The smoke detector chirped during nap time last week.  I snatched it from the wall and pried out the batteries, silencing the shrill shriek that for ten years now has caused me to break out in a cold sweat that stinks of fear and rotting nightmares.  I shook the chill off and congratulated myself that Maggie Rose, 3, and Howard, 1, were still sleeping, and proceeded to my desk to root around for fresh AAA batteries.

And then the phone rang, and the UPS man had a question, and a group of lovely Texan tourists stopped by for a tour of the honey extracting plant, and nap time was over, and I was elbow deep in honey and wax, plugging a plug out of the pump, and two days later I scurried over to my desk to print an invoice and there it was, two out of three batteries missing from its innards: the smoke detector.

The breath caught sharply in my throat and I thought to myself: Howard, what have I done?  Am I starting to forget you?  Am I not being careful enough with the lives of my children and my husband and myself?

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The next day, down at Hillhouse, I caught a pan filled with vegetable oil on fire, and I couldn’t find the fire extinguisher, and Honeydew and I tried to calmly discuss the fire-smothering-merits of baking soda versus baking powder, and as the panicked bile in my throat rose along with the flames he finally wrapped his arm in a wet towel and flung the flaming pan out of the front door into the rain soaked yard.

And I again thought of my brother Howard, who died in a house fire just shy of his 20th birthday, on August 27, 2004, and berated myself for my carelessness.

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Earlier this month, Maggie Rose had occasion to attend her first funeral service, for the inspirational matriarch of the St. Mary Valley, Mrs. Ruth Johnson, who employed Howard in the summer of 2004.  Maggie Rose asked me why Miss Ruth, who lived to be 95, had died, and I told Maggie that all living things age every day, and eventually, everything and everyone dies, except the rocks, Chuck always says that only the rocks live forever.  As a three year old will, she persisted in this line of questioning, and I tried to to explain that although Miss Ruth’s family and friends were sad she had died, and would miss her, she had been lucky to live such a long life, and to become old.  I laughed a little at myself as I said this, as I was rubbing anti-aging glycolic acid into my neck as I talked to Maggie, who wanted to know if she would get old, and if I would, and Nan and Chuck, and her dog, and her doll, and so on and so forth until she asked about my brother Howard, if he would get old and die.

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Ten years in, my grief for my brother Howard can still t-bone my heart without warning – I just know I’ve been hit so hard I can’t breathe and Maggie’s innocent question sent silent tears streaming into my open, speechless mouth.  Luckily for me, Honeydew took over, and as we do every so often, tried to explain all of the different Howards in Maggie’s life to her — my uncle How/her uncle How, my brother Howard/her uncle Howard, her brother Howard/my son Howard.  Honeydew told her that Mama’s brother, Howard, hadn’t been lucky enough to get old and die, that he had died young, and that Mama missed him so much and would always be sad without him in her life.

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I’m gonna do better, Howard, about the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and eating steamed broccoli and losing the last of the baby weight.  I’m gonna live just as hard and well as I can, and raise children who won’t know you but will, and climb every peak in Glacier that I’ve got the nerve to, and sit on their rotten tops and revel under the impossible blue tilt to the sky and miss the hell out of you.

And I’m starting to think, ten years in, that it won’t matter if it’s been ten years or ten decades, missing you won’t ever hurt any less.

Howard

2014.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Glacier County Honey Co. will be presenting at the WAS meeting next month in Missoula, as well as selling one of the prettiest crops of honey we’ve seen in recent years on the Oval at the University of Montana on Saturday, September 20, as part of the festivities.  For the agenda and other info on the conference, check this out:

Western Apiculture Society meeting in Missoula! September 17-20.

We have much to report: the 1st birthday of our youngest beekeeper, the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the arrival of July … but first, an announcement:

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We hope you’ll stop by and see us!  Please call Courtney at 406-544-2818 or email sales@glaciercountyhoney.com with any questions.

2014.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Falling in love with Honeydew was unexpected. Our paths had crisscrossed for years before we officially met at a 2007 party in the Tack Barn —- although to be fair, he claims he’d tried to chat me up at Charlie’s in a previous summer and was cooly rebuffed.

All things in due time.

When Honeydew appeared at Hillhouse five months later, swathed in layers of long underwear and the first shadows of the beard he can now grow proudly, to invite me icefishing I thought it simply an afternoon’s adventure.

I did not know that the early winter light would illuminate my path to marriage, motherhood, and business ownership – and our relationship is hewn out of the endless challenges of all three.

Tonight, we popped a cork in celebration of five years of business partnership: Glacier County Honey Co. incorporated June 1, 2009, not quite two months before we married.

We have, of course, baptized our endeavor in gallons of sweat, at least a pint of blood, and an ocean of tears. These truths are not surprising, but I am daily surprised by just how hard it has been, and also by how much I love being in business with my husband, despite the fact that our marriage, our family, would be less tried if we spent the bulk of our days engaged in the passionate pursuit of … different pursuits.

