f:Entrepreneur #ialso100

Pollen blanket Print

This year has started with the very exciting news that Helen was named as one of the UK’s most inspirational and dynamic female entrepreneurs by the f:Entrepreneur ‘#ialso100’ campaign 2022.

Delivered by Small Business Britain – the leading champion of small businesses in the UK –  f:Entrepreneur was launched in 2017 to highlight the stories of amazing female business owners and help provide inspiration and role models across the wider small business community. Now in its fifth year, the campaign offers a host of events and training and networking opportunities to boost skills, capability and confidence.

Helen was chosen because of her work at Highgate Honey, her engineering expertise on cantilever stone stairs, championing UK honey in her honey tasting workshops and her book “80 Flowers for Bees”.

Both f:Entrepreneur and Small Business Britain were founded by Michelle Ovens CBE, who is also the director of Small Business Saturday UK.

“Congratulations to Helen Rogers of Highgate Honey,  and all of the brilliant female entrepreneurs featured in this year’s #ialso100,” said Michelle Ovens. 

“It is so vital that we recognize and celebrate the phenomenal contribution that women running businesses are making across the UK, and the far-reaching, positive impact they are having, not just on the economy, but on wider communities too. The last few years have been hugely challenging for small businesses, yet despite this female entrepreneurship continues to grow and flourish in the UK, and is very much at the heart of the UK’s recovery.”

To see the full line-up of the 100 amazing women featured in this year’s f:entrepreneur #ialso100 campaign  visit https://f-entrepreneur.com/ialso-100-2022/

Favourite Books of the Year

I love to read and I get through a lot of books of all different genres. It’s fun to look back over the year and reflect on which books have stayed with me. Interestingly, some that I didn’t particularly rate while I was reading them keep popping back into my head and have changed how I think about things.

If I had to pick my favourite I’d have a tough choice between these two:

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Both are very nature based, both are written by women who are scientists and both are beautifully written – weaving their lives and the work that they do together. I devoured each of them in a few days. They have both impacted the way that I look at the world and constantly pop into my head. I can’t recommend them enough!

This book was interesting too – it is a day by day diary of the seasons in the UK over 2020. It compares the changes in nature to the 72 mini seasons defined in Japanese culture. The author is a bird watcher, so it focuses mainly on which birds are around and what is in flower. Beekeepers tend to pay close attention to weather patterns as they affect our bees – so this was interesting to me. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it over a year, reading the relevant chapter to match the actual date.

Very occasionally I read a novel that is so completely unlike any other novel that I’ve ever read. Piranesi is one of those books. It is dark, other wordly and extraordinary.

Somehow I only recently discovered that Tove Jansson, the writer of the Moomin books, also wrote for grown ups. I’ve been savouring them ever since! This is a short novel about a grandmother and her granddaughter, spending the summer on a remote island off Finland. It is absolutely delightful, witty and wise.

I’d love to know which books you have enjoyed this year – leave a comment below!

Transparency time – if you end up buying using the links in this post I will receive a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

Pollen Blanket

About a year ago I had an idea to make a crochet blanket based on the colours of pollen that I see stored in the honeycombs of our hives. Honey bees collect pollen to feed to their young – it is full of protein and forms the base of “bee bread” which is essential food for bee larvae.

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Different flowers produce different colours of pollen. When you look inside a hive you can see which flowers the bees have been foraging on. They appear to store different types of pollen into different cells of the comb. This creates a beautiful stained glass effect.

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This has been a stop-start project. When it was hot in the summer it got abandoned for several months – it was just too uncomfortable sitting with most of a blanket over my lap. The recent colder temperatures have meant perfect blanket making weather, and I’m glad to finish it at last.

Pollen blanket

Free Webinar 20th May

To celebrate World Bee Day next Thursday, I’m partnering with Capital Gardens to bring you a free webinar called “Bees in the Garden – Planting Flowers to Attract Bees”. Colin Campbell-Preston and I will be talking about all things bee and will be giving lots of tips on selecting the best plants to provide quality forage and habitat for bees.

