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Traditions & Changes

Morses Line, looking North, from Vermont into Quebec

Our first honey house was in the international village of Morses Line, Vermont & Quebec. On the right of the road is the old Richard Brothers Apiary that we moved into. The second building on the right is the Bucket-of-Blood bar, with the Vermont-Quebec border in the middle of the bar. In the Prohibition, the customers would move north to Canadian side for liquor the name of the bar and remnants of glass in the back yard attested to some of action in this building. The buildings on the left are all in Quebec. The forage for the bees was abundant, and they were independent of any boundary or business there.

If you draw a line from the United States north into Canada, the further north you go, the more honey the bees generally make each season. Our first honey house was as far north as one could go in the United States, in Morses Line, Vermont, north of the US Customs office and hugging the Quebec border. The flowers from the dairy farming community on both sides of the international line supported our bees as they gathered nectar, pollen, and propolis.The two Richard Brothers had kept bees here for years, and we continued that tradition, working with a peak of around 180 colonies of bees in Franklin Country, Vermont.

This is a bi-lingual community the language would gracefully move in out of French and English throughout the day. There is an innocence that is so pure here I remember going to a baseball game in Montreal with one of the neighbor children, and he remarked that the buildings were taller than his silos. The farms here are a sacred space, and are passed down from generation to generation in families that carry their traditions forward in time. We began here with a two seater outhouse, a mortgage of $130/month and a huge, sacred poplar tree in the front yard that gave propolis to the bees (seen as a smaller tree in this picture, on the right of the road.)

Our bees are all wrapped for the winter now. They are stronger than they were 12 months ago, with many more bees of the Russian, mite-resistant stock than we have ever seen. For years we have wrapped them, and when the last yard is completed, there is a peace that settles over the honey house. The hard working bees are insulated from the cold winds, snow and rain. With more than 30 bee yard locations, the wrapping takes weeks and is a rhythm of fall moving into winter that invariably ends with time outside in the snow in a polar environment. This year we started to bring four bee hives tight together, and wrap them in a cluster so that they may share their heat and move through the winter as stronger families. These changes convey and air of hope and promise to the bees.

We are continuing to work with our bees with organic policies. It is expected that at least 30% of the colonies may pass on this winter, and from the stronger survivors we will raise more queens, with the genetics of the Russian bees providing mite resistance. We will not use any chemical medicines to artificially allow the weaker colonies to live. Our organic procedures will protect our Apitherapy raw honey and our traditional plant medicines made with this honey. We feel that every action that we move through regarding the bees is transmitted into the integrity, medicinal and food value of our honey and plant medicines.

There is a new snow today covering the honey house and the fields around here. The snow is welcome as it will insulate the nectar plants, bring water and nitrogen to these plants, and remind us to get our cross country skiis and skates out of storage. As we wind down this season and anticipate the holidays, we reflect on the years of the rhythms of traditions of working with the bees. So much is old, and also so much is new as we learn more about how to have a relationship with the bees that are facing so many environmental challenges. .

About 40% of what you eat depends on pollination by insects, much of this by honey bees. With the decline in bees, gardeners and farmers have been noticing less crops honey bees are the “canaries in the coal mine”, and they have helped us be more aware of changes in our environment. We are grateful to be sharing the traditions of beekeeping and plant medicines with all of you and send you our best and the end of the agricultural season and beginning of new seasons.

about Caledonia Spirits

The adventure continues
a note from the honey house & Todd

I began a relationship with honey bees when my brother Tom and I got our first bee hive and placed it on the top field of our family farm. He was 9, I was 12. We were enchanted by these angelic insects that were always flying and gathering nectar, pollen, and propolis.

About 40% of the food we eat depends on insects for pollination, and to a great degree, these are honey bees. Everything that honey bees do for us is a benefit to our communities. Even their sting is beneficial to most people. If you are not allergic to bees, getting sting by a honey bee can be a very healthy thing. Charlie Mraz always said and wrote that beekeepers do not get cancer. Drawn from the traditions of Eastern Europe where bee venom is respected for its healthful properties that support the immune system, many have come over the years and asked to have bees put on them for this venom.

After some seasons with the bees, I knew that I wanted to be a beekeeper in Vermont. I loved the land and the ongoing rhythms of the seasons, and working with the bees keeps one very close to the earth, the flowers, and the cycles of the seasons and life. Vermont is a community where agriculture is honored and respected.

