October 9, 2015
Healthy Lifestyle, Beekeeping, Top Bar Hive, honey
Texas Honey Law, marketing honey, bottling honey
Actually, I have been legal for a long, long time! As of September 1st of this year I can legally sell honey at Farmers Markets as long as I meet the State of Texas’ labeling requirements. The key change for small producers, those selling under 2,500 pounds per year, requires a label indicating that the honey was not bottled in a facility inspected by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
This is an example label added to the bottom of a jar. I snapped this iPhone photo at the Liberty County Beekeepers meeting this week. This little law change has many small producers breathing easier. To sell retail or wholesale, honey must be bottled in a licensed and inspected honey house/facility. That cost is beyond the means of hobby producers. Many small producers were technically breaking the law prior to September 1st. Small producers could always sell direct to the customer. A caveat, the honey must have been sold by the producer or immediate family member. That was how is I peddled my honey.
My haul from the northern hive was small but very tasty. Most of the honey was bottled in 3/4 pound plastic Queenline bottles. I made a little larger bottle as payment to the hive’s host. About 13.5 pounds total for this trip. The hive is now in winter mode and the honey remaining is for the bees.
I just love the feel of the bottle getting heavy as it fills, the wonderful aroma that escapes and catching the sweet drops on my finger as the valve closes. I do lick my fingers and then rewash before proceeding! Yes I do!
The honey bear actually holds the same weight as the white topped bottles.
I have the catalogs out, dreaming about next spring and deciding how big my hobby will become. At a minimum I will have my existing Langstroth and two top bar hives. Let me amend that, I am building two “half” top bar hives this weekend. I can use them as Nucs or if arrangements can be made, as a rescue hive for cutouts or for capturing swarms.
October 8, 2015
Beekeeping, Healthy Lifestyle, Pest Control, Travel
honey, Small Hive Beetles (SBH), beetle traps, winter hive
If you have been following along you will remember that my sweet neighbor filed a complaint with the HOA about my bees. Some BS about the bees posing a threat. After 18 months in my backyard they suddenly posed a threat. Under protest and a deadline I moved the hive too far away but the location is very nice. The woman hosting the hive is a sweetheart, wants bees and takes good care of them.
A couple of days ago my wife and I drove north to knock off two tasks. One, meet out son who attends Texas A&M University and two, me running over to the ranch and checking on the bees. My wife did some grocery shopping for Joe while I borrowed his truck to head over to the ranch.
The hive seems to like it’s new home. It is in a small fenced area to keep the cattle out and has enough sun under the big oak tree. There is a stock tank for water very close by. Looks like bee heaven.
I think the site will look better next spring if I can add a few more hives. Two or three here and maybe another two or three across the road on a friends ranch. I am hoping 6 hives in the area will help make the trips a little more profitable. I pulled the top super from the hive in preparation for winter, shuffled some frames and refreshed the hive beetle traps. The observed numbers of beetles was significantly lower on this trip – I like that!
Yesterday I extracted honey pulling about 12 pounds or so from the frames. The honey is dark and rich tasting. I will send a couple of jars up to Johnnie at the ranch as payment for hosting and keeping the feeder full. The hive looks well set to make it through the winter.
Next trip up I will add a resrictor to keep the mice out and slip a thin board under the hive to cut down on the cold air that can enter through the screened bottom board.
September 6, 2015
Beekeeping, Gardening, honey, Organic
bees, Creamed Honey, honey
” What are you making now?” she asked.
I have been enjoying my beekeeping and honey harvest activities over the last month or so if you have been following along. As a young lad….many, many, many years ago I fell in love with creamed, churned or whipped honey……It is know by several names. I decided to use some the odds and ends of small jars of my honey occupying shelves and whip some up. (Pun intended)
The creamed, whipped or churned honey is not really what the name implies. Anyone who has enjoyed raw honey knows that it will crystalize over time. This type of honey is also crystalized but there is a method to create very fine crystals that make the honey smooth and creamy.
So, to answer my wife’s question, “I am making creamed honey, honey!”
