Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bee Swarm, Biodynamics and More

One morning past an unfamiliar object emerged on one of the lower Black Oak branches the deer had mostly denuded of leaves in the field South of MuRefuge's property line. The object grew during the day until my curiosity was pricked enough to venture over the fence to investigate . . . a bee swarm! By evening the swarm was large enough for the bottom most bees to be resting upon the earth. 

How delightful to have such an enormous cluster of honey bees visiting. Once, years ago, another swarm showed up here. The morning after their arrival, while working outside I heard a very loud buzzing as the swarm departed en masse. Since the mornings of late have been overcast with little sun shining until midday, this latest swarm, as the bees warmed, flew away in bunches rather than all at once.


Recently Sonoma Land Trust offered a tour of the Summerfield Waldorf School's 15 acre biodynamic farm. Since I order biodynamic seeds from Turtle Tree Seeds where each type of seed's source is identified, I was interested in visiting this local farm from whom I get seeds. We have often walked our dogs along the Willowside Creek thus passing the entrance to this school and farm. We had no idea just how fantastic the area was. The tour was simply awesome, the farmer who led the tour knowledgeable and clearly connected to the land. He introduced us to the rat terrier who has decimated their previously abundant  number of rats. This dog was friendly and well trained to preform the job of his genes.

The conservation easement includes biodynamic adherement, so every thing on the farm must come from the farm itself, ie., seeds, soil amendments and the like. Biodynamic farming is based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The Rudolf Steiner College, located in a suburb of Sacramento offers a year long series of day long classes on biodynamics.

As the farmer was showing us the large containers for making tea, ie., soil amendments: compost tea, nettles tea and comfrey tea, an idea formed. As those of you who have visited MuRefuge know, there is a huge expanse of comfrey growing. Several days after the tour the second fresh cutting of comfrey was deposited in large barrels, filled with water, the lid replaced, and now the magic of tea is in process. The comfrey growing at MuRefuge has lovely purple flowers rather than yellow depicted in "how to make comfrey manure tea."

Another piece of biodynamics is gathering seeds from the plants grown on land designated as biodynamic. We who are all in support of seed saving resonate with "Lately, there has been a very worrisome trend of corporations patenting traditional open-pollinated varieties, in order to take them out of the public domain," a quote from John Jeavons' Bountiful Gardens Summertime newsletter, "Now there is finally a framework to keep vegetable genetics available for seed saving and traditional breeding.  It is called the Open Source Seed Initiative." Most all of the starts here at MuRefuge result from the abundance of seeds produced right here. What a relief to know there is now finally an organized movement to keep seed saving possible for all of us.


While we lived on Cunningham Road, about three miles due North "as the crow flies" of  MuRefuge, Bullock's orioles visited the hummingbird feeder hung on the clothesline post each Summer. Moving South to the Hessel Area a rare oriole has been sighted. This Spring however a few more visited. A new orange oriole feeder was bought and hung. Oriole youngsters, sometimes six at a time, vied for purchase on the feeder. These orioles are not Bullock's, rather Hooded Orioles, smaller and slender with a more pronounced long, curved bill. Sibley says, "Males are paler yellowish, and females are drabber overall, without the orange tones of Eastern birds." Hooded Orioles used to be located primarily in the Southwest, but with the plethora of palms being used in landscaping Northward plus the warming climate, they are now found nesting right here in Northern California during the Spring and Summer. 

Great news: just this early morning a brightly colored male Hooded Oriole appeared at the feeder. His coloring has faded a bit from his breeding presentation but quite beautiful nontheless.

Maybe the Queen Palms planted by our neighbors
are attracting the Hooded Orioles to our neighborhood?
Perhaps, since these orioles prefer to build their loose nests in palm trees.


All of us who have planted zucchini in our gardens are now rewarded with an abundance of luscious fruit.

Heirloom Italian zucchini freshly harvested at MuRefuge.

Here's a delish recipe using fresh basil and zucchini:

CREAMY BASIL ZUCCHINI SOUP serving 4 with a prep. time of about 45 minutes.

  • 1 T. organic virgin olive oil
  • 1 large organic yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 pounds organic fresh zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 C. organic chicken bone broth
  • 1 C. organic basil loosely packed plus more for garnish
  • 2 T. organic Greek yogurt
  • 1 shake of Peron pepper flakes
  • sea salt
Heat olive oll in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook about 5 minutes or until translucent.
Add zucchini and cook another 2 minutes; add bone broth and basil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Puree with hand blender. Add Greek yogurt and pepper flakes. Season with salt to taste. Divide into four bowls and garnish each with a little additional Greek yogurt and few fresh basil leaves. Enjoy.


The crossquarter day, known as Lughnasadh or Lammas in the Celtic calendar, ushered in Fall on August 1, so as we embrace the changing of seasons, may each of us enjoy a grand


  1. wow... what exciting visitors!

  2. A comment via email: "Gorgeous picture of the bees.
    We've had the bee lady in Petaluma take them into a hive when they've collected in our garden, which has been very fun to watch.

  3. Another comment received: "Awesome updates and incredible pics!!!
    Thank you soooo much for sharing ..always appreciate!!!
    Vickie xoxo"