Life can be sweet when you can share your hobby and happy place with your partner.
Forty years ago when Rollie Brandt was a young artist, she painted her husband as a beekeeper. This original painting still hangs in the bee exhibit hall at Minnesota State Fair.
Back in the 1970s, she decided, why not feature her husband engaged in his new hobby.
"The painting I did of Phil was purchased in the early '80s by a University of Minnesota professor for only $100 after I entered it in the honey bee exhibit, which I thought at the time was a fortune and I was thrilled," Rollie said. The man donated the painting to the State Fair and it has hung in the honeybee exhibit hall every year since.
As a carpenter by trade, Phil said he is happiest when busy building inside his man cave. Rollie's happy place is when she is immersed in her home studio. Her original paintings depict family members, Minnesota barns, nature and wildlife in stunning artworks that fill her art studio. Besides paintings, Rollie's studio is filled up with fun, colorful, whimsical toys that are certain to unleash the inner child in anyone who visits.
Phil, 67, is retired but still loves beekeeping and keeps busy as a master woodworker, according to his wife.
Phil reports how talented Rollie is. This month her original artwork named "Bee Happy" will be showcased in the honey and bee area inside the agriculture and horticulture building at the State Fair. The painting comes alive with fine details portraying a honey bee pollinating a flower. You can almost hear the bee buzzing.
Phil used his carpentry and ingenuity to design a special frame that uses a real beeswax foundation inside a frame he constructed with love.
Sharing the beeswax
As graduates of Rosemount High School, the couple decided, like many, to move back to Rosemount in 2015 after living on acreages and in Twin Cities south metro suburbs.
Phil decided 40 years ago why not experiment with beekeeping. I guess you can say he was stung in a good way.
"I ordered my first bees in the mail from Georgia and when they came the mailman called the house to see if my wife was home," he said. The mailman really wanted to get rid of the bees because at least 3,000 bees were buzzing in his truck.
"I read a book about bees and it sounded like fun and I got all the equipment," Phil said, including the head veil, gloves and jumpsuit for protection.
Beekeeping can be simple if you start in the spring, he said. Because bees multiply in the summer and in the fall, it is time to harvest the honey.
Phil reports no fear of bees although Rollie said she is scared. She was really petrified a few years ago when she needed to shoot a video of the beekeeping.
"In the winter time, the bees stay alive in a hive and cluster in a ball and their bodies generate heat and they take turns moving inside the ball from the outside to the inside, and then the whole cluster will move to a new frame when that honey is gone," Phil said.
Eating raw honey offers many health benefits for people, he explained, and if you can get raw honey from a beekeeper, you are going to get the best product.
Today the couple's daughter Gretchen also has been stung by the hobby of beekeeping. She maintains two hives or nearly 80,000 bees near her home in Mound.
"She is extremely creative like her mother," Phil said.
"Gretchen is very proficient at beekeeping and enjoys this hobby with her dad, despite the fact she's super busy with her own business, husband and two little boys, but she sells a whole line of beeswax products and honey as well, and they make a great father and daughter team," Rollie said.
Beekeeping is a fun and beneficial hobby; pollinators keep up the productions of farm fresh fruits and vegetables.
"There are companies that have hives in the thousands that truck them all over the country following the crops, and in California you would not even have almonds if it was not for the bees," he added.
"People would not eat a fraction of what they do with fruits and vegetables if it was not for the honey bees pollinating, and you wouldn't have tomatoes, squash, pumpkins or fruits, berries or apples," Phil said.
Wild Wings artist
This fall 11 paintings from Rollie's art collection will be on display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. The artwork will be in an opening of the farm campus inside Reedy Gallery.
"I was invited to be in this show since I have done so many paintings of real family farms in this area," Rollie said.
As a lifelong Dakota County resident whose art has been published in the past 25 years, her work sells as part of the Wild Wings gallery in Lake City that boasts an international customer base.
To see her artwork, visit www.rolliebrandt.com.
Rollie recalls how Phil did not like her in 10th grade. But later on as a young gentleman, Phil got her attention in a mechanical drafting class by placing the pencil sharpener on his desk. They married at 21 years old.
Many who visit Rollie's studio comment how her paintings look so real and vivid like photographs. Many comment on how her paintings could make her a famous artist.
"I think she is famous," Phil said, smiling sweet at his sweetheart.