Monday, July 14, 2014

Bees + Honey = Honeybees = Life is Good!

Well, he's not exactly "Pooh Bear" with his honey pot, asking the bees out in the hundred acre wood if they could kindly spare some honey.  Nor is he "Yogi Bear" on some clandestine mission assigned by "Cindy Bear" to steal honey from the unsuspecting bees and somehow outsmart that clueless "Park Ranger Smith." But, he is out there collecting our very first batch of honey from our very generous bees, here at Blooming Hill.

Our bees have been cohabiting with us since March of last year and, despite all of the very real and serious concerns of colony collapse disorder and this past cold, very cold winter, they made it through their first year just fine and gave us 27 pounds of golden, sweet honey!  Not bad for novice bee keepers just wanting an apiary stocked with bees who, we hoped, might help boost the lavender harvest.

"Cindy Bear, who???
All last summer, we fretted about them since we never really saw them flitting through the lavender as we expected they would just naturally do.  In fact, if we saw a half dozen of them flying about our 600 or so lavender bushes, throughout the entire season, that would probably be overstating the obvious!  Oh sure, we saw bumble bees and mason bees and butterflies and all sorts of insect creatures, including those darn devil deer, whom I classify in the "totally invasive, bothersome and unwelcome creatures" category.  But, did we ever see a honeybee in the lavender?  No.  Peter kept checking them every few days, thinking they may have died or swarmed, looking for a clue or something that may have kept them from the lavender.

They have a new umbrella awning out there under the persimmon tree
However, hear and there, we would find them swirling around the fountain, congregating in the hydrangea bushes and conducting morning "coffee klatches" in the persimmon trees, not to mention all of their nightly parties in their own "Copa Cabana." Yet, in their continual efforts to reassure us, we could hear their quiet humming, almost a mantra really, in the background of the everyday sounds of the garden.

Then, there was that cold, hard winter with not one but two polar vortexes to boot. But, those marvelous and mysterious and industrious bees persevered and clung together, somewhat cozily, in their home-hive and gifted us this July with honey they produced from the drawn nectar they collected while traveling anywhere up to 5, sometimes even 10 miles from their colony, during the gathering season.

In order to guarantee that the honey Peter harvested from the bees had a lavender influence,  I collected some of my favorite Lavandula  angustifolia culinary varieties like "Hidcote," "Melissa," "Folgate" and "Royal Velvet" to infuse into the honey for 4-5 days. Then, we strained it again and bottled it up.

Pretty, isn't it? Now we just have to come up with a label!
The end product is a delicious honey that retains the scent of our lavender field; delicately floral, well balanced, smooth and worth both the worry and the wait.
Next spring, we will add one more apiary to give our expanding brood a little more room.  Until then, we left them with some of their own honey to store and enough time, this summer and fall, to gather and produce more honey for themselves to endure the coming winter season--come what may--as they bravely face the changing climate and challenges here in Northern Virginia, as in any other part of the world, these days.

(Image taken from Pinterest.)
This spring and summer, we have seen our honeybees frequent the lavender more and more as our neighbors, I'm sure, also continue to see them.  However, I guess they are now realizing that this is their home and while they can travel wherever they please, there is no place like home! Thank you, dear honeybees for the work you do, and for your delicious gift of golden honey and thank You, Dear Lord, for the honeybee!

Note:  Just in case you are interested, our Blooming Hill raw, filtered lavender-infused honey will be available in our shop in the next few weeks.  Obviously, with 27 pounds, there is a limited quantity.

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