Sunday, July 15, 2007

Adventures in Honey

In the spring Techpriest was talking to one of the ladies in the courthouse about their spouses. Her husband is retired, getting a little forgetful and has some other health issues so that he needs to take it easy. He also has a huge yard with lots and lots of trees, bushes, etc. Techpriest has a wife that needs to get out of the house more often, could use a little spending money, but who you can't count on from day to day because of her headaches. Since then, the two seem to fit together fairly well. We are scheduled Mon, Wed, and Fri, but between me not feeling good, him not feeling good, and all the rain, we usually don't work all three days. We have weeded(lord have we weeded!), trimmed bushes and trees, put up the waterwheel, made some flower boxes, but the most interesting thing we have done is extract honey.

You see, he is the honey man around this parts. Most people in McPherson might not know who you are talking about if you say his name, but call him the honey man and they go "yeah, yeah, lives out on such-and-such street, right? Great honey." Yup, that's him. He has been raising bees for quite a long time.

Last year the bees didn't produce enough honey to last the whole year, HM(honey man) has been out for a couple of months now. Don't worry, I should have enough to last me! This year, he had several hives that died off. I guess he is having the same problem everyone else is having. He is not a big commercial producer though, his hives are about as natural as you can get without being hung up out in the woods.

Well, these hives did make some honeycombs before they died, so I got the fun of helping extract the honey! I thought it was quite interesting, and well worth blogging about. Now, being a brand new blogger, the first day I forgot to bring the camera. So, bear with me.

This is...well, I don't what they call it, but it has a sort of screen on it(see it on the bottom left?) that the bees build the honey combs on. Now, the first day we took these screens full of honey combs and opened them up with a scratcher(looks kinda like a pet comb, but very sharp, we cut ourselves a few times). Quite often honey would just run down once you opened them up, sometimes even popping out like they were under pressure and hitting you. As you can guess this was a very messy process. I had drops of honey all over me, my hands were coated with it, it was hot enough that I was dripping sweat, pouring in my eyes, but couldn't do anything about it since my hands were all sticky! HM said it could be worse, in the fall(aug-oct) it is usually much hotter, and the bees are flying around all over the place, but because they still have flowers to munch on they left us alone.

So after we did that we placed them in the extractor, where they would drip out all the honey. At least, that was the plan. Normally, this takes place in Aug. Normally, July is much hotter than it has been this year. Between last Monday when we put them in the extractor and Friday when we got back to them it had cooled off, rained, gotten hot again and cooled off again. Not good for the honey. One, not much of the honey was in the bottom of the extractor like it was supposed to be. The picture up above was taken on Friday and you can see there is still a lot of honey left and it has crystallized. Second, it has started fermenting. So no good for honey, HM said it would make some good mead though! I didn't know mead was made from honey, did you?

This is the top of the extractor where you load the screens.

Full view of the extractor. Emptying it out into the bucket. We only filled one bucket, that tells ya how much was left in the honey combs. There is a motor on top used to spin all the honey out.

A glimpse in the bucket. If you embiggen you should be able to see all the bits of honeycomb and dead bees floating in there. And yes, we did scrape off all the dead bees we could, but there were some tucked up in the honeycomb too. Don't worry, the strainer comes next.

Look at all the stuff the strainer caught. It actually gets strained a couple more times, but we were done for the day.

See? Much better. HM says that all the foam is from the fermenting. He really doesn't know what he is going to do with it all.

Well, I think that is it for now, talk to you all later!


Marianne said...

How cool is all that?!?!? I find this fascinating...there was an older gentleman who lived down the street from me, had a couple of hives in his backyard...he would share (he would put the jar in a brown paper bag because he didn't want the bees seeing it...which I actually thought was very sweet of him)...
I've been keeping up on this bee situation and hives dying out.. does your HM know what's going on?
We need our bees.

Faren said...

Yeah, I thought it was really cool too! Wasn't that honey better than store bought? I can taste the difference anyway. It seems like I've asked him before, I don't remember his answer, so either his answer was confusing, or my headache was bad enough I had trouble following him. I'll ask him again.
He is surrounded by conventional farm fields, but he has lived there for years and never had a problem.
We certainly do.

MirandaLea said...

Too cool! You certainly are a woman of many talents. Now you can add "honey-extractor" to your resume!

Faren said...

Yeah, sure, as long as nothing new pops up!