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Posts Tagged ‘Tasmanian honey’

After much contemplation I have decided it is simply impossible to narrow down my other highlights from Tasmania to a ‘fourth’.

Do I write about the couple of nights I spent with customers who became friends and recently moved to Tassie having designed and built the home of their dreams?  This is the view from their balcony (that’s Maria Island in the background).  It is such a privilege and inspiration to share someone else’s dream.

Living the Dream - Balcony View in Orford

Living the Dream - Balcony View in Orford

Or do I write about the extraordinary beauty of Freycinet National Park, and the angel (from the Blue Mountains) who I gave a lift to and who returned the favour tenfold when I started the walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout only to have a panic attack and flashbacks to when I got lost on a mountain in Canada 17 years ago?! (long sentence… long story)  I can’t actually recall thinking much about it in the last 16 years, but then again, I haven’t done much bush walking in the ensuing 16 years either.  My recall was certainly very powerful on the day, and it just so happened that said angel who I gave a lift to just happened to be a bushwalking guide and just happened to have had panic attacks herself in the past, and just happened to know exactly what to do!  I made it to the lookout (which was spectacular) and put those demons behind me.  The photograph below is from the lighthouse walk in Freycinet National Park.

Freycinet National Park

Freycinet National Park

Another highlight for me was staying at a B&B in Swansea called Schouten House.  The owners, Cameron and Jodie, moved to Swansea from South Australia about 5 years ago.  Anyway, as I was paying and saying goodbye, it somehow came up that I made beeswax candles.  Jodie asked me what the name of my business was.  When I told her it was Queen B, she got quite teary.  Evidently someone does read my blog and in some ways my journey was providing comfort or inspiration for their own fabulous journey into small business, following their dream and creating something that is unique and filled with integrity!  At a time when I was utterly exhausted and questioning everything, it was an absolute gift to have that feedback.

Schouten House

Schouten House

Another highlight for me was simply the sheer beauty of the Tassie countryside.  Here a vineyard with Freycinet National Park in the background.  I can never get enough of the Australian countryside and I’m a complete sucker for a roll of hay, a field of poppies (yes, they grow poppies for opium in Tassie!), cattle, rolling hills and vast blue skies.

Scenic beauty on the East Coast of Tassie

Scenic beauty on the East Coast of Tassie

I kind of ruled out making Bridestowe Lavender Farm my fourth highlight because again it was all about bees, and I wouldn’t want you thinking that I need to get a life or anything like that.  Below is a photograph looking across the lavender fields to their apiary.  Not only do the bees pollinate the lavender, but they also sell Bridestowe Lavender Farm honey from their hives.

Apiary at Bridesdowe Lavender Farm

Apiary at Bridestowe Lavender Farm

Bees pollination lavender at Bridestowe

Bees pollination lavender at Bridestowe

Another gratuitous bee close up

Another gratuitous bee close up

After my stint beekeeping, I went to Cradle Mountain for a couple of days and did the Dove Lake walk on one of those days.  The walk started cloudy and moody (which is actually kind of beautiful when you’re in Cradle Mountain), but cleared up to reveal her glittering beauty.  I also happened upon a very tame wallaby sitting on a rock and had my moment of kangaroo whispering which ended up with the wallaby having a little neck and back scratch all the while one eye closed and urging me “a little lower… a little to the left… no down, now right… yes, that’s it… now scratch”!

Dove Lake walk with Crade Mountain clouded in background (this was at the start of the walk)

Dove Lake walk with Crade Mountain clouded in background

Dove Lake walk with Cradle Mountain in rear

Dove Lake walk with Cradle Mountain in rear

Incredibly tame local

Incredibly tame local

My least favourite part of Tassie was Strahan – I think partly because of the weather (15 degrees, raining and windy for the 3 days), partly because one company owns the entire town (yes, all the various levels of – overpriced – accommodation, plus the pub, the fish shop, the cafe, the restaurant, the tourism centre, even the boat that does the cruises on the river) and its pretty kitsch.  However, having said that, I did the cruise (because I wanted to see the leatherwood forests from the amazing Franklin River, and the photograph below is one of my favourites from the entire trip.  Talk about shades of gray…  I don’t usually acknowledge shades of gray in life!

