A bit about us...

We are a modern family of three, living on less than two acres with a 3,000 square foot garden that meets our produce needs and allows us to share with friends and neighbors. Our laying flock of chickens seems to expand each year as we raise chicks each Spring to replace older hens. This blog is more of a journal, if you will, for us to chronicle and share our experiences in the yard, garden and kitchen. It is our hope that along the way a few folks might learn something, be entertained, or simply enjoy sharing in our stories and the lessons we learn on a daily basis. I named the blog after the times when I am the happiest, when I am elbow deep in earth.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What did I do with my Saturday night? Extracted honey. You?

In the Spring of 2012, I helped (watched and took pictures, mostly) Vicki at Zilke Vegetable Farm hive some honeybees to replace hives that had been lost over a particularly hard winter. I wrote about this experience, and how it changed my outlook on those little busy buzzers forever.  

Last weekend, we had the privilege of helping extract honey from the frames that had been produced by those bees (well, some - one of the two hives was lost this last Winter and re-hived in the Spring).

When we got the invitation to help, we jumped at the chance. Grabbing a few things to contribute to the potluck dinner, we hopped in the car and readied ourselves to get sticky! Our "crew" wasn't large, but it was just enough to make relatively quick work of the job.

Here's what the process looks like:

After removing the frames of honey from the super, you have to cut off the wax cap that the bees build to keep the honey in the frame. A serrated bread knife works nicely for this job.When you do, you may find that the honey is all the same color, or that the bees worked on different plants while they produced the honey, creating more than one color.

The uncapped frames go into the extractor (4 at a time for balance) and are spun, by hand crank, to remove the honey from the comb. There is an ideal speed to spin the frames, so as to remove the most honey efficiently, but taking care not to damage the comb.

The honey is then filtered, to remove debris. Sometimes wax or debris can clog the holes of the filter, so it's important to keep an eye on things. Vicki lifted the filter from the bucket below to check on the flow. I took my chance to get a fun shot while she did. The holes are small enough to catch anything unwanted, but large enough to allow the pollen and all of the nutrition to be maintained in the raw product.

She collects all the wax and cap material that is removed or falls off, then drains and cleans it for use as something else. There's no sense in wasting such a useful treasure!

Vicki and Tom usually wait to bottle the honey for a few days so the air bubbles can settle out of the honey. If bottled immediately, it may crystallize faster in the bottles. We helped bottle just a few for them to send home with their helpers.

I was struggling to capture the color of the honey, but holding it over a nearby lamp did the trick. It's like sunshine, bottled. I know it sounds cheesy, but just look at it!

Want fresh, raw honey on a warm biscuit?  Who doesn't?!  How is this for fresh...straight from the filter bucket onto the biscuit for our enjoyment.

Look at that natural, healthful, tasty snack!

Here's the delightful and delicious surprise of the evening: This honey harvest has a decidedly minty floral note. The bees achieved something that many people actually work to add to their honey later! What confused us was that there really isn't much mint around to help explain the flavor, and the mint is just now coming into bloom, so it simply can't be the source. A little research led us to find that basswood trees blossom with thousands of blossoms, are a favorite of honeybees and can lead to a remarkable minty finish on the honey made from its blooms.

The Zilke's operate a CSA from which folks can purchase shares in exchange for weekly portions of the farm's production. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. For more information on what this is click here. If the hives produced enough honey from this harvest, ZVF CSA members will all be treated to some of this honey that is a rare and wonderful treat. Those are some lucky folks!

So that's what we did with our Saturday night. What were you up to? :-)

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