Friday, January 31, 2014

Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink

-Posted by Isaac

As a beekeeper, I have now felt thoroughly disgusted with weather woes several times this winter (This, the never ending winter from Hell.) Instead of complaining and filling you with my worries about the bees, I'll entertain with a good drinking song, and delve into another subject. (From Handel to Haggard in only a month!)

This post is about turning honey into alcohol. And I know close to nothing about the particulars. I just know that a fair amount of our honey goes on this magic journey and occasionally the lucky benefactor is yours truly. 

Here's the easy way of turning honey into alcohol-

Every Christmas I fill this ugly basket with Honeyrun products and put it at the doorstep of a good friend.
And every Christmas, back comes the same ugly basket filled with beer, wine and home-canned goodies. Not pictured was a large bottle of grape juice that the kids and my teetotaling pregnant wife finished off immediately on Christmas eve.
Easy Alchemy
The pickles have become a favorite of Maizy's. Just the other day she was sitting at the table crunching them down like chips. She paused, looked up with a goofy grin and said, "Ah, pickles are the life!" 

For more depth on the subject, I should have attended this:
i.e., college
 Maybe next year.
As I confessed, I know virtually nothing about brewing or making mead. I do however enjoy talking to the many beer and mead aficionados who regularly hit us up at market for another gallon or two of honey.
My expertise, though limited, comes more on the drinking end of things.
And Columbus provides ample opportunity. As many of you know, the craft brewery scene has exploded.
Here's a relatively new one:

Seventh Son has been buying our honey for a year now... exactly as long as they've been in business.

Hundreds of pounds of Summer honey and a few buckets of Tulip Poplar honey have gone into their Prime Swarm Saison. Check out the % alcohol on this one! I love their descriptive adjective "healthy."

Brewmaster Collin served me the first draft of the day early one morning.

I'm usually here monthly, dropping off a bucket or two. Sometimes Collin drives down to the farm. We talk "bees and brews" at length.
The owners of Seventh Son also own the Barrel and Bottle in the North Market. A growler is good for a refill at either place... convenient for me, I'm there at market every week all summer.

Let's change directions...

Here's another brewery making beer from Honeyrun honey.
Thanks, Angelo!
Barley's has been brewing Summer Harvest honey into an IPA for over three years.
In that time I've gotten to know brewmaster Angelo, who has been with Barley's for (I think) twenty some years. He knows his stuff. He usually just walks over to the market from their High Street location.

120 lbs of honey-- easy with a dolly.
So happy drinking, folks. I'm trying to stay upbeat through this insane cold drag of winter, but one of these days I'll have to go out and check hives. I'm hoping reality doesn't hit too bitterly hard.
"My mind ain't nothin but a total blank..."

Friday, January 24, 2014

How far do you ship your honey?

-posted by Jayne

How far have we shipped our honey?  This is a question I get asked quite frequently from friends and family who know I ship out packages of honey, soap, and candles to customers through our online shop on Etsy.  I've never really measured distances to find out the farthest location our honey has traveled, but I know it has gone to Canada several times, as well as Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the US Virgin Islands.  But my favorite place to send our honey is to Alaska.

Caribou Herd in Alaska
photo credit Rainey Hopson,

Why Alaska?  Well, I love the mountains, and I love to imagine what it would be like to live in snowy remote places.  I am really happy that Alaskans can buy our honey for very reasonable prices.  I can ship up to 5 lbs. of honey to Alaska for just 9.88.  Because it is extremely difficult (maybe impossible) to keep bees alive in Alaska, the price of good honey there is very very high.  Most beekeepers would need to start with new package bees every Spring, and hope for a good enough crop to pay for the expense of shipping those bees and supplies all the way to Alaska.  Thanks to the USPS and their dedication to providing rural areas with access to easy mail delivery, Alaskans can still get great honey at a reasonable cost.

One customer, Nasugraq Rainey Hopson, lives in the Brooks range mountains of northern Alaska and frequently buys our honey through our Etsy store.  She has even been kind enough to mention us on her blog,, and has sent other customers our way.  With her permission, I am sharing some of her stories and pictures here, as well as favorite ways they use our honey.

Here is Nasugraq Rainey's brother-in-law drinking coffee outside the family
cabin.  Rainey says they love using our honey to sweeten their coffee.

Nasugraq Rainey says that her favorite way to use our honey is in tea when they are camping:  "We often travel across the tundra all day long to get to certain far away spots for hunting and foraging, so we take quite a few tea and coffee breaks along the way. We always use glacier water and good honey! The Elders don't really drink coffee at all so they especially appreciate it when we carry our honey with us. The older kids that tag along LOVE it raw."

Sneaking up on caribou for a hunt
photo credit: Nasugraq Rainey Hopson
This is a photo Rainey took last Spring when traveling to a fishing site.
Snowy Alaska in May.  photo credit: Nasugraq Rainey Hopson
Ice fishing near Lake Chandler last April.
photo credit:  Nasugraq Rainey Hopson

Rainey's family picking blueberries in the Fall.
While Rainey picks berries her husband
must keep watch with a rifle in case any bears
come too close.  Photo credit: Rainey Hopson
I am mesmerized while looking at the pictures on her blog.  The hunting... fishing... and foraging.  Last week the temperature where she lives got down to -65 degrees!  What are we Ohioans complaining about with our current 1 degree weather?  I imagine this would feel quite warm to Nasugraq and her family.

