Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bees Belly Up to the Rock

On a day a week, when I am not on The Little Land, I am on a large farm helping out with what needs to be done that day.

The bees in this picture are integral to the whole farm. They pollinate a lot and I cannot walk past their watering hole without stopping and admiring their perfectly stripped abdomens bobbing up and down as they drink. "It is a good idea to stay away from the hives these unusually hot early June days because they are especially feisty". This makes me curious and I wonder if bees are at all like dogs who can sense the tenor of a visitor and respond accordingly. A friend of mine described parting the hanging mass of a swarm with her hands to find the queen buried inside. She learned how to do this in South America and said that bees know if you are afraid.

I sneak up to the blackberry canes and find an especially buzzy and busy area to photograph. When I get settled, they all disappear, moving off into other flower clusters. I think they are avoiding my lens and I follow them. They move quickly from flower to flower. There are two kinds that I can see. The European Honey Bee and the Black Russian Honey Bee. The Black Russian is a very mean bee.

On the kitchen table of the farmhouse sits a squat quart ceramic jar for the honey. It is raw, thick, waxy and crunchy. It smells like blackberries in the heat of ripeness. For breakfast, the farmer eats honey when it is sunny and jam when it is not. Last week I brought home blackberry honey from these bees. The whole long drive, I thought about making honey lavender ice cream to go with the sweet ruby strawberries on my counter. It was better than I imagined. Hard to improve on a good thing, none the less, I will try honey ginger next time.

Honey Lavender Ice Cream
Open the fridge and get two cups of heavy cream and one cup of whole milk. Show some respect to the fat. It is supposed to be there. Eat less. Pour into a sauce pan and add a half cup of honey. Walk past the dog in front of the door and politely ask him to move. Pick a few lavender buds from the bush in the garden and give them a bath in the milk, cream and honey. Watch as the white liquid creeps up the side of the pot and forms little bubbles around the edge. Quick! Turn it off! And wait for the flavors to begin to creep out of their locked in the closet darkness and infuse the cream with a bright sweetness and fresh suggestion of the herbal summer to come. Strain the lavender buds. Chill very well. Taste it all along, when it is warm and as it gets colder. The temperature and fat molecules change. The flavors move from a full warm embrace to a peck on the right cheek. Churn in ice cream maker. Freeze. Mmmmmm. Thank you bees, again and again.