Friday, August 24, 2012

Honey Harvest!

When we first began keeping bees last year, there were two goals in view (besides the desire to keep bees simply for the enjoyment of it!) - one, pollination of our fruit trees and vegetable garden, and two, honey! A first year hive doesn't generally produce excess honey for harvest, so we were anticipating the possibility of getting some this year. But then when the drought hit, we weren't sure if we would get any or not.

Dad and I inspected all of the hives again this past Monday, and two of them still had enough honey stored away for us to harvest some! You can imagine how happy we all were about that. :) We started with the hive that had the smaller amount of honey to harvest, and on Monday, put what is called a 'bee escape board' (a one way exit) between the honey supers and the the brood chambers. The next day, then, when we went out to pull off the honey supers, most of the bees had already vacated them. That made our job easier getting the remaining bees off of the frames!

A super with honey frames in it 
(by the time this photo was taken, some of the frames had already been extracted.)

Then came the exciting part . . . extracting! Something I was really looking forward to! I had gotten everything set up prior so we were all ready to begin. First we started uncapping frames . . .

 

In a beehive, once the honey is ripe, the bees cap it with little wax cappings. In order to extract the honey from the frames, these cappings need to be removed with an uncapping knife. If the comb is nice and smooth like the one above, it is a fairly simple process. The below frame was a little more challenging . . .

On this frame, the bees had drawn out some of the comb quite a distance, but then the center top portion of the frame was not drawn out nearly as much so its cappings were down lower than the rest of them.

At this point, everyone was noticing the delicious scent of honey filling the air! And everyone enjoyed a little sample from the honey that had come off with the cappings. It was so good! 

Daddy drying off the uncapping knife after heating it in a pot of boiling water (a step that needed to be done each time we uncapped a side of a frame.)

Here he's taking a turn decapping frames while I hold the wire rack still that the frame is sitting on.

In this photo, I was using what is called an 'uncapping scratcher' to remove the cappings that the knife missed. Look at all the beautiful honey on the back of the frame!

And while all of the uncapping was going on, Mom was busy in the living room repairing one of our rugs :) . . .


Once we had three frames uncapped, we started extracting! (Since our extractor only holds three frames at a time.)

Ready to extract!

Spinning the frames

And after the frames were extracted, the bottom was full of honey!
Which then drained out and into this double sieve. This was exciting to watch! Our first honey! 
(The first sieve has wider holes, and it removes all of the larger wax cappings, etc. The next sieve is much finer, and it removes whatever the first one can't.)

Once the honey flowed through the sieve, it drained into a honey bucket. It took awhile for all of the honey to drain and filter, and once it had, we covered the bucket and let the honey sit for a few days to let the air bubbles rise to the surface. After a couple of days, we bottled it!


This was a fun part! Especially seeing 4 half gallon jars fill with beautiful golden honey, and then also a partial, quart jar, too. The honey has a complex and deliciously sweet flavor which we really like! And to think that it came from our own bees!

All of the hard work, the bee inspections, the stings, the disappointments, the learning, the experimenting, the fun, and much more over the past year and a half, all culminated to our first honey harvest. Which is hopefully the first of many!

28 comments:

  1. What beautiful pictures, and look at that lovely, golden honey!! :) Thank you for sharing the process with us, Sarah. That must be such a huge blessing! :)

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  2. Oh how beautiful!!! We have friends that we are going to put our hive at their house with their hive. She and I bought them together, but she will keep them there since she has more room. I wish I could have it at our house so I could watch all the happenings, but still not to bad to be able to have a place to have a start up! :o) How was the flavor of the honey?

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  3. The honey is beautiful, Sarah! What a wonderful reward for your hard work! I can just imagine how delicious it tastes, too...I'm sure you will all enjoy it!

    Somewhere around here, I have a recipe for a wonderful granola made with honey, that was served to us at a bee-keeping farm. The beekeepers served the granola over vanilla ice cream, topped with peaches right off their trees. Yum!