As one goes north, from Florida to Saskatchewan, the yields of honey increase with each latitude. In Vermont there are five months of cool weather where the bees can gather nectar from the flowers. An average plant is 84% water, and in the south the heat shuts down the water and thus the nectar from flowing through the plants. The heat in the south is much more of a challenge than the cold weather of the north.

Our first honey house was in Morses Line, Franklin, Vermont, with the land touching the Quebec border. We were between the U.S. and the Canadian customs offices, on some land that once had a bar that straddled the international line. The bar was called the “Bucket of blood” because of the fights there in the 1800’s. In the U.S. prohibition, customers would go from the Vermont side to the Quebec end of the business for their beverages. Years later, there still was a pile of broken bottles in the back yard. On one side of the land, the kids would speak French, and on the other English. Two bachelor brothers had lived there for years, and were beekeepers. They left us a barn of equipment to use with our bees.

We took the neighbor youth the Expos baseball games in Montreal, and they said the building were taller than their silos.

In past days, a family in Vermont would have bees, chickens, and elderberries, now many people have dogs, cats and goldfish. That is fine, and I am happy that the bees, the chickens, and the elderberries are returning. It is very exciting.

This mortgage for this first honey house was $1,000 down and $133 a month. There was a two seater outhouse in the rear barn. It was exciting to get plumbing and heat in the house. Next to the house was a huge, sacred poplar tree that the bees gathered propolis from. Our work was very idealistic; the honey went into pint and quart canning jars that were re-usable. A clamshell label was held in place with a rubber band, thus more information could be put on into this label and one did not have to use water and work to get the label off of the jar. With every purchase came a free rubber band. Our label had 8 cycles of the moon on the front of it, Moon Shine Apiaries.

We ran about 180 colonies. While in the seventies, beekeeping was a lot easier than it is now, with most of the colonies getting through the winter then, it has never been easy to be involved in such a labor intensive business and cover all of the costs. We never had a way to heat the honey; I just could not bear to hurt the honey. In the first few hours of extracting and bottling honey, I plucked all of the darker pieces of wax and propolis out of each jar with a chopstick, and then realized that was nuts and we could not do that and continue. We brought this raw honey to market, that was never heated or filtered. People would say that our honey was dirty as it had dark specks on top of the jars. We had to get involved in a ongoing education effort to explain to each person that complained or commented that theses were small particles of beeswax, propolis, and pollen, the “good stuff” that allows for raw honey to be a medicine, a food, as well as a sweetener.

Most all of the honey in the marketplace was heated and would thus stay liquid for months into the winter and spring. Most truly raw northern honey will get hard by the end of October. There were a few co-ops and health food stores in Northern Vermont that would take the honey and in time, asked for this new way (to them) of handling honey, which actually involved taking the time to do nothing to it at all. This was nothing we started, it was just helping to bring back something that had been done 100 years ago. I began to make monthly trips to Boston to serve the stores there, and always stayed with my grandparents. They were a huge encouragement over the years, and for that I am grateful.

In Scotland, we were farmers. One branch of the family distilled, and today, one can still buy the Antiquary scotch from Edinburgh. It began with J & W Hardie. My great great great grandfather John Hardie sailed from Scotland to New York City in 1817. It was a rough voyage, and his diary gives thanks for sparing his life on this sailing ship. “There was no work for a young man” in New York then, he wrote and within weeks he was headed to Alabama to farm. His son John farmed cotton in Arkansas and had a seat on the cotton exchange of New Orleans. He said that “the best best fertilizer was the footprint of the farmer” and that has been a guiding force in my life – take the time, fertilize the ground and relationships, keep going, do your best though all the crop abundances and seasons of crop failure. We have always been in the growing and marketing of the crops. Our friends in Quebec call it “transformation”, to give value to a crop and bring it in a value added form to market.

