Thursday, March 28, 2013

Georgia On My Mind

-Posted by Isaac

Jayne and I have recently been trading off. Last month was me in New Orleans. Then she took a trip to Illinois to visit a friend, and this week it was my turn again; Georgia for package bees.
Some of you may have heard about the higher then normal bee death we've experienced in Ohio this winter. So far, and we're not yet in the clear, I've heard that it's up around a 60% die off. Our own bees didn't fare that bad but we were not untouched either. Day after day this month, checking hives, I'd come in to report more bad news to Jayne. I got a bit drama-queenish. Finally (I think it was her suggestion) the idea came up to try and replenish with package bees out of Georgia. What a brilliant girl I married!
I called about six places down south, got on waiting lists, and luckily a few days later got a call from Gardners in Baxley, GA.
Hey, drama queen times call for drama queen measures.

So I left this cold miserable weather and drove 13 hours to the sunny south. By Nashville the snow-white dogwoods were calling out for attention, and by the time I hit Georgia I was in a flowering beekeeper's Eden.
Wisteria vining through another tree. 

Does anyone know what kind of tree this is below? Some kind of tulip?

Here's an up-close shot of the tree's blooms.
Traveling with a companion is of course more memorable, but being alone on the rode has its benefits also. You just find yourself some good traveling music (Ryan Bingham), a good book (David Sedaris), and  some bad food (Huddle House and Hardees, in honor of Wayne Morris, my late great Montana bee boss)... No screaming kids.... You let your mind wonder, 70 mph, and just sort of pick through the years --the people, and places and friends-- until it becomes somewhat therapeutic. At some point, it always happens, I stumble on the bigger, more encompassing thoughts. I'm sure this happens to everyone. The important and universal questions --life, death, love, hurt, continuity... the world and my   place and how I came to be doing just what I happen to be doing at this moment. Big life questions like, "Where did I go wrong anyway?"

 Halfway there, Gardners called and backed up my order a day, which resulted in two good things: one, a free day in the sun to vacation. Two, I could delay driving the bees back home through the most recent Ohio blizzard.
The kids and Jayne enjoyed the Ohio snow while I was in the Georgia sun
My sister Becky told me I should check out historic Jekyll Island off the Georgia coast. Sounded like a good way to kill some time.
I quickly discovered that Jekyll Island is a place where wealthy northerners like myself come to play.
See -- They were expecting me.

And play I did. Miles and miles of beach, dunes, bike trails and forest.
 Mine, all mine!

A good omen: on a long run down the beach, within the first forty minutes, I picked up three (almost) perfect sand dollars, one for each of my three (almost) perfect children.

About a mile of the run was spent zig-zagging through a driftwood "enchanted forest."

And a little history: In the late 1800's Jekyll Island was a retreat for some hefty Guilded Age tycoons like J. P. Morgan, Frank Goodyear and the Rockefellers. Here are some of their summer "cottages."

It's all golf, tennis and croquet here.
"Scuse me, ... I'm lookin' fer the cornhole tourney?"

They do have a campground for folks like me. $23 for a "primitive" site -- Outrageous!
My spot looked like something straight out of the Mesozoic.
Didn't like the price to sleep on the ground, but then I promptly spent more on dinner. Food's important!
The island pizza joint somehow managed to have Fat Tire amber ale on tap. (A Colorado beer that has no business on the east coast.) Well that just figures...

With a big Monday of driving bees north, and before a Georgia velociraptor could snatch me for breakfast, I beat it out of there pretty early. Past the golf course, the country clubs and mansions, across the bridge and back to real life. Just a few miles off the island, I came across this place:
Mattress, anyone? 
At the time I was in no great need of gas, but I couldn't resist pulling in anyway. The irony was just too much.

Packages loaded and ready to go... a long road ahead and more wandering thoughts.

Taking off, north out of Baxley Georgia, I glanced out to see this-- a beekeeper with his priorities obviously in the right place:
The future of Honeyrun Farm?
Yeah right... Keep dreamin, buddy!
"Jayne Honey, my Love, my Darlin', my Dumplin'... if we work hard enough... if and only if... someday maybe pay down these debts... we'll get out of this here shotgun shack, and put'cha plop down up yonder in a fine trailer."
"With steps and all!"
"Fit for a beekeepin' queen!"

