Saturday, June 2, 2012

a house full of honey

No one ever tells you that when you extract honey from the frame, your entire house smells like warm honey. I walked in yesterday, and in that holy time between planting a new raised bed garden and a hot shower I walked through a house smelling like beeswax and dripping honey. It's not a strong scent, and it doesn't make you feel sticky, but instead makes your entire house smell the way clutching a warm cup of tea on a cold winter day feels. Like somehow you have captured future comfort and placed it in a vase on your dining room table to tease your senses.

I only have one hive and I just recently added a third-story addition to the healthy work commune outside my kitchen window. A few nights ago I built the wax frames on my living room floor, and today I went out to set the small hive body on top of the two already full of comb. Since I was already out there working the bees I decided to harvest a wee bit of honey to kick off the summer. I brought out my 5-gallon brewing kettle, a knife, and a handful of sheep's wool from the recent shearing. After a proper smoking, I used the knife to help pry open the inner lid to the hive (fused with comb to the top hive body) and get to those beautiful frames. The bees do not bother with you if you remain calm and the smoke keeps them a bit disoriented. I used the knife to pull out just two combs from the center of that 6" deep box and used the wool to gently brush them back into the hive and off my pilfered nectar. The wool worked wonders, and since all the honey was capped in wax nothing stuck. I set both of my frames, and feeling like a fat and happy bear, waddled off back into my house with my bounty.

Inside I use a very delicate method of extraction. I grab a large serving spoon and scrap the entire frame in 5 or six scrappy passes into a metal colander inside a stainless steel bowl. As the honey filters from the mashed-up wax it sinks into the bottom bowl. It takes about an hour to be totally drained and then I do a second straining with cheesecloth over another steel pan. It's crude, but it works. I got a full quart of honey from those two little frames. I poured it into 8-oz plastic bears and set them in my cupboard. They will wait in that perfect state until teas, fresh baked breads, ice creams, and batters call them home.

I had to post this picture of my kitchen sink. What a happy mess. Milking, canning, cheese molds, meat grinding, and honey extraction gear all laid out. It reminds me that my little kitchen is not just a place were ingredients are prepared but a place where ingredients are made. It's a place of production as much as consumption. It's where I spend most of my time, and where my eMac and iPhone stereo dock are housed as well. Audiobooks, blogging, stories, radio shows...it all happens in this heart's center of my homestead. My kitchen is my playground, office, and HQ. Right now empty combs are setting in a brew kettle on my stove while coffee heats up and the sight of those things makes me feel like this rainy day is going to pass by just fine.

Enjoy your Saturday. Make something!

27 Comments:

Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

Your kitchen sounds like a happy, busy place. My kitchen is small but it is constantly busy ~ I like to bake so there are always the smells of cookies, bread or cakes baking in my oven. Our 3 young grandsons are with us during the week so our kitchen is also happy & busy. Today (and for the next week, so I understand), we will have rain, rain & more rain so I hope to work on a farm sign that I had my husband cut the wood for a month ago. I will also make some bread and homemade chicken soup for tonight's supper. It will be a busy inside day. Enjoy!!

June 2, 2012 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger PattyW said...

How sweet - and cozy. Your writing puts us right there- I can smell the honey!
Love love

June 2, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger kbrow said...

Thanks for the reminder that my kitchen is a lab, a workshop, a heaven in miniature. Have a great weekend.

June 2, 2012 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I will be making a new garden today and then after that I will be weeding my other gardens.

June 2, 2012 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Where did you get your goat milk jugs? I want some. I just sold another goat herd share! So that would be really neat to have some of those. And I have an old metal bowl just like yours that came with my house. There is another one that's bigger and deeper. I use them both to hold lettuce and kale at the farmer's market. It looks so pretty and old timey. I love that they have a hole to hang them on the wall too. Have a wonderful rain day! It's beautiful here today. Already did alot of work for my goats. That's what I do here, work for goats. And it's only supposed to be around 78 today!! No AC needed.

June 2, 2012 at 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We got some badly needed rain here in southern Ky yesterday, the garden needed it badly. We have the biggest garden we have ever grown, about 40x50. I had wondered if its too much as we both have bad backs and middle aged! But we keep pluggin along. I have finally taken a que from some 80 year old neighbors and do the hoeing early or late in the day to beat the heat. Off to feed the chicks... have a great saturday folks. Beth in Ky.

June 2, 2012 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Yesterday: (All gwown in our garden ) Froze 12 quarts of 3 different kinds of heirloom squash. Froze 3 squash casseroles. Pickled 9 quarts sour squash pickle.

Today (planned): Blueberry pie using fresh honey for sweeting and home grown berries from our neighbor. Several dozen blueberry muffins and 4 loaves of pumpkin bread using last year's home-canned pumpkin from the garden. These will go into the freezer.

From a busy Phony Farm in Middle TN - God's country.

