Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Spring 2019 Honey Harvest is in the Books

raw honey

People are constantly asking me if I have any honey. Once I'm sold out the question becomes "When will you have honey?" Currently, the answer is right now! 

Some people are more specific. "When will you have (spring, fall, or some with comb)? Everyone has their favorite. I usually remind them that I am not in charge of the bees and their schedule and that "I work for the queen." What I'm doing with the bees is a delicate supply and demand dance, one in which my first priority is to ensure their survival in the coming winter.

When the bees' personal space is full of honey I add a super. That's just a shallower box that goes on top of the other two bigger boxes where the bees actually live and where the queen lays eggs. The bottom two boxes which are larger are called deeps and that entire part of the hive is called the brood chamber or nest. Read my last update from earlier in the season. 

The amount of honey I take from the bees is the honey that they can afford to lose. They don't know how much is enough for winter and never think, that's enough work, let's take a vacation. They eke out all the production they can as long as the weather is warm enough and there are nectar-filled plants available.

This season I had a lot of swarming so honey production was slow. The saying among beekeepers is that you can make bees or honey. If the colony swarms or splits in two, you get more bees YAY but less honey BOO. The weather was also quite rainy which means fewer days that the girls can go out to forage and the longer it takes for the honey to dry out. The moisture content of each cell of honey must be 18.6 % before they cap it off. Rainy weather and high humidity make it take longer to get to that point.

I ended up with 5 gallons of spring honey when it was all said and done. The said and done includes harvesting (the hardest part because everything is SO heavy!), extracting, jarring, printing labels, punching out labels,  labeling and cleaning up the jars. Also cleaning up the Pen & Hive kitchen from all that.


This year I was also keen on protecting my newly painted brick floor. Read about it here. Giant cardboard boxes opened flat worked great. 

Right now the bees are working on creating a dark honey with a lot of complexity in the flavor. Spring honey taste like, well...spring. I always say it's taste like a bouquet of flowers.

It has all the nectar from those first apple, blackberry, clover, blueberry, and honeysuckle blossoms. And it's remarkably clear. I think it's my favorite.

Right now I'm selling the spring honey and waiting for the girls to wrap up the late summer foraging. Normally I harvest honey in September or October depending on the weather.

Currently, the focus is on keeping the small hive beetles in check and letting the girls get their work done. I'll keep you posted on the fall honey sitch. You can read about my very first honey harvest ever here! 

XOXO Y'all!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Garden Overhaul: One Year Later

A year ago our last chicken died (You can read about our chicken adventure here) and as I pulled up the fencing that had surrounded the chicken run I was struck with a vision of what could be. The number one thing I envisioned was a straight line from the kitchen window (which also lines up with the front door) all the way through the garden to some sort of focal point. I promptly created a garden vision board. 

The vision board kept me motivated and on track. I hauled 3 and 1/2 tons of gravel from the driveway to the back yard. I moved and spread what felt like an equal amount of garden soil. I dug, arranged brick, laid out paths, spent hours planning, and suffered both dehydration and a nasty case of tendonitis. There was a lot of ibuprofen and I wore out two water bottles. 


Exactly one year later I've created the garden I envisioned. Now that the massive work is finished (blood, sweat, and tears anyone?) I'm having fun doing small projects and propagating plants. 

Let's look at some other before and afters: 

Not only did the garden proper get an overhaul but small things that needed to be done like removing the old satellite dishes from the tool shed  (Thanks, Honey!) were accomplished.

 Everything got rearranged and the potting shed got quite the makeover. You can read about part 1 of that project here

Now I should probably point out that these before pics of the garden are actually during my renovation so it looked extra disastrous, normally it was actually charming in all its cottagey wildness. But you know I love the worst possible before photos.

The problem with before and after photos in a garden is before and after what? Here's a spring photo from a couple of years ago.

Compared to photo in the lushness of summer.

Then during the garden overhaul.

And today.

Here's one of my favorite photos ever of my old cottage style garden.

Oh, the wildness of it! It was romantic to be sure. Some of this feeling remains. About a third of the garden has gravel paths and brick edged beds; the other 2/3 still feel rambly but reined in a bit into tidier beds.

Weeding is manageable. I can turn on the water without looking for snakes. I can even walk in the garden at night if I'm careful not to step on the multitude of toads that act as our natural mosquito control.

This project took either 27 years or a year. It all depends on the before you are looking for. A garden is always changing.

Oh and whatever that thing is you envision doing...just get started and don't quit. You can make it happen. 

XOXO Y'all!