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Notes from Todd

Fun Bee Facts

It is estimated that bees have been making honey for approximately 150 million years. Read below to learn a few additional fun facts about bees!

* To make one pound of honey, bees within a colony visit 2 million flowers, fly the distance of two times around the earth and will equate to the lifetime work of 300 bees.
* In a normal harvest year, a beehive can produce 400 pounds of honey.
* While there are over 20,000 species of bees, only 4 are honey producing.

* Drones are male bees and don't have stingers.

* Worker bees are female.

  • Nurse bees feed the queen bee and larvae.
  • Guard bees protect the hive from danger.
  • Scout bees locate new hives.
  • Undertaker bees keep the hive free from disease.

The Value of Getting Stuck

The most memorable time we ever got stuck with the bee truck, St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1997

Beekeeping is a very equipment intensive business; one travels around to a string of bee yards and has to be prepared for a great number of possibilities for the work that has to be done in a unique manner to hundreds of beehives each day. When you leave the honey house in the morning, you are on the road and in the fields until you return, and everything gets taken with you.

In the north country, the work on the land with the bees begins each year when there is snow in the bee yards. In these days of emerging light and warmth, as the weather dances back and forth between winter and spring, we start to visit the bees and make sure that they have enough food to get through to the nectar and pollen of the dandelion season in May. It is a very invigorating time to be on the land; as we travel from one bee yard to another, we see the steam rising from maple sugaring operations and the air is cool and refreshing, but not frigid as it was some weeks earlier.

Because one has to bring so much to the bee yards, the trucks are heavy and laden full of equipment. At times like this in the Spring when the ground is starting to thaw out and get softer, the questions are always there - how firm is the land today, how far do I want to walk (leaving the truck)? I wonder if I can take a walk to the bees with just a hive tool and a smoker to check and see if they have enough honey until spring or do I have to make eight trips and carry in 120 lbs. of boxes each time?

Like a queen bee sticking her abdomen into a cell and using them as calipers to quickly determine if the cell is a worker cell or drone cell, and leaving a fertilized or unfertilized egg there, a beekeeper is always testing the land and an analysis of this risk-reward ration constantly goes through your head and becomes part of your breath and being each hour.

On this beautiful St. Patrick's Day, Billy and I were circling around the last fence post at the Sawmill bee yard on Moses Gingrich' land. I knew challenges were ahead and gained speed to try and clear a muddy zone, but the wet clay swallowed the wheels of the truck and we were soon stuck in place.

Billy said that there was not a tow truck or tractor in this part of the Amish community in St. Lawrence County, New York to free us, and I knew that he was right, but we were soon liberated by a strength more powerful than any truck or machine.

Moses, Jacob, and Rudy are brothers, Amish men that work together in the sawmill. When I asked Moses for help to pull the bee truck out of the mud, he promptly set into motion the steps necessary to help us. He went to get the Percheron draft horses, Daisy and Betsy. As Jacob and Rudy lined up the leather harnesses for the horses, the metal hardware on this tack jingled in a symphony as the horses danced in excitement about going out to work together, their black leather pungent with years of sweat and work. After the horses were hitched to some strong ropes tied to the truck, they easily pulled us out in about ten seconds.

There is a great power in asking for help. People in the country understand when someone is in trouble and respond with a depth of generosity.

As we get stuck, we are forced to stop what we are doing, humble ourselves, and ask for help. It is an opportunity to meet new people and begin friendships. My relationship with this family turned a corner on this day in March. I was always fascinated to see how logs get brought in on a wagon pulled by horses or a truck, dropped off, and with their ingenuity and the strength of their horses, logs get milled, planed, and dried, all without electricity. The many bee hive boxes that I prized the most over the years were built in this sawmill, from boards they made from logs in their shop.

For years, a long thin band of beehives on Moses' land, between the saw mill and a cedar swamp, provided us with tons of honey. I am very grateful for the relationships that grew out of the day where we got stuck, and all the blessings that followed.

Just Add Honey…

Creamed Shrimp and Scallops on Butter Pastry recipe

by Ann Kennedy

(Pair with Traditional Mead)
For the pastry:

* 2 cups flour
* 1 t salt
* 1 egg
* 8 T frozen, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 5 - 6 T cold water

For the creamed shellfish mixture:

* 1 ½ cups whole milk
* ½ cup Half and Half
* 2 T unsalted butter
* 2-½ T flour
* ½ t salt
* dash of white pepper
* ¼ t nutmeg
* ½ cup Gruyere or Muenster cheese, chopped
* 2-½ T raw orange blossom honey
* 1 t Dijon mustard
* Granny Smith apple, ½ peeled and chopped, ½ unpeeled for garnish
* 1 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
* 1 lb. sea scallops

Prepare the pastry as for any pie crust, or use a food processor.

If using a food processor, combine flour, salt and butter and process until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and process for about 20 seconds. Gradually add water a little at a time, processing until dough forms a ball and comes off the sides of the work bowl. Do not over-process.

Wrap and refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment and roll dough directly onto parchment as thin as possible.

Salt the dough lightly and cut into 1"x 5" strips, or use a round cookie cutter, also baking whatever scraps remain.

Bake at 400-degrees about 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce as follows:

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan. Just as it begins to brown a little, add the flour and stir until incorporated. Gradually add the milk and Half and Half, whisking constantly on very low heat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. When the mixture coats the spoon, add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese, mustard and raw honey and whisk until thoroughly combined and mixture has thickened. Add the apple and remove skillet from heat.

Put 1 cup of water in another saucepan, add ½ t salt, and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and scallops, swirl pan briefly, cover and remove from heat for 4 minutes.

Drain well, and add the shellfish to the cream sauce and keep warm.

Put several strips or rounds of pastry on each plate and top with the creamed mixture.

Garnish plate with a fan of thin green apple slices and a sprig of fresh dill.

Note: Frozen or homemade puff pastry may be used in place of the firmer crust, if desired.


Orange Blossom Honey Cheese Cake

By Ann Kennedy

* 4 T butter
* 4 cups vanilla wafers
* 1 T brown sugar
* 3 eggs
* 3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
* 1 - 8 oz. carton Mascarpone (soft Italian cream cheese, readily available)
* 1 cup orange blossom raw honey
* 1 ½ t vanilla extract
* Optional garnish: thin orange slices and mint leaves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and cut a piece of parchment to line the bottom of a spring form pan. Using a food processor, process vanilla wafers into fine crumbs. Melt 4 T butter and add to the crumbs, processing briefly until combined. Press this mixture firmly onto the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Clean the work bowl of the food processor.

Put eggs in processor and process for 30 seconds. Add each remaining ingredient (mascarpone, cream cheese, honey, and vanilla) one at a time processing 30 seconds after each until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Scrape down sides of the work bowl as needed.

Pour cheese mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes until golden in color and set completely. It may still be a little soft in the center, which is o.k. Let set at room temperature for about an hour and then refrigerate for 2 hours. May be served at room temperature after an hour, or after refrigeration. Store in refrigerator.

Optional garnish: Cut a half orange in thin slices, cut slices in half, and arrange in center of cheesecake in a flower pattern. Add mint leaves as desired. Also beautiful with fresh pansies around the base. This is a very pretty, honey colored cheesecake, reminiscent of the spring to come!

Additional optional toppings include: lemon curd, toasted coconut, or toasted sliced almonds.

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