Friday, June 26, 2015

I left my wife for Ed

-Posted by Isaac

I know I know, I realize this. The last thing you want to see is "Posted by Isaac"... again.
I'm with you. It's maddening. I can't get Jayne to post a blog, and week after week I'm left to shoulder this insufferable burden on my own. (Just give'm a recipe Honey!)
And it's a tough gig, this blog. An indispensable part of the business, a rich little snoop into bee life. I'm left to bear it alone. Not to mention all my other responsibilities. Like sometimes helping set the table. Like checking on the ice cream supply.

So this week I left her. It was all just too much.
Plus we were out of ice cream.

She hides it well.
Inside she's sobbing.

I left her for Ed.

If you are a steadfast reader of this blog, as I am, you'll recall Ed Eisele, a migratory beekeeper who sold us a forklift down in Florida. You'll also recall a bit of difficulty getting it home. I had to load it on the back of the flatbed. The trailer was conveniently 1500 miles north.
So this week I made a quick trip to Michigan.

Together at last!

Really, it was a shopping trip for the bees. I'll show you later.

When I got up to Big Rapids, I was surprised to find a brand new building going up.

Enough of this hobbying around. Ed is going big!

Kidding. Ed has been big. For 40 years. He's just moving. Leaving a warehouse in town and putting up a spanking new facility to his liking. 
Kind of like us. Ha Ha.

Together, Ed and his son Stephen run close to 7000 hives. Michigan is home base, but the bees move from state to state. When we saw him in Florida, Ed was loading bees for California. At the moment they've got bees in Maine and Michigan. They'll soon be pollinating cranberries in Wisconsin.

Ed knows bees.
Getting up there, I couldn't help but pry into Ed's business.
And Ed is a nice guy. He offered to show me around.

The soon to be extracting room

It wasn't until about the end of the tour I remembered to snap a few pictures.
So here you are, a sneak peek inside a commercial honey house.

Everything is palletized around here.

The higher the better.
Higher ceilings mean more storage.

And you need storage.
If you know beekeepers, there's no end to the equipment.

Ed's big cappings spinner

Drums soon to be filled with star thistle honey.

Ed say's he needs to find a couple hundred more drums.

The hub-- all the activity revolves around Ed's instruction. There were, I think, eight people running around doing various tasks. Ed uses his phone like a pro. The man knows how to delegate.

2000 new supers are put together in a jiffy.

Ed is an optimist.

Old supers get some new frames.

And the foundation is all waxed with Ed's wax.

There were three Hummerbees on the move. 

And three big flatbeds to haul supers and pull those Hummerbees.

I didn't get a picture, but I was happy to see pallets of protein patties. It seems Ed thinks a little supplemental protein is a good thing. I know I've jumped on that wagon.

And that was the shopping part of the trip-- a stop in Albion to load up on protein.

We want our bees ripped.

This stuff tastes like a Power Bar and it costs about as much.
When I finally break the bank trying to take care of bees, we'll be feeding MegaBee to the children.

Of course we have to stay busy in July. A little frame building is in order. 

I don't know, maybe seeing Ed put me in the mood for increase.

Thanks to some generous honey giving, we won't breakfast on MegaBee just yet. This is Florida citrus honey by way of Michigan. Ed says he's sitting on 25 drums, looking for a buyer.

You may be in luck. Ed, Baby Eden will let you know.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Great Flood Cometh

-Posted by Isaac

Driving to the market this morning, we encountered problems.

No, not the "Check Engine" light or the busted windshield. That's normal.

The problem was water.
Too much water.

 Trouble getting in, trouble getting out.

And much trouble in between.

I left Maggie and Paige at the North Market and went north to help Jayne at Worthington.
On a normal day the line in front of Becky's produce booth looks like this:

And we often get a few stragglers interested in the honey next door.

Today it looked like this:

A soggy wet mess.
Notice not a soul in front of the lonely honey tent.
Rain is no good for business. Not at all.

When we got home, we found a Great River running through the yard.


And Lake Honeyrun in the driveway.

It was fun for a while. The cousins came over.

Git'm childerns to harr ground!

It was certainly a lackluster day for sales. Almost everyone with perishables was giving product away. Poor Steve Anderson was forced to become a flower fairy, sprinkling peonies like pixie dust on any beautiful girl walking by.

Maggie and Paige made out pretty well.

