Monday, May 7, 2012

American Honey

   A few Saturdays ago I was fortunate enough to spend most of the day with Handsome's colleague at the Commish, our good friend, and my new honey mentor... Maribeth. She's a three-in-one fantastic person to know, and then some! Maribeth had invited me to visit Cripple Creek Farms with her for a beekeepers' social gathering and hive diagnosis demonstration.

   Cripple Creek is a privately owned farm near Guthrie, Oklahoma, where the proprietors Randy and Treasa Brady raise bees, goats, and chickens and grow peaches, vegetables, herbs, and more. They hosted us and a few dozen other bee keepers for coffee and donuts, tours, discussion, and then a wonderful outdoor lunch.They are just as lovely and hospitable as you can imagine, and I hope to return for an agri-tourism event soon! If you shop the Saturday morning farmer's market in Edmond, look for their products.

Thank you for your hospitality, Randy & Treasa!

Their verdant row of peach trees already in fruit 
made the chlorophyll in my veins hum.
(Keep in mind this was almost a month ago.)
By the way, how cool is it that growing foods and flowers 
and keeping bees are so simpatico? So symbiotic? So poetic?
This links my paternal heritage of apiaries 
and my maternal heritage of gardens,
and I just love that.

Goat kids are so cute. In other people's yards.
These babies are bottle fed and certified organic and disease free,
and they will eventually be faithful dairy producers.

   It was a thoroughly beautiful day in every respect. In fact, I learned so much and was so inspired by the experience that I have had trouble deciding how to tell the story. Should I try to tackle the science, or should I instead try to impart to you the magic? That's the struggle I felt the whole time we were at Cripple Creek, too. Should I obey the desire to learn, restricting my imagination and focusing stringently on the education available? Or is this experience meant to fill my heart, fueling me for the pen-and-paper classes soon to come? Should I just surrender to the romance of a thriving bee yard?

   I chose the magic and romance, big surprise.

   Oh, and by the way, that day was also supposed to be the next official bee class at OSU, but I had the instructor's blessing to skip class and attend this instead. You guys, the last time I skipped class it was because I hadn't studied for something and I was looking over my shoulder the whole time!

   Before we continue, perhaps I should insert here that I made the odd mistake of wearing intentionally frayed and holey jeans to the bee yard. The reason was less for fashion and more because I knew not to wear perfume or fragranced soap, so I just took it a step further and wore the same clothes I wore that Friday. Anyway, that was a mistake. 

   My neighbors on the hay trailer were kind enough to notice, and Maribeth helped me seal up the many points of bee entry with her trusty duct tape.

"Duct tape is a beekeeper's best friend." ~Maribeth


    The sky was cloudless. It glowed with that deep, bright color of old denim. The sun poured like warm butter all over my skin, all over the trees and all over every free range chicken and every blade of green grass. If there was any breeze that day, it was mild. Nearly undetectable.

She grew up on the side of the road
Where the church bells ring
and strong love grows
She grew up good, she grew up slow
like American honey

   Once we all suited up and enjoyed a slow hay-and-trailer ride down to the bee yard, a couple of football fields away, we walked around cautiously.

   Following our host I noticed a gradual increase in bee activity. The buzzing was a whisper at first, then it grew louder and more urgent, almost loud enough to sound amplified, like on a microphone.

   But it was lulling, not terrifying at all. The communal hum was downright soothing. I wanted to lay in the grass and clover with the sun on my skin and sleep there or maybe read.

   Do you know what's amazing? The complexity of a bee colony. And the gentle industry.

Steady as a preacher, free as a weed
Couldn't wait to get going
But wasn't quite ready to leave
So innocent, pure and sweet
like American honey

Here, Randy was describing the usurping of a Russian queen bee
by an Italian one and the changing health of the remaining colony.
It's very thought provoking.
Because of my reading material this spring,
the political implications were on the tip of my tongue.

   The long, complicated, delicate process of honey production is possibly nearer to enchantment than even a seed breaking dormancy in the spring. Nature's honey recipe is so uniquely beautiful and so filled with intricacy that the fact that we can not only impose ourselves into that process but also participate in it and even enhance it, well... I have no problem calling that a miracle. What a gift that God would allow us to be involved in this!

Get caught in the race of this crazy life
Trying to be everything can make you lose your mind
I just wanna go back in time to American honey

There's a wild, wild whisper blowing in the wind...
Calling out my name like a long lost friend.
Oh how I miss those days as those years go by
Oh nothing's sweeter than summertime
And American honey. 

Are you entranced by natural honeycomb?
Its shape, colors, texture, even its pale fragrance...

   Maribeth and her husband Dean joined us last weekend for dinner and hours of sparkling conversation. That evening we scouted around the Lazy W and chose the perfect hive location. Handsome and I have a few more preparations to make, then tomorrow evening I drive to Noble, Oklahoma, to retrieve my two colonies. 

   And then the real adventure begins. 

"Hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers."
~Robert Green Ingersall

Tune in tomorrow for a little story about the hive painting...


  1. Oh, I loved this post. Is there anything more beautiful than a beeyard, and honey comb, and those beautiful bees? Heaven. I've never heard this American Honey song. I'm going to go have a listen. And I love your white blouse!

    1. It was so transporting, so truly beautiful to all of my senses, I can only hope to build a bee yard that lively in time. And yes, please do find the song, it's really sad but still wonderful. I think it's by Lady Antebellum. xoxo Thanks for reading!

  2. Hi, Marie! You amaze me! I'm so in awe of all the things you have your hand in from bees to buffalo! And so much in between! Good luck with your new endeavor!

    1. Hi Sonya! Thank you, the adventures are ramping up around here. Hopefully we learn enough along the way to do justice to all the beauty, you know? Thanks for the good wishes, I am equal parts nervous and excited. LOL

  3. Can't wait for all the upcoming "bee" stories!!! And yes, natural honeycomb is amazing. I can still remember the soft scent of it as a child when my Grandfather would harvest the honey after we came off the school bus. We would each get little "nibbles" of it and I can feel the honey on my tongue, gushing out of the comb. I may need to visit you soon.

    1. Hi Tiff! Oh I love your description... "gushing" How wonderful that you have those memories! Is an Oklahoma trip on your radar, really?? You would be so welcome here. xoxo

    2. I have Delta family passes whenever I want, it's just a matter of finding ways to psych myself into getting on a plane again. Have I mentioned how much I hate to fly? Surprising, no?

    3. Tiffany! With this revelation, we'd better see you at The Lazy W soon. Come on, hating to fly is minimal when compared to the freaking fun we could all have together.

    4. Agreed. Let's check those calendars, ladies! :)

  4. Beautiful post, Marie. Once again you've transcended us into your wonderful world. I'm still singing that song - like American honey. It looks like a magical place and a wonderful day.

    1. Good morning Heather! That song brings me to tears every single time I hear it. Childhood, motherhood with daughters, love, nature, reluctant adulthood... New goals. Tough stuff. Thank you for being transcended with me. xoxo

  5. Oh, and I keep hearing Steve Miller Band Wild Mountain Honey playing in my head now. Thanks.

  6. Replies
    1. Tara...xoxo Thank you so much. It's all around us, right?


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