Monday, August 10, 2009

What to do with a super full of honey

I have done some reading. I have looked at pictures. I have done more reading. Until this past Sunday, I was still perplexed  about how honey is extracted from the super frames. In fact, it was just a very big blur of confussion.

On Sunday, I had a chance to go to a honey extraction workshop at Nature's Path in Stillwater, MN. I am not exactly part of the local beekeepers community, at least not yet.  I don't even have hives yet, so it felt a little dishonest to present myself as a first year beekeeper. The first year beekeeper, that was who was in invited to participate, not second year and not seasoned beekeepers, just first year folks. I signed up anyway, hungry for any source of knowledge and connection I can get. Plus I got to leave work, just in the nick of time. It was my turn for an admission and a 6 year old with behavior problems need a room, not my kind of nursing!

Jim, who owns and operates Nature's Path invited first time beekeepers over for a hands on demonstration of honey harvesting. And I mean hands on. We got to remove frames from supers full of honey, uncap and  puncture the honey filled cells and place the frames into an extractor and spin off the honey, triple straining and filtering  the honey into a bucket and filling our own jars of honey to take home. We also go to see three different ways to get bees out of your honey supers and ready a hive for winter. Jim's wife served honey crinkle cookies, honey popcorn and honey lemonade (we all know what I am doing today).

A honey super is part of the beehive used to collect honey. The supers contain frames and the honey bees collect and process nectar on the honeycomb of the frames and then cap it with beeswax. When the honeycomb is full a beekeeper will remove the full frames and extract the honey. We used a hot knife and a another tool to do the uncapping and then placed the frames into the hand crank extractor. It had been very difficult for me to picture this process and understand exactly how the honey was actually removed. I kept reading how fun and interesting it was and that beekeepers often invited friends, neighbors and family over to watch and participate in this hopefully late summer celebration. It was all of that and more, and yes, if I get honey I will host a harvesting party.

I left with a much better understanding of how this all works which was great. More importantly I felt the generosity of Jim and every other beekeeper there. This is an amazing group of individuals, ready, willing and able to impart their knowledge, their tools, their tips, their experience and anything else a novice might want or need. I meet Betty, a St. Paul beekeeper who lives practically around the corner who told me all about her urban beehive in her backyard. Gosh what fun, to have your bees right in your own back yard. I meet Jim's wife Wendy who encouraged me to come back next year when I really was a first time beekeeper and not a zero time fraud. She also thought I was smart to get a jump start on my education, no shame in coming a year early! I made a point of thanking Jim before I left. He must have seen the "deer in the headlights" look in my eyes as I admitted to being a little overwhelmed by how much I need to learn. Jim suggested I try and break the endeavor down into steps and stay focused on the job at hand this month and not get to ahead of myself. "For example, in March, think about what needs to be done in March, not what needs to be done in August."

I have so much to learn! Staying in the hear and now, staying present and not escalating into the future. I need so much work on this lesson alone!

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