We've survived our first year of Bee-Keeping on the Lake!
And what a year it's been... like, what have we gotten into kind of real! Lots of work, and... yes, we've had a sting or two. But, oh, the rewards!
That honey... truly, it is beyond sweet! To be sure, we never imagined we would find ourselves tending thousands of bees when a happenstance encounter to purchase a jar of honey took us off the beaten path last year.
So. if you're new to our neck of the woods, here's the scoop...
For years, we homesteaded our beautiful 30 acres in North Texas with a herd of cashmere goats... I know... just so adorably cute, those baby kids...
In Texas, livestock and other agricultural activities allow the homeowner to qualify for the agricultural exemption on your property taxes... so not only did we enjoy our little cashmere goat business, we also received a tax break... Win-Win!
Then enter the most happy of chance encounters... a neighboring beekeeper just happened to hang a banner on his gate selling his local honey, and during that first purchase of several jars the conversation was off and running... Over the ensuing weeks we learned that Beekeeping also qualifies as an agricultural exemption and more importantly we found ourselves a perfect beekeeping mentor in Byron. He has taught us the basics of beekeeping and we have been more than grateful for his patience and wisdom and friendship through it all.
And, so the small beginnings of Brushy Creek HoneyBee Farms! (And there are pictures... you guessed?!)
Preparing the hive boxes came first,
a weekend of prepping and painting...
9 Hives ready to go!
Trying out our new Bee-suits... and praying they're Bee-Proof!
Next up... buying our Bee Nucs...
An exciting day for these new beekeepers!
A Bee Nucleus is a small starter colony of Bees... who knew?!
They came in small "hive" boxes that we loaded up in the back of our pick-up and then trekked on home...
and yes, there was lots of buzzing and a few loose bees!
It was getting real!
Once we got home with our Bee Nucs
it was time to transfer them to our prepared hives.
There was lots of sweating going on under those bee keeping suits, just sayin'!
Each starter nuc was packed with several hundred bees,
and they weren't too happy when we opened the box up!
The hives consist of wooden frames filled with wax sheets for the bees to build up their honeycomb... this comb is then filled with one of three things:
1. Brood (the Queen lays eggs which hatch into larvae and finally pupate into baby bees)
2. Pollen (to feed the larvae so they will grow up to be good bees)
3. Nectar (which the bees magically turn into honey)
Once the Nucs were transferred to their new homes,
life settled down to weekly hive inspections and sugar water feedings...
the sugar water gives the new hives a chance to get a good start, allowing the hive to grow and become established even though the nectar flow was short this past spring.
Each week we would check the hives and as the number of bees grew,
we added boxes to the tower to accomodate these growing numbers.
Our clover field took off well and we had a
bumper crop of bees enjoying the bounty!
The butterflies enjoyed it too!
Each week we watched as the comb filled with more and more honey...
Honeybees have an amazing ability to sense when the honey is at exactly the right moisture content to cap it off... here you can see the whiter, waxy cappings on this frame... getting closer and closer to harvest time!
And it's time!
The frames are all around 80% or more capped,
Byron said it's Harvest Time!
Byron graciously allowed us to use his equipment this first harvest,
so we gathered our frames of sweet, gooey, golden goodness
and headed to his place.
First, we took each frame and gently uncapped the comb,
or basically cut the wax off with a serrated knife!
Then we placed the frames in the honey extractor...
It's a manual, centrifugal-type extractor,
we both took turns cranking it...
the spinning of the tub flings the honey to the outside walls and then down to the bottom of the tub where it flows out into our waiting bucket...
Several hours later, we had our first offical harvest total...
17.80 pounds of honey!
We took that delicious bucket of honey home and continued to run it through 2 more filters before bottling it up for friends and family...
Of course, there were lots of quality control samplings along the way!
Mouth-watering deliciousness... those honeybees know their stuff!!
The sweetest of joys to taste our very own honey!
May your week be filled with sweet harvests of your own,