July 12, 2017 29°

Terroir: resulting from the distinctive features of the environment, such as geology, climate and terrain. 

Nothing makes me happier than taking time during the day to wander along the roadside and through the fields to see what my bees are foraging on. They always look so happy and focussed as they bounce gracefully from flower to flower, humming as they go. Maybe they secretly like the independence and relative quiet, a change from the collectivity of the hive. Maybe they're a little high from the nectar and sun and the pollen gathering on their fuzz. (Or maybe I'm projecting...)

In any event, I'm always a bit surprised when people ask me if I have any varietal (single source) honey. Single source honey seems to be popular these days, but I admit I don't get it. I've rarely had a monoculture honey that doesn't seem - sorry to say this about honey - boring. Honey, to me, should reflect the terroir it's gathered from with all the unique complexity that results from soil, weather, and floral happenstance. Every year terroir-based honey is a little different from the year before - in colour, fragrance, texture and taste. Last year my honey was dark and thick; it had an almost astringent quality, the result no doubt of limited forage due to the drought. I wonder if they foraged on the cedars growing in such profusion here. Maybe even honey dew.

But this year - ah this year! The rain and flooding hasn't slowed them down a bit, all my honey supers are full, and the bee yard smells heavenly. My little microclimate here is always interesting, but this year particularly so. The feral apple and Canada plum came late, as did the wild raspberry. Wildflowers were late, too, I was worried that tall grass was the 'new' sweet clover it was so abundant. But no. The yellow and white sweet clovers are already 5 feet tall, as is the chicory and its constant (but shorter) companion, birdsfoot trefoil. The bees have already feasted on the black locust and basswood trees, stag horn sumach and milkweed. This week I have found them on the motherwort every day. Thousands of them. Who knew. Motherwort, the most unassuming of the wildflowers, turns out to be a real showstopper for bees. It does seem that the bees have been focussing on herbs lately, not just the motherwort, but wild mint, viper's bugloss and evidently our neighbour's lavender. Also there's a lovely patch of anise hyssop on the government land that they adore, as do, it seems, all pollinators. One day last year I counted 8 different bee species and four types of butterflies on it. 

Coming up: mullein, thistle, teasel, Virginia creeper. And then later asters, goldenrod. And always a few surprises through the summer.

Varietal honey? Why, when you can experience the richness and abundance that nature offers to your bees.

Next week: The Harvest