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

 

 

 

 

 

Brazee Street Studios: Prairie Flowers and Honeybee Hives

Give Me the Wild Life

Brazee Street Studios: Prairie Flowers and Honeybee Hives

 

Reader, some of my bees are starving while other hives are packed with honey.

The difference is in the wildness. No…not in the wildness of the bees but in the wildness of where they forage.

The starving bees are located in suburbs and on big farms. Two locations which oddly enough actually have one big thing in common…they’re both boring. Boring to death. Sorry to say this.

If you and your neighbors love nice green grass, and if your grass is treated with herbicides and if the lawn-service truck routinely sprays and if you think clover and dandelions reflect that you’re a bad homeowner and if you keep all of your flower beds perfectly groomed and free of weeds, then the bees in your trees are probably starving. Because this is a sickly idea of beautiful. It’s not our fault. We bought into this idea that thin is beautiful. Not only when it comes to our bodies but also when it comes to our lawns and our lives.

I am getting off that stupid train. Hear me.

And those farms that grow one crop…say, soybeans or corn…and it hurts me to say this because I love corn so much…but that single crop is a bee killer. It’s not the crop that’s bad, it’s the singleness of it. Monoculture farming is unbelievably boring.

The bees in my care that are rolling in honey live in wild…and I mean WILD places. Some of these wild places were intentionally planted. Some of these wild places are intentionally managed to keep them natural. But some of these wild places are completely accidental.

Frankly, Reader, I think I’m about to go off the deep end into this wildness.

The bees doing best live near and forage in

  • Community gardens. These gardens are diverse and wonderfully wonderfully wonderful and there are weeds and wild flowers growing between bed and at the margins of the gardens. There is a thrilling energy in community gardens, and THIS IS WONDERFUL FOR BEES! Also, Reader, bees are wonderful for the gardens. This is the miracle of it.
  • County parks. These parks (such as California Woods Nature Preserve) have trails and managed meadows filled with wildflowers, and the bees revel in those meadows. REVEL! The meadows receive full sun and are unmown havens in which natural prairie flowers grow all season long. And the bees in these parks go like gangbusters. Thank God for spaces in which good park systems (such as the Hamilton County Parks) thoughtfully steward the land in their care.
  • Downtown. Because downtown is a wonderful mix…including some wild areas along the margins. People who live downtown don’t have grassy lawns and they don’t hire lawn services. People who live downtown have wild garden spaces. And vacant lots. In which community gardens sometimes pop up under the wonderful stewardship of people (such as Catherine Comello Stehlin) who care.
  • Urban neighborhoods. Take Oakley (near downtown Cincinnati), for example. Because some people such as Sandy Gross and John Hutton and their creative friends know that it’s best not to mow. So they plant wild prairie flowers and plan Monarch way stations. And they care how it looks, so it’s planned to be gorgeous and wild and save money and save the environment and save the bees and the butterflies. And it’s drop-dead gorgeous wherever these people are, so we should all do what they do. I plan to follow their examples.
  • Go to Brazee Street Studios…to the parking area behind the studios (on Enyart Street) and take a look. THAT, my friend, is beauty.

Reader, I am the steward of a one-acre yard. In a nice suburb. And it is almost all mown. And the bees that share this yard with me are begging me to change it. And I’ve learned to listen to both the bees and my gut…so I intend to allow some wildness into my yard and thus into my life. The bees in my care here are whispering to me that I’ve grown dull. And that it’s high time I strike out into something unpredictable.

 

 

 

 

Chlo sells pink lemonade

What I Learned at Chlo’s Lemonade Stand

You remember the Brazee bees, don’t you, Reader? According to Deb (and to me, and to everyone else we’ve let anywhere near any of the honey), the Brazee bees have produced the season’s most delicious honey. Bar none.

But this post isn’t necessarily about honey…it’s about last night’s “Bees and Beethoven at Brazee” Party of Note to benefit the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Sandy Gross, the owner and brain and heart and nerve behind the wonderful Brazee Street Studios asked me to share a little bit about honeybees with the party goers, and I was happy to do it. It was delightful…perhaps because we gathered outside in the Prairie area beneath a rising blue moon and we talked about bees. After that, we visited the two Brazee hives before watching JW May create a gorgeous honeybee in the new hot shop glass-blowing studio.

