Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


meadow garden

Our summer with the bees

They emerged from the hives and swarmed up and sideways in a buzzing disorganized chaos that had me re-thinking the wisdom of this whole idea. What will the neighbours think? Will they sting us? There are too many of them. This is kind of frightening. Might have to call Tim back and say we have changed our minds.

A corner of our little farm became a bee yard in May of this year after winter discussions with local beekeeper and bee inspector Tim Bouwmeester of Desert Flower Honey. He rents bees out to local orchardists and has several more permanent bee yards in the area. After looking at our raspberry farm he agreed to place some hives here year-round after erecting an electric fence to discourage roaming bears.

We were pretty excited on the day the bees arrived.

Tim warned us that the bees would be disorganized for a few days until they settled in and oriented themselves to their new territory. After a few days of giving them a wide berth my anxiety waned and the love affair began.

Checking on the bees

We watched as the bees developed their routes to find nectar and pollen and their flights into and out of the hives became much more organized. Tim would come by every two weeks and calmly work with the bees while we watched and peppered him with questions. Wearing only the beekeepers hat and veil and tucking his socks into his pants he checked on the status of the queen, checked and treated the bees for mites and generally determined the health and strength of the hives. We helped in minor ways and I took photos.

Part of Tim’s bee passion is breeding queen bees and he selects for what I call niceness. His bees are as non-aggressive as they come. “As an inspector I see lots and lots of hives and many bees fly up all around you and get much more agitated,” Tim says. Who knew that we have exactly the right bees for rookie bee hosts?

We had a bee sting free summer and supportive neighbours interested in the project. Tim did get the odd sting working with the hives by inadvertently squishing a bee here and there that let him know but he says he used to that and after a brief hand wave the sting is forgotten.

Fascinated by what Tim tells us and shows us about the bees, we are happy to have them on our little farm but also not tempted to get our own hives and learn to be beekeepers. There is so much to it and the science to good beekeeping is evolving all the time in the face of climate change, diseases and pests like mites. “It is not a hobby to be taken lightly,” says Tim. “You really need to get educated.”

As for what we can do for the bees and other insects in our yard and in the Okanagan where we live, Tim says the biggest problem they are facing is lack of good forage. Our wine growing region is not great for the bees as grapes are wind pollinated. By cutting down orchards to grow vines we are creating a bee desert.

“We are too good at controlling weeds as well,” he says. “I am encouraged by new organic vineyard practices though. Cover crops of clover in between the vines is great as is using less herbicides.”

As for what all of us can do with any plot of land, Tim says don’t cut the grass as much. Let the weeds go. “Plant a meadow like you did or let even a part of your yard go a bit wild.”

Tim does regular tests and treatments for mites.

In addition to our raspberries, blueberries, haskups and blackberries (which bees love) we planted our meadow this summer and it was alive with bees and hummingbirds.

I now have another excuse as a gardener to plant more flowers.

We love showing visitors around our farm and the bees have become a part of the fun.

Visitors have often been lucky enough to be here when Tim comes to check on the bees.

I like the look of the hives…

Even with the hottest summer on record in the Okanagan, the bees did their thing. “It was a crazy summer,” said Tim. “I was surprised by how well the bees did. I still don’t know where they got their nectar from.”

Tim takes the supers filled with honey to his honey house on Naramata Road (near Hillside Winery) at the end of the summer.
Fancy machine that extracts the honey.
End product after filtration.

As a bee host Tim ended the summer by dropping off a 3 kilogram pail of honey for us and it’s the best honey I’ve ever tasted.

We have a lovely winter’s worth of honey for us and some to give to friends and family.

The making of a meadow

It took only 10 weeks from planting to transform a bare patch of poor soil to a magical meadow alive with bees and birds in a Naramata, British Columbia, Canada garden.

From sceptic to meadow evangelist and more literally from septic to sun kissed field of beauty our making of a meadow project has been one of the most satisfying garden projects we have ever undertaken.

Our 2,500 square-foot traditional lawn that was watered, fertilized, aerated, and mown and mown and mown was the victim of a total failure of our old septic system. According to Owen Wormser, lawn mowing itself is a major source of pollution. Greenhouse gas emissions from mowing, along with fertilizer and pesticide production, watering, leaf blowing and other lawn management practices, were found by a University of California-Irvine study to be four times greater than the amount of carbon stored by grass. Lawns are an expensive, time-consuming ecological catastrophe.

Work being done to instal our new septic system and field gave us the opportunity to try something new rather than re-plant our lawn. That’s why I call this project from shit to shinola.

Step one

Plant a cover crop of rye grass to keep down the weeds and to fix nitrogen into our poor sandy soil.

We planted a cover crop of annual rye grass in the fall and kept it mowed to prevent it from going to seed.

Step 2

Till in the rye grass in early spring.

If you aren’t starting with bare ground you need to carefully remove all of your lawn grass as it will compete with your wildflower seedlings. This could mean lots of back-breaking shovelling or rent a turf cutter.

Step 3

Rough up the soil with a rake

Step 4


We chose a number of wildflower seed blends from

Here are the seed blends we chose for our project:

Pacific Northwest Wildflower Blend that includes Baby Blue-Eyes, Bird’s Eyes Gilia, California Poppy, Blue Flax, Blanket Flower…

Southern Prairies Wildflower Blend with Dotted Gayfeather, Greenthread, Hoary Vervain, Five-spot, Tidy-tips…

Hummingbird Wildflower Blend with Four O’Clocks, Lemon Bergamot, Scarlet Sage, Phlox, Wild Petunia…

Knee High Meadow Blend with Baby’s Breath, Black Eyed Susan, African Daisy….

Biodiversity Blend which includes basil, Bishops Flower, Lupin, Borage, Chinese Aster, Ox-Eye Daisy, Yellow Mustard…

And for good measure and because we like her… The Dr. Bonnie Henry Pollinator Blend which is a mix of Cosmos.

With regular irrigation to get the seeds going, here are the results of the first 10 weeks of our glorious meadow.

Week 1

It only took a week for tiny shoots to emerge.

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5 and 6


Week 7

Chinese houses

Week 8

Our bees are getting happier and happier

Week 9

Poppies are making an appearance
We had to add some art
and a fountain for the birds

Week 10

When is the last time you sat having a coffee and experienced your lawn for an hour? Our meadow is alive with scents and colour and insect and bird activity. As a gardener I get a lot of pleasure out of a perennial bed planted up with 20 or 30 plants. Imagine two or three thousand flowers in an ever-changing tapestry of colour all ready for my camera lens. This is how a meadow evangelist is born.

Meadows offer a unique opportunity to help the planet from our own yards. They support many of the wild things that keep our ecosystems healthy and store carbon. Imagine sitting in a meadow and listening to the hummingbirds zooming from flower-to-flower, hear the background buzzing of the bees and watching swallowtail butterflies lighting here and there while the flora aroma engulfs you. Make room for some wildflowers, remove some or all of your unused lawn. If just a fraction of the existing lawns in Canada were turned into meadows, the ecological impact, especially on threatened pollinator species, would be immediately significant. All the preaching aside…it’s beautiful!

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