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Quail Hill Farm | A Note From Scott | Summer 2017

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Quail Hill Farm
August 18, 2017

By Scott Chaskey

Our beekeeper, Mary Woltz of Bees’ Needs, sent me a lovely note: “Happy bees! They’ve never been better here…Yay!”  Shortly afterward this note was followed by a photo of a bee in bliss, finding a favorite food source in our valley: Phacelia. Phacelia tanacetifolia is a plant native to North America sometimes known as “bees’ friend”-when in full bloom (now) it is a sea spray of blue/lavender flowers, also planted in Europe as a soil building crop. 

I scattered the seed in late May near to the peach trees, a short flight for Mary’s bees. The July flowering is timely, given that another soil building plant-one we sow often as a summer cover crop - buckwheat, is also flowering in the valley, beside the raspberry patch.  In addition to providing valuable organic matter to improve our silt loam, buckwheat is also a favorite of pollinators - bees, wasps, hover flies, and butterflies. Bend down to the height of the delicate white flowers and witness the spirited dance of an abundance of winged insects.

Reading today I learned that Phacelia is sometimes named the Scorpion Weed. How could that be-such a sweet flower with a sting? I’ve known this plant for years and I have always admired the soft clusters of stamen, pistil, and petal, not at all similar to stinging nettle. Perhaps this friend of bees is in sympathy with sweetness (honey) and the ability to sting? 

I went to inspect, and found that there is another explanation for this act of naming so removed from the joyous expression of the Phacelia blossom. Should you lean in close to where the bees seek nectar you too will discover the answer. As the tiny individual flowers unfurl from the stem and the fernlike leafage they curl back into the stem-branch…like a scorpion’s tail. There you have it: a story unfolding in a form, a plant in blossom in the heat of July, bees in bliss. “It is like a lover’s kiss…” Shakespeare might have said.  There is a connection between the sweetness and the sting, the magic inherent in the form of a thing. That magic is everywhere on the farm this time of year, nowhere more evident than the interconnection between bees and flowers. Phacelia, Scorpion Weed, beautiful by either name reveals a story we are part of: witness the bees’ kiss on the lavender flowers that form into a tail.