Friday, March 22, 2013

Two New Stores!

-Posted by Isaac

Here's a photo from yesterday, 7 am. There was still more snow to come!
March 21st, 18 degrees ... Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??
 In spite of this mean nasty cold Spring, I've been busy getting ready. It makes me feel good to do something, even though the bees are still huddled, trying to stay alive.
Normally, hauling empty supers is done with a trailer attached. Unthinking as usual, I left my trailer in Holmes county about three weeks ago. Hummm... problem.
I think I've made seven trips with just the truck in the last three days.

On the honey selling front, last week was a good week-- a record nine drop-offs in one day! Among those were two new stores: Whole Foods on Lane Ave and the new Hills Market Downtown.
I delivered the honey and then driving home, it hit me that I should take some pictures of these beauties.
Today's drop-offs were more moderate (five deliveries), and I remembered the pictures.
As many of you know, there already was a Whole Foods on Lane, but now it has moved a little and is new, shiny, huge and awesome.

I strolled inside and the first thing I encountered was this friendly coffee house/bar with a fireplace burning in the center of the seating area. Many craft beers on tap just in case you need a little more than coffee for your morning ritual.

And of course, to satisfy my narcissism,  I took the trip back to the honey aisle.
For two weeks in a row this is what I found: empty! 
We love you too, Whole Foods... but the cupboard is bare!
Thank you, Columbus, for loving local honey!

Downtown you can now find the new Hills Market. This beautiful store on Grant St. is an expansion of the original in Worthington, catering to people looking for healthy local food.

Inside was this unique end-display featuring mead from Brothers Drake and Ohio Honey t-shirts made by local artist Dara Schwartz. Jayne and I proudly wear ours to market. Thanks, Dara!
Get your OHIO Honey / Wine / Microbrew T's!

The maples are just about ready to bloom (three weeks behind) and it's still cold. I wish I could report an end in sight but it doesn't look good. Snow in the forecast this weekend.

Looks like it will be at least a few more days before the bees can start acting like bees and find this pollen. Two weeks from now the willow trees will be abuzz... fingers crossed. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bye Bye Winter?

-Posted by Isaac

Jayne beat me to the punch. I was going to talk about the cool little crocus flowers coming out and convey my vast botanical genius concerning angiosperms (after asking Jayne all about them).
I'll stick to an easier subject: this crazy, hard-on-bees March weather.
A week ago it looked like this:

No School!
And we took full advantage of the situation.

Mason adds the finishing touches
The next day, the melt was on...
Is this not the ugliest snowman you've ever seen?

Heat: the extreme weight loss plan

 and the next day...

 I couldn't help taking a minute to watch the bees get their first taste of new pollen.

The pickins' were pretty slim as far as available protein. The maples and willows have yet to bloom so basically it was a few small crocus flowers and sawdust.
I helped the girls a little-

This is dry protein powder, Bee Pro. When there is nothing out there blooming the bees are crazy about it, bringing loads into the hive. Every bee yard gets a bucket this time of year, but it only works well for a couple of weeks on a few warm days. As soon as the first reliable natural pollen becomes available (maples), the bees won't touch it. The chicken wire keeps rodents from getting a free meal.
I've got hundreds of pounds of it to later turn into protein patties. This stimulates brood rearing.

Our little "bee pro" poses next to Bee Pro.
Now it's blustery and cold again with intermittent snowstorms.
Hard on bees and people both.

Crocus tommasinianus and other Spring time wonders

-posted by Jayne

It's snowing today in Ohio, but that doesn't mean we can't delight in the wonders of Spring.  I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to the wonderful little Crocus tommasinianus.  The best thing about this crocus is that it flowers early in the season, and you can plant it in your yard.  Since it flowers early, the green part of the plant has plenty of time to store energy for the bulb for coming years, which is why you can easily naturalize it in your yard, mow the green part down after the grass begins to grow, and still have it come back every year to reproduce and multiply.  It is easy to grow in all soil types and produces lots of flowers.  I planted 100 bulbs throughout the yard at least 4 years ago, and we still get these impressive little clumps dotting our landscape.  

 Isaac has noticed the bees bringing in some bright yellow pollen, and we believe this is coming from these little crocus.

