The honey harvest has never happened this early. Considering what an absurd season this has turned out to be – April was June, May was July, June is August — I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised. What surprised us most, really, was that there was any honey to be had at all.

I mean, there’s always some honey in the hives. The bees need it to sustain themselves. And because our main objective in keeping bees is to have them around for pollination purposes – the honey is basically a sweet side effect – our inclination is to first and foremost be sure the bees have enough to continue their important work.

The thing is, it hasn’t been a flowery spring and neither Farmer John nor I had imagined there would be enough honey to harvest. After Larry the Bee Guy assessed the situation in late May and told us to get some jars coming, we were a little skeptical about what he’d find once he got into the hives. Still, we placed the order. It’s not like glass jars are going to go bad. (Not if you raise them right, anyway.)

Yet true to his word, Larry ended up bringing in a decent haul of sugary goodness.

What was particularly interesting this time around was the feral hive. Last year, Larry helped some people out by removing a birdhouse that had been taken over by bees. He brought the buzzing structure here and placed it inside a hive body, where the teeming bees were free to set up housekeeping in a more natural way. Rather than using standard apiary frames to deposit and cap off their honey,

the birdhouse bees were left to their own devices and stored the nectar in more of a free-form design (although their systematic approach remains apparent).

It took more work on Larry’s part to steal some of the feral bees’ honey (and face it, Grand Theft Honey is exactly what’s taking place when we carry it away for ourselves), but oh my it was worth the effort.

Easy to say for those of us who don’t don a stifling beekeeper’s suit in a June that’s really an August, isn’t it?

A week after the “supers” were brought up to the house, Larry and his significant other, Rose, spent a sticky Saturday morning extracting the honey from the overflowing frames. The result is downright decadent – we haven’t had honey this dark and rich in several years. Maybe it’s because the wildflower season was so brief, so anemic. The bees had no choice but to search out other flowering plants as best they could. On this farm, that left them with autumn blooms from our broccoli and cauliflower, the flowering buckwheat cover crops,

and spring blossoms from our apple and pear trees.

Although last fall’s damaging flood and this year’s horrid heat are going to prevent our fruit trees from producing, you can taste the apple in this honey. Our friend Alison phrased it best:

I immediately sensed the undercurrents of earthy buckwheat and fresh apple, but the complexity of the honey’s palette certainly exceeded all expectations. The delicate floral notes were a welcome complement to the powerful mouth-feel of the honey. Congratulations on a very good year!

Okay, so this may be a bit over the top – Alison’s talent with wordplay is legendary – but it’s really not much of an exaggeration. This is some superior honey, for sure.

Mary, however, wasn’t quite so excited when we told her about the honey’s apple undertones. You see, she and Dana and John trek daily to the current (and currently sad) crop of summer squash to de-squash-bug the plants as best they can. I’m sure it feels like an exercise in futility, yet it must be done in the hopes that the next succession of squash might harbor fewer of these destructive pests.

And because squash bugs are actually a type of stink bug, and because Mary equates the stink of these stinky bugs with the fake apple scent of cheap shampoo, she can sometimes be a tad turned off at the thought of anything tasting at all like apples. Even when they’re apples.

But this honey, she confessed after sampling it, is an exception.

When we announced at last Wednesday’s farm stand that we’d soon have honey for sale, customer Devi, sporting a wry smile, asked, “You grow honey?”

Why yes, in a way we do.

* * *

We’re going to have to limit the honey to a maximum of two jars per customer. We have a nice amount – certainly more than we’d normally anticipate in a year like this one! – but not as many as we’ve had in the past. For this Wednesday’s stand, along with the honey, we’ll have:

LOTS of tomatoes again (it’s looking like we’ll have a really good supply this week!) – Italian Bolseno (a favorite here at the farm!), French Marmande, high-acid Defiant, Early Girls, big slicer Bella Rosa, yellow Lemon Boy, and heirloom Cherokee Purple & Cherokee Green; three varieties of cherry tomatoes; the first of the eggplant (mostly the delicious Beatrice, plus some purple eggplant and a few of the white Japanese variety); super sweet Yellow Granex onions; bunches of basil; fresh elephant garlic; some squash; Cubanelle peppers; jalapenos; a few bags of arugula; maybe cucumbers from our friends at Tecolote Farm (we’re still waiting to find out); and anything else we might be able to scrounge up.

**A special thank-you to Rose for taking photos of the honey harvest!

***Our friend Mithu is hosting her Art and Pottery Summer Camps for kids again this year at The Blooming Paintbrush Studio. One of the camps begins today, and she has two more scheduled in July. For more information, check out her website.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)