It's no secret that we're big fans of bees over in these parts. Within the last couple of years, I personally have taken a great interest in beekeeping, and dream of one day having a backyard hive of my own. When our friend Brandi decided to put bees up on the farm that we all help out on, it was like a dream come true. I was lucky enough to help Brandi, along with our friend Sean, with her first ever honey harvest a couple of weeks ago.
Oh, and just a little sidenote before we get into it - Brandi is an actual descendant of Old MacDonald. As in, Old MacDonald had a farm. Ee i ee i o. Pretty perfect for a modern beekeeping farmer, no?
Brandi has two colonies up at the farm. The first one she got in the early Spring, and the second one she added mid-Summer. It's seemed as though it was a productive year for the bees, but being Brandi's first year she wasn't sure what to expect. The three of us got together on a rainy afternoon ready to work like worker bees.
After Brandi removed the honey supers from the hives and brought them to the barn, the next step was to remove the layer of beeswax that the bees cap the combs with once they are full of honey. We took turns doing this carefully with hot knives. You can buy high-tech beekeeping electric knives that stay continually hot, but a kettle full of boiling water did the trick well enough for us.
The frames were then put into the extractor that Brandi borrowed from her fellow beekeeper friend Jess. An extractor works by placing the frames within a barrel, and then spinning them around. This removes the honey by flinging it out and allowing it to collect at the bottom of the barrel, while doing no damage to the frames so that they can be used again in the hive.
While we watched the motor running on the extractor, Sean (owner of Downtown Bike Hounds, and a serious bike enthusiast) came up with the incredible idea of making our own extractor powered by the pedals of a bike. Maybe next year that's how we'll be doing things.
And then liquid gold poured out when we opened the spigot at the bottom of the extractor drum.
At this point, the honey is still full of small bits of wax and other debris, so it is poured into food grade containers with very fine filters, and is left to drip drip drip slowly over a period of days. It was impossible for us not to sample the goods at this point, and man oh man, I've never had better honey in my life. Sweet and floral and fragrant. We wanted to bathe in it.
Between her two hives, Brandi ended up with around 12 gallons of honey from her harvest. Not too shabby! And really, the bees did most of the work! I'm so grateful to Brandi for letting me help out and learn some of the ropes of harvesting honey. Now all I have to do is convince my husband to let me put that (illegal) backyard hive in our yard.