Absolutely perfect Sunday here in Southwest Nova Scotia, and the bees are making that all-to-familiar sound in the apiary, which tells us “all is well in the world”. They are bringing in pollen – green and yellow. It has been a cold, cloudy and windy Spring here and the last two days of cloudless skies and sun with relatively little wind has brought the bees out in full force. We still have their mini- light- bulb heating system on in the hives, because nights are cold and there are even frosts. In preparation for our upcoming Natural Beekeeping Workshop on Victoria Day Weekend we wanted to make a poster of plants which provide pollen for bees this time of the year.
We decided to walk the old railway tracks near us to see what nature’s wilderness is providing as food for the bees.(Naturally at this time at home the forsythia, daffodils and other wonderful domesticated flowers are in full bloom, with the magnolias taking first prize.) What an adventure we had! When I was a child, one of the activities of Spring, was to “go- a- mayflowering”. The snow could still be on the ground in April or May , but on the South side of a hedgerow or ditch , hiding very close to the ground, the fragrant mayflowers would be hiding. It is wonderful that it is Nova Scotia’s official flower. After gathering the mayflowers, the ritual would be to make small posies and visit grandmothers and aunts and friends , with these pink perfumed flowers, to spread the promise of Spring – good weather and renewed life in nature . By Mother’s Day every home would have a small vase or jar filled with these joys.
EARLY SPRING POLLEN SOURCES
On this hike we also found many clusters of frogs eggs in various stages of growth in the ditches by the path, a nest of bumblebees humming a Winnie-the-Pooh type sound, while peacefully gathering pollen from sources which surprised us, such as the maple trees with reddish leaves and bright yellow pollen-laden flowers. The pussy willow is also a wonderful early Spring source of pollen, with their long yellow catkins;and they even come into bloom before the alders which also have an early abundance of pollen for the bees. The firs and spruce trees are also part of their “larder”. The bright yellow dandelions were out in full force, as were the mayflowers.The dandelion flower is a very special flower for the honey bee because it is very rich in its pollen and nectar. Think twice about removing those amazing sources of life when you look at your lawns and leave them there so this early food can be gathered by the bees. In the meantime you can eat the new small greens as a spring tonic to cleanse the liver from the taxing results of the winter’s diet.
The peppermint in the wet areas was also in bloom and together with the tea berries covering the woodland floor with their red berries and sweet leaves (wintergreen) provided a pocketful of ingredients for making tea for ourselves after the hike!
Having lived in cities here, in Asia and in Europe, we often contemplate on this “rural” life we love. Today we enjoyed fresh clean air filled with
birds singing, met not one person, saw the stages of development of frogs from egg to frogs themselves, observed bumblebees
humming around their nest, met a porcupine 15 feet away from us, enjoyed good exercise, and picked watercress and dandelion
greens to make a Spring Wild Salad when we got home – followed by some peppermint- wintergreen tea. All of this beauty, specialness,wilderness adventure experience and exotic “local” cuisine cost us nothing. It is true – the best things in Life are Free.