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.

Sorry, beekeepers.  No shots of beautiful almond orchards or fat bees here.  Just baby beekeepers, as the rain kept me and my camera out of the orchards this week.

But how lucky we are, as commercial beekeepers, to be working in a cycle wherein it is profitable to send our bees to California, profitable enough that our entire family can gather together a few times over the course of the almond pollination-shaking-splitting-requeening season.

It hasn’t always been this way.  It probably won’t always be this way.  This is agriculture, after all.

But for now, Honeydew and I are very grateful that he was able to come home to Montana for a little while, after he got the bees into the almond orchards north of Sacramento, and that I was able to bring our family to California for a little while, right before he took them out.

Of course, Mother Nature don’t cotton to no Google calendar, and we didn’t see much of Honeydew at the end of our trip, as he was busy hauling bees out of very muddy (thank you, Mother Nature, for the much needed California rain) almond orchards.  But we recognize just how lucky we are.  And while Daddy was busy with those bees, the sun came out, and the tiny tots and I fell back in love with Redding, California.

On a clear day, Mts. Shasta and Lassen mesmerize, and the Sacramento River Trail beckons a woman with an enormous double stroller who’s been cooped up in Winter Wonderland.  Today alone, I pushed that stroller nearly ten miles, stopping at various parks to swing and slide and monkey bar;

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detouring into downtown Redding for Cool Cucumber frozen yogurt;

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picnicking on the banks of the Sacramento and throwing rocks into “Lake Redding;”

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gawking at skateboarders (Maggie: “What is that, Mama?” “That’s a skateboarder, Maggie Rose.”  “I want to be one.”); feeding parrots at Turtle Bay (for at least fifteen minutes, Mama-with-parrots-perched-on-her-arms was every bit as cool as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny);

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counting turtles on a log near the Sacramento River; rolling a ball to Brother at yet another park;

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and watching both dissolve into tears when, after six hours, I announced it was time to go home.

California, Montana stole my heart when I was nine, and it’s not mine to give away.  But you’re an awfully torrid affair this time of the year.

2014.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

After this many moths of sporadic blogging, I can’t afford to bore y’all with the many details of my first solo flights with Maggie Rose and Babyman.

Except that I can’t help myself.

We were required to be at our local airport at 4:30am on Saturday morning.  My sainted mother spent the night with us and drove us to the airport, dropping us, her extra car seats, the double stroller, and one bag containing The Essentials (diapers, formula, iPad, cash, Xanax — just kidding) at the appointed hour.  We were under a blizzard warning and I worried that our flight would be canceled, but we sailed through security and into the round pens waiting area, watching the winds whip the snow lining the runway, listening to them cool the air to the predicted -40 windchill.

I’d never flown Alaska before Saturday.  I haven’t flown much in the last few years, a marked departure from my pre-motherhood existence.  In the interest of being able to get myself, the tots, the double stroller, the car seats, and The Essentials from Kalispell to Seattle to Sacramento, I left our heavy coats, gloves, and hats in the comfort of the pickup.  We wouldn’t need them in California, and my parents would meet us on our return, so why bother?

Should’ve bothered.

The gate agent gave me and my enormous stroller a doubtful look as the clock ticked past 5am, and beckoned me with a curled finger.  “Do you realize we’re boarding on the tarmac?” she asked.

I looked at my eight month old and my two-and-a-half year old, eyes glazed with the sleep they should have been getting, both dressed in footed fleece dinosaur pajamas — and nothing else.   I looked at my thin jeans and loose weave sweater and the swirling snow, suspended in the floodlights, and realized body fat percentage or no, I had made a major error.  That wind chill, even for a brief few moments, would be no joke to my poor kids.

We pushed the double stroller into the howling winds and the kind Alaska luggage gal placed Maggie onto the frozen concrete, as I balanced Howard on one hip and tried to follow her instructions as to how she wanted the stroller folded.  Our fingers — mine bare, hers mittened — were equally clumsy, and another thoughtful flight deck employee, dressed all in black and wearing mirrored ski goggles and looking for all the world like a member of the Taliban, emerged from the darkness, swooped Maggie up, and ran with her to the plane.  I appreciated the gesture — Maggie did not, and her screams shattered on the icy runway.  Cursing, I finally got the stroller folded and ran with Howard into the relative warmth of the plane as I rubbed Howard’s tiny arms and hugged he and Maggie tightly together on my lap.  Maggie continued to howl.

We were the first ones to board, and the most of the other passengers stared at me in disbelief as they shoved their carry-ons all around us.  When one asked me where we were headed, I answered, “Redding,” and hoped that he would assume I was a California native (no offense, Redding folk!) and not a nearly-fifteen-year resident of The Last Best Place.

