February 22, 2010

Today’s featured blogger is Courtney, a woman who has quite a way with words.  Although she’s been living in Montana for nearly a decade (and currently lives only a few miles South of Canada), Courtney still calls herself a Southerner.  I’m not a Southerner myself and there are huge chunks of Southern culture that I will never understand, but THAT?  That I get.  Sometimes you never stop belonging where you came from.

Beekeeping in Glacier County, Montana, in July 2009

Courtney and her husband, Honeydew, are commercial beekeepers.  Together, they launched the Glacier County Honey Co. in June of 2009 and have been working their little stingers off ever since.  And from the sounds of it?  They are quite the team.

    1.  Tell me a bit about, well, your bees.  And honey.  And stuff.

I admire our lovely ladies, as I refer to the bees, for the way they run their households, their devotion to their queen, and especially for the work they put into making Glacier County Honey.  We can generally expect about 100 lbs of honey from each of our colonies (we have about 1,000 total), and though harvesting it is the stickiest, most back-breaking work I’ve ever done, I never tire of the delicately sweet taste – Glacier County Honey tastes like sunshine, like July.  People who try it at gift stores and friends’ houses alike e-mail me to say that they never liked honey until they tried Glacier County Honey.  They invariably ask, “why is your honey so good?”  Which is a wonderfully easy question to answer, boiling down to the bees’ location during honey production season and our involvement in the almond pollination industry – the combination of the two gives us healthy hives, and the best honey you’ve never tasted.

Our bees make honey throughout Glacier County, Montana, which borders Glacier National Park and Canada.  This country is pristine and filled with alfalfa, white and yellow sweet clover, and wildflowers – absolute bee heaven!  The flower sources a bee visits largely determine the quality, clarity, and color of honey, which varies widely throughout the world.  The USDA grades honey on a color scale, using seven colors – water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber, and dark amber.  In most years, our honey gets the highest grade – water white.  Its quality is such that we package it in crystal clear plastic, unlike other beekeepers who are forced to sell their honey in cloudy or opaque containers, because their honey’s color and clarity is not as appealing.

Prior to honey production season in Montana, our bees are in the Sacramento Valley, pollinating almond orchards.  We ship our hives from Montana down to California in October of each year, and instead of spending the winter shivering in their Rocky Mountain hives, the bees loll about in the California sunshine, snacking on manzanilla and presumably getting their nails done.  In January, Honeydew travels to California to put the bees into the orchards, where they pollinate almonds through April.  I miss Honeydew dreadfully, but when he finally returns from California with the bees, they are in excellent health from their California winter, and they are ready and rarin’ to go for honey production season.  So, no complaints.

    2.  What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

I live 70 miles from the grocery store, and it ain’t much of a grocery store at that.  Fresh mozzarella has never crossed through its doors, I feel quite certain.  So I cook 99% of my meals, and when I leave to visit family or friends, I’d rather wander through the aisles of Whole Foods, observing, tasting, wondering, than go out clubbing.  The chance to eat fresh ingredients, put together by someone with a sharply honed mind, is one I never miss out on.

So in Denver I ordered Tostees Dorees de Reveillion – battered brioche stuffed with foie gras, roasted bananas and bacon, served with a side of homemade granola.  It came with maple syrup so viscous it was more of a spread, like creamed honey.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think I can taste its salty sweet richness coating my tongue.  Weird, check.  Delectable, check-check.

    3.  If you could live anywhere in the world - where would you pick?

Right here.  Though I wouldn’t mind a winter home in Georgia, Mexico, or New Zealand.  And a plane to get me there.

    4.  When did you know that your husband was The One?

My youngest brother, Howard Hillhouse Stone, died in 2004, about three weeks shy of his 20th birthday.  Every summer since, my family throws a bash we call Hillstock/Hillhouseapalooza, to celebrate the joy he brought to our lives.  That he still does.  We generally have between 25 and 50 people camping out at our house for a longish weekend.

It is a magical time, and those who love Howard and my family best rarely miss it.  As you can imagine, it is also a time when I am wrapped up in spending every moment I can with the people I don’t see too often.

So when I was dating Honeydew, I knew that his attendance at Hillstock would make or break us.  Would he recognize, without me even beginning to tell him, that he would need to let me be, and to introduce himself around to all these people who’d flown and driven so far to be with us?  The people that ensured that Howard’s death did not destroy our family, or us as individuals?  I really wasn’t sure.

