The Bee Books

July has just been the best month ever this year. While other regions of the nation (and the northern half of the world…) are sweltering in extreme heat, fighting wildfires, experiencing drought, or dealing with life threatening weather, Colorado has had almost perfect summer weather. The monsoon came early this year and it has been unusually cool (for July) and wet. Beautiful sunny mornings have been giving way to afternoon showers in the late afternoons. Perfectly hot and clear blue days come almost every week but they don’t linger on and on; after a few days the heat breaks and cool rainy evenings return.

The garden has been buzzing with bees every morning.

I have been in the garden almost every day with the cats and the bees, and in the afternoons I have been indulging in books about bees. How fun is that? Here are the titles:

I really didn’t know what to expect. The only thing in common with these books was the connection to bees. Two books were non-fiction, one was hard to get through, and a couple of them turned out to be absolutely great. Here’s the breakdown.

Bee Books 2


The Death of Bees

(Fiction) I began this book one evening reading in bed and the next thing I knew it was 3am. From the opening lines (Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.) I was trapped. I should be clear. This is not a sweet story and it is not for the faint of heart. The humor is dark and the situations of characters in the book can bring you to tears. The two sisters in the story, Marnie and Nelly, are alone and desperate. Marnie has been the family caretaker since she was very young, and has had no adult supervision or guidance. She is definitely lacking a moral compass. Her little sister is curiously detached from the world and clings to childish understandings. I’m pretty sure she’s somewhere on the autism spectrum. Anyway, against all odds, the two survive. The girls change over time as they cope and grow into their own; Marnie becomes more like the teenager that she is, and Nelly emerges from her childish denial to become the partner that her sister needs. Eventually we work out what actually happened the night the girls’ parents died;  help and stability for the girls arrives from unlikely sources and at the end of the day there is a happy ending.

The Secret Life of Bees

(Fiction) Another coming of age book. This one is set in the South during the time of the civil rights movement, and there is once again a dead parent. Lily, a 14 year-old on the run in search of her dead mother’s story, arrives in Tiburon, South Carolina, where she and her black stand-in mother take refuge at the home of a honey operation run by three sisters. I read this book right through too. There was a lot to learn about bees, life, legacies and mothers in the story; a good book and a fast read.

Kiss of the Bees

(Suspense) Well, I hit the wall with this one. The first half of the book keeps rehashing events from a previous novel while advancing the story line and interjecting Indian folklore. Help. Shoot me now! Eventually the book took off and the story began racing along, but since the bad guy in the book is an evil psychopath serial killer I just wanted it all to end. Whew! Eventually I got there, all is well, goodness prevails. I won’t be reading other books in this series.

Bee Books 1

The Hive

(Non-fiction) This is the history of the honeybee and us. The very opinionated (and sometimes offensive) author relates how bees are linked to our work ethic, politics, and so many other things. Bees were the first source of sweetness for ancient men, and the wax was useful and important in a world lit only by fire. The text is organized in general topics (like Sex, Life and Death, and The Beekeeper) full of details and facts about bees in kind of a stream of consciousness style. Just when I would start to slip away into sleep I would come to a short chapter of recipes for cakes and lotion. The book was interesting, but you have to love bees to do this one.

The Bees

(Fiction) You are a little bee in a hive. You are obviously different from the other bees. You are controlled by other bees and forced to conform and work for the success of the collected hive all of your life. If at any time you slip up you will be put to death. Welcome to the life of Flora 717.  Life, death, nectar and love for the queen. I liked the book, but I wouldn’t call it a great read. 🙂

Well, that’s it. I am so over bees for the time being. I think that the rest of the month will be mysteries. I’m almost done making the new seat for the swinging lawn chair and those would be great books to read out in the garden. 🙂

Hello July: Culebra Shawlette and Bee Books

It’s July! The garden is blooming, it’s a wonderful time to hit the great outdoors, and the warm afternoons are prime knitting and reading windows of opportunity. I have been spending the this week working on a fun shawlette from Bijou Basin called Culebra.

Tibetan Dream Yarn.
I loved this yarn when I first found it at the Interweave Yarn Fest. It’s 85% Yak and 15% Nylon. 
As soon as I wound the yarn my enthusiasm waned a little. It didn’t look very nice anymore. Once I started knitting it I was in love with the yarn again. I had to cast on three times to get the correct number of stitches (long tail cast-on issue; somehow I never learn…) and the yarn really bloomed and softened as I worked with it.
Lace Close-up
Here’s a close-up of the lace design on the shawl. Fun, huh. The yarn is Tibetan Dream yarn by Bijou Basin. Here’s my project notes on Ravelry.

I finally finished the lace portion of the shawl this afternoon and now the rest will be garter stitch short rows from the middle of the shawl out which will create a shallow crescent shape. The shawl is knitted from the lace edge up towards the top. Lots of stitches to cast on, but then the knitting was easy. Now that I am out of the lace I am definitely in the knitting home stretch on this one.

My garden is blooming and looking much better than it did a couple of weeks ago, but it is absolutely lacking in humming. I haven’t seen very many bees hanging around even though I have lots of flowers that they like. Look at what is happening in my strawberry patch:

Strawberry plants
See all those luscious baby strawberries? Right. Neither do I. These plants have bloomed like crazy, but no berries. Dang it!

I miss the bees this year. I used to show a NOVA video to my biology classes about bees that they really liked a lot called Tales from the Hive. Bees are just amazing; a few years ago I entered a drawing for a bee hive for my classroom and was just crushed when I didn’t win. (Sounds strange, but this is a thing. The hive would have been set up in my room’s greenhouse and the bees would have traveled outside through a Plexiglas tube.) Years ago I had a bumblebee nest in the garden and they were the cutest things… Ok, there was one little incident with the cat, but other then that it was all peaceful. 🙂

Bee Books! I am behind in my reading resolution for the year. It’s the first of July, and I am now on book #44. I should be done with book #50, so I need to pick up the pace a little. As it turns out I have a stash of books (almost as big as the yarn stash) that includes a number of titles that involve bees. Hey. That’s the ticket. I’ll read bee books. Here’s the list.

A Sting in the Tale
This is the book that I’m reading right now. It’s about bumblebees. the kind of bee that used to live in an underground nest in my garden.  I hadn’t really thought about them as being different from honey bees, but they are.

The other books in my little stack are:

This is actually an eclectic mix of genres in this little collection of bee books. Some are informative non-fiction books, one is a mystery, a couple look to be great little novels. Perfect reading for the high days of summer.