Reverie - n. a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream or fantasy; a visionary or impractical idea

"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.

The revery alone will do
If bees are few." - Emily Dickinson

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Luscious Nectar for Sale!

The honey from my backyard hives is bottled and ready!  This is raw, local, South Corvallis honey straight from the comb and into the jar.  A little on a spoon into your mouth every day, or drizzled on your food, or even just sitting beautifully in your kitchen window feeds your body and your soul.  I wish the jars vibrated and sang like the bees do while they are making this ambrosia. 

If you live in Corvallis, I can bring it to you.  If you live in Florida (or elsewhere), shipping is daunting.  It is only manageable if a larger box is shipped; i.e. a group order to Pinellas that could be split among several people. 

Here are the details:

8 ounce mason jar = $5.00

Pint mason jar = $7.00

Quart mason jar = $14.00

16 oz glass queenline jar = $7.00

Parcel Post Shipping Rates to Florida (as of December 8th)
$8.95 = 1 pint jar
$12.09 = 2 pint jars
$13.48 = 3 pint jars
$15.51 = 4 pint jar 
Flat Rate Priority Mail Boxes to Anywhere:

Medium Flat Rate Box
$12.35 + $1.50 = $13.85  6 pint jars
($2.30 shipping per jar)

Large Flat Rate Box
$16.85 + $2.00 = $18.85 9 pint jars
($2.10 shipping per jar)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Pleasure of the Bee

 "Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower, But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee. For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life, And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love, And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy."
~Khalil Gibran, Bsharri, Lebanon, Quote from 'The Prophet' Chapter 24, Pleasure 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This is Beeman.

Meet Beeman, mentor extraordinaire.

He has been a beekeeper for over twenty years and lives just down the street from me.  I have been observing the hives in his beeyard for many years now without knowing who kept them.  Those hives are the ones that inspired me to get into beekeeping for myself.  He was randomly assigned to be my mentor in the Master Beekeeper Program, and those same hives became the ones that gave me my first taste of a new obsession.  It was in that beeyard where I first heard the crack of a hive being opened followed by THAT SOUND.  Life is so strange.

When I started as his student I had no experience.  Zero.  I was a blank slate.  And now I work my bees like he does - I have the bad habit of blowing on my bees to examine a frame; I take ridiculously detailed notes; I feel unprepared unless my bee veil is tied very tightly, so you feel the ropes binding you with every breath.

I like to think he has learned a few things from me as well - like it's not the end of the world if your smoker goes out; that it is just SO MUCH better to work in a hive without gloves; that a little bit of pain makes the honey taste sweeter. 

The most important lessons I have learned from him have absolutely nothing to do with bees.  But those are the subject of another post entirely.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wake Me Up

The other evening I was pulling frames of honey out of a super I had just taken away from the bees.  I lifted them out one by one, and the sun illuminated them from behind.  Look at the fire burning within those cells! 

Recently my beautiful friend Karessa wrote about me on her website:   

"Have you ever looked at someone and just known from the first moment that they were truly present and alive? That’s my friend Jen, especially when she is working her hives. She has this air of raw, unadulterated passion that pours into every conversation even tangentially related to bees. Check out her blog. You’ll see what I mean!"

I have re-read this over and over because until this year, this would not have described me.  I don't know if it was the pressures of motherhood or a lack of inspiration - maybe both - but for several years I have been a shell of my true self.  This year I gained a hundred thousand bees and one special mentor.  They woke me up.

My honey harvest is just days away...I can taste it.  It is the culmination of this incredible first year of beekeeping.  This blog is so challenging and rewarding, but I need to step away for a bit.  I'm so afraid to lose this spark.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Today was a bad day.

And when I have a bad day, I visit with my bees. There is much wisdom to be gathered from them, and today I wanted it desperately. I also needed to feel their sting. I know it's not the right thing to do, but I did everything I could to encourage them to sting me. 

I ate honey before I put my suit on, lots of it, so the scent was on my mouth. 
I lit my smoker out of habit, but left it on the table by the house. I was rude and didn't tell them hello. 
I knocked on the side of the hive with my fist to stir them up, which it did.
I rolled up the sleeves of my suit and went without gloves, and they crawled all over my skin.
I blew into the open hive box with my honey-scented breath, over and over and over.
I stole a box of their precious treasure.
And I whispered to them under my breath - "Sting the fuck out of me, little bees. Please. I need it today."

