Tag Archives: Panhandle

Southern Makers: Tupelo Honey from Deep South Honey

In case y’all haven’t gotten enough of bees this week (I never will), I thought I would share some thoughts on the pride of the Florida Panhandle and my home town: Tupelo Honey.

The Keeping of Bees  Oysters & Pearls.jpg

I have a bit of sad news.  The tupelo honey harvest was less than stellar this year.  The water rose too high and beekeepers couldn’t get their hives close enough to the tupelo blooms.  On top of the that, between the polar vortex and a late, paltry bloom, the tupelo trees didn’t really fulfill their end of the bargain, either.  I had big plans to share the details on my friend’s honey business, but alas, he doesn’t have enough to sell directly to my readers.  However, I decided it was worth sharing the pictures anyway, because I hail from the land of Tupelo and it’s an important industry in my hometown of Bristol, Florida and the surrounding areas along the Apalachicola River.  So with that introduction, meet my buddy Andrew Finch of Deep South Honey.

DEEP SOUTH HONEY

Andrew Finch, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

I grew up with Andrew Finch.  A Chattahoochee native, Andrew has been keeping bees for a few years.  Constantly striving to grow his hives and his business, he has upwards of sixty hives now.  He is passionate about his bees and tupelo honey, and he has become a great resource for a novice such as myself.  He has learned from some of the Wewa beekeeping giants, but he says he learns something new every day.

SNOW ON THE FRAMES
 Snow on the Frame - Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

“Snow on the frames!”

That’s what Finch (as we grew up calling him) said as soon as he cracked open the first hive on the day I visited him in one of his bee yards.

That snow-white wax is a sure sign of tupelo blooming.

Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bee, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

TUPELO IN THE PANHANDLE

I know I talk about tupelo honey a lot, and for good reason.  I mentioned it’s a huge industry in my hometown of Bristol, Florida, along with Hosford, Wewahitchka (aka Wewa) and many other places along the Apalachicola River.  In fact, it’s about the only industry besides timber.  But it’s an industry because of its special qualities.  Tupelo honey tastes amazing.  It’s delicate and light in color and flavor.  And that flavor?  It’s unmistakable.  It’s the only honey that won’t granulate (aka crystallize).  It’s the perfect table honey.  Obviously, I’m biased because I was raised on it, but lots of other people think so, too.  Ever seen the movie Ulee’s Gold?

It was filmed from Hosford to Wewa, with real local beekeepers as stunt doubles for Peter Fonda, and it made our sweet Tupelo Honey pretty famous.

Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees Making Tupelo Honey; Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

TUPELO THE TREE, NOT THE TOWN 

I’ve been asked before if Tupelo Honey comes from Tupelo, Mississippi.  Most people don’t know what makes Tupelo… well, Tupelo.  Honey is named for the nectar source the bees were feeding on when they made the honey.  Hence Orange Blossom Honey in Central and South Florida, or Wildflower Honey on the Plains, or Pumpkin Honey, or Avocado Honey, or Blueberry Honey, or any one of the many, many varietals of honey.  To get pure varietals of honey, beekeepers must put their bees at the nectar flow just as the species begins to bloom and then remove them just as quickly.

Snow on the Frame, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Tupelo Honey comes from the White Ogeechee Tupelo Tree (nyssa ogeche), which was imported from China many moons ago, and thrives in the river swamps of the Florida Panhandle.

Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls  Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Those little poof balls turn into barely visible white fluff, which may see a little anti-climatic to you and me, but not to the bees.  If you venture out into the swamp when the tupelo is in full bloom, you’ll hear what beekeepers call the “tupelo roar.”  Literally all you can hear around you is the buzzing and humming of millions of honey bees.  Tupelo Trees produce an extremely high nectar flow, and the bees will focus all their energy on this single source of nectar until the bloom is over.  Once it is, the beekeepers must pull the frames or move the bees, lest their precious Tupelo gets tainted with any other source of nectar.
Tupelo Blooms, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

It’s pretty amazing how much honey these bees can make while the Tupelo is blooming, and if conditions are right, they’ll make a whole lot of it.

Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

 Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

TUPELO HONEY

I know that everyone is partial to certain types of honey, but I thought I would explain a bit of my love affair with Tupelo.  Keep an eye on Deep South Honey – Finch will update the site if he can sell any directly to you, and has plans to grow his business.  Otherwise, I thought I would include some Tupelo Honey Resources for your browsing pleasure, whether you’re a beekeeper or just a honey-enthusiast.

