Shannon gets her groove, her bees and her horse back

In the first days of August our farm finds its groove.

In the first days of August our farm finds its groove.

The weeds slow down the garden catches up and there’s a small space of breathing room before the honey and garden harvest begin. It’s a time for tweaking.

This spring I put down some two foot square pavers made from recycled tires in a checkerboard pattern filling an eight by 32-foot rectangular strip.

Every row width had two pavers and two empty square patches for planting. I filled each earth patch with herbs and dubbed the whole thing Herb Alley.

I liked how organized it felt and how I could keep the more invasive herbs such as mint in their place. I didn’t like how the runoff unexpectedly tore out of the forest and turned Herb Alley into Herb River. The herbs didn’t like it either. The catnip got so mad it turned bright red.

Herbs like it sunny and on the dry side – they are more catlike than fish.

A foot of rainfall in two weeks doesn’t make for a happy herb patch in the highest location, but standing around tapping their toes in water for days on end was intolerable.

I decided to move the pavers to an area out of the flood zone and then transplant the perennial herbs in a few weeks. It was evening and the garden was bathed in what photographers call ‘the magic light.’ Gardeners know it too.

The weeds are muted, the blossoms pop with colour and everything looks prettier than a picture postcard. As I scurried back and forth packing the pavers I could feel all the panic and stress launching off my shoulders and flying away. Things were finally becoming manageable.

About midway between the old alley and the new one I kept hearing bees.

I keep two of our hives next to the flower garden so the sound of bees is pretty common. It did seem strange that there were so many buzzing so late in the evening and in just the one spot.

Usually they have all returned to the hive for the night. But I was so into bee-mode myself what with collecting the pavers and packing them to their new spot that it took several trips before I finally paused to investigate.

Hanging from a tree branch right at eye level was a swarm of bees. I was practically brushing my cheek against them every time I went by!

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, a swarm in July ain’t worth a fly – so goes an ancient beekeeper ditty. They don’t even mention a swarm in August.

Nonetheless I dropped the paver and hurried off to set up a hive so I could capture and box up the bees before it got dark.

On my return I passed the bush pasture and heard the sound of crashing through the underbrush. I caught sight of something big and black. It could only be one thing – Mindy the Morgan. Mindy is what is known as an easy keeper.

She can put on 50 pounds just looking at a picture of pasture. As a result we keep her in a small field next to the bush pasture and ration her hay. But now she had somehow managed to get out and worse, she had got into a pasture full of clover.

Dropping the hive box I ran for the barn to grab a halter. On my way back I heard a familiar whickering. I skidded to a stop and locked eyes with Mindy who was standing in her pasture right where she belonged. What the heck?

I slowly walked back to the bush pasture. The big black animal had moved into a clearing and I now had a clear view of the moose that wasn’t Mindy.

It reminded me a little of the story from the Little House books where Laura goes outside with Ma on a winter’s night to milk the cow because Pa is late getting home.

To their surprise the cow is standing at the gate instead of in the barn.

Ma tries to open the gate to let the the cow in, but the animal is so close she can’t swing the gate out. “Sukey, get over!” she says, slapping the cow on the shoulder. About that time the light from Laura’s lantern bounces onto the cow that turns out not to be Sukey the cow at all, but a bear.

Laura and Ma make a rapid retreat to the house. They’re pretty shook up but then Ma starts to laugh and says, “To think I’ve slapped a bear!”

My own case of mistaken animal identity was a little more distant, but still…to think I was going to put a halter on a moose!

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can read more of her writing at

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