As a young commercial beekeeper, I tried many a path to make the business work. We took most of the colonies of bees to the Pee Dee River region around Mullins, South Carolina for four winters. There the bees can be “split” in the Spring to make up for the loses that they are experiencing world wide. Spring starts two months earlier in South Carolina then Northern Vermont, and they have flowers to provide nectar and pollen throughout the winter. Spring moves up the Atlantic coats at the speed of 15 miles a day. One Spring we brought the bees from South Carolina to Cherryfield, Maine to pollinate wild blueberries. Moving bees is a Herculean amount of work and expense. I recall the day I was given three checks for $37,000 for pollinating blueberries on a 10,000 acre field in Maine. I was delighted, as I thought I had found a way to make beekeeping work. Later I realized that after all the labor, hiring a tractor trailer, diesel for our own truck, an axel break down in Virginia on the trailer, months of work and the bees not making any honey that summer in Vermont and New York because they were so weak coming off of a month on the blueberries, that we lost money. It was exhausting, but worth trying.

One night I was loading our red Dodge one ton truck at midnight. Especially when it gets warm in the days of Spring in the South, one has to load and move bees when it is dark and cool. I had a vision to look into making cough syrup with raw honey and vinegar. The “folk doctor” from Vermont, Dr. Jarvis, has long taught and written about the value of using raw honey and apple cider vinegar to make a healthy drink.

These were the years of 1,000 miles on the roads each week. After the bees were loaded, I drove eight hours to my parents’ farm in Maryland, slept and hour and then started driving north before it got too sunny and hot, which would have been hard on the bees. When I arrived in New York, I unloaded the colonies and worked with them. These long days gave rise to inspiration on how to diversity, give value to raw honey, and use it in traditional plant medicine.

After Cornell Ag. school, I had moved to Hardwick, Caledonia Country. Caledonia translates to Scotland. After a year there, I realized that I had to be in the Champlain Valley of Vermont and the St. Lawrence River Valley of Northern New York State in order to be a commercial beekeeper, with at least 1,000 colonies of bees. These river and lake valleys are where the bees have traditionally done well. While living in Hardwick, I was the bee inspector for the Vermont Department of Agriculture in Northern Vermont. I inspected the bees of Lewis Hill, and we became friends. Lewis is a gentle giant of Vermont horticulture and with his wife Nancy wrote many books over the years about horticulture, berries, and living in the Northeast Kingdom, the three counties in the north east corner of Vermont.

For 14 years, Lewis told me about the elderberry, a berry bush that he grew in his nursery. He had cultivated varieties that were more hardy for overwintering in the north and that had larger berries. Elderberry has anti-viral agents that get rid of the virus in the common cold.

I was so occupied with the honey bees and building up the operation and the markets for raw honey, that I politely listened to Lewis when he suggested that I look into the elderberry, that I did not hear him for 14 years. In this time, we built the operation up to 1,900 colonies, but the winter loses continued to escalate and be severe most seasons. Then I started to see elderberry syrup in health food stores that was made with white sugar and/or fructose from Europe. I realized that we could make a higher quality product with raw honey and local, organic elderberries right at home in Vermont. I went back to Lewis and told him that I wanted to learn more about the elderberry from him. He was happy that I was finally opening to learning about the elderberry, took me into his office and pulled out research articles and books for an hour.

Tim McFarline and I developed our elderberry syrup formula at the Vermont Venture Center, with the help of the Cornell pilot plant in Geneva, New York. Agriculture is so challenging and humbling, I learned how to ask for help, and we were blessed over the years by herbalists and scientists in Vermont-New York-Quebec-New Hampshire who we collaborated with.

As a second product after the wild cherry cough syrup with raw honey, the elderberry syrup allowed us to continue to diversity away from relying so much on selling just honey from our bees.

Honey Gardens Apiaries was blessed to continue extending its line of traditional plant medicine one season where the bears were getting more of honey than we were sending to market. Hardly an hour went by when I did not have to deal with putting bee hives back together after the bears came into a bee yard. They are looking for the protein in the young brood. While I learned that the bears can communicate across four counties within a day if there is a message about an crop of berries or where the bees are, it was not much comfort as our losses were so great. If there was a tree next to an electric fence, they would climb the tree and then vault into the bee yard, across the electric fence. They are smart.

Then, one day, I was putting eight hives back together that the bears had pushed over in domino effect. Boxes of bees and honey were everywhere. This was a campaign were were not winning. A very clear message came to me that we were spread out too far as commercial beekeepers, should work closer to home, and develop a honey product with purple loosestrife. This beautiful purple plant was spreading throughout many of the towns we worked in Vermont and more so in St. Lawrence and Jefferson Country, New York State. This particular yard was surrounded by thousands of acres of purpose loosestrife. I soon learned that the plant has strong antibiotic, antiviral, and fungicidal qualities. We began to harvest it and mix it with raw honey, Usnea (lichen that grows from living a dead trees), and propolis to make a throat spray and wound wash.

