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Since Jack’s been recovering from his bum foot, it often means that I’m asked to be his right hand (or…foot?). He’s getting close to being back to 100%, but there are some things that he still can’t do. Checking on the bees are one of the items on our to-do list that’s been being put off until he was well enough, the weather was good, and we had enough time. With bees, it takes that trifecta of perfect circumstances to get the job done.

Since the bees are primarily Jack’s domain, I don’t have nearly the experience with them that he does. If I did, I would have just harvested the honey when the kids were at school, and the younger boys were napping. But, since I have a healthy respect for bees, and am slightly clueless to their care, I’m fine playing second fiddle to Jack during the honey harvest.

As our homestead has gotten slightly more sophisticated (or maybe we’re getting tired of doing all the backbreaking work without the help of machinery), we’ve learned to utilize what we have. Jack got me a tow-behind, dumpable wagon for me for Mother’s Day (that’s true love right there!), and we use it for everything from cleaning stalls to towing heavy stuff. When harvesting the bees, it helped not to have to drag everything out there by hand. Lazy? Maybe. Or smart.

We currently have two hives, but only one that we harvested. The primary hive is from the Purdue leg chewers that Jack invested in a couple years ago. They’ve been going strong, and have probably been feeding into the swarms that we’ve been finding the last few years. A couple years ago, the swarm migrated to one of our walnut trees. This year, a neighbor called and told Jack there was a swarm in his tree. He rushed over, stuffed them into a box, and they’re growing stronger, but weren’t able to put up enough honey to share with us. Er, “share.”
All we did with the newer hive was check on them, and refill their feeder with older honey we don’t use, and stack a sugar board on top. Sleep tight, little bees! Hope we see you in the spring!

The larger hive had a couple boxes of honey stored away, so we left one for them, added a sugar board in case they run out of honey this winter, and took one box of honey for ourselves. Gotta salute those girls for valiantly defending their hard-earned honey, but they really are no match for the smoker. A couple puffs of smoke, and they forget all about why they’re mad.


We’ve learned from past experience not to harvest the honey too close to the hives, because other greedy insects (I’m looking at you, wasps), will go into a feeding frenzy and can kill a compromised hive. We’ve also learned not to do it near the house. The scent of honey is so strong that the bees sniff it out, and until every last drop is cleaned up, they’ve everywhere. Try having your back porch crawling with bees. Pretty cool, but also a bit scary, especially when the youngest kids let themselves outside, and might wander down the stairs to find themselves in the thick of bees.

The actual harvesting of honey from the frames isn’t all that complex. When the bees store it in the combs, they cap it with wax to keep it from drizzling out. So, the cap has to be removed or opened enough that the honey is released. Then using a centrifugal extractor, we spin the frames on both sides to get all the delicious honey out. There’s an opening at the bottom that lets the honey drain out. All we do is filter it through a strainer to catch the larger chunks of wax and bees (sadly, some of the girls drown in their own honey, but what a way to go). Then it’s into the storage room, where it’ll feed our family for the good part of a year.

The best part? The bees always find their way to the honey extractor, and clean up every last drop. Like me, they hate waste, and are hard workers. I’d say I missed my calling as a queen bee, but I’m definitely queen of our hive. Just ask Jack and the kids, ha!

Thank you, dear bees, for “sharing” your honey with us. It’s greatly appreciated!

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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