Some other ways Nasugraq Rainey and her family enjoy eating honey is drizzled on ice cream, on fresh bread with butter, in milk kefir, as well as in lingonberry muffins.  Nasugraq makes a lot of her own berry jams with the wild berries they find while foraging.  Below is a picture of the Cloudberry (also called Salmonberry).  If you watch her Etsy store throughout the year, you may find some jams and jellies for sale!  I would love to try them out.

photo credit: Nasugraq Rainey Hopson

Nasugraq also uses our beeswax in some of the products in her etsy shop,  Here is her "Origin's Eye Balm" made with Honeyrun Farm beeswax. 

Nasugraq's "Origins Eye Balm" can be used for healing and moisturizing
the skin around the eyes.  
You can view more of Nasugraq's beautiful pictures and read her stories on her blog.  I so appreciate you taking the time to share your stories with us Nasugraq!  We feel honored that you are able to enjoy our honey all the way up there in Anaktuvuk, Alaska.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Alive! Alive! Alive! Dead.

-Posted by Isaac

What a wild weather month January has turned out to be.
We had some decent sledding:

Even a chairlift of sorts:

And then it got warm.
And muddy. It's hard to get to a bee yard in the mud. So I neglected a decent opportunity for feeding.

I went out for a run at dark last Sunday evening. Slipped, got all wet and muddy, and trudged on for forty minutes thinking about how much I hate Ohio weather. Right on cue, it started to rain. Then pour. Sideways. It's like Ohio heard my thoughts. Another forty minutes rolled slowly by, I returned home soaked and shivering in a 36 degree stiff wind. The temp. was barreling down!
Next morning: here's the view from our porch door-

Gotta love it.
"Polar Vortex" was a new concept to me...
Time to grow the beard.
 The radio reported a wind chill of -35. My thinking during that brutal night was that we'd be lucky to have any live bees at all.
I was afraid to check hives.

But we had our own survival to worry about. It was just cold enough to think about firewood again. Another oak at Crown Hill Golf Course. This one we had to strap up:
Of course Justin didn't want to use his pretty truck.
 Here's why:

The tree was only twelve feet from the edge, and leaning out over #13 green. We thought we should probably steer clear of dropping it right on the green. Hole in one!
Frozen ground, frozen feet, frozen fingers...
Was the strap long enough?
"If your gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough."
 I drove, closed my eyes...  and timber!
Had a good twenty feet to spare. No problem.
This tree, with it's crashing fall, even helped us in the job of cutting firewood.

So, two trucks loaded with good solid oak, I got up my courage to run across the #14 fairway and check a bee yard. Braced myself for the worst.
A cold but pleasant surprise-- out of twelve hives only two had succumbed to the bitter temps. I'm amazed at the fortitude of bees. And I'm probably to blame for the two dead. This was one of the yards that I left too light. They were out of food. I use a paper towel to hold the feed patty. You can see the hives below, fed December 3rd, had left little trace of that food.

So good to see you!
It was time to head out with some feed.
I made it around to five bee yards the next day, checking hives, feeding when needed. I continued to be surprised and amazed. The bees were hanging tough. This shows the loss in a typical yard:
12 of 16 still alive.
 A typical loss in a non-typical winter.  But we've still got a long way to go.
In the truck is the day's worth of dead-outs.

 Today we topped our wild week off with a brunch visit to one of our favorite eats:

Knead Urban Diner sources most all their food locally. 
Their famous Mother Clucker chicken sandwich has a honey-sweet flavor that jumps out with every bite. Wonder where all that honey comes from?

Monday, January 6, 2014

A quick thought on consumption

Isaac and I had the opportunity to take a "market date" last Saturday, where we hired a babysitter and both got to go to the Worthington market together to sell our products.  Afterwards, we had lunch at Northstar Cafe', where they place thought-provoking quotes on their order number cards.  I enjoyed our quote.  

 What a great quote for the sociologist at heart.  The truth is, I don't always make the best choices about the food I buy.  But I want to do better.  Better doesn't always mean spending more money or going out of the way to buy exclusive food items.  But it certainly means a commitment to less processed food and convenience food - committing to a diet of more raw and natural food.  We sell honey at farmer's markets every weekend, meaning it is actually pretty easy for us to source our food locally from farmers we know and trust.  But it is often more tempting to visit the Kroger next door to carbo-load on macaroni and other foods my kids easily accept.  This quote challenges me to work harder to consider the long term consequences of my daily food choices.  If I want a better food system, it starts with me... the choice I make each morning at breakfast, again at lunch, and though-out the day.

We are often asked...

"Is your farmstand open in the winter?"  

Why yes, we are open year round... come on out and use the honor system.  Honey doesn't freeze so there is no need to worry about that.  The weather is currently ---4 degrees, so please wear warm clothes- the farmstand is not heated.  :-)  Stay warm!