It will be taking place on 20th May at 12:30pm. It is completely free, but you do need to register. Sign up here

Lots of the plants that we will discuss are covered in my book “80 Flowers for Bees” – available to buy here

Edit: if you missed the live webinar, you can watch the recording here.

Honey Tasting Workshop from the comfort of your own home

Over the past few months we’ve been running some honey tasting workshops – it all started last year, when a friend asked me if I would run a session to do with bees over Zoom for her team – they were all fed up with working remotely and wanted something fun and interesting to do together. Since then we’ve run lots of sessions – it has been so much fun meeting new people and sharing the wonders of pure honey. We pick high quality honey for our samples – we are keen to demonstrate the wonderful diversity in colours and flavours of pure honey.

Honey Tasting

Recently I’ve been getting quite a few questions about how it all works, so I thought that it might be helpful to put something here for everyone to see.

We can either run a private session for groups of up to 20, or you can join one of our regular workshops (available to book from our on-line shop here).

A week before the workshop, we will be pack a box with your honey samples, spoons, tasting notes, sensory wheel, honey colour chart, pollen chart and some of our favourite honey based recipes. We will then post them to you, leaving plenty of time for them to arrive.

Honey Tasting

On the day, we all join the Zoom call. Helen, our beekeeper, will talk through the history of human’s relationship with honey, how honey bees collect nectar and make honey, how it is extracted, how to avoid buying poor quality honey and single origin honey. We then taste the samples, learn where that honey is from, why that honey is unique and analyse the smells and tastes.

Honey Tasting

At the moment we are using all pure honey from the UK. The sessions lasts around 1.5 -2 hours. The sample pots are large enough for 2 people from each household to take part. (You only pay for one place).

Do come and join us, or get in touch if you’d like to arrange a private tasting.

How to Easily Change a Lawn into Flower Garden

In front of our house we had a small, north facing lawn. We never used it and it was a chore to keep it mown. I had always thought that because it is north facing, it would get a relatively small amount of direct sun, which would limit what can be grown there. However, being at home more than usual over the past year gave me time to watch how much direct sun it actually gets. I was surprised that from March until October it has around 6 hours each day, which is plenty for many flowering plants that bees like to forage on.

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I didn’t like the idea of digging up all the grass, or using a herbicide to kill it off, so we decided to use the “No Dig” method advocated by Charles Dowding. We’ve used this method successfully in the past to create a vegetable patch in our back garden. It’s super simple – you lay down a layer of carboard over the entire area, then cover it with compost. You can then sow or plant directly into the compost. Over time the card will rot and the grass will die. I waited until our recycling collection day and collected all the card in the neighbourhood! There was more than enough to make a good layer.

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I then added a layer of compost. Some I bought and some we’ve made. We compost nearly all our kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, so we had quite a good stash. Here it is layered up.

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The plan is to sow a lot of flower seeds in March, which I’m hoping will then bloom right through until around November. To add some earlier flowers, I poked holes through the card board and planted lots of spring bulbs. They are now poking their noses through the compost layer, so it shouldn’t be too long before there is some colour in the muddy patch!

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In the autumn I also sowed some biennials, such as Foxgloves and Sweet Williams, which are overwintering in our tiny greenhouse – I’ll plant them out once the risk of frosts have past.

The hope is that we will have a feast for bees and other pollinators from spring until late autumn – much better than a boring lawn!

80 Flowers for Bees

Way back at the beginning of the first lockdown, my mother and I started a little project.

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This year we decided to pay extra attention to which plants in both our gardens seemed to be particularly attractive to bees. As we couldn’t meet, we frequently discussed what we saw when we spoke on the phone. I would often send her photos of flowers, which she quickly identified. I kept lots of notes – she would tell me which position the plants would thrive in, how tall they would grow and all the essential information needed to successfully grow them.

