Derby Week Recipes – Honey Mint Julep

It’s Derby week!  I’ll be featuring Kentucky recipes that are traditionally served during Derby time.

Even though it’s Monday, I’m starting out with the most traditional recipe of all – The Mint Julep – with a Honey twist!


  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups water, heated
  • 1 cup honey
  • cracked ice
  • bourbon


First, make syrup:
Heat water. Whisk in honey and heat until blended. Remove from heat. Add mint and let the mixture steep for 20 to 30 minutes.

For each Mint Julep:
Add cracked or crushed ice to Julep tumbler or glass. Add 1 1/2 ounces of Kentucky Bourbon. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons syrup, or to taste. Stir lightly. Garnish with fresh mint leaf and serve with a straw.

Honey Barbecue Ribs


  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 pounds ribs
  • 1/2 cup honey


Heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the paprika, onion powder, 4 teaspoons salt, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and a few grinds of black pepper. Rub the mixture all over the ribs and allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours at the most.

Place the ribs snugly in an oven dish with the fat side of each rib facing up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and don’t be afraid to top the dish with another heavy dish to ensure the seal! Cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, at this point the meat should be falling off the bones. Remove the ribs from the oven and raise the temperature to 425 degrees F.

Using a pair of tongs, flip and move the ribs around a bit. Drizzle the honey evenly over the top of each rib. Place the ribs back in the oven, this time leaving it uncovered and cook another 10 to 15 minutes.


I love both the hymn and William Blake’s lyrics…


And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land

Peony Envy

Peonies can live and thrive for decades. And bees love them!

Peonies bloom in the late spring, but they do best when planted or transplanted in the fall. For the most part, planting peonies is pretty straightforward. However there are a few special needs peonies have that are best accommodated at planting time. In particular, the choice of where to plant peonies and how deep to plant them.

How to Plant Peonies

What to Plant:

Peonies can be transplanted as plants, but just as often you’ll be planting the tuberous roots. Either way, the peony root should contain at least 3 eyes. Peony eyes are small reddish buds, similar to the eyes of potatoes, that will eventually become stems.

The reason for the rule of thumb of 3 eyes on each transplant is so that the tuber is large and strong enough to survive and bloom within a couple of years. A root with only 1 or 2 eyes will still grow, but it will take longer to mature enough to flower.

Plant with the eyes facing upwards and the roots spread out.

When to Plant:

Peony growers dig their peonies in the fall and this is definitely the best time of year to plant them in your garden!

A peony planted in the early fall will have the opportunity to put out a good number of feeder roots before the following spring. I’ve noticed in my garden that fall planted divisions that have had several weeks of growing time before the ground freezes, do better the following year than those that have had less time to develop new roots. This is particularly important if the spring is hot and dry.

Peonies can however be planted right up until the ground freezes if necessary.

A word on spring planting….peonies purchased in the spring more than likely have been held over winter in cold chambers. Planting them in the spring without letting them have the benefit of fall feeder root growth puts the plants under severe stress. Peonies being the tough plants they are will usually recover, however they have suffered a set back and will likely not establish as quickly as those planted in the fall.

A few garden centres will pot up peonies in the fall for sale the following spring. Though containers are not ideal growing environments for the bulky roots of peonies, at least they have had the opportunity to put out some feeder roots in the fall. This is not the case for those peonies potted up in late winter or early spring.

If you are buying peonies from a garden centre, ask a) what size of plant is in the container i.e. a 2-3 eye or a 3-5 eye division for herbaceous and Itoh peonies and 1, 2, 3 or 4 year old plant in the case of a tree peony and b) when was it planted i.e. last fall or recently. Plant containerized plants as soon as you can get them into the ground.

Cooperate with nature and plant peonies in the fall!

Where to Plant:

Herbaceous and Itoh peonies generally prefer cooler climates and are easily grown from USDA Hardiness zone 3 through 8. Gardeners in zone 2 and 9 however have reported success with some peonies.