    ~ Betsy

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  4. That is wonderful! Did you do anything with the cappings you took off?

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  5. So neat! I hope we get to do that some day too! It is funny to me because many of my brothers and I all want to keep bees some day! Sam (the youngest) has done a lot more research about it than I have so far, I will have to pick his brain.

    Anyways! Thanks so much for sharing this, I really enjoyed reading about it!

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  6. Cool and interesting about how the whole honey harvest process works. Wished I could be there to eat your honey. Enjoy eating your honey! :)

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  7. I was watching our local tv channel that shows all over where I live all kinds of things.
    And they showed bees and that more and more hotels are getting their own beehives and showed a sous chef out in the garden where the bee hives are and in his bee suit and bees flying everywhere. And they have been learning how to use everything of the bees, they make dishes with the honey, not just use honey as honey. They make sauces to put on icecream for desserts which seem to be so popular and they love cooking with the honey as said its much better tasting.
    I pray that you and your family learn lots more and how to use everything too and enjoy the wonderful taste of honey and how to cook wonderful dishes using it.

    Your oldest neice can actually now have a taste of honey since she is over one year old.

    How many hives or boxes do you plan on having altogether????

    And what is the next project that you will bring onto your land to use and enjoy for your family????

    Its so exciting and I for one enjoying reading all about it.

    How did your garden do then with the draught????

    YOu are on wells, are you not? Did you have to really watch the useage of water?

    kathy

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  8. That honey looks so delicious. You should let me know how it tastes. Our family gets raw honey from a co-op and it really beats the taste of refined honey. Honey that comes straight from the hive is so cool and it's neat that you got to extract it yourself. It's nice to know where your honey comes from and that raw honey is so good. I hope that you didn't get any stings when you were extracting it. You should try making something with some of it.

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  9. That's so exciting, Sarah! The honey looks beautiful and delicious. I'm not sure if you've ever heard this before, but I've heard that if you eat local honey, it can help those who suffer from seasonal allergies due to certain types of pollen in the area. I think I need to find someone with local honey here, as I suffer from allergies a lot!

    You'll have to let us know what you use the honey for. I like to use it in my hot chocolate, pizza dough, and lots of other recipes. It makes a good substitute for most recipes!

    ~Bianca

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  10. Along with the satisfaction of the work you put into your bees is the satisfaction of enjoying the rewards. Nice fresh honey for tea, cooking, winter throats (if needed) Such a blessing Sarah! So glad you have had success with your hives.

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  11. ooo I'd been waiting to see how you went about extracting the honey and how it all went! What a beautiful result! Why do you think the leftover jar is darker? Or is that just because it's in front of the others?

    Thanks for another great post. (and I hope to answer your lovely email soon!)

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  12. Wow, what a blessing and a great experience! I love the gifts that the Lord has put in his beautiful earth for us to enjoy :) MMmmmm! I bet it is deeeelicious!

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  13. Thank you, Mikailah! And you’re welcome. :) Yes, it is a blessing to us as we use a lot of honey!

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  14. I am excited for you, Nabila, that you have a beehive! And how sweet of your friend to let her keep the hive out at her place. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your beekeeping ventures. :) You’ll have to keep me updated about how it all is going for you. I think you’ll enjoy it!

    The honey was delicious! It has a complex and mildly sweet flavor (I’m not sure how best to describe it other than that! We sure like it. :)

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  15. Thank you, Betsy! I think it tastes even better just knowing all the work that went into getting it. :) And that it came from our own bees, too!

    We use honey in both of our granola recipes as well. It is delicious that way! And that sounds so good to top vanilla ice cream with granola and peaches. We’ll have to give that a try next year when our peaches are ripe. :)

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  16. All I have done with the cappings so far, K. Family, is put them in the freezer . . . once I get the supplies I need, I hope to melt them down and use the wax in lip balm and lotion!

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  17. I know you would enjoy it, Becky! How fun that you and many of your brothers are interested in beekeeping. It makes it much more enjoyable when there are others to share in the excitement of it! Have fun picking Sam’s brain. :)

    You’re welcome for sharing, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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  18. It was really interesting, Leah! I’m sure you would enjoy the honey. :) It is delicious!

