Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Things are really hopping on our homestead!

 Wow! God has certainly blessed us with good food. Our bees are staying incredibly busy and productive and our garden is having probably its best year ever. Thanks to the strength that God provides we have been working hard to take care of everything and put it away to use the rest of the year.

  As far as the bees are concerned, during a very busy first week of August I discovered that they had filled up my very last honey supers. When I bought the hives I got a total of 10 supers thinking that 5 for each hive would probably be plenty. This summer I had one really active hive of bees and then one that was a bit slow. So it had ended up that over the summer I had put 7 supers on the busy hive and the other one had just 3. Well come August both hives were getting what they had filled up. I didn't have an extractor yet and I didn't have any more supers but I also didn't want them to swarm as I knew they had a month of honey production left. I had just had a very busy summer and was not prepared to have such busy bees.

  My Dad and brother Peter came to the rescue and made me an extractor. I had been searching around for ideas on how to do that as to buy one costs upwards of $300 and the ones at the low end my beekeeping mentor did not advise getting. He advised a radial extractor opposed to the cheaper ones where you have to flip the frames mid process to avoid them blowing apart on you. Anyway my Dad and Brother where able to make an extractor using things that my Dad had on hand and less than $20 worth of stuff that I picked up at Menards.
I had first intended to buy a large trash can to use as the base but the ones I found didn't end up having a large enough radius. Dad remembered that he had this barrel around his place (which had originally come from the beekeeping supplier not that far from here) and so I scrubbed it up good and we used that.

 The plans that I had found showed making a wooden radial frame to hold the honey frames in. Dad and Peter with their expertise in welding and metal work decided that a metal frame would work better. Dad went to his scrap pile and they found some perfect light metal to use for that. The only way I was able to help was by scrubbing up again. :-)

Peter trying out the new extractor
Dad had an old ice auger that they used for the long metal piece to go through the middle. Originally they used the ice auger handle as well (as pictured above) that handle didn't work so well so now Dad has replaced it with a short one that works tons better. We are still considering putting gears or a motor on it but the short handle (which just for interests sake I will mention came off of an old dump truck that was parked on Dad's property).

  For draining I found a PVC ball valve at Menards that they were able to screw into a hole that they made on the side of the bottom. Below is a picture that shows Mara using that valve and filling a bottle.

I had never taken frames out of the hive before and I wasn't sure how easy it would be without getting a bunch of bees too and without using a fume board.  It wasn't bad at all though I sure did get the bees buzzing all over! I simply took a frame out and brushed the bees off of it using the bee brush. Then I backed up a few steps and brushed off the ones that returned and then I quickly put it in a covered tote. Using that process I did get a few bees in the tote but not many and since they were busy gorging themselves once I got the tote inside they didn't pose any problem and I quickly got rid of them.
Working on this first batch of honey made me realize how much better I could be organized and how much I have to learn. I was thankful I wasn't getting tested on how unsticky I could stay during the process or anything like that. I was a pretty sticky mess once it was all over and everything I touched was sticky too! I was also pretty tired. Lifting honey supers around especially when some of them are above your head is hard work and cranking an extractor isn't easy either. I should have strong arm muscles (and the kids will too!) by the time honey harvesting is over.
The end result of lots of honey to use is certainly very fun! We are loving having our own honey. It is so much fun to eat, learn to bake with and to share with others.
Our first day's harvest.

Beyond bees and honey we have also been busy with other homesteading activities. This past week was our county fair. We always enjoy entering things in the open class and then going and seeing and getting ideas from what others enter as well. The fair is a very neat way to learn homesteading ideas and be encouraged to try new things out. Here are some pictures from the fair:
Some of the canned goods. I entered green beans and tomatoes in this section.
 I love looking at all the handwork and we also love entering in this section. In the picture above you can see Mara's grey and blue crocheted ski hat (First place!) and below that my striped baby set.

All of the kids entered quite a few things and everybody won some prizes so we had a fun time.

Another activity of last week was making pesto. Last year I made pesto for the first time and loved it so I wanted to make it again. My basil is growing well so I had quite a bit available for use. The pesto was yummy and I hope to make more soon.

This week the garden is still growing busily with cucumbers being one of the top crops. Here is a picture from Monday's harvest: 

 Oh I do love fresh veggies! I have made it my goal to eat garden fresh veggies every night with supper this month and except for when we were out of town I think we have done that so far. The harvests are just getting better too. We will be eating corn soon and I am excited!

 I have also been canning stuff for the winter and be sure to come back to visit here soon as I will be hosting a review and giveaway soon for Tattler canning lids. They are reusable year after year and they are pretty cool!

  Is your homestead a hopping place too? What do you have going on?


Becky R said...

so exciting. I want to come on a field trip to your house.

Would you be willing to ship a jar of honey? I will pay you.

I am very disaoppointed as my garden has produced only about 5 tomotos, everything else has died. Before I lived here I had a great garden, but not since. I am wondering if it is the soil?

Have a great day!

Jamie said...

We planted so much this year and all in return we got was a let done.Out of 200 pumpkin seeds maybe 50 ish have made it and they are so small I can't sale so I am pureeing them.
Iwould love to get bees but am a little scared.

Nola said...

That's great! How fun. Your fair looks similar to the one here. Ours is always in September.

Our garden is doing well despite the lack of care its been getting this year. So far our best crop has been beans. I have frozen a lot and eaten a lot. I haven't done much preserving other than picking and freezing berries and freezing peaches (brought up from where its warmer!) I'm not going to do much else this year as doing all that has been an effort in itself (so far 51 quarts strawberries, 57 pints raspberries, 36 Quarts blueberries and 2 bushels peaches). I usually do a few other things but this year the first trimester has been harder so I am just thankful to do this much! My husband and kids have been a big help especially my oldest girl.

Abbi said...

It would be great fun to have you come for a "tour" here. Thanks for asking about the honey. Ken doesn't want me to sell any honey for liability reasons which is just fine with me as I have been having lots of fun giving away the excess that we have. I am thinking about possibly holding a honey giveaway sometime this fall so stay tuned for that!
As far as your garden goes I do think that soil makes a huge difference! Our soil wasn't very good to start with either but we have been adding compost and manure and other natural matter and it has improved a lot. We are still working to get it even better however.

Jamie, That is disappointing that your garden hasn't done better. I love gardening but I am reminded every year that it is a "gamble" of sorts. Never does everything go wondefully. I guess diversifying is very important.

Nola, That is cool that your garden is doing well too! How exciting that you are expecting another little one too! Congratulations.


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