Now, where did I leave that?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

How Sweet It Is!

Linda has been keeping bees for three season now. Her first year she started with two hives, went up to seven, and this year had three. One of these three is her original hive, from three years ago, and for the first time, she decided to harvest honey. Before this, she had left the honey in the hives for the bees to eat through the Winter, but that hive is so strong & healthy, she was comfortable taking a few frames' worth of honey. A frame is the structure on which the bees build their honeycomb, and looks like this:

(photo courtesy of BetterBee)

To extract honey from the comb-covered frame, one uses an extractor

(both extractor photos courtesy of Dadant)

However, we don't have any kind of extractor (these puppies aren't cheap), so my beloved Rube Goldberg of a partner set about creating something that would serve her purpose. One food mill, a new & unused paint bucket, a length of PVC pipe, and a paint strainer later, et voila!

A honey extractor! She would cut off the comb & put it in a regular kitchen strainer to drain the honey from the wax comb. This left honey with LOTS of small wax bits in it. That pre-strained honey then got poured into the 'extractor', where gravity did the work of total wax removal. This was all about the gravity and manual heat touched this.

She also utilized my asparagus steamer pot and a paint strainer to do two batches at once.

She used canning jars because we didn't invest in 'real' honey jars this go-round.

You might notice the honey appears to be different colors. Honey made at different times of year changes in color; Spring & Summer honey is lighter in color (and to me, more delicate & sweeter) than the darker, thicker, more distinctively flavored Fall honey. There was a third, in-between batch that's my favorite. The final yield from one hive, taking less than half of the honey, was 28 lbs! We'll give quite a bit away for the holidays and imbibe honey liberally all Winter. Whatever is left come late Winter/early Spring will go back to feed the colonies during that time of year when the weather is warm enough for the bees to be active but before anything is in bloom yet.

Oh, and yes, there was beeswax:

It's in our largest stainless steel mixing bowl, but we haven't weighed it yet. During Christmas week we'll weigh it & then melt it down to get a sense of yield. We've never made candles so have no idea what the ratio of melted wax to pound of wax will be. 

We're still sticking to the occasional cabinet knob, but every spoonful is worth it. Natural health proponents say that regular consumption of raw (as in never heated; this honey is raw) honey can help fend off cold and flu viruses, and, if local honey, can help prevent hay fever allergies. One doesn't get much more local than one's backyard, so I'm a willing participant in this experiment. This is one spoonful of medicine that goes down quite easily!

You better believe her April birthday gift will be an actual extractor!

We're off to see Anna Karenina on this gray, damp day...wishing you sweetness and peace!


Nancy J said...

Home made honey is so good, and has taste like no other, Love the extractor, roll on for the Birthday next year. Cheers from Jean

Michaele said...

How wonderful! I hope to do this myself one day. Such an accomplishment!

Robin Larkspur said...

What a sweet post!! (pun intended)!! Wow, Linda is brilliant! How rewarding and fantastic to have your own honey. I am envious, though I am too skeered of bee stings to ever attempt this myself. And then to make beeswax candles. That is just too great!! Wow!! Really and truly this kind of thing excites me. I have read that Anna Karinana is excellent. I hope it is worth the price of a movie ticket.

AkasaWolfSong said...

I'm so happily envious of you Ash and Linda! :)

Honey...the precious gold that it is is sooo good and I use if for so many things. By the way, I've heard that storing it in canning jars lessons crystalization of it.

If I lived closer I'd buy from you!

Here's to Bees and Honey and the Beekeepers!!!

Blessed Be...

Ashling said...

RE: Anna Karenina...clearly a matter of taste. We didn't like it much, and when theater's seats finally became far too uncomfortable, we left (about 2 hours in). It was highly stylistic, and will appeal to many, but if you're looking for an epic period film, this isn't it!

the wild magnolia said...

Oh happy happy honey day! I am reading about bees, they fascinate me, they are fascinating.

Most likely with traveling and settling someday in an RV park, I will not keep bees.

Linda was so patient to wait to harvest. Good job.

I'm with you about being a willing guinea pig for tasting honey.

Seasons Greetings.

Jen said...

Wow, what a production! That's fabulous that you got so much honey, and interesting how it changes with the seasons. I am impressed with Linda's ingenuity. You must get such a sense of satisfaction looking at all those pretty jars of sweet goodness.