My parents live in rural Oxfordshire and over the years have created a large, beautiful and productive garden. My mother is an extremely knowledgeable horticulturalist – growing up, our home phone was always ringing with people wanting gardening advice from her. We would joke that it was like a continuous episode of Gardeners Question Time.

I started drawing the flowers and I realised that we were putting together a useful tool that would help people make good decisions about choosing plants for their gardens. The idea for 80 Flowers for Bees was born.

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Bees (not including honey bees) around the world are declining in numbers and it is understood that this is partly caused by lack of food – which means, lack of flowers. Everyone, wherever they live, can do something simple to help this situation – all we need to do is to plant more flowers. 80 Flowers for Bees helps you pick plants that will help nourish bees. I aim to have something in flower in our garden at all times of the year that is useful forage for bees. In the book we give information on flowering times, where to plant flowers, how big they will get, when to plant them and which varieties of the plants are particularly popular with bees.

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I’ve been assured by the printers that we will have the first batch of books with us for our launch date, 17th December. We will post all the pre-orders out on the 18th, which means they will be with you in time for Christmas. So, if you know someone who is interested in wildlife, bees or plants, or who just enjoys eating honey, this little book will make a perfect present or stocking filler. It is available to pre-order in our online shop here. Happy planting!

Free PDF for Autumn Planting

We are always striving to plant more flowers that benefit bees – the trouble is that it can be bewildering choosing appropriate plants, so we have produced a one page guide to just 4 plants that you can plant right now.

If you’d like a copy then pop your email in the form below and we’ll send you a link to download the file.

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Autumn

It’s now the end of the beekeeping season for this year. We won’t be opening our hives for inspections until the spring now. At this time of the year wasps can be a real pain for honey bees – they will attack weak colonies and raid them for their stores. Thankfully this year our colonies are strong so have been able to stop any raiders from entering the hives. This morning I helped a friend who is looking after a small colony that was getting hammered by wasps. We came up with a rather Heath Robinson contraption to try a fool the wasps. The idea is that direct flight into the hive is now impossible, which confuses the wasps. The bees are smarter and quickly worked out that they could get in by going round the edge of the plastic plate. Let’s hope that this colony makes it through the winter.

Autumn beekeeping

A few weeks ago we entered the The North London Beekeepers’ annual show. Many honey shows have been cancelled this year for obvious reasons. I was so pleased with how our entries got on this year – we have very talented bees! We joined a Zoom call to hear all the results announced and then I ran another popular honey tasting session.

Autumn beekeeping

We have now extracted all our honey for the year – it is available to buy through our website shop. My favourite lot for the year is #80 – it is a very dark honey, with a tangy and spicy flavour. We don’t have very many jars of it, so I recommend that you grab a jar while we still have some available (or before I eat it all…).

Autumn beekeeping

August

We are in the middle of a heat wave in London. I can’t even contemplate putting on a beesuit and inspecting our hives – This sort of weather makes me really respect beekeepers from warmer parts of the world – it is no fun being in your own private sauna while trying to properly check through hives.

We’ve been steadily taking off batches of honey for the last month or so. The yield this year is down on last year, but we are thankful to have some. It has been such a delight comparing the different batches – the colours and flavours are so variable depending on which flowers the bees have been foraging on.

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We have also taken our first cut comb honey of the year – to me nothing beats eating honey directly from the comb. It really is the most natural and simple way to enjoy it.

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Last month I had great fun giving a talk to the Stroud Green WI. I had originally been scheduled to do it in March, but it was postponed due to the lock down. We eventually got everyone together via Zoom. I talked about beekeeping in London, then we did a honey tasting. I sent them each small samples of various types of honey and we tasted them together. I think that they were amazed by the huge variations between the different types of honey and I was delighted that they appeared to enjoy our honey the most! London honey is particularly flavorsome because of the huge variety of plants that the bees are able to forage on.

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This year we decided to change the material of our label – for sometime we have been trying to decrease our use of single use plastic and we felt that our clear plastic labels could no longer be justified.

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