There are hot words I would un-say, cold actions I would undo, but on the cusp of five years, I simply choose to celebrate our mutual commitment to challenging work that matters, a life hard fought and deeply lived, a legacy that our children may pass on – or not.

Here’s to another five, fifteen, fifty years and beyond of life and love inextricably bound to Glacier County Honey Co. – through the wracking sobs and the triumphant glasses of champagne, owning it has taught me more about life, and myself, than all the previous experiences of my days put together. Salute!

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Thanks to Natalee Rowe for our beautiful GCHC wine glasses!

2014. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

Winter and spring continue to battle it out in the heart of Many Glacier, but as I walked to Red Rock Falls yesterday with my husband, my three year old, my baby, my mom, my brother, and my dear friend, the brave Glacier lillies were thrusting their heads above the icy mud, always the first to add color to a still snow strewn landscape.  We also saw several munching moose – no big surprise in the Swiftcurrent Valley, but always a fun one, from a good distance.

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The falls themselves were thundering, and sobering in their icy power:

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And of course we enjoyed gazing at the incomparable mountains of Many Glacier, where we posed for a few family shots.  It’s never too early to think about the Christmas card, right?

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And how I love hiking with this bunch.

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What a difference a year makes – three miles was about a mile and a half too far for Maggie last summer, but it was just right this year, and she had a blast, as did we all.

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Howard was an excellent rider, too.  No hair pulling and screaming —- yet.

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He even napped:

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This Memorial Day weekend, we reveled, as always, in our freedom to start our businesses, make our own rules, and live our lives on an international border in peace.

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Thanks are certainly not enough to offer to the families of our veterans who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our many freedoms, but we’ll say them, always, and remember.

2014.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Maggie and Howard, you are one month shy of 3 and 1, and these are the busiest but best days of my life. Still no time for blogging, but here’s a placeholder of recent Easter snapshots for Mother’s Day 2014:

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Raising the two of you makes me daily shake with laughter and fear, though becoming your mother made me entirely fearless in some ways, and utterly vulnerable in others. Y’all are the greatest adventure of my life.

2014. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

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As ever, Northern California in April does not disappoint.  The flora is so similar to the springs of my youth, in the South, that I walk the varying lengths of our Palo Cedro driveway, the Sacramento River Trail, and the upscale neighborhoods of Redding under brilliantly blue 80F skies in a fog of nostalgia.

The fluffy redbuds and rust tipped dogwood blossoms — both the state flower and tree of my Virginia birthplace — remind me of Palm Sundays and Easters in the Presbyterian and Methodist churches I grew up in.  There is a oval bush bursting with white, powdery flowers whose scent takes me to the Big Farm, but whose name I forgot somewhere along a trail that taught me about the aspen, larch, and white bark pines of Montana. At night, the tall yellow roses, which remind me of first lessons from my mother as I learned to say “Tropicana,” drift in on the the breeze, and I dream about walking through Grandma Betty’s magical yard with my children.

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There’s been much bee work to be done in California, and I’ve written a lot about it over the years.  In this first spring of Howard’s life, I’ve been an absentee blogger, but I’ll write about all that bee work again, in a different season of my life.  After all 1,500 hives of bees do not magically re-queen themselves.  But as the work has wound down, we’ve found time to play, too.

Over the weekend, we traveled south and met up with with very dear friends in Inverness, at Point Reyes National Seashore, literally on the San Andreas Fault just north of San Francisco.  This landscape was wholly new to both Honeydew and I.  A rollercoaster of a highway winds through hills rocky one moment and grassy the next.  We saw acres of fat dairy cows.  We also saw a bobcat, numerous deer, and kept our eyes sharp for Tule elk on these ever changing landscapes, which end abruptly in enormous cliffs at the edge of the continent.  Easing our toes into the frigid Pacific, we passed the time looking for whales, sea lions, and seals, while our little girls played with all of their hearts, as only small children can, and baby Howard looked on in longing as he stuffed fistfuls of sand down his diaper.

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The area’s arresting beauty was a sensory treat, but even better was the reconnection with friends that I’ve called mine since we all slung drinks and steaks at Charlie’s and the Babb Bar/Cattle Baron in the early 2000s.  During one season of our enduring summer friendship, I lived with them in the A-frame at Chief Mountain Junction, where I slept the deep sleep of the night shift, and my future husband drove past the A-frame in those same pre-dawn hours, on his way to his senior year of high school in Cardston, Alberta, Canada.

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Since that time, we’ve been in each other’s weddings but been parted by the professional and personal goals that required accomplishment outside of our beloved Babb.  Holding each other’s children’s hands down precarious lighthouse stairs, in the whirling currents of the mighty Pacific, and in lukewarm hot tubs, we talked-talked-talked, and we learned that time had not dimmed our appreciation for each other.  It was though we had picked up a conversation begun the night before, as we sipped Grateful Deads and twirled along Charlie’s sticky stage, and happily Honeydew, though he did not know them very well before, came away equally contented in a new friendship.

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All year I write and think obsessively of July, and I am always surprised by how soothing spring’s cycle of renewal is, in the flora, fauna, and friendships of our lives.

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2014.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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