harvesting raw honey

honeytime1 honeytime2 honeytime3 honeytime4honeytime5So we harvested our first honey about two months ago, I was heavily pregnant and just managed to zip up the bee suit. We followed David Heaf’s notes on harvesting from Warré hives – making sure we were not going to rob our bees of their most precious winter honey stores. We only took frames that were almost entirely capped honey and only from our stronger hive colony (caught as a wild swarm in November last year). We used our smoker to extract the top-bar frames – we discovered to our frustration that some of the frames were fused to the box beneath – and had to cut them free. The bees were (rightly) unhappy with all the smoke and fumbling and disturbance. We did not really know what we were doing – let alone how to get the frames into a plastic tub and sealed without taking a lot of bees home with us, and worse without drowning or squashing them in the process! In the end we did get the frames packed for home, and oh were they beautiful… like pure gold when held up to catch the light.

We cut the capped honeycomb free from each frame and dropped them into a sterile plastic bucket which had holes drilled into the bottom and was resting atop another bucket (to form a sieve) – we then crushed the comb with a potato masher, covered it and left it to strain through in a warmish place by a window for a few days. The trickiest part was ever-so-slightly heating the honey to help it pour but not above 39’c (when honey is no longer “raw” and will dramatically loose most of its nutritional, antibacterial and anti fungal properties) – we left the bucket in front of our heater for a while, turning it every so often – till it reached hive temperature (35’c) and was more pourable. The second strain was then in a cheesecloth lined colander over a 5 litre jug for pouring the honey directly into our jars. All the leftover globs of virgin propelis and pollen was kept aside in a container for beeswax rendering and mead making (which is now happily fermenting as we speak!)

In all, we harvested about 9 kilos of raw honey and 1 kilo of virgin beeswax, with 6 litres of mead fermenting – it was a very sticky (albeit sweet) business, and a big learning curve for us. We see how we will manage things differently next time – but are so thankful to our bee friends for their efforts in producing such a beautiful, healthful, caramel, liquid gold…

p.s. a few jars of our raw honey are still for sale here.

our shop

honeytime6 honeytime7soap1soap6We are very excited to announce we now have an online shop for some of farm produce – find it here – or simply click the shop tab above. We look forward to making our seasonal produce available throughout the year. So far we have jars of our raw cold-pressed honey and bars of cold-process soap for sale. The soaps are made using pure beeswax and lard from some of the happiest free-range pigs you ever did meet – they are subtly fragrant of chocolate, honey and oatmeal and extremely gentle on the skin.

A May Update

IMG_0084 IMG_7377 IMG_7381 IMG_7763 IMG_7758 IMG_7771 IMG_7804IMG_7802Oh! So much has passed in the two months since our last blog post… we held three successful market stalls, harvested our first batch of raw cold-pressed honey (about 9 kilos worth), welcomed 300 day-old broiler chicks in to brood, moved our laying pullets out onto the pasture with their spiffy new mobile laying house, and not long afterwards moved the broiler chicks into their newly constructed pens on the grass, processed our first batch of deliciously plump pastured chicken, oh and had ourselves a beautiful baby boy – Beren Argyle – who is now six-weeks-old!

It’s been a truly busy Autumn and at times hard to keep up with all that needs attending to.

Lately, I’ve been re-reading poet, philosopher, farmer Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America and been so throughly challenged and inspired by his essays on culture and agriculture. He penned them over thirty years ago – his words, still so relevant:

“What we are working of, I think, is an authentic settlement and inhabitation of our country. We would like to se all human work lovingly adapted to the nature of the places where it is done and to the real needs of the people by whom and for whom it’s done. We do not believe that any violence to places, to people, or to it’s creatures is “inevitable”. We believe that the industrial ideology is wrong because it obscures and disrupts this necessary work of local adaption or home making… our effort to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth will last as long as our species”