Monday, September 30, 2013

And Bridger Helped

 -Posted by Isaac

Mason and Maizy both get on the school bus these days.
Bridger and I can now finally get some work done in peace.
Today we went out on one of the last pollen runs of the season.

The supply of incoming goldenrod pollen is dwindling. It's been a good run.
The bees are packing this beautiful nutritious stuff away for winter.

But the white aster continues to feed in abundance.

It was a big chunk honey week in the honey house. In a less then ideal honey year, comb honey is pretty hard to get.
Perfect comb, that is.
As I think I said in a previous blog post, we produced hundreds of Ross Round comb sections that didn't quite make the cut.
This means they get sliced and go into a jar as chunk honey.

These will be put into the freezer a while. Eventually they get pulled out, bottled with summer honey surrounding the comb, labeled and taken to a farmers market. Expect to see them most of the winter at Worthington.

Bridger helped.

This evening, instead of cutting up comb honey we cut up pumpkins. Maizy's preschool had their annual day of pumpkin carving on Darby Creek Rd.

 Pumpkins, songs, cookies and juice...

And Bridger helped.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Farm Week

-Posted by Isaac

Change of pace this week.
 Big Ag

Everyone knows the recent plight of the honeybee. 
"All the bees are mysteriously dying!" "The end approaches!" "Einstein once said, if all the honeybees disappeared,   ...blah, blah, blah..."
Yes, bees have their troubles. 
Varroa Mites, tracheal mites, foul brood, nosema, hive beetles, chalk brood, CCD... the list goes on. (A few foolhardy idiot beekeepers continue to "save the world" in spite of it all.)

We've dissected the problems to death. We've come up with a few solutions. Some solutions lead to more problems. 
One rarely mentioned but very big problem (the biggest, in my opinion):
Big Ag

When there's nothing to eat, honeybees don't do very well.

Big Ag
This stuff will be turned into Pepsi and cattle feed.
But if you're a honeybee, a corn field might as well be a parking lot. Just nothing tasty out there.
Back in the day, farms were small. Farms were diverse. There were fence rows. There were weeds. There were animals. Cows, pigs, horses, chickens, sheep, goats.... dogs, cats.... bees...
A little clover here, a little alfalfa there. A garden, a grape vine or two.
There were people.  It took a lot of caring hands, some responsibility, some love to watch over it all and see that things happened just so so.

See any of that now?

Agriculture has changed. And with it, beekeeping. (Society too, I might add.)
For the better? Progress? Hmmmm....
Listening to the radio this week I heard one particular ad (about a hundred times) for a new Syngenta fungicide / insecticide spray for soybeans. For next year! It's September, for God's sake!
Man oh man... What are they going to say about us in a hundred years?

Well, I'll get off my soap box. If you can't beat'em, join'em, right? My brother happens to be one of these big farmers. About this time of year the crops come off and he needs some help. I got to spend a rather enjoyable week driving this white Freightliner:

Yes, just like the Towns Van Zandt song.

But it wasn't all trucking.
One morning I worked in the buckwheat. The field had finished its bloom and thinking we might get another bloom in October, I bush hogged it and ran a cultiipacker through later to push the seeds down. Mason tried his hand at tractor driving.

After bush hogging over a few gardens, some puppies and cute little kittens, we decided that he'd  learned enough for one day.

We grabbed Mommy and made it to the Farm Science Review:

There, we found tractors.

Big Tractors.

Little Tractors.

And Big Sprayers.

And Little Sprayers.

And Combines Too!

Mason is quite the fan of Big Ag. It was better then Christmas. He probably climbed on thirty different things.
And he wanted nothing to do with the small hidden beekeeping display off in the corner of the OSU gardens.
Maizy and Bridger just enjoyed giving their parental slaves a workout.
Generation Lazy
At least they aren't texting.

After two hours of Big Ag and Mason's perpetual excitement; running, climbing, yelling, trying on a new tractor about every ten feet... Mommy, Daddy and Bridger all felt the same:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Honeyfest is Over, Goldenrod Begins

-Posted by Isaac

What a crazy time was this year's Honeyfest! As usual Jayne was responsible for the beautiful display. I was able to snap a few pictures while she added some finishing touches. This was around 11 a.m. Friday morning:

An hour before the official start, the early birds trickled in.