In general, herbaceous and intersectional peonies require a sunny, well drained location. They will however accept, and perhaps benefit, from some light shade in areas that have very hot dry summers. The rule of thumb is that 6 hours of direct sunlight a day will ensure maximum flower production.

Tree peonies have a slightly different growing range. They can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 8 or 9 but require winter protection in Zones 4 and 5 to bloom reliably. Tree peonies will also support more shade. Deep shade however will reduce flower production. The best shade is that provided by a high, light foliage canopy.

Standing water is the number one enemy of a peony!

If water is allowed to stand on the crown or around the roots, rot quickly sets in and the plant declines and can actually die. Peonies, like roses, are heavy feeders and enjoy a heavy fertile soil. They do well in heavy soils however the trick is to ensure that drainage is impeccable.

How to Plant:

Peonies are heavy feeders and do not appreciate being moved so it is important to ensure they are planted in good, fertile soil. If the soil needs to be amended it is best to use compost or very well rotted manure. Fresh manure is reputed to burn the plant and spread pathogens.

If you are opening up a new area for planting consider having soil tested for pH and nutrient levels before planting. I believe peonies prefer a pH of between neutral and slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 7.0) but they seem to tolerate a wide variation. The soil testing facility will usually make recommendations as to fertilizer requirements to correct any imbalances. Though soil testing is not a necessity, it can be useful to know your exact growing conditions, not just for peonies, but for all your plants.

Since peonies can remain in the same spot for upwards of 70 years, taking the time to prepare the soil before planting is time well spent.


Peonies like a good chill in the winter. In order to set their flower buds, peony roots should be planted relatively close to the soil surface; only about 2-3 inches deep. It may feel odd to leave roots so exposed, but peonies actually need this chilling to attain dormancy and set buds.


Be sure you don’t start accidentally burying your peonies deeper when you add mulch to your garden. Keep the mulch away from the base of your peony plants.


Give each peony plant enough space to grow to maturity without being crowded. That means about a 3-4′ diameter for each plant. Peonies are especially prone to gray mold (botrytis) when planted too closely and denied air flow between plants.


Peonies need at least 6 hours of sun each day and a full day of sun is even better. Without sufficient sunlight, you’re going to get fewer blooms and smaller flowers. Plus, your plants stand an even greater chance of getting a fungus disease, like gray mold.

You shouldn’t need to divide your peonies for many years. In fact, peonies dislike being disturbed and often don’t bloom for 2 or 3 years after divisions. However, if your peonies are growing in good conditions and they still aren’t flowering well, it could mean that it’s time to lift and divide them. Use a sharp tool to divide the roots into sections with 3-5 eyes each and replant ASAP. Follow the same steps for transplanting as for planting.

An (Almost) Painless Extraction

The opening of the hive the other day wasn’t exactly painless.

My business partner Denis wasn’t dressed for the job and got more than his share of stings. I didn’t zip up my bee suit all the way and got a boo boo on my face.

Thank goodness the job of extracting the honey yesterday and today went a lot more smoothly. It’s a sticky job, but somebody’s got to do it.

The honey is absolutely delicious! If there is anyone out there who has not had fresh, unprocessed honey, you have to try some soon. It is so different and so much better than store-bought honey, it is hard to describe.

Next week my new bees will arrive and I will have two hives. I’m trying to find a supplier who still has package bees so I can have a third hive this year.

I love spring and summer!!

Honey Macaroons


2 large egg whites
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
fine sea salt


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir together egg whites, honey, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until combined. Stir in coconut until completely moistened.

Roll coconut mixture into small balls between your hands, then place about 2 inches apart onto baking sheet.

Bake until pale golden in spots, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. And they taste even better when they’re made with honey!

Honey retains moisture, so these cookies are crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside.  Perhaps the perfect CCC !

honey chocolate chip cookies

Credit: Anna Stockwell


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tbsp. honey
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to to 375º F. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, honey, eggs, and vanilla; gradually add the dry ingredients until a dough forms. Stir in the chocolate.

Drop 1-tablespoon portions of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper; bake for 8-9 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets after 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Bee Sanctuaries – Spikenard Farm

Situated in Floyd, VA in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Spikenard Farm and Honeybee Sanctuary aims to restore the health and vitality of the honeybee worldwide.

