Honey for Days!

Before I start, please remember that Daniel, my husband, is the beekeeper of our household and I just help with photographing the journey and in the honey extraction process, so my terminology and expertise is limited but I’ll do my best to explain the extraction process. I’m also going to include links to equipment used (or similar) on Amazon for those who are looking for the different tools they might need if they are considering beekeeping. Most local farm stores will have your basic supplies as well.

With that being said, we extracted honey on Sunday and ended up with about 4 & 1/2 gallons!  We were hoping for at least 2, so this was really exciting. This is only our third season of honey extraction: Spring 2015, Fall 2015, and now 1st day of Summer 2016. What a perfect way to kick off the first day of summer this was!

The process is a bit time consuming (and sticky) but so worth it once you see the “liquid gold”as my brother-in-law, Dimitry, would say.

Daniel has been keeping an eye on the hives all spring, checking the individual frames within the boxes to see how full they are getting and how many of the cells are capped by the bees, indicating they have filled the individual cells with honey and they are ready.  The pictures below will better explain 🙂

Here you can get a visual of what inspecting the boxes looks like. Daniel doesn’t always suit up, it just depends on whether or not he’s actually pulling out the frames for a thorough inspection. He’s pretty brave! He uses a smoker that helps to calm the bees before moving around the frames. Similar/same here  He uses the quickstart pellets with the smoker to create the smoke. Similar/same here

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This standard hive tool as pictured below is used to move around the frames inside the box during inspection.  Similar/same here

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We have a couple of different types of frames inside of our boxes, some that are handmade and the individual cells are made from actual wax, some that are plastic with wax coating. The cells are the little octagon shapes in the frames that you would normally associated with a beehive. I suggest looking on Craigslist or OfferUp for frames/boxes, we’ve found some pretty good deals in the past!

The image below shows a frame that would not be ready for extraction. The bees have only begun to fill the cells with honey. This picture was taken earlier this spring.

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Now, don’t be confused with capped honey cells and cells that have baby bees or “drones” in them.  The babies are basically cocooned inside the cells and covered and as they hatch or are opened, you can see their white larvae-like bodies take form, as you can see below in this image from the bottom half-up. The lower right half corner of this image is covered cells with honey…see the difference? Drone cells look similar to the baby cells except they are much larger. I’m not going to go into explaining the role of the drone bee here since the purpose of this post is to go over extraction, but you can read a general overview about them here.

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So ideally, the frames you want to extract honey from should look like the one below, almost entirely capped and filled with honey.

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So Daniel goes through the hives and pulls out all the frames that he finds are ready for extraction.

We use this extractor  and it does the job. It’s a two-frame extractor so you can extract from two frames at once. The struggle we have found is that because you’re putting two frames in the barrel at once, there can be an imbalance in the spinning process. Also, we’ve experienced the handle falling off of this extractor, not sure if all of them have that defect, but it’s something to be aware of. It’s more of a nuisance than anything, but still usable.

So, before putting the frames into the extractor, you have to individually un-cap all of the cells that the bees have so lovingly capped. (Sorry bees!) There are a couple of ways this can be done. You can use a comb like we did here, or you can use a hot knife which takes some skill and we haven’t tried yet.  We’ve heard that some people prefer the knife, but some prefer the comb, so “to each his own” 🙂

As Daniel uncaps the cells (which is bee-created wax), we scrape that off into a bowl to strain excess honey from later. That wax can also be used to create candles and other fun things, but Ain’t nobody got time for that right now in the Topov household!

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So once either side of two frames are totally uncapped, we drop them into the barrel cavity and spin them really fast so all of the honey is EXTRACTED and goes to the bottom of the barrel. Getting a good visual yet?  Here’s a better image of the inside of the barrel from the manufacturer’s site.

