Hanoi – Vietnam

Hanoi - Fruit DeliveryAs my wife, Melissa, has told me on more than one occasion, “You go to weird places for vacation.”

I will admit that, on occasion, my venturing may have trended toward the esoteric.  With Melissa not being one to venture where air travel is necessary, my usual go-to person for such venturing is my sister.

It was some time after my road trip into the Canadian arctic that my sister, who lives in Japan, said, you should visit me, again, and we can go elsewhere in Asia.

A bit of back and forth through email with my sister, and we settled on Vietnam over Christmas and New Years.  So, for the last few days, my sister and I have been in Hanoi.  Getting here was a bit of journey, at least for me.  A long layover and then a canceled flight out of Seattle made it so I only had 12 hours in Japan.Meghann and I were then off to Incheon, South Korea, to catch another flight to Hanoi.

Landing in Hanoi, the first thing that I noticed was the air.  We landed in the late evening, and a mist had settled in on the area.  There was a chill in the air with a slight woodsmoke smell.  It was likely just the jet lag, but I briefly flashed back to the cabin we used to caretake on Perch Lake in northern Minnesota.  It was a familiar smell – damp air with woodsmoke, it was somewhat comforting – but the surroundings were far from familiar.

Ho Chi Minh's MausoleumSince getting to the hotel which is near Hoàn Kiếm Lake, we have visited Tam Cốc-Bích Động – a waterway with limestone karsts that jut out of the landscape, we have also visited Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, checked out John McCain’s flight suit at Hoa Lo Prison (“Hanoi Hilton”), visited several Buddhist shrines, had some wicked-awesome food, visited the remnants of a B52G that was shot down over Hanoi, we have wandered some of the main streets and side streets of Hanoi, we have seen abject poverty and a brand new Bentley all within walking distance from our hotel.  We rounded out tonight with watching a traditional water puppet show – Nhà hát múa rối Thăng Long.

Tomorrow we head to the Gulf of Tonkin and Hạ Long Bay.  I’ll leave you with a photo of a plaque near the downed B52G.

Site of B52G


This Season’s Honey

We finally got the winter “porches” on the bee hives here in St. Paul. These are pretty simple things that block direct wind from blowing into the top entrance.  I had neglected to put these handy little things in place when I had wrapped the hives with tar paper in early November.  At the time, the bees were angry – they were pulling out all the stops and were emitting their alarm pheromone and I had been stung six or seven times on my right hand (remember, I do not wear gloves).

While stapling the folded tar paper porches onto the hives, even with the air temperature in the mid-teens (Fahrenheit) today, several bees flew out and looped about the entrances to check out what the racket was about.

The hives down south – in Racine, MN – have been buttoned up, complete with winter porches, since mid-October.  The bees there were happy and could have cared less that I was busy stapling tar paper to their homes.

We won’t be checking hives, again, until mid-winter.  In the mean time, we have honey.  We have quite a bit of honey, actually.  The four hives in St. Paul, MN, produced ≈125 pounds (56.7 kg) of honey, while the four hives in Racine, MN produced slightly less with ≈100 pounds (45.4 kg).

This is the first year that we have had hives at two significantly different locations.  Prior to moving to the St. Paul, we did have hives in Proctor as well as north of Duluth, but there was only 26 miles in between those locations.  There’s 93 miles between St. Paul and Racine.  St. Paul has its urban forests, residential yards with plenty of dandelions in the spring as well as backyard vegetable gardens and thousands of other places for different flowers to grow.  Racine is decidedly rural.  It’s rural and located in farm country.  Even though Racine has vegetable gardens, apple trees, and dandelions, much of the surrounding landscape is covered with alfalfa, clover, oats, corn and soybeans during the growing season.

With the difference in terroir (to borrow term from viticulture), we decided to keep the two varietals separate.

Racine is light with sweet and smoother flowery notes (the jar of honey in the photo, above, that is very light in color, is Racine).

St. Paul is more complex, with a slightly sharper, earthier tones (the jars, above, that are darker are St. Paul).

And now, a bit of shameless self-promotion: if you are interested in participating in getting your mitts on a jar or four, tweet at me or, preferably, drop us an email.  A couple caveats: I am unlikely to want to ship honey via the postal service or other big-name courier – honey is heavy and the jars are fragile.  But, if you are willing to pay for shipping, then please say so – it will likely double the cost per jar.

Caveat two, if you know that I will be in visiting your particular region, I would be more than happy to bring with me a modest number of jars.  In this situation, I am highly unlikely to charge shipping.

Otherwise, if you are in or are going to be in the Twin Cities metro area, or even the Rochester, MN, area, delivery or pick-up can easily be arranged.


Special thanks to Paul Shively for designing this year’s honey jar label.