Monday, October 8, 2012

Harvesting Honey (Part 1)


Sixty Thousand Reasons to Do Something Different… 

Summer is over and it’s time to harvest the honey.  I stand in front of a very strong bee hive.  You can tell its health because of the large number of honey bees that are whizzing around the entrance.   The hive itself vibrates from the activity inside.  I must pry the roof off but I hesitate.  There are so many other things I could be doing right now I think.   ”Just take a deep breath”; says Trisha.  She’s right.  If I stay calm the bees will respond in kind … at least in theory.  What worries me is that I’ve got no smoke.    Working the bees is easier when you have smoke.  Blowing a few puffs from a canister of burning pine needles can completely distract them.  It seems crazy but it’s really very simple.   When the bees detect smoke they think the same thing you and I do.  Fire!  Get out of the house!  Instead of grabbing the family photo album, bees grab honey.  If you’re going to leave a burning hive it makes sense to tank up.  But filling up on honey means you need to poke holes in the lids of the wax cells that act as storage containers.  What a mess this makes for the person that’s trying to remove the frames.  So they only thing that stands between me and sixty thousand stingers is a way to thin white cotton suit, vale and gloves.
I take a deep breath and with a “crack” the hive lid pops off.  I peek inside and see hundreds and hundreds of little fuzzy brown and yellow stripped honey bees staring back at me.  Suddenly somebody turns up the volume.   What started out as a low hum turns into a roar as more and more bees make their way to the top to figure out what happened to their roof? 
Trisha and I work fast.  I remove the frames and gently brush the bees off and back into the hive.  Trisha takes the frames from me and puts them into a sealed box.  If you don’t hide the frames, the bees will swarm them as they work to take the honey back.
After removing 27 frames from the hive, we guess that we will get about 75 pounds of honey.  The next step is to extract the honey from the frames, filter it and then pour it into jars.   But before we process the honey I hold one of the frames up to the sun.  The light causes the wax and the liquid it contains to glow.
The payoff will come this winter when it is freezing cold and dark.  Trisha and I will brew a pot of tea and settle down next to the wood stove.  We will spoon in some golden honey and think of summer sunshine and the flowers that the bees visited while gathering the nectar.

So if you want to do something different, I can think of 60,000 wonderful little fuzzy, yellow and brown stripped reasons that are sure to bring summer sun to the coldest and darkest winter day.
Honey = Joy

- Chris