Reserve your seat on The Honey Bus!


THE HONEY BUS is the story of my beekeeping childhood in Big Sur, where the wisdom of my grandfather and his honeybees gave me the strength to overcome a broken home.

“Captivating and surprising…. If you’ve ever been stung by a bee you will instantly forget the venom and remember forever the sweetness and redemption bees offer in this extraordinary book.” —Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of How To Be A Good Creature and The Soul of an Octopus

Available in hardback, Kindle or audiobook: ORDER HERE





Grandpa’s Last Beehive


Before Grandpa passed away last May, he asked me to take care of his bees. He was 89, and although he had years ago reluctantly given up his Big Sur beekeeping career because he was too frail to lift the honey-heavy hives, he still liked to watch the wild bees set up homes in a pile of deteriorating bee equipment in his backyard.

Now all that’s left is one hive. The bees were entering through a small crack in the top left corner.


When I pried through a seal of gummy brown propolis, I found a very small colony trying to raise eggs in frames that had been destroyed by mice, wax moths and who knows what.


The frames crumbled in places when I lifted them. I carefully searched, and found eggs and larvae. And a spot of honey.


Then I saw the queen! (6 o’clock)


I carefully transferred Grandpa’s frames into a deep I brought from home with four empty wax frames. I heard a collective thrum of excitement from the bees. I think they were overjoyed to have clean wax and more room.


I used mesh drawer liners and duct tape to cover the entrances for the trip to the Bay Area.


I secured the lid for the two-hour journey.

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Their new home was waiting when I pulled up at 10 p.m. I transferred them to the garden, removed the mesh (got stung on my right pinky finger), and fed them with a 1:1 sugar-water ratio. I also placed a super of sticky honeycomb on the ground nearby so they could find it in the morning for easy forage. I filled a planter tray with rocks and water so they could have water close by.


In the morning, they made small, exploratory flights around the garden. I hope, with more room, new equipment, my mothering and Grandpa’s spirit, this little hive will survive.



Franklin Peace, 1926-2015

My Love Letter to the Bees – A Radio Interview


The lovely doyenne of San Francisco radio, Janet Gallin, host of the Love Letters Live radio show, opened up her airwaves recently to chat with me about life lessons from the hive. Thanks my friend, as always, it was a blast.

Meredith May SF beekeeper grateful for being raised by the bees

Meredith May SF Beekeeper photo by Matt May

Meredith May, journalist, teacher, SF beekeeper and granddaughter of E. Franklin Peace the beekeeper of Big Sur, is back to talk some more about bees and just in time, too, since there is good news about the much discussed, troublesome and mysterious hive abandonment, more currently known as colony collapse disorder. Meredith is one of those people who can talk about the same subject time and again and always bring something new to the table. The hive, it turns out, is very much like some combination manufacturing factory and royal palace with guards, specific jobs, loyalty to hive, scent of the hive set by the queen and a willingness to sacrifice life for the good of the colony.

Meredith talks about the bees, her girlhood with them, being raised by her grandfather and their adventures in the honeybus, which was the honey factory and, in essence, their own personal hive where she and her grandfather would escape to share times. Interesting to note that it was not until her grandfather had to retire from formal bee-keeping that Meredith felt the urge to keep the bees herself. Because the bees helped her overcome childhood challenges that arose from the negative model of what family life should be, because how they lived their lives taught her what she wanted to be, her love letter is, yes, to the bees. You can read it here and know that her soon to be published book The Honeybus, a bee-keeping memoir beginning with a child’s point of view and extending past muddled personal times to her adulthood, will be the fuller expression of Meredith’s gratitude to her grandfather and to the bees.

A silver lining brightening the cloud of E Franklin Peace’s passing is, of course that Meredith was there with her heart and hand open to receive the baton he was passing to her.

Goodbye to the Beekeeper of Big Sur



E. Franklin Peace, a longtime Big Sur beekeeper and direct descendant of the area’s early pioneers, died in his sleep on May 31. He was 89.

Mr. Peace’s great great-grandfather was William Brainard Post, for whom the Post Ranch is named, who left Connecticut to settle in Big Sur in the 1850’s. Post married Anselma Onesimo, a Native American woman of Rumsien Ohlone (Coastanoan) descent whose ancestors helped Junípero Serra build the Carmel Mission. Mr. Peace’s grandfather was Edward Grimes, another 19th century ranching family on the coast, that emigrated from England.

For nearly 70 years, Mr. Peace kept more than one hundred hives in the Garrapata and Palo Colorado Canyon areas of Big Sur, as well as in the nuns’ garden at the Carmelite Monastery. He produced up to three tons of honey a year, and made deliveries to Big Sur grocery stores, restaurants and residents in his rambling pickup truck.

A lifelong Monterey County resident, Mr. Peace was born in the Monterey Hospital in 1926, and joined the U.S. Navy the day after graduating from Monterey High School. He served in Guam from 1944-1946.

His passion for bees began at age 14, when his father caught a swarm in their Pacific Grove backyard. Father and son bought a wooden box hive for the colony, which quickly expanded to five hives, until his mother put her foot down. They relocated the bees to a cousin’s ranch in Big Sur, but not before leaving one hive on the front porch of the house next door. Their neighbors, who were Japanese, were taken to World War II internment camps and Mr. Peace and his father used the bees to successfully protect the home until their friends returned.

After the war, Mr. Peace bought a decommissioned Army bus from the Fort Ord military base and renovated it into a portable honey rig; tearing out all the seats and installing a honey spinner so he could extract and bottle honey in the fields next to his Big Sur apiaries.

In his teens and early twenties, Mr. Peace also worked as a sardine fisherman on Cannery Row, using a skiff boat to haul in nets of fish. He also worked inside the canneries, rolling large steel crates of canned sardines into a steam cooker to seal the tins.

When the sardine population began declining in the mid-fifties, Mr. Peace relocated to Big Sur to apprentice under builders Frank and Walter Trotter. For the next eight years, the brothers taught Mr. Peace ranching, construction and plumbing. Mr. Peace became a well-known plumber in Big Sur, once climbing the steep Santa Lucia Mountains to build a gravity-fed water system that directed water from a natural spring to Nepenthe restaurant.

When he was 37, Mr. Peace met a schoolteacher he fancied while square dancing. Two years later, during a hoedown in Nevada, Mr. Peace and Ruth Miller dashed out to a courthouse to get married, asking a stranger in the building to serve as their witness. They settled in Carmel Valley, where he lived ever since.

Mr. Peace was a well-known storyteller and patient teacher who mentored many people in the beekeeping profession. He once summed up his love of beekeeping:

“I’m social. I like to talk. The best thing is talking to people about bees. People want to know if I’m having a good year, how many pounds of honey. People don’t know a lot about bees, but they are very curious. I tell them I have to take care of the bees and put them in a place where they can fly free.”

Mr. Peace is survived by his wife, Ruth; sister Ellanah Plain of Concord; step-son Stephen Rial of North Fork, step-daughter Sally May of Carmel Valley; five step-grandchildren: beekeeper Meredith May (and this blogger) of San Francisco, Matthew May of San Mateo, Shelley Billante of Las Vegas, Wendy Wallace of North Fork, and Jessica Hansen of North Fork; and nephew Craig Plain of Concord; and niece Cindy Terry of Danville.

No immediate memorial services are planned.

Donations in his name may be sent to the Big Sur Historical Society, P.O. Box 176, Big Sur, CA, 93920; or to the Carmel Valley Library, 65 W. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, CA 93924.