Celebrating in Alaska – Part Two

Day 5 – Sitka

Click to View Sitka Map

I felt like I was playing a horrible game of Bingo hoping and praying for number 17 to be called. There was no consistent pattern of time between the numbers being called and no apparent groupings:

“Now calling numbers 2, 3, 4.”
Time passed. We sat on the ship’s red-carpeted stairs swirling from deck four to deck five.
“Now calling (I held my breath) … eight.”
“EIGHT?! I impatiently said to myself. Not even ‘8,9,10?!’”

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Celebrating in Alaska – Part One

May was a whirlwind month with a work event I was tasked with. We also traveled to the Brushy Mountains of NC for a family reunion on my Dad’s side.

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You might remember when Ryder and I went last fall for apple picking. Speaking of Ryder, in addition to his birthday excursion to California in April, we also celebrated his 5th birthday-day with a donut morning and a new super outfit to add to his collection.

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Mohawk Valley Trading Company’s Raw Goldenrod Honey and Four Great Books!

When I opened the box from New York in April, expecting the fun travel pillows from Mohawk Valley’s affiliated company, Crooked Brook, I didn’t expect to receive one of the best honeys I have truly ever tasted! Mohawk Valley’s raw goldenrod honey looks like a melted lollipop in a jar. Fogged with the natural properties that make a honey “raw”: pollen, enzymes, propolis, vitamins and other components exactly as the bees made it in the hive, make this all the more rich and deep with flavor.

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During my first sitting with the simple 16-ounce glass bottle, I compared it to a raw unpasteurized lavender honey my mother had given me from France. The colors were a similar white. The textures are comparatively the most creamy and sublime. Quickly apparent was the Goldenrod’s fruitier notes – apricot maybe? Yet a burn of the amazing raw pollen hitting the back of my tongue and leaving a warm sugar sweet, like that of a bananas foster. A beautiful vegetal, hay-like smell, it definitely continues to intrigue me.

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The hardest part during my second sitting with the honey was getting Rory to stop filling her mini-jar and sucking it down. I even had to scold her when she went to dunk her entire fist in the jar. Her big blue eyes looking at me with utter confusion as to why anyone would hesitate to do exactly as she was attempting. She succeeded in every way to look like Winnie the Pooh. Smacking her morsels of honey and not an ounce of resistibility when she was within reach of Mohawk Valley’s Raw Goldenrod Honey. She had two other honeys before her to compare it to, an alfalfa honey from Terra Bella, CA and a fireweed honey from Southwest Alaska. Yet she was entranced by the goldenrod honey.

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I asked her what she tasted. I kid you not, without thinking, just simply tasting and responding, she said “The best bananas and brown sugar. It is creamy like ice cream.” She went on to describe the smell like “strawberries in grass” and it is undoubtedly her favorite honey yet. I would agree with Rory in the favorites category. The beautiful creamy butterscotch texture is like that of the famous lavender honey of France. The difference, in my opinion, is that the lavender is understandably more floral tasting while the goldenrod speaks to a fruitier flavor (as Rory so easily identified before I even could).

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Mohawk Valley Trading Company’s Raw Goldenrod Honey, Utica, NY.
Color: Water White
Aroma: Vegetal, straw, fruit, with sugar sweet complements
Taste: Fruity, Apricot
Texture: Creamy, butterscotch

Eggman Family Honey’s Alfalfa, Terra Bella, CA
Color: Extra light amber
Aroma: warm, grassy, yet a hint of prunes.
Taste: Molasses and raisins, vegetal with a warm burn that lingers in the throat
Texture: Smooth
Ryder says it taste like sour patch kids. “Has a bite to it.”

Simple Pleasures Alaska Fireweed Honey, Southeast Alaska
Color: light amber
Aroma: Woody and warm
Taste: lemon, coffee, vanilla and candied fruits
Texture: Slick
Ryder says it tastes like watermelon. He likes the color because it is in the middle of the three. “It is a pretty brownish-orange, like when an apple turns brown.” He claims Simple Pleasures’ Alaska Fireweed Honey as his favorite.

In honor of my quest to learn all things honey and hopefully one day get a hive or two in my yard, I have been enjoying four books this spring. They have all been spectacular in their own ways:

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Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper by C. Marina Marchese. This queen bee author is a treasure trove of knowledge. It is quickly apparent how desperate she is to live all things bees. A true lover of the art of beekeeping, this is her first book she released before The Honey Connoisseur with Mr. Kim Flottom that I fell in love with last summer. This little red book is packed with the details of her personal adventure in establishing an apiary in her backyard, acquiring Italian bees, and challenging the reader to take care of the bees.

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I left feeling equally inspired and intimidated. These creatures are real and living. We all can be beekeepers, but the task must be taken with equal reverence and excitement. “Despite all the creative freedom my job offered me, the repetitive designing and sourcing of products was beginning to lose its charm. My affection for honeybees and the vast world of wisdom they bestowed upon me was enticing. It occurred to me that I was a worker bee, but longed to be the queen.” Check out her success in becoming queen at redbee.com

 

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. A beautiful struggle between hippy farmer and brilliant Harvard graduate, Ms. Kimball’s book doesn’t gloss over the details of mucking it up in upstate New York with the love of her life. She left the Big Apple to be swept away in her newly found farmer’s arms, only to find those arms were covered in horse crap and his dream-come-true of a newly acquired draft-horse powered 500 acre farm.

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Through the ups and downs of Ms. Kimball’s milking, of slaughtering, of growing, and cooking, I found myself in flashbacks to my childhood adventures to a farm we visited weeks at a time. Ms. Kimball reminded me of the smell of manure and hay, of a hearty dinner that leaves dirt on the counters and busy dogs underfoot. At times the tension is high, but the depth of love for her farm that soon transforms her is also quick to overwhelm the reader. She encourages us all to give of ourselves and the land will give back to us in return. Ms. Kimball can be found on her Essex Farm in New York and also blogging at kristinkimball.com/essex-farm

 

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. Recently traveling to San Francisco and the Bay Area of California this spring, it was an added bonus to actually see and feel in my recent memories of her city. Dumpster diving in Oakland and scoring high-end foods to slop her city pigs, rabbits, and chickens, I knew this girl had gumption. A product of hippy parents, Ms. Carpenter wanted to find her identity through urban farming. Living with her boyfriend Bill, the ever teddy-bear of a man, he was the quiet supporter and cheerleader to Ms. Carpenter’s craziest of farming ideas in the ghetto of Oakland. The book is beautifully split into three parts: Turkey, Rabbit, Pig, where each takes you on the respective journey of her adventures in raising said farm animals on a squatters land adjoining her second floor apartment.

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She is hilariously fun, slightly gritty and borderline crude, but easily forgiven because of her steadfast compassion for her animals, for her community, and for her contagious quest to know more about farming. She is obviously a diamond in the rough of Oakland. One of my favorite parts was when she was describing her beloved Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon seed germination process. A complex process that would lose most readers in half a sentence, she amazingly describes the watermelon’s intended quest to life and I could see it all clearly. As if a cartoon poster was set before me with vivid colors and vines swirling, I saw her passion for growth before the ground was given the seed she plunged into it (page 51). Ms. Carpenter is kind and humble, often giving all credit of her vast knowledge to other book titles and their respective authors. She showed me that anyone could have bees (second floor balcony of her apartment) or any creatures for that matter, and survive to tell the tales.

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Keeping Bees in Towns and Cities by Luke Dixon. Beautiful large photographs confirmed quickly just how magnificent beekeeping can truly be for anyone – even in London, England. A concise companion for those considering bee keeping, Luke Dixon is as calm as a brood of bees under the smoker and it is contagious. Inspiring and informative, I enjoyed this adventure immensely. “If you have room for a composter or water barrel, you have room for a beehive.”

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