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Christmas time, What have we gained and lost.

I write this post fresh from the delights of Christmas. On Christmas eve, Dad came to the jungle to help me extract. I had to spend a large amount of time over the last few days cleaning up equipment, and otherwise preparing. I have not yet shifted the last of the rats, and believe that a general suspicion of peanut butter has come over them – consequently there was much food-grade equipment in a not so food grade state. Still, nothing that gallons of boiling water, detergent, and elbow grease couldn’t cure.

Once the hot knife, attached to a dangerous looking pressure cooker, had come up to temperature, I was able to start slicing the wax cappings from the frames, revealing the golden treasure beneath. This time it was Dad on the spinner – he has the wisdom of years spanning the opening of the Gettysburg Address, yet a strength which amazes. The younglings were too small for this task, as the honey was very thick, probably from much early willow nectar. He showed me where to add a couple of drops of vege oil to the gears of the extractor, which made for a much smoother turn of the handle.

The younglings were able to open the tap on the extractor, making for delicious streams of gold, and wee cherubs not much interested in lunch.

The urchins have also proved quite adept at foraging, able to extract quality food from many of the greener recesses of our yard. A pavalova with fresh fruit and drizzles of fresh honey is another reward – chickens, bees, and shrubs all contributed their share.

The tally for this harvest, 45Kg, 100lb, of richness. It is a dark, rich honey, compared to standard clover, and with a slight residual wax feeling on the teeth (probably from residual wax?). I won’t have enough buckets, since there are two other hives, and a harvest in march. It is good to have these sweet treats.

Thoughts on grief

As we move into this time of the year, I am reminded not only of what I have gained, but also what I have lost. The last few years have taken a toll on the living, and I briefly list a few which have taken a toll in grief:

  • My Dear Mother – what I wouldn’t give to sit with her and listen.
  • Chickens – Manu, Riley, who died in my arms, and others
  • My original hive, whittled down by Varroa, succumbing to flood and frost
  • Dear Aunty Lois, taken by C
  • Precious little Holly Cat, who loved me more than I deserve
  • Several of our Church Giants, including two Peters, and a Brent.

There have been other losses, not caused by death, but still giving grief, including DuckDuck – who grew up and flew away, and Cheepy Bird – who grew from a chick to a giant Light Sussex rooster, and went on to be the proud keeper of a bunch of Light Sussex hens. There has been the heartache of family division, but I am playing the long game on that one – never give up on a loved one. Colleagues moving on, including Charles, Danny, and the retirement of Dear Miriel. Each of the losses causes a pain, but not always in proportion to the severity of permanence of the loss.

Grief and loss causes different effects in different people. I am one of those who do not show feelings well, having been taught lessons very thoroughly at a state school – just stuff bad feelings down, deep, deep, to let them seep quietly out invisibly, when the world is no longer looking, and hope there is not too much stored up. My son, D, with a better approach, will be a giant of a man when grown – he lost his beautiful Manu chicken, and took on himself the responsibility of burying her. He dug the hole, placed her in, and covered her. Then he wept bitterly, and unashamedly – long may his great heart care for others. His deep sobbing when his Granny’s hearse drove slowly away tore at the hearts of everyone present.

A new year means more honey brought in, more berries and cherries to harvest, then the autumn harvest approaches, with apples and pears and nectarines. I am reminded of the autumn years of loved ones, who knows the hour when they will be removed from us by that long winter sleep. Cherish them.

Merry Christmas, and a happy new year.

“God’s word is sweet, sweeter than honey from the honey comb” Psalm 19:10

“My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul” Proverbs 24:13,14 KJV

One comment on “Christmas time, What have we gained and lost.

  1. Postscript: I must have written with prophetic unction, as poor Geraldine died today, sitting on the nest. I suspect she was egg-bound. Geraldine was the pretty little chicken in the above photo. She was A’s chicken, and he asked if he could carry her to her grave and help dig it. D spent a few hours at the local cemetery a few days ago, looking for (and finding) Dear Aunty Lois, when he was supposed to be at the playground. As long as we love, grief will never be far away, and our western world is poorly equipped to help us deal with grief.

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