California poppies. Purple lupines and yellow tarweeds. Those wildflowers that look like little sunflowers whose name escapes me. An image of the East Bay hills covered in a thick blanket of wildflowers came to mind when I tasted the honey. Wildflowers swaying with the wind, dancing gracefully on a steep hillside. Honey bees abuzz around them.
The pint of honey was a generous gift from our neighbors, Bob and Diane. They are an older, retired couple who have lived in the neighborhood for years. I met them when they stopped by one afternoon while I was pulling weeds out of our flower beds. “Your chickens are lovely,” Diane said. “We enjoy watching them.” I thanked them while I beamed like a proud father. Another neighbor, Paul, whose mother lives across the street from us takes his nieces and nephews to our kitchen garden every now and then to see the chickens. His eight year old nephew, whose name escapes me (I know, I am getting old) gets a kick out of picking eggs from the laying boxes.
“We love what you did to the front yard with those vegetable beds,” she said. Compliments like these make the backbreaking work of gardening worthwhile. Dennis and I have been slowly transforming our lawn into a kitchen garden where we can grow vegetables and flowers. We’ve also planted fruit trees: peaches, an apricot, apples, a pear, and plums.
“When the hens start laying again we’ll stop by with a dozen,” I offered Bob and Diane.
“We’ll trade you honey from our hives,” Diane said.
My ears perked up. Dennis and I went to a beekeeping class a couple of years ago but decided to put off keeping bees until we have more free time. I was thrilled to know that there are other like-minded people in the neighborhood.
“We should start a neighborhood CSA,” I said. Pasture raised eggs and Oakland honey. You cannot get more local than that.
Honey Walnut Bread
Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking, makes one loaf
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup honey
1 cup chopped walnuts
Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt in a bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, beat egg, milk, butter, and honey until combined. Beat the liquid ingredients into the dry ones until just combined. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into greased pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes to an hour. Let it cool in the pan for ten minutes then unmold and let it cool completely.