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Williamsport, OH, 43164

Honeyrun Farm produces pure raw, honey, handcrafted soap, and beeswax candles in Williamsport, Ohio

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Filtering by Tag: beekeeping

Summer Honey - The Journey

Honeyrun Farm

-Posted by Isaac

It's harvest time. For the past two weeks I've been pulling the summer honey. It's gorgeous this year. Beautiful and light. On the right is this year's Summer:
We seem to have a fan of last year's honey. 
 It's a decent crop. Not incredible, but it sure beats the misery of last summer, which was a mere 27 lb / hive average. We have at least doubled that and we've still got the coming goldenrod this fall.
Two or three bee yards and about a thousand pounds of extracted honey per day has been status quo of late. If we can keep this up until the end of August we'll keep the kids in clothes for another year.

The clover went crazy this year, as some of you have mentioned.

I think this may be the reason this year's summer honey is lighter. More clover, less thistle and soybean? I don't know... it tastes about the same. It's definitely been drier this summer. But still cool. One of these years it may actually hit 90 degrees-- then we'll really have a crop!

During last year's summer honey extraction I showed you some of the different forage that the bees seek out... from flower nectar turned into honey. Now we'll take a tour of the honey processing... from hive to table.
Here are some pictures taken over the last few days.

A bee yard: ten to twenty hives depending on the surrounding forage. We're up to 29 bee yards.
The upper boxes are the honey supers-


Just as it is with people, some are go-getters...


...and some are slouches.

Don't you wish they could all be Boomers?


So the honey-laden supers are taken off the hives and loaded on the truck. Some days are harder then others. I won't get into the specifics.
This load happened to come off the golf course:


They hate it when I drive across the greens.
But it's so fun!

The honey gets stacked in the drying room / hot room. This year, most of the honey has been coming in at 16.5 to 17.5% moisture. No drying required.


The stack can get pretty high when we get behind on the extracting.


Eventually the frames come out and are run through the uncapper. This takes the outside wax capping off the honey so that the extractor can "sling" it out of the honeycomb cells.
Petyn and Bridger- our honey models.


The liquid honey goes into a large settling tank...


And is drained into buckets or barrels at the end of the day:
Light, Pure, Raw... High Quality Honey!

 If we turn our heads just a second, Bridger takes an opportunity to sample.


The boy is uncontrollable.

The honey is weighed,

And put into storage.

Here it awaits bottling. Could be now, could be next year...

The wax capping I mentioned earlier takes another journey.
The honey-soaked wax drains for a day or two...


...then is taken out to the bees. 
Honey bee cappuccino.
I have resisted buying a cappings spinner because I like watching this.

They chew on this little treat for another day or two, "fluff it up," and the loose wax gets rendered, filtered and poured into bucket molds:


From this point it can take about any form.


One thing we've been doing lately is dipped candles.
The wax is remelted:

And the wicks are "dipped" over and over.


Jayne will explain this in depth on a future post.

Back to the honey...
Empty frames go back into the supers.

Some "wet" supers go directly back on the hives with the hope that the bees will fill them with fall honey.

Others are cleaned out by the lucky bees here at home.


 What a morning treat!
They make short work of it.


For store shelves and the markets, the honey is pumped into the bottling tanks, never heated above the natural temperature of a beehive (we never go above 100 degrees), and strained through a cloth filter. The fabric still lets the pollen grains through and under this low heat, the honey remains raw with the enzymes intact.


The summer honey takes other forms. 
It's the one we use for the granulated, spreadable honey. It is also bottled around chunks of comb and sold as chunk honey. 
And it can be steeped with herbs for a couple of weeks and turned into infused honey:


All material for future blog posts.

So unti next time...
Enjoy!
Maizy likes her summer honey with Lucky Cat bread.

CCD, Catching Swarms, Russian Bees, and White Boxes: More Beekeeping Questions Answered

Honeyrun Farm

  1. -Posted by Isaac
    Our Candle Pouring Station
    I like to start these dark December days pouring candle wax and listening to the alternative station. Yesterday I heard an awesome song that stuck in my head the rest of the morning.  Some of the lyrics went like this:
    It's better to feel pain   --  than nothing at all...
    The opposite of love   --  is indifference...
    Do you know the one? Well you might. Much to my chagrin I came to find out that my little discovery, a song I planned to learn and try singing for Jayne or whoever, has already gone mainstream. I heard it again last night watching football with Dad. It was background music in a commercial selling baseball gloves or something. Funny how your perspective can change. Maybe I won't learn it now. Oh well, I still I got a day of nostalgia out of that song. 
    We'll try to keep our beekeeping practices from mainstreaming. Size and efficiency in modern beekeeping, as with all modern agriculture, has no doubt brought higher production. But higher production is only a silver lining. There are also big black clouds concerning food production. I'm sure many of our blog readers are well aware of this. Julie Scordato touched on this in her question:


