The perfect gift

My elderly father liked to see me go away on little adventures to visit remote corners of Ireland on weekend brakes. He wasn’t up to making the trips himself anymore but said it made him feel young again to see me head off and hear my stories when I came back. There was only one gift he appreciated from these trips, a jar of the local honey.  On my quest for this perfect gift, I keenly looked out for signs for local honey for sale and ended up more than once calling unannounced to beekeepers on their home apiary. I approached these hallowed grounds timorously and with awe. A strange world full of mystery and of magical workings to my eyes. Once, I was looking for beeswax for a little experiment of mine as well as for some local honey. I followed the signs to a farmyard off the beaten track in West Cork, as I drove in I could see beehives through the bushes at the far end.  I stopped and walked only a part of the way over watching the bees, mesmerised but too afraid to go too near. Now that I know a little bit about beekeeping, I still wouldn’t approach another beekeeper’s beehives out of respect for both the beekeeper and the bees.  The beekeeper saw me in the yard and to fulfil my order he led me into his Aladdin’s cave of a shed with a workbench full of the brick-a-back of the trade. There were the usual tools you’d expect to see in a shed for woodwork as well as some more unusually things to my eyes, wooden boxes with no top or bottom, supers under construction, broken frames lined up for repair, bits of wire and chunks of wax and the smell. Not the usual shed smell. A heady smell. A mix of beeswax, old frames, smoke, wood, musty. The inside of a hive smell.  

He was curious why I wanted the beeswax; I hadn’t even realised that there are different grades of beeswax! I explained that I wanted to make cork grease, a lubricant for a musical wood instrument. This certainly piqued his interest, a novel use to his experienced ears. He generously gave me a slab of beautifully rendered, clean, beeswax free gratis.  I 0nly realised years later that that piece of wax of was a less than perfect block of wax he had prepared for a honey show. I hope he eventually won first prize for his efforts.

Winning block of wax – Image from Sleaford Beekeepers Association

My father loved the honey. “There’s a taste of more.” he would always say. It’s a pity he died well before I started on my beekeeping journey. I know he’d have loved to hear all about the trials and tribulations and many shenanigans. I’ve no doubt but he’d be trying his hand at making hive stands and offering advice and telling stories of beekeepers he knew in his youth when beekeepers were plentiful. I think perhaps these searches for the golden grail of local honey bought directly from the beekeeper for my father planted a seed that lay dormant for years until at last I finally heard and heeded the call to become a beekeeper myself.


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