Monday, September 28, 2015

Parenting, Pollination, Pumpkins.

-Posted by Isaac

Jayne has run off again. This time to the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia. Four women and four days of hiking and camping. A little September fling, a get-away, a "girl's trip."

And here I am once again, alone with my four little angels. 

Really, it's not so bad. We're more than surviving. We're thriving. For the life of me, I can't understand why Jayne gets so frustrated. So frazzled. This is easy. Feeding, clothing, entertaining, cleaning.... easy!

Let's see... Feeding
Sure the line at McDonald's can be frustratingly long, but there are some wonderful distractions if you use a little creativity. Like those new soda fountain / condiment dispensers-- at least five minutes of focussed joy for a three year old. Ice cubes and ketchup? Even better than finger painting! i'm lovin' it!

Not that hard. Simple actually. We have plenty of clothes, I mean I'm finding drawers full. Our kids are all almost the same size. And they can all almost dress themselves!

What else?... Entertaining:
This is as simple as finding the remote.

Beautiful sunny day outside?
Let's watch Sponge Bob!

Finding the remote being the key. And this brings us to Cleaning Up:

No problem. I have found everything we need in the short stretch between the kitchen and the honey house--
Shop broom. Check.
Grain shovel. Check.
Leaf blower. Got it.
And the kids even help out... because it's fun!

Bridger shows us what bad kids do when left with Daddy for four days:

"They turned into monsters who hollered and raged."
 Not my little darlings.
Jayne will be so impressed.

Enough about the parenting. Let's get to the matter at hand. As that one guy... on that one movie....? says, "It's time to put the children to bed and go looking for dinner."
Where's this from? It sticks in my head... a guy I ran with in college loved to quote it before a race.

I'm talking pollination. Pumpkin pollination. I just brought 32 hives home from Circle S Farms last night. (Grandma took the kids. Thank you!)

This year it wasn't quite the back breaker it has been in the past.
I've got a new rig:

And we've got many of the hives on pallets:

I was so proud of myself, I had Seth take a picture so I could put it on Facebook. But not ordinary Facebook. This went to a page solely devoted to commercial beekeeping. My very first trip with PALLETIZED hives!

Yes, I have become a Facebook junkie thanks to this page. It annoys Jayne, but I try to explain that it's all in the name of education.

A few of the comments on this particular post centered on my dirty bee suit.
Huh? Dirty?

Lest I be mistaken for a doctor.

Other than a few 4am stings on Seth's neck, we had no problems at all. Got there without a hitch.
Not literally.
This was early August.

I made it back a couple weeks ago for a check and some supplemental feed. The bees were doing great.
And they had obviously done their job.  Surrounding the hives were around 30 acres of vines thick with still-green pumpkins.

And in a few weeks Circle S Farms will be a flurry of activity.
Pick-your-owners out reaping the harvest provided in part by the diligent hardworking honey bee.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Honeyfest 2015 - Outtakes and all

-posted by Jayne

Isaac requests a blog about honeyfest, so here it is!  Did you come check it out?  If not, here are some snapshots of what you missed.  Mostly just pictures of our booth, because that's where I was all weekend.  Part of the reason I take so many pictures of our booth and post them here is so I will remember how to set it up next year.  

The booth always looks best on Friday night... everything fresh and clean.  But this year, we got a healthy dose of rain on Friday, which creates havoc for our display.  Cloth table clothes get soaked, meaning the soap that sits on the table cloth also runs the risk of getting wet.

But the rain didn't damper too many spirits.  People still came out to sample our honey and support local beekeepers.

I thought I had done a good job tidying up Friday night before I went home.  I boxed up all the soap and placed it under the table.  This way it would be protected from rain- with a table above, and boxes below so the soap boxes wouldn't get wet. 

This is where that outtakes part comes in...

This is what I found in our tent 1st thing Saturday morning.

Yeah- so I'm not so good at stacking, planning, and fore-seeing potential rain disasters.  As I tried to clean up... it just got worse.  Fresh dry soap falling on wet pavement.  Boxes torn apart from too much moisture.  And all the soap on bottom had already soaked up too much moisture- the wrappers wet and clinging to the wet soap.  Looks like our family will have plenty of soap to use in the coming months!

But you know... this is what I saw when I left my house, driving on my way to honeyfest Saturday morning.  A great reminder that good things will come, even with the rain.

I tucked the wet soap away in our truck and fixed up the remaining soap that wasn't wet back into a nice display.  And all was well.  Saturday morning- the booth was "abuzz" once again with crowds and samplers.  Petyn (pictured below), our usual Saturday morning babysitter, got yanked to Honeyfest so she could handle crowd control.

If you were at the Honeyfest, you may have had a chance to wander over into the Scioto Valley Beekeepers booth.  Dan Williams, former SVB President, and his son Hunter were spinning out fresh honey for an extraction demo.  

Pictured below are the cappings that were scraped off the frames of honey.

These are later cleaned of excess honey, melted down, and used to make beeswax candles, put in soaps, salves, lip balms, etc.

