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The best part of backyard beekeeping? Someone else does the dishes!

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Several hours committed to sticky, itchy, hot work. Our first harvest without expert help. I was anxiety ridden all the way to Monson to pick up the extractor from Jodi and Dean. Dinner plans the night before had fallen through and I was to retrieve the equipment first thing in the morning. Jodi chattered on about important facets of the process that I should have written down. Ultimately, she said, you will know what to do.

I set everything up, had every contingency covered that I could think of, and was just touching off the smoker when Wilson arrived with steamed lobsters and salad fixings for after the job. The tallest hive towers above me and for the second time in our beekeeping buddy relationship, Wilson suited up to do the heavy lifting. We took 13 frames from the medium hive bodies in the tall hive. All were chock-a-block full of dark capped honey. He figured out the correct sequence of rapping the frame hard enough to remove bees but gently enough to keep the liquid gold intact. I shuffled equipment and kept the smoker blazing.

Once sequestered in the garage with our bounty and the borrowed tools, we set to work. I had hammered the swollen windows tight and we closed the door to the angry ladies from following the scent of their bounty. I set up a fan and we spent the next two hours working. Our hands became so sticky that handling the camera was not an option. We tasted the liquid as it dripped from the comb and remarked on the deep brown color.

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The uncapping knife was hot and for those frames with variable depths, there was a little scraper-fork. We worked quickly and efficiently in the heat. Once uncapped the frames are placed in a stainless steel drum with a basket to hold them upright. The basket is attached to a handle on the top with a crank to spin the frames, releasing the honey against the inside walls of the drum. I peered in through the splattered plexiglass top at the rising tide in the bottom. It took some trial and error to figure out just how hard and fast to spin the extractor. We did manage to mangle two frames from overzealous centrifugal force. Suddenly the crank became slower and harder to turn.  One look inside showed a sludge of dark honey. We set up the strainer on a clean 5 gallon bucket and started releasing the thick flow.

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As we cranked more frames, the bucket filled. All frames went back into the extra hive bodies to be returned to the hive. We suited up again and headed out to replace the empty comb and do a search on the second hive. At this point, our bucket was so full I feared we would have to freeze any frames until we could bottle some from the bucket and have more room. The second hive revealed no fully capped frames. We could have taken some of the more robust but decided we had enough for the day and perhaps the bees will need it more than we will this winter.

The last clean up involved taking all the equipment into the bee yard and leaving it for the bees to clean. They will restore the honey and the extractor will be ready for the next bee keeper.

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28 comments on “Sweet Success!

  1. jaknisell says:

    Oh, yum! That looks so rewarding for your time and effort!

    1. Can’t wait to get it in jars so we can all start enjoying it Annie!! I can almost taste it on warm toast.

  2. The process is so interesting. Looks like real liquid gold. (Bet it smells good, too) We made be in for a cold wet winter – bundle up the bees and stock their larder.

    1. Thanks Phil. The smell was wonderful, rich and sweet. I am leaving lots behind for winter stores, hoping they can hunker down and make it through what is predicted to be another long winter.

  3. Interesting. Where are the bees during this process?

    1. Thanks Shellie for stopping by! The bees are back in the hive though many tried to follow us back the garage where we were locked in doing the extraction. It was funny to see their little faces in the windows, obviously not happy at the removal of their bounty!

      1. Thanks for the information. It was strange and disorienting to see a metal drum and no bees in the process. I’ve never seen anything like that.

      2. Thank you Shellie. The key is to keep the operation as bee-free as possible. They are not happy about us taking their stores and though we did have a few “hitch hikers” who followed us into the garage, they were pretty busy with the drips of honey everywhere so no stings!

  4. Touring NH says:

    Yummmmmm! Quite a process, but worth all the effort. Congrats on the bounty!

    1. Thanks Laura! It was a daunting task but once we got into the rhythm of it the work was easy and the reward of licking sticky fingers so worth it!!

  5. julieallyn says:

    I smiled throughout just imagining all that sticky sweetness! How much will you have bottled up when the process is complete?

    1. I am guessing it will translate into about 50 pounds, at least that’s what my back says whenever I move the bucketful! I like to make up lots of little 4 oz jars for gifts and will make a few larger ones for personal use.

      1. julieallyn says:

        That’s a lot of gift jars! Happy Harvest!!

  6. You’re going to have to open a honey store.

  7. There’s nothing like a teaspoon full of nothing but honey. You said ‘maybe the bees will need it this winter’ – I’ve always wondered what the bees do with honey???

    1. In the fall, the queen stops laying, they drones are kicked out and the hive hunkers down for the winter. Brood will hatch, replacing the bees that die off naturally. The honey is what they eat to stay alive through the dark months.

      1. I am so happy to know that.

  8. Fred says:

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. I had no appreciation of the hard work that takes place to produce the jar of honey you buy. I’m a big fan of the honey comb. I like to eat it until I am left with a ball of wax in my mouth. Do you leave some in honey comb form?

    1. Thanks Fred. I’m not a fan of the honey comb, just don’t like the waxy residue. Wilson took the cappings home to consume. He claims they have tremendous health benefits. It was hard work but considering one bee produces roughly 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in it’s life, I can’t complain about the task of “stealing” it!

  9. Marie Keates says:

    Funny CJ and I were just talking about how honey is harvested today. I will he a to show him your post to satisfy his curiosity. What a lot of honey you got!

    1. Every bee makes just 1/12 of a teaspoon in her life, Marie. It is literally liquid gold!

  10. Nolsie says:

    Bravo! Great to persevere and achieve success after your previous setback, well done. Good for you!! Onward and upward.

    1. Thanks Nolsie! So happy to have sweet treats for friends and family. Wish you were closer so I could share some with you!!

  11. Congrats on a wonderful harvest Martha! Ever since my hive sighting in Nuremberg, I’m lots more attentive to beekeeping. Thanks for all the details. What exactly am I seeing in the second photo? It appears to be two frames with light colored and dark colored honey. Is that correct? And if so, what makes the colors vary? ~James

    1. Hi James. The hot knife is halfway through uncapping the frame so the top is uncapped honey and the bottom is the cappings being “peeled off” by the hot knife. The honey is incredibly dark and has a citrus taste that mystifies me! We don’t have orange, lemon or lime trees in NH!!

  12. cheryl622014 says:

    Fascinating once again! The most I’ve done for harvesting is drying carambola for my Christmas cake this year!

    1. Interesting Cheryl. What is carambola? Would love to hear about your Christmas cake recipe!!

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