Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Extraction

Exciting times around the place.  Last week we took ten frames of honey from Mordor. This week a kind teacher friend allowed us to borrow their family's honey extractor.  Comb, that comes from the top bar Harmony Hive, must either be put up with cut comb or squooshed.  With a Langstroth hive, you use an extractor. When I replaced the frames I took, I only put a preformed wax sheet in every other one. I'm hoping they will also make their own comb in the frames between.  I like that idea much better, since I have no idea where or what the preformed wax comes from.
There have been many surprises along this very educational bee journey.  The most challenging has been getting a straight answer.  I bought this great looking book, judging by the cover, on bees at Tractor Supply.  Nutso, that's all.  It said if you are beekeeping small time like us, you must use a fume board to get the honey laden frames out of the hive. Not could, or should, must.  Do you know what that is?  Can you guess?
It is a special cover that you spray with some sort of something, then sit on the super with the honey frames.  The fumes drive the bees down into the deep and you lift off a beeless super. Umm, no way.  I covered all but the spot from where I took the frame, gently brushed the bees back into the box, then moved to the next one.  I sat each beeless frame in a box, that I covered with the lid each time.  It worked fine. I use a lot of "I" here, but a certain Handy Man was helping.
 Wow, the box was heavy, over 50lbs.  Yesterday morning we went to get the extractor.  The other surprise, in more than one book, is the notion that some people just think extracting is too much trouble.  I knew it would have to be bulky and awkward, but having spent my life around large pots and pans and feeding the masses, I was not intimidated.  I filled pots with boiling water, scalded and dried every bit carefully, as water in the honey will cause it to ferment. That same book also declared that this was a messy job and you absolutely would not want to do it in your kitchen.   Say what?  Man, does that tell you the place we've arrived at.  Oh no, wouldn't want to mess up your kitchen with some sweet, sunny goodness, directly from the source.  I'm sorry. I don't get it.  We extracted in what was in my mind the most logical place, the kitchen.
First you have to uncap the honey.  This is a big bad hot knife and, wow, does it get hot. You slice down the top and pile the mess on a cookie sheet.

Next, a frame goes on each side.

 Put the lid on and spin. It really didn't take but a few seconds of spinning.
Then you remove each frame, turn them over and spin again.
The honey is running down the sides, through the holes in the bottom to be caught in a strainer basket, then into that tank on the bottom.

Now you leave it, and once again, I'm so accustomed to so many people in my kitchen that doing the two-step around this beast didn't bother me at all.  I was not just the photographer either. I decapped and flipped and spun, yes a honey of an acrobat I am.

As each frame was emptied, we placed it back in the plastic box.  When we finished spinning, I scraped all the wax caps and honey into the strainer as well.  The next surprise, the plastic box full of spun out frames still weighed twenty pounds.   Those frames seems to weigh nothing, and comb doesn't weigh much either. I wouldn't have thought the plastic box to be heavy.  Now, the Handy Man brought the camp table to sit in the sunshine in a direct bee line from the hives, many yards across the lawn and I sat those frames all over the table and left the bucket also.  Later, when we checked on the frames, it was a scary bee scene with thousands of bees covering every speck.  I love this part. Not a drop of honey wasted. Every bit we weren't able to get into the tank, goes right back to the hive.  By dark thirty, the frames and the bucket were clean.  Yet another surprise.  The bucket full of frames now weighed only ten pounds, so ten pounds of honey went back into the hive.
This morning we cleaned jars and lids and set out to see the result of eight months of dreaming, planning, building, fretting, sweating and learning. And out the spout she flows.

I love, love, love this picture.

When all was said and done, every piece of equipment was again moved out in to sunny bee line. I see no sense in washing any of it down the drain. When my bee girls have cleaned the wax, that will be used for something else as well.  
Kinda makes me teary.  So to my kiddos, thanks for more Christmas in August.  To our friend Ted for answering endless questions and to  Paul and Connie for sharing equipment.  It takes a village to make honey. God's amazing creation never ceases to astound me.
Happy Sunday


  1. Good job K & P!!! Your diligence has provided quite the beautiful reward!