Five years ago we began to make mead, wine from honey. It is a wine that is older than grape wine, from the days of King Arthur’s court. It is appropriate to the north where honey bees are a more of tradition in our communities than grapes. It takes about a year to make good honey wine, and it is easy on the body when one drinks it, which is important for me. In the old days, the term honeymoon came when a couple was married and drank wine for a month to get pregnant and start a family. The wine nurtures amorous thoughts.

We continued our diversification with the bees and honey when we started Caledonia Spirits. Our mission was to employ people and to support agriculture in the region. Now we are buying honey, corn, elderberries, juniper berries from farmers. Three years ago, we built a winery and distillery on the banks of the Lamoille River in Hardwick. It is a very beautiful place, just south of the river, Hardwick Lake and the town forest. You can hear the loons on the lake at night. We have planted elderberries all around the building, and there are two bee hives there.

The adventure continues. Andrew Pinault is working with Ryan Christiansen to distill spirits. I am the assistant to the assistant and enjoy the marketing, graphics, and bees and working with all of the characters and personalities of the team that make this work. We all have gifts that compliment each other. Ryan started a successful home-brew shop and loves fermentation, yeast and the quest for quality. Now he is our Head Distiller and makes Barr Hill Gin and Barr Hill Vodka and Elderberry Cordial. Whiskey is aging in the barrel and our brand new whiskey still is being carefully installed, after we retrieved it at the Portland, ME harbor in early January 2013. Our gin and vodka stills were custom designed and built, using recycled stainless steel and parts from the US instead of buying stills from Europe. On Friday, the smell of honey vodka was in the air. The stills do work. They bring me glasses of spirits to taste, and I am learning. Our gin has a strong tone of juniper berries. The vodka can be creamy, really lovely.

It is good to be back in Hardwick. It is a collaborative community where people help each other. Many of us get together the first Tuesday of the month for dinner and discussion. The host picks a topic that she or he needs help on. When I need a tractor to push snow around, I borrow it from Vermont Soy. We help them develop a plan to do demos in Eastern Massachusetts, get raw milk from their North Hardwick Dairy and are looking forward to learning more about them about how to grow sunflowers for oil for people and to power diesel tractors and vehicles. High Mowing Seeds did trials for us this past summer with 22 varieties of sugar beets as we seek another source of carbohydrates for our beverages that is sustainable and will give the local farmers another option for a crop. After cheese and spirits buyers from NYC leave the Cellars at Jasper Hill, they come to Caledonia. I help the new beekeeper at the Jasper Hill take care of her bees. We love their cheese.

We would be honored for you to visit. In the town north of Hardwick, Barr Hill is in the center of the town of Greensboro. This beautiful hill has been conserved by the Nature Conservancy, and is a great place to hike or cross country ski. The view on our spirits labels is of forests and farms, Caspian Lake and mountains to the South. From the top, you can see the White Mountains, Camel’s Hump, Montreal, Lewis Hills’s nursery, his great nephew Shaun’s brewery, and over to his brother Jasper’s farm. Pete’s Greens is close, the next town north, Craftsbury. We are inspired by the high places.

Caledonia Elderberry Cordial, Barr Hill gin, and our Barr Hill vodka are now available at the distillery, some farmers markets, and the State stores of Vermont in a few weeks. Then we will work in Massachusetts, where Renee has cultivated great relationships with our honey wine. NYC will follow; we are looking for the right distributor relationship. Please let me know if you have any input on distribution in The City, contacts in liquor stores, bars and/or restaurants.

It is all relationship, and New York City and Boston make Vermont agriculture possible.

I am inspired to be in New York City today, where my great great grandfather landed in 1817, and spend the time with our daughter and her friends who just moved to Brooklyn. They are part of the farmers markets, working on fair trade, organic agriculture policy and the growing healthy food system.

Thank you for your support of our work with honey bees and those that work in agriculture.