Isaac and Maizy took advantage of a sunny day last week to get in to the hives and check things out.  Maizy is a natural, "Give me that {hive tool} daddy, I know what I'm doing!"

And now a tip for your upcoming Easter pot-lucks.  Did you know that honey can prevent your apple slices from browning?  Since honey contains antioxidants it will slow the browning process.  Of course you can always use lemon, lime, or some other citrus.  But I personally find the flavor of honey a lot more appealing than the tart citrus.  Simply place your peeled and sliced apples in a bowl, drizzle with some honey, and toss.

 Speaking of Easter, did you know we have a new candle in our Etsy store?  Just in time for those Springtime festivities.  Behold, the egg candle!

And for our Cincinnati fans; our honey is proudly being served at Collective Espresso.  My cousin Dave just started this new coffee shop in Over The Rhine.  Order some tea or coffee and ask for some honey to sweeten the deal.

Here's to warm weather on the horizon!

Monday, March 4, 2013

What Beekeepers Do For Fun

-posted by Jayne

This past weekend we had the privilege to travel to Wooster, Ohio, for the Tri-County Beekeeper's Association's Beekeeping Workshop.  I believe it is the largest beekeeping workshop in the state, and having gone for the past 4 years, I would say it never fails to impress.  This year, we were asked to speak on Friday night on the topic "Beyond The Hive" - basically everything we do with our business that is not simply "keeping bees."  We attempted to cover beeswax rendering and candle making, pollen gathering, pollination, making value-added honey (infused, granulated, seasonal), marketing your products, and even honey house construction - all in one hour.  It was fun to be able to present what we've done with our little business.  The best thing about this workshop is that it gives us a lot of great ideas of new projects, cutting edge beekeeping practices, and allows us to network with other beekeepers around the state.  We've made a lot of great contacts and beekeeping friends over the past few years.  
Speaking of "cutting edge" - have you seen these pastel
colored beekeeping suits?  In case you want to "dress to impress"
when you're out in the apiary.
Isaac didn't realize it when we planned the weekend, but he actually ended up speaking at two separate sessions.  He attended a session that was to cover Pollination, and unfortunately, the speaker did not show up.  Ten minutes after the session was scheduled to start, the coordinator of the event came to Isaac and asked if he would mind filling in. Being the amiable person that he is, he obliged.  I wasn't there to hear it, as I was attending a session about making beeswax salves and balms, but from what I hear he did a great job.  

Jennifer Berry was the keynote speaker, discussing "Practical Natural Beekeeping."
Over 1,000 people attend this conference.
After sitting in on the "Making Salves and Lotions" session, I was inspired to go out and buy myself a couple of propolis traps.  Making a propolis salve has been on my to-do list for at least a year, but our propolis trap was lost somewhere in our barn.  So I splurged and bought myself two.  I can still lose one, and hopefully be able to collect propolis.  
A propolis trap - my "splurge" for the weekend.

The way it works is you put it on the top of your hive, allowing a little crack to let the light in.  Bees will fill any little crack with propolis, which is actually resins collected from trees and plants.  The bees use it to seal out unwanted spaces in the hive, as it aids in prohibiting bacterial growth.  The propolis trap makes it possible to collect propolis in a more usable form, rather than the dirty scrapings of propolis that come from the sides and tops of the wooden boxes.  When the trap is filled - simply freeze it, and then break the brittle pieces out.  The propolis can then be added to tinctures, used in soap making, or infused in oils for balms and salves.  I can't wait to try it out.

After the beekeeping conference, we visited with my parents in Holmes County, and I found out about the newest little secret in Ohio's local food scene.  There's a new creamery in Charm, and they have a self-serve milk farmstand.  Non-homogenized, minimally pasteurized, grass-fed milk for $4.00 a gallon!  They are called "Covered Bridge Creamery" - hence the covered bridge across the road from the farm.  They are located near Guggisberg Cheese - I don't have an actual address but if you'd like to go just email me and I'll get you the details.  
The bridge at Covered Bridge Creamery in Charm, Ohio
 They have a simple room next to the barn where the cows are milked - no signs or anything- so I believe it is set-up for friends and neighbors rather than tourists.  Inside the room is a refrigerator filled with gallons, half gallons, and pints of whole milk as well as flavored milk.

