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Many bumblebees at the pumpkin flowers

but no honeybees at all. Any gardeners out there experiencing the same?

Or lots of honeybees? That would be good news.

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Only bumblebees. I haven't noted seeing a honeybee all year. What do bumblebees do with nectar?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

(yuk yuk yuk...yeah just gotta sneak that Civil War humor in no matter what)

Ahem, where was I? Bringiton, not to address you overall point but on the very small matter of motivation for the import of, and intended uses of, European honey bees, I beg to suggest that mead-making was probably pretty low on the priority list. My sources are by and large from later periods than the earliest Colonial period but the oldest one I have, "Mrs. [Hannah] Glasse"s Art of Cookery (first published in London in 1747 and popular on both sides of the Atlantic for the next half century or more) gives only two recipes for mead and makes no especial fuss over either. "To Make Mead" is on p. 256 in between one for "How to make Uxbridge-Cakes" and "Marmalade of Cherries." The other, for "White Mead", is p. 283 and precedes a recipe "To make a Scotch Haggass." Ew.

At any rate the quantity of honey required was not terribly large, about 1 gallon to 5 gallons of water. Well hell, why not just give the recipes Xan and let people judge for themselves...

How To Make Mead

Take ten gallons of water, and two gallons of honey, a handful of raced ginger; then take two lemons, cut them in pieces, and put them into it, boil it very well, keep it skimming; let it stand all night in the same vessel you boil it in, the next morning barrel it up, with two or three spoonfuls of good yeast. About three weeks or a month after, you may bottle it.

Don't ask me about the name on this one; what makes this in any way "whiter" than the previous I am at a loss to explain. But anyway...

To make White Mead

Take five gallons of water, add to that one gallon of the best honey; then set it on the fire, boil it together well, and skim it very clean, then take it off the fire, and set it by; then take two or three races of ginger, the like quantity of cinnamon and nutmegs, bruise all these grossly, and put them in a little Holland bag in the hot liquor, and so let it stand close covered till it be cole; then put as much ale-yeast to it as will make it work. Keep it in a warm place, as they do ale; and when it has wrought well, tun it up; at two months you may drink it, having been bottles a month. If your keep it four months, it will be the better.

Now to me the key ingredient between these two, as far as giving us a lesson in non-local eating, is the lemon. (okay, cinnamon too.) T'aint none of those grow in England, nor the northeast US neither. Trade in fancy/luxury foodstuffs is the earliest (beyond pure exploration) and most reliably profitable reason for shipping either by land or sea. Spices, tea, coffee, citrus fruits, coconuts--these caught on a hell of a lot faster in Europe than potatoes, tomatoes and squash.

You know Jared Diamond's next to last book, Guns, Germs & Steel? He makes a very persuasive, imho, case that it was virtually inevitable that the peoples of Eurasia would conquer and colonize those of the Americas rather than the other way around, in large part because of geography (major land form runs east and west vs. north and south in the Americas) and biology--a plant can be moved as far as you want to east or west and still find growing conditions it can cope with, whereas moving things north and south quickly gets them out of conditions they can survive.

For further unfair advantage the domesticated grains of Middle Eastern origin are way higher in protein than corn is, and apparently much easier to rapidly modify into strains with larger kernels, higher yields etc. So Eurasians had greater quantities of better, higher-protein food, facilitating the growth of larger communities, more innovative technology and shit. Oh and also draft animals, but that's not quite on point and I'm not sure I understand his reasoning there anyway.

I need to reread it but the library doesn't have it and I left my copy with my history prof for him to read over the summer intending to pick it up in the fall. Then wound up running short of money and didn't go back in the fall, and the silly bastard went and died on me anyway so I guess his successor has it.

Having wandered all over hell and gone I return to the original question posed, to report that I have buzzers of all sorts here:

--wasps of profuse varieties, bees some of which I'm sure are Euro and others of similar size but different enough shape or markings that I'm not certain, bumble and carpenter.

Then there's a really tiny thing that's size-wise to a bee like a hummingbird is to a robin, so I"m not sure what it is at all. They're annoying but don't seem to sting so I try to avoid waving them away unless they're right in eyes or ears.

Submitted by lambert on

including, especially, pigs.

Diamond (I believe, but maybe it was 1492?) also argues that this led Europeans to have very strong immune systems, and when they brought their domestic animals to America, the inhabitants were literally decimated.

I understand that bees are part of factory farming. But it's a shame that the ordinary beekeeper has to pay. Seems like bees are a case of co-evolution with us, like cats, and I don't think if all the cats (and, OK, dogs) in the world died of a sudden plague we'd be very philosophical about it...