October 16, 2011

todd@caledoniaspirits.com

a film by Jan Cannon

Health & the Hive: A Beekeeper’s Journey explores the importance of honeybees in our lives. Topics addressed in the film include pollination, queen breeding, disease control, bee venom therapy, organic agriculture and honey-based plant medicine.


November Newsletter 2014

Building a sustainable Caledonia Cooperage

We have gathered white oak in the Champlain Valley of Vermont to make barrels. Each log is over 100 years old and grows very slowly in this cool climate, the northern limit of the white oak. Because of the national barrel shortage, we started this project to make barrels, and this required a forester to find white oak, a sawyer to quarter saw the wood, and a cooper to make the barrels. This will allow us to support our farm partners and use more organic rye and corn.

Logs piled for sawingThe harvest of these logs in the woods is very carefully mapped out. The consulting forester, my brother-in-law Joe Nelson, has a long term relationship with this land and family.

Below is a healthy forest after logging: hemlock on the left, pines in the background, and hardwoods — mostly white oak, along with maple and beech. Vermont has a Land Use program in which forests and fields are taxed at their forest and agricultural value, not the value of the land on the open market, which would make much of the land too expensive for landowners to hold on to and continue to use in agriculture and forestry. With this careful, sustainable management, the forests are actually healthier after this light, selective harvesting.

TreesThe white oak used for whiskey barrels must be of the highest quality available, and is cut and handled in a very precise manner. The sawyer must perfectly quarter saw the wood in order to properly orient the open pores and grain so that the barrel will not leak. The oak will then be carefully stacked and allowed to air dry, preserving the natural resins, sugars and other organic compounds which flavor and color the finest whiskeys.

Log going through millBelow: Bob Hockert, our cooper (on the left), helps to pile the wood after it comes off of the saw mill, where Toby is sending more logs through to be quarter sawn.

Bob piling boards“This oak is a cooper’s dream, with perfectly straight, tight grain and a sweet, highly fragrant nose. Being here during sawing you can just smell the whiskey in the air – this is a wonderful stand of timber. How long it’ll take to dry is anyone’s guess, but a good estimate would be in the 9 – 12 month range. Allowing the wood to age naturally in the open air will enable it to develop its own localized and unique flavor profile. This, along with the minerals and soil conditions these trees grew in, will impart a distinct flavor which will differentiate this whiskey from any produced elsewhere. Over the next year, Ryan will develop a relationship with this wood and these barrels and use this terroir to create a superb spirit”. –Bob Hockert, Cooper

The forester, the sawyer, the cooper, and the distillery all working together are going to make remarkable barrels for our spirits. Meanwhile, Phoebe just wants me to keep throwing wood for her to fetch and bring back.

Phoebethank you for your interest in and support of our work with organic honey, grains, and elderberry,

Todd Hardie signature

 

Todd D. Hardie

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September Newsletter 2014

NEKingdomBarr Hill looking southwest, July 29, 2014.  Camel’s Hump is seen on the horizon, just to the left of center.  photo by Jan Cannon, www.jancannonphotography.com

In Vermont we live and farm in the valleys and hills between the mountains and higher hills.  We treasure and collect those high places that can be ascended in an hour or so, where you can go for part of the afternoon with friends, or dinner with family, like Mt. Philo in Charlotte, Snake Mountain in Addison, Rattlesnake above Squam Lake in New Hampshire, or Barr Hill in Greensboro, Vermont.

Barr Hill is a sacred space, a thin place the Scots say, where the earth and heavens are close together and entwined. She calls to us each season as we hike around her, and in the winter as we cross country ski on the trails that traverse her for hundreds of miles and back to our farms and homes. Here we found the juniper berries that inspired us to make gin and add raw honey to complete and finish off our spirits. As children, we hiked small mountains and hills like Barr Hill with our grandparents, and now we have fires and celebrate birthdays there, with our community.

