On a particularly BEE-u-t-ful Fathers Day Barbara and I jumped in the Optima and headed west. We decided to leave Opie (the wonder toy-poodle) in the cool of the AC'd apartment because we knew we'd be stopping a lot and didn't want him to expire prematurely in an Easy-Bake car-oven. A couple of convenient McDonald's drive-through steak burritos later, and we were driving down the 94 towards our destination(s).
As it turned out, Oconomowoc has a really nice Goodwill in the shadows of great (manmade) Mt. Olympia so we made it our first stop of the day. I fully admit I am a complete drinking glassware whore. I find it necessary to peruse the shelves for a few more beer drinking vessels that will end up in storage in some box in the basement for that "someday" when I have a place to display them all. A guy needs choices in which to sip his malted adult beverage from right? I mean, the fanciest places I have ever visited match the brew to its appropriately coordinated drinking container. That's class baby! It takes so little to make me happy; really.
I ultimately scored three matching Bitburger pilsner glasses with gold (freakin') rims, a 49-cent double-ended, stainless steel shot glass measurer thingy, seven 99-cent LPs (of dust-molded vintage to "rip" from my USB turntable to my iPod), a mismatched set of five awesome stainless steel mixing bowls, and a fist-sized pair of actual "hand-painted" ceramic owl likenesses. Barbara found clothes. The kid at the register innocently looked up from his scanning of our purchases and asked, So there was a band called Bread?"
Next stop (just up the road) was the super-colossal, gi-normous Ben Franklin Crafts for some jewelry-making supplies Barbara needed, and a few things I wanted to find in order to complete a custom framing of a Milwaukee streetcar photo. Crafting is one of those things like glassware collecting; you buy all sorts of stuff for "someday" and hope to hell you don't die before you use it. Buy hey...it's commerce that keeps the globe spinning, so we gleefully do our parts and never make each other feel guilty or stupid; that's true love baby...try it...no regrets!
A few more miles up the 67, through Ashippun and Old Ashippun was our (real) destination; Honey Acres. Honey Acres is a family business, now in its fifth generation. In 1852 great-grandfather, C.F. Diehnelt (1811-1882) arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Rosswein, Germany with his beekeeping talents. Later his son August and grandson, Walter A., joined the honey business. At this time Honey Acres was called "Linden Apiary." In 1930 it was renamed Honey Acres and was moved to Menominee Falls, Wisconsin where it grew and prospered for 50 years. In 1980 Honey Acres moved to a rural site near Ashippun, Wisconsin, where they developed a new, larger plant designed to handle the finest honey products.
Their free and comprehensive honey museum is worth a visit, and be sure to watch their 20 minute video presentation. You can even peer into an operating hive, cleverly disguised as a tree. Notice the hot temperature inside the hive, courtesy of the handy dial thermometer. A small “gift shop” and honey tasting area are located at the entrance/exit with a friendly and knowledgeable attendant on duty. Their operating hours are Mon-Fri: 9am-3:30pm, May 15-Oct 30 - Sat & Sun Noon-4pm. Rumor now has it that a “family from California” is in the process of buying out the business. That will effectively break the long string of Diehnelt family ties to Honey Acres. It’s sad when that happens, but I am very familiar with the dreams of one generation and how they sometimes do not translate to others. Whatever occurs with new ownership it was obvious from my observations from two previous visits to this last one, that new blood and newly injected energy could vastly jump-start a now tired looking enterprise.
After placing our purchases into the Kia; Barbara and I decided to walk their “nature trail” that extends from the parking lot, over a tiny creek via wooden bridge, up a slight grade, through a pine forest into a deciduous planting, leading to a climbable one-story, somewhat neglected wooden elevated platform, and then back in a circular route towards the parking lot. I brought the Bushnells along (cause I always do) and was treated right off the bat to a beautifully blue male Indigo bunting. Other birds logged along this short but enjoyable path were the familiar patriotic trio of; American robin, American crow, and American goldfinch along with a Great-crested flycatcher, Cedar waxwing, White-breasted nuthatch and Red-tailed hawk. All in all, this is a wonderful Saturday or Sunday afternoon diversion for birders and/or honey-enthusiasts alike.
So best of luck Honey Acres towards whatever your future has in store for you. It’d be tragic to lose such a time-tested, Wisconsin-made, icon of tradition. I say, partner up with Leinenkugels as their exclusive provider to their Honey Weiss recipe and branch out your bees-ness into hats, shirts, a much more manicured and bee-utiful garden at your entrance, and see if you can perhaps market yourself into prominence once more. If you need any more ideas; feel free to give me a buzz!