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A search for local honey, stories of bees and the Labesques


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The Folks of Glen Ellen 

Empty honey jar

One glance at Keats’s “To Autumn” poem had me mourning my empty honey jar. Keats claims this is the season of “the later flowers for the bees, until they think warm days will never cease …” So seeking fresh honey last week we wandered up to Oak Hill Farm. Sweetie and I have discovered over the years that Serge and Cheryl Labesque’s late summer honey is the best. By far. Produced from hives that Serge keeps at Ann Teller’s Oak Hill, the honey is Glen Ellen sweet, rich, viscous – and just what Keats imagined.

Not the land of milk and honey

Alas, the clerk at the Oak Hill farm store informed us they were out of honey. Labesque’s last jar sold earlier that day. Apparently Keats’s autumn of “o’er brimmed cells,” isn’t evident here in our village. But the lack of honey at Oak Hill didn’t stop me. Remembering, more or less, where the Labesques live (after years of their son Remy Labesque being in the same Cub Scout troop as our son) we headed to their house, hoping to buy honey directly from the producers. Somewhat poor of memory we had a short visit first with the Labesque's neighbor, Edmond Joseph. But finally, further alas and alack: no honey available even at the Labesque’s home.

Worker bees keep their cut

As Cheryl, wife to beekeeper Serge, and pretty knowledgeable about bees on her own, simply said, honey was in short supply this year. Serge always makes sure not to take too much honey, leaving the bees their fare share to live and prosper. Put that way, I agree, the bees deserve it more than I.

Cheryl made no dire cries of colony collapse disease, but simply urged me to wait in delightful anticipation for more honey, later in the year.

Honey-fed artists

Meanwhile, sitting in the summer sun of the Labesque’s porch, Sweetie and I got a brief chance to talk to Labesque’s second son, Julian Labesque. He is completing studies to become a 3D animator and modeler specializing in game production. He’s the second artist in the family. Older brother Remy (the young scout mentioned earlier, now an adult and product designer living and working in San Francisco) is the artist responsible for the Carquinez and Arnold Drive corner mural on the Talisman tasting room. Remy’s whimsical map of downtown Glen Ellen is a tourist’s delight. I’ve seen many a visitor stand mid-street capturing that sign on camera. But we denizens of the village appreciate it, too. In fact, we'd love to see more murals gracing our village.

Scouts hike New Mexico

Speaking of Cubs and Boy Scouts, they make the news again today, as they did so often in the past. Long ago, boys in the local troop were easily available column fodder. Current members of Scout Troop 63, led by Brian Kemp, with plenty of help from his sweetie, Dawn, and other adults in the troop, are active in exploring and helping our environment.

The scouts from Troop 63 recently attended their annual Philmont Scout Ranch backpacking trip in Cimarron, N.M. That little trek entails 83-miles of back-country trails up to 12,000-feet with a 50-pound pack. Actually, as Collin Kemp, a neighbor and scout, informs me, Baldy Mountain is 12,443 feet and he tackled it twice. Little wonder that their leader Brian is also an Iraq veteran who can cajole the boys up and down mountains, over hard and rocky trails and has them loving the experience. That’s leadership.

Scouts help bees prosper

Collin Kemp has been a Glen Ellen Scout, part of Troop 63, since the second grade when he joined Wolf Scouts at Dunbar School. Recently I saw him walking up O’Donnell Lane, looking as cheerful as I’ve ever seen him. He waved a happy hello and continued home. Rare? Well not in this neighborhood, but not always apparent on a teen. Collin was obviously happy that day.

It was later, by phone that he shared his recent good experiences with fellow scouts, Bodhi Morgan, Austin and Ethan Phillips. The boys of Troop 63 were involved in a bee habitat planting led by Tish Ward, along with Alexa Wood at Beltane Ranch. The scouts spread a large field with clover and alfalfa seeds for a bee friendly patch of land at Beltane.

The scout program is administered by the Northcoast Resource Conservation and Development Council, which recently won two grants from Patagonia and Clif Bar companies to aid in bee habitat.

