast and I had to leave behind multiple "gardens", vegetable and flower,which I'd created from nothing and developed over the course of several years. Leaving behind my huge perennials which had all started out in 4-inch pots, was hard. Harder to arrive to a new place and be patient! I'd tired of looking at gardening mags and really just appreciated hearing someone else start anew. Thanks!!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Thanks for your comment about my Country Living article about starting over. Sometimes it is heartbreaking, but it can also be exciting. I think the key is to nurture your patience and visualize what your garden will someday be. Funny, but right after I put in new plants I can always see their future beauty.

Good luck!

chercroce said...


Ah...I wish that there were more Bumblebees around here!!! I, too, love to watch them! They are always SO busy :) Although, I don't think that I would try to put one in my pocket!

"The Secret Life of Bees" is an excellent book!

I'm looking forward to your new book!


Alina Klein said...

I want to join the Bumblebee Appreciation society! I'm actually undergoing a serious guilt complex at the moment with regards to bumble bees.

I had a compost bin that I've seriously neglected. My husband, in an effort to get the house cleaned up after my youngest son was born, removed all the boxes we'd stored from our move and put them all in the compost bin.

Trouble is, he hadn't removed the tape from any of them. So a week ago I finally decided to remedy that (my baby is a year old now--so it took a while). As I was going through the layers I got to a smaller box that rumbled when I ripped the tape off. A whole swarm of bumblebees came pouring out. I can't believe I didn't get stung!

They just did a few dive bombs to show me they weren't pleased with me and I left in a hurry. I did some research and even emailed a bumble bee website for info about maybe making a home for them to move into since I'd obviusly destroyed theirs. I have a book called "Beastly Abodes" that tells how to make homes for mason bees but not bumbles. The bumblebee website people emailed back and told me that if all the material was still there they would probably just patch it up and move on with their lives. But I'd pulled it out from it's layers of rain protection and sure enough when I went back out they'd abandoned it.

I don't know where they went. Queen bumblebees find/make a new nest each spring to lay their eggs in and they usually hatch out midsummer--right about now. :( I sure hope I didn't kill any baby bumbles!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Alina, PLEASE read my bumblebee rumba story in my book A Blessing of Toads. I describe how to make a home for the bumbles (which we've done here in Maine).

I've handled many bumblebees and NEVER, ever has one stung me. So I am not surprised that they didn't hurt you.

Yes, you're a charter member of the Bumble Appreciation Society.

All best bumbles to you,


Alina Klein said...

Oooh, how did I miss that one? A Blessing of Toads? We are toad CRAZY at our house. I have a large one that lives in my veggie garden that will happily sit in my hand and have a real conversation with me most evenings (though he does have an evil twin who hops away and won't give me the time of day). Such gorgeous golden eyes!

Good thing I have Amazon Prime! It will be here in two days. :) Can't wait to build a bumble home. Thanks, Sharon