We take pride in the hives that we build and are dedicated to offering exceptional support for our customers. However, neither of these things would be possible without each and every worker bee in our hive. In this Hive Highlight, meet Hillary. Not only is Hillary an integral part of our retail staff, she is also a fifth generation chef and nutrition coach for people struggling with food allergies and autoimmune diseases. She has a unique perspective on the role of bees in personal nutrition, and is sharing this expertise in a honey tasting and appreciation class at Bee Thinking this July. Thanks for being a part of our team, Hillary!
Are you a beekeeper or a bee lover?
Both! I actually find myself frequently speaking to the girls I see out foraging nectar while I'm out meandering through my neighborhood or out on hikes.
What kind of hive do you mostly work with?
Each style has its pros and cons! For five or six years I had 8-frame Langstroths, because that is what my mentor had. After learning more about other hive styles, Warre and top bar hives are my preference because they take a more natural approach and I can easily lift and maintain them. I keep a Warre on my partner's property, mentor a few people who have various styles of hives, and I help with the assortment of hives belonging to Bee Thinking as often as possible.
How would you describe your beekeeping philosophy?
I try to not interfere too much and instead let the bees do their thing. Sometimes they need a little encouragement to boost hive health, production, or grooming habits, though. I'll do what I can to help the girls out.
What initially interested you most about the company?
After relocating to Portland, I was thrilled to find a place where I could chat with likeminded folks about bees and other pollinators as well as the health benefits of honey and the excitement of mead. It has been great expanding my own knowledge in all these areas and becoming part of the greater beekeeping community.
How much honey do you eat every week?
Well, I take a tablespoon each morning with apple cider vinegar for the health benefits. Sometimes for dessert I'll drizzle honey over yogurt or ice cream or have a dollop with cheese or cashew butter and fruit. I also brew (and drink) jun, a cousin to kombucha, and it thrives on honey. So I guess in total I consume close to 2 cups of honey each week!
What's your favorite dish to make with honey?
It’s hard to choose one favorite... Right now I'm making a number of salad dressings and sauces with honey. I recently made a honey mustard with loads of fresh dill for a chicken salad that was amazing. The extra is going on some grilled veggie kabobs tonight. Earlier this year I was eating roasted artichokes with garlic honey butter. With autumn approaching I'm already thinking about honeyed cashew butter and fresh apples.
Who’s your favorite queen bee?
My mom JanyRae! She is an inspiration for many facets in my life and has earned the title of queen. Plus, she regularly rescues bees from dire circumstances and has set up a drinking pond in her backyard for the native bees and pollinators in her neighborhood.
What do you enjoy about working at Bee Thinking?
Being part of a happy hive! It’s great to work with a group of people who have similar interests and truly care about the future of our honeybee populations. Another awesome part is being able to educate our customers about the importance of pollinators and the potential health benefits of honey. And of course getting to dream up fun food pairings and recipes for the meads and honeys! So far one blog post with a recipe has been featured but there are many more to come.
Hillary swirling a glass of traditional Tej mead to appreciate the bouquet.
What fascinates you most about bees?
Their methods of communication and navigation abilities. While I love being an independent thinker and choosing my own course in life, there have certainly been times when it would be handy to be able to tap into a "hive mind" and choose a course to better all life on our planet. Using an internal guidance system to navigate around and simply knowing where to go rather than relying on my phone would be pretty awesome.
What do you do for fun outside of Bee Thinking?
I go to the coast or Columbia River as often as possible. Something about getting my toes in the sand really lifts my spirits. I also really enjoy digging in the dirt and caring for my little herb garden as well as my partner's rose garden. As a fifth generation chef, playing in the kitchen is another fun activity for me and I enjoy experimenting with botanical infusions, ferments, and making magic with our region's amazing seasonal produce selection.
What do you think bees dream about?
I think bees dream about being able to swim! Foraging on the flowers of the sea sounds pretty romantic and wonderful to me.