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

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.

Friday, July 13, 2012


From "To Market, To Market" by Nikki McClure
Nikki McClure is one of my favorite Northwest artists.  She creates amazing illustrations from cut paper.  This one is made from a single sheet of black paper cut with an X-acto knife.  Color is then added digitally.  I love it when beekeeping is represented like this...dripping honey, high grass, mysterious beekeeper.  Love, love, love.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Aural Ecstasy

The bees have finally found the sea holly (Eryngium sp.) that I planted just for them.  One day it's the sunflowers, the next it's the sea holly, every day it's the borage.  They go through phases just like me.  For instance, right now I am in a major Radiohead phase

I just discovered their new one, The King of Limbs, and I'm absolutely lost in it.  I used to be a purist and only work in my hives to the sound of the bees, but the dreamy Mr. Yorke has convinced me another world exists.  If you like Radiohead, you should give a listen.  If you like Radiohead and love working with bees, you should try them together.  It's a delicious combination.  

Open your mouth wide
A universal sigh
And while the ocean blooms
It's what keeps me alive

So why does this still hurt 
Don't blow your mind with why

I'm moving out of orbit
Turning in somersaults
I dive into those eyes
Jellyfish swim by

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beeman Gets Another Swarm

These hives belong to my mentor, Beeman.  The hive with the orange box contains the swarm he caught in May.  Beautiful boxes, beautiful setting...

...and beautiful swarm about fifty feet behind them in the orchard next to Rainshine Family Farm.  Yes, another swarm - he seems to attract them. This one was about twelve feet up in a fruit tree. 
Empty hive boxes were placed under the tree to try to lure the swarm down. 

Aren't they incredible?

And now there are six!

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Little Bit Naughty

I really love this photo.  We'll return to it in a moment.

In the meantime, meet Karessa!  She is a mentor and instructor for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program as well as being an awesome person to hang out with. In addition to her own hives, she also manages the one at the SAGE garden. Take your kids and go check it out.  Last Thursday we decided we needed some girl-time in the hives.  We started at her place.  Look at her view of Marys Peak!

A honey-bound frame from one of her hives.  There is so much nectar and pollen being stored that there is not much room for brood.  Can you spot the queen?

Time for a confession.  We were a bit naughty and had to taste the honey.  You would, too.  One thing you need to know about Karessa is that she and I are very similar in our approach to beekeeping.

Luscious.  Even better, you have to stick your hand up under your veil to taste honey when you're working a hive. It makes it feel even more forbidden and delicious.

Next we went to my place and looked in the hives.  They are in MAJOR honey production mode right now.  Look at this beautiful frame.  Capped brood with bands of pure white, freshly capped honey.  One problem - why are the empty brood cells being filled with honey instead of readied for more eggs?

Look at this frame of honey!  It weighed a ton, and the bees are almost done capping it.  The cappings are so beautiful when they are fresh and white, before bees with messy pollen feet trample over them and turn them yellow.  Cappings wax is great for making candles, which I would love to try.

Being naughty once just wasn't enough.  I know I said in an earlier post that I would wait to taste my honey, but it was sunny and it smelled so good and it was almost Friday and the bees said they didn't mind and Karessa was with me and it just seemed like the right thing to do. Another impulse decision for me this week - I'm noticing a trend.  Here we go...

Sorry for that, girls.  You'll get it patched up in no time.  I'm not going to tell you what it tasted like.  You'll have to try it for yourself in a few months. 

What's with the dude-fest?  This is supposed to be a girl's day.  Seriously...WAY too many drones.  Maybe I left a mite-trapping frame in too long and they all hatched out.  Ooops.  If you can find more than two females in this picture I have a prize for you. 

Thanks for a wonderful day Karessa!  We need to do this again. 
A footnote.  Here they are doing that weirdness again.  I think maybe Beeman is right (should I admit that?).  It was a cool damp day, and with so much uncapped honey in production maybe they are fanning the hive to cure the nectar.  Whatever the reason, it only happens on rainy days, and they stay outside the hive like this until well after dark.