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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Julie Foley has a honey of a hobby

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Getting canned - As far as Julie Foley is concerned, honey is an essential ingredient when it comes to canning. She uses it in a wide variety of home- canned items including juices, fruit and toppings. Photo by Ron Flewelling.
If someone just happened to make up a slate of candidates for the title of Cherokee County Earth Mother, there is no doubt in my mind that Julie Foley's name would head the list.

On any given day, this Quimby gal wears a number of hats with natural ease.

Besides being a farm wife and mother who tends to the care of her husband Jack and her daughters Mary and Katie, she's also a caretaker at an area nursing home, an avid gardener with a near terminal case of the green thumb fever, a home canning wizard, a bakery maven and a proponent for natural foods sans chemicals and other assorted additives.

In addition, she keeps abreast of the buzz in her neighborhood.

No, Julie isn't a gossip or a nosy neighbor...

She's a beekeeper...

Julie's venture into the realm of apiary artistry wasn't motivated by any particular affection for the honey-toting critters.

Her extensive garden is the recipient of that honor.

"It was because of my garden that I decided to take up beekeeping," Julie said. "I always worried about pollination and I figured that having my own bees would put that particular worry to rest."

"I also knew that unlike sugar, honey was a beneficial sweetener that would be useful in both cooking and baking."

As she began to explore the possibilities of keeping her own bees, Julie received some valuable advice from a few local beekeepers.

"I contacted several people about the difficulty and expense of starting my own hives," Julie recalled. "Jean Ravnsborg, an amateur beekeeper, and Elaine Rolff, owner of A Taste of Country in rural Holstein, were very encouraging."

"They assured me that it wasn't all that expensive and that I could start out gradually, adding more beekeeping equipment as I needed it."

Rolff also put Julie in contact with Loyd Reineke, a third generation beekeeper from rural Cherokee.

"Loyd was invaluable," Julie said. "He became my beekeeping guru on everything from starting my hives to processing the honey."

Seven years ago, Julie took the plunge and bought her first hives from Leonard Kurtz of Sioux City.

"Leonard loved bees," Julie said. "And wanted to see new people get started in the hobby of beekeeping."

"I was really lucky," she continued. "He sold me two hives loaded with bees."

(On a side note of interest, a healthy hive can contain up to 40,000 bees.)

With Reineke's assistance, the new beekeeper brought her hives home and set them up.

The next fall, the venture proved to be a success when her two hives produced 17 gallons of honey.

"I was happy as a lark!" Julie said.

With a ready supply of honey on hand, Quimby's newest beekeeper was free to cook up a healthy storm in her kitchen.

Her bakery endeavors in particular, benefited from the addition of honey, especially when it came to bread.

Julie uses the natural sweet stuff in just about every loaf of home-made bread she makes, a list that includes white, wheat, Oatmeal, rye, Spelt and sourdough.

However, Julie was not one to rest on her laurels and she soon began to explore other uses for her honey.

"I came upon a book on canning with honey," she said. "And soon I was using it in putting up some of the fruits and vegetables from my garden."

This is just a bit of an understatement.

A list of Julie's home-canned items using honey is lengthy and includes apple butter, apple sauce, triple berry and elderberry/apple juices, apple pie filling. pears, peach topping and bread and butter pickles...just to name a few.

"I love experimenting!" Julie said.

Julie's aversion to toxic chemicals even carries over to the welfare of her bees.

Instead of spraying her resident honey makers with chemicals to ward off the mites that are doing so much damage to honey bees, Julie dusts them with an effective garlic powder concoction she learned about in one of her beekeeping magazines.

Since that day seven years ago when she bought her first bees, both Julie's bees and her garden have continued to grow.

This season she will be harvesting the honey from seven hives.

Her garden also seems to be slowly taking over the Foley family farm, a subject that at times drives Julie's husband Jack to the edges of consternation.

Take for example, an apple tree the beekeeping gardener planted recently.

The tree is healthy and doing quite well.

It's also planted right where Jack likes to park is combine.

"Jack is pretty good about the whole garden and bee thing," Julie said. "He even pitches in and helps me with the heavy work, especially when it comes time to move the hives."

When asked if she had a wish list as far as her garden was concerned, Julie said wistfully, "Yes, I'd really like to have a small orchard."

"That," she continued. "Might be an area where Jack might have a tendency to drag his feet just a little."

"We'll see," Julie concluded. "I haven't given up yet."

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