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Homestead Honey Harvest

It’s homestead honey time!  Our bees have been hard at work this year, helping to create one of the most abundant fruiting seasons that I can recall. (After two years where we could literally count the number of apples on the old tree, it’s amazing to look up and see hundreds of ripe fruits!)  And now we are even more grateful for their work as we enjoy the sweet reward of their efforts – honey.
It has been a few years since I’ve donned a bee suit, and I was very excited to help with the harvest.  I have to admit that I’m a tiny little bit squeamish about the whole process.  Putting on a suit that is way too big for me and standing in the hot sun with smoke in my face, while hundred of angry bees dive bomb my head is not usually my idea of fun. But I breathed deeply and channeled my inner Waldorf teacher as I sang sweet, soft songs to the bees to keep them (okay, to keep me) calm.  It mostly worked, until Everett woke from his nap and cried for me. Then my mommy adrenaline kicked into gear, and I swear, they bees knew it.  They immediate went for me.  I dropped my tools and ran for the house, and my gracious father-in-law, Ron, kindly stepped in (many of these great photos are courtesy of Ron).
That’s me brushing off bees from the frame and Brian holding.
See the white caps on the frame? That’s capped honey.  Many of the top boxes were not full – probably because we had a huge swarm leave the hive in June.  The frames went into an empty box, and then into our house for the extraction process.
Removing the wax caps from the frame.  This year we used a cappings scratcher instead of a decapping knife.  It was a bit slower going, but quite simple.  I highly recommend it for hobby beekeepers.
Close up of the process.  The caps fell into a plastic tub, which we later rinsed with fresh water and created a delicious honey lemonade. The beeswax was then separated out from the rinse water for future projects (candles?).
Both sides need to be de-capped, and then the frames go into the extractor.
This extractor fits four frames at a time.
Ella got the spinning started, and then Brian gave it a strong finish. Centrifugal force causes the honey to eject from the frames, and it collects at the bottom of the stainless steel basket.
Then it’s time to filter the honey.  We keep our honey 100% raw.  No heat is ever used in the extraction process.
The judges sample the honey.  They both approved.
The whole process took about 5 hours, and in the end, we had collected about 8 gallons of honey from two hives.
The best part of this entire process – the bees do the cleaning up for you!  We leave the frames in a safe location, and let the bees come and collect any leftover honey bits.
Yesterday we finished the last of our honey from 2010!  So today we opened up the first jar of 2012′s honey harvest.  And I must say, it is darn good.

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