And do you know what happened?  Nothing.  Not one sting. I wanted to feel it so badly, and they didn't give in despite all of my pleading and abuse.

I know that there is a lesson here for me. I'm just unsure what it is they are trying to teach me. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

'The Secret Life of Bees'

"At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.  I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest.  The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.

During the day I heard them tunneling through the walls of my bedroom, sounding like a radio tuned to static in the next room, and I imagined them in there turning the walls into honeycombs, with honey seeping out for me to taste."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Let Honey Spill in Infinite Tongues

As if I needed another reason to love him madly, I stumbled upon this treasure today...

by Pablo Neruda

Multitude of bees!
In and out of the crimson, the blue, the yellow,
of the softest softness in the world;
you tumble headlong into a corolla to conduct your business,
and emerge wearing a golden suit
and quantities of yellow boots.

The waist, perfect,
the abdomen striped with dark bars,
the tiny, ever-busy head,
the wings, newly made of water;
you enter every sweet-scented window,
open silken doors,
penetrate the bridal chamber of the most fragrant love,
discover a drop of diamond dew,
and from every house you visit you remove honey,
rich and heavy honey, thick aroma,
liquid, guttering light,
until you return to your communal palace
and on its gothic parapets
deposit the product of flower and flight,
the seraphic and secret nuptial sun!
Multitude of bees!
Sacred elevation of unity,
seething schoolhouse.

Buzzing, noisy workers process the nectar,
swiftly exchanging drops of ambrosia;
it is summer siesta in the green solitudes of Osorno.
High above, the sun casts its spears into the snow,
volcanoes glisten,
land stretches endless as the sea,
space is blue,
but something trembles,
it is the fiery heart of summer,
the honeyed heart multiplied,
the buzzing bee,
the crackling honeycomb of flight and gold!

purest laborers, ogival workers,
fine, flashing proletariat,
perfect, daring militia
that in combat attack with suicidal sting;
buzz above the earth’s endowments,
family of gold, multitude of the wind,
shake the fire from the flowers,
thirst from the stamens,
the sharp,
aromatic thread that stitches together the days,
and propagate honey,
passing over humid continents,
the most distant islands of the western sky.

let the wax erect green statues,
let honey spill in infinite tongues,
let the ocean be a beehive,
the earth tower and tunic of flowers,
and the world a waterfall, a comet’s tail,
a never-ending wealth of honeycombs!
- Margaret Sayers Peden translation

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Damn, It's Hot!

It was over 100 degrees, and my bees were as angry as me.  Look at their blurry little wings fanning the entrance.  They were equally mad about me stealing some of their honey.

My cute little 8-frame bee escape boards did their job...

...and now I have removed my first two finished supers of honey to store in the garage until extraction day.  The plastic and duct tape make this scene look almost criminal (I miss you, Dexter!), but I swear it's just to keep the bees out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hive Inspection - Late July

I checked in on my hives last weekend.  They are filling up the honey supers so fast right now and I need to stay on top of it.  This is a foundationless frame that they are still drawing out.  If you look closely you can see the horizontal wiring.  They incorporate it beautifully into their comb, making it stronger for extracting.  Organic loveliness. 

They are not finished with this one yet, but I have observed that in general they make much larger communication holes on the bottoms of foundationless frames than they do when given foundation.  Do they just prefer not to waste time chewing out foundation?  Sometimes the only attachment points are on the sides of the frames, with the bottom left completely open.  Look at the beautiful orange propolis on the top bar of the frame.  That stuff is so resinous and sticky it will stay on your fingers for days.
Pulling up a really heavy, pure white frame like this still takes my breath away. Beauty in simplicity.  Yet imagine the treasure hidden beneath...
It was a tight squeeze, and this was the first frame I pulled out.  Equal parts exciting and unfortunate.  I wanted to sink my teeth into that, black bear style.
And now this....I lifted the bottom-most honey super, the one that sits directly on top of the queen excluder.  And there was a lovely sucking/pulling sound.  This is why.  I scraped up all of this, making a mess and dripping honey all over myself, the bees, and the hive.  It was an absolute honey frenzy for everyone involved.  There was probably a better way to do it, but I am a novice who always makes giant mistakes when no one is around to see.
A frame from the top brood box (below the queen excluder).  Only two frames had brood, the rest of the box was solid capped honey.  This frame is incredibly honey bound.  Look at the variety of pollen sources these bees were bringing in!  I love to see that rainbow pattern. 

