Thursday, September 14, 2006

Honey Harvest 2006

my three honeys 2006This post actually started seven days ago, when I finally extracted my first true harvest of rooftop honey. On Thursday, September 7, I finally went upstairs to see what was what, thinking that I could have anything from 80 to 200 pounds of honey up there. This was a daunting prospect, because it meant removing bees from seven or more supers, and hauling each (weighing anything from 30 to 85 pounds, depending) down a spiral staircase, across the second floor of the house, down the stairs to the first floor, then back across the house to the kitchen. And no MaryEllen around to make things easy this time!

Oh whine whine whine... sorry. The truth is that there were only about 4 boxes of honey, almost all medium frames, ready for extraction. The remaining 4 and a half or so boxes were pretty full of uncapped nectar: so close, but yet so far. I really need them outta there in order to reduce the hive's size and place the Fall medications, but the contents are not yet honey. So I left them in place, and have been scratching my head (until last night).

There are more timely details available about the honey extraction process on the long-winded page at right, but even it leaves out the part where I stumbled down and across the house 4 times with heavy honey boxes that also included dozens of bees along for the ride. I had used the fume board slightly wrong, so a few hardy bees would not leave until I got them downstairs, pulled individual frames, and stood at the back door (wearing my veil) blowing on them for all I was worth. Bees do not like human breath, and they basically gave up and flew back home when faced with mine. On the bright side, I have enough lung capacity to blow forcefully on 74 sides of frames PLUS 4 surrounding boxes without passing out.

It took a couple of hours to do the extracting, and another hour or more for the honey to finally pass through the three levels of filters I use (just fine mesh people, no chemicals, etc., here!) The net harvest was about 60 pounds, or one five-gallon bucket.

That's less than a third of my upper level estimate, but I am actually just thrilled anyway. The stuff is more precious to me than gold, and now I will have to be extra careful with it (only appropriate) to make sure it gets to those I love most and lasts until next year.

The picture shows something else that makes me happy. The three apiaries have produced very different honey crops. On the left, you can see the honey from the historic mill where we did all those summer camp presentations. It is very dark, almost as dark as buckwheat, and it has a molasses-like flavor. On the right is the light-bright honey from the monastery 3 miles from my house: it is as delightfully floral as a late Spring day. I swear, if the chefs in this city could get their noses on it, their eyes would pop out! (It just occurred to me what a disturbing selection of images I just provided...)

Finally, in the middle, the honey from the roof. It is golden and good and a happy representation of all the sweetness the girls have brought to my life. Those of you blog friends who have been promised honey have not received it yet, mostly because I was saving this batch for you.

Last night, I got easy advice for what to do with all that uncapped honey that is still up there. I will go up tomorrow, see if any more actually got capped, then take and extract any of that. The frames that are not capped by then never will be, and a master beekeeper told me how to set the boxes away from the hives to be foraged out by (mostly) the same bees. They will put the nectar down in the brood nest where it will actually get used this winter. I already let the bees clean out the comb that was extracted last week, though I did it sort of wrong.

After the bees have the last boxes for a day, I will be able to put them away without much fanfare. Then it will be medication time, and — soon — winter.


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00goddess said...

I just stopped by for the first time in a while, and caught up. Your honey looks fantastic! I love that the varieties are all so different. Honey is truly local food.

I'm glad things are still good with you and the girls.

Pyewacket said...

I got my package of honey! Truly the sweetest - in all senses - thing I've received in the mail in years! Thank you. I have an idea for a special cake to celebrate the honey; if it comes out, I'll send pictures.

Thanks again.