The Sticky, Sweet Process of Honey Extraction

IMG_0675.jpgSweet Honey. This is such a glorious sight to me. It’s been a year in the making and I am finally able to pour some of my amazing girls’ hard work into my honey jar.IMG_6302.jpgIt takes a year from when I installed the new nuke to when I hopefully can extract honey. The new bees were installed in the spring of 2017. The first few months was all about helping them build enough comb for brood, (egg laying comb) and for food for them to eat during the winter. Here we are in the summer of 2018, the girls survived the winter beautifully and are creating frames of glorious golden honey.

The old time beekeepers would never pull only seven frames to extract, but I was really running out of patience. I really wanted to jar some honey! The girls had capped off 90% of seven out of ten frames in a super or box. Capped honey like the one above shows that the moisture level is just right. If taken too soon, the moisture in the honey would spoil. The girls fan the honey to help in evaporation. Pretty cool, huh?IMG_6422.jpgAfter deciding whether or not I can pull frames to extract, I had to decide how I was going to physically extract honey from the comb. The most basic way is to cut the comb away from the wooden frame, then just mash the heck out of it with a good old fashioned potato masher. This is the simplest way to break up the wax. Over a week’s time the honey would then filter through a few sieves into a bucket.

Another idea is to use a hand spinner. The old timers say it sounds real romantic to hand crank your honey out of the comb, but they say you’ll do that one time and realize how exhausting it is. I thought about renting a spinning machine from the Spartanburg Beekeepers Association, but kind of dreaded the idea of connecting all the dots. Or I could drive hours round trip to bring the frames to Carolina Bee Company and let them extract it for me.

Ok, ok….Let’s get real. I’m lazy. And Carolina Bee Co., where I get my supplies from had this shiny baby on SALE!!!! Not only would I save time, I would be able to save most of the comb for the bees to reuse!IMG_6421.jpgThe first step is to open the wax cells in order to free the honey. Many keepers use a hot knife to cut of the wax cappings, but that would’ve set me back about $200. I decided to use this rolly thingy.IMG_6425.jpgAfter opening the cappings, I slipped the frames into the spinner. This machine can hold up to 8 frames at a time. IMG_6427.jpgThen just turned this puppy on! Ok, so it wasn’t as easy as that. For one, as you can see most of the screws and bolts that hold the doors down were missing. During the transporting of the machine to the farm, the screws came loose. In order for the machine to spin, the lids need to be down and hitting a special button. So, needless to say, I quite carefully held it all together for the 40 minutes or so it took to spin the honey out.IMG_6434.jpgHere you can see the honey dripping to the bottom of the drum and the broken comb that flew off. In my inexperienced mind, I imagined the comb to be basically still intact and the honey emptied out. When in fact, pieces do fly off, but I was able to put 4 or 5 frames right back into the hive. With a bit of comb and honey left on the frame, I’m hoping that will save the bees energy from having to completely start from scratch. IMG_6437.jpgAt the bottom of the spinning machine, there is a spout where the honey and wax bit flow from the drum. The honey flows through two sieves that nestle in each other on top of a white restaurant grade bucket. The sieves collect the different pieces of wax, bugs, and dirt. Yes, the hive is completely sanitary, but just the act of transporting the sticky frames from the hives to the barn can attract outdoor stuff. No biggie.IMG_6440.jpgI kept the sieves on top of the bucket with the lid in my laundry room for a week. This allowed the honey to continue to filter. In time the air bubble would rise to the top and any fine particles would go to the bottom.

 

TIME TO FILL SOME JARS!!!! Enough waiting! All of this patience stuff is killing me! (Now because I am not doing all of this extracting and jarring in a certified honey extracting room, I can not officially sell my honey to the public, BUT I CAN GIVE IT AWAY!) Here in this video, my friend Angie shows the perfect technique in filling a jar.

