Bee Year 2015 Overview – Brookfield Farm

The Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey blog went quiet for a while – ok, for quite a while. But it’s back.   Bee work, honey work, festivals, Farmers Markets, a bit of fun in the backcountry and some rather massive family issues that had to be resolved absorbed my time. This posting is an overview of the bee, honey work and a bit of the backcountry.

Pack Goats train above Tomyhoi Lake in the High Cascades

Pack Goats In Training above Tomyhoi Lake

SUMMER ACTIVITIES at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey

In general, the summer carried on with the usual activities, but at a faster pace – some of this can be found in previous posts :

Make frames

Assembling bee hive frames


Wire frames

Wiring bee hives frames at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

Hang wax

One wired frame and one waxed bee hive foundation frame at at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

Make bottom screens

Bottom Screens for Bee Hives at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA


Split and Super Hives

Queen Excluders on a Bee Hive Split

Raise queens

Add purchased queens

Worker honeybees examine a caged Russian Queen : out their new queen (in a cage) at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA

Realize there’s not enough equipment and back to wire frames, hang wax….

Sounds simple, but it all takes time doesn’t it?  I just realized I’ve never done a post on making frames and hanging wax – another winter post to come.  Raising Queens solo is a hard one to document: I’m doing the work and can’t really step back while I’m doing it.

AN EARLY YEAR for bees and honey in Whatcom County, Washington

The reason everything moved so quickly is that it was an odd summer here in Washington state. Everything bloomed three weeks early, even in the agricultural areas. At first the unusual sun was interspersed with nice periods of rain here in the northwest of the state – everything grew and flourished

Goats browse in front of bee hives

The Brookfield Farm Bee Yard Grounds Crew

Hives were putting on lots of honey, so much that is was hard to keep up.

Tall Bee Hive at Brookfield Farm Maple Falls Washington

Some hives got very tall


Then the drought really set in, nectar became scarce.  Happily the bees had those stores laid up in the hives, but little more came in.


August was set for the harvest date this year. September is my usual time, and I may go back to it. There is little difference in the harvest; it simply fit better with time constraints and family issues.

This year Ian volunteered to step in and help with the extraction. He’s calm, patient and methodical, so he’s a natural for working in the very small extraction room.

Extracting honey at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls

Ian Balsillie Extracts Honey at Brookfield Farm



We did use a new uncapper this year: The Honey Paw  from Finland. I’ll write more about it in a later post, but in essence it is a steam driven tool that quickly runs furrows across the honey frames. Rather like a steam punk gentle scratcher.

Steam Driven Honey Paw Uncapper

The Honey Paw Uncapper

I’ve always used a knife, and this was so much easier. I had Ian do a few frames with a knife and he agreed – the new tool is faster, simpler and more efficient for us.


We sell raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives: our own honey and that of our friends. Our booths can be found at both the Ballard Farmers Market and Fremont Sunday Market in Seattle, nearly every Sunday.

Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey Market Booth - Ballard & Fremont Markets Seattle

Brookfield Farm Market Booth

Which means we pick up honey from our friends about the same time as we’re pulling and extracting honey.

Beekeeper Stan Kolesnikov and Ian Balsillie (Brookfield's Honey Transport Chief)

Beekeeper Stan Kolesnikov and Ian Balsillie (Brookfield’s Honey Transport Chief)

The majority of these honeys come in 650 pound barrels. Which means I need a honey pump. This year I got a new one.


Again, I’ll go into detail in an upcoming blog, but I’m just really pleased with my new honey pump from Kelley Beekeeping.

Kelley Beekeeping Geared Honey Pump

The New Honey Pump

I sell raw honey, so the honey never goes beyond 100F. This makes pumping honey difficult. But my new pump has a ¾ horsepower motor. It sailed though the more fluid honeys. The buckwheat gave it a challenge, but it pumped that as well (buckwheat – crystallizes faster than any honey I’ve ever seen).



The year had been pretty good for the bees until the drought. Which means that the mites did very well too. I alternate Mite Away Quick Strips and Apiguard  on alternate years in my hives.

(Note: The above links are to Randy Oliver’s site – you’ll have to scroll down for the Apiguard.  This is for 2 reasons: 1) he does very nice reviews, tests, pros and cons and 2) I use his method of application on the Apiguard years.)

This was a Quick Strip year. Some hives showed no drop. Others showed a different tale.

Mite Away Quick Strips with varroa mites

A very “mitey” hive

The treatment is followed by essential oil patties. I’m still trying to perfect the recipe. Mine are lumpy, which beats runny. The bees don’t seem to mind, but I’d like to make it better for them, all suggestions welcome.


This year marks the passing of a good friend and brilliant beekeeper: Ron Babcock. Many people have enjoyed his Raspberry/Wildflower Raw Honey that we were privileged to carry. Ron was a great guy who was always willing to share his decades of experience and knowledge with other beekeepers, while being aware of how touchy we beekeepers can be. He will be missed.

Ron Babcock, Beekeeper

Ron Babcock

NOVEMBER ARRIVES – It’s Internet Time at Brookfield Farm

All my hives are now tucked in for winter. The family issues are nearly resolved.  The days are too short and weather too wet for much hiking in the mountains. There’s the websites to update: the honey site, the everything we do at the farm including honey site and a photography site, which I started then let it drift due to lack of time. And, of course, the blog returns.

I know I’ve glossed over a lot of things, but that will give me something to write about in the long, dark, wet (hopefully snowy) days of winter.

How was your bee year? Or in the southern hemisphere and in warmer climates, how is your year shaping up? Love to hear you tales.

Oh, I used some larger images in this post – better? worse?  do let me know.  It must have some meaning in the world of up-load time and possibly don’t work on some systems.  This internet – it’s all a mystery to me.

About Bean

I am the beekeeper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, near Maple Falls, Washington. My bees fly from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives in the foothills of Mt. Baker (the second most glaciated volcano in Washington). I sell the raw honey my bees make, as well as honey produced by Washington beekeepers who are friends - the emphasis is on raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives. I also make and sell Beeswax Salves. You can find me at the Ballard Farmers' Market in Seattle on Sundays from 10-3. When not with the bees, you'll most likely meet me up some mountain trail, pinhole camera and digital camera slung over my shoulders, and my pack goats trailing behind me.
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