Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Scent of Honey

We were driving from Kyiv to Kaniv, and stopped to see a amazing swath of sunflowers in full bloom, the national flower of Ukraine. Our Ukrainian driver was of course a bit perturbed by another request for a photo stop, but smiled when he himself peeked over the heads of the sunflowers for a souvenir if our trip. Acres and acres of sunflowers, some in full bloom, others ripe or drying, their sunburned heads bowing heavily to the earth. Knowing how much energy sunflowers pull from the soil I stand and marvel that this crop is so huge in the area. The soil here is fertile and rich, the weather humid and hot, the perfect agricultural land.
Honey Vendor near side of road, Kaniv.  amk2013
Getting back in the car we continue driving slowly on the pocked rural highway and my companions comment on an unfamiliar odor, something stinking like sour milk. It reminds me of something and I take a minute to sniff. Interesting! So I wrinkle my nose and try to remember what it could be? An instant later I know. Familiar, I say "мед" and my companions look at me sideways, then ignore me. We continue driving and the scent grows stronger and then around the bend we see a man beside a table laden heavy with honey for sale. I smile in satisfaction that the nose knows. I think of my grandparents and a memory returns.

Once as a child, I joined the family group in taking honey from the bees. I watched at a distance as they smoked the bees and they got drowsy. Pulling the frames out, I remember my Uncle cutting off the wax, then placing the frame into the spinner. Watching the honey drip into the machine and out the spigot was super, and then I came closer. As I stuck my face over the machine, fresh warm honey splattered all over my face and hair! It was sweet, warm, fragrant, and everyone laughed with delight at my surprise!

Another time, we were late in taking the honey, and the weather changed abruptly, causing the work to feel rushed. A warm autumn day gradually clouded over, making the honey heavier and slower. But once you smoke the bees, you have to finish the job, so everyone continued, even when some darker wild bees arrived, attracted by the free lunch. Bees flying too close for my comfort, so we smoked them again, but more wild ones continued to fly near. Everyone else was calm, but being inexperienced and nervous, I dreamed up a solution. Running back into the house, I grabbed Baba's canister vacuum. Extension cord ready, I plugged it in even though there was wild laughter from the Aunties and Uncles. Bound and determined, I removed the nozzle and aimed at the bees. Pop, pop, I started sucking those pesky creatures into the vacuum canister bag! Can you imagine the laughter? Well, if you can, then consider how angry the bees got when they realized they were stuck inside the vacuum canister!

Beekeeper's house at Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky
Pasichnyk and Vulyk
Come to think of it, I honestly, can't understand why my memory of taking honey from the bees stops with that event? Can you imagine why?

Beekeeper's bee house, vulyk

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