Harvesting Honey Using Crush and Strain

20160320_212055.jpgWhile my bees did not survive the winter they did leave several boxes completely full of honey.  At this point I cannot justify an extractor so I’m doing what is called crush and strain.  Further I do use beeswax in other things so I’m OK with cutting comb out of frames of honey.  And since I use foundationless frames it is easy to just run a knife around the frame and cut out all the comb.

20160321_221403.jpgTo make a crush and strain setup you need two buckets with lids and a 5 gallon paint strainer bag.  Cut the middle out of one lid and drill several holes in the bottom of what will be the top bucket.  Put the paint strainer bag in the top bucket and the lid with the middle cut out on the lower bucket.  It does take several days for the honey to flow through to the bottom bucket, I’ve got this in my basement so it is on the cool side.  It works better when it is warmer.

20160321_221411.jpgYou can crush it by hand or use a potato masher.  The more it gets mashed up the better it will allow the honey to drain out.  This leaves you the wax which will still have some honey on it.  You can heat it up enough to melt the wax which will float to the top and leave what is left of the honey in the bottom.  This honey will not have all the goodness of raw honey and will need to be strained again, however it can be used in cooking since it will be heated during cooking anyway.

Unless you have a significant number of hives spending something like $1000 for an extractor is probably not cost-effective.  While it has been quoted on the internet that it takes 8 lbs of honey to make 1 lb of wax, I have never found the study that actually show this to be true.  In my limited experience bees have no problem building comb so I’m not concerned with trying to save honey comb and re-use it.  Plus I want the wax

Changing Beekeeping Equipment

I got started in beekeeping when I was given some equipment.  It consisted of 10 frame deep and medium hive bodies.  This year my bees died yet again, however there was a lot of honey left in the hive so I decided to harvest it.  I lifted the 10 frame deep full of honey off the stack and just about killed myself as it weighs something in the neighborhood of 100 lbs and is somewhat unwieldy.  Just to get it back to the house I had to put it in a small trailer behind my ridding mower.

While I’m reluctant to get rid of the equipment I have I’ve decided that I really need to reduce the weight of what I’m moving around.  Therefore I’ve decided to take Michael Bush’s advice and move to all medium 8 frame equipment, which would weigh about half of what a 10 frame deep does.  I ordered foundationless medium frames from Kelley Bees and will be building my own hive bodies based on these plans.  I figure I can build two hive bodies from a 12′ board that costs less than $9, which makes them about $4.50 each or about 1/3 the cost of buying them from a beekeeping supply house.

Laying a Hedgerow or Growing A Living Fence

While a fence built of “modern” materials such as barbed wire, chain link or lumber is fast to put up for the long haul you might want to consider a traditional hedgerow.  This involves living material that can be as secure as any other fence that you could build with the advantage of lasting forever if maintained as well as providing habitat for small wildlife.

Too start you need small diameter growth saplings already growing in the line you want the hedgerow.  Some plants that work well at least in the mid-west are hazel and osage orange.  Something like willow you can do with cuttings that will root.

If you start while the plants are young you can weave them together into a nice looking fence, this works particularly well with willow.  Generally you can just cut willow branches and stick them in the ground and weave them into the shape you want.

In the case of a European style hedgerow you cut the small trees almost all the way through and lay it over.  A strip of bark is left that keeps it growing which makes the hedgerow thicker over time with the new growth.  I’ve planted a row of hazels along the road and hope to do this in the future.

In the case of Osage Orange if you plant them thick enough you can have a fence that is “horse-high, bull-strong, and hog-tight” in 4-5 years.  You can plant seedlings 1′ apart or gather up a bunch of the fruit in the fall.  To plant the fruit you need to mash it up into a slurry in the spring and dig a small trench where you want the fence a few inches deep and pour the Osage Orange slurry into this trench and cover it up.  This will give you a very dense planting for nothing if you can find a mature tree to gather fruit from.

A living fence or hedgerow does take some advanced planting, but it can be in service for hundreds of years and be done for very little money outlay.  Give it some thought before you clear your land of bushy growth, you might find the problem is the solution.  Check out the videos below to see it being done.



The Lost Art of Metal Spinning

I remember back in metal shop seeing a metal spinning station and was fascinated.  This is a process that takes a metal disk and by spinning it and applying pressure with a tool forming it over a pattern.  While there are dedicated machines for this, it can also be done with a lathe.  I suspect this method of manufacturing has diminished due to advances in press technology.

Basically any shape that can be first turned on a wood lathe can then have a metal version of it spun.  Think things like cups, bowls or nose cones.  It also works particularly well on parabolic shapes like reflectors.  A quick Google search showed several metal fabrication shops in my area that advertised metal spinning, so maybe it isn’t a lost art after all.  If you have a wood lathe maybe you should give metal spinning a try.


My Experiences Building A BioBees Inspired Top Bar Hive

When I first decided to try beekeeping I found Phil Chandler the Barefoot Beekeeper from BioBees.com and decided to try a Top Bar Hive.  I have some woodworking skills and a few tools like japanese pull saw and a nail gun in the shed, so building the hive was within my skill set. I was worried about the blunt, rusted saw in the shed, but sure enough, came across this page on the internet and learnt how to sharpened it with minimal effort. Overall I was happy with what I ended up with, except the lid being heavy.  However I never got any bees to stay in the hive.  Being a new beekeeper I didn’t have access to anything like old comb to make the hive more enticing and I made it with a screen bottom, which the bees my not have liked.

058This is the hive I ended up with.  Some things I think went well is wrapping the top of the hive with a skirt which enabled the bars to fit securely and not move back and forth.  In this picture I only have some of the bars installed.  I like the look better of the end boards being cut to the angle of the sides rather then being a square with the sides running into it.  I also cut the top and bottom of the sides to match the angle of the sides so they are level.

Top Bar Hive

I used a router to create a comb guide on the bars so I wouldn’t have to try doing the beeswax and string thing or try to glue Popsicle sticks in a slot.  I marked the bars so I know how much would be exposed and only routed to that line so the part of the bar that sits on the wall would still be flat.  I just used a chamfer bit in the router to create this profile.

I also created an internal feeder on one of the follower boards that just takes a mason jar.  It is just some #8 hardware cloth with a slot cut in the side that faces the bees.

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DSCN0520I have to say our finished product look pretty good for someone that hadn’t done any woodworking for many years.

However when I added the package of bees things didn’t go so well.  The bees did cluster around the queen and built some comb that was beautiful, straight and centered on the bar, but after a few days they were gone.  From what I’ve read on the internet absconding if somewhat common with a package of bees in a Top Bar Hive.  I want to get back to trying it again, but it will have to be with a trapped swarm because after two packages not sticking around I can’t afford to do that again.  This means build a swarm trap the same width as my TBP.  Maybe next year.

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