But a slow sales day is not the major problem. And maybe I'm getting ahead of myself calling this a problem just yet. I'm worried about our pending summer honey crop.

Yes, we have some clover.  

Yes, we have some thistle.

But what we need, what we really need are the soybeans.
Here's the waterlogged field in front of our home yard:

Funny thing about Ohio summer honey production. The great years are the dry years. Dry and hot. For some reason the soybeans really put out the nectar under drought-like conditions.
The beans are starting to bloom, and the last week has been anything but dry. Too bad. Thank you Hurricane Bill.
It's also funny that just a couple weeks ago things were shaping up perfectly. For a huge summer honey crop that is... 90 degrees and not a storm cloud in sight. My dad was starting to bellyache about the lack of rain and I was trying to figure out where I'd park my yacht on Lake Michigan.
Looks like the farmer prayers finally got through.

Farmers: Wahhh, wahhh, wahhh, wahhh.

God: A little dry, huh? Need a little rain do you? I'll show you some rain! Heh heh heh...

Beekeepers: Wahhh, wahhh, wahhh, wahhh.

Seems my prayers for oppressive heat and unrelenting drought went completely unnoticed.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Spring Honey- Better than Ever

-Posted by Isaac

It's spring honey time!

But, you say, this stuff is cloudy... and it's got wax particles floating around.
I'll explain later.

We've been busy. Really busy. The last week has been a hot blur of honey.
All because, this spring, the bees got really busy also.

The supers are full! Well, not entirely, but most hives have at least a single medium super caked out with honey.
Full of delicious, gorgeous, awesome spring honey.

Ha. And just a few weeks ago I mentioned to Jayne that I thought it was going to be a good one. A big harvest. Always the optimist, she said, "Don't count your chickens."

Well lookie here...

Besides, Honey, I covered chickens in that last post.

We've moved on to honey.
Spring Honey. My favorite!

I explain it a thousand times every Saturday. Spring honey is awesome. Light, delicate, translucent.. and most years, not a lot of it. In fact, more years than not, we're sold out of spring honey before the next harvest rolls around. I guess that can be a good thing. A supply and demand issue. We charge more for it. We keep it for you market customers almost exclusively. Away from the strangling grasp of Whole Foods and Giant Eagle. There's just not enough of it.

Here's why:
Early in the bee year, we're making splits. Throughout much of the spring. Splitting the hives is hugely beneficial in many ways. We increase our hive count with new, young queens. We make up for winter loss. We prevent swarming. We go into apple pollination with smaller, easier to handle hives. We sell nucs.
Much good comes from splitting. But usually one thing we miss out on is a big crop of spring honey. The honeysuckle and locust bloom in May and most years the bees are still building up for summer. We'll pull a few frames of this beautiful honey but that's about all.

Not this year. Conditions were right. The bees were strong. And so was the honey flow!

About a week ago I finally decided it was time go get to work.

Baby says what have you been waiting for?

I hit it on Monday and we've had five great (hot!) days of pulling honey.

Well Baby, one thing I was waiting for was an extractor.

Some of you know we're upgrading. I bought a big commercial extractor some months ago. One small problem: it's in Oregon.
I had a deal with the guy to pick it up in South Dakota when he moves his bees to their summer home. This was supposed to happen in the early spring.
Well, typical commercial beekeeper, communication was extremely lacking. (And I can't claim my own communication skills are much better...)
It's still in Oregon.
And we're ready to extract. What to do, what to do?

Construction on the honey house addition came to a halt. We set up a temporary extraction system using a mishmash of old equipment.

For the last week it's worked just fine, albeit slow.

Kind of funny to look at... such a small setup in this cavernous space.

But it gets the job done.

Using most every handsome daylight hour, I've been able to get through about half the hives this week.
Most are loaded with a least one heavy super.

Some of the honey needs dried.

Most doesn't. Capped and gorgeous.
Just delightful.

Magnificent stuff.

And the buckets are filling. People call this a "bucket brigade." I've always stored the spring honey in buckets because there has never been enough to mess with barrels. This year I'm rethinking that.
We're only half done!

Magnificent stuff.

Did I say that already?

Oh, so that cloudy honey at the top of this page...
That happens to be the first bottle, filled right out of the extractor. I thought we would give it to some lucky market customer.
Jayne always likes a giveaway, so here's my attempt. First person to approach me (or Maggie) at the North Market. Save yourself $8 and mention you saw this little ad on the blog. It's yours for the taking!