One thing about taking pictures for my blog is that my camera phone gets a little dirty. I’m writing about gardening and composting, so when I take photos to put in a post, my hands have usually been in the dirt or I’ve been wrangling a muddy toddler.
Yesterday I took my first venture into the world of beekeeping: I harvested 10 racks of honey from my brother’s hive in his yard. Now that was a challenge — trying to take pictures while working with honey. Not to mention that was my first time doing this, and by myself too. My 4 year old was keenly interested, but mainly in eating the honey. (Fortunately for my beginner-beekeeping self, there were no live bees involved — it was just a box of racks full of honey.)
Consequently, my phone got pretty sticky as I was trying to capture some images of the whole process. And the honey can be found in various places in our house, from the front porch to my 4 year old’s forehead.
My brother showed me the basics of how to get the honey from the rack, then left me to figure it out by myself. So, from here on, remember that I’m no expert, and that there might have been easier (and more correct) ways to do what I did:
First, I used an electric hot knife to remove (“de-cap”) the wax covering the honeycomb cells:
The left side of the rack shows the cells that still have the wax caps. The right side is where I just made a swath through with the hot knife and honey is exposed. (You can also see where the honey kind of “cooked” on the blade and turned brown. I don’t know if it was supposed to do this, like maybe I should have been wiping the honey from the blade while working — it didn’t affect the outcome but it will be a pain to clean I’m sure.)
**Note — the above tool is a hot. knife. My thumb will attest to that. A burn/cut combo. Ow. It was a scary enough tool that even my boys wouldn’t get near it, and they’re usually attracted to anything electric, sharp, and/or poisonous.
Two uncapped racks went into the extractor at a time. I turned the handle and it spun the racks (they were in a cage-like contraption inside). It took about 10-15 minutes of spinning per set to get the honey out.
Something I’ve learned about gardening in the front yard is that it’s much more social than back-yard gardening:
When I had the extractor on the front porch, my neighbor’s landscaper, Shylock, came over to check it out. Shylock is from Zimbabwe, and he told me how he and his brothers get honey from hives in the woods there. Getting honey from a wild hive is a whole ‘nother ball of wax (couldn’t resist)….I like the idea of bee boxes and protective bee suits myself, but it was truly fascinating to hear him tell about it.
When they were all done, I brought the extractor inside to sit on the radiator. The warmth of the radiator made the honey less viscous so it flowed better when it was time to strain it.
It also made our house smell deliciously of honey.
Our resident Pooh bear was right by my side once the honey started flowing: He eats a peanut butter and honey sandwich *every* day for lunch. He’d love to be able to live on honey alone.
After all the honey went through the strainer and into the 5-gallon bucket, then it was time to put it into jars.
My brother’s amazing sense of timing brought him back to the house right when I was starting this part — or as he described it, “the fun part”. Knowing that I have a touch of adult ADD and am a little klutzy (both amplified when toddlers are around) he kindly reminded me that it was *really* important to keep an eye on the honey filling the jar — not fun when it overflows.
I am proud to say that I had no spills — amazing for me! Here’s the beginnings of what we got:
Its flavor is just perfect…it is flowery and light. I have been eating straight spoonfuls of it and can’t stop.
I used random left-over jars so there were 3 different sizes, but we ended up with 10 pints, 3 half-pints, and 4 4-oz. jars. If my math is correct that’s over a gallon of honey….
And one very happy resident Pooh bear.
March 9, 2011 at 11:36 am
Yummy. The honey looks delicious! Thank you for sharing this process!
I would love to meet your neighbor one day. I spent four weeks in Zimbabwe and LOVED the country as a tourist.
Big hugs to you all,
March 11, 2011 at 10:49 am
Awesome. Why were there no bees?
March 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm
Hive failure. My brother told me it was a combination of mites and the bees stopped feeding, and perhaps some really cold snaps here in the So. Appalachians over the winter.
March 29, 2011 at 11:10 am
I just read an article in the paper abouth the Sowe True seeds that you used. Wow you are keeping very busy. I do a unit about honey bees and the kids are always asking me if they are going to taste honey. Thanks again for the pics and the great ideas. Hope to hear from you soon! The boys look so precious!
Take Care Lucy Lorenzo