February 2013


Almost every year we’ve been a pair, Honeydew and I have spent most of January, February, March, and April apart. Commercial beekeeping, for us, without other employment, is possible in large part because of spring almond pollination in California.

But even if pollination were not such an important part of our income stream, there would still be compelling reasons to hit the road to the Redding area every year – in a nutshell, honeybee reproduction requires the thermometer to hit 70F, and that lovely temperature just doesn’t occur near Babb this time of year.

So, for the sake of selecting our own genetics, in addition to pollination income, to California we must go.

Most years, like this year, I’ve stayed in Montana, watching over the dawgs, the retail business, the Warehome, and now, that pesky toddler. Last year, Maggie Rose and I accompanied Honeydew and rented a tiny house with a yard charmed by orange trees, buttercups, and hyacinths. We journeyed from bee yard to bee yard, and from trailhead to trailhead, filling our time with learning and play.

This year, I am tethered to my weekly infusions of IVIG at our local hospital and cannot join Honeydew in sunny California. So he came home for the first three of my treatments, and it’s been such a treat to have him around. For me, Maggie Rose’s various antics are far more entertaining when I have her daddy to discuss them with at the end of the day.

But this morning, I rose in the snowy pre-dawn to fry up sausage patties, chop fruit, and bake a cheese Danish for Honeydew, Neil, and Darling Brother -in-Law, then sat quietly with my second cup of coffee and watched the bee truck’s taillights blur against the fluffy flakes and a tear or two.

Safe travels, Honeydew. Take better care than ever before.

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2013. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

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For those of you who read this Honey Company’s blog for the love of beekeeping, and not babies, hospitals, and Glacier National Park, you’re in luck – Keith, our California Summer Help who morphed into a full time beekeeper with us, had a few moments to e-mail me a few shots of what the bees are up to right now.

A quick recap: we shipped the bees, via flat bed semis, to California in late October. They’ve been hanging out, munching on manzanita and nectar margaritas, ever since. Keith followed them in November to supervise their activities. Honeydew and Neil arrived in January to work through them all and determine which hives were strong enough to provide almond pollination services. The first week of February, most of the hives were moved into the almonds, just before their bloom.

In the last few days, that bloom has turned about a million acres north of Sacramento, California, the prettiest shade of pink, to an almond grower and to a beekeeper:

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Isn’t it lovely?

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Hi girls. Good work.

Around the first of March, Honeydew, Neil, Keith, and Darling Brother-in-Law, who is joining our crew as of today, will remove the bees from the almonds, and put them back into the fields of manzanita and nectar. Then, the processes of requeening, splitting, shaking, and the like will take place.

More on those later.

Welcome, Spring!

2013. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

Thirteen days remain before Daylight Savings Time begins.
I think I can I think I can I think I can.
I know the date marking the start of Daylight Savings Time isn’t everyone’s 2nd favorite day of the year, but it’s mine, and this is my blog.
So there, world.
Aren’t you ready for summer days heavy with backbreaking honey work, the kind of work that makes outdoor evenings that smell of hickory chips, charred salmon, and blackened Vidalia onions all the sweeter? Evenings that taste like salt and lime and tequila … and peaches, married with Amaretto and nutmeg, tossed in foil packets on the dying coals, even as the Slip-n-Slide games go on into the twilight?

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Above, Brother Dear, Howard, and I are slip-n-sliding late into the evening on the Big Farm, in Georgia, sometime in the late 80s/early 90s.

Today is a gray, snowy Tuesday in Montana, which for me means a day long stay at our wonderful local hospital, listening to the tinny mechanism of the IV pump that sends IVIG coursing through my veins. Hopefully, the IVIG is doing its job and acting like a sponge, soaking up all the crusaders in my bloodstream that want to attack poor Dos Ittles. Those crusaders don’t know any better, but I must say that this is a very unnerving feeling for a mother, knowing your body thinks your developing baby is an invader to be dealt with.

Very unmaternal, to be sure.

Each hour, a kind nurse comes to take my vital signs, and to listen to the baby’s heartbeat, which is so much faster than mine own. Dos Ittles’ heartbeat drowns out the IV pump as though a herd of ponies were galloping through the parking lot, thrilling me every hour on the hour.

I tell myself that this child will be the one to ride with me, and that after all these hours of infusions surely he or she will be compelled to choose the nice nursing home for Mama.

And I fight against the accompanying Benadryl that makes me feel like I’m coming down from a 10 day heroin high, and I try to make sense of our accounts receivables, and respond to emails, and to carry on with Tuesday.

But mostly I end up looking at old pictures on my laptop and being grateful for this chance to give Maggie Rose and Dos Ittles a shot at sibling rivalry, and late summer nights with a Slip-n-Slide.

2013. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

It is a tragic but unescapable fact that country ham, eggnog, and those ridiculously delightful saltine crackers slathered with chocolate and sea salt will eventually migrate to one’s thighs, despite the fact that the holidays would simply be cancelled without them.

Or at least not very festive.