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Once we’ve completed spinning all of the frames to empty the honey cells, the honey is at the bottom of the barrel and there is a spout to simply pour it out. Now, there are always going to be chunks of wax that end up in the honey so you really do need to strain out at least all of the big stuff if you just want straight honey. We use a very basic method for this, with a straining pan. Similar/same here It just drains through the strainer into a bowl. You can actually use this strainer over a 5-gallon bucket but we never have a sanitary one of those lying around. Who does, really?!

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Once strained, that’s really it. Honey doesn’t need preservatives and DO NOT BOIL it to kill bacteria, it’s totally unnecessary and it will actually kill the health benefits of honey.  I’m sure most people know that, but just in case 😉

I think I covered basically everything for the process that we use, but please feel free to ask questions further.

One last quick mention, because people are generally misinformed about bees. Honeybees are NOT aggressive and if we can do this process, so can you. We live in a cul-de-sac, not on a farm. Just check your city’s regulations and make sure your neighbors are comfortable with the idea but if you’re giving them honey, they probably won’t mind as we have found. This is so much less scary and simple than I ever imagined. Give it a go!

His garden, her garden

I dream of having our own farmer’s market stand. One with the best variety of tomatoes and peppers, various jar sizes of honey, and farm fresh eggs!

Only with my husband’s amazing passion for gardening and beekeeping will this ever be attainable. Otherwise my stand would probably only sell eggs, and even that is questionable.

By the way, I should share that Daniel uses the ‘Back to Eden’ Gardening method, you can learn more about it on their site. A gentleman from church recommended it to Daniel last year and all I’ve heard since is “woodchips” this and “woodchips” that…. you can learn about it here:  http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/how-to-grow-an-organic-garden.html

Today, Daniel was doing some damage control of the greenhouse due to the heavy winds we had. We have this unique greenhouse that Daniel built and it works well for him, not so much for me. I don’t do well squatting or bending over for a long period of time, so I look forward to a bit warmer weather when it comes down which is hopefully just around the corner.

I thought I would share what Daniel is growing this year so far.  I help throw out ideas of what to grow and occasionally buy him plants or seeds of things that I would like to eat. I did help plant corn today though, go me!  We cleared out a raised area around where we had a huge tree cut down last year. By cut down, I mean the tree guys cut off all the limbs and left us a 20 foot stump. We were a bit peeved at first, but have grown to like the odd stump. I intended on just planting flowers and lavender there but Daniel thought it would be fun to try growing some corn, so we are giving it a shot. That’ll be a site to see…. small garden bed of flowers, lavender, and corn along the fence-line!

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Lavender, Ornamental Kale, Succulents, and other lovelies.

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Stuck somewhere between winter, spring, and a lumberjack.

Here is the list of what is currently growing in our greenhouse, I’ll list the varieties of each and colors for the ones that we don’t have name labels for  i.e. purple potatoes 🙂

Eggplant (Varieties: Shikou, Ichiban, Satin Moon)

Cucumbers (Varieties: Sweet Slice, Burpless, Pick a Bushel, Burpee Hybrid)

Peppers (Varieties: Golden California Wonder, Chocolate Beauty, Giant Marconi, Golden Bell, Cayenne, Jalapeño)

Tomatoes (Varieties: Early Girl, Yellow Pear, Beefsteak, Striped German, Black Krim, Patio, Sunsugar)

Lettuce (Varieties: Salad Bowl, Red Sails, Parris Island, Iceberg)

Cabbage (Variety: Golden Acre)

Cauliflower (Variety: Snowball)

Potatoes (Red, Gold, and Purple)

Asparagus (Purple and Green)

Onions (Variety: Walla Walla)

Spinach (Variety: Space)

Beets

Carrots

Radish

Herbs: Coriander Cilantro, Parsley, Dill

Outside of the greenhouse, we have the following:

Strawberries

Blueberries

Blackberries

Raspberries

Kiwi’s

Fig Tree

Quince Tree

Concord Grapes (Purple)

Flame Seedless Grapes (Red)

Niagara Grapes (Green)

Fantasia Nectarine Tree (not doing so well this year)

Sun Grand Nectarine Tree (also not doing so well this year)