Just put your money in the coffee can.  I love it!
Since it is not homogenized you have to shake it up before you drink it.  Tonight at dinner, Maizy was drinking from a cup we had put back in the fridge a few hours earlier, and a good amount of cream rose to the top.  When I gave her the cup at dinner time, she took one sip, looked at me in confusion, and exclaimed, "There's a piece of butter in my milk!"

And I know I'm not supposed to snap photos of the Amish, but I couldn't resist a pic of these cuties as we were leaving the farm.  Growing up in Amish country, I always thought being Amish would be the worst thing in the world.  No cars, no electric, no TV.  
Now I think it sounds pretty wonderful.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tupelo Honey, Boiled Crawfish and Running in the Big Easy

-Posted by Isaac

While Jayne was churnin' butter, slaving at the Saturday markets and watching kids, I went on vacation. 
New Orleans.        
Man, I love this job.
The excuse was to run a race. Many of you know my sister Becky from Dangling Carrot Farm. Last Friday we took off for the deep south, and by Saturday afternoon we were walking Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
C'mon, Becky, we've got a race to run!
Although Becky had some difficulty looking past the liquor and male strippers, I turned my more refined tastes to finding something special. Something southern. (No, not Southern Comfort)
After much searching, I found it: tupelo honey

 Remember that old Van Morrison song? ("She's as sweet as tupelo honey...  she's an angel of the first degree...")
I used to sing it to Maizy at bedtime until she decided she didn't like it. "I'm not an angel!"
Van Morrison did southern beekeepers a favor by making it known to the general public, but among most beekeepers the honey was already famous. It's got a delicate, unique taste and is only produced in the swamps of northern Florida and Louisiana, making it really hard to find.
We searched the city over and finally came across some rare tupelo honey here:

This was a fun place. New Orleans' French Market is a little like our own Columbus North Market, but here, prices were set a bit too high in my opinion.

Oh, well. It's New Orleans. Whad'ya expect... dumb yankee tourists.

I like to get my money's worth when running. I chose the full marathon. Becky, more intelligently, opted for the half.
An interesting running note: If you paid much attention to the Olympics last summer, you may have heard the name, Mo Farah. He's from the U.K. and won gold medals in both the 5000 and 10,0000 meters. Pretty incredible. Well, he showed up in New Orleans. That's him in the black-- on his way to a course record half marathon win.

Mo Farah - 1:00:59 - Course Record
Becky joked that he was lucky he didn't run the full marathon... he'd have me to contend with.  Ha ha.
My less rushed pace enabled me to occasionally get a whiff of the flowers.
Here's a field of clover in full bloom on Feb 24! No wonder some beekeepers go through the hassle and headache of moving their bees south for the winter.

On any trip, and especially down south, you're of course obligated to sample the local menu. Our pre-race meals consisted of sausage jambalaya, shrimp gumbo and a catfish Po Boy at a little place just off  Bourbon St.
After the race we left town to find some fresh authentic seafood.

All fresh at Kenny Seafood
 When we pulled into the crowded lot around noon, we had to dodge the trucks pulling boats behind-- the fishermen were still dropping off the morning's catch. Crab, shrimp, many kinds of fish and of course, crawfish. Yum yum.

I got talking to one guy, a crab fisherman, and he was feeling pretty down about the catch this winter. He was unloading crates of crab amounting to what he thought was around $450 worth. "That doesn't sound too bad," I said.
"Well, considering it costs $500 to run the boat and bait the traps, I'll call that pretty bad."
Fishing and beekeeping... they bear a fair resemblance, I thought to myself.

Rich Fisherman
Poor Fisherman
 After we had eaten our fill of Louisiana's finest and left the fishermen deeper in debt, we decided a swamp tour was in order. I was excited to get a look at an actual tupelo tree.
Here they are. The nectar source behind the wonderful rare honey.
Tupelo gum trees
Surprisingly taller then I had imagined, they were just beginning to bud. The bark looked much like our northern white ash. They'll bloom in April and the honey will be coming off the hives in May and June.
We saw many things-- alligators, birds, snakes, jumping fish and marshmallow eating "wild" pigs...

But I continued to irritate our guide with a barrage of tupelo questions.
"It ain't the trees that make the honey, son, it's the bees..."

My sister- an American Queen
 Unfortunately we missed the riverboat ride home. Had to drive.