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Farm Intership: Honey Harvest

 

This day was such an exciting day at the farm, I managed to see and understand so much about beekeeping and the importance to keep calm while handling the combs. We had been waiting for a sunny and non-windy day for some time and today was finally the bee day.

Jessie enjoying the sun on the porchIMG_8470

Before heading to the hives, we prepared some new frames to replace the ones we were going to collect and placed a starter wax strip at the top of each frame. This strip encourages the bees to build a straight and neat comb which is easier for harvest, centrifuge and inspect. Get some cool info on starter strips here!

Cutting out the wax stripsIMG_8342

Earlier this year I was lucky to attend a natural beekeeping course with the amazing local beekeeper Tim Malfroy where I learnt all about Warré hives, how they are designed for the bees wellbeing rather than for the beekeeper. Despite the hives in this farm are traditional Langstroth hives (originally designed for commercial beekeeping thus quite anthropocentric rather than beecentric), they are still doing their best to utilise the hives they already have and slowly transitioning to a more natural way of beekeeping.

Its exciting just to be wearing a whole bee suit!
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Once we were all set to go and revised our plan step by step for the third time, we lit the smoker with pine needles and gave it a couple of puffs to get it going. My mind suddenly drifted away back home to Mallorca where winter barbecues smell exactly like this. Oh I wish I could stick the smell here..

Puff puff

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The hive was looking reaaaally heavy which hopefully is a sign of alot of honey : )IMG_8313

As I opened the top cover the buzzing noise got louder and louder, my heart beats felt faster and faster… I stopped, took a deep breath and reminded myself to stay calm. Very slowly I used the bee tool to crack the first frame and slide it out of the box, I hadn’t thought it would be that heavy! I kept reminding myself to breathe and move slowly (I realise this is a great mindfulness exercise). In the meantime, Josh was helping me by removing some bees with a gentle brush before placing them in a closed box.

I talked to the bees softly with reassuring words, trying to calm them down too.

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Once we collected a box of honey-filled frames, we replaced it with the empty frames and starter wax strips.IMG_8377

We slowly walked back to the shed, the three of us smiling in silence with a heavy box full of sweet frames.

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Now on to extracting the honey!

Once we are back in the shed we prepare and clean our tools, boil water and clean some jars.

We start by uncapping the cells with a hot knife (that we dip into boiling water), it makes an incredible crackling noise as you push the knife down. All these little bits and pieces of wax are collected in a bucket underneath.

Crack-crack….drip-dripIMG_8432

This mixture of cappings and broken bits of comb are taken outside for the bees that have followed us to enjoy.IMG_8498

Once both sides of the frame are capped we place the frame on the hand spinner and have fun centrifuging it for a few seconds on each side. Because each comb has two sets of cells, you need to take the frame out, flip sides and centrifuge it again on the other side.

Once empty, the comb has a completely different colour and is very light to hold, what a difference!IMG_8567-(1)
When the centrifuge has quite a bit of honey at the bottom, it’s important to not let it fill up too much otherwise if the spinning parts touch the honey, there would be honey everywhere and there is not a single honey drop to waste! The centrifuge has a little tap at the bottom and we let the honey flow out and drip onto a fine mesh to prevent any wax or impurities in our honey.

Some frames are not perfectly straight so we can’t put them into the centrifuge. Not to worry though, we chop them up and keep them in containers to enjoy munching on comb afterwards. A delight I’ve recently discovered: Toast & Goat cheese & Honey comb squished on top, you should try this!

Hours seem to be flying today. We have honey and wax all over our hands, arms, cheeks and hair…. and have managed to collect approx. 10L of honey from 5 frames.

Liquid gold in the bottleIMG_8530

Last task, clean up before the ants and more bees invade the place. We leave the empty frames soaking in water to clean up tomorrow.

What a beautiful day of gratitude, love, excitement, joy and magic!!

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And some last words from a clever dude:
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
― Albert Einstein

Love & honey,

Marina

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