A chance to dance with bees

Jonathon Keat\'s Bee Ballet Choreography

This month, California-based conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has taken up bee-keeping. For his submission to the Bay Area Now 5 festival, put on by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Keats planted flower arrangements in locations around San Francisco, all considered for their proximity to the bee hives of Alemany Farm. Given what apiarists know about the physical communications of bees (remember the waggle dance?), the bees will visit Keats’ plantings and return to their hives to “dance” the locations of the flowers to their hive mates. This will be the world’s first “Bee Ballet,” but humans won’t be invited (except for guided tours of the plantings and an end-of-performance honey tasting).

What does this ballet have to do with us here in Portland? Well, if you haven’t gotten enough bee dancing this year (and really, who has?), our next event in September will offer a great family-friendly opportunity to get out into the fields of an urban farm and dance with the bees!

The field day will be hosted out at Zenger Farm, an educational (but very real and productive) farm that demonstrates urban agriculture and sustainable systems. Zenger is one of the contributing farms of the 47th Avenue Farm CSA and an advocate of farm-based community development and learning. Jill Kuehler, the Director of the Friends of Zenger Farm, will begin the day by leading a tour of the farm that highlights their many outreach projects and green initiatives. After visitors get a sense of the farm’s mission, Wisteria Loeffler will introduce their Community Bee Project, which has been reaching out to local beekeepers in order to offer new economic and educational avenues for low-income youth and families. To round out the perspectives, Mace Vaughn of the Xerces Society will provide insight into the native bees that work alongside honeybees in the crops and Laura Masterson of 47th Avenue CSA will offer up her farmer’s voice on the role of bees in agriculture.

Sure, it seems like a lot of information to process, but there will be plenty of time to share what you’ve learned over a BYO picnic lunch and a honey-themed dessert potluck. If people bring along a copy of their recipe, we may try to share some of those tasty treats here on the blog.

To help kick-start your creative process, we’ve posted our own honey dessert recipe. It might not be exactly potluck friendly, but it is delicious:

Honey Mascarpone Ice Cream with Caramelized Figs

1/2 cup local honey
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup mascarpone
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon mead or honey liquor such as Dolmen Distillery Worker Bee (optional)

8 fresh figs
butter

Combine the honey with the cream, mascarpone, and milk in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve the honey. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring regularly to avoid burning the milk. Heat until small bubbles collect around the edges of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit 1 hour until cool.

Place the milk and honey mixture in the refrigerator overnight to chill.

When the mixture has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and, if using, stir in the 1 tablespoon honey-based alcohol. This will keep the ice cream soft in the freezer. Pour the mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Let the ice cream cure in the freezer for 4 hours before eating.

Serve with caramelized figs: wash and trim the stems and tough ends off of the figs. Slice each in half lengthwise. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat and, when the butter begins to brown, arrange the figs cut side down on the pan. Sear the figs until their surfaces just caramelize and they are warmed through.

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And, on the topic of bees, here are few more resources:

A cool, little film on the possibilities of urban apiculture from GOOD.com

A short documentary on the importance of honeybees to agriculture from the Media That Matters Film Festival

Thanks for sharing