Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honey Harvest, A Wedding & Sad News

Tunita's Cria, born 9-14-12 

Yes, we have a cria.  A female from SHR Tunita (dam) and Sancha's White Lightning (sire).  She is big and healthy and was already up enjoying the sunshine when I discovered her Friday morning around 10:30.  That's the way we like it, uh huh.

But things have not been so smooth since I last posted.  It has been a while and I will blame it on general busy-ness as well as the fact that I have to get in 30 hours of continuing ed for Real Estate before Oct 23.  I can do it on-line, but it takes up lots of my computer time here at the office.  I am 1/3 done.  In addition, my elder son, Ian has been visiting since last Wednesday and we were out of town over this past weekend to attend the wedding of my niece, Krista.  So life has been kind of in a turmoil.

Our first cria of the year actually arrived very early on Sept 8th.  It was pouring rain and she was deposited in the most nasty wet place in the barn at least an hour before I got outside and she was 2 weeks early.  She was incredibly filthy, so much so that I actually took her into the house and put her in the tub and washed her.  This was also to hopefully warm her a bit.    Despite my best efforts over most of the day Saturday, she never was strong enough to stand or nurse and we lost her on Sunday afternoon.  The combination of prematurity and hypothermia (she did not register on the digital thermometer at first temp taking) was just too much.  Very sad.  She was from probably my nicest female, B'Nita and was also sired by White Lightning.  

That Sunday was a beautiful day.  I had decided it was time to harvest some of our honey.  So Sam came with me up to the hive to take photos.

 Since this is a new hive and I do not have a proper extractor, I decided to take only 3 frames of capped honey.  Here I have opened the top box and am starting to remove frames.

When the bees have the honey at the right ratio of water to sugar, they "cap" the cells off with wax.  The first frame I removed was only partially full of capped honey.  In the photo, the top 2/3 of the frame is capped and the lower part is not yet ready to cap, so we do not want that frame.  The uncapped honey is too liquid and will not keep properly.  So I replace that frame and remove another looking for fully capped frames.

Once I get a frame which is fully capped on both sides, I brush the bees off it (I really don't want to take any more home than I have to) and I place the frame into the blue tote you can see and put the lid on it to keep the bees from flying in to try to "save" their honeyI replace the full frames I have removed with empty frames.  I took 3 frames, though had I had an extractor (which makes the job much easier) I could have taken most of the frames in the top box, or "super",

Here are the 3 capped frames, ready to be taken to the house to have the honey harvested from them.  Note that there are a few bees in the box, but not too many.

Once home, I brush off the bees outside prior to taking the 3 frames into the kitchen.

Each frame full of honey weighed in at about 6.5 pounds and I believe empty frames were half  a pound each.

Since I do not have an extractor, I had to use the "crush and strain" method of extraction.  To do this, I used a spatula to scrape all the wax and honey out of the frame into a pan 

and then I crush up all the wax with a potato masher.  Once I have done that, I pour it all into a mesh straining bag over a clean 4 gallon bucket, place a clean piece of glass on top and put it out in the sun.  The glass does double duty of keeping bugs out of the honey as well as acting as a solar warmer to make the honey flow a little better.  I left this all day to get as much of the honey out of the wax as possible.  The photo below was actually taken the next day after I had already poured the extracted honey into jars.  I had left some wax in a sieve overnight to let the honey drip out of it and now that honey is being put through the finer strainer cloth.

From 3 frames of capped honey, I ended up with a total of 3.5 quarts of honey.  It is a lovely dark honey and has wonderful flavor.  

The other sad news I have to report is that at some time while I was working on harvesting my honey, Lacy slipped out the door unknown to me and killed 3 of my chickens.  It is with a heavy heart that I made the decision that she needs to be re-homed.  I have worked with her for over 2 months now and she is just fixated on those chickens and our lifestyle does not allow for a dog we have to keep tied at all times when near the house.  I would rather find her a place where she does not have the temptation of chickens than resort to keeping her tied or possibly trying to use a shock collar on her.  It really is a shame.   She is such a nice dog and I should be able to find her a good chicken-less home, preferable with another dog to play with.  She does LOVE other dogs.

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