Macquarie Harbour (Strahan)

Macquarie Harbour (Strahan)

Another big highlight was meeting Yves Ginat, the beekeeper behind Miellerie honey which we sell a LOT of at the hive.  Yves honey is sublime and he has the artisan approach and attention to detail that we love at Queen B.  Learning about beekeeping told by a beekeeper with a strong french accent makes it all sound about as divine and romantic and pure as I know it to be… apart from the fact that he must have been bathing in oil of olay because I also met his 16 year old daughter!  Amazing.  I think he may have been hoeing into the royal jelly – known throughout Asia as a youth elixir.

Yves from Miellerie Honey

Yves from Miellerie Honey

And finally, I couldn’t not have told you about the boat trip that I did around Tasman Island which included an endless array of seals which were just fascinating to watch.

Seal off Tasman Island

Seal off Tasman Island

More seals around Tasman Island

More seals around Tasman Island

So there it is… a little late in finishing, but you get the gist.  If Tassie weren’t on your bucket list prior to now, put it on there.  I actually think the Tasweigans have it right (as opposed to being backward)!  Life is a little slower, but they do what they do REALLY well (amazing honey, amazing wines, amazing cheeses, amazing beauty, great opium – if you’re into that sort of thing, fabulous museum, great cooking school etc etc and they seem to be really into supporting Australian made).  Even the Pure Tasmania tourism campaign (which is a little ironic given they are still systematically destroying their old growth forests) is clever.  Tourism NSW, where the bloody hell are you?

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The rest of my “Highlights from Tassie” posts appear in no particular order.  They were all equally magical in their own way.

The one I’m sharing today is about my favourite work of art at MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) in Tasmania.  I am confident that it was not a curated part of the exhibition, but if art is something that provokes an emotional response, that makes you stop and ponder, that is visually grabbing and that inspires you, then this was, hands down, the highlight for me.

OK, so I’m not going to win any cinematography awards, the resolution is dodgy and whatever I was doing that makes the click, click sound is a little annoying, BUT these are my highlights and unfortunately that is the best that I can do to share with you what was a completely profound and beautiful moment, indeed one of the 4 most profound and beautiful moments in 2 ½ weeks in Tassie… which is only a reflection on my camera skills, not on the rest of my time in Tassie.

Hopefully it will inspire you to look for more bees in your day and watch with delight as they go on their merry way.

 

[BTW the building is also striking and stunning and the rest of the art was, I thought, variable but entertaining].  MONA request on their website that photographs of the art not be published without permission… so we’ll just stick to the building and my favourite work of art.  I really hope you enjoy it too.  There is something so delightful about seeing nature in all its glory and loving itself sick!  The garden was pumping like a mardi gras dance floor.  Flitting here and there.  Sequins and tiara’s.  Bum waggles.  A touch of pink.  And oh so beautiful to watch!

[No, I'm not outing myself, I love a gay man as much as all of us other single Sydney chicks too terrified of getting hurt!]

MONA Gallery, Tasmania

MONA Gallery, Tasmania

I only realised the irony of this photograph later... I wonder if he chose the t-shirt specifically?

I only realised the irony of this photograph later... I wonder if he chose the t-shirt specifically?

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[Sadly, I've just sat for the past 10 minutes thinking about how I can make this post about my trip to Tassie humorous, but it was just so calming and beautiful and serene and full of bucket list ticking moments and friendly folk and community and rolls of hay and cows and sheep and bees that I can't bear to bag it... and I was too busy loving it to laugh.]

Anyway, so, this little bee went to Tassie for 2½ whole weeks.  Amazing.  Yes 2½ whole weeks.  Tassie was good too.  Seriously good.  If you would like to see the full 2,000 photographs, feel free to pop into the Brookvale any time and ask me how my trip was.  Otherwise, I’ll restrict myself to 4 blog posts of the 4 major highlights.

The first was beekeeping in the World Heritage Listed leatherwood forests on the west coast of Tassie.  All the ingredients for a bucket list item:

  • Riding in a semi trailor    √ (OK, that’s actually a square root symbol, and no I didn’t score, but it is the closest thing on wordpress to a tick)
  • over 7 million bees     √
  • Leatherwood honey     √
  • Goosebump raising beautiful forests     √
  • 4am start… not so much
  • 7am coffee     √
  • personal tour of the factory by family patriarch, Ian     √
  • home cooked meals and packed lunch from family matriarch, Shirley     √

That just about sums it all up really.  I’m actually, for once, quite lost for words to describe the experience of beekeeping in the Tasmanian wilderness under the protective wing of the Stephens family (http://www.leatherwoodhoney.com.au/).  RJ Stephens have been beekeeping in Tassie since 1920 and thankfully that means they have bee sites in the pristine World Heritage Listed leatherwood forests on the West Coast.

