Sunday, February 14, 2016

Beeing There

Last week, I was focused on Bees and  Honey.  It was a glorious springlike week at UC-Davis, where I was attending an intensive mead-making and meadery course. (Mead is wine made with honey.)

Over the course of three days we tasted the sugar and acid components of honey separately and in the honey We tasted more than 30 kinds of honey (including specialty honeys like Cilantro, FoamFlower, and Thyme) and mead made from many of them. 
We learned about   mead contaminants and tasted them (not the most pleasant part) so we could recognize why a mead did not taste delicious, and figured out what happened in the process to make it that way. We tasted mead that ranged from exquisite to some that smelled so horrible I could barely make myself put it to my lips. We tasted the same recipe of mead made with different yeasts and fermented at different temperatures, with amazingly different results. (Sometimes my eyes glazed over from all the chemistry.) The chief apiarist from University of California extension updated us on current bee issues, which are myriad. We toured the meadmaking lab of  the Mondavi Wine research  building at UC-Davis (an amazing  LEED platinum building that is carbon neutral and uses captured rainwater ten times) and the warehouse of a honey broker. We heard case studies from a meadery start-up on the Olympic peninsula and a very successful meadery in New Hampshire. We had a mead judging session with the founder of  the Mazer Cup, an international mead competition. I met  some wonderful mead-loving folks whom I expect will be long-term friends and colleagues.

So why did I attend this mead course?  Rog has been making delicious meads and melomels (mead made with fruit) for a few years now, and I just started making it this winter.   It seems like mead would be the perfect complement to our wood-fired pizza and bread, especially since we raise a few honeybee hives.  After taking this course I am excited to pursue it, but knocked down to earth enough to realize that if we do undertake it, it will take at least a year  of  further research, experimentation and preparation. Stay tuned.
Although I did not bring my camera to the mead class, I took quite a few photos of the educational Honey Bee Garden on campus, sponsored by Haagen Dazs.  The garden has  several hives and wild bee habitats,  and is full of the plants bees prefer for nectar and pollen.
There are many fabulous mosaic sculptures that portray the life cycle and work of bees.
At the bottom of this cylindrical planter are relief images of bees transforming from egg to larva to young bee.
An adult bee feeding a newly hatched bee. The adult regurgitates food via its mandibles to the  outstretched tongue of the young bee. After a few days of being fed this way, the young bee will take its first flight - and poop its first poop, then begin its work as an adult member of the bee community.

The handmade tiles and mosaics in the bee park are exquisite!  When you first  walk into the park you are bowled over by the delicious fragrance of honey from the hives.
 Davis is the hometown of Mandy, one of our awesome WWOOFers from last summer. I was so  delighted that Mandy came home from attending college at Berkeley to adventure around Davis with me! We had breakfast at her favorite crepes restaurant and spent a fun day exploring the city by bicycle.
Thsi cow was my favorite ride, of course,  in the people-powered (by bicycle) carousel at a downtown park.
A draft-horse-drawn wagon on the bike path on campus. You can't get to class on most campuses this way!
 Prickly pear cactus at the arboretum.
Another beautiful mosaic featuring oak habitat on a restroom in the arboretum.
Our bike ride wound through an acacia grove blooming vivid yellow along the creek, studded with egrets and turtles.
Fun public art is everywhere-this sculpture is in front of Whole Foods.

What a great week in beautiful California, staying at a  lovely Air BnB,  biking to my classes every day on the  extensive Davis bike path system, learning so much about mead and honey, dining with fellow classmates every night.
I must admit, I felt a bit guilty being in 70-degree sunshine when it was below zero back home. Thank you Rog and Ruth, for taking such good care of the critters while I was gone.  It was wonderful, but I am happy to be home.



matteus™ said...

Very nice and creative honeybee theme. May i ask from what materials they are made? Is it painted stones ?

Keep the good work up :D

Susan said...

They are huge mosaic sculptures (as tall as a person) -- bits of glass and tiles on concrete forms.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, thank you