Jonathan: We sold our first jar of Uist Machair Flower Honey today. An historic first not just because it is our first sale of honey, or because it is almost certainly the first honey to be produced in (let alone sold from) this garden in its long 350+ year history, but it is quite possibly the first jar of honey ever produced and sold in Uist and Barra. Although at this stage we’re growing bees rather than producing honey, I had reason to remove a ‘super’ I’d put on to allow the bees to keep their own winter supplies. We’ve no proper extracting equipment yet, so I used rather messy and time-consuming manual methods to extract and filter the honey, and then I put into jars just as we do for jams and chutneys. This was meant to be just for our own use, but it looked so good I thought: why not try it on our customers? I designed some labels, printed them and had them ready to put on the jars when a customer comes to the door for eggs and says “By the way, I see you have bees …” (there are, for reasons that will now be obvious, hives positioned right outside a window of the Woolshed Studio), “… do you by any chance have honey for sale?”. I heard D reply, quick as a flash, “Jonathan’s in the kitchen right now, labelling our first ever batch: would you like some?” Yes, they would, and after a hurried but hushed discussion in the kitchen D returned to the door with a jar – with the product label on but lacking the finishing touches – “… and that’ll be £4.75 for the honey”. Meanwhile another customer had come to the door and was waiting behind the first, and piped up – oh I’ll take one of those as well; and then the same for another and then again another customer. Four jars of honey sold in less than 10 minutes. At £4.75 for a 250g (1/2lb jar). But before you think what a rip-off!, or immediately turn to the internet to plan your own honey Klondike , you’re best knowing the facts. We’ve spent thousands of pounds and many hundreds of hours to get to this point – and there’s a lot more investment required before we can cost-effectively extract honey and get it ready for sale; and yet at this point we can’t expect any more than 100 jars a year (sales value less than £500) at very best. Quite simply, it doesn’t pay unless you’re determined to build up to a pretty large operation, and can sell direct to the public with minimum overheads. Fortunately, that’s exactly the position we are in.
Jonathan: Someone coming up to the house door to pay for a jar of jam from the shop, but he stopped on his way to help himself to a handful of gooseberries from the tray D picked this morning, and started eating them. Are you thinking of buying gooseberries? I ask. Just tasting – actually I’d like half a dozen eggs. Back from the kitchen I see that all the gooseberries he’d taken are gone: Well, are you going to buy the gooseberries? Himself: Oh no – much too tart! Well that must be a surprise to you, what with gooseberries normally being so sweet and succulent straight off the bush. You might have asked, they are actually for our own meal tonight – you’re helping yourself to our dinner!
Denise: Grotty weather it is – a fine rain driven in from the sea by a bullying wind, everything sodden; and what chance is there of getting the woodstain on the cladding for the new studio to dry …. Aaagh! But the tourists – and yes there are plenty about, albeit mostly holed up in front of warm fires! – want something indoors to do, and just now two men (not my typical big-spending customers by any means – they usually come on their own only for eggs) came to the house and after browsing for a bit over our temporary display in the conservatory spent £130 on hand-woven scarves, hand-made greeting cards, and lemon curd and jam. Result!