Monday, January 15, 2007

the birds and the BEES

Dad asked me over today to help strain the honey we had extracted from his hive this fall. Big Fun!

We started with the raw honey which had settled since extraction last fall. Yup, it was sitting around for months in a bucket. However, one of the many wonderful things about honey is that it doesn’t spoil and it’s a preservative. In ancient times, the dead bodies of kings were put up in vats of honey for safe keeping.

No dead kings here, but defiantly a few dead bees.

The bucket to the left is covered with some heavy duty cheese cloth for the first straining. The bucket on the right is a delicious mixture of raw honey, bees, wax and pollen.

At this point I realized why hair nets are important in food establishments.

Wow, straining honey is messy business. I'm sure glad Dad wanted to do it at his house and not mine.

This is the raw honey after the first straining and prior to heating. In the spring, Dad's bees feast on pollen from Popular and Locust trees which explains the honey's rich amber color.

The strained raw honey is then heated to 120 degrees and strained once more. This is also the last time the thermomotor worked, because I dumped it in the gallons of goo right after I took this.

Dad' bees live in this lovely tri-color townhouse. Inside this magical house, about 40 thousand bees commingle and do their prescribed work. The worker bees clean, collect food, care for the queen and defend the colony. The drones only work is to mate with the queen. Yes, but because they are useless for anything else, they live very short lives. And finally, the Queen, whose sole duty is to lay eggs. The crazy January weather reached 70 degrees today and Dad's bees were out and about. Not gathering any pollen (as there is none to be found) but rather out to take a frass. In the winter, bees leave the hive in warm weather to defecate outside the walls of their home.

This guy was still not happy we took the honey in the first place. I have no idea why he is complaining. The average bee colony produces 60-100 lbs of honey per year.

And, here is the final product. About 3 gallons of glorious honey!

Hey Dad, we really should be celebrating! Why, there's honey beer, honey wine, honey grog , mead, a Bit of Russian Honey ......

To my jet-setting Cute Husband somewhere in Saudi Arabia, I am missing you, Honey.

Birds seen while straining honey: Kingfisher, Mallard, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Pileated Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Titmouse, Cardinal, Black Vulture, White-throated sparrow.

Alright, I gotta go get all the honey out of my hair.

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