We’re a touch late in writing the blog this week, but we had a big weekend! We harvested honey! We’ve been waiting so patiently to harvest from our two bee hives since we acquired them in May of 2014, but had waited until now in order to let the bees build strong colonies. We’d also been supplementing their food source with sugar water with various additives (all natural plants and oils and all kinds of good stuff for bees), which doesn’t really make for honey. But when this year rolled around, we added new frames to each hive that were labeled ‘2015’ so that we would know that any honey in those frames would be good to harvest. We decided that this past weekend was the time to strike. This was our first time to harvest, so we kind of just went in the best way we could without investing in a bunch of fancy equipment to simplify the process. Beekeeping is an expensive thing to get into. We absolutely love it, but every time we turn around, it seems there’s something else we have to purchase in order to get to the next step. This time we decided to make do with what we have, which meant suiting up and pissing off a lot of bees.
When it comes to beekeeping, I pretty much look to Stefanie on what to do. She’s my resident expert (though she would say she’s no expert). She said we needed to go out a couple of hours before sundown and remove all the 2015 frames we wanted to harvest from the hive and set them aside so that the bees still on those frames would have time to go back in the hive and settle by sundown, and then we’d go back out at night and collect the bee-free honey-filled frames we’d set out before. It was a brilliant plan. Flash forward to later that night and I am covered in more bees than I’ve ever experienced before. It was like I was wearing a hat made out of bees, bees with little tiny weed-whackers. That’s what it sounded like anyway. So many bees, and they were all angry with me. I was brushing them away, and stealing their honey. But I kept my cool as I picked up each frame and gently brushed off any stubborn bees refusing to leave their honey behind, and handed it to Stefanie to place into a large plastic bin that we would be using to transport all the stolen honey frames to my mom’s commercial kitchen to harvest the honey into jars.
Once at the kitchen, it was really pretty simple (and sticky). We cut all of the delicious honeycomb from the frames, tossed them in a bowl, and mashed them with a potato masher and a wooden spoon until the comb was as crushed as possible, thereby releasing all the honey. It resulted in a thick mushy soup of honey and wax.
We then poured the crushed comb/honey mixture into a special two-tiered strainer that separated the honey from the wax on the top tier, and then further filtered by the ultra-fine mesh of the bottom strainer. You have to do this step in batches if you have a lot of honey to harvest because the honey needs a lot of time to drain from the crushed wax sufficiently. So we poured a bunch in there and left for the night. Then we went back the next day, poured another batch and left it to strain overnight.
By Sunday we had a little less than two gallons of rich, delicious, amber-colored honey, and it was absolutely worth it. So that makes for 36 jars of raw honey at 10 ounces each! We’re hanging onto a few jars for ourselves, but we’ve decided to sell the rest to our friends and family, and anyone else who wants it. I know what you’re thinking, “SELL to your friends and family?” Damn straight. We’re farmers now, and we gotta start selling our wares. HONEY! GET YOUR HONEY, HERE!