Winegrapes are a crop that doesn’t need bees; they are self-pollinating and, as our Valley and county become inundated with grapes, we lost bee habitat. Once Sonoma Valley was home to plums and pears and, no doubt, Apis mellifera, our friendly honey bee thrived, too. Since most of California’s vast agriculture depends upon bees, Tish hopes that through this pilot program, demonstrating to vineyard owners how important and easy it is to provide a habitat for bees, she will help this essential species find homes in our Valley once again.

The bee project was initiated when Angela Morgan and Tish Ward got together to discuss a simple scout project to enhance bee environments. Soon they involved California Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin.

Those illustrious folks attended a Troop 63 meeting where Kathy Kellison, a talented speaker and former fourth-grade teacher now with Partners for Sustainable Pollination, discussed creating bee habitat with the boys.

The boys plantings at Beltane Ranch serve as the pilot for creating more bee friendly habitat throughout Northern California, beginning right here in Glen Ellen. While these scouts have great faith in this bee project, that’s just part of what keeps them busy now as the school year begins.

Mock trial team at SVHS

Collin Kemp, sophomore at Sonoma Valley High School, is active in Janet Hansen’s forensics classes. He is the co-captain of the school’s mock trial team and last year served as their clerk. He proudly shared with me that last year Sonoma Valley High School placed eighth, out of 30 teams, at mock trial.

He frankly adds, “Mrs. Hansen makes the team,” talking about what an inspirational teacher she is.

Hallelujah at Summerfield

As for his scout partner, Bodhi Morgan, he is busy now as a high school freshman at Summerfield School in Santa Rosa. Last year, for his eighth-grade graduation, Bodhi played a moving version of Leonard Cohen’s iconic hymn, “Hallelujah.” As his mom happily shares, “He got a standing ovation from his peers.”

This summer, Bodhi attended a special ceremony in Burbank where an auditorium in the Joslyn Adult Center was dedicated to his grandparents, the late Frank and Libby Nardo. Burbank mayor Gabel-Luddy and Terre Hirsch, chairman of the Park, Recreation and Community Services board of Burbank, attended the ceremony.

Bodhi’s mother, Angela Nardo-Morgan told me that Bodhi gave up the opportunity to surf on the beach in San Diego to attend this ceremony honoring his grandparents; she was especially proud of him.

Bees say two feet enough

In talking to Tish Ward about her work with the scouts, she commented that if everyone in Sonoma Valley makes a commitment to growing bee-friendly flowers, it would make a huge difference in the vitality of California agriculture. She added that even a bee friendly patch of two-feet-by-two-feet would make a positive difference.

Ann and Craig barreling along

I think that two-by-two rule was proved last year when Sonoma Cittislow’s pollination project was in full swing. Glen Ellen folks including Ann Peden and Craig Scarborough planted 200 half wine barrels with lemon queen sunflowers and upped the annual bee count in our Valley. It was a positive prelude to the work started this year by Scout Troop 63.

Village Fair coming soon

Two reminders to add Glen Ellen events to your calendars. Oct. 13 is the Sunday of our annual gala Glen Ellen Village Fair, where folks in our town celebrate the good life we live. We promise great food, good music, general fun and festivities as neighbors greet neighbors on Arnold Drive. It’s closed to cars, so people and dogs take their place. We’ll see you there, beginning with our grand and glorious two-block parade.

Ada Limon at the park

You also need to note that homegrown gal, now a famous and revered poet on the East Coast will be reading at Jack London State Historic Park with other famous poets. Yes, we welcome Ada Limon home to Glen Ellen on Monday, Sept. 16, from 5:30 to 7:30 at Charmian’s House of Happy Walls. Tickets include wine paring and parking with poetry provided by Ada and three other famous poets. For full details go to the Jack London State Historic Park website. There you’ll learn about the chocolate run, movie night and plenty more. See you around and about the village on these waning summer days.

• • •

Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks.