Poetry Sunday: The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

BY TIM BOWLING

Here at the wolf’s throat, at the egress of the howl,
all along the avenue of deer-blink and salmon-kick
where the spider lets its microphone down
into the cave of the blackberry bush—earth echo,
absence of the human voice—wait here
with a bee on your wrist and a fly on your cheek,
the tiny sun and tiny eclipse.
It is time to be grateful for the breath
of what you could crush without thought,
a moth, a child’s love, your own life.
There might never be another chance.
How did you find me, the astonished mother says
to her four-year-old boy who’d disappeared
in the crowds at the music festival.
I followed my heart, he shrugs,
so matter-of-fact you might not see
behind his words
(o hover and feed, but not too long)
the bee trails turning to ice as they’re flown.
.
Coffee Please in Madeira, OH

You Can Buy TwoHoneys Honey at Coffee Please

 

Coffee Please in Madeira, OH

This is my coffee shop. I stop in here almost every morning at 5:30am. And again at 7:15am. Sometimes for lunch. Sometimes for an afternoon cappuccino. The people who work there are my friends. As are many of the regulars who love Coffee Please, too.

Coffee Please is currently the only public place to buy your local TwoHoneys honey. Go there. Buy honey. Enjoy a cappuccino. Look for me.

 

 

Clover

The Glory of Single-Hive Honey

What makes TwoHoneys honey different from almost any (even any local) honey you can find? The answer, dear Reader, is single-hive honey. Let me explain.

  1. When you purchase your honey from the grocery store, you’re probably buying honey shipped in from other countries. That honey is combined with all the other honeys and heated and filtered beyond description in huge vats. Then it’s filtered again and bottled and shipped again and again and again and yada yada you eventually you eat it. And it all tastes the same. And all the good stuff is long gone. The end.
  2. When you purchase your honey from a local beekeeper (and this is indeed a wonderful first step!), you’re purchasing honey gathered from trees and flowers in your own neighborhood. This is healthy and excellent. However, it’s probably NOT single-hive honey. The beekeeper from whom you buy your local honey probably combines all of the frames from many of the hives and runs them all together through a machine we call an “extractor.” This extractor acts as a centrifuge and slings all the honey from all those frames into a common tub. Then, your local beekeeper bottles all that combined honey in jars. You buy it and eat it. But all the honey from all the frames is all combined, so it loses much of its distinct flavor.
  3. When you purchase TwoHoneys honey (you can get some at Coffee Please in Madeira!), you experience the glory of single-hive (and, frankly, it’s really single-frame) honey. In other words, I cut the honey-containing comb from its frame or bar, and I squeeze that honeycomb with a machine called my hand so that the honey from a single frame runs directly through a sieve and into a small bowl. I then immediately pour that honey into a jar. It’s that simple, pure honey that you eat and marvel about.

This is what makes single-frame honey unique: The honey in each frame tastes like whatever was blooming when the bees stored it. For instance, if goldenrod and asters were blooming when the bees stored nectar in that particular frame, then the honey harvested with that frame will taste like goldenrod or aster. Each frame tastes unique to whatever was blooming. The TwoHoneys honey you purchase tastes unique to whatever was blooming where that hive lives that season that year. It’s always a wonderful experience because YOU CAN TASTE THE DIFFERENCE.

We can’t always identify the flower we taste in the honey, but we can certainly taste the uniqueness.

And, like wine, the honey from that hive this year will taste different from the honey from that hive next year. Because the weather differs and different flowers bloom in different strengths. This year, clover bloomed for a long long time. And Queen Anne’s Lace was prolific in the wild countrysides. And right now, the goldenrod is yellowing the universe. So, the early honey we bottled tastes like clover. The mid-season honey like Queen Anne’s Lace, and the dark fall honey like deep-yellow goldenrod. And, Reader, these flowers taste different. And you can experience it.

 

Clover
Queen Anne's Lace
Goldenrod

 

 

 

Mark Fisher at the Zoo farm

A Beekeeper, a Farmer, and a Man with Big Ideas Walk into a Farm. . .

List some of your favorite things. Go ahead. Here are mine:

  1. Honeybees
  2. Prairie flowers and prairie grasses
  3. Organic vegetable gardens
  4. Farming
  5. Tractors
  6. People who have grand ideas
  7. People who are not fearful of those grand ideas
  8. People who make things happen because they say “If not me, who? If not now, when?”
  9. The Cincinnati Zoo
  10. Grassroots movements
  11. Green Bean Delivery
  12. Etc.

There might possibly be a movement afoot, Reader. There might possibly be an exciting, easy partnership developing. Among people who are the kind of people who simply get along and trust one another and want to work together. For a greater good than if we worked alone.

This movement of like-minded and why-not-us people reminds me of what’s happening in the once-neglected space behind Eli’s BBQ. We’re all sort of squatting together in an urban lot…the gardener, the orchardist, and the beekeeper. And it’s so awesome we can hardly stand it.

This new movement will be organized yet flexible. We’ll think about it. But we’re moving forward as we think. And we’re not squatting. We belong here. It’s all arranged.

