Out of work women

Of Course They’re Pissy

Out of work women

And who wouldn’t be pissy, friends?

Several of my fellow beekeepers have recently complained that their otherwise sweet-tempered honeybees have become “aggressive” this past week or so.

At the end of June, most of Ohio’s yards and fields and farms enter a period of dearth when it comes to nectar flow. From March to late June, even our turf-dense suburban yards are alive with blooms in trees and bushes and little flowering things. But eventually these blossoms disappear to make way for leaves, and once that transformation occurs, because we’ve not made room in our lives for wildflowers, pollinators suddenly face a lack of food.

I mean, this is a ridiculous burden to place on any species…they have bounty for only three months, and suddenly NOTHING. NOTHING FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE YEAR.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking—you’re thinking that you have all those nice knock-out roses and those daylilies and those hostas in your flower beds, right? You think that you’ve purchased those pretty impatiens and petunias and planted them in your window boxes and that that should help the bees. But it doesn’t.

Bees need wildflowers, my friends. But I’ll save this issue for another post.

I’ve come to think that nectar is to bees as money is to humans. Worker bees head off every day to earn their pay. They feed their colony what they collect. Furthermore, when the nectar flow is on (when flowers are blooming), bees convert that nectar to wax and build their infrastructure comb with it, and they then store any surplus for use in the winter.

But when the nectar flow ends and bees enter a long period of dearth, there’s nothing to show for their foraging work. They head off to work but they can find none. They can no longer convert nectar to wax because there’s no nectar. They can no longer store their surplus…instead, they’re forced to eat into their savings which then risks their winter survival.

Wouldn’t you be cranky?!

You know, the more I think about it, the more I understand why so many humans are currently angry and violent and aggressive and short tempered, too. Many people are living in their own kind of dearth…a dearth in which there’s not enough work, which means there’s not enough money, which means there’s not enough food, and certainly, then, not enough (if any) savings.  We all need work to do, and that work should be enough to provide our families with food and housing without risking our futures.

If we all planted more wildflowers, the bees would not enter such an early dearth and could provide better for themselves. And we can do better by our fellow humans, too. We can do this, friends. We can do this.

Wildflowers and a wild fence

I was delighted when my friends at Ohio Prairie Nursery invited me to write a brief blog post for them. They published “The Year of Plenty” last week, and now you can click on over there to read it. :)

And if you want your own wildflowers, I highly recommend buying them through OPN.

Be wilder, friends. Plant flowers. Be a hippie.

 

Wildflowers and a wild fence

Sam Comfort harvesting honey

Keeping it Simple Beekeeping

Friends, if you ordered a new queen from me in 2016, Sam Comfort from Anarchy Apiaries is the guy who raised her.  I couldn’t be more pleased his queens. And with Sam…who is a delight.

If you don’t raise your own queens from local surviving stock, and if your bees overwinter some long, cold months, I suggest you get your queens from Sam. Or, if you’re near Cincinnati, contact me. :) I probably have a few of Sam’s queens on hand for you.

But it’s not hard to rear your own queens. You might screw it up initially, but think of what all you’ll learn. And it’s not the end of the world if you don’t immediately succeed…then again, you just might. What fun that would be, yes? And eventually, you will. :)

A comb dripping honey

The Risen Jesus Ate a Hunk of Honeycomb and Was Happy

A soon-to-be-eaten comb of dripping honey

 

Reader, today is Easter, the day on which Christians celebrate the risen Christ. Today is also the day on which I will be making my soon-to-be-famous Ambrosia fruit salad to take to the Easter dinner. I shall provide images later.

But here’s what I want to tell you, and it has something to do with Easter. First, I should let you know that I was reared a very good Southern Baptist. My family was in Sunday School and church almost every Sunday. Which means I know my Bible and its stories quite well. Full disclosure: I have since moved on from my conservative Southern Baptist upbringing—from a church where the people are wonderful but whose theology excludes me—to a more open, more liberal church, and I don’t always show up on Sundays. I’m relaxing with it all. Which seems much healthier for me.

I tell you all of this because I have just discovered something in the Bible that I didn’t know until this Easter morning, and here it is: The gospel of Luke tells us that after Jesus arose from the dead—as the resurrected human Jesus interacted with his fellows—he ate a hunk of honeycomb.

Jesus appeared to his disciples, and in a move that I love because it shows me that he and I think a lot alike, Jesus asked if they had any food. That’s what I would do. Food is one big thing I love about being human. And what did the disciples offer him? Broiled fish and a hunk of honeycomb.

Now, some versions of the Bible omit the honeycomb. I don’t know why…I might explore that in another post. But a number of versions include the honeycomb. Look it up…Luke 24:42, 43. Look it up online so you have several versions to compare. The Bible says Jesus took what the disciples offered and he ate it. There you go: Christ arose and ate broiled fish and honeycomb.

