January Fireside

The New Year!

Lots to be excited about, as spring marches ever closer, and the days get slightly longer with each passing day.

So far, the bees are doing well, although it’s very early to start popping corks to celebrate that quite yet.

Thermal imaging and stethoscopes are deployed to give an indication that the colony is still with us. In truth, this is a "feel good" exercise for the beekeeper, and there really should be nothing but good news at this point. The next three months are the critical ones with hopes of a mild end to the winter and an early spring (a Manitoban can dream!)

As you may be aware, last spring the losses were catastrophic, and Manitoba beekeepers spent a lot of time, money and resources on rebuilding the number of colonies. We very much require an average spring this year to maintain population viability. Climate change is an increasingly unpredictable factor, and ingenuity will be the trait of the farmer who succeeds in this new environment. The weather over Christmas in lower Ontario and New York state will not unfortunately be “once in a generation” anomalies. But we press on.

With things slowing down after Christmas I get to spend some time playing in my kitchen/laboratory, working on new offerings for our patrons. On deck in the near future is a peppermint flavoured honey blend (for the tea lovers among us!) and some interesting new varieties of lip balms to serve us all through winter's harshest. I also came across some handy silicon molds for little jewelry boxes. Because a lot of candle molds are also silicon, I was able to convince the beeswax to do its magic.

Now that they exist, I’m a little at a loss on how one could go about using these, but it’s been suggested as a potpourri dish, or a change dish, or just a little tchotchke for your dresser or cabinet. Whatever your imagination inspires, I guess. My imagination frequently seems to stray from the practical. Drop me a line with your ideas, I would love to hear them.

I had the good pleasure of meeting Viktoriia Maslovska and her family just before Christmas. They are staying in Canada as Ukraine is at war, and a safe place for their children is undeniably paramount. CBC Radio interviewed her in early December about her story and the beeswax skin creams she has designed based on her unique background. She mentioned wanting to connect with local beekeepers, and we had the good fortune to not only meet her, but also have tea together and talk shop. In support of her endeavors, we are promoting her wares among our own products, and we look forward to future collaborations with Viktoriia and her partner as they connect with other members of the beekeeping community to rebuild their former business.

The last few weeks has been a battle of the belt notches as the food and baking kept appearing… and disappearing… over the holidays. Our fruitcake was a decisive victory at the baking table, and getting some time to play with some fun recipes was a satisfying treat. I am desperately looking for a honey caramel recipe, so if you have one in your repertoire, I will handsomely award the person who can assist me on that front.

As the New Year kicks off, the holidays become fond memories and we return to our busy lives, we must hold fast the memories of this past Christmas season. The pure joy on the young ones' faces, the time spent with family who we don’t often see, and the fellowship of old friends and other beloved ones. This is the essential essence of what life is all about, not the grind of the office and the seemingly endless other taxing demands of one's occupation.

All the best to you and yours through 2023. We thank you for your support of Manitoba beekeepers and local businesses, and we look forward with glee to the opportunities ahead as we provide the finest honey in all the lands to those who would seek it.

John Russell