Another cool fact: I am not to clean this bucket E.V.E.R! If I did, I would risk having water collect around the valves and ruin any future honey. Don’t clean? No problem!IMG_0704.jpgIsn’t this just a beautiful sight?!? So from 7 frames, I was able to fill 12-9oz. jars and 8-4oz jars with honey. Not bad, not bad at all.IMG_0669.jpgSo, I’ve got this wax and honey left over in the sieve and I don’t want to waste it. Those dark orange blobs you see? Those are bits of pollen that was left in the cells! What should I do? Well, I placed it on top of a bowl and put it outside in the sun.IMG_0670.jpgThe sun warmed the wax which allowed the last bit of honey to strain out, which I was able to fill my own honey jar! And the bit of leftover wax will be used for lotions or soap or salves.IMG_0675.jpgBelieve you me…This sweet goodness is going on my morning toast, in my coffee, in my tea, a spoonful at lunch, and on a biscuit at dinner. YUM!IMG_0714.jpgLast year for my birthday, my darling daughter gave me these labels. I am so proud to put these on my honey jars. I love everything about them!

What an amazing God we have! He created these little bees to not only pollinate flowers and trees, but to make a sweet golden syrup. These little creatures are responsible for 80% of the food we eat. When I taste the goodness of this pure delight, I am reminded of how good our God is!

Hope you can enjoy some pure golden honey today!

Thanks for dropping by!

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A Barn Quilt for Superman

One day he says to me, “I’m going to buy me a barn quilt. Do you know what they are?” Yes, I do! I love them! But don’t buy it, I’ll make us one! “But I don’t know how to make it. It’s way too difficult.” Pshaw. Honey, I can do it. In fact, I’ll make one for your birthday!Do you know what we’re talking about? They are paintings on the side of barns that look like quilts.We saw many of them as we drove through the Northeast.Here is a link to Barn Quilt Tours all over the United States. As you can see they can be simple or very intricate. After scrolling through hundreds of photos, I decided on this pattern. Simple, yet enough pattern and color to make it look interesting.I gathered my materials and started priming the wood.Grabbed my circular saw to cut the plywood down to size and my sander to smooth it out the best I could.With a pencil and ruler, I drew out the design. Being a fabric quilter, I love seeing the patterns intersect and weave together. I put a bit of blue tape on the areas I did not want to paint yellow.After letting it dry, (which let me say is probably the hardest part), I pulled the painters tape off to reveal a beautiful crisp line. Woo Hoo!Ok. Yellow is done. Now I need to mark off where the green color will go.Remember what I said about me not having the patience to wait for the paint to dry? Ugh.

I moved the production indoors, due to it being around 40* outside. Paint just won’t dry at that temperature. Crickeys!! I’ve really got to pay attention!After several days of painting, waiting and painting some more, it was all done. Wellll….is it really all done? Superman wanted our initial in the middle. What about some bees? I used my Cricut machine to cut a bee motif out of black paper so I could move them around.Bees in the corners? Or do they look better in the white area? In the end, I decided to just keep it simple by painting our initial. Thank goodness for strong men to put this bad boy up! Of course, Elizabeth and I were a huge “help” holding ladders and giving unsolicited advice.😁

Seriously though, I had no idea how heavy this thing would be after we put the 2×4 braces on the back. Originally, I had it measured out to be a 6×6 foot quilt. Then Superman came home and said he thought a 5×5 would be better. Thank goodness I cut made it a 5×5 footer! There is no way a larger size would fit. Bobby, our friend who lives next door to the farm, asked if maybe next time I make one of these to make sure he was out of town on installation day. (Aww, he’s such a kidder. He loves being on a 20 foot ladder holding onto a 100 lb. wood piece!)Dang! That looks awesome!Here it is five months later. It’s showing some wear and weather abuse. I’m ok with that. I think it still looks pretty cool.I wonder when Superman is going to learn that he should never say it can’t be done. I’m always willing to give it a good creative try!

Thanks for dropping by!