In 1971, Phil Gray Sr., as earlier agreed with his late wife Margaret, gave 256 acres of the highest land in the town of Greensboro to The Nature Conservancy, acting on behalf of the people of Vermont. The Grays are second from the right and second from the left in this 1950 picture of a family picnic.089331bb-6ee8-4e31-bf33-35c9c8ba2b5b

 


“The view from [Barr] Hill is not grand in the way of western landscapes. What gives it its charm is the alternation of wild and cultivated, rough woods ending with scribed edges against smooth hayfields – this and the accent dots of white houses, red barns, and clustered cattle tiny as aphids on a leaf. Directly below them, across the shaggy top of a lesser hill, is [Caspian] Lake… with the village [of Greensboro] at its southern end. Hardly a cottage (the local word is “camp”) shows around the lake, hardly a dock or boathouse. Green woods and greener meadows meet blue water, and it all looks nearly as wild as it must have looked to General Hazen’s men, cutting a road to Canada through these woods during the Revolution.”
                                                             Wallace Stegner – Crossing to Safety, 1987

Directions to Barr Hill Natural Area: After you pick up a picnic lunch, Jasper Hill Farm cheese, and Caledonia Spirits raw honey in the center of Greensboro village at Willey’s store, take Wilson Street north for 0.1 mile. Bear right at the Greensboro Town Hall onto Lauredon Avenue. Drive 0.6 miles, and at a fork bear left on Barr Hill Road. Go one mile to the “Barr Hill Natural Area” sign. Just before the sign to your left you’ll find a small winter parking area. In other seasons, continue past the sign and gate for another 0.6 miles to a large trail head parking area (room for eight or nine cars). Look for the “Nature Trail” sign and register box.

The State of Vermont has passed the first bill in the country requiring the labeling of foods with GMO ingredients. This is one of the most important bills to protect our food supply and health of our soil and crops. Trade groups that use GMO ingredients, and Monsanto which wants to hide its actions, have filed suit to stop this law from taking effect. For information on how to help Vermont win this challenge, and to donate:

The State of Vermont has passed the first bill in the country requiring the labeling of foods with GMO ingredients. This is one of the most important bills to protect our food supply and health of our soil and crops. Trade groups that use GMO ingredients, and Monsanto which wants to hide its actions, have filed suit to stop this law from taking effect. For information on how to help Vermont win this challenge, and to donate:

http://www.foodfightfundvt.org

thank you for your interest and support of our work with organic honey, grains, and elderberry,


 Todd D. Hardie
                                                                             Todd D. Hardie

thank you

July Newsletter 2014

934eca44-fec4-4c01-afdc-9acd9b9eddd8Ascending to the Lakes of the Clouds hut, at the foot of Mt. Washington

On July 4, Justin was feeling very patriotic, and in honor of our first president, filled his backpack with a 750 mL of Barr Hill gin and began the ascent to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, perched on the side of Mt. Washington, which is the highest peak in the Northeast and is named after George Washington.  The gin was a gift for the crew, those who caretake these huts for hikers in the old and continuing tradition of mountain hospitality.

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The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail follows the Ammonoosuc River some of the way for the 3.1 miles from the parking lot to the Lakes of the Clouds hut.
all photos by Justin Gellert

We found the cairns placed above the tree line to be very important as guides on the trail in the fog and rain, and well as inspiration on the sunny days. Old cairns are found on the trails in the high mountains of Scotland and also at Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick.f8b288ab-bf9a-45f8-b927-da3d359ef5ab

Inspired by the hut system of the Alps where one can hike from hut to hut and get meals, lodging, and shelter from the elements, the huts of the Appalachian Mountain Club go back 100 years. We started our hike at the Highland Lodge parking lot, only 1.25 hours from Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick. Being located in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, we are very close to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. These are some of our sacred places, the mountains that we first hiked together as a family when our youngest was only 6. We always thought it was cool to skip out of school early on a Friday afternoon and drive to the White Mountains and hike into a hut for dinner. The beauty a5c836bb5-68c3-4e2d-8d1c-a3b546b826d3nd glory of the northern summer are truly evident in the high places of these mountains.

 

We are on the Crawford Path (oldest continuously maintained mountain trail in the USA, built in 1819) from Lakes of the Clouds hut to Crawford Notch, a rugged 7-mile downhill path, where the winds reached 80 – 90 miles on the summit the night of July 4; still very windy the next day.

The Appalachian Mountain Club was founded in 1876, and built its first trail up Tuckerman Ravine of Mt. Washington in 1879 and its first hut at Madison Spring in 1888. In 1911 the AMC advocated with other groups for the passage of the Weeks Act, which authorized the creation of the Eastern National Forests.
www.outdoors.org 

join our new challenge!

