Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Straining Strainers.

A friend needed honey, and I was completely out. So the day before yesterday, I suited up and took a break from making enchilada sauce. The last time I'd checked, there weren't any capped frames in the hives, and also the bees had put brood up in the medium frames, just like this:

Honey on the outside, babies in the middle. This is an ongoing problem in the middle hive, the one I call the "boomer" hive. That thing is about six or seven boxes high, and just packed with bees. It's like they're only interested in making bees, not honey. I suppose that's a good thing, in the long run. But for now, either they're eating all of the honey they're making, or something. Big hive, not much to show for it.

The hive I thought wasn't doing well? Frame after frame of finished and lovely honey, at least 18 frame's worth. One boomer babyfull hive, one overachiever so far.

The final hive did okay. Some honey, not an unusual amount, but enough to pull off a super. It's my original Boomer queen, and she's still laying like this:

Comb after comb of solid brood (that's nectar in the little open spots). You don't have to see a queen -- I didn't yesterday in the two hives I went through thoroughly -- to see how she's doing. Queens are known by the brood they leave behind. I don't recall seeing eggs in any hive. Unfortunately, if I wear my contacts, my close vision is distorted, while I can see if I peer around my glasses. Oh well. Glasses are just one more thing to avoid in the middle of a sweaty hive observation.

Then, after toting almost four full supers into the house, I began extracting, and all was well until I realized that my nested strainers were clogging. Okay, I scraped with a rubber spatula, no draining. No problemo, I thought, I have a straining sock. I used it when I did crush and strain harvesting from the top bars. Retrieved it, filled it with the honey and wax, got a kid to give me a heavy weight to keep the straining sock above the honey in the bucket, good.

Good, that is, until a hole blew out in the side of the bag and the cappings and honey poured right on into the already-strained bucket. Rats. Next (okay, after a little bit of fussing) I considered whether the two straining bowls were reversed. They were, so I fixed that, but no draining. Hmmmm.

That evening was time to think like McGyver. Aha! Use a towel and colander to take the place of the troublesome strainers. I decided to go to bed and do that the next day. This morning, though, after setting up that alternate straining operation, we discovered as I lifted up the coarser strainer (600 microns instead of 400) that it was going fine. It's the tiny one that's clogged. Six hundred microns seems fine to me, so I just discarded the cloggy one and strained out what I'd done so far.

By this evening, I'd cleaned out 18 frames. Both sets of frames (one in a box, one with a box waiting) were returned to Overachieving Hive. Bees were pretty calm, as they always are if all I'm doing is giving something nice and honey-covered back.

There's only one remaining problem.

Slightly less than half the honey is filling up more than half of the straining bucket. I've never had this problem before, and I'm pretty sure it's not one I want to actually complain about.

Peeking in, however, makes me feel a little woozy. I have to bottle before straining the rest, and my older sister was encouraging me to approach the local high-end chef and offer him some. I don't know what sort of size container he'd like, so maybe I'll give them a quick visit tomorrow morning, if I don't lose my nerve. There's always the grocery store, friends, and our consumption to consider too.

And I think Ribbit wants some.


meemsnyc said...

Oh my goodness! This is so cool! Do you sell your honey?

Ribbit said...

"I think Ribbit wants some."

Seriously? It's that simple to you?

How about craves, salavates over, dreams about, obsesses over. It's sweet, but earthy. Complex and rustic. It can't compare to store bought in the slightest.

Actually...the boy just hit rock bottom on his jar this last weekend. Even with his rationing protocol, we hit bottom. I will so take a jar or two off of your hands. Email me with how much you want (I think shipping was around $10.00 to GA last time) and I'll pay pal you over the money.

Susan said...

What a haul! You must put up a picture of all that gold in jars. I am really impressed with your troubleshooting of the straining. I tried to make coffee the other day with a filter and various improvised holding devices--total failure--I ended up with 2 ounces of muddy coffee and a big mess. It is so interesting how one hive makes honey and another bees.

Erin said...

You certainly had your work cut out for you with all those malfunctions, but I bet that honey is AMAZING! I'm still looking for a real-deal local supplier here. Hubby and one son have terrible seasonal allergies it could help with but unfortunately the "local" honey sold at the farmer's market here is from the mountains of VA, 5 hour away! (totally different zone and pollen types!) You should definitely approach the chef, they love to be able to market their products as "local", they benefit greatly too!

Ruby Louise said...

How interesting that the hives would have such different "personalities".

Definitely go chat with the local chef! Or perhaps it's time to start a honey booth at the local farmer's market?

kitsapFG said...

That pool of amber sweetness in the bucket is just gorgeous! I admire your skills and knowledge of beekeeping - very impressive.

Stefaneener said...

Meemsnyc, yes, I do. Both to a grocery store at wholesale and directly.

Ribbit, sorry, I didn't know it had gotten that bad. I'll email you to talk about supply. Sheesh, I feel like a smack dealer.

Susan, your coffee probably requires better filtration than my honey. . . My improvised filter was a failure -- and I never tested the t-shirt in colander approach (especially after two rubber bands broke and hit my hands). Yeah, the bees are odd.

Erin, I hope you do find one. It's good in all sorts of ways. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Ruby Louise, I'd have to get a bunch of beeks together for the farmer's market, I'm afraid. I will go talk to Msr. Le Chef and see what he says!

kitsapFG, the great thing about keeping bees is that the only ones who have to know what they're doing are the bees. . . It is a great harvest, though.

Mr. H. said...

It is always so fascinating to read about your bees. I have been saving some of your posts on this so that in the future when/if we get our own hives I can use them as a reference.

I saw my very first swarm yesterday while I was out running with the dog. We went back later and took some pictures. I will have to post them when I get a was really neat and they let me get very close with the camera.

Stefaneener said...

Mr. H., swarms are pretty benign. You probably could have held them, were you so inclined.

I'm sure there is better information out there than my chronicles of bungling beekeeping!

Heiko said...

What I want to know, is there a jar of honey with MY name on it? And maybe a sample jar of enchillada sauce. Have I missed the recipe to it already? :)

I'm planning my next bank robbery to get my bee-keeping equipment.

Mr. H. said...

Believe me there is a big difference between your real life information and any cut and dry tutorial I could get out of a book.

Stefaneener said...

Heiko, I should just put together a package and send you some. The pickles went over really big yesterday. Otherwise I'm going to have to carry it with me and that doesn't seem like a good idea.

Heiko said...

I know, I was only kidding. The recipe for the salsa would probably suffice (and a wee jar of honey... ;) )

patricia said...

I was going to blame Alameda for being a breeding ground for bee-making bees rather than honey-making bees, since my bee-making hive is from that Alameda swarm. But then I read about all the honey you harvested and I reconsidered. Wow!

I just don't get these hives that have lots of bees but little honey though. Especially when I have a gorgeous hillside of lavender that my other hive is sucking up and socking away