Many family friends and relatives don’t really know where my dad comes up with his crazy ideas. I guess they suppose he amuses himself by pulling ideas out of his UPS hat while driving down the road at midnight. Can you picture him steering with his knee, using his cell phone as a light source, pulling Tootsie Pop wrappers (a favorite candy while driving) with obscure ideas written on the back out of his brown hat like magic rabbits? He pulls one out, “Raise Bees,” signs, and adds it to his bucket list (conveniently taped to the hat’s visor.) When he mentions them, many ideas are laughed off by others with sarcasm, “Ok Al…whatever…you go sample a slow-roasted suckling pig in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Just don’t call me Collect while you’re there, I’ll think it’s a scam.”
Mason and I have learned from past experiences not to shrug his ideas off, no matter how obscure they may seem. When he said, “I’ve always wanted to scuba dive, let’s take lessons,” a couple months later we were all certified. When he mentioned, “Maybe I’ll go to school… to be an officer,” a couple years later he graduated. So when he came to Mason and I asking what we thought about having a couple thousand bees in our back yard, how could we be surprised? We had a hunch that it was more than an eye twinkle.
Yet he proceeded to pitch the idea, “Ya know Moll, honey is man’s oldest sweetener. Plus, bees are becoming scarce. Do you know how important they are to the ecosystem!?!?” Yea, yea Dad. The list goes on and on…
Honey’s antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, derived from your local environment, can help to improve the digestive system and fight disease. So there are several health benefits of consuming local honey. It may have carcinogen-preventing and anti-tumour properties. It has been used for hundreds of years as a natural home remedy to treat a wide range of ailments and complaints including yeast infection , athlete foot , and arthritis pain. Its antiseptic properties inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and helps to keep external wounds clean and free from infection. It is one of the oldest natural sweeteners that has a lower glycemic index value than table sugar, which means that it can be metabolized slower than sugar. Glucose is released into the bloodstream at a steadier rate, making honey a more sustainable energy source than other caloric sweeteners.
Mason and my dad have spent this past summer as apprentices to local honey farmers, so that they can learn the tricks of the trade. They currently have 7 active hives and I had the pleasure of helping them harvest their first honey crop this past Sunday (10/16.)
Surprisingly helping to extract honey on Sunday was a blast! It felt like I was on one of those middle school science field trips. The kind where you only go to get out of school but end up having so much fun that you secretly want to go back on the weekend. Here’s a step-by-step using unofficial honey language for you to get an idea of how the harvesting process works. 1.) Bee-suit protected Dad retrieves some full-o-honey frames from a hive. 2.) Mason saws off the top layer of wax which is capping the honey with a heated knife. 3.) I take the frame and place it in a cage which is inside a steel drum and spin the frames, utilizing centrifugal force to extract the honey from the comb. 4.) The honey trickles down the drum and gets manually strained 3 times before it’s considered clean.
You have to admit, it’s pretty cool and unique, strange and amusing, random but cool to have a dad and brother that are beekeepers. So naturally when they asked me to create a label for their honey jars, I was obliged. Here is one label that I have created. The dribble from the dobber makes an apostrophe, the italicized M adds character, and the old-timer font was requested by Mason. What do you think?
Our first harvest was so lucrative that we are selling it this holiday season. We are tossing around the idea of selling 12, 16, and 32 ounce jars, as well as half gallons for a discounted price. The specifics are still in the works, but soon we’ll be promoting our honey to the public in community newspapers and by word of mouth. In addition to giving a great gift for friends and family, purchasing this honey would help to make your newest local honey farmers‘ first season a success. If you or someone you know is interested in purchasing honey, please don’t hesitate to contact M.W.’s Bees directly or drop me an e-mail and I will personally make sure that your interest is conveyed. Enough advertising…I leave you with this drool-worthy picture of the honey cornbread that I made last night along with the recipe, which probably would taste horrible if you didn’t use my brother’s honey. (Ok not horrible… but I’m certainly not making any promises.)
1 1/2 cups coarse ground yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup honey (plus more for drizzling.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12 x 8 in. baking pan with butter. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and buttermilk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (the mixture will remain slightly lumpy). Stir in the butter and honey. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick, inserted in the center, comes out clean.