Sunday, July 22, 2007

Liquid Gold


Saturday was extracting day. Early in the morning I went out to check my stores. It was eight supers with over 400lbs of spring honey. I knew it would take lots of work and most of the day to move the honey from the comb to storage buckets in my kitchen. The eight supers were stacked on each other to form a tower that was almost six feet high. I rocked the super tower to check the weight and decided it would be to much to move by dolly. We moved them one box at a time into the kitchen. I then removed the wax cappings with a special electric knife and placed the frames in the extractor; a quick spin and the liquid gold flew into the barrel, down the sides to the convex bottom. From there a "gate" on the front of the barrel is opened and the honey flows into a mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth. This straining will remove any bits of dirt, pollen, or bee parts left behind. The strained honey is stored in a five gallon bucket until needed for jarring. The process was repeated again and again until I worked through all the supers. My wife Shelley worked along with me as we processed the honey from comb to people food.

Along the way, you get honey on your hands and on the floor and on the work surfaces. As we would finish with a super, we would clean a bit and move on. At this time Kiddliwink Apiary is a micro-company, so we use the equipment that is on hand. That means we have an old two frame hand crank extractor, an ancient electric capping knife and the rest of the processing utensils come from our kitchen. For all of these reasons it takes a bit of time. By 4:30pm I was almost finished.

I stepped out on our back porch to move the last two supers. I removed a cover, pushed back a plastic bag and saw hundreds of bees. Several hundred bees had found an opening after I had tilted the super stack earlier in the day. I now had two supers with 60-70lbs of honey and two hundred or more bees in my house. I had visions of bees flying all over and the family being stung. I went to my bee equipment, grabbed my smoker, filled it with wood chips and started a good fire. I closed the smoker and puffed the bellows until I had good rich smoke pouring out. I was going to smoke the bees in the top box down to the bottom, grab the top super, extract it and do the same for the remaining box. There were two problems with my plan: 1. The smoker would fill the house with rich wood smoke. 2. The last box would hold ALL the bees, still in the house.

I then called for Shelley to find a spray water bottle and a fly swatter. I sprayed the bees as they climbed to the top and Shelley swatted them. I did NOT want to hurt these girls, but I had no options. Shelley was a trooper. She entered the fight wearing a light summer dress and a pair of flip-flops. I would squirt and she would swat. After a 10 minute fight I grabbed the top box and moved to the kitchen. Shelley stayed behind and continued the fight. After it was all said and done, many of the bees ended up "escaping" and we worked to shoo them outside. By 6pm we were finished with the "hard" work. Gravity and time would complete the straining. At this time we have five gallons still straining from the extractor. We could "rush" this along by heating the honey, rendering it thinner...it would strain faster, but it changes the flavor and kills many of the natural nutrients and immune builders in the honey.

All that to say this, Kiddliwink Apiary now has spring honey in a limited supply. If you are in the Triangle call us at 919-690-8487. If you are in another part of the world, leave a comment.
Pricing is very simple, $12US per quart, $7US per pint and $4US per 1/2 pint + shipping and handling.

FOLLOW-UP: Our first sell of the season was yesterday, July 25. A friend purchased 1/2 gallon of spring honey.

5 comments:

  1. Hey Jimmy!
    I must say that Shelley earned her "beekeeping" or at least her "bee-swatting" badge to keep up with all those bees! I can't wait to try some of your honey - can we purchase one of the first jars? And did one of you guys take that gorgeous picture?!

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  2. No, I found the photo online, but I am sure Russ or Katy could have taken the shot easily...

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  3. I helped out around a beekeeper's facility when I was a kid. I can still remember the smell, and all those happy bees who snarfed up any spilled honey.

    Your post is interesting reading that brings back happy memories.

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  4. Hey, Jimmy-

    I want some! I'll call Shelley and see if she can bring it to CAP some night!

    Thanks!

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  5. Don't forget me!

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