from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 22 July 2013

lushness, sun, storms and top bar beehives

You know how it can be that, no matter how much you love the sun, it can be a wee bit demanding if it's continuous, maybe? Respite is needed, if only for an hour or two. So this heatwave has been extraordinarily wonderful (and it's kept the slugs away from our veg), but the brief downpour last night was a kind of catharsis. We had dramatic lightning above us, and immediately on its heels huge thunderbolts. TM suspects lightning hit the roof – there was an internal flash in his study's steep pitched ceiling and all the lights went out briefly. Exciting, and no damage.

I love electric storms. In the high Pyrenees this time of year there's often an hour of an electric storm in the afternoon: the sky goes green, everything drops into attendant silence (even the goats stop meeehhhing), and then the lightning comes. After, there's a brief deluge; when it stops you can hear the creaks of the ground and trees soaking it up. Then, in the oak and chestnut woods where I was, in the Ariege, the yellow and black salamanders (I think they're properly called axolotl) creep out and claim all the paths. (I use this clear memory in a key scene in my timeslip novel Imago, partly set in the Pyrenees.)

Too much electricity in the air? It was a hard week last week, starting with a couple of shocks one after the other, right at the beginning, and not getting much better as it went on. However, it was also a huge and momentous week in other ways: finally I've rented a harp, having promised myself since I was in my teens I'd learn to play it one day. Also I used a little of my inherited runaway money (every woman should have some) to buy myself an old VW campervan. That's something else I've been longing for since I had to let one go in my early 30s as I couldn't afford to run it any more. And – crazy though it might sound – this is the only home I'll have ever owned, just me. I shan't live in it fulltime, of course – doesn't fit with a smallholding lifestyle – but I do intend to adventure and write in it.

And finally, too, we've had our beehive made. It's a beauty, made by a friend locally, out of larch and oak:

Top-bar hives are more bee-friendly than the commercial ones. Although of course it would be great to take off some honey, that isn't a priority for us (especially since I learned that a little worker bee who collects the pollen for the hive only lives for 8 or 9 weeks, and in that time makes just one teaspoon of honey). We've got it because our land is bee-friendly, bees need all the help they can get, and we have a lot of fruit trees and veg to be pollinated! We've sited it near my comfrey bed, and close to the beech trees at the woodland margin. All we need now is a colony! Yesterday we 'primed' the top horizontal transverse 'bars' that give it is name with beeswax and a little honeycomb, and dabbed just a smidge of lemongrass around the holes to attract any scout bees in the area who might be looking to help a swarm find a new home (if it's not too late already in the year). Failing that – if you know anyone in the Westcountry who could sell us a queen/some bees, I'd love to know!

I extended my herb and artichoke bed this year to include a wildflower bee-garden (also as above). The borage is going over now, and the papillon lavender ditto, but it has been lush and riotous and beautiful, and covered with a mass of bumblebees and some honeybees. I recommend a mix of some packets of native British wildflowers, and something called the beemat

Meantime, at long long last, the veg garden is actually producing and we've been able to stop the Riverford organic veg box delivery. It's taken forever this year (and those of you who have polytunnels will I know be laughing at this!).


An excellent outcome of TM's reading George Monbiot's inspiring, scholarly and poetic book Feral – searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding is that Monbiot achieved in four or five pages what I haven't achieved in four or five years: persuading TM to leave the meadow beyond the veg garden and orchard as meadow, wildlife habitat, instead of mowing it. HOORAY!

If you look closely, you might see in the middle foreground four big raised veg beds; and a blue smudge at the right is the hammock, with which I am enjoying becoming a little acquainted.

And now, with my neighbour away, I'm away myself to look after her 6 horses. Below is the lovely young Thea: had things panned out differently at New Year she'd have perhaps come to live with me... So an evening walk with her tonight, and Dog.


  1. Roselle, Claire Densley, Jo's friend...maybe you know her... is a beekeeper at Buckfast Abbey. Maybe she could help you? xxLynn

  2. Lynn, thanks! So far had no luck trying to get a response from Claire, but will persist.

    If you see Jo, give her a big hug from me. Rx

  3. Hi Roselle, re the bees, there's a chap down here in West Cornwall who breeds hardy little cornish bees which might be an option. They are much more resistant to the varroa bee mite, they're native to the southwest so do really well and they're friendly and don't tend to sting (much). If you're still stuck for a swarm I could get his details from the folk who own the small holding I live on (who are bee mad) and pass them on to you?
    Other than that, another lovely post - the veg looks amazing :-) and I'm definitely interested in the writing week in France :-))

  4. Naomi, that is SO useful - thank you - and YES PLEASE! I know that the little Cornish bee is rare, so I realise there may be a waiting list, but yes absolutely I'd love to have contact details to ask about buying a colony/swarm/queen etc - not least because I'm entirely Cornish by breeding forever myself!

    Thanks for your kind words. And France - there are still a couple of places, and I'm looking forward to it immensely. I know 3 or 4 of the people going and they're really really lovely people :-). Don't be put off by the travel - Sharon who owns the place and travels back and forth to Britain a lot is v helpful with details; there are easy flights, and there is also the fast train link from London via the Chunnel to Paris and then south (it's only about three and a half hours to Nimes or Montpellier from Paris and there will probably be one or two others travelling the same way). Do see if you haven't, and it would be lovely if you came! :-)


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