Honeyville, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Deep South Honey

Deep South Honey on Instagram

Tupelo Honey Festival in Wewahitchka, Florida

Tupelo Beekeepers Association

Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey–The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World

The Bee House – Beekeeping Supplies

Smiley Honey

L.L. Lanier & Sons Tupelo Honey

 Until Next Time

Tarpon Fishing with Emerald Shoals Excursions

THE PERSON

Tucker Strickland runs Emerald Shoals Excursions out of Carrabelle.  The son of a fly fishing guide, Tucker grew up on these waters.  Specializing in sight casting to Tarpon and Redfish, Tucker has been helping anglers from all over the world catch the big one for seven years now.   While primarily based out of Carrabelle, Tucker also follows the Redfish to Louisiana later on in the year.

Tucker, Fly Fishing Tarpon Guide, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

EMERALD SHOALS

 Wheat and I were lucky enough to count ourselves in those numbers a couple of weeks ago.  We arrived bright and early on the most beautiful morning.  It was perfect for in-shore fishing and sight casting: the water was like glass.  And if you’re thinking that “Carrabelle” and “Emerald Shoals” don’t quite match up, the pictures in this post should sufficiently disprove your theory.

Lanark Village, Florida | Oysters & Pearls

Lauren of LGDunston on their Family Dock in Lanark  | Oysters & Pearls

The View from Lanark Village | Oysters & Pearls

THE BAIT

Tucker first took us over to catch some bait.  That man throws a pretty cast net.  And can drive the boat with his foot at the same time.  It’s truly impressive.  He did ask his bride to drive a couple times, though. ;)

Tucker (Emerald Shoals Excursions) and Lauren (LGDunston Gyotaku) In Their Element | Oysters & Pearls Tucker of Emerald Shoals Throwing a Cast Net for Bait | Oysters & Pearls Tucker of Emerald Shoals Throwing a Cast Net for Bait | Oysters & Pearls Tucker of Emerald Shoals Throwing a Cast Net for Bait | Oysters & Pearls Tucker of Emerald Shoals Throwing a Cast Net for Bait | Oysters & Pearls

THE FISH

After we caught what Tucker deemed a sufficient amount of bait fish, we switched over to what we came for: fishing.  We started hooking Trout right off the bat.

  Lauren (LGDunston) Fishes with Husband Tucker (Emerald Shoals Excursions) | Oysters & Pearls Tucker (Emerald Shoals Excursions) with a Salt Water Trout | Oysters & Pearls Tucker (Emerald Shoals Excursions) with a Salt Water Trout | Oysters & Pearls Wheat with a Saltwater Trout he Caught on an Emerald Shoals Excursion | Oysters & Pearls

Then Tucker’s wife Lauren (of LGDunston Gyotaku Fish Prints – you’ll meet her more thoroughly in the next post) caught a Flounder that she thought she might demonstrate a gyotaku fish print with for us.  It didn’t end up working out, mainly because this Flounder looked like what my father, the good Doctor, likes to call “groceries.”

Lauren of LGDunston, Fishing with Husband Tucker of Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls Flounder, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls Flounder, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls Tucker with a Flounder, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Next up: more big, beautiful trout.

Trout, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Trout, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Trout, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Trout, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

The family that fishes together, stays together.

Lauren of LGDunston, Poses with her Trout and her Husband, Owner of Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

 Afterwards we headed all the way around remote Dog Island to St. George Island.  Here, we sight casted to some Bluefish and Redfish, which was pretty awesome.  We caught a couple more good trout, too.

A fish straight out of the water is truly a thing of beauty, and something I’m grateful to say I get to see fairly often.  I know Tucker and Lauren consider themselves fortunate to get to do it daily.

This Trout Wheat caught is an excellent example.

Trout, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Close-Up of Trout, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Tucker and I both caught a couple really pretty Redfish here.  Now that is a fun fish to catch!  Not to mention beautiful.  The spots on their tails are all unique, and their pale pink undertones get after this fish-loving girl’s heart.

Sight-Casted Redfish, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls Redfish Spot, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls Redfish Face, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls Natalie of Oysters & Pearls, Posing with the Redfish She Caught, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

THE BIG ONE

Finally, Tucker took us over to the Tarpon Flats.  Not many people even know it, but there is world class Tarpon fishing here in the Panhandle.  And with a guide like Tucker, you are setting yourself up for the most exciting catch-of-the-day ever.

