It’s been a busy couple of days at the farm. Yesterday we inspected both of the bee hives to see how the ladies were doing. The new hive we split from the original hive back in April is doing very well (Hive Splitting Day). The bees had filled up the second hive box that we added when we split the hive so now it was time to put on a honey super for them to start storing extra honey in. As you may recall from Swarm Season, the original hive that we took the split from ended up swarming a month later. The population of that hive is noticeably smaller now. After the queen leaves with the swarm, it takes approximately 3 weeks for the hive to raise a new queen and for her to start laying eggs. Once she starts laying eggs, it takes approximately 6 weeks until those eggs will become foraging bees. So as you can see, it takes some time for the hive to rebuild its population after a swarm. In another couple of weeks I’ll expect to see the activity outside this hive increase as the newly hatched bees should be ready to leave the hive and start foraging. This hive still has a fair amount of honey from when its population was booming earlier this spring, and there are still a couple of months for the bees to continue storing honey for the winter so we decided to harvest one frame of honey (there are 10 frames in a honey super).
I used the crush and strain method to extract the honey which involves scraping the honey comb off the frame into a strainer made out of a mesh paint strainer hung in a 5-gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom that drains into a second 5-gallon bucket below. The honey and comb from the one frame we harvested weighed 2 pounds before straining and yielded 3 half pint jars of honey. Not too shabby for such a small harvest! Of course it’s an expensive first few jars of honey. Just like the joke that the first dozen eggs from your backyard hens costs $500, let’s just say that these jars of honey were also in the triple digits! But that’s okay, because I didn’t decide to start beekeeping to make money. I recently read an interesting article which listed the 10 principles of beekeeping backwards (i.e. beekeeping in a way that is more in harmony with natural bee processes and uses less intensive management techniques than the methods established by the forefathers of beekeeping). Three of the principals that struck a chord with me were:
Beekeeping is not about honey.
It’s not about money.
It’s about survival.
That really sums it up for me. I did not get into beekeeping to maximize production and profit at the expense of the well-being of my bees, I got into it because I am truly interested in doing my small part to aid in the survival of this fascinating species.
After harvesting the honey and thinking about my soon to be delicious breakfast toast, I was inspired to try making jam for the first time. I’ve been freezing strawberries and raspberries from this year’s garden, but I still had quite a stockpile of berries in the freezer from the last couple of years. I made a batch of strawberry jam and another batch of mixed berry jam with blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Instead of doing the hot water bath canning on the stove and getting the kitchen all heated up, Sean set up the outdoor propane burner so I could finish the canning on the back porch. Brilliant! A short time later I had 4 half pints of strawberry jam and 8 half pints of mixed berry jam ready for the pantry. After sampling some of the fruits of my labor over ice cream tonight, I was very pleased with the results so I’ll be adding jam making to my annual canning repertoire.