By afternoon (and the entire next day) we were swamped. Thank you for all the support and nice compliments, honey lovers. It was a happy, fun, busy weekend.

Because of the perpetual crowd surrounding, sampling and buying, I'm left with just a couple small regrets: one, I didn't get to talk to you in a relaxed way... too many people needing help. And two, I wanted to make it around the festival, finding interesting things to post on this blog... well, I didn't get to; same reason, just too busy. I guess that's a good problem. Maybe next year we'll hire more workers.

The goldenrod has now started to bloom in earnest:

The pollen traps are filling up, and as you can see, the bees have found it. This is the beautiful orange (tasty!) goldenrod pollen. In just the span of a few days the color has completely changed from browns and yellows (clover, ragweed) to pure orange.

We have four bee yards with pollen traps. Around 50 hives in all. Until today I would come home with maybe a third to half a five-gallon bucket full of pollen. Not now. The skinny times are over, the Fat-Cat (Big-Bee) days begin. This evening I should have brought another bucket! We were overflowing... what a difference the goldenrod makes!

This is my favorite of the four yards:
Just step out the front door, girls!
I think this is the equivalent to having prime lakeside real estate. Or if you're like me, a Swiss chalet on a mountain trail.

This evening the family joined me for a "pollen run."

It took a little prodding to get the kids to come along. They're suddenly at the age where Legos and cartoons become much more important than, in Mason's words, "a boring pollen run."

We had a small stinging incidence. We had tears.

Oh no.
They'll never come with me again.

Maybe we'll just stick to the bee yard with the near-by backyard swing set.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Honeyfest Approaches

-Posted by Isaac

If you read this blog, you probably already know about the Lithopolis Honeyfest-- a big fun festival with everything bee related.

 Come on out this weekend! Honeybees! See, Experience, Learn, Listen, Taste, Enjoy! Friday and Saturday this year.

Last year the Honeyfest became our unveiling for the dark, rich tulip poplar honey. This year we'll of course have all the usuals, but here are a few new products we're trying:

This spring the black locust honey crop was so bountiful, we're now bottling a two pounder. Come get your locust fix!

We really wanted to unveil buckwheat honey at the Honeyfest, but the timing was off. The flowers are still in bloom, the bees are still busy. But it's coming! (More on this in a future post.)

Here's something new. I for one am pretty proud of it. Cinnamon Honey... delicious! This is granulated honey which we've simply mixed with a rich blend of ground cinnamon. I think it will be a hit.

If you've been at the markets you know we've had cut comb honey for a few weeks. But the Ross Rounds are making their first appearance this weekend. I pulled the supers off on Monday (15 of them), and have been busy packaging comb. As I said in the last blog post, it wasn't a great year for honey production. There is definitely a limited quantity of perfect round comb sections, so get'em while we got'em!

 The imperfect, not completely filled comb sections were cut up for chunk honey. This year probably 3/4ths of the comb went this route. Bridger took full advantage of this "windfall."

Our chunk honey is making its debut this weekend. I thought of something kinda cool (Or at least I think so...)  Comb shooters! These are pretty little 2 oz hex jars with a piece of comb (the jar on the left). Jayne isn't so sure about the name.  It's not alcohol, after all.

Jayne has around thirty varieties of handcrafted soap. Many of you know how awesome they are. Here are a few of the new ones you'll see this weekend:
 My personal favorite, The Good Earth, actually smells like fresh spring soil. I thought we should call it "Dirt." Jayne, classy and more cultured, elected to pay homage to Pearl S. Buck's famous novel.

Here's one more thing we've tried recently: Dipped Candles. Unique, rustic, gifty... I think they'll go fast. This was Jayne's idea. I'm liking it. Seems more artsy then pouring molds.

Oops, I almost forgot: Jayne's (Mommy's) Book! Just out this spring, I did a blog post about it in May. If you're into crafting or cooking, this is a great one. We'll bring plenty of copies.

So come on out this weekend! Bring the kids! Lithopolis is just a few miles from Canal Winchester, easy to find. The Honeyfest has been growing every year and it now takes up nearly the entire town.
You'll love it!