It was a sweet night…all the hor d’oeuvres were ever-so-slightly drizzled with honey produced by the Brazee bees; Sandy’s family and I dressed in yellow-and-black bee-appropriate attire; and I met some really nice new people. It wasn’t boring as so many parties are.

Chlo sells pink lemonade

But I have to tell you, my favorite part of the night was discovering Sandy and John’s daughter’s lemonade stand. Chlo is in first grade this year, and from the moment I met her (in April, when we installed the bees), I liked her. You know how you do, Reader? Well, there she was last night, sitting perfectly on a little stool behind her pink lemonade. She’d strategically opened for business outside the big open doors of the hot shop from which billowed intense heat, and her sign read: Lemonade, 1 cent. Party goers stood in line for it.

I had no money in my pocket at this point, Reader…not even a single penny. And how do you ask for a nice glass of ice-cold lemonade without paying for it?! So I sat through much of the glass-blowing demonstration dreaming of pink lemonade. Seriously. At some point, Chlo came to me and asked me if I wanted a glass of lemonade. I confessed to her that all I could think about was pink lemonade. All night…pink lemonade in a clear cup. She poured a nice glass of it for me. The clear cup she gave me frosted with coolness. It was perfect…absolutely delicious…probably because she’d been so sweet to seek me out and offer it.

We visited. I told Chlo that I thought she was showing interest in becoming a business woman. She agreed. I asked her if she knew yet what kind of business she hoped to establish. And, Reader, do you know what she said? She sort of shrugged and said, “Lemonade?” She said it as if it were a question. And I thought, well, yes, why the heck not lemonade?! I don’t know of a single world-famous lemonade business, so it seems to me the field is wide open for a dynamo.

And I learned a great lesson from Chlo: Why always look to the future when you’ve got a great thing going on right this minute? And why seek to be a world-famous operation? Why not simply enjoy yourself as you provide lemonade to the thirsty people standing right in front of you at the moment, and let the rest take care of itself?

Chlo’s dad says she’s talked for some time about a lemonade stand. And there she was, making her dream a reality. As we talked, she asked her mother if she could sell lemonade at that spot on Saturdays; together, they worked out a plan: Yes, she could sell lemonade on Saturdays so long as an adult was with her. And she could sit right there at the entrance to the hot shop where there’s a steady weekend traffic of thirsty glass blowers and passersby—Chlo nodded as if to say, Yep, this is definitely gonna work out.

 

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Sandy Gross and John Hutton in honeybee party attire
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Her other shoe is a flower
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JW May's honeybee...blown in glass. (And broken. Occupational hazard)
Christopher Daniels

Brazee Bees and Blue Hell Studios

I discovered Brazee Street Studios and its owner Sandy Gross through my friend and teacher Christopher Daniel, owner of Blue Hell Studios and a wonderful metal artist…he’s teaching me to blacksmith and weld and how to fix beehives…I’d say Christopher teaches me how to think of possibilities. And how to simply try my hand at something and see what happens. And then he always finds something positive to notice in my efforts. In my book, this makes for a terrific teacher.

Christopher sees a problem and his brain goes about solving it. My brain sees a problem and it calls Christopher.

Christopher Daniels of Blue Hell Studios

Fortunately, Christopher found me sitting out in the prairie strapping the beehives with those bungee cords, and he very sweetly began problem solving. And then he guided me in fabricating a fancy-dancy, metal-artsy contraption that has now replaced the bungee cords. This sweet solution solves all the problems: It simultaneously holds the lid on and the hive down; it allows the beekeeper to easily remove the lid and inspect the bees; it’s low profile and yet it shows an artist’s hand at work.

And all we had to do was:

  1. cut a lot of metal into exact little pieces
  2. grind out all the burrs and rough spots
  3. measure and mark and punch
  4. drill and drill and drill and drill
  5. smooth all the rough spots
  6. (I kept saying, “Christopher, these are for BEEHIVES. It doesn’t have to be perfect!” He looked at me over his goggles in silence, so I continued on with the angle grinder and the sparks.)
  7. Weld and weld and weld and weld
  8. (I love those awesome green welding jackets. They feel great, and I want one.)
  9. Sand smooth all the rough weld spots…of which there were many because I am not yet a good welder.
  10. Apparently welding involves more than permanently joining two pieces of metal together. It also involves looking as if there has never been a welder on the scene…as if these piece had been born joined together like this. Which involves smooth.
  11. I’m like, “Seriously? You want me to sand all of that smooth?” Again with the silent look over the goggles. Apparently so.

