bee on lavender, sonomaWhile I’ve been gone in Mexico, there have been some big changes back in Sonoma at Two Terrier Vineyards. It’s taken me a week to get the full measure of those changes, perhaps because my man John the Baptist has been feeding them to me slowly — perhaps to ease the shock. One of the greatest changes illustrates why I needed to go to Oaxaca to learn Spanish. I had a conversation with Hector Alvarez, a famous local beekeeper who has limited English. We were trying to negotiate our way through the wonderful symbiotic agreement that occurs in much of this county. People with land (especially those farming organically) allow beekeepers to place their hives on their property in exchange for a “rent” of organic honey. Hector Alvarez of Hector’s Bees is one of Sonoma’s most famous beekeepers — you’ll find his honey and beeswax products in all the better farmer’s markets in the county. I was excited to offer him a temporary home for some of his hives, but was not too proficient with Spanish when I negotiated the deal. I suggested a few hives along an out of the way plot of land. What I got was nearly one hundred hives with what must be a million bees right smack along the main vineyard road. While honeybees are generally very calm and non-aggressive, several of the crew members and a certain terrier have recently been stung. So for now, the bees are in control of the main vineyard road. You drive through the area their way or pay the consequences.

driving past beehives

Apparently, bees will remain calm if you drive very, very slowly past their homes. And Oscar, don't stick your nose in the hive!

But it’s not just the vineyard road. Bees have a territory of about two square miles, so they are claiming every bit of Two Terrier Vineyards as their own.

bee on matilija poppy

They are on every one of the native flowers we've planted.

They are loving Lake Charles where artfully placed pebbles create safe platforms for drinking.

And speaking of Lake Charles, our man-made aquatic habitat named after our late lamented Founding Terrier… There are some new residents to speak of. John the Baptist, through one of of his naturalist connections, has offered Lake Charles as a habitat for some rescued Western Pond Turtles. This is the only freshwater turtle native to the Pacific Coast West of the Cascade-Sierra Divide and is horribly endangered due to habitat destruction and that nasty interloper, the Bullfrog. John, having shot the last four bullfrogs in Lake Charles last week, offered the pond as a refuge for three rescued turtles — two females and a male. I’m currently looking for names and thinking maybe the names of Native American tribes would be appropriate. Pomo, Modoc, Miwok, Ohlone…

Western Pond Turtle

Here is one of our new residents, shortly after release.

This may be the best shot I ever get of these guys. They are extremely shy and, even when I try to sneak up to the pond, I usually only hear the plunk and see the ripples where they’ve jumped off their sunning rocks to the mud bottom to hide.

Which brings me to the new directive. In addition to being careful and avoiding the vineyard road so as not to disturb the bees, John tells me I’m also supposed to keep Oscar away from Lake Charles while our turtles settle in. If you’ve been on this site with any frequency, you’ve seen shots like this:

oscar in lake charles, sonoma

Just imagine the high pitched barking.

And this:

oscar swims in Lake Charles, sonoma

So you know hog-tying and muzzling is the only way to keep him out of water.

In addition, the pond has been stocked with small fish and crayfish, which look a lot like the crayfish you see in Louisiana. When I mused that I could make a native Sonoma Crawfish Etouffe, I was told that the crayfish were there for the turtles.

bees at two terrier vineyards

So the bees control the heights and the turtles rule the lower slopes.

So here’s the new World Order at Two Terrier Vineyards. The place is being run by bees, turtles and John the Baptist. Owners and Terriers are invasive species.

Which is probably as it should be.