Since founding Spikenard Farm in 2006, Gunther Hauk and his wife Vivian have been actively spreading their vision of sustainable biodynamic beekeeping.

The Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary provides on-site workshops, lectures, consulting and publications. This work is possible through the support of many foundations and individuals around the country.

Spikenard Farm and the Hauks have been featured in the movies Queen of the Sun and Vanishing of the Bees.

Here are some clips:

First Honey Harvest

We’ve had an idyllic spring in Ohio this year. Nectar has been flowing since March. When we opened the hive today we found a whole super full of honey!

Our inspection of the hive was not without incident. My business partner Denis was there to help me lift the heavy deep supers. (I’m only using medium supers from here on out!)

Denis was determined to be a manly man and refused to wear a bee suit. He figures he got stung about ten times. He bore it well. I gave him two Benadryl and sent him home.

I realized I’d left my smoker near the hive, and, of course, it was smoking like a chimney!  I hurriedly put my bee suit back on and went to retrieve it.

Of course, I didn’t zip up the hood all the way. Now I know where the expression “having a bee in your bonnet” comes from!

I only got stung once, but it was right on my lower lip. That bee must have known how vain I am about my appearance!

Once again, I got stung while doing something stupid!

All in all, a very good day.  My bees are happy, healthy and very feisty!  It looks like it’s going to be a good year.

Tomorrow we’ll be extracting the honey!!

Bee Sanctuaries – The Melissa Garden

The Melissa Garden is a honeybee, native pollinator (there are 1700 species of native bees in California) and habitat garden sanctuary in Healdsburg, California, at the western edge of the Russian River Valley, on top of a ridge at 850 feet in elevation. Four gardens planted with many exuberant flowers for nectar and pollen forage are situated in the center of a pristine 40-acre ranch that is lush with native vegetation.

The Melissa Garden is a project that was begun in the fall of 2007 by Barbara and Jacques Schlumberger at their home. Their goal is to provide honeybees, native bees and other pollinators with an almost year-round source of floral resources- free from pesticides. Studies have found that native bees and honeybees both benefit from feeding on a variety of flowers, so season-long the garden is kept filled with an abundance of annuals, perennials and shrubs that offer attractive pollen and nectar to insect visitors. There is a mixture of plants native to California, many Mediterranean plants and others that are appropriate for the site and climate.

The same exuberance of flowers and explosive colors have attracted many people as well. The Melissa Garden has become a garden of life to feed all visitors, both insect and human. Many people have came to visit, bee-tenders, mothers groups, children, school classes, University of California Master Gardeners, garden clubs, professional gardeners, scientists and the general public who are concerned about the plight of honeybees and biodiversity in general, and wanted to learn about gardens that support them.

The gardens’ vibrant colors, naturalistic plant compositions, and intense buzzing life have created deep connections with people, and many share very touching early and present associations with nature. A lot of people leave inspired to plant their own pollinator or habitat gardens, fulfilling exactly the main goal of the project.

Living with bees – a new approach to “bee tending”. Barbara and Jacques Schlumberger live with the bees under a new paradigm at the Melissa Garden. The phenomena of the bees is approached on the premises that the colony constitutes one single being. The focus is shifted towards the study of their life forces, and interaction with them is centered around their natural needs on all levels. Most of the hives are designed to serve the bees’   health and well being.

Natural comb, free swarming and innovative hives are part of the TMG way. No allopathic treatments are applied. By becoming “bee-stewards” and understanding bees’ natural needs and life cycles, TMG benefist the world by translating these questions to other organisms as well. Once we can see bees as part of our human culture and wellbeing, they can enrich our life on many levels.

In Greek mythology, Melissa is the name of one of the nymphs that fed Zeus honey as an infant while hiding him from his father, Cronus. When Cronus discovered this, he turned her into a worm. After Zeus came into power, he changed her into a queen bee, not being able to change her from an insect form. Melissa is a Greek word meaning honeybee.