The process….”my Raw Honey”….- Raw honey has not been heated to temperatures that alter the health properties of honey, i.e., above 118 degrees F. Much of the commercial honey has been heated to 170 degrees F, destroying the health benefits….but it will stay liquid on the shelf for a very long time. Raw honey has also not been filtered, I run mine through a fine sieve to remove wax and other non honey particulates.
I poured about 3 pint jars of honey into a bowl. To that I added about a half pint of creamed honey purchased from the store. The creamed honey is the catalyst, if you will, for the raw honey in the bowl. After thoroughly blending the microcrystals are distributed and now become the template for the rest of the honey.
The honey after it has been thoroughly blended. Air bubble form at the top and I skimmed those off before bottling.
Filled to the brim. I weighed the jars to ensure truth in labeling. These 4 ounce by volume jars hold 6 ounces by weight of honey. Don’t you just love the English system? Otherwise it would be, 118.294 milliliters and 170.097 grams – Just love that precision!
After filling four jars with pure honey I added some cinnamon to the remainder. I think it should be wonderful!
The jars posing before resting in a cool place for a week or so.
Can’t hardly wait!!!!!!!
September 4, 2015
gardening, strawberry, strawberry jam, Wine Barrel
The first reuse of the wine barrel was a rotating composter built for me by my daughter Ashleigh and son Ben. It was a gift for Father’s Day, June 16, 2013. It was well appreciated. As a compost tumbler it was a mechanical success but lacked the volume to be an effective creator of compost. The Houston wet weather finally wreaked havoc on the support stand but left the barrel intact.
So, Ashleigh and Ben, your gift has been repurposed and is still fondly remembered as the Father’s Day gift you had intended – something useful in my garden!
After securing the metal bands with a few extra screws, I sawed the barrel in half starting at the compost tumbler door. I did salvage the hardware for a future project. I made the cut such that the back side was a bit taller than the front lip. See photo below.
You can see the darkened wood where the door was. Trust me, the backside is taller than the front lip.
The barrel had a rod run through it so that it could rotate. The hole make a great drain hole. I covered the hole with a wire screen and as seen in the next photo, covered with gravel before adding soil.
I piled a small bucket load of gravel over the hole to aid in retention of the garden soil…..I suspect it will work well.
The first half barrel has been planted with strawberry plants destined to provide luscious red berries for next spring’s jam making.
The remaining barrel sits ready and I am waiting for the boss to tell me what to plant! Yes dear, I am listening!
Bonus question……Where does TTFN come from?……hint, think HONEY!
September 4, 2015
honey, Natural Honey, Top Bar Hive
Sad story….Possibly, immediately after this last harvest the whole hive left….sometimes the old queen leaves and the hive has produced a new queen – but I wasn’t so lucky. When I got back into it a few days later the robber bees were having a field day. I salvaged some more honey but haven’t squeezed it yet….more on squeezing later.
A nice capped section of honeycomb ready to be cut off the bar.
My XXL gloved hand should give some perspective. I am still looking for XXXL gloves……fat hand, fat fingers and many, many auto-correct errors on my iPhone….that is a subject for another blog.
I am always amazed at how the bees draw comb….almost artistic in form and construction.
The comb above was not finished so it was shuffled around with the ones that I cut and replaced.
A nice pan full of lovely honey comb. It was a heavy haul.
The squeezing process over a wire rack to catch the big chunks of wax as it drips through into a roasting pan.
Pouring off the honey and wax bits into the pail. There is a fine sieve screen that sits on the top of the pail to catch the small stuff.
Temptation….I was behaving but my wife and photographer snatched a few chunks of the delectable honeycomb for her snack. One of our customers refers to the cut honeycomb as addictive…..It really is better than candy!
A hitchhiker from the hive area into the kitchen….This was one of 5 or 6 that we gathered up and escorted out to the backyard.
The second load from the roasting pan off into the pail for straining. The wax is very evident on this shot.
Here is a shot of me squeezing the honey from the wax. I would squeeze and compact the was as tight as I could. I then place it out near the hive and the next several days it is wild watching the bees from the neighborhood cleaning the wax.
