In our family, Birthdays are not limited to just one day a year. Our kid’s birthdays are all during the school year. It didn’t seem fair to have them go to school on their special day, only to be feted with a few hours to celebrate them after we got home from work that evening.
A full week of planned activities was a much better solution. The birthday boy or girl would get to choose their favorite foods for dinner in that week. Slumber parties and kids parties would be included. Daily gifts and fun breakfast foods. And usually something unusual, an activity planned for the whole family surrounded around the interests of the birthday kid. One year we flew the entire family up to San Juan island in a float plane to go whale watching, in pursuit of the baby orca we adopted for our eldest, Ryan, for his 12th birthday. And we found Double Stuff – that baby orca and his pod. Ryan still loves animals. An incredible day none of us ever forgot.
With Covid, we haven’t seen our kids back in the US, in quite some time. All our pent up celebrations with them will have to wait. And our own birthdays in the past year have been much more subdued by Covid restrictions and closures. So the grand gestures and advance planning of the past has fallen by the wayside.
This week is my Birthday. In any other year, Jeff would have a dinner planned with family or friends, a surprise trip to somewhere I had been dreaming to going, and little gifts each day with notes at breakfast. But this year? I wasn’t sure what it might look like, after the past 18 months and cases rising rapidly in our area. We have also been preoccupied with other pursuits.
As I should have suspected, Jeff just adapted. My special week might be a smaller and quieter celebration this year. Our family would be absent. But he made sure I felt the birthday love, nonetheless.
Jeff knows I have a soft spot to learning how things work. Most people go on a winery tour to sample the wine. I go to watch their operation. Others will ask about vintages, and when the wine tasting begins. I ask questions about the speed of their corking machine and their yield per hectare. On one of our trips in the US, we toured a car factory, just to watch them work, and to marvel at the industrial engineering and continuous process improvement. We’ve been the only people we know interested in detouring to coal power plant, or a copper mine while on vacation. Our children expect this. Jeff and I are a match made in heaven.
For my kickoff birthday event this year, on Saturday he took me to O Endredo do Abelleiro – an apiary and living museum for bees. ‘Colmenar’ is the Gallego word for it. I was thrilled! And the owners of the museum seemed as surprised to see us in the middle of a pandemic, as I was to be there. ‘You’re from where?’ I imagine, even in a normal year, the number of American visitors are quite limited.
This operation sits near the dam 10 km due south of Arzua. The man who runs it is 85 years old, but it was his daughter who took us on a tour, explaining everything. Once she discovered we only have inglés and a little Spanish, she did her very best to give is as much information as possible on the intimate workings of a bee hive, the lifecycle of bees, and the sweet results of their work.
Jeff knows I’m a fan of the bee. And we all should be. As Amparo explained, No bees, no food. No food, no humans. Her father has been keeping bees in the area his whole life. He and his family love bees. And you can tell as you explore their operation.
We learned all about how bee societies, and their hives operate. And how traditional methods of beekeeping have evolved in Galicia. Colmenares come in three types: the one made from cork trees, wood stumps, or the boxes we think of in the US.
We learned that bees swarm when a new queen is born, and the old queen peels off 60% of the hive to establish a new home. And that it’s the ladies who run the show in a beehive. The males, or drones, are just there to perform one function, procreation. The females have the stingers, do all the work, and supply all the food and hive defense.
We toured her father’s workshop, where he makes the comb racks by hand. Jeff had a little tool envy.
For €60 a year they’ll let you name a hive, give you two litres of honey, and provide you and your family with unlimited tours and training on bee keeping. A bargain.
Of course, you exit through the gift shop and we bought some of their wares. Bees wax candles, soap, and royal jelly. Interesting – I had forgotten that Mead (the medieval drink) is made from honey. During my purchases, I told Amparo that we were interested in bee keeping in conjunction with our lavender crop. She was very interested in our plans. Next Spring she said they would be happy to help educate us and to get us started. Her father has hives in many farms in the area. They love it when new people develop an interest, since global bee populations are in rapid decline.
It was a fun, and impressive few hours. And a beautiful drive down from Arzua. We had the entire place to ourselves, but if you’re ever in the area it’s an interesting afternoon. Great for kids.
A sweet way to kick off a pandemic Birthday Extravaganza.