Monday, August 9, 2010

The Land of Honey

Last weekend Calhoun and I packed up Sogn and made the trip north, to the land of Calhoun's forefathers, the land of honey.

I met Calhoun in college and knew him as a serious, button-up shirt khaki wearing, academic guy. As I got to know him more I realized that there's a lot about him that's kind of surprising. Perhaps the most surprising thing that I've learned about Calhoun is that when he was growing up, his father was a bee keeper. I was familiar with farmers kids, pastors kids, professionals kids, but I have never in my life met the child of a bee keeper.

Calhoun's grandfather was in bees and his dad took up the business. Calhoun was raised checking the bees, working in the honey house and he's been stung more than I could ever imagine. He talks about the work in the field, the long hours and the heat. Calhoun's dad is not in bees anymore, but something I love about going up there is the honey. I, like most lovely suburban children, grew up eating honey out of the honey bears in the grocery store, with no specific loyalty to the honey producer or its origin. But the honey at Calhoun's house is different. It's in huge canning jars and it's kept next to the stove, above the refrigerator and in the basement. It's also on the table in its crystalized form, where it goes directly onto bread products such as dinner rolls and pancakes. The honey is also appreciated as one might appreciate fine wine, they have developed the ability to taste the different pollens that have gone into the honey and appreciate honey that is from far away lands.

Although he doesn't formally keep bees anymore Calhoun's dad has access to honey and we were able to use honey from his yards as wedding gifts this past fall. I was so happy to be able to give away beautiful honey bears with the family name on them.

Calhoun's dad has sold most of their bee keeping materials and hasn't set out to have a hive of bees in years. But this spring, in a small, haphazard stack of honey supers, his dad discovered that some bees had found themselves a queen and set up shop next to the honey house. This means honey!

I've only ever seen a beehive on TV and when I heard that they had a working hive that was the only thing that was really on my list of stuff to see this weekend. I imagined walking up to it and pulling off the lid to look in on honeycombs. I wanted to stick my finger in there and have honey straight from the hive (like Winnie the Pooh). So, we made plans and we headed out to the honey house. But, after some reminding from Calhoun that I haven't been stung by a bee since I had a horrible allergic reaction about ten years ago, the fear of being stung setting in, and I didn't have the courage to get out of the car. A working beehive has a lot of bees going in and out of it! Although it was cool to see Calhoun's dad out there with a smoker, with just his baseball cap and some bands around his pantlegs, I remembered that I don't like buzzing or stinging creatures and stayed in the car. It was like a safari, we drove up real close to the hive and I stuck my nose against the window to get a good look at the busy bees, but I enjoyed the hive from inside my little hatchback. Maybe someday I'll get up the courage to eat honey straight out of the hive, but this time I just needed a good, close look.

And, we brought some honey back.

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