We repeated this lovely scenario in slightly warmer temperatures an hour later in Seattle, and then I got to try out the “jogging” stroller abilities I shelled out so much for in this particular stroller model as I sprinted to the North Gates.  Maggie’s sunny smile finally broke the gloom of the morning when we dashed onto the subway and she declared that she was a hero, just like Curious George, riding a train.  I didn’t smile until I heard the jetway door close securely behind us as we ran its length, the last three on board the plane to California.

We arrived in Sacramento, the kids no worse for wear, their mother in serious need of therapy in the form of a hot stone massage, narcotics, or simply the ability to forget.

Sorry, kids.  If y’all end up 2nd runner up in the Nobel Prize competition, know that your missing brain cells are still frozen to the FCA runway.

Daddy arrived.  We rented a car not big enough for the double jogging stroller.  I insisted on stopping at Granzella’s for mufalettas, lambics, and cinnamon bread.  Clouds obscured Mts. Shasta and Lassen, but the five months I spent in and around I-5 in the spring of 2012 came back to me, and even without them, I pointed the little Buick north, leaving Honeydew in an almond orchard as we headed north to Redding.

Showing Maggie around our new house, she looked at me in disbelief, and I mentally added up the number of “new rooms” we’ve introduced her to over the course of her short life.  This kid will either be the world’s most well-adjusted or deranged.

Howard caught a glimpse of the yard from the laundry room window, and I grabbed a bottle, a juice box, and a beer, and ushered the kids outside.  As we collapsed in the yard (of our dear friend’s family homeplace that we are lucky enough to stay in during almond pollination-shaking-grafting-requeening season), I saw this:

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My Babyman, sitting in the grass under his own steam for the very first time in his life.

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And my little girl, with her first skint knee of “summer.”

And California, I am glad to be here.  Thank you for having us.

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2014.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Sometimes it feels like we’ve started the same business five times, in five different ways, instead of being five years into it.  I’m sure I’m not alone amongst small business owners in this feeling.  And of course, no one ever said marriage, moving, children, and business ownership all at the same time would be easy, and I feel lucky that my general reaction to it all is that it really is all worth it.

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Most of the time.

But.

Not every night that I lie awake at 3am, thinkingthinkingthinking.

Not every morning that I shush my chatty 2.5 year old while I’m on the phone with a customer, a banker, or an insurance agent.

Not every season that the whole plan we’ve come up with to make it all doable falls apart again.

But.

Most of the time.

The blog has again suffered, in a way that is perhaps symbolic of the enmeshment of our professional lives as commercial beekeepers and our personal lives as husband and wife, parents, children, siblings, and friends.  This fall and winter have marked yet another transition as we’ve tinkered with the retail business setup and prepared for Honeydew to go to California without us.

Maggie and I stayed behind last winter, too, but that was out of medical necessity, as I endured weekly IVIG infusions to alleviate the consequences of the neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (NAIT) our poor kids have both been born in spite of.  Those infusions certainly turned out to be worth it.

Our seven month old, Howard, is sitting and rolling and eating more than any baby in history, it sometimes seems.  His eyes never leave his sister’s face, when she is in residence, and his delightful babbles of “da da da” make me picture a linguistic bridge between babyhood and toddlerhood built with ABC blocks instead of concrete and rebar.  Soon, I know, Howard will not be the baby on my hip, but the barely-baby I’ll be chasing after.  I’ve never been one to be sad about the transitions of infancy, but I am aware of it, and also aware that thanks to NAIT, we’re not likely to bear witness to another such transition.  And so there is that.

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But more to the point of this blog, in 2014 we’re trying out yet another new business/family arrangement.  Maggie has been going to preschool two days a week and is thriving there.  We’re loathe to take her away from something so clearly positive.  As working-from-home parents, you’ll rarely find us engaged in all those interactive, educational activities I’m always pinning on Pinterest.  Our kids are either working with us or playing beside us, and so the opportunity to go to “school” and learn about sharing, and walking to the library, and the letter of the week, and how to make playdough, and feeding the class fish, and dress up, and most importantly making friends, is a huge one for Maggie Rose.

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As the tots grow, so does the the retail honey/beeswax business  – a very nice problem to have, thanks so much to all of you! And so that influenced the decision to split the family between California and Montana, too.  Please believe us, such a split is not nearly as glamorous as it might seem.  I don’t enjoy single motherhood any more than Honeydew enjoys absentee fatherhood.  And I like to think he misses me, too.  Or at least my cookin’.  I sure do miss him.

