The Beekeeper’s Bounty

By:  Jana Greene

The “Local Honey” signs alerted me that I was approaching the Beekeeper’s house.  I’d passed it every day for several weeks now, debating whether or not to spend a little extra for the “good stuff”, vs. the sweetened corn-syrup available at the grocery store.  They say that locally harvested honey is good for curing Spring allergies, although I’m not sure who “they” are; I just heard it somewhere. Allergies I’ve got, and it is as good excuse as any to buy pricey honey.

Plus, honey on toast is just about my youngest daughter’s favorite thing in the world.  “Honey is bee vomit, you know.”  She told me once, trying to gross me out.   “Sweet, delicious bee vomit.”

The gentleman sitting on his front porch with his wife stood up as I approached the house.  There are a couple of old Mustangs in various states of repair and disrepair in the front yard, and an oversized American flag billowing from a pole hung off the garage.  Right away I could tell they were good people.  Good, Southern, God-fearing “salt of the earth” type folks.  You have to fear and trust God to keep bees, I would think.

They shake my hands and we commence Honey talk.  They have fourteen hives ‘out back’, he says.  It’s just a little hobby of theirs.  His wife goes into the house, shooing a yippy dog away from the door, and returns with two jars of The Good Stuff.

“This here is the Spring honey,” he says, handing me a jar of honey so light yellow, its transparent.  He tells me to take off the lid and smell it, and I oblige.  “Take a sniff of it.  What do you smell?” he asks.

“Flowers,” I say.  And I do, it hints of honeysuckle and wild roses.  There is a thin veneer of golden film at the top of the jar.  It smells like heaven in a jelly jar, I think.  But I think that might be a little dramatic to say out loud.

“That’s a bit of honeycomb that rises to the top,” the Beekeeper tells me.  “We just gathered this honey yesterday.”  I want to dip my finger into the jar and taste the honeycomb, but I assume there is a policy about “you taste it, you buy it”, and I’m not sure of the price yet.  But it is so fresh, I’m sure I will end up buying it regardless.

The other jar of honey was a deep, dark amber.  “That there is the Fall honey,” he says.  “It’s richer and heavier, on account of the sugars have been blending since the fall.”  He unscrews the lid and invites me to touch the inside of it.  “Give it a taste.”

By this point, I just want the taste of honey on my tongue, but I hesitate, not knowing how many other fingers have swiped at the lid.  He pushes it closer to me.  “Go ahead,” he smiles.

So I do.

“I think we must of gathered this last October?” He asks his wife.  She takes a drag on her cigarette and pauses, thinking.  “Yep.  Last October.”

I’m surprised how good the Fall Honey is.  It doesn’t smell of flowers, it just smells of think, dark honey.  Sweet, delicious bee vomit, as Ashleigh would say.

I bought both jars, of course, thinking about how the Bible describes the Promised Land as the “Land of Milk and Honey”.

When I got home that evening, I felt a little envy of the Beekeeper and his wife.  Their lives might well be just as complicated as ours (or more so), but they had a hobby that ensured them easy access to one of the simplest joys in life – fresh honey.  They had a shared hobby as a couple that they seemed to enjoy, and a little side business as a result.  Or was it easy access at all?

I often look at the result – the “fruit” (or honey) of a person’s life, and feel a little envious.  Sometimes I forget that sweet results of the Spirit are usually fought for and won in another realm altogether and are the result of hard work, investing of oneself and some measure of pain.  How many bee-stings did the Beekeeper and his wife endure to get to the honey?  And how many more to get enough honey to share with the world?  If you met this couple casually, you might think their beekeeping endeavor is “all gravy” now…or all honey. 

I jokingly mention to my husband that perhaps we could take up beekeeping as a hobby, but he thinks that maybe the HOA might have a problem with it.  It’s just as well anyway, as I’m not sure we could get past the requirement of having actual bees  and having to deal with their rear-ends of barbed-weaponry.  I’m glad there are salt-of-the-earth people willing to endure the process those of us who enjoy it on our toast, and to treat our allergies.

Land of Milk and Honey, right here in town.