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Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Raspberry and Honey

The flower garden is covering one side of the forest that has been cleared out . There are small and cute white flowers sprouting on canes as tall as a person planted here . These are raspberries . Tina and I created this garden by planting the split root and crown of the wild raspberry canes from the forest .

“Wow, Kurt-sama . They are so pretty!”

Tina lets out a high pitched voice in excitement, admiring the garden in front of her . Turning around with a smile, Tina who has been assisting me in this garden looks pretty too .

“Indeed they are . The flowers are wonderful too, but soon we can harvest the raspberries . Exciting, isn’t it?”

“Yes! I love sweet and sour raspberries!”

We didn’t create this garden to admire flowers . Arnold family’s governed land is poor . The new village I governed is even poorer . In such case, there’s no time to raise ornamental flowers .

Then, why on earth would we grow these plants? The reason is obvious: to fulfill the dream of becoming the best pastry chef in the world . Raspberry can become sweets’ ingredient, but that’s not my only goal . Raspberry is a perennial plant that can be harvested twice a year, meaning they can be found growing wildly in this mountain, so they are strong against sickness and insects, and easy to handle .

In the corner of this garden, we’ve lined up ten wooden boxes around 50 cm tall . In the bottom part of the wooden boxes, there’s a passage used by bees, which are coming in and out busily .

“The bees are just as happy with the raspberries . They suck a lot of nectar . ”

“Raspberry flower’s nectar is sweet . The honey produced from raspberry will be delicious and has refined sweet taste . ”

Tina and I have been working on beekeeping . Contrary to Japan, sweet flavor in this world is extremely precious . I can’t obtain the first indispensable ingredient in sweets: sugar . Other than sugar, sweetness can come from fruits, or honey . The first one is highly influenced by seasons, but honey is sustainable .

Unless I can get a stable source of honey, there’s nothing I can do . Luckily, there are wild honey bees in my fief . I made the best use of my beekeeping experience back in Japan . Since my parent’s home’s livelihood in Yamanashi were orchards and beekeeping, my knowledge was more than sufficient .

I’ve thought about collecting honey without working on beekeeping, but it’s difficult to find wild bee nests . We have to crush the nest every time we collect honey . The number decreases startlingly fast if we do it too often . Besides, there’s another problematic issue: we can only collect a small amount of honey from wild nest to begin with .

“Tina, are you ready?”

“Yes, Kurt-sama!”

We put on hemp clothes that covers our whole body . They’re heavy enough to protect us from bee stings and they mask the scent that the bees hate . The honey bees have calm temperament and won’t aggressively assault humans themselves, but they will come rushing to attack anyone who gets close to their hive .

We approach the wooden boxes carefully . Hundreds of bees come swarming around us . I ignore them and take off the lid of the wooden box . The bees were startled and vigorously flew out to the sky in an instant . I stretch my hand into the box to push through those bees .

Inside the box, there are ten wooden frame place in equal intervals . Each frame contains honeycombs . I take out one honey frame . There are countless number of hexagonal sacs just like in a natural bee nests . Inside them, there are pupas and larvas… as well as a great amount of accumulated honey, proven by how honey color coats the wax .

With a brush, I remove the bees clinging to the comb .

“They honey is gathered at last . ”

Tina gulps and purrs . She has been waiting for a very long time .

“It takes a very long time, isn’t it?”

We started this beekeeping activity three years ago . The first year was a disaster . We did find a wild bee nest, then moving the queen bee and worker bees to our wooden box, but they were totally annihilated due to bad workmanship of the box .

Afterwards, we remade the wooden box over and over again without feeling discouraged . Through trials and errors, somehow we reached the point of enabling honeycombs to form inside .

From then, the colony got larger . It was good that we succeeded in increasing the number of bees, but since the number of worker bees weren’t enough, the honey was used to breed . We couldn’t harvest it .

First, we devoted ourselves in increasing the number of bees by adding more hives . However, since we didn’t prepare the countermeasure against cold weather, once winter came, the bees were totally annihilated .