Just in case you didn’t know, leatherwood trees ONLY grow in Tassie.  Nowhere else in the world.  And it is the most extra-ordinary honey.  It’s very floral.  In an unsubtle way.  Kind of like being punched in the mouth and nose with a bunch of flowers.  Leatherwood honey is to Tassie what champagne is to Champagne.  Parmagiano is to Italy.  Cher is to unitards.  Iconic… and completely unique.

But I digress.  Here are a few of the highlights of my beekeeping experience.

I got to ride in a big truck…

Bird’s eye view from the truck cabin”][Low flying] Bird's eye view from the truck cabinAnd here’s what we were looking for

Leatherwood tree

Leatherwood tree

or in close up

Leatherwood tree blossoms close up

Leatherwood tree blossoms close up

Did I mention the big truck?…

My ride

My ride

The Stephens use “ideal” supers (which are half the height of a normal honey super) and have done so since 1920.  It is fairly unique to commercial beekeeping in Tassie, but makes a whole lot of sense when your extraction and packing worker bees are all women (just like in a hive).  An “ideal” super full of honey weighs in at around 20kgs.  On the truck we had 50 hives, each 9 supers high with around 150,000 bees per hive… over 7 million bees.

A couple of other interesting things – the 4am start was because we had a 5 hour drive into the forests from their base near Cradle Mountain and as bees like to start work at sunrise (and get grumpy if they can’t), it is imperative to get them unloaded as early as possible.  Secondly, you can see the green mesh on the back half of the truck… this covered the entire load for the whole trip so that the bees couldn’t fly off while we were driving as bees come back to the same spot they left.

Unloading "the girls"

Unloading "the girls"

Until a few years ago, all unloading was done by hand and hand-trolley… actually far less traumatic for the bees (and beekeepers) to do it this way.

Happy days... happy bees... let the foraging begin

Happy days... happy bees... let the foraging begin

You can see the leatherwoods in the background on the right hand side of the photograph.  Interestingly a leatherwood tree doesn’t flower for the first 75 odd years.  So that photograph of the tree in full bloom above is of a seriously old tree.

Happy bees... happy beekeeper

Happy bees... happy beekeeper

Time for a quick stroll into the enchanted forest [and a history lesson on the building of the rail link (under the road) which was all done by hand.

As another aside, Gunns are clear-felling just outside the World Heritage Listed area.

Forestry)””]The aftermath of Gunns (aided by Tasmanian [de]Forestry)Ironically, National Parks Tasmania are trying to get beekeepers out of the National Parks because they aren’t a native species… yet logging companies are?  Don’t get me started.  That chat is seriously not funny bone tickling.  No honeybees.  No World Heritage Listed forest leatherwood honey.  No iconic, unique to Tassie honey.  Far less pollination of leatherwood trees.  Sad really.

On a happier note, I’d love to introduce you to the matriarch and patriarch of the operation… Ian and Shirley.  [Ian is "over 85" and still goes out on one of the trucks every day... except for Saturday's when he goes to the races!]

Ian & Shirley Stephens

Ian & Shirley Stephens

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I just came across an old issue of Mindfood magazine which had a great article on beekeeping in Tassie… with a couple of super recipes – Honey Madeleines  and Cinnamon and Honey Swirl Teacake.  I think I’m going to give those madeleines a bit of a run myself this weekend.

Below is a transcribed copy of the article.  Or you can click on the link below to open a pdf.

201105 Mindfood – The Secret Life of Bees_email

The secret life of bees
MiNFOOD meets the clever creators, and the brave apiarists keeping us in honey.
BY Laura Venuto | May 13, 2011

Next time you drizzle honey onto your morning toast, spare a thought for Ewan Stephens. Not only did his day start at 4am, he also had to deal with some pretty aggressive passengers riding on the back of his truck. “They were very nasty today,” he says gravely.

“When you unload the hives it’s nice to have sunshine so they can fly around and look around for the leatherwood flowers. But when it’s overcast, they just hang around you and get pretty nasty.” While Stephens has stopped counting the stings, one beekeeper they had in from Germany counted every one. “He worked out it was about 2300 stings for the season,” he says.

Stephens is a third-generation apiarist, and works with his brothers Kenneth and Neal, and their mother, Shirley, whom they affectionately refer to as the queen bee. Stephens was taught beekeeping from age eight by his father and grandfather. It was his grandfather Robert who started R Stephens honey company (leatherwoodhoney.com.au) as a post-World War I hobby in 1920. It is now the second-largest honey producer in Tasmania; its second-biggest export market is New York.

