To the Honey and Beyond

Ashley English is a homesteading maven who knows a thing or two about the sweet stuff (a.k.a. honey). Photo by Rachel Pressley

Ashley English never worried about getting stung. When she first started beekeeping, in 2008, the closest thing to a mishap she experienced was a close encounter with a honey-sniffing black bear.

“He was right there on the mountainside directly beside my coop,” she recalls. “And he was massive. My dogs ran him off.” After that, she electrified her apiary, and now, nestled in the forested cove in Candler that provides the atmosphere for her holistic lifestyle brand Small Measure, English finds hive tending to be deeply meditative.

“You must be calm yet deliberate and focused when working your hives, so the entire process invites mindfulness and attention,” she says.

In 2011, English published Keeping Bees with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Tend Hives, Harvest Honey & More. Today, the book is one of nearly a dozen books English has penned on small-scale homesteading.

This month, English will share some sweet tips and tricks during a backyard beekeeping workshop at Edneyville Library. To see what the buzz is all about, Bold Life caught up with the local apiarist on a bitterly cold winter day.

If you had to pick, what would you say are the three cardinal rules of beekeeping?

One: Start small. Better to get comfortable initially with a small hive than go headfirst into keeping a number of established hives.

Two: Never share/reuse someone else’s woodenware. The wood can harbor diseases that will decimate a hive. Better to buy new. Equipment such as smokers, hive tools, suits, veils, and gloves don’t apply to this rule.

Three: Leave plenty of honey for the hive. Taking too much for your own use runs the risk of your bees having inadequate stores to get them through the winter.

To a person who is intimidated by the idea of swarming bees, what would you say?

A swarm is actually quite docile. They consume a good bit of honey before swarming, and, as a result, are placated with full bellies.

Do folks need a honey extractor? Or does elbow grease and cheesecloth work just fine?

A honey extractor is highly recommended; otherwise, you’ll have to cut the honeycomb directly. But they can be quite costly. Local businesses and organizations have them available to rent.

What’s your favorite honey-centric recipe?

I love infusing honey with herbs, especially thyme and rosemary. Honey is also quite good for your skin, especially during the dry months of winter. I love to use it in a facial masque and also in a body scrub.

The massive decline of honeybee populations, a disaster which threatens the whole food chain, is reason enough to consider beekeeping …

Stewardship alone is its own massive benefit. I know quite a few people who keep bees and never harvest their honey.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project ( presents “Backyard Beekeeping with Ashley English” Monday, Feb. 6, 4-5:30pm at Edneyville Library (2 Firehouse Road, Hendersonville). Free. To register, call 828-685-0110. To learn more about English, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *