Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense. . .
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
This week, as mentioned before, the bonds of the Chicken Foot Tribe were broken when long-time friend Rosemary Hallin left the Peninsula after 15 years for a new home near family in St. Louis. We forgive her for leaving but, darn it, this change is a hard one to swallow. Friendships that develop over time cannot be easily replaced, as those of us of a certain age know. Some of us still have buds we’ve had since elementary school; friends who sat with us during recess while we wrote, “I will not talk in class” 100 times on the blackboard. Friendships that trail over decades are impossible to replace.
It’s also true that sometimes folks we’ve grown up with grow distant. That class clown may not be so charming at 70, especially if no emotional learning has taken place. Life circumstances leave their mark. I know it’s not pleasant to say, but oft times a period of suffering can temper a personality into a new more pleasing form; it can add a certain humility that wasn’t there at the beginning; can smooth the edges of a charismatic but too aggressive narcissism into something kinder, more forgiving.
It’s also not as easy to make friends as we age. Though this pandemic has taught us some tricks of the trade. Sydney and Nyel Stevens’ Friday evening salons are on again; and the core of this small group has all the features of a truly bonded family. Sturges Dorrance, who just lost his wife, Pam — “the love of my life for 60 years” — introduced daughter (one of four) Meredith to last week’s gathering. The usual suspects were there passing their usual signature plates of munchies as neighbor Tucker Wachsmuth began his much-anticipated “show and tell” — this week, a vintage Hamilton Beach three-glass milkshake mixer.
Being mostly of a certain era, we oohed and aahed, all of us remembering those icy metal glasses where one portion of the shake awaited (the other poured into a glass) while the metal frosted over on the outside. Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry — everybody has their favorites. (Tip: Tucker says the secret to a good milkshake is keeping the milk at a temp just before ice crystals form so it mixes with the ice cream properly.) I’m so thankful for these and other bonds.
In other “B” news, my bay view has been completely obscured by Ceanothus (California Lilac) and a white climbing rugosa rose absolutely bursting with blooms. I anticipate this blooming bonanza yearly to assess the general health of our Peninsula bees. Over time the buzz has diminished with a differing ratio of bees: fewer honey bees and more (as Kathleen Sayce indicates) “worker bumble bees, probably Bombus vosnesenski, yellow-faced bumble bee.”
We can help the bees by taking a couple important actions. Probably most critical is not using pesticides. (This is also so much healthier for our four-leggeds, dogs especially, who can take in these poisons through their paw-pads simply by running around.) There are lots of organic substitutes for pest control, and any master gardener on either side of the river can help with suggestions.
The next most important is filling our yards with plants that attract and nurture bees. Most seed companies have bee-friendly options available. (Good mail order choices: Eden: tinyurl.com/2ddudb3n; American Meadows tinyurl.com/t4frajf5; Territorial tinyurl.com/y4nbmyv4.) Bees like bright colors and fragrance and there are many Peninsula-friendly varieties that fulfill these requirements.
At bloom-time, I love to get up close and watch these little pollen-collection artists frantically bobbing, scrambling, and nuzzling around in the array of blossoms now in full glory. It makes me extremely happy — I feel as if I’m doing some (albeit small) thing to help the planet.
An Ocean Park friend has witnessed a roving swarm of bees that split off from a neighbor’s hive and are apparently looking for a home. It threw me into thinking about beekeeping, something I experienced with Richard Spiegel, a real apiary expert, on the Big Island. Richard’s bees had a specialty — kiawe (key-av-ee) honey. We’d move the bees from grove to grove around the island to ensure that only kiawe pollen was being harvested by our industrious workers, making for a beautiful white honey which had an unusually long shelf-life. (It was slow to crystalize in containers.) Unfortunately, now the thorny but fragrant kiawe is considered an invasive species, probably introduced to the islands around 1828.
Spinning the supers to extract honey was my favorite part of harvest season, as bees would flock around us and the sweet smell of honey was everywhere. We all became hypnotized, mesmerized by the buzzing, the fragrance, the stickiness of honey on our equipment, our hands, our clothes.
We talked to several experts on our coast to ask which honey-making bees might be most viable here as they have to make it through a long, cold and wet winter. This discussion to be continued, but in the meantime I’m digging out my smoker and netted headgear.
And, finally, “B” is for boundaries. Anyone who’s purchased property on the Peninsula in the last couple decades knows the perennial problems of establishing property lines. In the old days, boundaries were decidedly laissez-faire. When my family bought our first cottage in Nahcotta, we discovered that the next-door neighbor had built his garage on the back corner of our property. The peg was visible, but… oh well. To clean up ownership during escrow, we sold him a pie-shaped sliver of our land; but not before he also took down several trees, which, as it turned out, were on the county right-of-way. Another deplorable “oh well…”
Frost said fences make good neighbors, and I’d like to add, “Be sure you get your corner pegs right before you build one.” The recent selling boom has swamped most of the surveyors in the county, but I managed to get Jeff Sterling on the calendar for six weeks out, and finally our time arrived. Jeff and helper Steve came by with survey tools — flags, markers, tripod, level, machete, walkie talkies, metal detector, safety cones, laser distance reader, etc. — and started their work. It was a fascinating high-tech scavenger hunt. And, lo and behold, my metal marker pegs — placed by Karl Walter Ferrier, lawyer and surveyor, who-knows-when-ago — had been in the ground all along. But that apparently hadn’t kept anyone from putting up fences wherever they liked.
I owe my northwest next-door neighbor one foot at the beginning of our fence and she owes me two feet or so at the other end. On the south side, my neighbor’s fence is over my property by six inches. But the main problem is an old fence in my lower yard, which is between six and eight feet off. I’m not going to niggle over a foot or two, but eight feet is a different story.
I’m hoping my summer dive into “B”-landia may result in inspiring others to support bees. I also intend to create closer bonds with my friends and neighbors; and establish more accurate boundaries (and fences). It’s good to know the limits of things — both emotional and physical.