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Topic: An afternoon in the beeyard, and subsequent sticky adventures  (Read 10824 times)
Tags for this thread: bee_keeping , bee , craftster_best_of_2009 , beeswax  Add new tag
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acidtrix
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« on: July 15, 2009 09:21:03 AM »

On Sunday we headed up to the lake with friends to enjoy a bit of sun and get some swimming in. A cursory check on the bees was on the schedule for the day, but little did we know that wed end up processing gallons of honey! Luckily with friends on hand, quick work was made of a sticky job (thanks ladies!!) The thought didnt cross my mind at the time to take photos of the entire process (stupid), but we did manage a few shots, thanks to the talented Aeramel, so Ive put together this little photo essay for your entertainment.
We currently have two beehives - here is our intrepid beekeeper opening the larger of the two (and discovering sticky bounty!). This is a particularly enormous hive - approximately 90,000 bees - and scary as all hell to this suitless onlooker Wink I particularly love the shot with the smoke - look at all the bees in the air! (these first two shots were taken by the lovely and talented Nven).

Ill prepared as we were, our uncapping knives were off-property so we had to get a little crafty. Heres G working away at uncapping a wheelbarrel full of frames with a fork which worked surprisingly well. Each frame weighed about 10lbs, and the honey is a beautiful light colour, I think our nicest harvest to date.

We have a badass old-fashioned, two-frame hand extractor (a fantastic xmas gift from mom & jim - even more badass is look where its from!) The trick is to have two frames of relatively equal weight otherwise it can be difficult to manage. Each frame is spun twice (to spin out each side). In the second photo you can see the 6″ or so of raw, unfiltered honey at the bottom of the extractor. This is a pretty crude process - you get honey, wax, bees, and pollen all mixed together in the bottom. You also get covered in a fine sticky mist during the spinning process Smiley


Here is the beekeeper looking mighty pleased with the haul (even the pregnant lady couldnt escape manual labor!). Sadly, at this point in the process, we all became too sticky to touch the camera so the rest of the filtering/bottling process remains undocumented. Suffice it to say, we filtered the honey, then bottled it (and did ample sampling as we worked!) Other missed photo opportunities: poor boyfriends swollen ankles and wrist (the bees werent pleased with him), and the fine coating of honey on the arm hairs of our spinners. Oh and the bumblebee that came to rob, that was pretty cute, too Smiley

And now, on to the haul! This represents maybe a 20th of what we harvested. We got a little creative and whipped up cinnamon honey butter, and pumpkin spice honey butter, too. It was our first time attempting honey butters and the recipes we tried to follow were terrible (1/4 cup honey in an entire batch of honey butter?! I think not!). So we did our own thing and the results are fantastically rich and flavorful. yum!

Here are the jars with the labels I designed for our honey. I havent designed labels for the butters yet, but I think theyll just be a variation on the same design.

Now, on to the wax! I use a lot of beeswax in my mixed media stuff, but weve never actually attempted to properly render the wax. Usually I just toss some chunks of honey comb into my mini crock pot and go from there, but its messy and the wax itself can be full of gunk. A good half dozen buckets worth of wax cappings and burr comb have also accumulated in my spare bedroom, so it was time to get to business.
The first step of the rendering process is to throw all the dirty wax into a big pot with water and boil the hell out of it. It looks a lot like oatmeal actually Smiley

We didnt have a wax screen to filter the boiled wax/water, so a quick run to the hardware store and a few slightly frustrating hours later, tada! Wax screen! It may be a tad shoddy in construction, but it worked like a charm.

Here is the strained wax/water solution. Left to cool overnight, the wax floats to the surface and hardens. The dirty water is then dumped and the wax disk is broken up into small chunks, melted again and strained a second time, this time through cheese cloth to get any small impurities, then poured into the bottoms of milk cartons to set into bricks.

The gunk that the wax screen filtered out is mostly bee bits and cocoons - in the future we wont use old comb because there is just too much junk in there to make it worth while. However, a nifty tip I found online said that this gunk makes excellent fire starter, either for your hive smoker, charcoal bbq or wood stove. As I know folks who use all three, the gunk will not go to waste Smiley


The end. Smiley
« Last Edit: January 12, 2010 11:40:58 AM by acidtrix » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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Nven
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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2009 09:28:35 AM »

Covered in bees!

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GeeZee
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2009 09:53:03 AM »

Whoa! Cool. we just had a small swarm of honey bees roost in a backyard tree for a week or so. They moved on sadly but they were awesome! I'm very  jelous of your sticky adventures!
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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2009 09:56:57 AM »

um freaking yum.  Cheesy that sounds like fun.
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« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2009 10:01:36 AM »

Oh wow! Your post is so inspiring, it makes me want to keep bees. I want to buy some of your honey! It sounds so delicious. I'd also make lip balm or other things with the beeswax. What a bounty!
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acidtrix
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2009 10:06:05 AM »

Whoa! Cool. we just had a small swarm of honey bees roost in a backyard tree for a week or so. They moved on sadly but they were awesome! I'm very  jelous of your sticky adventures!
aww Smiley if you ever see one of those again call a local beekeeper and they'll come get them for you. Or, if you wanted, you could put out a hive box and they'd move right in! when honeybees swarm, they usually land on trees/powerlines/garages and stay there as a giant mass (with the queen at the centre) while scout bees search out a good location for a new home. Before they swarm they eat as much honey as they can to bring with them, so swarm bees are really docile. if they moved on it means that a new home has been found ^_^
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acidtrix
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2009 10:09:03 AM »

Oh wow! Your post is so inspiring, it makes me want to keep bees. I want to buy some of your honey! It sounds so delicious. I'd also make lip balm or other things with the beeswax. What a bounty!

bees are actually really easy to keep! the initial start up is pricey (and don't skimp on a bee suit!) but after that, they're nearly self-sufficient.  We're going to finish the final steps of the wax rendering tonight, and then experiment a little with lip balms and creams this weekend Smiley
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TexasThistle
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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2009 10:24:44 AM »

I have been considering keeping bees.This makes me wanna do it even more
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acidtrix
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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2009 10:27:43 AM »

I have been considering keeping bees.This makes me wanna do it even more

Doooo eeeet!!! Cheesy lots of fun and so many things you can do with the wax and honey ^_^
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Best of 2013 winner, but this is just as good.


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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2009 10:51:29 AM »

I am inspired by your post.  I have been wanting to set up a hive, but I've been reluctant because the farmers in the neighboring fields spray with choppers, so I was afraid they would kill the hive.  However, I see many golden bees in my yard (we have lots of clover), and they do a bang up job of pollinating my garden.

Anyway, what you have done here is awesome.  It deserves a "this rocks".
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