At any rate, the day after Christmas, Nan, Chuck, and I took ourselves down to Glacier National Park, to the Going-to-the-Sun Road and Rising Sun, to preserve our thighs for hiking season 2013 … not that we’re counting to down it in these dull mid-February days.

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On the Rose Creek bridge.

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In July, when I hike my favorite trails, my head rings with the glorious cacophony of summer: Clark’s nutcrackers drilling, snow avalanching off Many Glacier’s exquisite hanging cirques, tourists’ bear bells jangling, marmots whistling, the swooshing of my blood through my brain as my lungs try to keep up with my legs.

The day after Christmas, our snowshoe was defined by the utter silence of Glacier in winter. The only constant was my ever present pulse as my lungs again tried to propel my legs as fast as they wished to travel.

In the brilliant sunshine that turned the fresh snow into a fantasy land of diamonds, my eyes strained to understand all the different depths of sapphire and silver, and my mind to give them each a name. I thought about how the Eskimos have a hundred different words for snow, and as I pulled my body through the deep drifts, I challenged myself to think of all Glacier’s shades of blue, the color that defines the park for me.

There is, of course, the world renowned shocking Carribbean cerulean of Glacier’s more famous lakes, like lower Grinnel. But there is also the cobalt of a cloudless October sky that only looks deeper against the cafe au lait tones of a bull elk’s rack, the ultramarine of the fingers cascading off Sperry Glacier, the periwinkle glow as the longest day of the year finally fades to starlight, the indigo of blooming lupine, the violet-blue of luscious huckleberries lining the trail to Ptarmigan Lake, the smoky haze of an August forest fire, and for me, the royal bruises tattooing the legs that carry me up mountains and through the stands of cursed alder.

Glacier, it was good to see you.

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2013. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

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From our baby to you.
Yes, we let her eat chocolates for breakfast today. Just trying to keep our Parents of the Year title secure!
May your February 14 bee as sweet as our honey.

2013. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

I’m not quite certain how to begin this blog post.

Hello, virtual world.

It’s nice to see you again.

I’ve been well, thank you. Your emails of concern re: the lack of blog posts truly touched my heart.

Christmas was lovely.

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New Year’s was festive.

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The American Honey Producers Association’s annual convention took place in San Diego over the 2nd week of January, during what was apparently the coldest week San Diego had seen in 30 years.  It was pretty toasty in the convention center and the Nordstrom shoe department, though.

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After we got our learnin’ and networkin’ on, we got down to the business of preparing for the 2013 California almond pollination season.  Honeydew and Neil, along with the trucks and forklift, joined Keith and the bees near Redding on January 19.

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I jetted off to The South with Maggie Rose for a last pre-baby-#2 pilmigrage.  The South knows how to punish its expatriates, and greeted us with an ice storm of the sort I’d forgotten existed.  An abiding image from I-85 N, near Greensboro, North Carolina, during the height of the storm, with 4 x 4 trucks and Mazda convertibles littering the ditches: a bleached blonde, pulled to the shoulder in her Ford Mustang drop top, sucking on a cigarette as if her life depended on it.  She mostly had the right idea.  It was mighty slick outside.

By the time we got to the Big Farm in Georgia, the South relented, and greeted us with blooming quince, buttercups, and camellia bushes nearly overwhelmed by their flowers.

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We told Maggie Rose all about Pa Pa’s silos, threw our lines out for bass, and shoveled in perfectly fried shrimp and homemade peach ice cream at McKinney’s Pond.

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View from Live Oaks Ridge, near Birdsville.

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Admiring the cotton picker.

Then we went to Atlanta to see our gal pals, and experienced the wonders of civilization: the Dry Bar — not what you’re thinking — and the smoked Georgia shrimp’n’grits and rum-sopped-coconut-cake at JTC Kitchen.  Oh, my heavens.

And now I’m sitting on a hospital bed in Whitefish, Montana, receiving the first infusion of IVIG that we hope will protect Dos Ittles from his/her mama.  I’m on bottle 6 of 12, hour 6 of 15.  Until delivery — sometime in June — I will return once a week to be infused with this magical stuff that should keep my body too busy dealing with the IVIG to pester my fetus.

I alternate between boredom and gratitude.

In the hours of silence that I’ve rarely experienced since Maggie Rose’s arrival, my brain is jumping around, desperate to create cacophony to fill the quiet space.  Answer your emails!  Work on your Quickbooks!  Wasn’t Katy Perry’s Grammy dress the most unusual color?  Balance your checkbook!  Write a blog post!  Did you make that appointment?  Did you fill that order?  Don’t you need something pretty in emerald green?

And then I return to gratitude, as the IVIG drip-drip-drips into my arm, its silvery bubbles catching the light at the top of the bottle.  My mind wanders to all the parents who’ve come before Honeydew and I, whose babies never had enough platelets to make it into this world, and the grief those parents bore and bear, and I tell the cacophony to pipe down so I can reflect on our immense luck: diagnosis, treatment.  One beautifully healthy little girl, and a baby in the womb whose galloping heartbeat I am privileged to hear every hour during my infusions, as it carries my own heart away on its rhythms.

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Lucky, indeed.

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2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.