I get to sample lots of products through writing this blog and I get to meet lots of passionate people which is the part that I love the most. I love to listen to creative people who love what they do and who get excited about the products they’ve created.
Passion and enthusiasm for her product was definitely what I got from Jeannie, owner of Fields and Hedgerows but rather than creating a product, Jeannie farms hers and it was fascinating to hear about the processes behind extracting honey and how the bees work.
As we sipped coffee in Arboreal in Cowbridge, Jeannie talked to me about how she discovered her passion for honey and how she came to own 42 hives and a dedicated honey kitchen.
It all started when Jeannie’s husband unfortunately suffered two heart attacks. As a fit and athletic man, this came as a surprise so Jeannie put him on a strict healthy diet. He wouldn’t give up bread so she made her own bread and swapped fat for oil and sugar for honey.
With Jeannie’s subsequent interest in honey, she joined a bee keeping association and became fascinated by the idea of keeping hives. Her enthusiasm was certainly catching as she explained how the sight, smell and sound of the bees in the hive excites her. She loves the organisation, the fact that all the bees have an individual job to do and that they are so busy getting on with it.
Jeannie sells her honey in many outlets but she will only supply to one shop in each town in order to support local businesses by making sure they get repeat trade from customers loyal to their brand. Keeping things local is very much Jeannie’s motto who believes that keeping things counter global is better for you even if it costs a little more.
Along with retail outlets, Jeannie runs a Honey Club which is how I got a taste of her honey in the first place. The club is run within a 10 mile radius of Cowbridge and jars are hand-delivered. For £40 a month members receive a jar of honey a month for a year. Each delivery comes with an explanation of what is happening in the hives and a picture.
Members also get a pollen analysis so they know more about each honey. Jeannie has this down to a fine art and can tell which plants the bees have been pollinating by observing the colour of the pollen in the pollen baskets as the bees bring it back to the hive. Bees are loyal to one plant at a time and don’t switch crops mid-forage. They collect the pollen, drop it off for the house keeping bees and then head back out again. I found this totally fascinating and would love to learn more.
I certainly enjoyed my honey samples. I had three samples and each one was surprisingly different. I didn’t realise how ignorant I was about honey and how much it can vary with each harvest. I certainly appreciate it more now I have thought about the amount of work the bees put in.
The first honey I tried was a creamed honey. Jeannie’s pollen analysis showed that it is predominantly rape but that it most likely has willow pollen and dandelion in it and that it was collected in the spring. It was very smooth and sweet with a light taste.
I also had a summer forage which was also creamed but runnier than the first one. Lastly, my favourite was a darker honey extracted this September so it has nectar and pollen from all four seasons including ivy. It wasn’t as sweet as the other two and had a nice earthy flavour.
Jeannie’s USP is that her honey is never the same twice. It is just as nature intended which really appeals to me. Jeannie’s hives are static and the crops rotate around them so there is always a different balance, taste and colour. I love a surprise and the fact that two will never taste the same has definitely sold it for me.
It was a pleasure talking to Jeannie about her bees and sampling her honey and it has wet my appetite for both trying more honey and for finding out more about bee keeping. Jeannie has also branched out into candles which you can find for sale in And So To Bed in Cowbridge.
Jeannie is also available for talks to schools. She de-constructs a hive and puts it back together again while explaining the function of the parts and the life-cycle of the bees – fascinating and fun.