June 2, 2012 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

This so reminds me of my mother's kitchen Up North at the cabin. If she wasn't in her garden or doing chores, she'd be in that kitchen... making jams, zucchini bread, sausage, straining milk, etc. That kitchen was always a warm happy jumble of love and there was always some treat I could pilfer on my way through (though I often didn't want to go through, but stay!). You remind my often of my mom, which is a mighty compliment from me young lady!
p.s. ever try making a honey-oatmeal face mask? I say give it a try- it's heavenly!

June 2, 2012 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Maery Rose said...

Honeybees! I hope that is next years project. For now, I'm waiting for my first eggs from my young hens, making yogurt and bread, and waiting for my gardens to produce. Joy filled!

June 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM  
OpenID dagnygromer said...

Kitchens are a place of production, the center of the household economy. Worldwide, the household economy dwarfs the formal money based economy. Plus there's no tax collector.

June 2, 2012 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

bottles are from caprine supply!

June 2, 2012 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Fresh Eggs Farm said...

We use those same Goat Milk bottles!! I love seeing them in our fridge :-)

June 2, 2012 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Tina - Our Rustic Roots said...

The kitchen is the heart of our home, too. It's just lovely, isn't it?

June 2, 2012 at 1:21 PM  
OpenID meatbagz said...

Mmmm...my father has always kept honey bees, and i've always loved when he extracts. He does it in the upper floor of the barn (with a giant, ancient tub extractor)and the smell of the fresh honey, wax, and old wood is amazing.

June 2, 2012 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger daisy said...

Sounds like the place to be! Enjoy all of your creations!

June 2, 2012 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Karen L. said...

You brought back some wonderful memories for me. My Dad kept bees in our back yard and on two friends' farms. We extracted the honey using a centrifuge type setup borrowed from another bee keeper. My job was to spin the two (or was it four?) frames that were placed in the "machine". I still love the smell of honey but never liked sticking a piece of honey laden comb in my mouth to chew on like my Dad did. Our pointer was not thrilled riding in our station wagon when moving a hive. What a sound!!! Thanks, Jenna, for the sweet memories. (Pun intended.)

June 2, 2012 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Honey extracting time does make for a happy mess. We are small scale too (with three hives). I never cease to be amazed by the work of the honey bee.

June 2, 2012 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

Your posts always make me so nostalgic...
since you are going to be done with your conventional office job and are looking for buisness opportunities I wanted to remind you of something you posted a while back...

http://www.urbanshepherds.com/Urban_Grazing___Mowing.html

My husband and I have been toying with this idea in our own yard and it made me think of you immediately.

June 2, 2012 at 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After drawing off the honey, I would take all that waxy mush and put it in a saucepan with a few cups of water. I'd heat it up, stirring now and again. After awhile put in the fridge and the wax will solidify on top of the liquid. The wax can be taken off and used for candles, or whatever, while the honey water can be used for making a marinade, some sort of sauce, use your foodie imagination!

June 2, 2012 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Feel pretty much the same way about my kitchen. Love that honey! Can't beat it on ice cream for sure.

June 2, 2012 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger bree said...

So nice being able to get inside your kitchen as you harvest honey! Lovely post Jenna. Happy weekend.

June 2, 2012 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

The bee yard is a great smelling place too, except in the fall when asters bloom. Then the bee yard smells like dirty gym socks. Jenna, take a try at inserting a tounge depressor in the groove where the foundation is supposed to go. The wax foundation is recycled and sold back multiple times creating a concentration of pesticides. The toung depressor suggests to the bees where they should start drawing comb, and you get all natural, chemical free comb. The drawn comb is fragile for a while until it ages, so be carefull turning your frames when working the bees.

June 2, 2012 at 9:36 PM  
OpenID kindsofhoney said...

I have three hives for the first time this year and am so, SO thrilled to be able to call myself a beekeeper. Looking forward to the time for honey extraction! Thanks for sharing this sweet, calm moment and image.

June 3, 2012 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Ok, so I just had to order that darling goat milk bottle. And I don't even have a goat or drink goat milk. At least not yet......

June 4, 2012 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger hayes8705 said...

Hey--are you going to go to this? We should meet up!

http://www.betterbee.com/Products/Classes-and-Events/12th-Annual-Field-Day_2

Congrats on being done with work :)

June 8, 2012 at 6:53 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Thank you for posting this easy way to extract. I am borrowing a friend's extractor for my first real harvest next week, but those stinkin bees had made a mess of honeycomb all in between the supers. I didn't want to waste the little bits of comb I had to clean up. They are happily dripping through a colander as I type!

June 8, 2012 at 1:34 PM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

Came across this recipe that uses goat milk and thought you might enjoy.

http://www.tipsybaker.com/2012/05/bunch-of-crying-babies-around-here.html

June 9, 2012 at 9:01 PM  

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