October 2010

In the mid nineties, when I was not quite fifteen, I got really, really sick.  I don’t remember my ailment, but I do remember that I was sick enough to stay home from school for several days, something that never happened in my family.  If we weren’t deathly contagious, we were going to school.

While home, I curled up on the couch and explored the channels of the satellite television my dad had recently hooked up – I grew up on a little farm on the Virginia/North Carolina line, too far from town to get cable or order pizza.   At the time, these facts sometimes seemed outrageous to me, as though I believed I had a personal bill of rights entitling me to at least a thin crust Hawaiian and MTV on Friday nights, especially since my parents were too strict to actually let me leave the farm.

By the time satellite TV dropped in price enough to entice my dad, I had already spent 14 years in a mostly TV free existence, and I have come to believe that the reason I have never been a big TV person is because I spent 14 years entertaining myself in other ways.  At 14, I wanted to read and ride my horse and catch a ride to town.  So when we got satellite, I was content to let my brothers become couch commandos, and in all the years since, I never learned the correct combination of remotes to turn on the TV at Blackstone Farms.  When my parents sold the farm earlier this year, I remember walking through the den one last time, looking at the wicker basket of remotes, and thinking to myself, Guess I’ll never figure it out now.

Country music was not considered cool by my peers, and so I grew up listening to a mix of oldies and Broadway show tunes (when with mom and dad) or rap and pop (when with anyone else).  That day, laid out sick on the couch, Dad turned the TV on for me, and I discovered that even with satellite, we didn’t get MTV.  But we did get CMT.

I must have been so sick that my attention span wouldn’t allow me to focus on sitcoms or movies, because I found myself sucked into CMT.  I eventually watched about 3 straight days of country music videos, dozing in and out of my fever.  And so it was that I fell in love with country music, a love affair that continues to this day, which is a good thing, as I now find myself living on a bee farm in an area of the country so remote it makes Blackstone Farms look like Brooklyn.

After I recovered, I bought Suzy Bogguss’ Aces, and I sang plaintively in the shower along with her to Someday Soon, Letting Go, Outbound Plane and the title track.  When Suzy released her next album, Voices in the Wind, I rushed to buy it, and discovered Suzy had covered John Hiatt’s Drive South – she hit #2 on the country charts with her quick, catchy version.

I didn’t say we wouldn’t hurt anymore

That’s how you learn you just get burned

We don’t have to feel like dirt anymore

Though love’s not learned baby it’s our turn We were always looking for true love

With our heads in the clouds

Just a little off course

But I left that motor running

Now if you’re feeling down and out

Come on baby drive south with the one you love

Come on baby drive south

I’m not talking about retreating no sir

Gonna take our stand in this Chevy van

Windows open on the rest of the world

Holding hands all the way to Dixie land

We’ve been trying to turn our lives around

Since we were little kids

It’s been wearing us down

Don’t turn away now darling

Let’s fire it up and wind it out

Come on baby drive south with the one you love

Come on baby drive south

I heard your momma calling

I think she was only stalling

Don’t know who she’s talking to

Baby me or you

We can go south with a smile on

Ain’t going to pack my nylons

Just leave these legs showing

It gets hot down where were going

We were always looking for true love

With our heads in the clouds

Just a little off course

But I left that motor running

Now if you’re feeling down and out

Come on baby drive south with the one you love

Come on baby drive south

And now, each fall when we round our honeybees up and ship ’em, 408 colonies at a time on the back of a flatbed semi, south to California, I find myself singing Drive South to myself as we work.

I wrote about the ins and outs of how this process works earlier this year, when the bees came home from California, so if you weren’t reading our blog back then, check out that post.  Loading the bees is not unlike unloading the bees, just in reverse of course.  Much was the same – our wonderful truck driver, Chuck, arrived at the holding yard with his flatbed; Honeydew used to the forklift to load the hives, 4 per pallet, 3 pallets at a time, onto the back of the semi, and I placed entrance reducers at the entrance to each hive.  The only thing particularly different was that Brother Dear assisted us, which was wonderful.  He spent most of his time walking carefully across the tops of the hives on the flatbed, about twenty feet off the ground, placing the spreader boards, unrolling the nets, and generally giving his sister a heart attack.  I thought it was bad watching Honeydew, a professional commercial beekeeper, perform these tasks.  It was much worse watching Brother Dear, apprentice beekeeper, high up off the ground.  And I don’t even want to talk about my blood pressure during the time that Honeydew and Brother Dear were both up on top of the semi.

