Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Springs and a Dearth

So we did it again.  We let a whole buncha time pass between posts and now there is so much to talk about it is hard to know where to start.  So, we'll start with some news, and then get to the backstory.

The News
We just provided the honey for West Sixth Brewery's soon-to-be-released 5th Street Honeybee Rye! You may not know this, but we love beer, especially the beer brewed by West Sixth.  We also love our city and the great collaborations it fosters.  Not least, we love local food and supply chains.  So, to have the three come together in this brew just makes us pretty lovesick. At the very least, you could say that we're excited. The beer will debut at the Fest of Ales on August 31st.

The Backstory
So here's a bit of how we came to have enough honey to contribute to a batch of beer.
First off, we've found it slightly bewildering to begin beekeeping--a hobby that teaches you to pay more attention to the seasons and environment--during a period of record-breaking and unseasonable rain, heat, and lack thereof.  We've been trying to be more attune to patterns just as those patterns seem to be unraveling.  That has certainly been the case this year.

Alright supers, it's time to go!!
tall hives = awesome spring
We just finished our summer harvest and extraction (you can read our post from last year if you are interested in that process).  A few months prior, we harvested our spring crop.  Over the past couple years, we've really enjoyed having two extraction phases each year: a spring and a summer.  The honey is a different color for each and takes on a different flavor, reflecting the changing seasons as trees and flowers come in and out of bloom.

This year, with almost every flower and tree we kept track of in the neighborhood blooming a full month earlier than last year, our spring honey harvest also came a month early.  However, when we harvested our bulging honey supers during our May harvest we found quite a bit of almost-honey in the hive that wasn't quite ready to take.

fully capped spring honey
What is almost-honey? Not a technical term, but it does the job.  In brief, nectar turns to honey as the bees "ripen" it (i.e., evaporate off the water by fanning their wings) to have a water content of roughly 17%.  Once it reaches this concentration, they cap it with wax for storage.  There are other ways that you can test to see if nectar has properly ripened without it being capped.  Some are more colloquial-- if you shake it vigorously and any drips out of the frame, it's not yet honey.  Others are more scientific--you can use a refractometer to test its sugar content.  We let the bees do the deciding and wait til a frame is solidly capped to harvest it.  Not capped? We call that almost-honey.  There is a risk that we are leaving real honey on the hive that they simply haven't had the opportunity to cap--say for example when there is so much in bloom that it makes more sense to draw out wax comb to store incoming nectar than to cap honey that, really, could be capped at any time.  However, the risk is one of simply not harvesting as much honey as we possibly could, and we're okay with taking it.  We left the frames of almost-honey on the hive.

Two things happened between the gang-busters spring harvest and the summer harvest: 1) a drought which lead to a dearth of nectar which lead to the bees consuming any new nectar brought back to the hive, 2) the opportunity to cap all that almost-honey we'd left in the first round.  What did this mean for the summer harvest?

Spring harvest part deux!

I suppose this makes sense.  We enjoy seeing the seasons expressed in the honey and February through August 2012 did feel like two springs and a dearth.  But it is still a strange thing--and disconcerting--to experience two spring crops and no summer in your third season as a beekeeper.

But hey, spring honey is the most popular kind.  So enjoy!

The Epilogue
So, now that we have all this honey, how do we get it out to folks?  Well, we're playing around with some new venues that we should talk about.

now at stella's ky deli
Now at Stella's
1) First, we are a Seedleaf Farms Partner. This means that you can order our honey or lip balm along with a vast array of other seeds, produce, plants, and merchandise from their website and pick it at their weekly drop off at Third Street Stuff.  Make your order by Wed evening and pick it up Thurs 4-5:30pm.  More info available here.

2) We've also started selling at my brother's deli: Stella's Kentucky Deli.  Our honey is already there and our lip balms will be soon.

3) As always, you can order directly through us by emailing and we can arrange the details.

4) And finally, if you are a local restaurant or the like, and would like to use our honey as an ingredient in your confections, we can do that too (see The News section at the beginning of this post :).  If you're interested, again, email us at

half pint
half pint
lip balm flavors
4 flavors of lip balm

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