by Avery Chenoweth
“I’m going to check on the bees, and see how they’re doing--do you want to join me?”
Eva troops around the farm several times a day, sweeping one hand rapidly behind her, propelling herself across the lawn of high grass. She is never alone. But accompanied by flocking chickens, running and tumbling dogs, the congress of goats, whose hooves alight on tree stumps, and horns clack against the fence. Amid the commotion, the most poignant is a porcine duet from Betty and Arnold, whose grunting breaks with a squeal when Betty catches a horn from a tormentor. They want food, attention, and conversation, so in passing, Eva speaks to them all, as they gather, chase, and run between her boots.
A menagerie like hers requires attention, and no one more so than the bees, perhaps, who have seen a decline on her property as they have in the pandemic sweeping the country. When Eva invited me to leave the porch, she was inviting me to see the jump-started colony, the one of last year having died off--and though I was tempted to cheer her on with a wave of my ice tea, when she leaned out the screen door, I hopped up.
The hive stands in a wooden box under the tree line, graced with shadow on a spring day, and their buzz was audible. She stepped up to it, adorned in netted helmet, jacket, and heavy gloves. Eva’s mission is to check on their health. She knows what they need to do, when, and how well. It’s the art and science of husbandry that she has mastered.
And so, it may be no surprise how the bees relate to her soaps. Husbandry, after all, is not an isolated pursuit, and her menagerie shows us a comprehensive way of life. Eva’s eye for detail captures the myriad of natural ingredients and proprietary blends that she uses to create her unique skin care products. This is not some cold market research. I see her rather as a scientist who walks every day in the same ecosystem as that of our clients. Eva shares their frustrations and needs, and that experience drives her passion to care for everyone, as she would herself.
And when she sets her mind on something, she is unstoppable. She is all in. She thinks not a whit about herself, but of the results, and could not possibly trouble herself with all the trouble such devotion to a great solution might entail. I’ve seen her butted by goats, which left a wild welt on her leg; knocked over by Betty; her face even raked by a hawk in a freak accident, which nearly took an eye. And to these, uh, inconveniences, she laughs. Not always, to be sure. Yet you might think it was a farcical sketch on Monty Python. Unfazed by the bruises and blood, she gets up, and gets going, swinging an arm, and moving ahead.
The Keeper doesn’t sit back and chill, or daydream on a front porch swing. To care for the bees entails an understanding not of the hive alone, but of the fields and flowers that compose their ecosystem. Eva withdraws some honeycomb, buzzing and crawling with bees--all healthy. “Come here if you want to see it,” she says, inviting me to join her, as always, which is her thing. She then slides it back into place. And then she moves on.