My First Tastes of Fresh Honey

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Drizzling farm-fresh honey on a piece of homemade toast; it doesn't get much better.
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GRIT Editor in Chief Hank Will

I can still remember the first time I experienced the taste of fresh honey – it was even more memorable than that first bitter bite from saccharin-sweetened Kool-Aid. I can’t remember the reason my mother had honey in the pantry, but it was my dislike of peanut butter that earned me that first amber teaspoonful – to make a youngster’s lunch go down without the usual fussing. Wow, I was amazed by the way it smelled, tasted and made peanut butter so much more palatable. I might clarify here that I often enjoyed Miracle Whip (why that glop was in our pantry I’ll never understand) sandwiches and cherry preserves with cheddar cheese sandwiches – so my childhood taste in lunch foods might not be considered normal.

Honey most definitely was not used as a regular sweetener at our place in those days. I suspect it was because my father could not cope with sticky containers of any kind. However, I looked for every opportunity to sneak honey and even suggested that eating my oatmeal, toast and corn bread would be a lot easier if I could just have a bit of honey. In time, I realized that honey comes in many different forms and an infinite range of colors and flavors. As I made my way into fourth grade, I anticipated the science unit on social insects – ants were cool, but the honeybees illustrated on the textbook’s cover captivated me completely. Since there were no beekeepers in my family, and no way for a boy to make it happen, I took to stalking honeybees to see if I could discover their hive and catch a glimpse of all the bits and pieces I’d studied so earnestly in school.

Lucky for me perhaps, I never found that wild bee nest (images of Pooh Bear in my head). I trapped many honeybees (and other kinds of insects) in jars with holes poked in the lids. I watched them, and I even got stung a few times, but the allure was always there. When I was a little older, I nearly always had a bit of cash in my pockets from performing various odd jobs for neighbors (allowances weren’t part of growing up in my family – chores were expected), and when I was lucky enough to visit a favored roadside farm stand, I would plunk down my hard-earned cash for honey comb, clover honey, alfalfa honey and even beeswax candles. Then, as now, soothing feelings passed through me whenever I
was in the pres-ence of honey and beeswax.

Last year, a friend built me a beehive and vowed to help me through the process of keeping some bees myself. The nuc order has been placed, and other crucial supplies are on the way. The anticipation of nurturing sufficient bees at our farm to produce even a drop of extra honey is palpable. I am simply beside myself, but hope to follow the
safe-bee-handling advice found on the pages of this book and remain very calm when I am working with my bees.

Whether you live in town or on 1,000 acres, you’ve got plenty of room for a hive or three. In the pages that follow, we’ll help you get to know bees and embark on adventures in cooking with honey, creating queen bees, and becoming a skilled beekeeper. And if you still have questions, visit our website (www.Grit.com), or send me an email at editor@grit.com.

Keep on buzzin’.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.