Muddy's is already your source for local cupcakes and coffee, but did you know you can also hit us up anytime for local honey too? We proudly stock our shelves at both our East Memphis as well as our Midtown locations with Deaton's Bee Farm Honey, which comes from the bee farm of Jimmy and Barbara Deaton of Walls, Mississippi. I've been purchasing all my honey from the Muddy's shelves for quite some time and have become, quite frankly, addicted, so I was curious to learn a little bit more about the beekeepers behind this particular honey and why it tastes so scrumptious. The Deatons graciously granted me the following interview to satiate my curiosity and to share with all the other fans of Deaton's Bee Farm Honey out there.
How did you get into beekeeping?
Jimmy: Well, over 20 years ago, it started off as a hobby, and it gradually grew larger and larger. When I was a child, my uncle had bees and we would go visit him in Iuka in the summer. He would give us some honey with comb in it, and we would take it home. I always remembered that, so when we moved to this area, with 10 acres and plenty of room for bees, I bought two hives from him. Started off with two, and now we got about eight hundred. We learned from studying, books, talking to other people who had bees, and lots of trial and error. It's always a learning process, and always changing.
What is life like as a beekeeper? Is it a 40 hour a week job?
Jimmy: No, it's a LOT more than that. Though we don't work as long as we used to, as we are getting up in age a little bit. We have settled down and gotten different people to help us with the work, and that?s made it a lot easier on us. My brother, my grandson, my son-in-law, my grandson's friend, they all help.
Barbara: And I'm the bookkeeper, and I help fill the packaging and do the labelling. We have grocery stores all over town we deliver to each week, and restaurants, candy companies, Wiseacre brewery, all the places like that.
What is the work of beekeeping like?
Jimmy: Every season is different. In the wintertime the bees are pretty well dormant, and that?s when we work on all our equipment, boxes, and frames and get them ready for the coming year. And early spring the bees start building up. That's when our work really starts.
The bees gather nectar from the plants all summer starting in early May. We try to keep most of our bees around soybean fields. Soybean nectar makes a very good mild-tasting honey. Then the bees bring the nectar to the comb, and store it in the comb. And the nectar is very high in moisture. The bees have to evaporate the moisture out of the nectar, bringing it down to about 18%.
So as bees fill the first boxes we put on, we keep stacking more and more boxes in, and that?s what they store the honey in. And constantly we have to make sure we?ve got enough boxes on there so they don?t run out of room. And basically that?s what it is. And after they?ve evaporated the moisture out, they seal it, and it?s ready for harvest at that time.
We start our harvest usually in late July and try to finish by mid-October before it gets cold. The harvest involves bringing it into this house--this bee building here--and extracting the honey from the comb. And once it?s extracted, it?s stored in 55 gallon food-grade drums until we?re ready to pack it. And we pack it all throughout the winter. Fall and winter.
What would you say your relationship is like with your bees?
Jimmy: When you go work the bees, you?ve got to be very careful and gentle. If you go down there and work the bees really rough and knocking them around, they get very agitated. They will sting you. They?ll sting anybody, but they get used to being handled a certain way. That?s definitely the way they are.
Barbara: You have to respect the bee and what she stands for--of course they?re all females. That?s the way I look at it. Yes, you have a fear of what the bee can do to you, and you have to learn how to handle her. You get where you enjoy just being in with the bees, in the woods, and all because the nature. The quietness is there, and the peacefulness is there with the bees.
What sets your honey apart from everyone else's?
Jimmy: Our customers tell us it?s the flavor of our honey from the area we live in. They prefer that taste over even clover honey. Orange blossom honey is supposed to be extremely good and mild, and people like it. But we?re told they like our honey better. There?s many many different flavors and brands of honey. There?s clover, orange blossom, tupelo, buckwheat, many many flavors, but our customers prefer this flavor from this area.
That flavor comes from soybeans, cotton, wildflowers in this area--that's the bees' basic nectar source. Your typical clover honey most people grow up on is normally very light colored and has a very very mild flavor. Our wildflower honey is more of a darker color and a little bit of a stronger flavor. Which most people prefer the stronger flavor.
Do y?all go through much of Deaton's Bee Farm Honey in your house?
Jimmy: We do.
Barbara: I?m mainly a vegetarian, and sometimes I will drizzle honey over fruit, sweeten cereal with it, sweet potato casserole, breads, cakes, cookies? just about anything you can put sugar in.
Jimmy: And Barbara won?t drink coffee without it. And she does cook with it a lot--all kinds of different recipes she makes. She made a comment one time, ?It?s a good thing we?re beekeepers, because we couldn?t afford to buy all this honey we use.?
Luckily, we don't all have to become beekeepers to have a constant supply of local raw honey here in Memphis, Tennessee. Come see us at Muddy's to pick up your own bottle of honey from Deaton's Bee Farm, and hey, why not a cupcake too? And don't forget to try some honey in your coffee--there's seriously no going back to sugar once you do!