Dog Days

We’re in the middle of a significant heat wave here in eastern France – the French call it la canicule, a word which has at its root a reference to a celestial body other than the sun. Between July 3 and August 11, the star Sirius rises almost in conjunction with the sun – and…

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Shady Ladies and Elderflower Cordial

A small herd of new cattle appeared along my running path a few weeks ago, several cows and a single bull. All of them have thick, dark red hair that tufts up in waves like a field of wheat in the wind. And within a short time, there were small calves. They graze in a…

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Telling the Bees

Many cultures have customs relating to bees, animals that have long been highly valued, if little understood. After all, bees work hard all year, they pollinate many of our favorite foods and enable agriculture, they provide honey, and they don’t ask for much except to be left to toil in peace. I found out today…

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Let It Grow

The garden lawn got its first seasonal trim yesterday, weeks after neighboring lawns around our place were abuzz with lawn mowers. Why do I wait so long and leave the lawn so untidy? Over the past couple of years we redesigned the garden to use less water, so the green lawn area takes up much…

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Honey-coated Rubble

It’s a strange partnership, the one between mining companies and beekeepers in West Virginia. Under mine reclamation programs, the mining companies that dug coal from mountains collaborate with initiatives to re-establish the honeybee populations decimated by pollution, disease, habitat loss and, yes, coal mining operations. Mention coal mining and the mental image used to be…

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Bumblebee Stumble

I was running a couple of days ago when I heard the thunderous buzzing of a bumblebee. A big fellow bobbed past my head and took a sudden dive, disappearing into the roadside greenery. I waited for a moment, and the bumblebee (or one of its relations) came clambering back out of a hole. Bumbleebees…

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Future Investment

This year marks the first time that all Monsanto Roundup Ready genetically-modified seeds will be off-patent. This means that any company can start making ‘generic’ versions of the GM soybeans, corn and so on – unless, of course, their use and the use of the companion Roundup-based herbicide has been banned*. The path ahead is…

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The First Bee

The season’s first bee – well, the first bee I saw, I’m sure there were others – landed outside on our house wall a last week and dithered there for a few minutes before departing again. Then there were more, bumping clumsily into the window of my office and startling me, or just hovering and…

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Pinecone Percussion

We were out on an afternoon walk yesterday when we were stopped by a strange sound, the kind of popping from power lines or electric fences you sometimes hear when the air is humid. But there were neither power lines nor fences nearby. What there were, however, were pine trees, and the crackling, popping sound…

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Roundabout Flowers

It’s been a trend in recent years to replace the mown grass of urban traffic verges and roundabouts with wild flowers. The flowers require less maintenance, they’re easy on the eyes, and they are thought to provide habitat support for pollinators such as bees, bumblebees, butterflies and hover flies, all of which are under pressure…

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