-Posted by Isaac
It's summer honey time! We've been pulling honey for the last two weeks, and it will continue for at least another two. Busy this year... Seth ran off to the Air Force, so it's now just me in the bee yards and Lafe in the extracting room.
It occurred to me that I may just have enough photos to show you the process-- how raw honey gets from a beehive to the grocery store shelf. And I do. Enough photos in fact, to make this a two-part blog post. Oh boy!
It all starts in a bee yard.
Well, not really. As you know, it starts with millions of honey bees and millions of flowers. But that magic is an entirely different and more complicated subject. For this post, we're going to assume that the bees did their job and the weather and everything else worked out just dandy. (This year it did!)
So our job starts with pulling honey supers off the hives and loading them on the truck. The top boxes are the honey supers. They can get heavy!
It's a fun job, pulling honey. But hot and exhausting. As I said in a previous post, much harder than baling hay I did growing up. On a good day, we'll pull over 3,000 pounds of honey.
Mostly you wait until the bees have all the honey capped off.
When it's capped, it's dry. We're hoping for under 18% moisture. This year with the humidity, we've been moving everything into the drying room for a day. We rush to get the summer honey off before the goldenrod blooms, and that means not everything is capped. So we dry it-- the room holds about 150 supers and has five big fans, two big dehumidifiers, and a heater.
After drying a day or so, the honey is ready for extracting.
Here you see the system- the 60 frame extractor is in the foreground, the big cappings wax spinner in the middle, and the 500 gallon bulk tank for honey storage in the upper right:
At the start of the extracting line is the uncapper. Honey frames are run down through a couple vibrating knives which slice off the wax capping.
You need to have the cappings removed because the frames will soon be pushed into the extractor which spins the liquid honey out of the honeycomb cells. Just good old centripetal force. No heat needed.
The honey simply flows out of the extractor into a 30 gallon sump, and is then pumped up into that big holding tank high in the corner.
At the end of the day, I fill drums with honey. We have yet to overflow the bulk tank, and if I'm diligent about doing this, we never will. A drum holds 55 gallons, and if Lafe is working alone, he can only fill the 500 gallon bulk tank to about three fourths.
The summer honey all goes into drums. Much easier to store, to move to handle... All those buckets you saw in the above pictures are filled with spring honey. We had a great spring harvest this year. I'm sure at some point I'll be cussing all the lifting and pouring of those many buckets.
Most years we have far more summer honey than spring or fall. In a great year like this one, you can fill quite a few drums during a month of harvest.
And those drums now sit. And wait. And granulate. Within six months the honey will be solid as rock.
And I'll let you go with that. Next post we'll continue... from solid honey drum to liquid honey bottle to store shelf to your kitchen... the journey of raw honey.