Saturday, March 29, 2014

Harvesting Sweet Sticky Honey..for the first time!

YUM! This was a very momentous occasion for Lofty Meadows-it took us quite a while to get to this place. Starting the adventure into beekeeping felt like we were sneaking into someones else's backyard. I felt that it is one of those skills that would be better left to experts or the dogmatic self-sufficinado that spent many years researching Earth Garden articles to pull it off. Jason and Lisa, our friends from school, helped blow off those hesitations. They have a suburban block with fruit trees, chickens and Kenyan Top Bar Hives...and delicious honey. Dave's DIY instinct kicked in and before long found some plans online and he had built our first top bar hive.
Confession time- some times the experts are right! Damn it! The next step was to buy a queen and Jason and Lisa gave us some starter brood and bars. We had to get the queen from a traditional Langstroth Hive keeper. Apparently they don't view top bar hives too kindly and then he pointed out that we were coming into winter and we were starting the hive at the wrong time. We ignored him but he was right-damn it!

Our first attempt was no good- they did not have enough time to build up the honey reserves in time for winter.The position of our hive may not have helped- under the banana trees so it would get very shady and cold in the winter. We felt terrible-like a bad bee mummy and daddy. We pretended it never happened in our shame and may have gone on to never try again. If it weren't for Jason and Lisa. No worries they said we'll just give you some more-SWEET! Given the second chance we started in spring this time and have enjoyed a good six months of bees pollinating the gardens. Yesterday we decided it was time for a small harvest day and Toby was bravely calm and helped with the harvest.
We just took the top off-gave them a sprinkle of icing sugar- used the hive tool to separate some bars lifted them out, dusted off the bees and then we had a container full of the coolest looking honey comb. So simple- although Dave did get stung a few times- Toby and I were fine with no stings. I love the fact that you don't need to smoke the Bees as they do with traditional beekeeping. It is all part of the magic of beekeeping-remaining calm with bees flying around-knowing that if you do get stung it is really going to hurt! I love the challenge of remaining calm in the face of pain. Anyway we had a little surprise - the bees had built the comb perpendicular to the bars- not how it is meant to be-and we think because we put too many bars in to begin with. But we were still able to harvest about six combs-which has given us about 2kg of honey! The cool thing is there is a lot left in the hive- we harvested not even a quarter and will leave the rest for the bees to make it through the winter. 2kg Lofty Meadows Honey-YUM!