Sunday, February 12, 2012

2,000 lbs. of beeswax

Originally published in a previous blog, when the candle business was known as Northern Michigan Beeswax.

Some Pennsylvania groundhog named Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter for this year, but it was a lot like spring in northern Michigan as Buster and I traveled this week 750 miles round-trip to get 500 lbs. of beeswax from Sleeping Bear Farms. All but about two miles of this scenic trip is on two-lane highways, and of course one has to cross the Straits of Mackinac via The Big Scary (aka the Mackinac Bridge), my nemesis, rivaled this time by the formidable thought of having to stay in a motel in Traverse City. I did have other layover options, but an impromptu decision found me making online reservations at a chain motel that was dirt cheap, easy to find, and that accepted pets. It's a bit of a competition, what was scarier, the bridge or the motel, but with a "hazardous" wind warning on the return trip over the bridge, the bridge wins out. I am beginning to discern the fear, and it has to do with lines, but that's for another day.

Passing through dormant orchards along Route 31 on a sunny spring-like morning in February with 500 lbs. of wax in the van and an old dog with his snout out the window (for the 569th time), life seemed flush with possibilities. Apple and cherry and peach trees stood in neat and trim rows between bright red barns and shuttered fruit stands. A plethora of radio stations - so many more than one gets in the U.P. - played oldies I hadn't heard in a while, and every little town offered homemade fudge or pies. No, I don't want to live here, I thought, but it sure is fun passing through.

I remembered two years ago, when I made the same trip, but had little idea what I would do with 500 lbs. of beeswax, and I realized that there is still a lot I don't know. Somehow it's the not knowing that makes it possible. I have now purchased 2,000 lbs. of raw wax from the honey farm in Beulah, which, to my good fortune, has recently begun making mead under the name St. Ambrose Cellars. I am enjoying a glass of Dancing Bare Ambrosia now, my first taste proving smooth and sweet.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority broadcasts over AM radio and that's how I first heard of the high winds over the Straits. I never did find out the wind speed, and in the end my eighth crossing of the bridge proved no worse, no better, than any of the other crossings, but the thought of the winds made it a bit more tense. Back in the U.P., pasty joints, unencumbered shorelines, woods, and the occasional small farm welcomed us. I listened to Bruce Springsteen all the way from the bridge to Marquette, then opted for quiet.

Back home, wax melts in a big pot in the kitchen; candles are being made. I've gotten around to updating some of these blog pages. It stayed sunny and fairly warm throughout the week, then a cold west wind blew us fiercely below zero. Never doubt a groundhog. Spring will come, but until then, there is honey and beeswax and mead and warm fires. A world of possibilities.