The Bees and Maytime
Today's blog comes as we wander our way through the rest of spring and on towards Summer.
What is happening around us in nature and the wonderful world of natural soap making?
The weather is definitely sunnier and warmer now, thank goodness. The first bee to be heard this year was quite a large solitary one early in March, my local honey bee man Dave says it was probably a solitary queen bee looking for somewhere to lay. Since then, a great variety of bees have helped to pollinate the fruit trees, plums first, pears were second with the apples blossoming wildly third. It was amazing to watch some of Dave’s honey bees come back to their hive laden down with yellow nectar attached to their back legs. Now it is time to watch for the tiny fruit buds to appear out of what is left of the blossoms. There is a bee’s nest for the second year on my house wall- we are watching it carefully, but so far they are happy and so are we.
Honey bees, carpenter bees and bumblebees will be the ones we encounter most at this time of year. Take a look at the handy Bee Identification Guide from Friends of the Earth to help you spot who is visiting your flowers this May.
Mayday is a bright and enjoyable spring festival. My children joined in the Mayday celebrations at their country primary school. There was one teacher who was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic to teach the staff and children the joy of Maypole dancing. Sharing the idea of spring, and celebrating young growth, is a bright, cheerful and hopeful time. A folk time. And in some parts of the country, early May is the first appearance in the year of our traditional maypole dancing and Morris dancers. Christine and I will be decorating one of our shop windows with bright ribbons representing a maypole, in the cheerful colours of our beautiful artisan soaps. Crochet bees from Kath will be ‘flying’ around and nestling in their bug hotel. If you are around Pontefract, Yorkshire during May, pop along and have a look – it is in Simply Sew down Maud’s Yard.
A very quick history - Maypole dancing is thought to have started when Roman soldiers celebrated the arrival of spring by dancing around decorated trees thanking their goddess Flora. These days dancers weave ribbons around a pole rather than a tree. In Britain, Celtic people celebrated the festival of Beltane on the first of May to mark the halfway point between spring and summer. The origins of Morris Dancing seems to have come from various places in England and over 500 years ago.
I have experienced a little Morris dancing over the years, but when we moved to Gods Own Country Yorkshire and dipped our toes into the romantic town of Whitby – I saw some really amazing groups. So we have brought our spring collection of soaps out to the Made in Yorkshire tent to be fully immersed in the atmosphere (as well as showing off our handmade UK soap). I am also going to check if the same varieties of bees are around at the seaside, as at my home further inland.
With the bright sun and warmth of May, luxury bathroom gifts of our handmade soap and bath salts are exactly what anyone needs for their wellness routine. We now have a good variety of novelty soaps ready for presents, some to create soap flower bouquets of delightful scents. And the luxury does not come at a cost to the environment. The reason we use honey in the soaps is that it is an amazing natural humectant (preserves moisture) and also increases the lather of the soap. The lather is totally unnecessary for soap to be soap, but it adds to the luxurious feel of it, and we all know a rich, local honey is affordable absolute luxury. We absolutely need our bees to pollinate our food, but we also rely on them for honey. That is why we support the bumblebee conservation trust, for spreading education about bees and what we need to do to protect and help them. Beekeepers are also very important to help this education. I am hoping to see something of the local beekeepers in Whitby just to see if they are as knowledgeable as our own beekeeper Dave.
And we hope to see some of you at the Made in Yorkshire events throughout the year.
Happy Month of May Everyone.