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Sunday, March 21, 2010

are you feeling a little eleven o'clockish? is it time for a little something?

You're probably all pretty excited to read about this, since bees are the new chickens.

We popped in for a minute yesterday to experience the moist, sticky heat that is honey processing. IT WAS ALL I DREAMED AND MORE. I felt like I was in a Mr. Rogers video. I always hated how Mr. Rogers never shared the stuff he got from the places he went--just where in the world does he think he gets off? He's like Andy's vermin colleagues he met while he was living in the pit on Parks and Recreation! I told Mrs. Magic Neighbor that bees are my next step toward crazy, and she asked if that meant they were already crazy. Verbal backpedaling, the good kind of crazy, etc. But they are the good kind of crazy--the kind that you know to whose house you'll be headed during the next natural disaster (I have it on good authority that they stockpile dark chocolate).

First they put the frames under a heat lamp with a fan blowing, to help soften the honey and make it easier to extract. If you get them too close to the heat or leave them too long it melts too much of the wax and causes problems. Next they take their electric slicey knife thingy and slice the caps off the sheets of wax comb, so the honey will be able to come out.
Look how pretty and shiny all that honey is!
Then the frames go into the extractor (three at a time in this particular doohickey), and you turn it at about one turn per second, and you can watch as the strings of honey go flying out of the comb onto the walls of the extractor. I'm concentrating so hard in this picture I have pooface, which is why I chose this photo. You're welcome.
Then you open the spigot at the bottom and the honey comes glub-glubbing out into a bucket capped with a screen, to filter out any stray wax pieces.
Once it's screened you decant it into jars and admire its amber loveliness. ADMIRE THE AMBER LOVELINESS, I SAID.
Remember what I said about not leaving the frame too close to the heat? That's what happened to this frame, so they gave it to us to take home and eat. You just eat it with your fingers, or a spoon if you're uppity, and either swallow the little pieces of wax or spit them out when you've eaten the honey. It is really, really delicious. They also gave us some wild honeycomb.
The wild honey is on the left, the domesticated honey is on the right. The wild honey tastes a little spicier, and some bites have almost a smokey taste. They are both incredible and I think I have eaten about two pounds of honey since yesterday.
Something fascinating I learned: the frames come with a screen imprinted on both sides with a wax honeycomb pattern, so the bees will build their comb in the correct orientation. If the screen gets bent, or the wax gets mooshed, or if for any reason the bees are skeeved out by it, they will just build their comb all willy-nilly, and that makes it wicked hard to work with. We saw a frame like that, but I'm a cottonheaded ninnymuggins and didn't take a picture. This batch of bees was not as docile and compliant as their first batch, and had started building the comb across and sideways, with little tunnels and whatnot. Silly autonomous bees.

Something else I learned: when it gets below about 10*F, the bees stop doing anything and will huddle all together in the bottom of the hive. Even if they're right next to some honey they won't move over to eat it, and they will starve to death. One would assume that the bees in the center of the bee clump will stay warmer and survive? And repopulate? I don't know. Bees are still beyond my ken.

Wanna see a video? Here you go:

4 comments:

tipsybaker said...

Thank-you. FASCINATING.
Where does the wild honeycomb come from?

All8 said...

You are too funny. Hm, I wonder what my honey foot print is....?

Matt and Emily said...

That looks really awesome. I totally think you guys should have bees. I have a friend in our ward that has bees and she told me once how easy and little work they are. Although one time she was asking around if anyone had seen a stray swarm of bees as one of her swarms just up and left. Crazy bees.

Claire said...

I already knew all that stuff. My friend quin who raises bees told me.