Tell me again why WindWalkerCamp this summer?

 I’m sitting here in the middle of the night, laptop actually in my lap, leaning back in the comfy chair, wrapped in one of Kathryn’s quilts, feet up on the bed, thinking about that very thing.

So here’s a really good reason.  Honey in the tea.  And homemade ice cream.

My wife and I became beekeepers last spring, and right now our hives are wintering-over in the back yard.   Those two hives produced over fifty pounds of honey from neighborhood flowers last summer.  We cook with it.  We gift it.  We put it in our tea.  One of my friends uses his honey to medicate himself against his allergies.  It’s wonderful stuff, with a flavor evocative of cinnamon.  We’re planning to split one of our hives this spring to make another, so we’re ordering a new queen, and I’m assembling the new wooden ware in the shop.  This stuff is so incredibly fascinating.  This way we’ll have a third hive in the back yard.  And more honey.

For WindWalkerCamp I’m going to order two hives with at least three supers (the boxes for collecting honey you stack atop the brood box where the queen lays her eggs) each to set up this Spring.  So we can use fresh honey out there to sweeten our tea.  And our pancakes.  And our rolls.  And the ice cream.  I figure I’ll build a couple of extra frames so we can just pull one frame at a time to harvest – no point in harvesting the whole super – and the guys can watch (from a safe distance) how honey is made.  I have personally learned that you can get rather close to the hive to watch them if you’re polite to the bees and respect that it’s their hive and their honey.  Right now our bees are Italian; they’re a gentle strain, and we are looking to introduce a Buckfast queen to build a really gentle third hive that is a really strong producing.

 Queen bees are shipped to beekeepers by mail (the Post Office calls you, and you go down right now to pick them up).   The bees will compete with the hummingbirds at camp for the nectar and pollen.  I hadn’t thought about that before just now.  I’ll write about the squadrons of hummingbirds out there another night.  The native honeybees out there are almost the size of the hummingbirds – they’re just huge.  The honeybee was originally called “dumbledore” in Old English (that’s for the Harry Potter crowd).

 If any of the guys want to actually work with the bees, they’ll need to get gloves, and bee suits.   This is a safety issue for the human and the bees both.  And you never wear dark clothing around the bees.  They think you’re a bear; and that’s not a good thing

 Then, when was the last time you had homemade ice cream?  Not Ben and Jerry’s from the store (which is truly wonderful), but homemade where you and the cousins and your grandparents sat on the porch and passed around the ice cream churn.  Not the electric one you set on the kitchen counter and flip the switch . . . the one that you turn the crank handle till your arm cramps . . . but you can’t let your little brother know you’re hurting, so you keep cranking till he begs you for his turn. That one.  Do you remember how it got harder to turn the colder the ice cream got?   Dang! remember licking the dasher?  That was when I knew, Sunday School aside, that there really was a Heaven.

 I love eBay.  I just bought somebody’s old wooden bucket ice cream freezer at 11:30 at night.  There were a couple more I lusted after . . . one in Kansas, and one in Missouri, but they wanted shipping, too.  I only  looked at the first two hundred listings, and so many of them are for “vintage” electric freezers with plastic buckets.  Uh, no.  The wooden bucket; the hand crank.  And you save the brine in a big glass baking dish and let the water evaporate so you can use the salt again.  That’s the way my Granddad showed me to do it. 

We’re headed for Camp for our third Family Thanksgiving Feast this coming Monday.  And we will be stopping at the antique stores betwixt here and there looking for old ice cream machines.  I don’t want to have to pay shipping.  You and your kids are welcome to join us any time next week out there.  It’ll be tent or small trailer camping.  You bring your own tent and/or trailer.  We’ll have ice cream.  With honey . . .

 Check our website: www.windwalkercamp.com for more details.  But the blog has more up-to-date thinking.

Thank you for reading.

 Uncle Pat

 What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

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