going rogue

Remember last fall when I was oozing uncertainty about another season of bee keeping? Well. The tables have turned. I’m not sure exactly what transpired, but I’ve done a one-eighty. Spring can’t come fast enough (and, just for the record, it isn’t).

spring honeybee hive

I’ve got big changes up my sleeve. I’m switching from deep hive boxes to mediums. Which basically translates to “easier” lifting. Wait. Did you hear that? It was my back, already sighing with relief. I’m also converting to foundationless frames. This means my bees will draw out 100 percent of their honey comb instead of getting a pre-made starter sheet of wax foundation to guide them.

There are so many reasons why foundationless feels like the right way to go. The most obvious is that bees have drawn out their own comb for hundreds of centuries. Why we felt the need to introduce starter comb to show them the ropes, isn’t entirely clear. Also at the top of the list is a naturally healthier hive. Left to their own devices, bees tend to make smaller cell spaces. This decreases the amount of time larvae spend in the capped cells before hatching out. The shorter development time interrupts the lifecycle of the deadly varroa mite. And, foundation (which is made mostly out of wax from commercial hives) is laced with trace chemicals. Yuck. The bees have it hard enough. Why bring more garbage into their hives?

foundationless frames

I also want to raise more cut comb honey. Which means I’m going to do some radical moves this summer, like “double shook swarming” (a technique that’s just plain fun to say, if nothing else). I’ll spare you the details, but it involves strategically separating hives, placing the components back to back during the prime nectar flow and reorienting/reuniting the boxes again in the fall.

I love cut comb honey. There is, in my book, nothing finer. But for whatever reason, there’s less of a demand for it. People are shy about how to eat it. Which always steers me towards producing more extracted honey. This year though, markets be dammed. I’m ready to spread the gospel.    

These changes are invigorating. Interestingly, my decisions happened through no real process. And that’s what feels so great about it. I’m type A. I plan. I figure. I troubleshoot before the trouble. And there is always a process. This time though, answers just sort of landed in my lap without my brain inserting itself. I’m not only bucking some conventional beekeeping methods, I’m shaking up my general life strategy to boot. I’m going rogue. And I didn’t even plan it!

I’ve mentioned before how my bees bring out the best in me. They slow me down. They make me take notice. And they repeatedly remind me that there is never a concrete answer. Ever. But now they’ve taken it up a notch. They’ve outdone themselves. I let go, threw it all out there, and this is their answer. You know that Zen proverb, about the teacher appearing when the student is ready? Evidently I’m ready. Thanks girls.

cut comb revival

This isn’t a recipe, so much as a mini-manifesto. Paring knife required.

What’s all the fuss about cut comb honey? Plenty. 

At the very least, you can start your day by dropping a spoonful of honeycomb in the bottom of your cereal bowl. Smother it with hot oatmeal, add a pat of butter, a splash of milk, and swirl it all together for a breakfast that will give any cold, grey morning a run for its money. Wash it down with a shot of espresso and you’ll wonder why every morning can’t be cold and grey.

But summer will come, eventually. And when it does, you can drag your chair out to the patio, set out a slab of comb honey, some good French feta, a baguette, and if you’re lucky, a nice chunky beefsteak tomato. Pour a glass of strong sun tea and stay awhile. Hell, knock out a crossword. You’ve got all morning.

Sooner or later, though, you should get motivated. It is, after all, summer–ice cream season. Pairings are endless, but if you need a starting point, try your hand at a batch of fresh fig ice cream and top your cone with a thin sliver of honey comb. It’ll make you rethink the merits of those cold, grey mornings.

Still, when the weather turns and cool nights start rolling in, it means you can throw together big plates of crisp pears, spiced nuts, blue cheese, comb honey, and a nice pumpernickel. Set out some cold salted butter and call it dinner. But do save room for desert. There’s cupcakes glazed with bittersweet chocolate and honeycomb.

honey cupcakes with honeycomb

10 Responses to “going rogue”

  1. 1 mo March 21, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Nice post pig. Go rogue!

  2. 2 Cari T. March 21, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Love it! We all need to go a little rogue.

  3. 3 Ca March 22, 2016 at 7:13 am

    So interesting, Jill. You are quite an adventurous young woman. Love reading your blogs. Your writing is fabulous. Thank you again for the finished product last fall. We have enjoyed it all winter on our adventure. South Texas is my “go to place.’. Happy Spring my dear lady. Cheers to all.

  4. 5 jcirillo50 March 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

    You are the BEST blogger to read Jill. You are such a lovable geek. I wish I sold something else so I would see you guys more often.

  5. 7 Ann March 22, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    When I first glanced at your post I thought it said rouge which is French for red and I thought you were dying your hair red and just couldn’t see you as Lucille Ball or Little Orphan Annie. Relieved to find it is just wild and crazy beekeeping. As always, love your sweet, interesting, funny, charming, witty writing. Look forward to it.

  6. 8 Lois March 22, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Glad you are still going to ‘bee’ in the business, Jill.

  7. 9 Anne March 23, 2016 at 6:34 am

    The Rogue Pig! My happiness at your beeeee decision is purely self-serving. I’m still enjoying your honey from last year which tastes and smells like summer, a welcome treat in the dregs of March. Please put me on your list for some cut comb honey!

  8. 10 Ella Bella March 26, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Yum, thanks Jill; you are so entertaining and interesting.

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