Blessing of the grapes
and other seasonal harvest adventures
By Cheryl Angelina Koehler, editor of Edible East Bay
Leaving Concannon, I rambled east for several miles, then north on Greenfield Road, finding myself at the eastern entrance to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Taking a perpendicular course away from the lab, I nonetheless I found myself racing through packs of fast-moving scientists using Lupin Way as a lunch-hour treadmill.
“The way they order their society, the organization of tasks, and how that changes through the workers lives is amazing,” said the winemaker. “You can tell how they are doing by looking in the hive. Each hive has a temperament.”
Liske served as a fire captain for the City of Hayward Fire Department for 36 years. On retirement, he bought his Livermore property with the intention of pursuing his longtime passion for beekeeping. Setting up to run a honey ranch with 200 colonies of bees as livestock, he soon found that lifting the heavy bee boxes was hard on the body.
“I decided as a 64-year-old guy not to stick it out,” said Liske. “Honey weighs 12 pounds per gallon, while a gallon of water weighs only eight pounds.”
Much of a beekeeper’s work centers on keeping the hives healthy, but Lisak’s take on the widely reported bee health crisis was more heartening than we often hear:
“Coming back in with computers has made it easier to address the problem. We are learning more about bee husbandry and raising queens. If you get a good genetic strain, they will be good at their own housekeeping and will be resistant to the varroa mite.”
Coaching local beekeepers has become the focus of Liske’s bee business, but he gladly offers honey tastes and a beekeeping demo to any tasting room visitor showing a glimmer of interest. Liske’s hive demos are listed as one of many highlights during the Valley’s 2017 Harvest Wine Celebration, coming up on Labor Day weekend.
“It used to be called the Honey and Wine Festival,” Liske says of this long-running annual celebration. Indeed, the valley once hosted a huge number of beekeepers, and bee demos were always part of the festivities. These days the honey part of the festival goes on at El Sol Winery, so be sure to stop by for a sweet and interesting visit as you are doing your Livermore Valley touring.
Photo above right: Local carpentry pro Paul Heald made this horizontal hive as a gift for his friend, winemaker/beekeeper Hal Liske. “He researched the colors bees like,” says Liske, as he points out the fine tongue and groove construction of the joints.