Tucker Fly Fishing for Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Tucker is a pro, but as long as you can fly fish, he will guide you right down to when to throw your fly and where.  He can predict exactly where the fish will be, on which side of the boat, and will let you know when you’ve got your “shot” and where to put it.  He likens Tarpon fishing to deer hunting: you wait around in a spot you know they like to come, and then you’ve got one shot at them.  We didn’t have to wait too long before Tucker got a shot, and it was quite possibly the most fun I’ve had while fishing and not catching a fish ever.  He hooked a Tarpon on his fly in short order, and while the rest of us watched in awe, this 80-pound dinosaur jumped, rolled, and generally showed off.

Tarpon Jumping - Emerald Shoals Fishing Excursions  Oysters & Pearls.jpg Tucker Hooks a Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions  Oysters & Pearls.jpg Tucker Fighting a Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions  Oysters & Pearls.jpg

Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Even if you don’t fly fish, (or even fish at all!) one trip like this makes you want to learn.  The thrill in the air is palpable. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

THE END

We called it a day after the Tarpon broke the tip of Tucker’s fly rod.  Even so, it was a fair catch, since Tucker got the leader to the tip of his fly rod before the breaking occurred.  He tried to get in the water with him, but the Tarpon went under the boat and that was that.  We headed in for some cocktails and a meal of freshly caught Trout, some fresh shrimp, grits, and homegrown veggies from Lauren’s garden.  (She claims to be best at catching vegetables, leaving most of the fishing to Tucker.)

View from Lanark Village, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Fresh Shrimp, Fish, Grits, and Homegrown Veggies,  LGDunstion Gyotaku Fish Prints | Oysters & Pearls Fresh Shrimp, Fish, Grits, and Homegrown Veggies,  LGDunstion Gyotaku Fish Prints | Oysters & Pearls Who Knew Fried Shrimp Heads Were Such a Delicacy? LGDunston and Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

Remember these shrimp: You’ll be seeing them again tomorrow.

Thank you so much to Tucker and Lauren for an amazing day on the water!

 Tarpon, Emerald Shoals Excursions | Oysters & Pearls

GO FISH

Want a Tarpon fishing thrill of your own?

Book a trip with Tucker at Emerald Shoals Excursions

And tell him I sent ya! ;)

Follow Emerald Shoals on Instagram

Like Emerald Shoals on Facebook

Until Next Time

The Trials and Tribulations of Beekeeping

This weekend Wheat was at his brother’s bachelor party, so I did some bachelorette beekeeping.

Beekeeping Attire | Oysters & Pearls

I like to call my yellow pants I wear beekeeping my “pollen pants.”  The bees wear them, why shouldn’t I?  ;)

It’s been about 3 weeks since I had checked either of our hives, so I wasn’t sure what I would find.  I did know that I needed to be prepared, because our hive in Bainbridge has been acting pretty defensive and fierce.  Wheat got stung on the face a week or so ago while just changing the jar of sugar water on top of the hive.  So I decked myself out more than usual.  Hence the tall rubber boots and a large thick mock turtleneck from Walmart, in addition to my gloves and veil.  It was a good thing I did, too.  I literally had to pull bees out of my gloves where they were trying to sting me.  And there were lots of “come at me, bro!” events.  They are so feisty!

Despite their bad behavior, the hive in Bainbridge is doing GREAT.  Queen Latifah has been busy laying lots of eggs, and the ladies have been busy making lots of honey!

Marked Queen Bee | Oysters & Pearls

I actually ended up ordering a shallow box and shallow, unwired frames for Queen L and her ladies.  I want to try to get them to fill it out so I can do some honey with the honey comb still inside.  Since the frames are shallow – about 4 inches wide – the bees can fill it out with honeycomb without it being supported by wires or plastic, so you can simply cut the comb (and the honey) out when you want to harvest it.  Anyway, so I had great success Saturday morning!

Then I went to visit my Bristol hive.  These bees are the sweet bees.  I could check them without gloves and a veil and barefooted if I wanted.  They are so docile.

Honey Bees and Pollen | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees and Pollen Colors | Oysters & Pearls

I don’t think I shared this on the blog, but a month or so ago I added a deep box to the brood box in Bristol in attempts to get some tupelo honey.  Three weeks ago, I checked the bees again and they had swarmed.  It was so sad and disappointing!  But we still had a good bit of bees left, but possibly no queen – we couldn’t find her anyway.  Upon recommendation from an experienced beekeeper, I waited to see if a virgin queen would mate and start laying eggs.  The great news is that she did!  I couldn’t ever find her yesterday, but I sure found evidence she had been getting busy!  You can see the larvae in the pictures below in various stages of development.  Once they get big enough, the bees cap them off (the lumpy capped off bits of comb below) and the bees hatch out of them.