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  19. Honey can be used for so many different things, Kathy! I am looking forward to exploring more ways to use it. I’d like to use it in place of sugar in a lot of our recipes. It will be fun to experiment! Already we use it in our bread and granola and in a number of other things as well.

    Right now we have four hives, and we’re thinking we might like to get up to six here. We’ll just have to see how things go!

    Hmm, the next project . . . I’m really not sure! We'll just have to wait and see. :) I’m glad you enjoy reading about everything!

    Our garden did all right with the drought, though we needed to water it a lot. It definitely wasn’t as productive as normal, but we are thankful for what produce we did get! We are not on wells, so thankfully, we haven’t had concern about our water supply yet. Things are really, really dry here, though, and so many trees are dying. Our area has been in the worst drought level there is for awhile now. It looks like we might get rain this weekend, though, and I am really hoping we do!

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  20. It is, Anya! We’ve really been enjoying it. I would agree, raw honey is much better than the honey one gets at the grocery store! We didn’t get any stings when we were extracting, but today when my Dad and I inspected the hives again, he did get stung once. Our bees are quite gentle and rarely sting which is nice!

    I will indeed be using the honey to make things! We use honey quite often and in things such as our bread and granola. I hope to experiment with using it in place of sugar in recipes, too.

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  21. Thank you, Bianca! And yes, it is. :) I, too, have heard that local honey can help with seasonal allergies and that is one reason why I am quite happy to have our own honey! You can’t get any more local than your front yard. :) I have allergies as well, and they’re getting worse each year . . . this year hasn’t been the most pleasant as far as allergies go! I’ve already started taking a tsp. of honey each day, and it will be interesting to see if it helps. I hope so!

    So far we use honey in our bread and granola, and then we put a little in cooked carrots and green beans. There are a number of other recipes that we use honey in as well, and I am looking forward to doing experimentation with replacing sugar with honey. As you shared, it does make a good substitute!

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  22. Yes, very much so, Ellen! We are all looking forward to having a supply of our own honey to use. As you shared, it is a blessing! Thank you!

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  23. I am glad that you enjoyed it, Rena! The honey in the smaller jar looks darker because of the other jars behind it. The honey in all the jars is the same color, but the lighting can make it look either darker or lighter!

    You’re welcome! And thank you. :) I am looking forward to your e-mail!

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  24. It was, Shannah! (And is. :) That is one of the thoughts that came to my mind as well . . . all of this delicious sweetness made from the flowers that the Lord created and through the labor of the fascinating little Honeybee that He designed. It's amazing!

    And yes, the honey is delicious!

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  25. Mmmmm! Your honey is beautiful and looks delicious! Congratulations on a successful harvest.

    Mrs.B

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  26. Congratulations Sarah on your honey harvest! This was the first time you have harvested right? Isn't it fun to finally have the reward for all your hard work?! :-) What a blessing for you to have your own honey and milk now - just like God promised the Israelites in the Promise Land - a land flowing with milk and honey! :-) And what a delicious combination that is!
    Yes, the cappings work great for lip balm and lotion. If you don't want the cappings to be so full of honey (which probably isn't a problem if you are using them for balms etc.)you can put them in a container near your hives and the bees will clean every last bit of honey off, and you end up with a bunch of fluffy, flakey, powdery wax. It's really neat!
    Thanks for posting about your experience! I loved all the great pictures!

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  27. Thank you, Mrs. B.! :)

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  28. Thank you, Karen! I really enjoyed your comment . . . thank you for sharing all that you did! Yes, this is the first time we have harvested honey, and it certainly is a most satisfying reward. :)

    Thank you also for that idea about the cappings! I’ll have to give that a try. It sounds easier than washing them which is the only other method of cleaning them that I have heard of so far.

    You’re welcome for sharing, and I am glad that you enjoyed the photos!

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Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)