The Fantastic Mr Cox
In the quaint town of Seville where I grew up lived a man named Benjamin Cox. He was the local beekeeper, and my dad would buy honey direct from him for our home pantry. It would be true to say that Ben was a bit rough around the edges, and there was always a dead bee (or three) in the jars of honey that dad would bring home. Perhaps old Benjamin was losing his sight, or perhaps he left the bees in there to show that his honey was the real deal; that it was bespoke, and came from real bees that he kept happy in his backyard.
As I described, my childhood was full of animals and nature, growing up in the idyllic Yarra Valley just one hour’s drive from Melbourne. It was perhaps this memory of Mr Cox and his authentic, and kind of odd, harvesting details that began my inclination for the handmade, homemade, backyard-made and the do-it-yourself. For me, this pervades all things in my life, and extends from food (I love cooking, and would far prefer to prepare meals myself that take-away) to my home environment (I keep a bee-friendly suburban garden and a house filled with my children’s drawings and artworks). This also influences my beekeeping philosophy, adopting a natural style where the wellbeing of the bees is always at the forefront of my mind.
Before I started Ben’s Bees, I always had my own hive. During an extensive career with exotic animals—one that took me all over the world in search of some of the most gob-smacking creatures—I kept my own small scale, hobby bee farm on the side. Bees were never far from my mind, even in my earlier jobs as a chef and a pet store manager. I know this affection for the bee, and respect for its capacity to help the environment on such a phenomenal level, can be traced back to Mr Cox, to a simple childhood living in nature, and to being charmed by a feral bee nest down by the creek, where the smell of honey mixed in with the smell of the Australian bush.