Pulling Honey, Honey Extraction, Winter Hive Prep, & Hiking

Late August and September were a bit busy: Honey was pulled from the beehives. My new extractor was put on its stand and the honey extracted.

Honey pours from Maxant Extractor in Brookfield Farm Honey Room.

Unfiltered Honey from the extractor

The hives were balanced and preparations for winter have begun.  A visit to northeast Washington to pick up Kraus Honey Company Honey.  Oh yes, I went walking in the mountains for 16 days.  All of this in the wettest “summer” that Washington has seen in decades.  Can we say rain, no. We can say “pour the Pacific Ocean over us through a sieve.”    This week’s blog is an overview.  I’ll delve into each of these events over the next few weeks.

I have 5 working bee yards at the moment.  2 of these are at farms and were stocked with a few young hives.  I like to start small.  That way we can all see if the bee yard, and my visits are going to work for all of us: the landowners, the bees, and me.  These yards provided no honey this year.  In deed, those hives were given honey from other hives to get them up

Honeybees fly at a Brookfield Farm bee yard in Washington state

A Brookfield Farm bee yard - bee friendly colors

to winter weight.  The other three yards delivered quite well for me: about 40 pounds of honey per hive for me.  I did not count how many pounds of honey I put onto younger hives that needed more winter stores.  I’m pleased.  My bees seem to do well in years that it rains.  My supposition is that the plants are pumping lots of water from the ground, which makes lots of nectar, so the bees get much more nectar from each flower they visit.  But that’s just my guess.  Happily the bees were still gathering pollen and nectar when I was pulling, so although I did this between showers and to the sounds of thunder, the bees were very gentle and not terribly disrupted.

As I pulled the honey I balanced the hives for both winter stores and “will this hive survive.”  I had about 6 hives that clearly would not survive the winter.  2 were nucs that I made from my tower hives in July – the hives that keep growing taller than I could reach.  One had a good queen, but was started in June and probably superceded itself sometime after that, so not enough bees there.  One was a hive with a useless queen: bad laying pattern, not enough brood.  Two had clearly lost their queens, perhaps superseding with mating flights that occurred in all this rain.  Each failing hive was given one of the small hives with a good queen.  I’m happy to say each of this is doing quite well.  On some hives I added follower board – wood board that take the place of the first and tenth frame.  This makes the hives 8 frame hives, and keeps any water than leaks in from the sides of the brood box well away from the cluster this winter.  Yes, they say we’ll be having a wet and snowy winter this year.

Then off to the extraction “room”.  It really is an 8-foot by 8-foot area room.

Tiny honey extraction room at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, Washington

Our very small, but functional, honey extraction room

A bit crowded, but easy to warm up.  I do love my new honey extractor: A Maxant 20 frame extractor.  I decap the honey frames using an electric plane rather than a knife. It doesn’t’ hurt my wrist – and after the abuse I’ve given my body over the years, I figure this is the time to be nice to it.   My favorite woodworker made the extractor’s stand: my husband, Ian.  That was a challenge.  Because we live off-grid, I needed a generator to run the extractor.  Ian had to design and build a stand that would support a rapidly rotating machine, which would be loaded with 60 pounds or more of honey, a load that would not always be perfectly distributed.  It turned out to be a 12-hour endeavor.  I arrived at the farm with the generator at 11am. I finished extracting honey at 1am the next morning.  But it’s lovely honey and everything was working well by the second load.

Unfiltered Honey from Brookfield Farm: wax can be seen in the honey

Unfiltered honey, with wax, pours from the extractor

Now it’s on to feeding the bees and powdering them.  They’re fed cane sugar syrup that is supplemented with spearmint, lemon grass, and thyme essential oils.  The latter are for bee health.  The syrup is because from now (September) to March there will be no forage near most of my bee yards.  Sugar syrup the “hay” of the bee world.  The bees are also dusted with powdered sugar.  If you search for “powdered sugar” on this blog, you’ll find a long description with photos on how I dust my bees, which I posted during the spring dusting season.

Before all this started I scooted over to northeast Washington, where the Spokane and Colombia Rivers meet and picked up 600 pounds of Kraus Honey Company honey.  This year John tells me the main floral sources are vetch and black locust.  It is truly yummy.  A light yet complex taste, which calls up the heat of our northeast lands.  He also directed me to a stop-off that is the sight of, if I recall correctly, the largest waterfall in the world.  It’s dry now.  It’s a fabulous tale that you’ll hear later in these blogs.

Glacier Peak, Washington  image by Karen Edmundson Bean

Glacier Peak.

Oh yes.  I did a 16 day walk in the high Cascades: some lovely sunny days; some overcast days with a fishing pole; a rainy encounter with a bear (he was fascinated by the goats, llama, and myself, until I spoke – he realized there was at least one human in the group and split.  So a good trip – and I finished a great book: 1421 The Year China Discovered America.  Did I mentioned that it rained on a few days?  Never go to the North Cascades without a book.  On the way I shot images both for my “Ripping Tales” photo series and my “Pin Hole Wilderness” series. More about that on later blogs

I’ll write about all these topics: the walk, photography, and, of course bees and honey on the upcoming blogs.  A bit of catch up, but then winter’s coming, so I’ll need something to chat about.

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