Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pullin' the Honey off the Hive

As I said, still playing catch up with the blog, so expect some way out of date stuff.  Like, for instance, the day we pulled the honey off our hive for the first time.  I think it was either the end of September or the beginning of October when Scotty came by one evening to smoke out the bee girls and snatch the honey super off the hive and whisk it back to his place.  Okay, not so much whisk as wait for me to get Really Big Red out of the garage and jump Old Blue, his ancient blue Chevy pickup, back to life with about a zillion not very happy bees buzzing us the entire time.  At least Scotty was wearing his bee suit.  Me, the usual shorts and T shirt.  But he got away safely and deposited all the honey supers - our one, Orin's 2 big ones (full of not very nice bee girls, unlike ours) and several of Scotty's - in his meat room back at his place, just a few miles south of us in Alpine.

  A few days later on a fine Sunday afternoon, Scotty's wife Kathy and their three great kids Rebecca, Joe and Ben put on an amazing spread for us, with pulled venison from one of the deer Scotty took and processed, wonderful potatoes from a neighbour's garden, salad from various gardens and all the rest of the fixin's.  I brought a fine Benton-Lane 2008 Pinot Noir that we all enjoyed (not the kids) plus blueberry muffins made with blueberries from both our garden and Donna's and eggs from the Gangsta Girls, of course.  Then, after we'd stuffed ourselves silly, it was time to get to work.

If you ever wondered why honey is so expensive, let me tell you why.  Four of us worked for almost 6 hours to extract about 5 gallons TOTAL of honey.  And, Dale was the lone casualty of a sting (from one of Orin's bee girls, no doubt - those girls sure have bad attitudes), which was amazing considering there was about 20,000 bees in that room.  Scotty didn't get around to turning on his big meat cooler and putting the supers in there to take care of the little bee problem he brought with him from Orin's, so we spent a lot of time using Kathy's brand new vacuum to suck them off the frames, the extractor, and basically every surface of that room they could hang on to.  We basically filled that canister on that upright to the top.  Scott promised he'd take care of that before Kathy found out but I suspect he was not sucessful in that endeavour.

Because we had the least amount of honey to extract, we did ours first.  We had to add two of Orin's frames to balance the extractor, so we picked the ones of his with the least amount of honey to use.  And then, we got started with the very messy uncapping process.  Scotty took the lead to get us started, and from then on out we took turns at this sticky and somewhat thankless job.

In the end, we got almost 4 full quarts of honey, not back for losing half the hive to a swarm early in the season.  It was odd however that we had a lot of brood in the honey super, something that won't happen next year as I will add a queen excluder to prevent her from going upstairs to lay eggs.  But, she's doing a great job based on what we saw in the honey super!  Just as a warning, there are some pictures of the larvae in the honey basket that might gross you out, but they are really quite fascinating to see.  And no, unlike Mescal, we didn't add them to the honey jars.

Orin and I contemplate the supers

Scotty's back to us in his meat room.  His company, Bellfountain Sausage Company, is very well know in Western Oregon for the wide array of awesome sausages they make, including many varieties made from local game.  They go to all the local events with their booth; you can always tell which one is theirs by the line snaking down the aisle

Anything with the -N- symbol and also that first super belong to Orin.  They contain plenty of angry bees, trust me

One of Orin's supers.  You can't see the bees, but pull a frame and stand by with the vac!
Scotty sets up the uncapping station

That bloody uncapping knife is HOT!  Orin's laughing in the background because he's been here before.  We both left with plenty of burns on our arms

Scotty prepares to uncap the first of Orin's frames

Scotty uses a cappings scratcher to open the cells that were not reached by the knife

Orin has a go

Our very first frame of honey

Scotty with a fully uncapped frame
The first of our honey flows out of the extractor into the bucket

I know these might gross some people out, but this is so very cool I couldn't help but include the pix of the almost fully formed bee girls and a larvae

The end result - our first honey harvest!

It's pure and only strained, not heated and filtered.  Those are bubbles you see that look like floating stuff.  They'll eventually settle out.  The taste was amazing - somewhat spicy and pungent.  Given what the bee girls had to feast on - wildflowers of every type including poison oak (which BTW makes awesome honey on it's own), blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, apple and pear blossoms, roses and every type of nectar bearing flower I could find to plant - it's no surprise how complex and interesting it turned out

This is a four frame extractor.  You can see four frames ready to go into it behind the guys.  It takes all three guys - one of crank the handle and two to keep the whole thing, table and all, from crashing thru the wall or onto the floor

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