|Honey on the frame.|
|Our harvest of almost 40 pounds -- a few jars were given away before this picture was taken.|
Have you ever read about adulteration of bread and milk in the 19th century?
People noticed that children who ate home-baked bread in 1830s England didn't suffer from the rickets that affected city children who ate only bakery bread, which had a considerable amount of alum added to it to whiten the flour. And this led to government oversight of food production.
One of the fallacies we all fall victim to is the idea that history is a gradual overall process of improvement. (Keep this fallacy in mind when you teach your children history or discuss what they learn in school with them. Resist it mightily, or you will all end up being hoodwinked.)
|In that plastic bag is so much honey in frames that he can hardly carry it!|
Well and good.
|Bridget has done a lot of the beekeeping, along with Papa.|
|You must open each cell before the honey will come out.|
But our very satisfaction in solving one problem blinds us to the reality that such things can be -- and are -- going on now, right under our noses. Your very own wonderfully clean, brightly lit supermarket offers up gaily wrapped and, after all, not terribly cheap, adulterated food. Not all of it is adulterated. But a lot.
Take bread. Are you aware of how much store-bought bread and other processed foods have soy flour and other soy products (lecithin, MSG, hydrolyzed protein, and many other names that disguise soy)?
You buy a loaf of bread with the idea that it's made of wheat, primarily. But that's hardly true anymore. Soy isn't a poison (nor was alum -- it just interfered with absorption of nutrients, as does soy). But soy consumed in large quantities does have unintended consequences for our bodies, particularly those of young people.
And there is soy in a lot of things.
So we try to make our own bread. At least we know what goes into it!
And then there's the issue of food imported from places that we can't oversee very well. And that brings me to honey. It's terrible to think that you don't know what is in a jar of honey you buy, or even where it comes from.
|The extractor in motion.|
Our family is nowhere near being free of dependence on food from far away, or even all processed foods. But we are taking small steps when we can, and having hives fills me with excitement -- I've realized how many things I can barter honey for! My freezer already has a bunch of fat, delicious free-range organic chickens tucked away in its depths. They are good for at least 3 meals each, and I traded them for our honey! Folks are offering me good cold hard cash for the stuff! And truly, it's the most amazing, wholesome, near miraculous substance.
After last year, when the bees did well to survive at all after a summer of non-stop rain, we thought we'd never see the harvest we hoped for. We were thankful for the three pounds we got, but could only dream of a bountiful honey supply.
We couldn't believe the sunshine this year! The sun actually shines! For days! Phil had a hard time preventing himself from opening the hives every day.
I would say the man is truly obsessed with his bees. Just before we left for Ireland, he took out two supers and tucked them safely in the garage -- and then proceeded to talk about them the whole time we were in foreign parts.
"Look, sweetie, there's a herd of cows on that cliff!"
"I wonder how the bees are doing."
On our return, naturally, the number one priority was getting that honey into jars. Now, I would say that you probably shouldn't leave two weeks in between taking the frames out of the hive and extracting it -- the bees keep it nice and warm where it is (and warm honey can be separated from the wax easier than cooler, older honey). But that's okay.
|Trying the deck after the picnic table proved wicked unsteady.|
Honey extractors are simple but expensive. He found a cheap one on Craigslist that is pretty darned big. It holds up to four frames and rotates them as it spins, so you don't have to switch them around. There's nowhere to put it, whether storing it or using it.
Its torque is so strong that the picnic table didn't work for long. The deck was okay except that very soon the bees discover that you have a big store of their favorite food. Who wouldn't get their perfect food on the deck rather than make it themselves!
|A person visible there on the left, extracting.|
So we had to move inside. Nothing like having this going on in your kitchen! I kept walking around saying, "Some people build honey houses...." The island worked okay, but next time (September for another harvest, we hope!) we're using a stand made for power tools.
At this point it's a big ole DIY operation. For instance, we used a (very clean) piece of screen mesh (you know, for screens) to strain the honey into the bucket, which is one we use for beer-making. So that spigot is woefully inadequate for this purpose. When it came time to go from the bucket to jars (through that little tiny spigot), it took literally two hours to fill each jar. I filled jars for days. But he ordered a honey gate for that bucket, so next time should be better.
I used a canning funnel with a piece of (very clean) nylon stocking over the bottom to further strain before jarring, but there was very little debris left over after the mesh step. I don't think it was necessary, other than to make the whole process even more painfully slow.
Bonus: Wax! What was strained out I dumped into this yard-sale cooker and slowly heated. The first stage yielded a few more jars of cooking honey (since it was already heated from this step) and wax. I then heated the wax again with water, and got about a pound or more of clean, fresh beeswax after it cooled in the pan! I plan to make more of my furniture polish and candles.
The bees do your cleanup for you -- just put the extractor outside and they do the work!