The new year…

Well, it’s been a while since our last update (sorry…). In our defense, not a lot of farming, virtual or otherwise, goes on in Seattle during the winter and early spring months. It’s too wet and, frankly, too dark. That being said, a few important things have happened.

First and foremost, we bought a house! So that makes the virtual farm a little less virtual. We’ll still be keeping bees off property for the most part, but the new place gives us a lot of exciting options for producing our own food. Among the most exciting, is that we’ve already built a kiwi arbor, several raised beds, and started a drip irrigation system! We’ll post some pictures later so you can see what we’ve been busy doing.

Thanks for dropping by!

Harvest Day Part 2

Well, it took me a little bit longer to get back to this than I had expected.  Have I mentioned that I’m currently in two shows in addition to my day job and being the beekeeper of the family?

After pulling the honey supers off of the hive that we were harvesting from, Amy Beth and I went to West Seattle for a harvest party hosted by Krista Conner of Seattle Bee Works.  She has a 20 frame extractor, so the harvest went fast!  Here are some pictures:

Total harvest?  About 35 lbs, give or take.  So not as much as I was hoping for, but I feel very good about this first harvest.  Since one of the hives I harvested from swarmed right after our dud of a blackberry nectar flow, and the other was just a few weeks behind that one in development and missed what blackberry there was, I figure that I harvested from about the equivalent of one hive.  The honey is delicious, and we’re loving showing it off to friends and family.  I also started a small one gallon batch of mead with it while Amy Beth was away one weekend…can’t wait to see how that turns out!

Hope you enjoyed harvest day.  We’ll be posting some more cheesemaking pictures soon!

Harvest Day

In Seattle we usually get to harvest honey two or three times a year, after the maple, blackberry, and knotweed blooms.  Beekeepers call a nectar source that is sufficient to produce harvestable honey a “flow”.  This year the blackberry flow didn’t really happen in the city itself (too much rain at the wrong time), so I decided to just harvest everything at once, creating what is known as a wildflower honey, or a honey with mixed floral sources.

Our honey harvest is inside...This is a picture of my strongest hive this year.  As you can see, it has a total of 8 boxes for the bees.  Since the bees overwinter on 3 boxes, that’s up to 5 boxes of honey that I can harvest.  What does that mean, you ask?  Each box can hold up to 30 lbs of honey, so you are looking at a hive with potentially up to 150 lbs of harvestable honey.  One of those boxes was from a different hive, and the top one ended up being completely empty.  But still, I was very happy with how this hive performed over the course of the summer, especially considering that three of those boxes were given to the bees as bare foundation which the bees had to turn into comb, requiring a considerable investment of nectar that could have been turned into honey.

.Prior to harvesting, the beekeeper has to decide how he is going to get the bees out of the boxes (supers) that he is going to harvest from.  Different methods include fume pads that can be put on top of the hive that drive the bees down through smell, brushing the bees off the frames, or even taking a leaf blower to the boxes once they’re off the hive and blowing all the bees off the frames.  I decided to go with what is called an escape screen:  A one way maze where the bees can exit the hive, but not get back in.  I unfortunately didn’t get a picture, but here’s the item from the seller.  All you have to do is put it between what you’re leaving and what you’re taking a day or two before the harvest, and all the bees will be gone when you come back.

ImageHoney Harvest in progress...Image

Most of that is self explanatory.  What might not be so obvious is why I’m sticking the harvested honey supers (boxes) into black plastic bags.  The answer is that bees love honey.  If the supers were left out in the open, bees would very quickly find them and take all of the honey back to their hive.  Since I want to keep the honey, I decided that adding an extra layer of protection is in my best interest.

From here we pack up my Jeep and head off to the harvest party hosted by Krista of seattlebeeworks.com.  Unfortunately it’s a little late, so I’ll be finishing the story tomorrow…

Cheese Update

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Pressing is done, and the cheese is on to the next step.  Now it will air dry for 2-4 days, then we’ll dip it in wax, and put it into our wine cooler/cheese cellar to age for at least one month.

What kind of cheese should we try next (this was a Farmhouse Cheddar)?