Friday, November 23, 2012

Sticky to my armpits, worth it?

No one prepared me for this part of beeing a BEEK. I had thought about the end result of the year's worth of work & expense. Let's face it, of course you do! Since I had only 5 frames that I kept out, I thought how much work can this be to extract. My first thought as a TOTALLY self absorbed, instant gratification-drive-through-happy-meal American is, well, I'll take it somewhere and have it done. Now, where's the fun in that? Or the stickiness for that matter. Ha.
I pulled that honey about 3 weeks ago, and kept him-hawing about with it. Opening it, looking at it, making some phone calls or posts to friends (beeks) about how to go about processing it.... Finally, I was told for the small amount I have it's simply not worth it to go have it extracted. Uh-Oh.... now what? SO.... I got the instructions (out of a book, off of boards and asked my friend Greg @ Dakota bees) on how to do this. I assembled my equipment. Which consists of a sturdy kitchen spatula, a food grade bucket with a spigot (what do you know I had one from my days in the wine business!), a painter's screen, a large glass bowl, colander, a tub that I stored the frames in, and elbow grease.  I'm not all the way done, but here's the deal. Did I mention this is sticky sticky messy work? Well, it is.

I'm OVER it! Seriously. I've been fooling with it for 5 days now, because it gets cold and I have to stop because DUH... I couldn't figure out why it wasn't flowing, until Greg casually mentioned a space heater.... well, shoot, no wonder, my honey was cold. So.... take 2 or 3 I forget which. I finally decided that I will sacrifice the comb, I hate to do that since I really wanted to try to let my girls have it for next year or seed a new hive, but can't be helped. This year I'll start feeding them early so they can get going on the comb. I digress...

My Sainted son, Christopher took some amazing pictures as I've been dealing with this. So rather than bore the pants off you, here are the pictures. I will say I'm still not to the jarring point, I have yet to finish this monstrous job, and we had a holiday and I forgot to buy jars before black friday, not going out!
on try one, I tried cutting the caps off the top of the comb and letting gravity have it... em, nope. 

So, as you can see, I scraped it off the frame to the base. 
Really pretty! 

now I smooshed it onto the painter's screen 

I was captivated at how pretty it was 

add more elbow grease, you're not done yet! 

it's harder than it looks. 
sitting in the sun it dripped really nicely 

this is what was left on the frame, can't leave that. 

Yep, I'm very very sticky. 

gotta little jar from the stuff in the bottom of the tub

afore mentioned sainted child who loves honey and I did this for
him because he has such bad allergies. Let's see if the raw honey works! 

big pile of comb that is sitting on top of  the painter's sceen
atop the bucket, atop hot oven to drip 

And it's dripping quite well now 
I have about 3 gallons of honey so far, and the spent comb is in the colander still dripping what I can get out of that into the big bowl. Once the comb is as clean as I can get it, debating if I should press it through a new pair of panty hose (washed once to rid them of chemicals) or not. Once the comb is as clean as I can get it, I'll put in the tub for the bees to reclaim what they can. I plan on using the comb for lotion and lip balm. I'll post about that later. I'm dedicated to only giving local and home made gifts this year, at "worst" things made in the USA, because if you're gonna talk the talk, walk the walk. Somehow given the number of requests for honey I have gotten, I really don't think people will mind a gift I worked so hard on and is clearly full of love. You can't smell my house through this blog, but if you could you'd be amazed at how GOOD fresh raw honey actually smells.

Till next time when we foray into the adventures of lip balm and lotion....

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First year costs for New Beekeepers

The hive I got for free 
Tyvex suit
I've been out of the loop so I apologize it's been a bit since I blogged about the bees. A couple of things, first off, I'm developing an allergy to the bees, which is not good. I've taken a lot of stings this year especially in the past couple months. I have broken down and bought a Tyvex suit until I can raise the funds for a real suit. I've found some online for around $70, so it's on the Christmas list. So far the Tyvex (around $10) works great, but it's FAR too hot for use during the summer months, if I am going to have bees next year (and I plan on it) I will HAVE to have a protective suit due to the reactions I've had to the stings, more on that further down.

OK, so when I last left you in my bee blog I was off my feet. Had on a cast about half the summer! :(
I'm concerned that my bottom box is going to be a bit of a mess when I dig in once it's spring, but at this point, it's too late in the year to open and do one more cleaning. Even though we are 77 degrees in Denver by the way. I likely could get in there but I will opt not to since we do have a storm moving in tomorrow and I'd rather not disturb my girls. I am putting my mouse guard on today also because even though I have 3 cats, everyone I've talked to has warned me that mice are wily and they WILL get in, and they can ruin your hive! I'm simply waiting on a run over to pick one up when the store here in town opens. My husband says he can make me one, but they are so inexpensive and he's been traveling that I am going to put it on myself. Hopefully I'll post a picture of that.