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Despite reading the immortal CoEvolution Quarterly from nearly the beginning, I had always associated the term with plants. Never occurred to me that it is virtually impossible to "domesticate" an animal unless it sees an advantage to associating with humans. And even then (viz, rattus norviticus, the body louse, etc) they may be dependent on us but not exactly of a friendly nature.

Discover magazine had an article awhile back (last year probably as it's still in my bathroom reading stack) on a guy in Russia who set out to produce a domesticated fox. Spent decades and many fox generations on the project, which indeed may still be going on. They still have to be kept confined as they will light out for the horizon at any opportunity to escape--but they now look bizarrely like dogs, short-legged Scottish sheepdogs to be precise.

I'm not sure I'd even call bees domesticated, to get back to garden-related topic. All beekeepers do is provide a shelter which substitutes for the hollow tree they would otherwise live in. It's protected, it's convenient, it's easy to build wax frames real penalty except losing one's honey periodically, which they also do in the wild every time a bear gets desperate. If the weather is such that they wind up needing what was taken away, the beekeeper provides a substitute to carry them over until more can be made.

And I keep going back to those stories we had when this was briefly on the radar in Major Media. The CCD cases were all occurring in very big commercial producers, particularly ones who transported hives hither, thither and yon. Small-timers, backyard beekeepers and the like said, yeah, we've had the occasional problem with mites, once in awhile weather related problems, but no big deal.

Why the fuck don't the almond growers, who seem to be the ones always cited as the recipients of bee transports, just get their own fucking hives and keep them there year round? It's to pollinate trees for fuck's sake, it's not like the boxes would get in the way of tractors coming through to plow everything under once a year.

(Shakes head in puzzlement.)

Submitted by lambert on

This whole haggis thing is giving me... bad pictures.

I think, BTW, that bees are domesticated in the sense that we have bred and propagated varieties that are more amenable to beekeeping. (And the mites and pests have evolved to keep pace.) Not the same thing as domesticating a dog or a cat, true.

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

of the mead and the haggis recipes (not to mention the typically hey-whatever-floats-yer-boat spelling of pre-standardization days) that struck me as funny and thus worthy of an "ew." And may I point out with all due respect that after

"a few draughts of single malt under your belt and the words of Bobby Burns ringing in your ears"

is hardly a fair standard for delectability as semi-sauteed nightcrawler hemipenes in chilled snot sauce would taste just fine with preliminaries like that. :)

See, once again you write a long and thoughtful post of serious historical significance which no doubt required some time of research and on top of it all you provided links. While i come back with a trivial bit of snark whose primary purpose was to allow me to use "incongruity" and "juxtaposition" in the same sentence, a circumstance I feel certain you would agree comes but few times in ones life.

Bitch, ain't I?

You ever get a chance you should pick up the inestimable (hey, there's another one!) A Sip Through Time, self-published 1994 by Cindy Renfrow. She sent it to us cold when we were first starting out about a year later and all I could give her in return was a review and some swipes of booze recipes from the mid 1860s, so I plug it every chance I get.

This seems to circulate mostly among Society for Creative Anachronism types (dunno if she is one such herself or not) but it really ought to get a wider audience. It's practically a handbook of herbalism along with the hooch.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Never had an audience big enough to bake a full-sized haggis, all I’ve eaten have been at Highlands gatherings here and abroad. Some things are best left to professionals. If haggis gives you difficulty, stay away from lutefisk and seriously beware of sursild.

The term "domesticated" is open to interpretation. Feral cats and dogs will, within a generation, become fully wild and unmanageable. Animal emotional dependence conditioning may not be all that we humans think it is.

Thanks for the literary tip, Xan, I’ll check it out. Writing is fun. Being able to support assertions tossed off earlier with barely a nod to fallible memory is a huge thrill. Yes, I am easily entertained.

Juxtaposition of Incongruity is the essence of Dada. I envision you through the eyes of Marcel Duchamp.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

No props for the obscure yet punnishly contextual Civil War reference? I was so proud…….

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

I'm totally gonna make some sursild.

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I'll eat anything and I have to seriously suck it up for sursild. The trick for me is to not breath in before swallowing. But the aftertaste, ah, exquisite!

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

1 sheep (dead)
depending on size of sheep:
2-6 onions
2-6 cups rendered suet (with oats)
refined ergot alkaloid derivatives
spice to taste
enough water to boil one sheep
1 chainsaw
sursild (pickled herring)

Bring water to boil. Reach down sheeps throat and remove lungs, liver and heart. Chop and add minced onions, salt, spices, birdfood, refined ergot. Combine together. Shove entire mixture up sheeps ass until ingedients are packed tightly in stomach. Drop sheep into boiling water for one hour. After one hour remove sheep. With chainsaw running, remove, in whole, haggis stuffed stomach from boiled sheep. Serve with pickled herring and white heather mead.


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Starting with a dead sheep.

Where's the sport in that?