A New Partner in Sustainability

From the very beginning of this adventure, I have had goals. I wanted to share my love of the earth. I wanted to empower people with the knowledge and skills to make better use of what we have been given. I wanted to find ways to protect the living beings endangered by our past and current mismanagement, whether these creatures are the simple mason bee, or our own precious children. I wanted to personally take ownership of my faults and become less wasteful, be more self-sufficient, and better informed. And of course, I wanted to share this journey with you, and have some fun doing it! I had a vision of being able to provide great products and honest information, in sync with the lifestyle that I am trying to achieve.

That's why I use as many organic and Non-GMO oils as I can when making my soap, but why you will never hear me claim that my soap is organic. To make that claim would be dishonest by the USDAs current rules, and so I just won't do it. Those companies that do make the claim are often only able to do so because they replace water in their recipes with organic juices that provide no benefit to the user other than label appeal. 

I proudly offer the honey that we spin from our hives, and I feel great telling you that it is 100% pure, raw, unadulterated, strained but unfiltered, local, never heated, unprocessed, and delicious. But I won't tell you that it's organic, because that isn't a certification that I could achieve. The United States doesn't even have standards in place for certifying honey. Because of this, the organic honey that you see in the grocery store is likely only certified organic because it has been imported from another country, and certified to that country's standards. 

You have seen me bring houses and nesting materials for our local native bees to the market from time to time. I am proud to do so, because these are the "forgotten" bees. They do so much for us, without the headlines to tell their story. I strive to remind people that these are our bees, pollinating our food. No one else is going to protect them if we don't. 

This fall, I was able to begin stocking Bee's Wrap. This is a product that I initially wanted for my own use, as I am working toward reducing my dependence on plastics. What better place to start, than by removing it from my food? I could not find any store carrying it locally, and trying to DIY this was a huge Pinterest Fail. So I gave up on making it, and decided to become a stockist for the company. The response from all of you has been excellent! And Miss Rachael, my Kindergartener, has enjoyed packing her school snacks in her Bee's Wrap as well.

After all of these things came to be, I was feeling like I was getting somewhere. I was personally growing. I was making an impact on people, even if it was on a tiny level. But something was still missing, and it was right there on my big banner, hanging behind me at every Friday market, and at the front of my table at every show.

My banner:  "Raw Honey * Beekeeping Supplies * Handmade Soap"

My banner:  "Raw Honey * Beekeeping Supplies * Handmade Soap"

Right there, right under my business name, under my very identity, it reads, "Beekeeping Supplies". Sure, I had supplies for raising native bees. But I had nothing to support those folks raising honey bees for themselves. It felt like a lie. Sure, I could have called up one of the big commercial guys - the three or four companies that supply every beekeeping store in the country. But every time I thought about calling, I felt like I was just funneling business to another giant company. Another corporate monster that doesn't care about anything but it's bank balance. So I went on a mission to find beekeeping supplies that fit my mission. Somewhere local. A business that is small. A product that is sustainable for the earth. A product designed with the bees' best interests in mind. For months I have been looking, calling, emailing, researching.

And now, I have it.  Beginning today, I am able to provide you with the best beehives that can be found, and they just happen to be made in Portland, Oregon by a small business that is doing it right. Each hive is made from lumber that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. That means that the wood, either Western Red Cedar or Sugar Pine, has been grown and managed in a way that is not only sustainable, but also beneficial to the ecosystem, respectful of the indigenous people of the area, and caring toward the employees involved. That is something that I can stand behind. That, in and of itself, might have been enough for me to throw my hat in the ring. But then I saw the hives for myself, and they are ingenious. All of the parts are interchangeable with other hives of the same variety (ie Langstroth, Warre), but they have unique features that I haven't seen anywhere else. Some have windows, so that the beekeeper can check on the bees in late winter without having to expose the bees to the cold.

Langstroth Deep Hive Kit, 10 Frame size in Sugar Pine with Windows.

Langstroth Deep Hive Kit, 10 Frame size in Sugar Pine with Windows.

Others have living roofs, planted with sedum, to regulate the temperature inside the hive. All of the hives are "foundationless", which means that there are no plastic pieces fitted into the frames for the bees to start with. Plastic foundation forces the bees to build their cells larger than they would without it. This makes it easier for Varroa mites to infect the brood, which is one of the major causes of bee death today. By removing the foundation, the bees will build cells in their natural size and reduce mite infestations. Will the beekeeper get less honey? Possibly. But it's not about the honey, because it's not about the money. It's about the bees, and it's about pollination. 

Today, I am rolling out three hive kits, each one with your choice of wood and available upgrades. I am incredibly excited to have this new partner in sustainability, and I would love to hear what all of you think.

Katy Penwell

of Milk and Honey, Lynnwood, WA 98087, USA