Breakfast in the kitchen of Yerba Buena Farm here on the north coast of Jamaica can be a challenge. It’s not the Special K Challenge though, but the Special B Challenge—“B” as in “bee”. Any breakfast food that involves honey—oatmeal, porridge, even in coffee—means that there will be some uninvited guests.
Good morning! Do I really need to share my breakfast porridge with you?
Honey is a big part of the family’s diet here at Yerba Buena Farm. No sugar is used as a sweetener, just honey. That means five gallons of honey a month!
Much of this honey is now being supplied by the hives the family has established. The kitchen, however, is literally surrounded by a portion of them. They are scattered about here and there in the surroundings of the kitchen area. The family literally lives in the middle of an apiary.
Six-year-old Enoch looking through the kitchen window at some hives in the backyard.Also being that it’s the dearth season now assures that bees will be coming over for breakfast. Just putting the bottle on the table is enough to bring a couple over. The solution is to keep the honey in the refrigerator!
Now how am I supposed to pour this? Just opening the honey bottle is part of the breakfast challenge.
Coffee is sweetened with honey here. That means I usually have to fish out two or three bees that decide to go swimming before I finish my cup. Otherwise the alternative is to just drink it black. (Lesson here—look before sipping!)
“I’ve gotten bitten so many times in my mouth and they don’t taste good,” according to Agape, the mother of the family. “Not to mention the big fat lip you get for two days.”
And it’s not just the honey that attracts them. Bees like watermelon too. They’ll jump right on that. Mangos are another fruit they like. This is the middle of mango season and there are more mangos than can be eaten by everyone on the farm. They fall on the ground, get busted open and the bees come for a treat.
Yummy! The bees like watermelon just as much as the boys do here.
It’s a good learning tool, however. There are always some interns at Yerba Buena Farm, mostly university students from the States who come for a month or two to learn and work. Bees are a big part of this now.
These morning visitors give the interns the chance to practice their patience being around these little creatures. This is especially true when they begin buzzing around your face and want to take a sip of your honey-laden oatmeal right as you are trying to put it into your mouth.
You need to get a technique down where you constantly wave a hand over your food to shoo the bees away while getting a spoonful of oatmeal or porridge with the other. The second alternative is to just walk and eat, not giving the bees the opportunity to home in on your dish of food.
“They’re relentless,” according to James, one of the present interns.
One of the boys left his oatmeal out on the table—those weren’t raisins mixed in it!
One recent morning here it was especially challenging. Wax had been rendered from old combs the previous night. The wax was left to cool and harden in the kitchen. Below the layer of wax, however, was some water from the rendering—sweet with a bit of honey that the combs had.
The wax cracked as it hardened, allowing access to that water. In the morning the kitchen was absolutely full of bees going after it. Jessica, the cook, obviously couldn’t (and wouldn’t!) make breakfast. She wanted nothing to do with them.
I took the bowl of wax and the straining cloth outside but there was still bees coming and going around where everything had been. It took them a good while before they finally decided there was nothing more to be found in the kitchen.
So what`s a guy to do when he’s hungry and can’t cook? Some fresh mango and banana makes a good alternative for breakfast. And luckily bees don`t like bitter coffee.
The bowl of wax now setting outside the kitchen with lots of little friends on it. Now imagine the amount of bees flying around the kitchen.
Taking a morning drink. The bees took a while to disappear from the kitchen.
The breakfast alternative when the bees make it hard to cook—fresh mango and bananas. At least I could also manage to heat up a bit of water to make some coffee—had to drink it black though.