So, what happened to May? It flew by with the speed of a peregrine falcon, the fastest of all birds, only lingering long enough to douse us with some surprise showers. May days passed a blur of change, fog, cold, sun, wind, wet. It was a promiscuous month, subject to whim, sudden fits and turns. A microcosm of climate change, our own small reflection of screwball weather elsewhere in the U. S.
Plants loved May. Summerland’s a lush garden, green still lingering on the hillsides, nasturtiums running riot. Wildflowers are still blooming all the way up to Lake Cachuma, which is one big smiling bowl of water.
Bees are busy slurping nectar from flowers everywhere. You’d never know they’re in danger, but they are, mostly due to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder. Theories abound on what’s killing off millions of bee colonies, with most scientific fingers pointing to pesticides, namely the widely used neonics (nicontinoids).
Bees pollinate one third of the food we eat. Recently I saw a dramatic illustration, which kind of brought the message home. “A Picnic without Bees” showed plates missing the items pollinated by bees. Kabobs missing the onions, peppers and tomatoes; blackberry pie, hold the berries; PB & J without the peanut butter and jelly; pasta salad, no broccoli, olives, onions, peppers, tomatoes; fruit salad, banana and pineapple only; no watermelon, no guacamole, no salsa, no lemonade.
Central Valley farmers, who rent bee hives to pollinate their crops, come up with a shortage every year. Last year some of them lost parts of their crops. If you don’t get the pollinators on those white almond blossoms in time, you won’t get the nuts. Ditto for the rest of those pollen-dependent fruits and veggies.
Neonics were banned in Europe after their hives suffered the same collapse. The pesticide is still used here, but change is in the air. Neonics affect our sweet little Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera) by making it hard for them to groom themselves, which weakens their immune systems. They also affect bees’ ability to navigate so they can’t find their way home. With no worker bees bringing food, the colony starves.
I hear that more home gardeners are putting hives in their backyards. I’d almost consider it myself, but our dog is highly allergic to bees. And a bee hive wouldn’t last long in our yard, which is regularly slammed by winds strong enough to uproot plants.
I’ve gotten fond of those fuzzy little honey makers, and the best I can do is plant bee-friendly flowers. Worker bees, by the way, are all females. Bees have color vision, and they’re particularly tuned in to blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. Sunflowers and lavender—yay!
Native plants, which are well-adapted and consistent, are recommended as the best bee-friendly choices for local gardens. And, of course, no pesticides!
Off to Guadalupe dunes
We’re not venturing very far from home these days due to inertia, a lack of will and traffic madness. And there are plenty of day trip choices nearby.
On our way to Guadalupe with friends, we stopped for lunch at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos. The crusty flatbread pizzas elevated traditional pizza to a sublime new level, every bit as good as the rave reviews say.
Friends were curious about the Dunes Center in Guadalupe. The small museum houses a Sphinx and other stage sets recently recovered from the dunes by archeologists. After Cecile B. De Mill finished shooting “The Ten Commandments” in 1923, he buried all the fake Egyptian trappings in the sand.
Fortunately, the Rancho de Guadalupe Historical Society Museum was also open (Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. only). Browsing the two small rooms crammed with photos, maps and letters was a walk through the small town’s past, which was a roller coaster of booms and busts and colorful history.
A friendly docent told us that George and Laura Bush got off the train in Guadalupe when he was campaigning for president. They had their picture taken in La Simpatia restaurant, where it can be seen today. The couple quickly sampled some food and climbed back on the train. (Reminds me of the photograph of Bill Clinton posing with a saxophone at the Nugget.)
The Guadalupe dunes are supervised by the Nature Conservancy, and they were partially roped off to protect nesting snowy plovers. The beach was steep, gnawed down by the bigger waves that occur north of Point Conception. Swimming is inadvisable and dangerous, but a few brave kids were wading in the foam.
The dunes, raked by wind, are always moving, and sand constantly drifts over the narrow road in. Our departure was preceded by a ranger who tore out ahead of us in his truck. We found him blocking the road where he had cornered three teens using boards to slide down a dune. Right beside the snowy plover area.
One good thing: Local wildflower honey at the Carpinteria farmers market.
Fran Davis is an award-winning writer and freelance editor whose work appears in magazines, print and online journals, anthologies and travel books. She has lived in Summerland most of her life.