And that’s where I left it because it was getting late. Christopher offered to finish the as-yet-to-be-named brilliant solution and install it himself, which I think is a wonderfully sweet gesture. Artists are very particular about how things are installed, you know. :)  I’m eager to see how it turns out when I go visit Blue Hell Studio’s open house tonight.

Oh, and then there’s the matter of rust prevention. We decided to leave the rust-prevention decision up to Sandy. See? Artists think of every detail, don’t they? And, let me tell you, Reader, Christopher and Sandy have a vision of how to either let something rust or how to prevent its rusting, and there’s really no way you nor I can predict what they see in their imaginations. And when we see the final result, we’ll say, “Oh my gosh…of course. That’s it! Why didn’t I think of that?”

So, keep visiting the bees at Brazee Street Studios…because it seems as if things out there evolve every single day. (There’s an open house there tonight, April 13th from 6-9PM.)

Oh. Someone at Brazee Street is hand-painting a sign that says “Bee Hives.” And there’s talk of a collaborative bee sculpture.

The beehives at Brazee Street Studios

Brazee Bees…and All the Wonderful Artists

The beehives at Brazee Street Studios

Did you know, Reader, that we’ve placed a couple of top-bar hives at Brazee Street Studios? Yes. We placed them in a nice spot, took this picture, and then when our backs were turned, the wind toppled them. Thank goodness there were no bees in them yet (the bees arrive in a couple of days).

So, I went out there yesterday and strapped the hives to the ground using stakes and a network of bright red bungee cords. It’s a temporary solution that works just fine, though the sight of bungee cords is never a sight I’m crazy about…and, let me tell you, artists are way pickier about aesthetics than I. I mean, I like a thing to look good, but I think my idea of looking good may not be up to snuff for some.

For instance, as we contemplated hive location, Sandy Gross, the wonderful owner and energy of Brazee Street Studios, had an idea of how the hives would sit. She simply began moving the hives to fit her mind’s eye. I didn’t see it, but she sees it, you know. When you see that someone sees it, you go with it. And there you go.

As a final touch, Sandy placed a heavy white stone on a hive to keep the lid from blowing off. But when she headed off to find even more heavy stones, I called out that I thought one stone would do the trick. To which she matter-of-factly replied that she prefers things in threes. :)

So, you see, Reader, it’s not only a matter of what will do the trick…it’s also a matter of how a thing feels to the eye. If it’s not right to the eye, it’s simply not right. So now there are three large white rocks atop each hive.

I totally get all of that, and I’m happy that these hives are assuming the character of Brazee Street Studios. And, let me tell you, it doesn’t take a Vincent Van Gogh to know that red bungee cords are not a good fit out there.

(I’ll have an update on the Brazee beehive solution in tomorrow’s post.)

 

 

The 2012 Monster Hive

We’re Gonna Need a Ladder!

I took a few pictures as I built three top-bar hives this week, but I think the pictures are boring, so I’m not posting them. Perhaps I’ll document the progress later this week when my friends Heidi and Anne spend the afternoon building their hive.

As the construction days wear on, and as I wrestle to install a new blade on the table saw, and as all of my crevices fill with sawdust, I become less interested in taking pictures and more interested in finishing the work. So, I sort of stopped taking pictures about half way through.

But, much to my delight, my car is now packed with a couple of top-bar hives for placement in the “prairie” section at Brazee Street Studios, and there are a couple of additional, uncommitted hives waiting for action in my garage. I’m finally ahead of the game.

More about the Brazee Street Studio project in another post. For now, please enjoy with me the monster hive that’s growing over at Simon and Patti Foster’s apiary. Holy cow. It’s only early April and this hive is already seven boxes tall.

The 2012 Monster Hive
The Monster Hive: side view, staked down