Sunday, July 21, 2013

Honey Harvest and I Forgot My Camera!

Sometimes I wonder why I bother having a camera at all. I always forget it when we are doing something interesting. We joined in the honey harvest on Saturday and were the first ones there so we did our eight frames of honey first and got about 25 pounds and several pounds of beeswax.

The setup was great. There was a wax melter with a big hot knife that was used to slice down the frame to uncap the honey. Then we put the frames in the extractor a centrifugal drum with a handle for turning. There are electric extractors but this one was manual so we took turns revolving the drum to spin out the honey. The honey is spun out on one side, then the frames are turned and the second side is extracted. The honey then passes out a spigot into a bucket that has a double strainer. When the honey fills the bucket enough it's moved over to a counter where we filled the jars by opening a tap at the bottom of the bucket. It was really fun.

We stayed another hour after extracting our honey and just visited with the other beekeepers. We're talking about starting a bee club here in Woodstock and I'm looking forward to it! There is so much to learn from the experienced beekeepers and even those who've only been doing it for a few years.

Here's a video that describes what's involved in the harvesting process. It was a great experience and we just took the box with the frames and put it back on the hive for the bees to clean up. They will too!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wow! The Bees Have Gone Honey Wild!

We never expected to get any honey this season since the bees need to have plenty of food to winter over, but our mentor who has about 45 years of experience, just came over today and he said we can harvest an entire super from one of our hives. For those who don't know bee jargon, a super is a box of ten frames where the bees build honeycomb and store nectar which becomes honey when capped. After capping it loses a large percentage of moisture. That's when it becomes thicker and more syrupy. Among the sources of nectar our bees were visiting we can confirm one for sure. The little gal in the picture is gathering nectar from my lavender. During the entire blooming period we had dozens of busy bees flitting about gathering for the hive.

Today when we went into the hives with Gordan and Tom (after two weeks) the bees had already worked so much and filled one of the supers so much that we needed to give them another entire box. Most of the frames were filled with capped honey and most of that work was accomplished in the past two weeks! Everything they gather from here on out will be saved for the winter, but the capped honey they have made up til now we will harvest. Yum!

I wish I had taken some pictures today because the bees had filled the box so much they were building extra comb and storing nectar in a space at the top. We took that comb out, I squeezed out the nectar which is delicious, but it wasn't capped so it will ferment if I don't use it up quickly. I already put some in my iced tea and will probably mix it with maple syrup for french toast. Yum!

We also got a big chunk of wax and I will be making some lip balm sticks out of beeswax, coconut oil, honey, and a few drops of clove essence. I already made one batch a few weeks ago and poured it into two little jars. I gave one to a granddaughter and have the rest in a little jar to my bed. I use it every night and, oh, it feels lovely on the lips and smells like ginger cookies. Maybe that's why I've been sleeping so well.

When I went to the bee store yesterday, I picked up little plastic chapstick-style containers and will pour my next batch into them.

What a great hobby! I love playing with the bees. They are the most amazing little creatures on the planet and our mentor said, our "girls have a great disposition." I said they are mirroring mine. After all, I may not be the queen bee, but I'm the bee yard mom!