Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Extracting: Take One

Finally we get to use the extractor. We have enough honey this year to make good use of this fun piece of equipment. We have five full boxes of honey to pull, some deeps and some shallows. Since we are hosting an extracting party on Labor day we wanted to have a dry run today. Mostly I wanted to pull from the the uncapped frames or minimally capped frames to check our moisture content. I have had the boxes in a closet for a few weeks with a dehumidifier trying to lower the moisture content. When I checked it two weeks ago it was about 18.9, not low enough for my comfort. Today, so far we are measuring between 15 and 16.5. I couldn't be happier. I can tell too, the honey is thick and slow, not thin and runny.

As you can see I am nearly giddy. I got a new electric uncapping knife and it is the bomb!! So much easier and faster than the knife we have been using which is a standard uncapping knife that has to be heated in hot water every time you take a swipe. This just pulls the capping off and it drops down into our uncapping tank. There is a fair amount of honey in the caps so we will let it drain for a few days, strain the honey and the wax capping debris and then freeze the wax for candles later in the fall. Paula was much better at uncapping than I was. It isn't as easy as it looks and you don't really want to go too deep with the knife. Below you can see a frame Paula is working on that is really dark. This frame is from a brood box and is full of pollen! The honey has a slightly more robust taste to it as well, based on the finger full I took.

Once we had three frames completely de-capped we slipped them into the extractor. We have a tangential crank extractor that is basically a centrifuge with a cage inside a drum to hold the frames and then spun round to throw the honey out of the cells by centrifugal force. The honey runs down the inside of the drum and is drawn off into a container through a gate at the bottom. Both the electric knife and the extractor help preserve the structure of the combs so they can be replaced in a hive after extraction. It saves the bees a great deal of work! We will also return the extracted frames to the bees so they can clean them up as well.

We like to strain our honey and I think most people appreciate that. So the honey leaves the extractor and goes into a five gallon bucket that has a series of mesh strainers. The honey passes through the strainers but the bits and pieces of wax, comb and bees stay behind. The five gallon bucket has a gate  from which we can dispense honey into jars. I must say, we have a nice little operation going here. The cats stayed out our our business and we finished about a box and a half in less than four hours. It was a great dry run.

 I did a few things to make the process run smoothly. Since our honey room is essentially our back room in our condo I  cleaned everything out but our extracting equipment. I set up a long table with all of our supplies, pales, strainers and equipment including a crock pot set on the keep warm mode full of steaming water and a pile of wash cloths to help keep our hands clean. I covered door knobs in plastic wrap and put newspaper down on the floor, keeping a stack of newspaper handy to cover any honey drippings. The last thing you want is to track honey through the house on your shoes. We made far less of a mess than our previous two years and crock pot was pure genius.

I am glad we are having a party, mostly to get some help with the labor of extracting the honey but also because it will be a really fun way to end the summer.


Anonymous said...

Wow, a few hours out of the house.....sorry I missed it but the pics are great and it's fun to get the blow by blow.

GFGidget said...

Gorgeous pictures! The honey looks amazing!