Send us stories and pictures of your adventures in the special & inspirational places of the world, and include a Caledonia Spirits bottle in the photo. Give us a little history, color, and information on how we may learn more about this sacred earth. If your story is chosen for the next newsletter, we will send or deliver a case of Caledonia Spirits raw honey to your address in the United States, Quebec, or Ontario. Send your photos and stories to todd@caledoniaspirits.com .

Live from the hive: The making of a queen

0777078e-c602-45fd-ac1c-a9a8593cee18In this picture you see a “queen cup” — an elongated cell, looking a bit like an ice cream cone, that contains a queen bee larva. The bees are making a new queen, which they do when the queen dies, is failing, or has left the hive with a swarm. A fertilized egg develops into a queen when the workers feed a fertilized egg with a rich food made of honey, pollen, and enzymes, called Royal Jelly. Because she will be a very large bee, she needs a larger cell to grow in.

The queen bee is born with all of the eggs she’ll ever lay in her extra-long abdomen. Once she has mated she deposits one tiny white egg in each cell of honey comb at the rate of up to 2,000 eggs a day at the peak of the spring buildup. But this egg laying is tied to the sun, seasons, and length of the day. The summer solstice having passed on June 21, the queen has begun to slow down in preparation for winter.

The slightly convex cells at the top of the picture are capped honey cells, while the reddish brown, slightly puffy cells further down contain larvae. The uncapped yellow cells contain pollen. Note the “courtier” bees who are tending the queen cell.

The queen bee is just another example of the miracle of the bees and the perfection exhibited in their life cycle.

- Annie Watson, Thistle Hill Studio

June Newsletter 2014

02435c20-2851-4014-8fe6-0ec33e5945b5the first night of fireflies

is something that I always wait and look for in my life, no matter where I am.  Summer is finally here, the first cut of hay is off, and the vegetables are growing.  The fireflies may have been the portal to my life with honey bees.  As a child, I collected them with my brother and sister and brought them into our bedroom.  They are fun and magical.

Last night the fireflies first appeared at our distillery and later on the farm. Lighting up the night, they flutter around when their season comes, turning on and off with their flight, much as a loon dives under the water and comes up in another place. They come and go with the temperature changes of the night.

There is a rhythm to the seasons that becomes part of your soul. Now the frogs are singing every night, choruses of little peeper frogs and larger tree frogs on the pond and in the marshy areas of the woods. As the temperature rises and falls through the night, the singing moves from one group of frogs to another, just as a conductor points to different members of an orchestra to play through a symphony.

Climbing Barr Hill in the summer is one of my favorite hikes. The juniper berries all over the summit recall the early days when we were hiking here and thought of making gin and finishing it with raw honey. Barr Hill is a thin place. Our ancestors in Scotland call a sacred place “thin”, where heaven and earth are very close and mingle together.

We always anticipate the moment in the summer when we know there will be a crop of honey. I call this “the turning point” – over 12 months of preparation have gone into this moment. The preparation for the next crop never stops; even when you are in the middle of one crop, you are always thinking ahead to the next. I recall one year in the St. Lawrence River Valley of Northern New York. Just as I was seeing 100 lbs. of new honey on hive after hive for the first time, an Amish horse and buggy drove by, with the horses’ hooves pounding on the dry road for a half mile before and after the bee yard. When the crop is on the bee hives, we breathe sighs of relief and gratitude.

This past weekend a swarm moved into some bee equipment on the farm. All the colonies in this bee yard had died this past winter, and that was tough. As I was too busy and bees were not available for purchase at this late date, it was time to surrender. I left a pile of bee equipment outside in hopes of attracting a swarm. When a neighbor came over to borrow bee equipment for her swarm, I noticed a lot of activity in this hive, and sure enough, a swarm of bees had come and made a home in this hive within the last two days. There were just a few eggs, and the next day I found the queen.

“A swarm in May is worth a load of hay
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July is not worth a fly.”

Timing is everything in agriculture, and we are grateful to have the bees back on the farm. There will be squash and berries to pollinate this year, and apples next year.

These are the rhythms of the season in a place that we love, and it is an honor to move through each of the four seasons in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

thank you for your interest in and support of our work with organic honey, grains, and elderberry,

Todd D. Hardie
CLICK HERE to view the complete June 2014 Newsletter

 

May Newsletter 2014

Butterworks_logo“Get right back up on your pony when you fall off.”  These enduring words from my grandmother Agnes have changed a life and the generations that follow.

