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 Few Good Things from this Past Week

Nothing amazing or earth shattering has happened, but this past week or so has been filled with so much goodness. My life is quite ordinary and I find such joy living in it. So here are a few of the high points.img_0584On their way from moving from Pittsburgh to Atlanta this sweet family asked if they could make a pit stop at our house for the night. They had been driving for I know, seemed like forever and around 8:45 that evening, I heard a little knock knock at my front door. I looked up and saw the happiest little boy waving at me! Hudson, Easton,  Bella and their mommy and daddy, Sara and Aaron blessed our home with so much joy. Unfortunately, it was a too quick of a visit. Early the next morning they piled back into the car and continued on their way. I’m so happy they decided to move closer to family.img_0585Two days later, I drove to Seabrook Island to refresh my weary soul. I am so blessed with such loving friends, like Angie and her husband Jack, who invited me to the beach. We rode bikes, snuggled with horses, walked the beach and found so many sand dollars! Luckily Charleston is on the way to Seabrook, so I made a quick stop to see my girl and her husband. Sometimes a momma just needs to hug her kid. My momma always said that ocean water is the perfect treatment for what ails you. I believe it…sunshine, salty air, waves lapping, toes in the sand and precious friends make the perfect medicine.img_5999On the way home from the beach, I decided to make a stop in Columbia overnight. Here I am with sisters Laura, Annie and Jane at my sister Jane’s house for lunch. That evening our brother David came by my mom’s for dinner, joining us girls. We were only missing sister, Susan. She was enjoying her grandsons Hudson and Easton! img_0586I could only stay in Columbia overnight because Superman, Adam, Elizabeth and I were going to our first hockey game! Watching the minor league, Swamp Rabbits, was so much fun! We have no idea how the players know when to hop on and off the ice, what the numbers mean that the announcer calls out when someone gets put in time out or what is this power play thing? It reminded us a lot like soccer in many ways. The adorable 4 year old little boys, who sat behind us, knew more than we will ever know. I guess we’ll just have to go to more games!

Hmmm….do you think they’d let me drive the zamboni?img_0587Guess what? Two days later Superman and I are driving to the Tennessee/North Carolina border to drop him off for his 6 day 75 mile solo backpacking trip. He packed and repacked his backpack for days. Measuring and counting each bag of Fig Newtons, freeze dried dinners and tea bags. It was forecasted to be cold and raining or snowing the entire time. Sounds fun right? This is the text he sent to the fam the first day: “8.5 miles today…almost all uphill with rain most of the day. Got to the shelter at 2:00 and chilled. It’s getting cold and it starting to snow–temp drops to 17 tonight. For dinner–2 cups hot tea + honey; Mexican rice with beans; cookies; almond joy bar; sipping on some merlot wine right now! Wine in first night only–have to rough it from now on. The shelter is full of young folks–an odd collection of weirdos who are out to do the 2000 mile AT in 4 to 6 months. It’s below freezing–one dude has no long pants so he is wearing a down parka with shorts. One gal is playing some sort of Indian flute–I’m waiting to bust out the “someone’s a crying me lord” song. All in all, we h she young folks don’t have a care in that the world–no job, no mortgage, no long term plan–I’m thinking about pontificating about Donald Trump is the greatest of all time and Obama’s a communist–I’m pretty sure I would be booted from the shelter so I’ll keep my mouth shut. All in all I’m as happy as a pig in mud right now. Everyone is talking about all the bears they have seen–I’m 👀 ING forward to seeing my share. I love all of you–a few of you should be here with me…” He is loves this stuff! Like Superman says “This ain’t no big deal”. img_0588This was his view the next morning. Beautiful.img_0589After dropping Superman off at the trailhead, I decided to stop off at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As soon as I stepped through the doors, this lady was demonstrating weaving. Not only does she weave her own cloth, she sews it into gorgeous jackets and tops. I can’t imagine putting scissors into the cloth that just took me hours to weave! There were many artisans demonstrating their craft while answering questions and explaining the tools and process. I was mesmerized. As I walked up the ramp to the exhibition hall, I was taking pictures of everything. When I reached the top, I almost ran into a semi frantic woman looking for the person who was taking pictures! Who me?!? Not me, but some other unsuspecting soul. I get it. The artists don’t want their artwork copied. I respect that. So I put my camera down. Just remember No Pictures Allowed! img_0594I guess I’m so drawn to this type of artwork because it represents the common folk. According to Wikipedia: Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Take for example Grandma Donaldson in the photo above. She didn’t go to a fancy art school or travel the world to be inspired. She used the materials she had around her and made something beautiful. Whether it was the farmer who used his knife and a piece of wood or a stick to whittle a toy or the mother who took the outgrown clothes and repurposed them into a beautiful warm quilt. I LOVE IT! img_0596When I finally got home that day it was raining, so it was the perfect time to finish up some stuffed animals that people have ordered. Luckily for me, Joann’s had a big clearance sale on yarn among other things, so I stocked up for other orders of rabbits, elephants, monkeys and unicorns. I’ve got lots of work to do!img_0595This weekend, I have two more boxes of bees arriving! I need to get their supers and frames ready. Here are 40 frames that need the wax panel put in each. This requires I chisel carefully out a thin piece of wood, slide in the wax sheet then hammer the wood piece back on to hold everything tightly in.img_6043I went to the local hardware store to buy some very small nails and a small hammer. When I found this beauty, the young man assisting me kinda sorta rolled his eyes when I squealed with delight. He just doesn’t understand how things like this can really make me happy. I got 20 of the 40 frames done. Tomorrow is a new day. I was feeling a bit pooped.img_6049Are you feeling as tired as I felt? I had the house alone. It was quiet, just me, Sam and Lilly. I poured myself a cup of hot tea, snuggled down in my favorite chair and started reading my favorite book/magazine. Quiltfolk is a bi-monthly, beautiful magazine of 180 soft pages of no advertising, wonderful stories about the people behind the quilts and what inspires them to stitch. Each issue takes you to a different state or area and tells you their stories in the quilt world. The issue above takes us to Arizona. It quiets my soul and feeds my heart with inspiration.

Its been a long week or so. Thanks for stopping by!

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