Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream

-Posted by Isaac

The bee farmers are busy.
Allow me to take you on a pictorial tour covering the last seven exciting days and (dreamy?) nights.

We start with two days of hiking and camping in Shawnee State Forest down by the Ohio River.

Great Fun

Soccer, marshmallows and evening movies. We really got back to nature.

Then it was time for two days in Amish country.

(Young Daniel Mast hones the very skills he will someday use to navigate the competitive and increasingly tech reliant global marketplace.)

We were the featured speakers at an Amish beekeeping meeting.

Leave hats at the door, please... 

Had to rush home for the first day of school!

Actually, I had to rush home for some pumpkin pollination... the night before school.
Circle S Farms called while we were camping. Desperate for bees... The pumpkins were starting to bloom!
Tuesday night I delivered 30 strong hives.
(Here I come to save the day!)

Daybreak in the Pumpkins

(Now get out that checkbook.)

And a sore back to show for it.

I made it home to see our boy genius on the bus.

Then went out to to pull honey.

Then took a nice long nap.

The nap was required because that night a semi-famous beekeeper was giving a talk.
Randy Oliver was in town!

I annoyed him with questions about neonics and CCD.

The Next Day...
The comb honey yard needed attention.

We gleaned several Ross-Rounds supers,

And a few cut-comb boxes.

(It occurs to me, I should probably do a blog post about this.)

That night, more Randy Oliver!

This was at the Dawes Arboretum in Newark. He talked right up until 9 pm, and took no questions. I had a ton of them... he got lucky!

The Newark thing worked out nicely because I finished the night off by driving back up to Amish country. I was late with the mite treatment for the thirty five hives we have up there. (Beekeeping from a hundred miles away sometimes poses problems.)

Look at what is starting to bloom up there:
Back home again.
More summer honey to pull.
In this batch I looked for a nice full frame to enter at the upcoming Lithopolis Honeyfest.
Is there a winner in there?

Saturday, after the markets, it was time for another hiking / camping trip.
This time in beautiful Athens County.

We made a visit to the very cool Moonville abandoned train tunnel.

And noticed the bees really working the joe pye weed.

That's good, because there was a lot of it down there!
Just beautiful.

I love "the sticks."

Our friends, Mike and Angie, recently moved to the "sticks" of Athens County.
Bought themselves some acreage, and promptly began restoring this old barn.

It was Mike's 40th birthday.

An old barn given new life. A milestone birthday. Such momentous events called for a fantastic party.

And they threw one.

A real "barn burner."

Ha Ha.

I actually turned in at 11:00. Just couldn't hang with those 40 year old whippersnappers.

But our kids came ready to party.
First they did a lot of drinking.

Then got totally sloshed.

And reckless.

And belligerent...

...but they seemed to sleep it off all right.
Smiles and Mama.
By morning it was all just a hazy dream.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Honey - The Journey

-Posted by Isaac

It's harvest time. For the past two weeks I've been pulling the summer honey. It's gorgeous this year. Beautiful and light. On the right is this year's Summer:
We seem to have a fan of last year's honey. 
 It's a decent crop. Not incredible, but it sure beats the misery of last summer, which was a mere 27 lb / hive average. We have at least doubled that and we've still got the coming goldenrod this fall.
Two or three bee yards and about a thousand pounds of extracted honey per day has been status quo of late. If we can keep this up until the end of August we'll keep the kids in clothes for another year.

The clover went crazy this year, as some of you have mentioned.

I think this may be the reason this year's summer honey is lighter. More clover, less thistle and soybean? I don't know... it tastes about the same. It's definitely been drier this summer. But still cool. One of these years it may actually hit 90 degrees-- then we'll really have a crop!

During last year's summer honey extraction I showed you some of the different forage that the bees seek out... from flower nectar turned into honey. Now we'll take a tour of the honey processing... from hive to table.
Here are some pictures taken over the last few days.

A bee yard: ten to twenty hives depending on the surrounding forage. We're up to 29 bee yards.
The upper boxes are the honey supers-

Just as it is with people, some are go-getters...

...and some are slouches.

Don't you wish they could all be Boomers?

So the honey-laden supers are taken off the hives and loaded on the truck. Some days are harder then others. I won't get into the specifics.
This load happened to come off the golf course:

They hate it when I drive across the greens.
But it's so fun!

The honey gets stacked in the drying room / hot room. This year, most of the honey has been coming in at 16.5 to 17.5% moisture. No drying required.

The stack can get pretty high when we get behind on the extracting.

Eventually the frames come out and are run through the uncapper. This takes the outside wax capping off the honey so that the extractor can "sling" it out of the honeycomb cells.
Petyn and Bridger- our honey models.

The liquid honey goes into a large settling tank...

And is drained into buckets or barrels at the end of the day:
Light, Pure, Raw... High Quality Honey!

 If we turn our heads just a second, Bridger takes an opportunity to sample.

The boy is uncontrollable.

The honey is weighed,

And put into storage.

Here it awaits bottling. Could be now, could be next year...

The wax capping I mentioned earlier takes another journey.
The honey-soaked wax drains for a day or two...

...then is taken out to the bees. 
Honey bee cappuccino.
I have resisted buying a cappings spinner because I like watching this.

They chew on this little treat for another day or two, "fluff it up," and the loose wax gets rendered, filtered and poured into bucket molds:

From this point it can take about any form.

One thing we've been doing lately is dipped candles.
The wax is remelted:

And the wicks are "dipped" over and over.

Jayne will explain this in depth on a future post.

Back to the honey...
Empty frames go back into the supers.

Some "wet" supers go directly back on the hives with the hope that the bees will fill them with fall honey.

Others are cleaned out by the lucky bees here at home.

 What a morning treat!
They make short work of it.

For store shelves and the markets, the honey is pumped into the bottling tanks, never heated above the natural temperature of a beehive (we never go above 100 degrees), and strained through a cloth filter. The fabric still lets the pollen grains through and under this low heat, the honey remains raw with the enzymes intact.

The summer honey takes other forms. 
It's the one we use for the granulated, spreadable honey. It is also bottled around chunks of comb and sold as chunk honey. 
And it can be steeped with herbs for a couple of weeks and turned into infused honey:

All material for future blog posts.

So unti next time...
Maizy likes her summer honey with Lucky Cat bread.