the harvest

  • Mar 27, 2012

blushing admission: yes, this is six months late.

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It begins with the smoker. If you’ve ever questioned why boys love beekeeping, just think fire.

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Big boys too. Cover yourself in smoke, bathe in it; it just may keep those bees from crawling in. Have no doubt, they will find the smallest hole, the tiny spot where you didn’t quite zip all the way up…

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Next comes the fume board: take a harmless wooden box and fill it with the stinkiest, most horrid substance you can imagine. Our friends the Garlicks had to tie the board to the top of their car to avoid human fumigation on their drive from Logan to Salt Lake.

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Pretty amazing friends who travel so far to help us with the harvest.

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With luck, the stench will calm the bees as aliens invade the garden.

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But we don’t take any chances, everyone suits up and tapes down.

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First we check on Queen Deano– we’ll steal a few frames of honey from this overachiever.

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Harvesting with Dean is sheer pleasure, he notes every interesting formation, compliments us on a thriving nursery and exclaims at frames heavy with rich golden honey as if we’d filled each cell ourselves. Unsurprisingly, the hive named after our favorite apiarian is thriving.

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Next, to check on Queen Lisa’s progress. She’s been the weaker hive all season.

Sigh.

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But Dean is effusive with compliments, Queen Lisa is thriving with baby bees, stored honey and happy workers. “Oh you’ve done so well!” Dean repeated over and over. But she doesn’t have enough honey to spare, so we’ll just admire her progress and leave the hive with winter food storage.

The stolen frames are carefully stored in a large plastic container until we can remove the honey. The container must be sealed tight or the bees will find it.

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Next it was our turn to make the trek between Salt Lake and Logan– but the Garlicks always offer us the better end of the deal, lending use of their equipment, feeding us an incredible meal of honey smoked ribs, rolls with honey butter, salad with honey dressing.

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First, you carefully scrape off the top layer of wax with the heat knife. Stefan uses an uncapping fork to loosen the wax.

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Everyone wants to use the knife.

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Next, place the frames in the spinner which uses centrifugal force to draw the honey out of the comb. Some spinners are cranked by hand but, lucky us, we used Dean’s supersonic electric turbo spinner.

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It’s mesmerizing.

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and hilarious.

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The first drips of golden sweet honey.

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And now it’s really pouring out.

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The honey must be strained to remove little bee parts. Eww.

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We can’t help but lick the spinner.

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We ended up with nearly a gallon from our two hives. Dean assured us over and over, “You did really well. The first year is the hardest. Almost nobody had a good crop this year.” And yet Dean, managed to harvest eleven 11! gallons from a single new hive– the Honorable Kate Middleton.

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Erik thinks our harvest looks best huddled all together,

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but Mary disagrees. She scatters the bottles, adds flowers to the display, fusses over making things just right.

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Hmm, I like both displays, still we can all agree honey looks best right before you put it in your mouth.

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Phew, that was a long post. And I hope it inspires us to put together our three new hives. The boxes have sat on our front porch for the past week, no one quite willing to assemble ten boxes, one hundred frames from the more than 500 little wooden pieces in those lovely brown parcels. We’ll be placing them in an alfalfa field in Alpine this summer and maybe all the work this spring will seem sweeter if we look forward to the glorious September harvest.

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p.s. as if Lisa doesn’t spoil us enough, she sent us home with Salted Honey Caramels. Be still my heart– I’ve never tasted anything so wonderful.

Honey Butter Caramels with Sea Salt

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup honey

1 cup (200 g) sugar

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 cups heavy cream

3 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature

Line the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9 in baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Let the sides of the foil or parchment hang over the sides of the pan; this will make it easier to remove the caramels.

In a large saucepan (use at least a 3 quart saucepan, as the boiling caramel will increase in volume), combine the corn syrup, honey, sugar, and sea salt, and bring to a boil. Let the mixture continue cooking until it reaches 305 degrees F.

Meanwhile, place the cream in a small saucepan and warm on the stove until it is just at a simmer. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan to keep the cream warm (you do not want to add cold cream to the hot caramel or it will seize up and harden.)

When the caramel is at the right temperature, take it off the heat and add in the butter, stirring until it is melted and combined.

Add in the cream slowly – when you pour it in it will bubble up violently, so don’t add the cream all at once or it might overflow. When you have added all the cream, stir the mixture until combined.

Return the saucepan to the stove and cook on medium heat until it reaches 250 degrees F.

Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let it set overnight before removing and cutting into individual pieces.

March 21, 2012
March 31, 2012

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13 Comments

  1. Reply

    Lisa

    March 28, 2012

    Better late than never on this post! But now I can’t wait to harvest our honey again next fall…our bees are already coming in with tons of pollen on their little legs.

  2. Reply

    Christine

    March 28, 2012

    Amazing pictures!! Thank you for sharing this. Looks like it was an incredible experience. Almost makes me want to set up hives myself…almost 🙂

  3. Reply

    Mormon Women: Who We Are

    March 28, 2012

    It’s a glimpse into a world I’ll never experience. So awesome.

  4. Reply

    Cath

    March 28, 2012

    My goodness, that is a lot of work! But I’m learning so much about bees from you. I always love the combination of your words and pics. xo

  5. Reply

    Claudia

    March 28, 2012

    Have any of those caramels left? I’m coming over!

  6. Reply

    Claudia

    March 28, 2012

    Have any of those caramels left? I’m coming over!

  7. Reply

    Michelle

    March 28, 2012

    Oh Claudia– I wish! The caramels only lasted a day.

  8. Reply

    Tracy

    March 29, 2012

    Oh my. We were treated to some honey from Kate Middleton. We finished it in about 3 days. Now the girls want bees. I just want your cake stand. xoxo

  9. Reply

    Melody

    March 30, 2012

    Michelle, this is magical! And your photos are amazing. Thank you for visiting my blog. And for your kind remarks. I’ve stopped by your blog several times through the years, thanks to Dalene, and always, always felt delighted here. God bless you and your bees.

  10. Reply

    jamesrivergirl

    March 30, 2012

    Michelle, I usually don’t comment, but always read your blog. I love this post–it made me feel inspired and happy. Thank you so much for posting this.
    -Carrie Randolph-Seng
    (Maralise Petersen’s sister-in-law)

  11. Reply

    Rachelle

    March 31, 2012

    Wonderful photos and what a great project to work on as a family!

  12. Reply

    MissMel

    April 1, 2012

    I’ve wanted to bee keep for so long! Michelle, we are moving to Alpine, maybe we can check in on your bees for you this summer. We want to learn!

  13. Reply

    StobbeFamily

    April 26, 2012

    Michelle, it is so nice to see we aren’t the only ones seeking a little farm life in the city. Our bees arrive on Saturday, we hope pairing them with our chickens as you have will prove to be successful. Thank you for the magazine, we have poured over every page, the anticipation is killing us. Thank you for sharing your less is more approach to life, your blog is an inspiration!

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