My name is Eva and I learned about the incredible tradition of natural beekeeping that Antonio Simon follows - and saw one of the beautiful places where his oak honey comes from.
Let me tell you a little more. At The Raw Honey Shop I help with their accounts.
Bearing in mind that I come from Spain it makes sense that I help them with their communications with Spanish beekeepers as well.
So because of that I get to speak to Antonio very often over the phone to sort things out. What I discovered through talking to Antonio is that honey people are different - Antonio is a very special man, who is very committed to natural beekeeping. His family have been beekeepers for four generations and it is in his blood. (This is Antonio in the photo with me.)
He had kindly invited me to visit his hives and bottling plant in la sierra in Madrid (sierra is a long jagged mountain chain), so there I went a couple of weeks ago when I was on holiday visiting my family.
Antonio took me and a friend to la sierra, handed us a couple of 'astronaut suits' and drove us to some hives right in the middle of an oak trees forest up in the mountains. He ensured we were safe in the suits with no holes for the bees to come in, and then started opening the hives whilst talking to us.
I was terrified at first. Hundreds of little bees flying around... I didn't trust the astronaut suit to start with, but then because Antonio was chatting so passionately about the little bees, their house and queen, their working and organisation systems..., without realising I stopped thinking about the danger (that of course only existed in my head) and started enjoying the experience.
What he told me opened up a whole new world to me. I learnt that natural organic beekeepers, rather than exploiting the bees, follow a series of procedures in order to respect their needs and the nature.
This is known as sustainable or bee centred beekeeping.
For example, they won't start removing honey before the bees have what they need for themselves to feed upon during the winter months.
They won't use pesticides or treatments.
Only natural materials will be used to build the hives.
Bees won't be stimulated so that they produce more honey.
They will place the hives in lands at least 3km away from potential sources of contamination.
They (organic beekeepers) also work closely with nature - they will use the influences of the moon and planets to manage the hives.
Some will even talk to the bees, like our mums talk to their plants (well at least in my country).
After the forest, we headed to the production plant.
There we saw how they extract the honey from the honeycombs and how they put it in the jars. (By spinning it out in a centrifuge and then slowly trickling it into the jars.)
There I found an order of Oak honey that was ready to be delivered to The Raw Honey Shop! It wouldn't fit in my bag so I left it where it was but fortunately it got delivered to The Raw Honey Shop by the time I got back. I understand now why the Oak honey from Antonio is one of the most popular The Raw Honey Shop sells.
The visit finished with a really nice and generous meal at Antonio's home, which his partner Carmen had kindly cooked while we were visiting the bees. Some honey had been added to the salad dressing, it was delicious!
I would like to offer my thanks to Antonio and Carmen for sharing with us the secrets of this tradition, and also the tasty meal and also showing us to the village swimming pool on a 40 degrees Spanish day!
If you want to order any of Antonio's honey then just click here.
You can go straight to the Oak here.