Saturday, July 17, 2010

2010 Honey Harvest! 430lbs!

We finally got this year's honey crop harvested. We collected about 12 medium boxes of honey from the colonies in our out yard and here at the

house. Once the boxes were collected we moved them into a screened tent so the bees couldn't get to them. Removing the boxes from the hives involves the use of a fume board. A fume board is simply a plywood lid with a piece of felt stapled to the inside. You squirt some VERY foul-smelling liquid onto the felt and put it on the hive. The smell drives the bees down out of the super so you can take it off with very few bees in it. The boxes full of honey weigh approximately 50lbs a piece. It's an awkward lift so you have to be careful not to hurt yourself lifting or carrying them.

Once inside the tent we begin the extraction. First the wax capping covering the honey is removed with an uncapping knife. This knife is the only heat this honey will feel. The knife slices through the wax sometimes lifting it off in a single white sheet of wax. This capping wax is the most sought-after wax for making candles.

After the capping is removed the frames are put into the extractor. The extractor is nothing more than a little centrifuge. When fully loaded, the lid is closed and you crank the handle, spinning the frames within, which throws the honey out of the cells. It drains to the bottom and flows out of the honey gate and through several filters. After that it's ready to bottle.

Once the frames are empty (you've spun the honey out of them but they're still wet) we put them out for the bees to rob clean. They clean the frames, boxes, and tools until they are completely free of honey. Bone dry! It's total pandemonium when you put the boxes out but it's the best way to get the combs cleaned.

Honestly I sort of dread extraction every year. It's extremely hot, heavy, hard, painful work. You get some stings even though the bees aren't being aggressive for the most part. You pinch bees under the frames when you lift them, roll them against your leg when they come to clean up the honey you spill on yourself, etc. The actual extraction is miserable but the end result is worth it. Lots of pure, golden honey. MMMMMMmmmmmmm.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

So Dry But a Bit of Rain

We finally got a little rain this morning at the house. I was having to go out every evening and water the garden to make sure everything didn't dry up and blow away. The 'lawn' itself went totally brown which is the grass going dormant. It should green up again in the late Summer/Fall, meanwhile I'm enjoying a break from mowing.

A few plants actually LIKE the heat we've been having. Next is a photo of the sweet potato vines taking over the greenhouse. I usually don't have anything growing in there in the summer because even with the door open it gets too hot. Sweet potatoes love the heat. I give them a drink about every other day (via the mist system you can see hanging from the top). I put them in the greenhouse for two reasons...they love heat and the deer/rabbits can't get in there.
It's time to start harvesting some of the herbs I planted in the garden. Many have already gone to seed (dill, cilantro, etc). With the cukes flooding in it's nice to have some fresh herbs to use in the canning process.

Just for the fun of it I let one zucchini plant go and one cabbage too. The idea is to let them get large enough each so that the boys have something to enter into the county fair. The zucchini, I think, is a little smaller than one I had last year but you get what you get. I put my keys on top of the cabbage for scale. This cabbage is supposed to be able to top 50lbs but I don't think we're going to get there. Still, it's pretty big right now.

The corn is coming right along. The tassles have been visible for a week or so and now the ears are starting to show. Corn is air pollinated which means it doesn't rely on bees to get the job done. Tell that to the bees though. I've seen lots of different insects (including honeybees and bumblebees) going from tassle to tassle collecting the pollen. I have two type of sweet corn growing. One variety is Country Gentleman and the other is Stowell's Evergreen. Both types are shoepegs which means the corn doesn't grow on the ears in straight rows but shows up in a more haphazard pattern. The bumblebees are hitting the sunflowers like crazy. Strange but you often find them spending the night on the blooms. I guess if they work late they just spend the night out and return home in the morning. This year's crop of sunflowers are smaller and shorter than normal but I attribute that to the heat and drought. Still, it's hard to find a cheerier sight in the garden than a stand of sunflowers. The next update will likely be in a week or so as we extract this year's honey crop. Despite the drought it looks like we'll have a pretty good year where honey is concerned.