Which is sort of exactly what the newly emerged bees do. First they eat pollen, which is a source of protein…like the fish…for muscle development; then, to fuel energy to those newly developed muscles, they eat honey. Which is what Jesus did. I know for a fact that he loved the honey in its comb more than the broiled fish. Which might be why the Biblical writers omitted it…perhaps to make Jesus appear all serious. I like to think of Jesus happy, so if I were writing this story, I would have kept the honeycomb.

"Quantum physics: 'it is not possible to predict the outcome of any situation. god is the author of nature; nature can be changed.' Ambrose"

Honey-Tongued St. Ambrose and My Easter Ambrosia Salad

Quantum physics: “it is not possible to predict the outcome of any situation. god is the author of nature; nature can be changed.” Ambrose

 

I’ve received a very nice invitation to Easter dinner on Sunday. And I’ve been invited to contribute a fruit salad to the meal. So I’ve been thinking about fruit salads and what makes a good one. I mean, most of them are pretty run-of-the-mill, right, Reader? What on earth can make you excited about a fruit salad?! So you understand my dilemma.

Well, I’ll tell you what can make a special fruit salad…HONEY! And good coconut. And good pecans. And whipped cream. So, my dear Reader, I’ve decided to whip up a wonderfully exuberant Ambrosia. Because Spring is exuberant. And Easter is exuberant. And all the world is exuberant. And the image above is not only exuberant in its colorful Easter-egg-like bees, but embedded in it is a quote from St. Ambrose, the patron saint of bees.

Legend has it that a bee landed on the infant St. Ambrose’s lip; when she flew off, she left a drop of honey on his mouth. When St. Ambrose’s father discovered the honey on his son, he took it as a sign that little Ambrose would grow up to speak gently and smoothly and with a honeyed tongue.

Reader, in this present election season, one in which our attentions have become riveted to hateful speech and vitriol and the power of language to do harm and raise ire, it’s good for us to recall the healing power of speaking gently and with a honeyed tongue. So St. Ambrose is my man this Easter. Therefore, dear Reader, I shall be making Ambrosia, a fruit salad named after our sweet-talking saint—a fruit salad with just a touch of  honey…honey collected from my own bees.

Thanks to Francesca, the young artist who created this very exuberant pastel.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Redtree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop

Local TwoHoneys Honey—Now at Redtree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop

Reader, I know you love your coffee. I know you love your coffee in quirky little local coffee shops. And when you drink your wonderful drinks there, you like to add a small bit of local honey to your cup.

I’m here to introduce you to Redtree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop, which is where I often go when I want to write and daydream. Redtree is filled to the brim with local art, which makes it a delightful place to wander. What’s more, Redtree and Brazee Street Studios—the beautiful art studio surrounded by native Ohio prairie flowers and where TwoHoneys maintains a number of beehives—are neighbors. Close neighbors. And now Redtree offers our very own TwoHoneys Bee Co honey…local honey collected by the bees that fly in the neighborhood in which you drink your coffee. And that, my friends, is seriously local.

Go there. Add some honey to your day.

Redtree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop

 

 

 

 

 

Full of surprises and delight

Natural Delights and Surprises = Crystalized Honey

Full of surprises and delight

I tell you, Reader, so many people have asked me about crystallized honey lately that I’ve decided to write about it.

First of all: Honey lasts forever. And I mean forever. As in eternity.

Second of all: The composition of honey may change over time.

Third: Raw honey changes more than pasteurized honey because raw honey contains good and natural surprises in it. Whereas pasteurized honey is stripped of these delights. Good and natural delights change over time. Which is what makes them good…and exciting. Right? The more we try to control change, the less fun we have in this life, Reader. Take it from me.

Fourth: The more tiny bits of natural surprises (such as pollen or wax) in the honey, the more little things there are on which crystals will begin to form. This has to do with science, and I’m not going into science here…let me simply say that the less your honey is strained and heated, the more bits of nature remain in it. And this is exactly why you want to buy local honey—honey that has not been stripped of its local pollen. Local pollen in your honey tastes like home. It also helps those who eat it develop immunities when it comes to local allergens.

Fifth: You want your honey cloudy with little specks of colorful pollen in it. You don’t want your honey clear and runny. You want your honey the way you want your bread or your rice…you want it dense with nature. Not white.

Sixth: So, we’ve established that it’s a good sign if your honey crystalizes because it’s a sign that you are eating closer to nature and the earth.

Seventh: Some of the blossoms on which the bees forage crystalize more quickly than others. So, if your honey crystalizes, it’s a sign that the nectar from which your honey comes was collected from a certain blossom at a specific time of the year. Which is very cool. It’s one of the bonuses of buying honey from a single hive as opposed to buying honey gathered from all over several unknown continents and mixed together and heated in a giant vat.

Eighth: The crystals are reversible. If your mouth prefers to eat your honey without crystals, simply heat the honey-containing jar slowly in a pan of water until the crystals disappear. Or set your jar in a sunny place.

We strain very little of the wonder from our honey. You can still taste the Ohio in it. Which means it will eventually crystalize. Because it is that awesome.