Monday, March 5, 2012

outside of the box

The standard for beehives is called the Langstroth hive.  You have seen the layers of usually white painted boxes stacked in orchards and yards.  Inside are flat frames of exacting size where the bees live, raise young, and store honey.  The bottom boxes are larger, deeper and are where the queen and drones keep the population ever growing.  The top boxes are where most of the harvestable honey is made.  I have been looking at hives for years deciding what I would do, if I ever had bees.  I have one quite dog-earred copy of the catalog from "Better Bee, The Finest Selection of Beeking Supplies and Tools."   There are scientific reasons for sticking with the standard in beekeeping.  BUT. . .why not make it FABULOUS?!  And truly, this thought had not occurred to me until early last week.   And then, two times, not just once, I came across something I could not put out of my mind.  The first, was this, and I've been laying awake at night thinking of it:

My inspiration

Before last week, I had never heard of Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly in London. I remember visiting Harrods in London.   How did I miss this?  I will go here one day.  But I happened upon the above picture while pinning away (another fun discovery-follow me, if you'd like.) Off I beelined to seek out this crazy hive. Fortnum and Mason is a very posh upper crust department store. They market a line of honey from these rooftop bees six floors up, Piccadilly. Very upmarket bees. These bees forage on the very diverse city offerings of chestnut trees, window boxes of St. James Square, Kensington Gardens, and Buckingham Palace. It seems European hives often have an extra layer of box over the top of the Langstroth boxes. Fortnum's hives are built of white oak and painted their special livery color, eau de nil. It is a very Martha green. 
Outer hive cover (why is he wearing a veil if there is no hive inside?)

Each hive was designed with a different style to the arch and cutouts--Roman, Gothic, Chinese, and Mughal arches.  The man removing the cover above is Jonathan Miller, the hives' designer.  You will see him and Steve Benbow,  the beekeeper in the below video, from Fortnum's own website.  They even have "beecams" at their hives.   I don't think I shall go so far.  No cam, sorry.

Four in a row--6 stories up

Eau de Nil green on entry--oh, and the Queen, Camilla & Kate

Veritable institution to the Crown, since 1707,  Fortnum and Masons, had a special tea for Queen Elizabeth last week.   This is the second time that the store came across my view.   The Queen, The Duchess of Cambridge, and The Duchess of Cornwall  (Elizabeth, Camilla & Kate), were at the Piccadilly store for a special tea in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  This was the first time all three have stepped out together in royal duty. I do not see that any of the ladies visited the hives, but the queen looked over the honey display.  She apparently much prefers her own honey from hives kept at Buckingham Palace.  I'll have to look those up now, too. 
I am working on my own design and have charged the resident architect to think on it, as well.  I will not add the outer, European cover, but will find a way to add fun. It will probably reflect the lovely New England architecture, much as Fortnum's reflects it's London site, with its livery colors.  They have the towers and finials and green, I am leaning toward New England farmhouse white with a wrap around, columned porch for the bees to hang out on sunny afternoons, watching the ducks on the pond. 
Girls checking the swag in their "hampers" 1 March 2012--champagne truffles and dog biscuits. Notice the little cake on the right. Fortnum's also makes fabulous wedding cakes.
Please take time to listen to the experts on their own design.  I promise it is worth it just to look at that display for the honey!! It reflects the hives, and the store windows, and  OH  MY GOODNESS!!  I am in love. I couldn't get there this week, but I had to do something.  So I bought some very expensive English ginger jam and have been eating it with Vermont Cheddar.   Highly recommend it. My world.  Now. .meet my two new heros:

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