Grafted tree #1 has the following: July Elberta Peach, Fantasia Nectarine, Blenheim Apricot, and Santa Rosa Plum

Grafted tree #2 has the following: Empire Apple, Gravenstein Apple, Yellow Transparent Apple, Fuji Apple, and Red Macintosh Apple

Grafted tree #3 has the following: Bing Cherry, Rainier Cherry, Royal Ann Cherry, and Montmorancy Cherry

and lastly….corn 🙂

 

While walking around the garden tonight, making sure I didn’t miss anything, I was taking pictures of the buds on the fruit trees. They are so beautiful.  I can’t begin to tell you which ones go to which fruit, but here are a few of my favorites:

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HELLO WORLD, a little about me, etc.

I decided to create this blog so I could have one platform to share tidbits about my life, my interests, and my career. Lately, I’ve been anxiously wanting to connect with others in my community that also have honeybees or chickens in their backyards and/or are growing some of their own food. If I’m being honest, it’s my husband, Daniel, who led us in this adventure and does most of the hard work and I basically just reap the benefits and brag about him…

I hope to one day have the same passion about gardening and bees as my husband does. I’m just busy being obsessed with our four chickens at the moment. Their names are Buffy, Chappy 1 & Chappy 2 (lookalikes),  and Snow White. They produce the best eggs in town, in my opinion.  We actually tried to buy a real farm a little over a month ago, one called “Sweet Briar Farms” that came with 135 chickens and the prettiest greenhouses Daniel ever did see, but our offer was outbid by another buyer. It would have been a big risk for us anyways and a lot to maintain, so I think it all worked out for the best. Having gone through that experience though and spending hours dreaming of “what could be”, we now have a vision to someday move beyond just our backyard homesteading operation.

I also have a cat named Tesla that hates everyone except Daniel and me so the only way I can show her sweet side is through Instagram, which I just might do a little too often. Sorry followers.

 

We moved to Kent, WA from Spokane, WA in 2012. The transition was hardest on me with leaving our family, friends, and church home behind, but after almost four years living in a suburb of Seattle, I think I kind of like it here.   The rain can seem over-redundant at times but all the green around us makes it a reasonable tradeoff for me.  I’m grateful to be a few hours drive from our Washington coastline. I always tell people that “nothing is more beautiful than where the mountains meet the ocean” and that place is basically in our backyard. So, I gladly endure the rain.

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La Push, Second Beach

 

My husband is an Electrician for Local 46 in the Union (I think that’s the right Local, but don’t quote me) and I am a Realtor with Keller Williams Puget Sound.  “Do you know anyone that is looking to buy or sell Real Estate?” is what I should be asking, so hey, do you know anyone that is looking to buy or sell Real Estate? Kidding, but seriously though. I may occasionally share Real Estate news and statistics if I think it’s relevant to my community or just crazy stories here and there about a day in the life of a Realtor.

I started dabbling in running about this time last year and ran my first half-marathon in July 2015 and am registered to do the same one again this year (See Jane Run, Seattle). I don’t enjoy running, but I appreciate running, if that makes any sense. I like the way I feel after a run and the discipline it teaches me to endure something that is not pleasant knowing that it will have a positive outcome for my health. While we are on the topic of health and me,  I also like doing a Whole30 every now and again. Look it up if you don’t know what it is. I think everyone should know about it and try it.   #itstartswithfood

I just put a hashtag in a blog post, am I supposed to do that? No idea.

I’m not sure where exactly this blog is going. I’m not much of a writer at all, I tend to over-use commas and parentheses.  I’m also terrible at organizing my thoughts and my emotions, which may have already been evident from this post alone.

Anyways, it’s almost 12pm and I usually go to bed much earlier, so I need to wrap this up before my head falls on the keyboard and I accidentally delete all that I’ve written.  Thanks for reading the splatter of thoughts and ideas above! Comment if you have any questions about me, our backyard operation, or… anything I suppose.

Be Blessed!