Honey Bee Brood and Larvae | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bee Brood and Larvae | Oysters & Pearls

Excuse the iPhone quality photos – beekeeping solo is hard enough without trying to take pictures with my real camera, too!

So I was feeling really good about my bees up until this point.  Stoked, actually.  I was even pretty excited to see the bees had filled out 3 or 4 frames in the top box with sweet, beautiful tupelo honey.

Tupelo Honey | Oysters & Pearls Tupelo Honey | Oysters & Pearls

But that excitement was short-lived.  After holding the frames up to examine them for a few minutes… THESE CREEPY CRAWLIES STARTED EMERGING OUT OF NOWHERE!  Fair warning: this is pretty disgusting and may induce nightmares.

IMG_4883

After a mild panic attack and multiple shouted curse words, I removed the top box completely and called my bee sensai.  Then I called my parents’ neighbor, Tommy, who owns The Bee House.  He met me up at the store for a couple hive beetle traps and some sage advice.  He recommended that I hose the frames off to remove the larvae, the beetles, and the slime the larvae leave behind (I know, so grodie) and the bees could clean the rest of it right up.  So I spent the rest of the afternoon hosing frames off and gagging.

And thus, I had my first major lesson learned from beekeeping: don’t give the bees more space than they can handle.  When they swarmed, I should have taken off the top box and just let the colony rebuild.  Instead, I greedily wanted tupelo honey.  Lesson. Learned.

I also learned from Tommy and my friend Andrew (who owns Deep South Honey – more on that later)  that this year’s tupelo harvest has been the worst in many, many years.  Between a late and paltry bloom and the heavy rains flooding most of the bee yards, it’s not been a good year for tupelo.  So guard those bottles of tupelo tightly, y’all!  Tommy told me that Georgia and Alabama are where it’s at for the bees right now,  which explains why Queen Latifah and her Bainbridge ladies are doing so well right now I suppose!

Other weekend activities included:

the street dance with SoWeGa Trainwreck on the Square downtown,

Street Dance, Bainbridge, Georgia | Oysters & Pearls

and some light reading.

Robbing Bees, A Great Book about Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Yep, I still rock the crocs around the house.  They are heinous and oh so comfortable and I don’t care what you say as long as I don’t wear them out of the house.

I highly recommend Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey–The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World.  It’s about a girl from Connecticut who apprenticed with Donald Smiley.  Donald Smiley owns Smiley Apiaries, and is one of the largest beekeepers and tupelo honey producers in the state in nearby Wewahitchka (Wewa), Florida.  This book is a must-read for anyone who loves the Panhandle of Florida, keeps bees, or is just interested in the culture of beekeeping.

They’re back!!!!

Baby Georgia Warhorse Grasshopper | Oysters & Pearls

It’s Georgia Warhorse season again.  If memory serves me correctly, you owe me approximately fifty cents, Daddy-o!

I admire this truck and this farm every time I go to Bristol from Bainbridge.

Decatur County, Georgia Chicken Farm  | Oysters & Pearls

 I just adore it and I’m dying to have an old truck.  Anyone know if the turquoise one by the Donut Shop in Bainbridge is available??? ;)  But seriously.

I finally made it back to Bainbridge late Saturday afternoon when my friend Mary called and asked me over to have a drink on the front porch.

Downtown Bainbridge, Georgia Front Porch Sitting | Oysters & Pearls

So we had a couple cocktails, ate cold fried chicken and pimiento cheese, and watched the world go by as we caught up.  I am well aware that that statement could not be any more stereotypically Southern, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

Sunday morning I had my coffee along with a couple of ripe strawberries from the garden.

Strawberry Peeking Out in the Garden | Oysters & Pearls

Then had a Sunday Funday afternoon.  I rode my bike downtown, which was fun in and of itself, and then had a play day with my friend Jessica Grace and our new friends Randy and Carol, who showed us how to use a plasma cutter.

Bicycle Riding | Oysters & Pearls

Teaching Us How To Use A Plasma Cutter | Oysters & Pearls

The bee is mine.  Obvi.

Bee Drawing with Soap Stone on Sheet Metal | Oysters & Pearls Using a Plasma Cutter to Cut Sheet Metal | Oysters & Pearls Finished Yard Art | Oysters & Pearls

This weekend was simple but jam-packed.  Life is good.

Until Next Time