A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Apples, Plums and Wine Tasting

The last few weeks have been a bit hectic for me and Steph. For one reason or another we have had a lot of time together and have kept ourselves busy. One thing we've been making will have to wait a while (until after Christmas) before I do a post about it, sounds intriguing! I will write about what I've been doing this week in reverse order.

Earlier today I dropped Steph off at work, we are down to one car at the moment due to a faulty clutch, and then headed over to one of my good friends house with the intention of going for a walk. I took my foraging bag with me just in case I saw any elderberries or sloes for making wine. We did see plenty of elderberries but they were generally a little too high to reach or through some brambles so we didn't collect any. I was keeping an eye out for the sloes but 3 1/2 miles into the walk and we hadn't seen any. I was starting to feel hungry at this point and as I was walking I saw some windfall apples on the floor. At the side of the path was an apple tree with small red shiny apples. Me and my friend tried one and they were nice and sweet so we started to fill our bags. When I worked my way to the back of the tree I saw that there was another apple tree... And another, and another! In fact there were around seven trees altogether, not all had apples on them but most did. Within about 15 minutes I'd picked enough to fill my bag and eaten about 4 different varieties! My intention is to have a go at making some cider with this 5kg of apples. My friend who supplied me with the Bees earlier  in the year is going to lend me a cider press, if you're reading this I thank you again in advance!

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Last night I had a different friend around my house and we did some wine tasting. We started on some elderberry wine that was bottled a long while ago. The last time I tasted this wine it was a little rough but now it seems to have matured nicely and in a few more months I think it will be lovely, if it lasts that long! It's a shame I haven't had time to pick any elderberries this year. Next we moved onto some rhubarb wine that I made this year. It hasn't had ages to mature but was still lovely and also rocket fuel! I only had a few glasses and I could really feel the effects, especially the following morning!

The last section is all about plums! Again I have to thank my friend for this; my dad's plum tree didn't survive moving allotments so we didn't have any this year but Mark let me take as many as I wanted. Within half an hour picking them I'd filled a carrier bag to the point of breaking! I had enough to make a batch of wine and several jars of jam. The best thing about the plums was that there wasn't even a single grub in any of them, when we have made plum jam before we usually see a grub in at least every 10. One thing I noticed when picking the fruit was that there were a lot of Bees on the fruit. At first I thought they were wasps but looking at them they were defiantly Bees. I've not come across Bees on fruit before. 



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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Apiary Inspection's August 2013

Though the main body of this post is about the inspection I did on Wednesday 14th I will mention quickly that me and Steph did an inspection a couple of weeks ago. At this inspection all went well in the hives. The small hive is building up nicely and the new colony created using the snelgrove board seems to be thriving though I still haven't done a full inspection on that one. When packing up the hives some of the Bees started getting rather persistent so we left the apiary and walked far enough away so they wouldn't follow.... or so we thought; we had just taken our suits off and a bee started going for my face so I quickly went in the opposite direction to get away. Steph wasn't quick enough and received her first ever sting, on the forehead! Luckily she didn't have a reaction. She was literately saying 5 seconds before how she had never been stung!

The next inspection I did solo and that went well. All 3 colonies seem to be doing well, plenty of brood, eggs and stores in each. There were loads of flying Bees about especially from the colony that has been created most recently with the snelgrove board. The smallest hive is still progressing nicely though I would like it to be a bit stronger going into winter; I think that starting next week I will start feeding that colony to give it a boost.

When I was packing up the last hive I felt a scratch on my ankle so looked down to see the culprit...To my horror as I looked there were 3 or 4 Bees going to town on the same spot on my ankle. At first there wasn't much pain and shortly after there was an intense itching. I finished packing up quickly and got away from the Bees in case any more decided to have a go. When my suit was off and I was safely back in the car I rolled my trouser leg up and had a look at the damage; my ankle was sore but not swelling too bad. By the time I got home it had started to swell and by the next day my work shoes felt quite tight. Luckily that's the only reaction I had and now, a week later, my ankle is back to normal!

Since that inspection I have made and painted another hive stand. Yesterday (23/08/2013) I went down to the Bees and separated the colonies that were on top of one another with the snelgrove board separating them. The top hive was moved about 15 foot away and placed on my new stand; this went off without a hitch (and thankfully without any stings). My apiary looks good now with all 3 hives in it but will look better if they all make it through the winter strong. As mentioned earlier I have started feeding my smallest hive. It has a half gallon of syrup in a feeder above the colony and with any luck they will use it to build up a little faster; we'll see.

At the moment there is loads of Himalayan Balsam in flower all around the apiary. This is an excellent source of nectar and pollen for the Bees. I did try to take a good photo of the Bees in the flowers. I wasn't very successful; the Bees were being too busy and moved before the picture was taken. Below is one of the better ones although it's still not great!

Bee in hymalayan balsam
 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Emley Show 2013

A couple of weeks ago was the Emley show. Last year I managed to win a class in the honey section but this year I was unable to enter the same class; it was for novices and can only be entered once. This year I had to go up against the people who have been keeping Bees for much longer. I'll cut straight to the chase and say that this year I didn't win anything in the honey class. One of my friends did enter and he was a lot more successful getting 3 awards and it was his first time showing honey. Comparing his honey and mine it was clear his was superior. My honey is clear but his is super clear; he used a much finer filter than I did so next year I will try to get hold of one myself.

My Dad had good results in the horticulture section winning in the cucumber and broad bean section and getting various 2nd's and 3rd's elsewhere. The full results are here. I entered a couple of exhibits in the flower section and got a 2nd and a 3rd. Next year my Dad will probably enter even more.

I didn't take as many photos as last year but the ones I did take are below. There seem to be more chicken pictures than anything else!


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Honey Bottled!

After my last post I had to wait a few days for my honey labels to arrive but they finally did. Below are a couple of pictures of the honey bottled and then finally with labels as well. I managed to get 20 jars for sale and bottled 6 up for show and personal consumption. The 20 jars sold faster than I expected and a few people who wanted it have missed out. With so few jars and so many customers it was inevitable that some would be disappointed. I'm hoping that once I've increased my hives up to a reasonable number then I will be able to satisfy demand a little more. The money I've made from honey sales will go straight to funding more Bees.


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The finished product







Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Honey Extraction

In the last post I did me and Steph collected several frames of honey for extraction. I was at work the next day and on my break I called the guy who rents out the extractor for our local association. Unfortunately I was not successful in getting through to him so had a bit of a panic; lots of honey in the comb and no way of extracting it! I had a brainwave to call my friend who supplied me with my current Bees and see if he had an extractor I could borrow. I was in luck, not only did he have one, the one he had was excellent! When I have bottled up all my current wines I have on the go at the moment I will have to give him a couple of bottles to say thanks.

The first step was to take the cappings off the honey comb. This was simply done with a sharp knife and a steady hand. Once that was done the frames were put in the extractor then all that was required was to spin it to get the honey out. This is a manual extractor but required minimal effort to get to speed. The next videos show my daughter managing to turn the handle and extract some honey!