They describe the life of Jack. Lazor.  Jack and Anne Lazor have been farming at Butterworks Farm for close to 40 years.  Their organic yogurt has been beloved and appreciated for years throughout Vermont and beyond.  The Lazors were early pioneers in growing organic grains on the farm.  What began as a way to provide quality feed for the dairy cows grew into a desire to perfect and encourage the growing of organic grain in Vermont and our region, and to supply quality grain to co-ops, stores, bakeries, and those who make beverages.

I met Jack years ago at our first Food Fair that Northeast Cooperatives sponsored Ann & Jack Lazor ¥ Butterworks Farm ¥ 09/20/06every Spring. The Vermont guys were put together at a table, the young farmers, he with yogurt, me with honey. His inspiration to our work was as important as the Butterworks Farm yogurt, which is most always in our refrigerator at home. For years, Jack has encouraged countless farmers to have courage, innovate, develop value added products, and keep at it. He has been very important in NOFA and the Northern Grain Growers Association.

The history of distilling is agriculture: how to get a return on your crop, how to preserve it, and how to move the crop to the market in a cost effective way. With the revival of craft spirits, we are now seeing a broad support for family farming, with fair prices paid for grains, a higher quality of crops in the shift from conventional to organic farming, and a market demand that is changing grain farming.

Recently I had the privilege of sitting with Jack while he was on his daily kidney dialysis in the living room. With patience and love, Anne went through a lengthy prep process to hook her husband’s chest up to this machine. I had come late to get the truckload of organic corn that we are using at Caledonia Spirits to make corn whiskey and bourbon. The flow of Jack’s life continued and the conversation about corn, how much was in storage from the last crop and available now for milling, went on for hours as we sat together, the machine beeping away and his rugged body, red and scarred from needles and operations, filling the room with courage and the most humble strength you could imagine.

Jack is a gentle giant, who has changed the face of Vermont forever. Without medical insurance, he has some big bills to pay. I hope that you will consider of being a part of this benefit and celebration for Jack on May 24. We would like to make a serious dent in paying off these medical bills.

For a cost of $140.00 we will share a box containing:
• Caledonia Spirits Early Riser corn whiskey, 200 mL flask
• Jasper Hill Farm, 1/2 lb. piece of Alpha Tolman cheese
• Pete’s GrEarly Riser Fronteens, 1 lb. of organic carrots and 1 lb. organic potatoes
• Vermont Soy, a 14 ounce box of fresh organic tofu
• High Mowing Organic Seeds, a packet of Mesclun Mix
• Butterworks Farm, a bag of farm grown cornmeal, with a recipe for cornbread from Anne & Christine Lazor
Jack will be available at the benefit to sign and share copies of his book, The Organic Grain Grower.

Saturday, May 24, 1:00 pm, at Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick, VermontEarly Riser Label Back

To reserve your box contact: todd@nullcaledoniaspirits.com. Please make checks payable to Vermont Jack Lazor Fund and mail to: Vermont Jack Lazor Fund, P.O. Box 1249, Hardwick, VT 05843. All proceeds after actual costs of goods and advertising in the newspapers will be given to Jack Lazor to pay his medical bills. You can reserve your box to be picked up at Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick, Burlington, Caledonia Spirits’ retail location in Ferrisburgh, and other locations around the state and region. Please pass this on to your friends in New York City, Boston, and Washington, DC. This limited edition of Early Riser corn whiskey will only be available through the purchase of this special box for Jack.

thank you for your interest in and support of our work with organic honey, grains, and elderberry,

Todd D. Hardie

Live from the Hive: The gift of the dandelion

May is such an important and busy month for the honey bees. The colony is rearing brood, and many plants are flowering, providing food for the growing population. Ground ivy and dandelions are everywhere. Dandelions are such an important food source for bees. Many people consider them pest plants and spend hours trying to dig them out or pour toxic chemicals on the lawn to kill them. But the bees really need the dandelion’s nectar and pollen to support the colony. Besides, what’s more cheerful than a bright yellow dandelion flower with a bee on it?
Annie Watson, Thistle Hill Studio
Wine Warehouse is now distributing our full line of products to the northern and southern regions of California. The accounts that carry Caledonia are starting to appear on our Store Locator.1962734_771578466188173_8759670309352776659_n