In a secluded clearing in the pristine world-heritage rainforest areas on the beautiful west coast of Tasmania, Stephens has just unloaded about 100 hives. He will do 24 of these loads over 24 nights to various leatherwood locations on the west coast – a total of 2400 hives. It is early February and the leatherwood trees are just starting to flower. Tasmania is the only place the leatherwood tree grows, making this distinctive-tasting honey all the more unique.

“Our leatherwood trees are normally 400 years old,” says Stephens. “It doesn’t yield honey until it’s 80 years old. It’s a very poor generating tree. We tried to replant them 30-40 years ago but it wasn’t successful. If you burn leatherwood forests out, they’re gone forever. It’ll never come back.”

The leatherwood season is very short, so special bees have been bred to suit the unique conditions. “On the mainland you get honey 10-12 months of the year, but here you only get honey for up to eight weeks,” Stephens explains. “In that time, you’ve got to produce a lot of honey. So our bees are bred from an English black and an Italian gold bee. They’re a very high-production bee and they work very hard for us.


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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At the Queen B Hive in Brookvale we stock both honey and beeswax candles… 22 varieties of Australian honey and over 40 varieties of candles (plus another 100 or so candleholders).  We try to share the joy buying beeswax from some beekeepers and honey from others.

One of our honey beekeepers has a little celebrity following of his own.  Yves Ginalt was features in an SBS series called The Passionate Apprentice.  Whilst I would like to think that the swooning was over his occupation, I suspect that it may have had something to do with his strong, French accent!  Accent aside, his honey is absolutely extraordinary.  Branded Miellerie, meaning Honey House, it is seriously special honey.  Being French, Yves soft sets each jar of honey in its own jar.

Following is an article on Yves from the Sydney Morning Herald.  Read the transcript below, or click on the link at the bottom to see a pdf of the article.  When you pop into the hive, be sure to try all of his honeys… in the meanwhile, read (in a strong French accent) and enjoy!

 

Take Your Sweet Time
9 March 2010, Good Living, the Sydney Morning Herald

A Steady, old-fashioned process results in distinctively delicious honey, writes Lucy Barbour

It’s an early summer morning in the bushland overlooking Tasmania’s Lake Pedder.  Artisan apiarist Yves Ginat wakes in his caravan and brews a pot of tea.  He then sets to work among swarms of bees bringing native floral nectar to the hives.

Then hours and about six stings later, he drives home to prepare organic, cold-extracted honey.

Ginat’s passion for raw, unprocessed honey began in Bourges in central France, where he grew up keeping bees as a hobby with his father.  “we are going every summer to meet the beekeeper just to try his honey from the flowers.  That’s the connection between [France] and now,” Ginat says.

The “now” is Ginat’s life in Woodbridge, southern Tasmania, where he set up Miellerie (French for Honey House) in 2005.  His range consists of Blue Gum, Prickly Box, Leatherwood, Tea Tree and Lake Pedder’s Nectar.  All the honeys are prepared using organic and biodynamic techniques, with an emphasis on French tradition.  “The French are very fussy about the timing of collecting the honey.  It has to be when it has got the pure flavour of the flowers,” Ginat says.

Most supermarket honeys are heated during preparation to achieve a longer shelf life.  Heating can affect a honey’s flavour, colour, texture, nutrients and aroma.  Miellerie honeys are cold-extracted, straight from the comb, so all original qualities are retained.  The colour varies according to the type of flower.  While the Leatherwood is a light creamy shade, the Lake Pedder’s Nectar honey is darker brown and the Prickly Box is a buttery yellow.  They’re also unfiltered, so it’s not unusual to find the occasional speck of pollen or honeycomb spread over your toast.  Savour it though.  It’s all part of the raw-food experience.

The task of cold-extraction is time consuming but Ginat wouldn’t have it any other way.  “we just try to have something coming from the land and the trees,” he says passionately.  “We’re trying to take time to appreciate it so it’s not too rushed and so the honey tastes good.  It’s just like good wine.  It has to be made slowly.”

201003 Miellerie article

Josie Rickards of Wholefoods House in Woollahra says Miellerie is her best selling honey range.  “It’s an artisan type product that’s locally and sustainably produced and it tastes excellent.  The process that [Ginat] uses, the French [method], gives it a creamed honey flavour.  It’s quite distinctive.”


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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