    "Can you give us an update on colony collapse disorder? Is it still bad? Are changing practices helping? Should we still be worried? What have you seen locally regarding this?"
    Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has not been in the headlines as much as it was in 2007 and 2008 but it's still a problem and research into the multitude of various causes has yet to come up with a definitive answer. Some bigger migratory beekeepers claim that keeping their bees away from row crop agriculture (corn, soybeans...) has helped colony health. On our small operation, we do lose bees (15% last winter) we've not seen anything like the CCD symptoms. Mites continue to be our nemesis. And I think this holds for other local beekeepers (those whom I have confidence in, anyway.) There are a few large beekeepers in northern Ohio and I haven't heard much in the way of CCD complaints from them either.

    Andrew Scordato writes:

    "There were lots of swarms this year that Isaac was able to collect. With beekeeping full time, do you have a goal number of hives you want, or is the sky the limit?"

    One of our "swarm catcher" boxes we use in the Spring
  2. I think about this all the time, Andrew. The market for local honey at present seems endless, so we continue to grow with hives and equipment. I'm building enough woodenware to reach a goal of 300 hives this year. We'll decide from there. There's a point where your practices are compromised as well as time with family and other obligations. Right now, I tend to babysit the hives more then I probably need to. We can definitely increase from our present 230. How many more... who knows?
    Little Molly Scordato writes:  "Will you ever consider hybridizing with Russian honeybees for hardiness to weather and parasites? Aren't the russian bees notorious for sussing out and destroying certain hive parasites that the Italian bees tend to tolerate at their own peril?"

    I bought 30 Russian queens a couple years ago and noticed a few things good and bad:

    -The bees don't accept the queen as readily.
    -They don't seem to make as much honey.
    -They seem to weather the winter better, but not at a significantly higher survival rate then the Italians.
    -They don't eat as much honey in the winter, but seem to build up very slow in the spring.

    I need to try a new batch this year. For me, the jury is still out on the Russians, but thanks for the reminder.
  3. Our bees are a healthy mix of Italians, Carniolan, and Russians.
    See the little queen cage in the center?  The bees will eat the candy plug,
    releasing their royal highness. 

    Marci writes, 
    "Why are most bee boxes white?"
    I've wondered this myself. Maybe white reflects light best in the Summer, thus keeping a hive cool. I suspect it has more to do with the cheap and plentiful supply of white paint.
  4. Honeyrun Farm Boxes - a little bit of white, purple, green, gray, and
    whatever color of exterior paint we find on sale at the hardware store.
    Leah asks,
    "How many times can you harvest honey from one hive in a year? I know you have Spring, Summer and Fall honey. But maybe you keep some hives for Spring harvest, some for Fall etc."
    This all depends on weather and location. Of our 21 bee yard locations, only six are close enough to groves of Black Locust trees that we can harvest Spring honey and confidently call it Black Locust honey. If it's a year like 2010 where God smiles down on bees, you can pull honey from a single hive in all three seasons. There was just an abundance of nectar and sunshine. A rainy, cold year like 2011 means you're lucky to have any honey at all. For the most part, you can depend on almost all hives producing a Summer crop with the Spring and Fall honey being kind of hit or miss and having a lot to do with the abundance of nectar producing plants in the vicinity of the yard.

    Spring, Summer, and Fall Honey
  5. Katie asked a question that really got me thinking:
    "What about beekeeping is most rewarding?"

    Happiest after a big honey harvest
    The short answer is pulling honey-- seeing my labor come to fruition, and knowing I don't have to go looking for a "real job" to put food on the table. The deeper answer is my general fascination with bees and their place and our own place in the world. Sounds cliche, huh? If you end up keeping bees you'll notice that you're more in tune with what's going on outside, what's growing, what's blooming, the temperature, the sun, the rain, the wind etc... You'll notice what the farmers are doing, where certain crops are, where tree lines, fence rows, woods, streams and set-aside areas are... what's being sprayed and planted, what's being plowed under, what's being built...
    In general, you become more aware. I like this.
    She also asks,
    "What advice would you offer someone interested in getting started?"
    Prepare yourself for broadening horizons, great high peaks of joy and mystery and reward. Brace yourself for deep valleys of death, depression and worry.
    And join a bee club.  Scioto Valley Beekeepers, our local club, is offering a beekeeping class this coming April, if you feel so inclined.