12 pint jars – 18 pounds of honey and a little over 3 pounds in the white bucket. So danged good.
I think my other empty top bar hive may become a home for some swarming bees….I put some lemon grass oil in the hive and lots of bees are coming and going. it would be too funny if I recapture my bees!
August 12, 2015
Beekeeping, Gardening, honey, Top Bar Hive
beekeeping, honey comb, lizard, Top Bar Hive
Yum, Yum, Yum……I pulled 3 bars with huge slabs of beautiful fully capped honeycomb 20 minutes ago and I was totally amazed. I cut up and saved 20 3X3 inch chunks, had a few to snack on and have a freezer bag full of odd sized pieces. Yum!
Getting ready to cut them lose.
My son Joe suited up and gave me a hand. Thanks Joe.
This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off
The combs pulled on the top bar hive are much thicker than those in my Langstroth hive. The broken pieces are so good to snack on!
I separated the slabs with parchment paper….they caught the drippings pretty well but I was sure tempted to lick them clean….I resisted!
I caught a shot of one of my bug catchers hanging out on a banana leaf with my iPhone the day before….They are so good looking.
More Top Bar adventures soon!
August 12, 2015
American IPA, bananas, Beekeeping, Gardening, honey, Top Bar Hive
bananas, beekeeping, bees, cucumbers, honey, Top Bar Hive, wax
A brief one to get the ball rolling…
The garden is still producing but not like in years past. The saving grace have been the cucumbers….Can’t give them away fast enough! The tomatoes are just pitiful looking specimens…..Oh, I pick a stray cherry tomato now and then but that is about it. The other success story is one of the banana varieties. I cut the stalk just below the female flowers after the plant switched to producing only male flowers. Those female flowers are developing nicely….time will tell.
I have a bee problem now…..a neighbor that has not been easy to get along with discovered my bee hive during a recent fence repair and filed a complaint. Almost 18 months with no issue but…….The HOA does not forbid bees but apparently there is a provision that if a resident “needs” protection from harm, i.e., bees, then I am the bad guy. They bees need a new home, far away from my yard.
The neighbor directly behind me is fully supportive of my bee keeping efforts. My neighbor to the east is a friend and fully supportive. The wicked witch to the West is the problem. Well, no honey for her! I have harvested about 8 gallons (about 90 pounds) from one hive and should have another good harvest just before fall.
My top bar hive is getting full. Tomorrow I am drafting my wife to give me a hand pulling some honeycomb and honey for my first harvest from this hive. It is a very healthy and strong hive. I am anxious to have it open tomorrow and show my wife how they build the comb and organize the activities inside the hive.
Nearly full width comb and deep into the box. We should see many, many more tomorrow.
In two days I will move two of my hives to a farm, a little further than I wanted, but, I have a very interested woman that has been wanting bees. So off they go, both the large Langstroth hive and my top bar hive. I retain ownership but, will have to travel to manage the hives. The second top bar hive was not to the bees liking when I installed them in May. They swarmed and moved off. Over the last few days there has been a small football sized mass of bees under some boards in the corner of my garden….they are now in my second top bar hive……I will see if I can keep it from scrutiny until it grows to the point that I can move it.
Took the cappings’ from today’s extraction of 6 medium frames. About two gallons of honey, 22 pounds was the result. I am using my solar “melter” to separate the wax and residual honey….nice, simple and easy way to do it. The solar box has a glass lid that helps hold the heat!
I mash the wax up on the top side of the SS pan. Still a bit of honey oozing out. Tomorrow the wax will be sitting on top of the water.
The melting process under the sun’s heat melts the wax, drops out the trash as it drifts down to the water as relatively clean wax. I will later melt and filter it again through cheese cloth.
Busy day today….I also transferred my Session India Pale Ale into the secondary fermenter. I added an ounce of Amarillo and an ounce of Simcoe hops……”dry hopping”. Should be amazing once finished. In a few days I will drop the temperature down to 34 degrees to get all the goodies to settle and bottle it. Can’t wait, but I will. Next up a beer using my honey as a component.