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