Yesterday we extracted honey. Kristin and I took three boxes off the two beehives in our backyard, brought them into the house, and cranked the wood stove so that the honey would pour more easily. It's always a sticky mess, but joyful, too, with kids licking up every spill of the sweet stuff. The dog lay down with her head under a dripping honeycomb. Ick! Laughter and sweat and fingers sticking to everything.
As I carefully peeled the caps off a frame of golden honeycomb, it occurred to me who the real alchemists are. The bees. They make pure, liquid gold from air and earth and water, and oh! how beautiful is that gold! Far more so than the metal, and more useful. The wax and the propolis will go into Kristin's homemade salves and cosmetics. Other wax would make candles and furniture polish; other propolis would go into medicines and tonics. The honey itself will be a sweet treat, a flavoring, food, and medicine as well – we typically slather a little honey onto a bandaid to hasten the healing of a cut, and almost never use things like Neosporin. Honey works as well if not better, and it's sitting right there in the jar.