And they had one treat back then that most Americans didn’t have: honeycomb. Yes, they had a lot of that in the wintertime, and they greatly enjoyed it.
My grandparents had a lot of woods on their farm, so they pastured their cattle in the woods. It was the children’s responsibility to go out to the woods every afternoon and bring in the cows for milking. And in their woods, they always had wild honeybees. The children would always keep their eyes open to locate hollow trees with bees in them. Sometimes it wasn’t hard to locate them; sometimes they would have thousands of bees swarming around them.
My grandfather always told his children to mark the bee tree or remember where it was, which they always did. Then, early in the winter on a really cold day, he would go to the woods with a bunch of Grandma’s big bowls and cut the tree down, and with a butcher knife, cut the honeycomb out of the hollow tree. Thus they had honey to eat all winter long.
I would always ask my mother, “Didn’t he get stung by all those bees when he cut their tree down and cut out all the honeycomb?” Her answer was, “No, by waiting till it got really cold out, the bees didn’t really bother him much.” I was amazed. Mom always said what a treat it was having that honeycomb to eat all winter long. They maybe were very poor, but they had a loving home with lots of honeycomb to eat.
Growing up, I never had wild honeycomb to eat. My parents said that with all the chemicals used in agriculture today, wild honeybees were a thing of the past.
In 1991, the Lord opened the door for us to buy the farm we’re on today, which was a real miracle. Before buying this farm, we prayed much, and the Lord told us that he had a farm for us, flowing with milk and honey. Well, we’ve produced a lot of milk on this farm over the years. Honey? Well, I always looked at that as all the goodness and blessings of the Lord. And he has surely blessed us greatly here.
We have big woods here on our farm, and we heat our home with firewood from the woods. Late this fall, Joshua and I were cutting firewood, and I cut down an 80-foot-tall pine tree that was hollow in its center. I’ve cut a lot of hollow trees down over the years, so I didn’t think much of it. I started blocking it up for firewood, when all of a sudden, I cut through a bunch of honeycomb, and hundreds of very angry honeybees came swarming out, sending Joshua and me running! We were shocked; this had never happened to us in the past. Fortunately, the bees were as confused as we were, and we were able to get out of there without getting stung.
So I waited for a really cold morning, then Catherine and I went back to the bee tree. I took a clean 5-gallon pail, along with an ax, a maul, a wedge and a big butcher knife to cut the honeycomb out of the tree. I split the hunks of wood open to get at the honeycomb. Needless to say, the bees were not happy with me. Even in the bitter cold, a few of the bees would swarm up around me. I had to run away a few times to get away from them, and Catherine brushed a number of them off my clothing. Fortunately, I didn’t get stung.
I cut a lot of wild honeycomb out of that tree with my butcher knife that morning. We brought it home, and we all had to have a taste of it. As we tasted it, we all got big smiles on our faces – it was super delicious. Every morning at breakfast, we’re having wild honeycomb on our toast and greatly enjoying it. Just like my ancestors did.
A land flowing with milk and honey? Absolutely yes. God is so good. The Bible says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good …” Psalms 34:8 (KJV). I can testify from personal experience that the Lord is good, far better than the wild honey even.
Tom Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Contact Tom Heck.