By the way, there is NO WAY I would be able to lift a 10-frame box full of honey.  I'm eternally grateful I went the way of the 8-frame hive.  I would recommend them to all female beekeepers. Nothing against my fellow girls, but those things are HEAVY!
A first-year hive, from package bees, tended by a first-time beekeeper.  Wow!  Beyond all my expectations.  I must have a good mentor :)
Speaking of that, look what he gave me the other day....three full boxes worth of old, fully-drawn comb.  They need to be cleaned out by bees and tidied up a bit, but I want to set up more hives next spring and I won't turn down free equipment, no matter the condition! 
Here are the bees at work cleaning up one of those second-hand boxes for me.  Probably not a good idea to encourage robbing this time of year, but we'll see what happens.  I really do learn from making lots of mistakes.  For instance, I left the other two boxes uncovered in the garage next to my boy's bicycles with the garage door open.  MISTAKE.

Monday, July 30, 2012


This morning there was a happy accident that resulted in my very first extracted bottle of honey from my hives!  I broke a frame of drone brood and capped honey that was stored in my garage freezer, and after a lot of cursing at myself I realized what that meant.  I broke off the honey portion and set it in my kitchen to thaw.
It's embarassing, but I'm going to make a confession now and say that my heart actually starting beating faster when I saw this on the plate.  I will now agree with everyone that says I'm a freak about honey.  I have a problem.  If you're going to have an addiction (fetish? shhh....) this is a good one to have.

I extracted it the old-fashioned way by letting it drip into a bowl for a while, then crushed it up with my hands.  Such exquisite messiness!  Melanie was there, she can verify the ecstatic state that put me in.  Then into a warm oven it went to drain for a few hours. 

A pound and a half from one partial frame.  Look how beautiful. 

I didn't want to ruin the sweet beauty of the previous photos with this one, so at the end it goes.  This was the drone brood portion of the frame, broken up to give to the chickens.  Absolutely disgusting. 

There, all ugliness is forgotten.  I removed this frame from the hive months ago, so it is early season honey.  Light and very bright in your mouth.  Come by and try it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Soul Food

"Bee Pile" by Sonia Romero
Before you think I've lost my mind, understand that I know Rudolph Steiner was a strange man. But I will boldly admit I am fascinated by his ideas on honey and the soul.  I am so inspired by this.  From the book "The Hive", by B. Wilson...

"Steiner, like hundreds before him, had noticed that the sexual element in bees was 'very strongly suppressed', and that this set them apart from other insects such as ants and wasps.  For Steiner, nothing in the universe was accidental, and the reason that the sex drive of the bees was repressed must be in order to achieve a higher kind of love:

'The whole beehive is permeated with life based on love.  In many ways the bees renounce love, and thereby this love develops within the entire beehive.  You'll begin to understand the life of bees once you're clear about the fact that the bee lives as if it were in an atmosphere pervaded thoroughly by love.  But the thing that a bee profits from the most is that it derives its sustenance from the very parts of the plant that are pervaded by the plant's love life. The bee sucks its nourishment, which it makes into honey, from the parts of a plant that are steeped in love life.  And the bee, if you could express it this way, brings love life from the flowers into the beehive.  So you'll come to the conclusion that you need to study the life of the bees from the standpoint of the soul.'

Where does this leave humans?  Answer: with honey to spread on our bread.  But for Steiner, honey is not just a sensual pleasure.  It is higher food.  The chaste bees are doing more than feeding us.  Through their chastity, they are somehow giving us back our souls.

'At the moment when you eat honey, it creates the proper connection and relationship between the airy and fluid elements in the human being'.

