If you, like me, binged your way through the podcast S-Town, you heard the story of John B. McLemore, the intensely smart southerner who used tattoos and piercings as a form of escapism. The intense pain was one of the few sensations strong enough to cut through the chaos of his active brain, of his fears of the declining earth, and the woes of his small town. Pain was his zen. If tattooing the majority of your body is not in the cards, I have another suggestion: position yourself at the center of a bee swarm!
Spring has sprung since these photos, since our stay at the Moon Shine Cabin at Blue Moon Rising, which means The Urban Farmer is as busy as his bees. I finally had the chance to join him, to spend a little moment away from my stresses, plucking blades of grass from a row of baby lettuce. The sun was warm, the breeze was gentle, and the cars formed a hum in the distance, and every once in a while, my little love bug dog would come and nestle next to me. Just as I had begun to fully sink into the day, the Urban Farmer emerged from the hillside and yelled, “hey, want to see something cool?”
The night before, he had dreamed this moment, an “I shit you not” premonition. The bees were swarming, but he was at the right farm at the right time. He suited me up in a protective hat, I tucked in my hoodie and pretended my garden gloves were thick and official. Then he handed me his phone to capture him capturing bees.
If, when I say “capturing bees,” you imagine the type of butterfly net that one might see on classic Winnie the Pooh illustrations, you wouldn’t be far from the reality. The bees clung to each other, forming an amorphous blob, much like a heavy bag hanging from a weedy, vine-ensconced branch. The Urban Farmer clipped away at the branches to clear an entry path, then he plunged his hand directly into the swarm. The bees exploded into the air, the buzzing noise created a mesmerizing hum, and he poured the remaining hangers-on into a “nuc.”
This is the moment, when the threat of stinging, the swirling cloud of tiny creatures, and the combined hum of each individual buzz, transfix. Movements have to slow, treading must be light, and everything else fades away. As the buzzing grows louder, my mind grows quieter.
It’s these moments, these glimpses when I begin to understand The Urban Farmer’s intense fascination with these little creatures, how they move in waves toward their queen, how they don their “pollen pants,” how they can all fly together to form a cloud through the sky. I’ve known highly educated humans with less organizational abilities than these small wonders.
Eventually, I held one end of a thick, honey-glazed branch, while he sawed through the other end. Then he carefully hauled the branch of bees to the nuc. Reading their movements, he could tell they were following their queen, which was a good sign. It signaled they might stick around, not depart to their ultimate demise. Bees are ever under threat, unpredictable, meriting constant, careful observation, or maybe just an extrasensory perception, a dream sense. The Urban Farmer seems to be there, one with the bees, enlightened.
And then, ultimately, these little zen masters give us one of the greatest gift- liquid gold, one of the only food products to never go bad. It’s wholesome and sweet and prevents the spring sneezes which puff the face and hack away at sanity. Honey should be a pantry and medicine cabinet staple.
When crafting the menu for our stay at Moon Shine, a tiny house cabin at Blue Moon Rising, I thought about what a tiny house pantry should include. What ingredients would be the most versatile, lend themselves to the most meals, require the least refrigeration. Honey was an obvious choice.
… as were pancakes. Pancakes are always my answer to slow mornings.
Staying at Moon Shine meant pancakes paired with a leisurely hike to a grand expanse, and a big, big smile on the face of Julep. I hope these pancakes and apples take you to a place of calm, and if not, maybe try a swarm of bees.
About this Recipe: Start with your favorite whole grain pancake mix, and use raw, local honey instead of sugar. Or, try my homemade Big Batch Homemade Pancake Mix. Double the eggs for an even spongier texture like the short stack pictured. The honey caramelized apples are easy and imprecise. Try swapping other fruits like peaches or plums when in season.
Honey Caramelized Apples
2-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (recommended: Kerrygold)
1-2 Tablespoons honey
1 organic pink lady apple
1-2 Tablespoons slivered almonds
Bee pollen for garnishing
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.
Add the honey. Stir it into the butter and allow to caramelize. This will take roughly 5-10 minutes. Do not let it burn. Once the honey and butter are a dark caramel color, reduce the heat to a medium, and add the apples and slivered almonds to the mixture. Sauté until apples are brown and tender and juices form, about 10 minutes.
Serve on warm pancakes, drizzle with extra honey, and top with bee pollen.