Honey in the air

The other night driving back from movie-and-sushi with a friend (‘e2’80’9cMrs. Henderson Presents’e2’80’9d’e2’80’94great movie, although much of the humor was too British for Santa Cruz) I got stuck behind a truck of beehives.

Yes, spring is coming. The early flowers are out here, boosted by a week of weirdly summery weather (80 degrees, in February?) and although the apple trees are still winter-bare, they must be thinking about it. Clearly, the farmers are, hence the hives.

Because the night was warm, I had my window open, and the smell was amazing: a heavy smell of dark honey mixed with a dose of diesel fuel.

So to my friends on the East coast, have faith. The bees will return.

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  1. Bronwyn on February 15, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    Isn’t it funny how certain smells can tell you a whole lot about what’s going on in your world right now? (Or bring back memories…. honeysuckle still reminds me of preschool, as it grew all over the fence and I spent all spring/summer eating the flowers!)

    I’m looking forward to the new books. On an off-topic, could we see what your studio/office looks like? From the way you write about traveling, you must have all sorts of cool things floating around!

  2. Melissa on February 15, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    I have faith, but I worry about my daffodils. They’e2’80’99ve been ahead of themselves for a month. Then, Saturday two feet of snow fell. Today it’e2’80’99s sixty degrees, and next week it is supposed to be bitterly cold. If this keeps up, I fear they will use their powers of environmental adaptation to bloom underground without the help of the sun.

    While the snow fell and the wind blew and the electricity went off for 14 hours, I reread The Beekeeper’e2’80’99s Apprentice by candle and flashlight. It was a wonderful way to wait out the storm. Thanks.

  3. 2maple on February 15, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    Right now our garage has the same smell’e2’80’a6but for me, it is tinged with sadness as well. It’e2’80’99s coming from 2 of our 6 beehives that didn’e2’80’99t make it through the winter and are being cleaned up and checked over to figure out what happened. (Interestingly enough, a swarm we hived last summer that blew over in a freaky storm this winter, landing completely upside down, is doing just fine’e2’80’a6 go figure!) May spring arrive gently, without the 30 yo-yo temperature shifts that are so devastating to over-wintering bees!

    I envy your coming apple blossoms. I’e2’80’99ll be waiting until June to see ours, but the days are noticeably longer and we’e2’80’99ll be tapping our maple trees soon, the first hint of spring in the north woods and, incidentally, the first source of nectar for the bees.

    For anyone interested, a great read on beekeeping is ‘e2’80’9cFollowing the Bloom: Across America with the Migratory Beekeepers’e2’80’9d by Douglas Whynott. Besides being very funny, if you’e2’80’99ve never kept bees it’e2’80’99s a great insight to the art, the science and the adventure of keeping bees. (It is truly an art as much as a science and there is nothing in our house that gets debated more – no exaggeration here – than ‘e2’80’9cwhat’e2’80’9d should be done to the hives ‘e2’80’9cwhen’e2’80’9d’e2’80’a6and anything armed with stingers can’e2’80’99t help but be an adventure 🙂

  4. Anonymous on February 15, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    indeed to keep bees is an adventure, one frought with joy and angst.

    one of our two hives sucumbed to a very young and hungary black bear here in New Mexico two springs ago.

    we had them on our mesa top property situated by a lovely wildlife pond we made and surrounded by our orchard trees.

    the original purpose in keeping them has been fulfilled many times over; to pollinate the native shrubs and forbs we reintroduced to the barren and desiccated range.

    Then they left, job complete.

    We miss them, but hope they are busy elsewhere.


  5. WDI on February 15, 2006 at 8:58 pm

    From my days in Central California . . . I can still picture the alternating rows of white- and pink-flowered almond trees and learning that it was the cross-pollination of the two varieties that produced the big-name almonds (like Blue Diamond). My ex-husband’s cousin kept bees, and we used to get a jar of almond honey every Christmas — yum!

