This spring, my husband started a new hobby. He is now a beekeeper. It made me a bit nervous due to the investment to set it up and our total lack of knowledge and skills. I might have been less than enthusiastic, as a matter of fact... But soon, he'd read up on it, asked other beekeepers for hints and seemed to know everything he needed to know.
I should not have doubted him, because he sure came through with a ton of honey (which we didn't expect for the first year, but these busy bees worked overtime, and with this wetter than average summer we have had a lot of beautiful blooms to feed the bees and create a bounty of sweetness!). And he loved every minute of it. He keeps a chair out by the hive so he can sit and watch them come and go, and visits them throughout the day. It has become a very entertaining thing for him.
The lure of watching the bugs fly around eludes me, but there is something mesmerizing about it for him, so I am happy that he is happy. And very glad that he loves it so much, that he does all of the work. I can safely say, "Not my hobby" and step away while he happily scrapes stuff off, or blows smoke at the insects to make them drowsy, or any of the other beyond my understanding tasks that have to be done.
Also, I was lucky that the family came together to help with the harvest, and everyone had jobs that they did enthusiastically, even with zeal. It is a huge and sticky undertaking, if my husband and I had to do it alone, it could have been rough. Instead, it was a blast with this group helping.
The grandfairies offered to make labels for all of the jars, as well as stirring the pots as needed and helping drain honey from the wax. Later on, we will make beauty products with the wax. (any tips are appreciated!)
Looking at the growing level of honey in the bottom of the pot was endlessly fascinating.
All of us had our moments of honey gazing at some point or another.
While there were a lot of steps involved, the whole process was surprisingly easy to do. I was dreading getting started, but once we were rolling, all went well. My kitchen might never be back to its nonsticky self again, but some tacky spots here and there were well worth it. We ended up with the equivalent of about 4 dozen bear bottles. Plus, there is still a giant chunk of wax sitting in a cheesecloth draining, I think we will get at least a couple more bottles out of that.
Along the way, I figured out some tips to make things easier next summer when we (hopefully) have a larger batch from this hive and some honey also from a second hive we will be starting. One thing I didn't expect, was that the wax was almost impossible to get off of the pans I'd used for setting down knives in, holding piles of wax, draining the wax, and stacking the frames in.
I tried washing it off, then worried about the sink drain, or if it made it past that, the septic tank.
So, the big girls took them outside to spray off with a power washer.
That helped, but there were still bits of wax that needed scraped off before the pans and bowls could go into the dishwasher. Next time? I'll use disposable aluminum foil pans. Hopefully I can wipe them down and reuse them for future honey harvests and not worry about a little wax here and there.
As everyone was busy as a bee draining, spinning, and bottling the golden goodness, I baked fresh bread to eat it on. Next time, I'll think of that ahead of time, so I'm not trying to bake while the extraction is going on. Because we decided that having a fresh loaf of bread hot out of the oven is a very important part of gathering honey! Next time, I'll be letting the dough rise while my husband is brushing the bees off the frames and bringing them in to scrape and extract.
He learned that heavy, leather gloves are important, because this is as angry as his bees have ever been, and he was stung through his regular gloves.
The table should probably be covered in a disposable table cloth too. I have washed and washed it, with soap and vinegar, but am still finding sticky spots.
The doorknobs aren't any better....even though I was smart enough to have a sink full of soapy water in the kitchen for hand washing throughout the day so people wouldn't have to touch the faucet or go into the bathroom and touch that doorknob.
Another thing we will do next time is have a wet towel on the floor for foot wiping. That might help with the sticky footprints. I'd laid out cardboard to catch drips, which helped, but still got walked through and spread throughout the house.
But hey, like I said, a little sticky ickiness is worth it! Look at this waterfall of honey!!!!