Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Redistribution of Honey

Yesterday, I suited up and went out to harvest myself some honey.  We have four hives.  One is established, and had 2 extra honey supers, one is just kicking butt and has one extra super, one has just the right amount, and the new swarm doesn't even have a full set of frames.  So, having read (and absorbed) one whole beekeeping book so far, I had a plan.  The two extra supers would be removed from the established hive (called Drones Club), and I would give one of them to the newest hive.  I read about that, see, and my friend Damian confirmed it.  The other set of frames would be taken as rent payment.

I found that one of the extra supers wasn't quite full, so I took 5 frames for us, smoked and brushed most of the bees off, and put them on the porch.  The next super down was REALLY HEAVY, and very full of bees.  I set that on a wagon, smoked it a bunch, and wheeled it a distance from the hive, hoping the bees would evacuated back to the safety of their condo.

Then, I went to check on the other bees.  The thriving hive had barely started filling that extra super, so I left it, wondering if I should remove it so that it will be easier to keep their hive warm as temps cool.  And then I decided I should find the queen of the new hive, which is something I heard beekeepers do regularly.  After all that book learnin', I felt like a dope because I searched every frame without finding her.  As a matter of fact, I have yet to locate a queen in any of our hives.

After that, I had to start making dinner and being a responsible parent, so I left off beekeeping for the night.

This morning, I covered my kitchen in newspaper, because last year, I covered it in honey instead, and our feet made shlupping sounds when we walked for at least a month.  I heated a pot of water to keep my capping knife in and set up three big bowls for separating honey and wax.
Bowl of mostly wax, bowl of mostly honey, naked frames, etc.
Last year, it took me three days to process the honey - though there were more frames because a hive was invaded by yellow jackets and the bees disappeared.  I had honey in my hair, on my face, and covering anything I had touched.  It was on every knob, button, handle, the phone, the toilet...  This year, I managed to remove all of the honey, preserving the frames, in just a few hours.  And I stayed clean!  Most of this is just experience, having everything assembled ahead of time so I don't have to rifle through cupboards with a dripping honey frame in my hand.

One nifty tip I learned from that book is the bees will do a lot of the clean up for me.  I put the empty frames back into the hive and set my honey and wax covered dishes outside, and the bees raced over to gorge themselves.
Bees washing up my dishes
When I went back a couple of hours later, everything was clean!
This bowl was covered in honey just a bit earlier.

Once the wax and honey are removed from the frames, the next step is to separate them from each other.  Some people use cheesecloth, and they probably do a better job, but I used a fine sieve, and found it to be satisfactory.  I don't mind some fine wax particles in my honey.
While I was doing all of this, the bees could smell the honey through my screen door.  They came in droves, buzzing loudly, saying, "Hey you big, doughy human!  Give us back our honey!"  Feeling guilty, I shut the door so that I couldn't hear them.  It's not stealing anyway.  It's redistribution.

Meanwhile, I had the front door open, and the smarter bees found their way around the house and started coming in before I realized what was happening.  They seriously wanted their honey back.  It took some time just to carefully remove each bee and put them back outside, and I'm still finding them here and there.  They were completely peaceful, though.  No stings.
By the end of the day, I had over a gallon and a half of delicious raw honey. Not bad.

Side note: That Damian friend I referred to earlier has a beekeeping/honey business in Portland, OR that is quickly becoming famous.  Watch for him on Bizarre Foods.  The brand is Bee Local Honey, and he keeps hives throughout Portland.  Each neighborhood has its own flavor - a great concept.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Good Friends

Even though I'm generally hermit-like, I have a lot of friends.  Not only do I have a lot of friends, but my friends are amazing people. I check facebook daily, and it is inspiring for me to see the art being made, poetry being written, beer being brewed, gardens flourishing, witticisms exchanged, smart political commentary, and most of all, the adventures being had.  Sometimes I wonder, "How did I collect so many fantastic people?"

The other day, an acquaintance and colleague, Laurel True, posted a simple line: I love my life.

Laurel spends much of her time in Haiti, creating community through mosaic, and fundraising to bring much-needed supplies to this poverty-stricken island.  She has been in Haiti during hurricane Isaac, which hit hard.  Her statement summed up the thing so many of my friends have in common, which is an ability to roll with adversity and to turn it into something powerful.

My friends are doing things like parenting children with autism, going back to college, juggling work with art and family, lacking health insurance, going through divorce, and suffering serious health problems, just like everyone else.  And they get frustrated and angry.  The thing that impresses me is that each of them comes out the other side, every time, better than before.  My recently divorced women friends, now rendered single moms, are taking advantage of their new freedom by learning extreme sports and going on beautiful hikes and blossoming, and their kids are watching (and participating.)  One of my friends is suffering a debilitating and mysterious disease that seems to shut her body down.  Sometimes, she can't use her hands.  When I see her, she has a cane, and has needed a wheelchair.  She can't hold a job right now.  Instead, she is just being downright fabulous - not that she wasn't before.  She was.  But, in the face of this enigmatic illness, she sings in a band and makes art and keeps a blog and has the best sense of humor of anyone I know.

Three of my friends have lost their children.  I can't imagine it.  How does a person go through such a loss and still find beauty in the world?  But these three all radiate goodwill and strength and a sense that life is precious.  They live with their loss every day, they keep smiling, and they give the best hugs.

One of my friends was in a coma for 5 weeks due to a massive stroke suffered during an operation.  He has mostly recovered and is writing a novel based on intense lucid dreams he had while unconscious.  He could feel sorry for himself, but he's utterly grateful for his second chance, and his appreciation for life, family and friends is contagious.

Most of my friends have less dramatic stories, but are just as inspiring, like Damian, who quit his social work job to start a beekeeping company that is quickly becoming very successful.  Or Janice, who creates multi-story felt installations in museums.  At any given time, I have friends hiking to mountain peaks, kayaking in the Puget Sound, organizing for civil rights, traveling to distant countries, growing things, creating things, educating people, and basically making the world a better place.

My friends are creative, proactive, joyful, funny, ethical, political, smart, courageous, and unconventional.  They see the abundance in their lives more than the deficits.  They take opportunities when they come, rather than shrinking from risks.  They follow their passions, even when it is scary.  Being part of such a community is like being on a trampoline.  If you've ever jumped on a trampoline with multiple people, you have experienced the sensation of being lofted much higher when several people synchronize their jumps than when you jump alone.  I feel like all of my friends and I are jumping together, and it's fantastic.

Just a few of my friends:
Janice Arnold
Bee Local Honey
Bat Country
Tune Stranglers
Bil Fleming
Sarah Utter
Laurel True
Seattle Mosaic Arts
Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
Ride for MS
Ruby ReUsable