    Honeybees, just fyi, were one of the first species introduced to North America by Europeans; according to one book I read, they arrived with the Jamestown colonists. On the one hand, their spread wiped out who-knows-how-many species of native bees; on the other, they are instrumental for large-scale agriculture.

    Our weather here in Southeastern Virginia has been equally weird — we had 70 degree days in January and have spent most of the month in the 50’s and 60’s, with the exception of a few brief blasts of 40’s. I don’t even want to think about what the mosquitoes and flies are going to be like this summer . . .

  6. Linda C on February 15, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    This brings back such wonderful childhood memories of visits to my uncle’s small commercial honey operation in the Bitterroot valley of Montana. On Honeyhouse Lane, no less. The apple orchard pastured his horses, a pair of fat palominoes we could ride without saddle or bridle. Long, lazy days in another world, and the trip home to Washington (state) with a 5 gal. can of sweet gold to hold us for another year.
    They honeyhouse is long gone, but one jar of darkest amber still graces my pantry shelf, testament to a time of simple joys. Besides, it could never possibly taste as good as it does in memory.
    Thank you for a trip down this almost-forgotten lane! Time to re-read BEEK…

  7. Anonymous on February 15, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    When I first moved to my tiny half-acre here in the Virginia foothills, my land was surrounded by working apple orchard. I woke each morning to the singing of the migrant workers, and huge trucks rumbled past my (very isolated) house at dawn. Winter ice turned the apple trees into a fairyland. The coming of the bees was like a rite of passage as each new spring unfolded. Now, alas, the orchard is gone … unable to compete with those in Washington State. Cows graze where apples used to blossom and bear fruit in heavy clusters. Now my springtime is all about the iris blooms on my hillside instead of the apple blossoms in my neighbor’s orchard. The fragrance on the air comes in May instead of April, the perfume of the flowers often mixed with the not-so-sweet aroma of fresh manure. As the country song says, “Life goes on. Things change.” Iris Lady

  8. elisa on February 16, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Seeing honey bees in my garden again was such a joy last summer. They’d been absent for several years after the mite infestation wiped out so many hives. We now plant flowers for them and the butterflies and humming birds. Lots of ornamental trees have bloomed this week, only to have their blossums stripped off by today’s wind. No bees out in this weather. Maybe by the weekend.

  9. Robin on February 16, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    I love spring and all of your spring images are lovely. On Sunday, my kids were playing outside in spring-like weather (no jackets, muddy yard) and today it’s finally winter, -28 celcius, closer to -40 degrees with the wind. Of course in this weird and freaky weather, by the weekend is should be closer to 0 celcius (considered to be very nice weather for my part of the world, this time of the year).

    Looking forward to flowers and bees in my neighbourhood!

  10. Curtis on February 17, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    In the midwest I am reading garden catalogs and thinking about when to star my indoor plants. May 15 frost date! I am so jealous of your bees.

  11. Drury on February 18, 2006 at 7:44 am

    From Seattle…

    My neighbors and I were happily gardening last Sunday. And then the temperatures dropped this past week. Fortunately we didn’t have any snow, but I think 17 degrees at night is COLD. It’s our annual week long cold snap. We’re getting off easy by mid western standards, but still, I need sympathy. The wee little plants I trimmed and aerated last Sunday are helpless and naked to the icy winds….I need plants that can play hurt.

    But cold in Seattle means “reading season”. I plan to indulge tomorrow with the heat on and the kitty in position…


  12. Anonymous on February 18, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    I’m at the library — I just picked up “Following the Bloom: Across America with the Migratory Beekeepers.” Thanks 2Maple for the recommendation — I’m looking forward to it.

  13. Trix on February 20, 2006 at 12:25 am

    I really enjoyed Mrs Henderson Presents as well. I could have done without the bathetic “young love” subplot in the middle, but I haven’t laughed so much at a movie in years.

    Bob Hoskins (almost) carrying off “debonaire”! Judi Dench being wonderfully naughty. Just fab.

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