Below is an up-close shot of the extractor.  Frames in motion.

And throughout the weekend, you could catch demonstrations of bee beards.  Even the honey princess did a bee beard!  Pictured below is Arnold Crabtree.  Arnold, also known as "the bee man" helped start many bee clubs throughout Ohio.  He was also the genius with the driving idea behind the 1st Lithopolis Honeyfest.

So another Honeyfest is in the books.  Time to slow down... focus on all the wonderful things happening on the farm.  This past week, I found a beautiful monarch in the yard.  They've been more plentiful this year than in any of the past years I can remember.

The buckwheat is blooming over at my sister-in-law Becky's farm.  She planted this as a cover crop and we were so happy to see it in full bloom, we took a few extra hives over to her location.

Eden's pretty happy about it too.  Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer Honey with the "New" Extractor

-Posted by Isaac

Wow. I see it's been quite a while. Sorry to keep you waiting with bated breath.
September is such a rush.

Always our biggest sales month... with a little thing called the Honeyfest.

Set-up on Friday:

Saturday craziness:

(With our usual assortment of beautiful sales ladies.)

And Sunday put-away. With the help of a sun beam:

Our helpful little sun beams.

I think maybe Jayne is going to tell you more about the Honeyfest this year. She has the good pictures. It was another wonderful year. So good to see you there!

What I wanted to show off is the latest project.

With baby's help, I finally got the big extractor up and running. It took some time. All the while Bridger honed his riding skills.

If you remember, I got this thing back in July. And it turns out (go figure), there was a reason the price was a quarter of what I would have paid for new.
Lets see... new belts, new bearings, chains, sprockets, a motor, new hosing and piping, new rollers, new switches and wiring... you name it. About a hundred trips to town. I can now confidently navigate the plumbing section of Home Depot. Probably blindfolded. 

It set us back a month later than usual with the summer honey pulling, and worse, put us right up against Honeyfest prep. What a crazy time it's been! 

But it's now up and running. 60 frames, in-line, mighty and proud.

A little video from the first day running:

My idea was to have Seth and Mr. Blair handle the honey extraction while I spent my days in the bees.
We had to hurry to beat the goldenrod bloom.
Thankfully my favorite station has declared this month "Zepptember." About twice an hour Jimmy Page and Robert Plant kept me focussed and driving ever onward.

This worked out pretty well. They could keep up with me. Before, there was always a bottleneck of honey waiting to be extracted.

We're dealing with half a crop of summer honey this year, due to all the damn rain. Too bad. But the good thing is, we still had half a crop. In some areas of the state it was a total zero. Count your blessings, huh.

In some yards, mostly west, it was actually a pretty normal year.

Slowly the big honey tank started to fill.

And fill....

Seth fed my vanity with a photo shoot as I filled the first barrel.

So now, three weeks in, we're just about done.
Which is good, because look what's coming.

The goldenrod has bursted this week.
Loads of orange pollen are being hauled in, soon we'll be smelling that delightful dirty sock aroma of goldenrod honey. I can't wait.

What a tease.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Soap Making Demonstration

-posted by Jayne
First things first.... We're finally on instagram!   

Now, to the real point of this blog.  Today I will give you a little pictorial demonstration on part of the soap-making process.  These pictures cover the basics after the lye has been added to the oils.  Consider it part two in a two part series (read: I had an assistant to take pictures during this part - thanks Katie!).

This is what the soap looks like after the lye has been
added to the oils.  I have added Rose Clay and am mixing
with my immersion blender.

Once the mixture has reached "trace" (it leaves a trace
when you drizzle it over the top of the mixture)
we pour it into the mold. 
There were a lot of bees in the honey house that day, which is why I am hiding under a hat.  I had a bad experience with a bee that got in my hair!
This is what the soap looks like after it has been poured
in the molds.  Molds are lined with freezer paper.

Some varieties go through what is called "gel phase,"
meaning they heat up and begin to gel in the mold.
Some soap makers believe this helps set the scent.  

At this point, the soap is covered with a layer of freezer paper, a wooden lid, and allowed to set overnight to thicken.  Twenty four hours later, it will still be soft, like the consistency of cheese.  This is when we cut the soap.

The soap is unmolded.

Inspected for any bits of freezer paper left behind.

The initial cut turns our large loaf of soap into two smaller logs.

The cutter is made using a guitar string (Isaac's craftmanship).
We then use a second homemade soap cutter to cut the log into bars.

Just a little muscle required...  Another guitar string cuts the loaf into bars.

Individual bars are removed

This is our Gardener's soap - featuring pumice and speckles of poppy seeds.

Bars are evenly spaced for curing.   
We then cure the bars for 4 weeks to ensure the lye has fully saponified with the oils to create a long lasting, fully cured bar of soap.  The curing process also helps the soap last longer, as moisture continues to evaporate from the bar.

Come see us at the Lithopolis Honeyfest this Friday and Saturday- we'll have lots of soap, honey, and more!