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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pressing Matters

The bees came through this year, surprisingly...even after the coolest and wettest summer I can remember in 20 years.  My hives yielded about 70lbs in all...very lovely, light colored honey which is now mostly pressed out and jarred up in my kitchen.

As the first real harvest season for me using top bar hives, extracting the honey proved to be something of an adventure.  I made the first run using (of all things) a hand-held potato ricer to press the honey out of the comb.  It was a slow, sticky, tiring process, one which prompted me to go in with my neighbors on a nice stainless steel fruit press.  That innovation proved vastly more efficient, especially after our technique came into line.

Our process was basically to put all the comb into a five gallon bucket and thoroughly mash it with a very large spoon to make a sort of thick soup of it all.  Then we ladled that into the press and slowly applied pressure to sieve the wax from the honey.  After pressing out all that we could, I rinsed the still very sweet wax in cold water and used that to make mead (results pending!).  Then I washed the wax again to clean it completely and set it aside to be melted down later for candles, salves, etc.

Pulling the honey from the hives this year was a real treat.  I was so happy to be able to do so without gearing up....relying instead on tuning into the bees, a little smoke, and just going slowly.  Didn't get a single sting across my two boxes or the other three I helped with.

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