I was unwinding after the group hike, discussing Honeydew’s charms and flaws with my friend Layla and her darling boyfriend, Chris Street, when it hit me that I was madly in love with him.  Layla and Chris cheered this news, and the strength of their love for both me and Honeydew caused me to go running out the tack barn, where we were talking, looking for Honeydew, so I could tell him.  And I did.

    5.  Okay, tell us one story that your family will tease you about until the day that you die.

My dad is not the materialistic sort.  He does not require much in life to be happy: a view, a wood fire, an old dog at his feet, his family around him.  So when he turned 40 and bought a brand new 1987 Chevy Cavalier convertible, we were all somewhat floored.  Not that a Chevy Cavalier is (or was) the height of chic luxury, but still.  Not exactly a practical choice for a man with a wife, three children, several dogs, and a ramshackle farm.

That convertible brought him a lot of joy, tinkering with it, waxing it, taking us on Sunday drives with the top dropped.  It was 11 years old when I graduated from high school, and he let me take me it to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with my girlfriends, to celebrate graduation.  His mom had an old cottage there that I had been to dozens of times over the years.  In my excitement, I forgot the way, and drove us 150 miles and two and a half hours out of our way!  To make matters worse, on my return trip, I pulled into our driveway, heading to the tiny garage where he housed the convertible, waving at my parents as though to say, “Look at me!  I’m an adult!  I didn’t put a scratch on the convertible even though I got lost!”  And promptly drove right into the garage door, which I had failed to notice was closed.

I will NEVER hear the end of this.  And we still have that old convertible.

With Honeydew!

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(15) Comments | Permalink
Filed as Behind the blog 

  1. By Megan R. on February 22, 2010

    So great that we get to “meet” such interesting people as a part of this blog!  Love it!


  2. By Jenny on February 22, 2010

    This woman is interesting! Did I completely miss this link to her blog? I think I’m blind.

    Can you post a link to it? Thanks!!

  3. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on February 22, 2010

    Jenny - Oh my goodness, I’m fixing it right now!!

  4. By Mailis on February 22, 2010

    Courtney…you are awesome. You have now taught me everything I know about bees and beekeeping. Do all northern beekeepers use the same approach (ie, wintering their bees somewhere warm?) or is this also part of what makes your bees so special?

    I completely enjoyed this! :) I sooo need to check out the blog to match this delicious interview.

  5. By Cynthia on February 22, 2010

    What a bunch of wonderful photos… It seems as if you’ve had an incredible life so far Courtney.

    This was terribly interesting… Now I have to try your honey!

  6. By on February 22, 2010

    Great story!  I love “Honeydew”!

  7. By Megan at FASS on February 22, 2010

    Wandering Whole Foods is my favorite hobby!  Sorry about the 70 miles from a store thing!  That honey sounds AMAZING!  Do you send it out to food blogs to taste?

  8. By Stephanie on February 22, 2010

    Um…. LOVE IT!

  9. By on February 23, 2010

    What a charming introduction to Courtney, her bees, her Honeydew, and her writing. Does Courtney have online sales of her honey? Ooops, there’s the link. Thank you both!

  10. By Courtney on February 23, 2010

    Thanks to all for the very kind comments!  I love blogging, I love beekeeping.  You can follow the blog, order honey and candles, etc at
    And yes Megan, I would be happy to send you some honey to taste for a food blog.  Shoot me an email to
    Bee sweet, y’all -

  11. By Lauren on February 23, 2010

    Those are some well traveled bees!  And I LOVE your embarrassing story - and the fact you still have the car!

  12. By on February 23, 2010

    This is so cool. I love honey and beeswax candles! I also LOVE beeswax crayons!

  13. By Elizabeth on February 23, 2010

    Yay for bees!!!  I used to keep bees and loved it.. until th bears got them, that is.

  14. By on February 24, 2010

    Courtney was a friend of mine in college, but I feel like my husband, daughter and I have had the opportunity to get to know her even better now that we’re more than a thousand miles apart.  Is that really possible?

    She is just as sweet as her bees and honey!  If you haven’t tried it, my family regularly buys honey and has it shipped to Macon, GA.  It really is the best tasting honey ever!

    We want to instill some of her sweet southern values in our daughter too, and hope to perpetuate Courtney’s honey legacy in our home town.

    Keep up the good work!

  15. By on February 24, 2010

    loved the shout out to our amazing breakfast in Denver!! wish I could bring you some when I come up next month! :) nice work lady.





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