Whites Not Allowed

As I was standing by my kitchen window a stripe of white flashed under the oleander bush. This was 6 am. I’m not that alert usually. But the movement caught my eye. I made inventory of the animals that normally visit my backyard. Squirrels. Raccoons. Bees. Ravens. Cats. But no white cat. Or my neighbor’s dog.

“We have a skunk in the garden,” I said.

“How do you know?” Alf said.

“I just do.”  IMG_3834

I waited. Out from the undergrowth there emerged a black nose sniffing in all directions, followed by a black head with two black beady eyes, and then the whole body. Its coat was thick and lush. God had taken a felt marker and drawn two brilliant white stripes down its back that merged at the tail. It’s nose kept moving. It scampered closer to the window. It wasn’t afraid of my standing there. Then in a blink it drew its tail up and fanned it out and sprayed the corner of my flower bed.

“What a odious creature,” I said.

“Why be so critical?” Alf said.

“He sprayed my touch-me-nots.”

“There’s a message in that somewhere,” Alf said.

“Fetch me the broom,” I said.

Alf went out to the garage, came back in with the broom, and handed it to me.

I went outside with broom at the ready and looked for the animal.

Gone. It had vanished.

I was going to sweep him up and dump him on the compost pile where he could gorge his little black heart out.

Calvin says, “No way. That skunk would have sprayed you first and you would’ve ended up in a bath of tomato juice.”  beagle


We own honey bees. We didn’t invite them. They just showed up one day with suitcases and moved into a tree.

We have an agreement. They stick to their area and we stick to ours. They pollinate and fertilize and we enjoy the flowers and fruit.

“I think they know me,” my husband said recently.

“Really? How do you know?” I asked.

“They’ve never stung me,” he said.

Knowing about the worldwide shortage of bees has made me appreciate our honey bees all the more. Sometimes I think I should rent them out to distraught farmers in Lodi. Or ship them to Spain for the growing season. But I haven’t done any of that. I just continue to observe them in their tree.

Lately however, my husband thinks there’s something wrong. They’re spilling out and clustering by the hive entrance.

“I think there’s some overcrowding going on,” he said.

The bees looked like a copper beard on the tree.

“Maybe they’re hot and this is their summer place,” I said.

We worry about them, but being outside their hive doesn’t seem to be bothering them at all.

I read a few bee-keeping blogs. One in particular caught my attention.

“In warm weather, the bees must cool the hive. They expand the distance between bees to allow for air circulation. If there are too many bees, some move outside.”

“See? They’re sunbathing on the terrace,” I said to my husband.

“Wow. Who gave the order, I wonder?” he said.

“The woman of the hive, of course!”

Calvin says, “Never mess with the queen of the house.”