Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Sweet It Is!

The picket fence is up around the new herb garden.  Just the right height to deter dogs!

This week's big event was my first real honey extraction.  Last fall I harvested 3 "frames" of honey using a "crush and strain" method  Fall honey    and this past week I harvested 6 frames and used my new 2-frame extractor.  More on that soon.

Tonight Grover graduates from basic obedience.  He has done very well and I am thrilled.  At one time I thought I would never be able to get him to sit and pose with Rowdy for photos.  Check out these photos of the 2 of them on a "Down Stay" in the yard

I ask them to "lay down" (treat). 
"Stay" traffic cop halt hand signal, then I begin to walk in ever widening circles around them.  Only their heads move to watch me.

Now I am at the farthest point.  Sometimes I just stand and time them up to about 15 seconds.  They are watching intently now and waiting for the release signal, which is a calm "OK".  As soon as I say it, they are up and running over for their treat.  I must say this is awesome!  Rowdy already knew this stuff, but a refresher is always a good idea.  I do not think they will do a good Downstay while the UPS truck is in the driveway yet, though!

On to honey!  On Friday, which was the first nice sunny day we had in a while, my friend Tari's husband, Dave, came over and helped me with my hive.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with us to the hive, so no photos of that, though it was impressive.  We took every one of the 6 boxes that comprise the hive off and moved them around to get the queen into the very bottom box.  I only got stung once, through my jeans, but Dave was wearing shorts and he was the one lifting the boxes, so he got stung about 11 times I think.  Anyway, we took 6 full capped frames of honey from the top 2 boxes and replaced them with empty frames.  The plan is for the bees to fill those frames now so that next time I go in I can harvest another 6 frames or so.  There are 9 frames in each box, or "super", that the bees are storing honey in.  When the nectar the bees collect is finished becoming honey the bees cap the cells with wax.  This is what we want to harvest.

 In order to harvest the honey, the wax caps must be removed.  Here is a frame of capped honey from which I have removed a small portion of cappings.  They can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the photo.

 I am doing this outside because the table was the right height and it is a sticky messy process.  Each frame has honey on both sides, with a divider down the middle so both sides must be uncapped.

My extractor is a stainless steel barrel-type can with 2 baskets inside it.  An uncapped frame is placed in each basket, the lid is put on the extractor and there is a crank on the side which is turned rapidly to spin the basket.  This creates centrifugal force which flings the honey from the cells on the frames.

uncapped frame being placed in basket

I then have to turn the frames around and repeat the process to extract the honey from the other side of the frames. 

2 frames in basket

As the frames are spun, the honey collects in the bottom of the extractor.  There are bits of wax that come off with the honey, so the next step is to filter.  There is a gate in the bottom of the extractor and I open it and let the honey pour through a filter into a clean bucket.

 This bucket has a similar gate in it which allows me to then put the filtered honey into jars, or it can be stored in the bucket with the lid on it until I am ready to put it in jars.

I extracted a little over 2 gallons of honey from those 6 frames!

Once the frames are empty, they are still a sticky mess and of course I want to re-use them, so I put them outside away from the house and within a very short period of time the bees have found them and are removing every drop of honey from them and taking them back to their hive and storing it away.

   They get those frames amazingly clean!

Our garden is doing well.  We have had a lot of rain which makes the garden and the weeds grow.  We have been enjoying salads with fresh lettuce almost daily and are still getting the occasional asparagus stalk.  There are little green  tomatoes on some of the tomato plants and I will likely be harvesting beets in a couple weeks, along with garlic.

I probably won't be blogging next week as I leave on Monday to go to Grand Rapids and Glen Arbor Michigan to spend some time with my cousin, Tracey.  Of course I will see my aunt and  my other cousin, Matt, but Tracey is the closest I have to a sister and we don't' get to spend much time together, so I decided to just make plans to go visit her.  It should be a great time.  We will spend a couple days at her family's condo overlooking Lake Michigan and just having fun.

On the fiber front, I have done some spinning toward the blanket I want to weave and even found a pattern that I will use, with some modifications.  I also finished my socks I started in January, which I will be very glad to have when fall rolls around.

I also plied up some hand-dyed alpaca that was taking up room on a bobbin I wanted to clean off.  I got about 130 yards.  It was a very thin roving that I was not happy with when I got it back from the processor and it kind of felted when I dyed it, so spinning it has been rather tedious (and I did not dye any more of said roving).  I still have some of it to spin.  Maybe some day.  But this did not turn out badly.  The partial felting of the roving during dyeing made for rather inconsistant spinning, so it definitely looks handspun!


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