It’s Thursday and it looks like it’s finally thinking about rain.  We’re so dry here in southern England that it’s starting to become critical – we’re even seeing forest fires and it’s not even summer, yet.  While that’s been good for the bees – no rain means they can go out and forage for pollen and nectar to their little hearts’ content – it’s been dreadful for gardeners and farmers.

The reason I bring up bees is that Thursday is my beekeeping class.  I’m planning on getting my first hive in a couple of months, so I’m in training so that I take the best of care of our fuzzy little friends.  It all started about a year ago when the mister and I were watching a program about country life in France and they mentioned beekeeping in passing.  I said that beekeeping was something I wanted to do one day, thinking … one day … far in the future … when we’re retired and doddering around.  So, the mister jumped on it and enrolled me in my first beekeeping class and that was all it took – I was “bitten by the bug,” as it were. 

The question I’m most frequently asked by folks when they find out my hobby is what exactly do you DO as a beekeeper (besides harvest honey and beeswax)?  As you probably know, honeybees are under threat of hive collapse disorder.  This is caused by any number of things – parasites like verroa, disease like foul brood, and problems caused by pesticides.  Beekeepers are there to help maintain the health of the hive by keeping verroa under check, preventing the spread of disease, and even feeding them if the weather isn’t cooperating.  Most importantly, beekeepers try to make sure the hive doesn’t swarm, which means that the queen has just scuppered off with about half the hive while they rear another queen (the departure of half the hive means that honey production takes a nosedive).

Best of all, keeping bees and going through the hives is as theraputic as time spent in the kitchen or garden.  Because you need to be completely focused on what you’re doing, possibly because of the steady buzzing of the bees, definitely because of the smell of honey and beeswax … well, it becomes a very zen experience.  Check your area to see if there are beekeeping classes near you – I highly recommend it.

I decided to make the torteau beekeeper-friendly by substituting 1/3 cup honey for the 1/2 cup sugar and took it to class.  All I can say is that it created quite a buzz!  In fact my fellow classmates swarmed all over it!  Fantastic recipe – definitely a make-again!!

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