is truly a time of transition for beekeepers. Ideally,
the summer's hard work has resulted in bountiful honey harvest,
and by now the bees have been prepared for the long months of
winter. Reflecting on the past summer I find the
common thread of intensely hot days spent in the protection
of a bee suit, and this summer's uncommon thread of the reality
of potentially deadly mosquito stings. That being said,
I am reminded of a recent Letter to the Editor of "Bee Culture"
in which a very wise beekeeper said: "... the key to being a
good beekeeper is doing what needs to be done, when it needs
to be done, how it needs to be done, whether you feel like it
or not." So you do it meticulously when in needs to be
done. But autumn's cool days and nights seem to wash away the
memory of the summer's heat and already there is a certain melancholy
about wrapping it all up until next spring. My last visit
to the beehives left me with a particularly memorable moment.
It was a cool morning when I opened the top (telescoping) cover
of one of the colonies. The bees had not yet formed their
winter cluster and several of them were gathered on top of the
inner cover. As the daylight and the cool morning air
invaded their space they lined up in a very orderly fashion
and pointed their posteriors in my direction so that what I
first saw was an impressive array of bee stingers. I did
not take this as an unfriendly gesture, but rather as yet another
opportunity to respect these remarkable little creatures - I
realized at that moment that I would miss those gals over the
long winter months. I could not help but smile.
adieu to the bees is tough enough - this weekend we will start
and finish our last Big Brew of the season. Bear
in mind that the term Big Brew is relative. For Medovina
"Big Brew" is just shy of 3 barrels, or 84 gallons. While
this scale might, by some, be considered rather provincial,
it remains a very exciting undertaking for us. After all,
we are not simply pouring honey into our kettle, what we are
pouring into the kettle is a summer's worth of hard work - hence
the excitement. Since our honey comes only once per year we
have designed our mead making process to take maximum advantage
the time afforded by the annual honey harvest cycle. This
means moving the honey from the hive to the fermenter as expeditiously
as possible. The freshest honey makes the best mead.
Almost as fast as it began, the Big Brew cycle is about to end.
But next comes the specialty meads, the Paonia Peach, the Stinging
Rose, the Ancient Mead and the prototyping for future products.
I suppose there's not much time to be melancholy, and that's
a good thing...