Sunday, July 19, 2015

We're Farmers?

Eric tells me that as a kid, he actually dreamed of being a farmer.  I didn't.  He went to an agricultural high school in New York City.  I went to public school, started undergrad as a bio major, and finished as a politics major on my way to law school.  Agriculture never even crossed my mind as being within the realm of anything I wanted to do.

Silly me.

'Cause somehow Eric and I have become farmers.  Weird.

Wednesday evening after work, we decided that it was time to pull some honey supers from the hives.  OK, so we're not experienced or bright farmers.  The bees are less than thrilled in the evening, you see, even just before dusk.  All of the girls are home, all of the foragers are back from foraging, and they're not so keen on dim light or humans (read:  potential threats) breaking into their homes at that hour.  They're never keen on humans stealing their honey, but very much so not at dusk or just before.

So, yeah, not bright.  And I deserved the message I got from the Pooh hive, via a sting in the tush, right through my jeans.  I did, I know it.  And it was fine; because it was through my jeans, she didn't get me badly, just enough to feel the pinch and then itch for a couple days.  Of course, that didn't stop me from calling to Eric, "Smoke my butt!  Smoke my butt!" because when bees sting they release a "danger" pheromone that calls other bees to join in the defense of the hive.  The smoke blocks those pheromones.  All very logical, and in hindsight, funny as all get out, but I'm still glad our neighbors are far enough away that they didn't hear "Smoke my butt!  Smoke my butt!"

Because I'm sure we would have been getting some pretty sketchy looks in the neighborhood.

Eventually we got one (ten frames) of the two honey supers off the Pooh hive, and the one super (six frames) off the Wonderland hive.  And we brought them downstairs to our nifty brand new Kelley Bees extractor we got (which is actually pretty old and we bought used from a fellow beek, perfect for our first year!).

It's a manual, three-frame extractor, and we're definitely getting our exercise!  Turning the handle had me quoting the witches from Macbeth.

Double, double, toill and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First, we had to uncap the wax off the honey.

To do so, we used our nifty new uncapping knife.  It's heated and does a great job slicing the caps off.  Turned out I was better at it than Eric, so we figured out quickly how to divide our labor, with Eric holding the frame steady while I sliced.  It smelled so good as the honey was exposed, you have no idea!

From there, the frames went into the triangular metal basket in the extractor, and we started spinning.

The centrifugal force causes the honey to be flung from the cells of honeycomb onto the wall of the extractor and drop down from there, where it's poured through a coarse strainer (to get out any large wax and bee particles but leave the beneficial pollen) into a bucket.

And then?  We bottled our first 18 lbs of honey!!!  There's a bunch more yet to be bottled, and ten more frames we got off the Pooh hive on Sunday to be extracted, and we still need labels, but bottled honey!!!

I'll take the farmer's life.  I love it.

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