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Visiting the Alamo during the American Honey Producers Association’s Annual Meeting, January 2013, San Antonio, Texas.

But at any rate, it’s hard to ship Montana honey and beeswax when you’ve set up housekeeping in California for four months.

So we’ll go back and forth this year, juggling airline miles and lots of Facetime with each other.

And we’ll keep tinkering with the formula that is our life.

And when I’m laying awake at 3am doing too much thinking, and missing Honeydew, but the babies are both sleeping soundly, I’ll try to remember my Pa Pa’s pronouncement on agriculture: There ain’t never been a normal year yet.

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Lots to catch up on around here.  It’s happening, it will happen.  Charming pictures of Maggie Rose learning to ski, and of Howard discovering the finer arts of purees to share, funny honey stories to relay, upcoming pollination to discuss.

But today, we’re celebrating the start of a new decade for Honeydew.

We’re so glad you were born, honey.

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One beeswax candle for #1 Beekeeper to wish upon.

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Need a new chocolate-cake-with-chocolate-ganache recipe?  I picked this one because it said “only 666 calories per slice!,” which appealed both to my chocolate-tooth and to my sense of humor.  Incredibly easy and absolutely delicious, y’all.  Do use the parchment paper liner, though.  And I hope your cake decorating skills are more advanced than mine.  This cake could have been a showcase, but with Maggie Rose’s help, I pretty much turned it into a train wreck.

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Baby Howard was snoozing during Daddy’s birthday celebration, but I’m sure Sister will have him well prepped for next year, as she regularly sings Happy Birthday to all the different colored cups she plays with in the tub.  The pair of them are definitely the best gift Daddy ever got.  Unfortunately for him, the return policy is up on me!

Happy birthday to the man who brought all the sweetness to my life.  I love you.

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

It’s been a wild day at our house, to say the least!  After staying up till 1am to make sure our two-and-a-half-year-old’s Christmas was “perfect,” she took one look at the (awesome) John Deere “Gator” Santa brought and refused to go anywhere near it.  This, despite the fact that her “best friend” Axel has a similar John Deere ride that she is obsessed with.  Hmmm.  Instead, Maggie delighted in the many nail polish colors and fleecy purple jacket Santa also left behind, and also in his half-eaten cookies.

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What do you want Santa to bring you, Maggie Rose? Purple presents!  And blue presents!

As the morning wore on, she did finally deign to sit in the darn thing, and once she did, it was true love.

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We all speak of and delight in our traditions, but what I really love best about Christmas is that the sparkle of the lights in December’s blackness is ever magical, but the players are never quite the same.

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Babyman, you’re my favorite new player.

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Maggie Rose modeling the holly print dress Big Mama made for me over 30 years ago.

This year, we celebrated with most of Honeydew’s mother’s side of the family the weekend before Christmas.  Prime rib melted in our mouths, Jingle Juice flushed our cheeks, and the cacophony of the cousins made me wistful for a large family, and yet grateful for the occasional silence that does occasionally fall over our two kids simultaneously.  It was a wonderfully exhausting weekend.

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For Christmas proper, we were lucky enough to be in our own home with our two tiny tots, and Brother Dear and my parents and Honeydew’s dad all came to us!  For the carseat/naptime set, being Home with your family is the greatest gift of all, I think.  Or at least it is for us after 30 solid days of Holiday Retail Insanity.  We put the “closed” sign up on the Glacier County Honey website on Friday, December 20, and although I’m sure we lost some sales in the last few days before the 25th, nothing we shipped after the 20th would have arrived by Christmas anyway, and the time with our family is priceless to us.

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I love the aforementioned lights, I love the tinny carols pouring from the radio waves, I love wrapping the mailbox in fresh garland, I love picking out the perfect trinket for everyone on my list, and I love making lemon spice sauce, bourbon whipped cream, and shrimp’n’grits from scratch …….. but I am glad that it’s all over with now.

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Time to pour a glass of bubbly, breathe deeply of Howard’s waning new baby scent, meticulously apply paint to each of Maggie Rose’s tiny nails, and lean against my husband on the couch.  We’ll clean up next year.

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Taking the Snow Belle out for a spin!

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The biggest hit of Christmas was probably the reincarnation of our old Brio train set.  Nan and Chuck added a few new parts for Maggie Rose and Howard, built a table for it, installed the whole shebang upstairs and I haven’t seen Maggie since.  

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Merry Christmas, y’all!

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  Some photo credits to Nancy Stone. All Rights Reserved.

In a Radio Flyer!

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And we’re feeling merry and bright indeed!

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