50 Shades of Honey

I remember visiting a friend’s home when they were bottling honey from their beehives, the different colours of each jar was inspiring to me.

A few years later and it is my turn to harvest some honey.  I have only taken a little bit of honey from my hives in the past but this year was more than I was used to.

There are two hives at my workshop, one National and one Warre beehive.  After checking how much honey was there in September, it was decided to take 2 supers from the National beehive and 1 box from the Warre beehive.

Super frame

National super Warre box with honey comb

When the boxes made it home, it was decided to start on the National supers first.  From following the instructions carefully from various websites, we worked on one frame at a time cutting the honey comb out into a container and slicing it up into many pieces to help release the honey.  We then mashed the comb with a potato masher or a pestle.  Once the container was full of mashed up comb, we inserted muslin into the fruit press followed shortly after by our mashed up honey comb.  We continued this until the fruit press was full.

Slicing honey comb Mashing honey comb Honey Press

Before we even started pressing, honey began to flow through the muslin and was on its way.

We began to use the press and with the honey aided by gravity, it flowed through our 2 sieves before falling into a container.  We used sieves to catch any large bits that were not honey, this could have been wax, parts of bees or anything else, this process was repeated until both supers and Warre box were complete.

Honey Press Sieving honey

To my surprise, we harvested 10kg from super 1, 10kg from super 2 and 10.5kg from the Warre box.  What a fantastic surprise to have 30.5kg of pure honey from the most wonderful Honey bees living in Cwmbran, South Wales.

Now that we had a considerable amount of nature’s sweetener, it was decided to keep some and bottle some.  2 different types of jars were purchased and so began the bottling process, this was a most enjoyable experience on my senses.  The sights, smells and of course the tastes were fantastic, even awe inspiring and many other words that I would only find in a thesaurus, or that I make up like fan-dabbie-dosey.

Honey Jar

It was time to think about labels for these jars, it was quickly decided that we would design them ourselves and not pay for the quite frankly boring designs that are widely available or for the fees of a designer.  So after way too many hours learning about a certain design software, a design was chosen.  This however was not the end of the design story, as the printers who were to print them, needed slight modifications to the design for it to work.

Honey Jars

After many, many hours of work, from spending time with the Honey bees, research, cutting honey comb, using a press, bottling honey, tasting honey, designing labels and sending multiple emails to the printers.  This is something of which I thoroughly enjoyed, learnt so much, tasted so much, had so many headaches but would not change any of it.

“Extracurricular projects”…

My knowledge and skills are being passed around recently and working wonders.

I have been taking time out from constructing beehives and have been fortunate enough to be working from the newly refurbished and wonderful setting of Llanyrafon Manor Rural Heritage Centre, also known as Llanyrafon Farm by some in Cwmbran, http://www.llanyrafonmanor.org/ (lucky for some huh).
The work site

After submitting a competitive tender to Torfaen “Community Foodie” (www.facebook.com/CommunityFoodie a Rural Development programme initiative which encourages community groups to grow their own food).

Glastonbees won the order for construction / installation of 11 large raised beds to go in the Kitchen Garden within the Manor grounds.   A community group will be planting up and maintaining these raised beds of which I cannot wait to see, it will be an impressive sight.

So it began with the arrival of the materials required and the hottest week on record (I believe so anyway), to construct and install these wooden giants.

To complete Phase 1 it needed: 388 metres worth of timber, 600 screws, 440 cuts, 3 volunteers and a bottle of after sun (an after thought). With the time constraints that were imposed on the job, it was completed, hoorah…

To complete Phase 2 it needed: 5 wheelbarrows, 2 shovels, 3 spades, 1 rake, 1 fork, 3 gazebos, waterproof clothing, approximately 36 tonnes of topsoil, yes you did read that right and a total of 15 volunteers to help in transporting the 36 tonnes of topsoil into the raised beds.

In addition to the raised beds I was asked to produce a sign for each raised bed.  Nearby I managed to find some branches which had been cut down, so they got turned into the signs which can be found below.  To produce the signs that I envisaged though, I needed to build a Pantograph and learn how to use it

In total there was 272.5 hours worked between everyone involved, I must point out that the volunteers were amazing. Thank you all so very much to all that were involved for your hard work and banter that was required to complete the work in record time. The job would not have been completed on time, if it were not for the help of these wonderful people.
Signs were needed for all 11 Raised Beds

Wonderful to see the first salad crops on their way