My motorcycle buddy and all-around renaissance man, Nicholas Freedman, hosted a very special lunch and ‘bee hive dive’ at his east-Petaluma ranch, benefiting the Sonoma Academy. Many bee experts, aficionados, interested parties, and Sonoma Academy supporters enjoyed a wonderful day of food and learning…

Nick’s ranch on Hardin Lane in the hills east of Petaluma – once ranched by General Vallejo, there is evidence on the moss-covered rocks of Chinese workers from the 1800’s, a small farmhouse was built in the 1920’s, later it was part of a 100-acre chicken ranch that failed when Hardin died, and in the 1950’s the Rocca family built the main house and ran cattle for 70 years. Now in Nick’s hands, he is slowly bringing the buildings and grounds back to life, including the 1840-1880 chicken coops.

The view from Nick’s Ranch looking west toward Petaluma.

When we first got going, it was a bit foggy and cold that Sunday morning and the mostly Sonoma Academy crowd was just waking up. But the “Bees Knees” cocktails (recipe follows here) was one of the best we all had in a long time, just delicious, and then the sun came out…

Bees Knee’s Cocktail – gin, lemon juice, honey syrup

After brunch, our host Nick switched from Bees Knees cocktails to Bee’s Knee’s Rose’ and delivered a fascinating history on wine country bees, various sources of bees (both good and not so good), their diet, risks to the hives, and stories about catching wild swarms. If you see a wild swarm, click here:

Saving a wild swarm of bees

And report a swarm here: http://www.sonomabees.org/report-a-swarm/

Nick also wanted you all to see this amazing story of a local Petaluma bee keeper…


Christine Kurtz, the renowned “Petaluma Bee Lady” gave us an in-depth seminar on bee behavior and bee keeping. Sadly, she later reported having to euthanize some of her hives because of vandalism. What an outrage.

Contact Christine here: petalumabeelady@yahoo.com

Then John McGinnis jumped in. His place is just uphill from Nick’s, is called ‘Goah Way Ranch’ and his company, ‘Buzz Off Honey’, and John hand-produces quite exquisite custom bee hives as seen above.


For all things Sonoma Bee related, click here: http://www.sonomabees.org

Then it was time to suit up…

And ‘dive’ into the hives…

Some of the grading and plantings that keep the bees happy…


Nick pumps some water from his natural surface aquifer to build up the garden flora.

And is resurrecting old walls and beds.

My new best friend, Nicole Abate Ducarroz, active Sonoma community member, champion for education and public schools, long-standing board member of Sonoma Academy, and past president of the Sonoma Valley School Board.

Thanks for reading. Please share this blog with your friends. Ken


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