As I ended up with 2 deep supers and 1 med super of honey I took only 4 frames of honey out. I know that I could have taken more, but I decided to err on the side of caution as a first time bee keeper who really wants my hive to thrive and hopefully split it next year. I am going to try out a top bar hive next year. What I really want to convey in this blog entry is my experience with my first year of beekeeping.

In that spirit I'm doing a loose breakdown of the return on investment. Mind you, my investment was not based on what I could sell honey or honey products for. This is strictly a hobby for me, but I have many friends who have asked me about how much I've spent on this little hobby and also it's a good breakdown for someone who is thinking of giving it a whirl.

So, way back in January of last year my overworked holiday brain started thinking of ways to annoy the heck outta my husband. Given that we have a small house with a smallish yard, we opted to pull out the back yard 5 years ago and put in a full vegetable garden. Which we have done successfully and enjoy our oasis every year. Each year I like to sit in the garden and watch bees do their thing. Well, being January, Tree put up for a whole year, I decided to check out some books on beekeeping and peruse the internet. I ended up buying 3 books on bees, I figure about $30 worth. Then, well, if I was going to have books I then decided I had to have magazines, such as Grit, which added another $20 so all in all publications, $50

I wanted to take a class, which I found online Craig's list for FREE :) Awesome!
I ordered my bees, a package of local bees here from a longmont beekeeper with 30+ yrs of beekeeping and queen rearing experience. $120 for the package + marked queen.

Then, I got very stressed out because money became a BIG issue due to a lay off, so I had bees on the way, but OMG, NO HIVE.... SO, I put an add on Craig'slist asking if anyone had an old hive they would be willing to give me, AND SHAZAM! I got an old hive. All med supers pretty beat up, but I put it in the oven on low heat made sure there were no lingering parasites, blow torched the pieces that were too big for the oven. The frames had no base, so I was going to need to get that but otherwise... pretty good.
Well...then my hubby got a job and I was able to afford a new hive, saving the old one for hopefully a split next year. The new hive cost $250 that included a front feeder, 2 deep supers, inner lids, a base and an outer lid.

I got some cinderblocks to keep the hive on, $5 for 2
I needed a strap to keep the box tight and closed, $12
So far I've used 2 25 lb bags of sugar + 2 5 lb bags, for about $40 worth of sugar
My tools I ordered online, a hive tool, a smoker, a frame holder, brush, 2 veils, a pair of sheepskin gloves $120
I also ordered an extra set of med super frames with bases for the old frame, which as it turns out I didn't even need, but now I have them for next year. $100 (10 of them)
I had to buy jars 12 for $10 (8oz)
I needed a tub and a bucket for collecting the honey, I don't have an extractor. $15
Mouse guard $5
I have moved to a top feeder, but I made it myself, so it was only $2 or so.
Tyvex suit $10 (I recommend you get a bee suit, you can make it to start with a Tyvex or long pats and light colored hoodie, but you NEED a veil)
I also have a spray bottle for sugar water $2

I think that's about it. So my total outlay so far has been $714 (wow, that is a lot more than I thought!)
Right now, I have 4 frames of honey, I'd say about 30lbs to process. I haven't been able to get to the extractor and the honey is still capped in a tub in the cold garage. I will have to process that and so far I've accounted for what all I will spend. I do have to get some little containers for homemade lip balm.

So there you have it, $714 and hours of entertainment, enjoyment and fun. Totally worth it.
Now, before some of you gasp, remember I have 2 hives, and totally plan on either buying a second package of bees or splitting mine, my hive IS strong.
I know I will also buy a bee suit for $75 or so. Maybe I'll see if there is a used one online I can find over the winter.

So, I am not selling any honey this year, I have gifts for the holidays of balms and jars of honey.

Now, I talked about getting stung a lot this fall, and it's true, even with a lot of smoke and the tyvex suit I 've taken a lot of stings in the past month. I took 7 in one day, which was SO random! As you can see, I got one RIGHT in the face, and I'm totally swelled up! Insane!

Well, I hope to post again sooner than later when I get my lip balm and honey put up. If not I'll try to keep other new'bees" posted on my progress as the winter goes along. Not much to do really. I'll certainly post when I start working them again in the spring.

Happy Holidays!