It is inconceivable to me that I only have 25 pounds of honey left, not counting the 4 pounds or so still in the pantry. And not counting the honeys we have picked up while traveling, something Carolyn and I love to do. We didn't get any in China - too much contamination. Even in 2005 we knew that. But I loved my Paris Opera House honey so much (Carolyn picked in up during her trip to Paris) that a work friend was cajoled into picking up another small jar of it for me. I haven't been able to make myself eat this one. Part of the reason is that honey tastes different from year to year, even from the same bees in the same location, and it is likely that the honey I received more recently will taste much different from what Carolyn brought me. That honey had a delicate sweetness, very floral, with a quite mild anise finish. I'll cherish my memory of it until it is too pale to be altered by the taste of the second jar.
I also have an affection for desert honey. The robust catclaw, black button sage, and mesquite are my favorites. One of the best meals we ever had cooked at home was browned venison sausage with a side of blue cornmeal cornbread, fresh butter and mesquite honey. If I were to ever have a choice, that would be the last meal I'd like to have before signing off the planet.
Perhaps 25 pounds of honey sounds like an awful lot, but when one is used to having 200 pounds on hand, from year to year, this quantity seems perilously close to Winnie the Pooh panic. This past fall, I decided not to harvest honey and to leave it in the hive for the bees. It wasn't a very vigorous season for them anyway, so it isn't as though they had extra to give.
A couple of years ago, as thanks for allowing me to use his extractor, I left a couple large pails of honey with my mentor. Now, I wish I hadn't been so generous. But, his beeyard has suffered from some mysterious ability to repel all bees the last few years. I even gave him a divide from one of my colonies and it skedaddled. I had a couple colonies on his property several years ago, and mine did OK, but his did not. I told him it was because my equipment is painted bight colors, and his is boring white.
Still, I continue to have good luck with my bees. Even when they have swarmed, they have gone only as far as the bait colony I set out for them. Beekeeping is like dancing - the bees need to lead, and the beekeeper needs to be a good follower. I was dancing the other night at the old Ace Bar, now the Dubliner. I kept trying to lead, and my partner graciously endured it until I remembered my feet. Then I remembered my head, and signaled to him when we were pressing too close to another couple, giving him my eyes for the back of his head. It was lovely to dance that way again.
That conversation of the body, chaste and exhilarating, elegant and fleeting, is like the exchange I have with the bees. I try to stay out of their way while they make honey, try my best to replicate the deep crevice of a tree cavity in my humble stack of woodenware. We are together in the endeavor, and sometimes the music we move to has simple lyrics - breath, light, home, sisters, sweetness. I am humbled by their tolerance of my ignorant machinations and pleased they continue to let me find my feet, to do my best to inform their efforts with gentle redirection. Is it still only December? Months before I see their faces again.............