We started the second year by increasing the number of bees in the same method . The bees could get through winter somehow . Moreover, in order to reduce the food insufficiency from the increased number, we planted a flower garden near the boxes . If the bees had to look far for nectar, even the worker bees would end up feeding on it instead . By preparing plenty of food nearby, the amount of honey preserved in the hives would dramatically accumulate .

Then, today, we’ve finally reached this point .

“How is it, Kurt-sama? Is it good enough?”

“It’s a success . The honeycombs are filled to the brim . Look, you can see right now how it’s dripping . It looks great,” I answer while taking out the tool to adjust the bee combs on the side of the hive .

The tool is called as extractor . It is shaped like drums, with metal fitting to enable the honeycombs fixed vertically inside . …The principle sounds simple, but it’s actually complicated . Still, we could build it somehow .

Inserting the honeycomb frame in a snug fit, I cut off the honey wax which clings to the cap first, by a knife . Honey turns into wax and naturally functions as hard cap . After I cap off the honey, the golden-colored syrupy honey oozes out, piling up at the bottom of the extractor .

“Well then, I’ll start . ”

There is a handwheel handle on top of the extractor . When I spin it, the inner part of the hardening honeycomb rotates, which causes honey to steadily flow from the centrifugal force .

It’s a primitive method . The hive gets air-compressed and the honey is thoroughly extracted . There certainly are other ways to take the honey . However, they would end up breaking the beehive . By using centrifugal force, I can take out the honey and reuse the hive .

After returning the honeycomb into the beehive, the bees come flying back too . We can harvest again next year this way . It’s a hard labor for bees to make a hive . If we let them rebuilding it, they would need to allocate more time to breed worker bees . They won’t have time to stockpile honey and the amount of money we could harvest next year would be greatly reduced .

Basically, after extracting the honey, I return the honeycomb into the hive and come back later with a new comb . I work on the whole hives . Tina switches with me when I get tired in the middle of the process .

“Whoa, there’s really a lot in there, Kurt-sama! It’s the first time I’ve seen this much honey!”

With sparkling eyes, Tina’s tail is swinging around . In this era, acquiring honey is a real treat . Even if we’re scouring the forest all day long without rest, there’s no guarantee that we’ll find a wild bee nest . And even if we do, there’s only a small amount of honey preserved inside the nest .

“Yes . Finally, we get the result of our hard work . Honestly, I thought that it was impossible so many times . ”

For two full years we couldn’t harvest any honey . Tina had been a great help all along . We change place to collect the honey oozing out from a single wooden box and throw off the stuffy clothes .

“Can I lick it?!”

“Wait for a while . I’ll finish up real soon . ”

I went and return with a huge bucket . Then, I put on a coarse fabric as a filter . Honey that has just been poured out from the hives contains rubbish, larvas, carcasses, husks, fragments of combs and other stuffs mixed inside . I clean the honey in one go this way . If I don’t do this, the honey won’t be edible . Then, finally, the honey is collected . There’s about 13 liter of honey from a single wooden box . This feels great .

“Now, let’s give it a taste . ”

Tina and I dip our fingers to the honey . The honey stickily coats our fingers . Then, we lick it off .

Sweet . So sweet that my cheeks are loosening up . I can taste a hint of sourness, is it because this is the honey made from raspberries? Tina holds both of her cheeks, making high sounds that doesn’t sound like a human’s voice, then shows the best smile she has . Seems like she really likes it .

“We should collect from the rest of the boxes tomorrow . Let’s go home now . I want to make sweets with this honey right after we get back . ”

“Woah, Kurt-sama’s sweets! I’m excited!”

Tina’s eyes sparkles, with her tail swinging happily .

“I’m going to make amazing sweets, sweeter than anything you’ve tasted before . Look forward to it . ”

“That… I’m so happy I can die now . ”

Geez, Tina sure likes to exaggerate . The sweets I’ve been making for Tina only use wild grapes or akebi fruits from this mountain . Although they carry a hint of sweetness, I think they are still not enough to be called as sweets . However, I’ve obtained honey now . The first-rate quality honey at that, even .

I haven’t shown off my skills in a long while .

I can make real sweets!

Now, as the first step to make my dream in this world come true, let’s bake the best sweets I can do .

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