When a child, I made mud pies under the shade of chestnut and black walnut trees planted by my maternal grandfather, Floyd McCoy. On hot, summer days, the cold water from our homeplace’s pump felt wonderful on my muddy hands.

In my fourth year, my parents uprooted our family from our homeplace and farm to a house on Yacama Street in Detroit. Shaded under a tree in our backyard, I made mud pies with water from a spigot attached to the house.
By the time my parents moved my sisters and me to Joann Street in Detroit, I’d outgrown making mud pies. Six-year-old girls who lived in cities roller skated and rode bikes on sidewalks.

In my ninth year, Mom and Dad packed our belongings again and moved us to a brand new street in Warren, what Dad called a “subdivision.” There wasn’t one tree or blade of grass on our block. All that dirt with water spigots on the front, side, and back of our new brick home, and I was too old to make mud pies.

However, in exploring our small backyard one blistering summer day, I found little frogs hopping around in puddles. I captured a handful and placed them in Mom’s pie pan I borrowed from her kitchen cupboard.

Other than inexperience, I can’t explain why I set the pie pan with my pet frogs outside on the ledge of the kitchen window, and ran off to ride my bike. However, I do remember feeling like I killed the frogs when I found them at day’s end, some on the driveway, all dried up like raisins.

I’ve since learned the proper care for creatures, be it frogs, goldfish, turtles, dogs, cats, or hens. Furthermore, building a house on former farmland over thirty years ago introduced me to the varied habitats of wildlife. Coyote, rabbit, skunk, groundhog, raccoon, deer, mice, all dwell nearby.

The memorable day my Uncle Herm placed Grandpa Floyd’s bee smoker into my hands, he blessed me with one necessary tool to keep honeybees in hopes of drawing off honey. Although my efforts haven’t produced plentiful results, or sustained hives through the winter, my losses are worth watching honeybees throughout spring, summer, and fall.

For instance, the stifling temperatures this past Labor Day weekend prompted my honeybees to exit their home and “beard” in a cluster on the front and sides of their hive to cool off. Meanwhile, I kept their “bee bath” filled with water, and an eye on the fascinating bee blob.

At last, the temperature fell with the rain yesterday. The bees returned to their work inside the hive. I pulled on my beekeeper’s gear, stoked Grandpa Floyd’s smoker, and calmed the bees.

Dear Reader, in the shade of a pine tree my husband planted, I found meagre capped honey in my hive. Nonetheless, as if making up for lost time, bees flew into the hive’s entrance all day long, hind legs bearing goldenrod nectar.

A grown-up mud pie maker, I still have hope.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com