Here are some shots from loading bees in Fall 2010:

We began at first light.

Some of us are cheerier than others.  I’ve got my arms full of entrance reducers, here.

Brother Dear helped with the entrance reducers, too.

Honeydew whipped around like a crazy person in his forklift, knocking over only one hive of bees, which were thankfully too cold to put up much of a protest.

Then Brother Dear got up on top of the hives to help get the spreader boards in place.

Then Honeydew joined him, and Chuck assisted from the ground.

This is my new favorite picture of the brothers-in-law.

And here I am, of course.  Supervisor in Chief.  So happy not to be walking around on top of bee hives, twenty feet off the ground!

Right now, just under half of our bees are on their merry way to northern California.  We’ll repeat this process and send the rest of ’em at first light Wednesday.  In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for their safe travels, and Chuck’s.

2010. Glacier County Honey Co.  Some photo credits to Brother Dear.  All Rights Reserved.


Honeydew got the Honey House all cleaned up last week and Roy, who had been banished from the Honey House during extraction season, was mighty happy about it.

Roy is eleven months old now, and all puppy.  He and Honeydew are a wolfpack of two, the very best friends that anyone has ever had, according to them.  As Ben Williams once said, there is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.


The backs of my calves are still thrumming from Friday’s adventure to Scalplock Lookout, a not-quite-nine-miles-but-over-three-thousand-feet-of-elevation day hike on Glacier National Park’s southern boundary.  But I enjoy the thrumming – reminds me that I’m alive and well, and that I could be more well if only there were a gym near Babb, Montana.  Such thrumming does not come from sharing a blood supply with the couch, or even from trolling the mall – such thrumming only comes from hikes with serious elevation gains, like Scalplock.

I met Mom and Dad at the trailhead, at the Walton Ranger Station/Essex, about 10am on an overcast Friday morning, though the colors of the golden Larch were still spectacular.

As to be expected, it was c-o-l-d down in the canyon – when I left Babb at 8:30am, the temps were a balmy 51 and rising.  At Essex, they were 32 and holding.  Gloves would have been a welcome addition to my hiking ensemble, except that Roy recently found them to his liking.  Mmmmm, polarfleece!  Does a Lab puppy good.

The hike starts out with a bouncy, Indiana Jones style suspension bridge over Park Creek.

Youth hunting season was in full swing on Friday, and rifle shots echoed off the canyon walls – although we were in Glacier, where no hunting is allowed, just across Glacier’s boundary, the Middle Fork of the fabulous Flathead River, there is plenty of open hunting.  Just in case, Mom and Dad sported their hunter’s orange.

As we switchbacked all over Scalplock Mountain, gaining over 3,000 feet in elevation, we saw many of things of beauty and wonder, as ever when in Glacier:

Water running over rocks from Mr. Maclean’s basement of time.

Mushrooms that I cannot identify without help from Layla Jane.

And lots of snow berries that I never got a clear shot of.  Thanks, Layla and Kestergill, for pointing those out to me several years ago on our snowy Labor Day trip into the Belly River.  I remembered their name!  Improvement!

Scalplock Lookout itself is perched right on top of the mountain, and is staffed by the park service during fire season with a lucky guy or gal who spends the summer living at the Lookout, and looking for fires.  My friend Alfred landed this position several years ago – what a job!

Mom and I had good time posing in our Georgia hats:

And soaking in the fabulous view:

If you find yourself with a day to spend on Glacier’s south side, I recommend Scalplock.  Enjoy the thrumming.

2010.  Some photo credits to Charlie Stone.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Look what happened in the warehouse over the weekend:

Honeydew has been very, very busy laying floor.

And soon I will be very, very busy cookin’ up Thanksgiving and Christmas in our new kitchen!  And not worrying about the drips on the floor because honey, I picked out this flooring because I think it leads a double life as an Emmy Award Winning Actress.  Dirt, the floor asks innocently, what dirt?  I don’t see no dirt.  I don’t see no bacon grease.  I don’t see no dog hair.  Floor, you and I are destined for happy greatness together.  And you were on sale.  I look forward to many happy years together.

And this floor.  If the kitchen floor is an Emmy Award winning actress, my office floor is Academy Award winning.  Gorgeous, no?

