At Brent’s Grist Mill Site: future home of the Kelowna Pollinator Pasture.

For my first post on InkSwarm, I decided to come down to the site, set up my folding chair and spend some time here taking in the place as it is now, before the Pollinator Pasture goes in this coming Spring.

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Photo: Andrea-Linh Le

From my vantage point, in the incredibly bright Okanagan sunshine (note to self: bring a hat next time) I can see three heritage buildings enclosed by a chain-linked fence. The original Grist Mill building reminds me of the old houses and barns found around the prairies where I come from. Beyond the enclosure is a wooded area around Mill Creek and beyond that the busy traffic of the city. To my left is Dilworth Drive, one of the first streets I became familiar with when I moved to Kelowna three months ago, because on one end of Dilworth is where the Kelowna’s Farmer’s Market is held and on the other end, where it crosses Mill Creek and this site and goes up into the hills that surround Kelowna there has been road construction since I got here. Twice now I’ve found myself coming to the site from the University and forgetting about the construction. I’m a new driver and still getting used to the hills and curving streets of Kelowna … there aren’t a lot of hills where I come from and most of the roads are fairly straight. However, I feel like it is a good metaphor for this project and my time as Writer In Residence … on one end construction and on the other, bounty and fresh healthy food.

Behind me are cliffs that I’ve been told are classic Okanagan landscape and the colours are beautiful. An old, now unused, rail track runs along at the bottom of the cliffs. There is a little train bridge just through the trees going over Mill creek. There are bikers beyond that and as I was coming into the park a lady walking up and down the path talking on her cell phone. It sounded like she was having trouble at work. I can hear what I think are grasshoppers or maybe some insect mating in air the way dragonflies do, birds are chirping in the trees and the leaves are rustling just like they do in the aspen back home. There are little shady, grassy spots under the trees in places that remind me of Anne of Green Gables … places where young couples might have lover’s trysts or something. Somebody told me the other day that they saw a pink pair of panties and empty bottles on one of the numerous paths down to the creek though … so the lover’s trysts might not be so innocent and bucolic as any in Avonlea. I’m imagining what it will look like when the pasture is here and the insect hotels are set up and the bees start buzzing around. The birds and the bees …

Last Saturday we held an event here where eco-artist Lori Mairs displayed a giant sized replica of a Mason Bee home and the stages of development from tiny egg to the full grown pollinating superstar that a mason bee is. People and volunteers from the community came out and built Mason Bee homes for their gardens, kids had their faces painted and made bee finger puppets. Someone even brought fresh tomatoes from their garden to share (something I notice happens a lot in the Okanagan). Two friends that I know from Saskatoon were in town and able to make it, and new colleagues and classmates were there with their families as well.

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Photo: Andrea-Linh Le

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Photo: Andrea-Linh Le

The weather on Saturday was beautiful and I was struck by how many different folks, connected to one another in various ways, came together for an afternoon to learn about Mason Bees. The thing I kept hearing everyone saying was, “Wow! I had never heard of Mason Bees before this” and, “I didn’t realize they were such amazing pollinators”. All of us, the migratory and not so migratory, passing through and stopping to share an afternoon with one another to learn about bees and ways we can better care for our communities and the natural world that we live in. Even though this little patch of land is in the middle of the city, it is full of plants, insects, birds, history, people (and I’m told the occasional coyote). What a beautiful and worthy project this is and I’m honoured to be the 2015-16 Writer In Residence. I hope you will follow me and this blog over the next eight months as we gear up to plant the pasture this Spring.

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Photo: Andrea-Linh Le

Since I started writing this I have turned my chair around so I’m not facing the sun anymore and there is a beautiful cool breeze coming through the trees. I might just take a nap here and maybe I’ll dream about bees!

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