It was an odd, even somewhat alarming, situation because we're in the middle of a very green summer, with plentiful rainfall and flowers popping everywhere, both wild and those that Félix has planted. Around the English Lavenders, here almost as common as weeds, there seemed to be a traffic jam of bees, but there was activity elsewhere too, including a patch of gaudy zinnias, Mexican sunflowers, gazanias and even some sunflowers.
|A patch of English Lavender, with Mexican Feather Grass|
(golden color) and Mexican Sunflowers (bright red).
|In front is a battalion of yellow flowers supposedly from|
South Africa and whose name I don't know.
What I do know is that they are extremely aggressive,
marching out in all directions, and are very resistant to dry conditions.
"You shouldn't throw so many things away," Félix admonishes me regularly.
So where were the bees and their honey? Had we been hit by the plague that has decimated bee colonies in the States, particularly California?
Sorry, but we have no answers to those questions, even hypothetical or anecdotal, let alone scientific.
But the pall over the bees and the honey production apparently has lifted. This afternoon Stew and Félix discovered seven supers loaded with honey.
"Supers" are boxes in the hives each holding eight rectangular "frames" on which the honey collects. I wonder if our bees' fondness for lavender plants will affect the taste of the honey.
|Entrance to front patio: At the bottom, Mexican sage,|
and over the wall, "Llamarada" vines.
That should minimize the mess of collecting and bottling the product and substantially increase production because under the previous extraction arrangement the owner of the centrifuge claimed half the honey as his fee.
Profits? Hmm, er, well. The centrifuge cost around US$400, including shipping. A friend of Stew has offered to split the costs if we let him use the extractor. But factor in the labor costs of maintaining the hives, packaging and labeling, and profits for this operation might not rise too far above the U.S. minimum wage.
There's also the emotional toll on the residents of Rancho Santa Clara. As I write this, two of our dogs are hiding under the desk after getting stung by a bee that got in the house. Our old dog Gladys flew into our office whining and didn't stir for about an hour.
The honey is great stuff though. Friends have mentioned it and a few weeks ago, during a coughing fit, I made a side-by-side comparison of Stew and Felix's honey versus the commercial stuff from the local supermarket.
No contest. Ours is far better—really and truly. So when I give the word, buy some, eh? Sorry, last year's production of about 20 jars is already exhausted.