You know those stories that begin with one segment, then lead to another? And another. And…another? This is one of those stories. Here’s how it started:
One of my first Victory Garden entries included a trip to my neighbor down the road, Crestview Farms. I picked up some fresh eggs, some Honey Hill Farm local honey, and spoke with the owner about when her French Tarragon might be in. I got home, unloaded my treasures, and noticed that the Honey Hill Farm label read: Edmond, OK. How about that? The beekeepers were ALSO neighbors. I stashed that little nugget of information into the back of my brain and thought, “Okay, I’ll get there soon.” I wrote that post March 20th.
On June 20th, exactly 90 days later, Jerry Logan took a few hours out of his early morning schedule to show me just how it is that his bees do what they do. And his deer run like they run, and his Scimitar oryx grow horns as beautiful and long as they grow them. I appreciate Jerry’s willingness to let me ride along in his farm truck, in his camouflage utility vehicle and walk by his side as I learned all about how one thing led to another, and then another, until it became what it is today.
How Jerry Began Keeping Bees
Jerry Logan taught wood shop, or industrial arts, at Millwood High School for most of his professional life. He’s been retired for a while now, but when posed with the “how did you get started” question, he said that ‘one day, a man came into his wood shop and asked him if he could build the frames to hold honeycomb for bees. He did, and then he began ‘thinking about building his own.’ That must have been over 40 years ago, because Logan has been a beekeeper for that long. He’s been the president of the Oklahoma Beekeepers Association, and he has bee hives in Kingfisher, the Newcastle/Blanchard area, on his own land and on a few neighbor’s farms as well. He has hives placed on various sections of land in approximately a fifty-mile circle from his own land in central Oklahoma. And, he makes the rounds to check on them in various patterns of work almost every single day.
In fact, Logan DID work on his farm seven days a week until this Spring. In March, he had a massive heart attack while out on his land, was able to call 9-1-1 with his cell phone and was rescued from his location, eventually medi-flighted to a hospital in Oklahoma City where he went through quite an ordeal, including surgery, while recovering. When he returned to work, he made a deal with himself to only work six days each week. His recovery seemed so recent, I asked him about how he was doing now. He said, “I feel better than I’ve felt in a long, long time. I actually ‘released myself’ to begin working again.” Then he smiled. And that was when I began to see a glimpse of just how determined Jerry Logan was.
I don’t know whether it’s determination, or a similar attribute but Logan has a very large portion. He must, because he stocks honey in grocery stores in Enid, sells through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and to a few health food locations. All total, there are fifteen locations carrying his products. He also sells his honey to some of the most prestigious and notable fine restaurants in our state. He shared that he had made an appointment and gone through the process to work with Whole Foods in Oklahoma City, but decided that he liked managing things at his pace and on his terms, so he withdrew his application. His pace, however, is pretty rapid…
A Typical Morning
Our morning consisted of checking on bees about two miles from his farm, feeding the animals, and me asking about one hundred questions. Or maybe a few more.
Logan pointed out the various vegetation bees use for their honey making as we made our way to the first stop. White clover was blooming in the bar ditches, alfalfa was blooming in the fields and the salt cedars were blooming on the river beds. He highlighted the pink salt cedar blooms as we drove, or I never would have noticed them. “How far do bees fly to get pollen?” I asked. “Oh, they have a range of about seven miles from their hive,” he responded. “Hmmm,” I thought, and asked more questions. And more.
Logan was patient too. Patient and determined.
When we reached the first location he wanted to check, we got out and put beekeeping suits on before approaching the hive. “See right there?” Logan stated, pointing toward the fence. “That’s white clover.” I was looking around trying to figure out which plant he meant for too long, because when I turned around again, he was already taking the lids off the hives. I gave up on my first attempt at identifying white clover and hurried on over with my camera.
Logan has a system of knowing what hives he’s checked: there are bricks on top of the hives and he moves them over as he works his bees. He had been looking at one frame for quite a while when he said, “I’m trying to find the Queen so you can see her.” Just as he would spot her, she crawled to the back. He turned over the frame, and she’d crawl to the other side. (Smart bee!). However, I finally got a shot of her, the hives, and of my face getting stung through my hat because I wasn’t wearing it properly.
Every day Jerry checks to make sure the hive is active, healthy and that the Queen is still there. Otherwise, the hive would dissipate or die. And yes, the preceding sentence was an answer to more of my questions.
Feeding the Deer
Once Logan had checked his hives and showed me a few things about beekeeping, we headed back to his ranch to see the wildlife. I won’t be able to do justice to the visit as I was there almost two hours. However, I can tell you that while we were there, I saw adddax (what beautiful horns!), Scimitar oryx (stunning), Aoudad sheep (also known as Barbary), Fallow deer, a Llama, turkey, one racoon, and Axis deer (Chital). I can’t name my favorite of the safari tour I received, but I can tell you that the sight of a male Axis deer with a full set of horns in a dead run, leaping over a gulley, was absolutely breathtaking.
I prepared a silly little “trailer-style” video to give you just a glimpse of the feeding ritual Logan goes through each day. I didn’t include all the animals, nor all the beautiful sights, and the video quality is pretty shaky at times because I was riding in a little camouflage-print utility vehicle, but I think it will help you get a small peek into the process. Here it is:
As we rode through the bumpy terrain, I asked Logan if he ever thought about retirement. His response was, “Retire?” See what I mean about determined?
The development of his game-raising took many twists and turns over the years. Through laws and policies about raising wildlife, getting laws passed so deer could be raised like cattle or other livestock, through selling and distributing game to simply allowing customers to come out and pick what they wanted, and on and on. However, a new chapter will be opening on the farm soon. He’s preparing to get some of his property designated as a game reserve, and have visitors come to hunt on his land. I think the prospect will provide a challenge for the hunters…there is a lot of land, and plenty of places for the game to hide.
One story Logan told me stuck with me for a long time. When I heard it, I felt angry and wanted to go talk to the offenders. Evidently, trespassers came onto his property and killed some of the Axis deer as well as some bucks. In the back of my mind, I recalled the story airing on the news and have included that link for you. However, since that time, the perpetrators have been apprehended and are still waiting for their day in court in the Logan County jail. Federal investigators got involved because there was more than this single incident. The time and patience put into his breeding was greatly set back, but there is enough evidence to hold them over for trial and justice may be served in the end.
I think I’d like to end this post with a couple of thoughts. First, Jerry Logan’s life seems to be a bit like the “Curious Case of Benjamin Button” story in that he seems to get more “alive,” or age backwards as time moves along. With his renewed heart, a new mission, and many more plans, Jerry Logan has the essence of someone who is satisfied with where they are and what they are doing. In fact, I would venture to say he loves what he is doing on Honey Hill Farm.
Secondly, I was struck with the thought that the little honey pot on my table doesn’t nearly tell the story of how it came to be. I’m sure this is true for everything we eat or purchase. And, I’m grateful to Jerry for sharing just a little bit of that story for you and me – to greater understand the cultural landscape of who we are and what we do in the state of Oklahoma. Thanks, Jerry!
My Little Victory Garden “Extra” – Making Sumac Lemonade / For all the “My Little Victory Garden” posts, click here.