Monday, 8 August 2016

second extraction

I extracted the honey from the three frames off the big, lively colony, that had been sitting in the spare bedroom since last week.  They were impressively well filled, with honey on both sides of every frame in every box.  I think that's a record in my beekeeping career.  Normally they don't bother to go right to the outside of the box before moving upwards to start on the next box.  Bees like working upwards.

I meant to start straight after breakfast, but by the time I'd done all the watering it was nearer noon, and I didn't finish extracting until well gone six.  OK, I took over an hour for lunch because I was getting so hot in the kitchen, but that's still about ten minutes per frame.  I'm getting faster than I was, but it's just as well I'm not trying to do it commercially.  The wax cappings have to be cut off both sides of each frame, then every frame has to be reversed during spinning so that both sides take a turn facing the outside of the centrifuge, and there's all the intermediate fiddling about, trying to mop up drips of honey as I go so that I don't tread them everywhere, and having the wash the sieve mid way through because it has become clogged with fragments of wax, and try to dry it.

If I rest the sieve on top of the bucket I'm pouring the extracted honey into then I can't fill the top couple of inches of bucket space with honey, because the sieve dips down into it, so I have to rest the sieve's little arms on three carefully constructed towers of tinned food.  Until you've done this you don't realise how much it matters that some manufacturers don't put indentations round the bottoms of their tins so that they slot securely into the tin underneath.  This is moderately annoying when trying to stack food in the larder but much more worrying when you have a sieve holding a couple of pints of honey resting on the result.  Heinz soup is bad, Ambrosia tinned rice pudding and Waitrose own brand butter beans are good.

I managed not to drip very much, except for one accident when I didn't fasten the honey gate on the extractor tightly enough after releasing extracted honey into a bucket, and there was a small flood.  I wiped it up as best I could at the time, and when I'd finished I washed the kitchen floor, and the soles of my Birkenstocks, and washed the kitchen floor again with a fresh bucket of water. I wiped the kitchen worktops, and the doors of the cupboard under the sink, and the Systems Administrator's chair that I'd rested the extractor on while tapping the honey into buckets. I wiped the outsides of the honey buckets.  I washed the extractor, and the pyrex dish I'd been using to collect the cappings, and the board I'd been resting the frames on.  I put the sieve and the knife I'd been using in the washing machine.  I put the empty frames back in the spare bedroom until the morning, on the grounds that it was too late and I was too hot to start messing around with the bees this evening.  I washed the spare bedroom carpet where a small puddle of honey had managed to drip on it.  The clearing up must have taken another hour.

As I was wiping the last bits of honey I could spot at that moment I heard a bee buzzing.  I tracked it down to the study window, caught it under a glass and put it out of the front door.  Two minutes later there was another bee in the study, followed by a stream of bees in the hall.  I began to get bored with collecting bees, since I had other things to do, and also worried in case they came en masse for the colander of cappings that were dripping into a big pot on the Aga simmer plate (honey saved from cappings isn't the best quality, but perfectly good for cooking and three full supers' worth will yield a jar or two).  I took each successive bee further from the front door to release it, and eventually stood and watched the last one carefully to see where it went.  Almost straight back into the house through the cat door, was the answer.

The cat door at the moment is nothing but a square hole in the wall, since the SA removed the actual flap to encourage the kittens to start to use the hole pending installation of a new cat door with a working catch, the old one having disintegrated years ago under the pressure of five cats coming and going.  As an immediate measure I propped a piece of cardboard over the hole, which kept the bees out but also the cats.  As the evening drew in it began to feel like the time when bees might no longer be foraging and the kittens ought to come inside, so I removed the cardboard and another bee came in.  I caught it and decided to leave it under the glass for a while, to find out whether there was really a stream of bees coming in or whether I had removed the same one from the house half a dozen times.

The Systems Administrator was ready to start cooking supper and wanted to open the kitchen door because it was so infernally hot in there, meaning one less door between the pan of cappings and any marauding bees.  However it was getting late for bees to be flying, and the SA released the bee under the glass some distance from the front door, and watched as it flew back to the cat door. The bee spent another sojourn under the glass, and no more bees appeared.  Once it was really quite dark outside the bee was released for the final time, and left to find its way home, or not. Tomorrow morning I must jar up the honey from the cappings and stash the wax away with my secret supply of old cappings which I am going to melt and purify and turn into a candle any year now.  Then the kitchen will not smell so strongly of honey and with any luck the supply of visiting bees will stop.

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