I’ll never forget the look on the the Urban Farmer’s face that one particular night when I asked about his bees. His flannel shirt wrinkled as he slumped into the chair. His head bowed, and his voice emerged very feebly. “They’re gone,” he said, and all I could do was hug him. I’d never met a soul who cared so deeply for each and every bee. There he was mourning an entire hive.
It was his first year of beekeeping, and his bees had fled just before they should have been nestling in for winter. After meeting several beekeepers, this loss of a hive seems to be a beekeepers’ rite of passage. Why the bees choose exodus over hunkering down is still somewhat of a mystery, but there are little signs that can help a beekeeper prevent the loss of a hive. As a newbie, those signs are harder to see, and the timing is trickier. Eventually, like any good relationship though, rhythms and quiet understandings take shape.
Down but not out, the Urban Farmer resumed his beekeeping practice the following spring. The following fall, he “winterized” his bees, and they survived the winter! He added hives and eventually, there was enough honey to harvest and eat!
Those jars of deep amber honey were true beauties because they were the first. They were a dedication to all the bees lost, not just the ones from that hive but from the dwindling honey bee numbers in general. They were a testament to all the stings, all the phone calls to master beekeepers, all the articles read and best practices imitated. They were little victory jars, and we guarded those supplies closely (only family and close friends got sticky fingers from that stockpile). This year though, there was enough honey to sell, which meant, he had to gussy up that honey!
Though I’m proud of his beekeeping in general, these labels definitely had me swooning. I love to see those art/design muscles flexing, and I’m a sucker for beauty. If you live in Pittsburgh, head over to Von Walter & Funk to pick up a jar (and shop some amazing vintage wares!), and stay tuned as you’ll see honey in my ingredients more and more.
Here’s to the Urban Farmer because he’s the bees’ knees!
p.s: Want to learn a little more about beekeeping? Check out my interview with the Urban Farmer in this post.