This is wacky stuff, by anyone's standards.  Thinking that bees are choosing to transfer 'soul' from flowers to honey to humans is in many ways odder than thinking that bees can be born from dead oxen."

Odd, yes.  But what a beautiful idea. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hot Venom

One of Beeman's hives is mean.  As in chase you down for no reason and bite you mean.  It's the swarm from the orchard next door, and it contains a great queen and several thousand of her moody, ill-tempered daughters.  They like to sting, and their venom is HOT.  I wear gloves when I'm anywhere near this hive, and they still sting me.  I am a magnet for stings, and this hive is attracted to me.  But they put up a good fight and I love them for that.

The hive was full of queen cups and swarm cells.  Not only are they moody but they're restless, too.
Drone juice.  I have been known to lick honey off a hive tool (so?), but this time I took a pass.  By the way, if you are in south Corvallis and find a hive tool like this, please call me, I have a nice reward for you.  I lost it somewhere between Beeman's house and mine, and I feel awkward and clumsy in my hives without it.  It's super sharp and has a nice hook.

The sad aftermath of a sting.  You can see the barb in the glove, and the internal organs of the bee that were crudely ripped from her body when she tried to fly away.
The hot venom gift that keeps on giving.  Four or five on the hand, and that doesn't count all the times they got into my bee suit.  They punished me well.  
Beeman's hives weren't all about pain that day.  There was an abundance of beauty, too.  Look at the perfection on this frame!  Tight brood and classic banding of pollen and honey.
And look at this pattern of new white comb with perfectly placed eggs.  I'm in love!

These bees are eating honey like nobody is watching.  Tongues out, climbing all over each other.  This is how I eat honey, too.
What could be better?  The hot venom in my hand feels like an adrenaline rush and I am presented with this incredible sweetness.  You think I'm crazy, but trust me.  The rapid, unexpected swings between pain and pleasure when you're working in hives is the real prize of beekeeping.  Beeman and I scraped up every bit of this and ate it later, wax and all. A hedonistic feast. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Do You Want to Share My Fantasy?...(part II)

In addition to hiking up to a floral wonderland, this weekend Melanie, Megan and I got lost at the Oregon Country Fair.  This was my first time going and it  What does this have to do with bees, you ask?

Everything!  Because I dressed like a blindfolded bee. 

Lots of other people were dressed up too.  Here are two exquisite stiltwalkers.

We hung out under gorgeous tents filled with belly dancers and musicians.

There's that bee again.  The mask is genius.  From a distance it looks like a blindfold, but the eyeholes are covered in black lace that I can see through.  Barely.  It gave my already altered sensibilities another layer of confusion.  Can I please wear it around Corvallis?

Paper lanterns!  Thai food!  Naked mud people!

Yes, it was. 

Check out the dreads on these kids!!!

Incredibly, leaving at the end of the day was as much of a party as arriving that morning.  I still haven't completely recovered. 

Do You Want to Share My Fantasy?... (part I)

I have a strict rule that every single post on this site MUST contain a photograph of an actual bee, so when Melanie and I hiked the Cone Peak Meadow/Iron Mountain trail in the High Cascades this past weekend I was on my knees begging the higher powers that I would get one.  I really wanted to share this with you. 

There were pollinators everywhere, but they were super quick and hard to photograph.  The wild honeybees (they're really all wild though, aren't they? even mine?) were really loving the mountain cat's ear (Calochortus subalpinus), and the bumblebees were loving everything else without shame.

This is a crude description, but it was an ABSOLUTE floral orgasm up there (excuse the shouty capitals).  Melanie agreed.

It is a major fantasy of mine to have a day without schedules, with perfect weather, with peak wildflower displays, with a great hiking companion....and I lived it.

We spent an hour at the top enjoying a very Euro-inspired picnic of hard parmesan cheese cut with a pocket knife, dill crackers, smoked salmon, cherries, salted get the idea.  And we met a couple that outdid us and packed up chilled wine, which they were nice enough to share in the lid of my water bottle.  Cheers, kind strangers!

Here is another justification that this post is about bees.  They were also loving all the blooming sedums.  But the flowers want your attention again...

That was great, wasn't it?  And I got to live out another fantasy the very next day, this one a tiny bit naughtier.