Mark Fisher at the Zoo farm

 

Ben, Casey, and Kevin of Green Bean Delivery

 

Murphy waits in the truck

Murphy and the Truck Draw a Crowd

Murphy waits in the truck

Murphy doesn’t love bees. But he loves to go. He loves to go in the truck and hang his head out the window. Today, when I stopped for an iced tea and left Murph waiting in the truck, a small crowd of women gathered around them. When I returned with my iced tea, they were all snapping pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swarm! copy

A swarm is a gift to the world

 

Honeybee swarm

Mother’s Day marks an exciting time for beekeeping in Ohio, Reader—it is now officially swarm season. So, if you’ve discovered a swarm of honeybees hanging in a tree or in a bush or on a lamppost or in some other unexpected place, please please please contact TwoHoneys. If your swarm is at all reachable, we’ll come right over and collect it (and if I can’t personally run right over, I know people who can).

We’ll then take your swarm to one of our bee yards where we’ll introduce it to a nice, dry, comfortable hive box where the bees will immediately begin to set up housekeeping and collecting nectar from our local flora.

In a time of unprecedented bee losses, Reader, the swarm you discover is the sign that something is right in the world. :) A swarm at this time of year indicates that a strong hive near you successfully overwintered in a snug location and has outgrown its space. The swarm you’ve discovered is the sign of a strong hive…I call it a “survivor hive.” And all smart beekeepers want local, survivor hives…these survivor genes are those we hope to propagate in order to develop hardy bees that can withstand Ohio winters and forage on Ohio flora.

A swarm is a gift to the world, Reader. And it has come to you. How wonderful is that?!

It Isn’t the Polar Vortex that Kills the Bees

Reader, yesterday I received a call from a reporter at WCPO’s Channel 9, Cincinnati’s local news station. Cierra Johnson asked if she could visit with me about the terrible effect the winter-of-the-polar-vortices had on the local bee population.

I was on my way to check on some bees when she called, so I invited Cierra to join me, and she did. We had a very nice time among the bees, and Cierra put together quite a nice story…which ended up being more about the effects the lack of good foraging has on the bee population. Which was a terrific adjustment on Cierra’s part, because she got it. She understood that the lack of a rich food supply is much more devastating for the bees than the cold. If they have enough food, Reader, the frigid temperatures shouldn’t be an issue.

I liked that when the piece came together on TV, the Channel 9 anchors kept calling me “Tilton.”

 

WCPO visits the Brazee bees
WCPO visits the Brazee bees

 

Bees with pollen at their hive entrance

Scenes from a Bee Removal

It was a beautiful day for a bee removal, Reader. And because it’s been an long and vicious winter since our last one, I thought it might perk you up to see our happy team at work together on a roof.

Two years ago, the homeowners who hired us watched as a swarm of honeybees moved into their roof through this gap. But because the hive is on the second floor, the bees weren’t a problem until the homeowners built a two-tiered deck. Now the family wants to utilize their second-story deck, and the bees make it difficult for them to relax there.

Bees enter their hive beneath the roof

Terry Evans—who works for Jerry Hof, our brilliant contractor—removed the shingles, the siding, and the chipboard in order to access the hive. Terry worked methodically and thoughtfully to expose the hive without destroying the existing structure. His careful work paid off once the bees were gone and it was time to replace all the parts…the reconstruction took much less time than the deconstruction, and now the space looks as if neither we nor the bees were ever there.

Good teamwork makes the day bright

We flipped the chipboard with much of the empty comb still attached. The comb heavy with honey and brood and bees, however, collapsed into the soft insulation.

You know, Reader, I have to tell you how much I love working with Nicola Mason. She will scamper onto a roof or shinny up the scaffolding. She will dig her arms deep into dark and mysterious bee- and honey-filled cavities. And she does it with such glee and energy that she fills me with glee and energy, too. She is a giver of enthusiasm.

Nicola Mason reveals the hive

Once we’ve exposed the hive and accessed the comb and bees, we begin removing one comb at a time. We determine where each comb should go in its new hive…and we also always always keep a sharp eye out for the queen.

Liz Tilton assess each comb to determine its place in the new hive box

It’s not easy to spot the queen in the chaos of a bee removal, Reader, but we’ve become rather adept at it. On this job, Nicola took responsibility for cutting and removing the bee-laden comb from its original location. After a while, she quietly and matter-of-factly said simply, “I see her.” Then she calmly removed her queen clip from the pocket of her shirt and collected the queen in it.

Capturing the queen guarantees the removal’s success because all the other bees will follow the queen’s pheromones…there is no more chaos or indecision. Wherever she goes, they go.

Shouts of joy were heard throughout the neighborhood

We catch the queen in this clip (which keeps her from flying away) and then attache the clip to a bar with rubber bands. This way, the worker bees will go into the hive where we place the queen.

The queen clip keeps the queen from flying away

You know, sometimes you simply have to stop and look around and wonder how you got to be so lucky—lucky to be high up on scaffolding on a beautiful day with nice people and a hive of honeybees. Especially after you’ve got the queen, and all is well.

Stopping to enjoy the moment

Some bees are reluctant to go into the box…once the queen’s in there, they’ll eventually find their way to her, but we can’t always just sit around and wait for that to happen. Which is why it’s good to have a bee vac on hand. We vacuumed the reluctant bees and reunited them with their sisters when they reached their permanent home.

We vacuumed the last of the bees

Once we vacuumed the stragglers and sprayed the area with bee repellant, we closed the hive and lowered it to the ground for transport to its permanent home.

Steady, boys. Steady.

And after a nice drive in the bed of a gorgeous pickup truck, the Alexandria hive reached her permanent home. The bees are now busy exploring their new neighborhood.

Bees happy at home