I never thought I could be this excited about floors.  I guess when the day arrives that you think twice about sleeping on them, they become more interesting.  Two floors down, three to go!

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Honeydew has been working long hours in the warehouse, rushing to finish it before the snows blow, as they inevitably will.

Buck and Roy keep him company even as the shadows grow long.

Bucky is my sunbathing dog.  Takes after his mama.  Here he is basking in the last rays of light streaming into the warehouse.

Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole ~ Roger Caras

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how Honeydew got his elk for the season, and promised to share the pictures.

Gorgeous bull, yes?  Taken with a bow.  I’m very proud of Honeydew.  And very happy that our freezer is full.

Winter won’t be long now.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Please forgive our virtual absence.  We have been busy with the annual Montana State Beekeepers Convention and yesterday, traveling to Helena to have Brother Dear sworn in as a Montana lawyer.  In honor of that special occasion, Dad is our guest blogger.

An artificial fly is pulled gently over water so clear it appears filtered; the mellow deep sound of chords from the guitar fill the outdoors around the camp fire; the aroma from that old blue pot on the stove filled with beef barley soup fills the senses like only it and bacon can – these are just a few of the talents that my son Sanford has acquired. But he did not acquire them from me, because even though as his father I should have been teaching him how to fly fish, play the guitar, and prepare food as only a gourmet chef can, I could not teach him these things because I could not do them myself. And so it was that Sanford learned them on his own because he is good at learning things and teaching himself what he wants to know.

It is very Southern not to toot one’s own horn, and very Southern not to brag on the accomplishments of one’s close kin. But most Southerners allow as how on some rare occasions, a proud father is forgiven his misstep if he lets slip how proud he is of his children. I remember that San was about five years old when he came to me and asked me to teach him how to fly fish. I am still embarrassed that I was unable to do so, but if one’s own father did not utilize a particular talent, then it often is not passed down from father to son. I did not have that talent. So San went to the local library and checked out a video on how to fly fish and taught himself what his father could not. And over the years I have taught him what I could, but he, and his sister as well, have the most valuable of talents in the ability of self-education. Now the daughter and the son teach the father and who can be prouder than that?

But San was drifting after college; not a bad thing in itself, for when else in life does one have the leisure of drifting? There was no plan that his parents were aware of (although San, like most males, keeps his cards close to the vest), and we were worried that some drifting might turn into more drifting, which is not a good thing. As my beautiful mother of 93 years can attest, a parent really never finishes helping his or her offspring. So we suggested he try some more education because he has many interests and hobbies, and as we already knew, he could teach others how to do these things. Law school was not on the horizon as both Courtney and San, after seeing what I did everyday, had early on verbally expostulated that they would never become lawyers – one need be careful about what one says about one’s own future! He thought about it some and may have been influenced by the fact that his sister had done well in law school and seemed to enjoy her practice in Missoula; or maybe the fact that his brother had expressed a plan to go to law school in order to be an FBI agent influenced him. But his brother had died early and tragically. And that was something else I could not teach him – how to grieve for his brother, for I did not know how to grieve for him myself. At any rate he reluctantly agreed to leave the cool clear mountains, lakes and streams of his beloved Montana and travel back across the country to the crowded, humid, cacophonous street sounds of Charleston, South Carolina. I don’t think he did this for me; and I don’t really think he did this for himself. I think he did this for his brother, because his brother now could not do it for himself. San dedicated these three long years of his life to his brother, Howard. I was not a particularly good student during my education days and even though I knew Sanford had the ability to be a top student should he so choose, I was not expecting him to shine academically. I took Latin in high school and, again, I was not a top Latin scholar. But Sanford graduated Summa Cum Laude from law school, whatever that means. I think it means he did pretty well.

On October 18th, 2010 my son Sanford, on the special motion of his sister Courtney, was sworn in before the Montana Supreme Court as a member of the state Bar of Montana and also before the Federal District Judge in Helena as he was admitted to practice before the Federal Bar.

It was an especially emotional moment for this father to watch his children appear before such august bodies, as  did his grandfather, father, sister, uncle and first cousin before him. So please excuse this proud father for writing of how proud he is of this fine man and this fine woman. Hark, America, “things are gonna be fine” as we say in the South; for there are many other fine men and women like Sanford and Courtney throughout the country. America is in good hands with talented individuals such as these. We love you, Courtney and San.

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

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