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The sweet spot


The best part of the honey house is the smell.


Joke all you want about "honey house," as a euphemism, but this is the real deal--the true sweet spot.


The honey house--really little more than the sunlit shed of a generous fellow beekeeper --is where we extract honey each fall, cutting the wax cappings off the frames where the bees have deposited honey all summer, spinning the frames to get the honey out, filtering it for wax particles and body parts of hapless bees, and, eventually, decanting it into mason jars.


Walking into the honey house, you walk into a tiny micro-climate: one of sun-warmed air, layers of scent, the sound your shoes make with each step across the tacky floor competing with the gentle buzzing of the few bees who find their way into the house and nudge fruitlessly against the window panes, seeking an exit. You smell hot wax, not of the scented candle variety, but the type that says "eat me."


So you do. You scoop up pinches of warm wax cappings dripping with honey and you put this glob straight into your mouth. You're not the type to use the word "ambrosia," but if you were, this would be a time to pull it out. Imagine the bubble gum experience, but with a flavor pulled from the nectar and pollen of vetch, buckwheat, sweet peas, lavendar, clover, lupine, bitterbrush, and apple trees, mixed in with a little sunshine and undertones of light smoke and mountain air and, inexplicably, vanilla. You chew until the wax tastes only of your own sweet sticky mouth, and then you spit it out.


The honey harvest is a long day: pulling frames from the hives, brushing bees off each frame, uncapping with the hot knife, spinning, filtering. Sometimes you burn yourself on the hot knife, occasionally you get stung, and always, always, you lick so much honey off your fingers that by the end of the day you feel slightly light-headed from all the sugar.


But the process is so elemental and in some ways implausible--these tiny buzzing insects take flower dust and turn it into liquid gold!-- that I find myself not only not dreading it, but actually looking forward to it, especially this year. The bees are purposeful, disciplined, dutiful, loyal, and diligent by design. In a time with so much uncertainty, and so many surprises, the honey harvest is a reminder of all that is constant--an uncomplicated touchstone in an unsettled world.














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