Monday, August 11, 2014

Extracting Honey

Honey Extraction
This past Sunday, August 10, 2014, we took our frames of honey from our backyard beehives to be extracted down at Dakota Bees in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. We'd removed the frames from the supers the day before and stored them in the back of car so the bees couldn't get to them and take the honey back to their hives.
Taking the supers and honey frames off the hives was pretty exciting in itself as the bees don't really like their hard earned winter food supply being taken from them. We smoked the bees a little to calm them down and used Bee Quick to chase them down out of the supers and into the lower deep boxes. It worked sort of well, but would've worked better if the weather had been warmer and sunnier. As it was, we got 3 supers and 25 frames full of honey off of the hives. Most of this came off the two older hives. We didn't get much of anything off the 3 hives that are new this year, but we didn't expect to.
Frame Before Uncapping
Frame After Uncapping
We headed over to Dakota Bees in the morning with our frames. Greg showed us how to use a heat gun to uncap the honey cells on the frames. This worked very well for most of the frames, the heat quickly popping the tops of the caps off of the honey. The heat gun doesn't heat up the honey, but heats the air gap under the cell cap, popping it off. For the few cells it didn't work on, we used a honey pick to open up the cells.
12 Frame Extractor
Extractor and Honey Bucket
Next, we loaded up the large extractor with the frames and spun the honey out of the cells. The extractor is basically a large centrifuge, pulling the honey out of the cells with centrifugal force and then letting it drip down the walls of the extractor and out the spigot at the bottom, where it then goes into our honey bucket.
Bucket of Honey!
Chris took a video of this process. After we got all our honey extracted, we headed home to put the honey into jars for permanent storage. We washed a bunch of brand new pint jars and some half pints (they mail easier than full pints) and filled them up from the brand new 5 gallon pail with a honey gate on it. Filling the jars by ladelling it out would have been much messier. Now we have enough honey to last us a very long time.
Bucket with Honey Gate

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bringing in the Pollen

Today was a lovely warm sunny day. It was a great day for working in the yard, not only for me, but also for the industrious creatures out in the back of the yard. The bees were out collecting pollen to feed their young. I hope this means the queen is laying well and they're gearing up for all the apple blossoms that will be out in a few weeks. One week ago I saw white pollen coming in from the maple tree, but now the pollen is dark yellow to orange and looks very much like the pollen in all the crocus blossoms in the yard.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Kindle Kind of Day

Today is one of those days where it's best to just stay inside and read. It's cold, it's dull and the snow just keeps coming down and down. It's time to dig out the kindle and read one of the books I downloaded a while back.
A year ago I got a Kindle Touch for Christmas. It's great - there are lots of free or really cheap books on Amazon and I can check out ebooks from the library in a matter of minutes without leaving home. While I still think the printed page is easier to read, the Kindle is definitely easier on the eyes than my spouse's tablet.

I did miss the feel of a book in my hands and I wanted to protect my kindle, so I designed and made a leather cover for it. It wasn't hard, but it was time consuming. If you're interested in making a similar cover for your e-reader or tablet, here's how I made mine:

First I drew around my kindle on two pieces of stiff cardboard and cut them out. I then laid the cardboard pieces on top of some nice black leather and cut out two pieces of leather, adding a 1/4 inches around each piece. These pieces are the inner cover.
Then I stacked the kindle, the cardboard and the inner cover pieces to see how how thick  they would be. This thickness is the width of the spine of the kindle cover. I laid the inner cover pieces of leather out on the rest of my leather, with the gap for the spine between them. Then I drew around them and cut that out for my outer cover.
I used a three prong leather punch to punch sewing holes all around the outside edges of the outer cover and the inner cover pieces.
Next, I cut out three leather tabs and one piece of black elastic to hold the kindle in the cover. Holes were punched in the ends of the tabs so they could be sewn onto the inner cover.  I also cut out a tab to close the cover. I punched holes into it and into the back of the outer cover. I then sewed a button on the front of the outer cover. I hand sewed a button hole on the end of the tab.
I used a sewing awl and strong black leather thread to sew the entire thing together - sewing the tabs and elastic on the same time as the inner cover to the outer cover. The cardboard was then slipped in between the covers. This gives the kindle cover the same rigidity as the cover of a book.
All in all, I'm pleased with the result. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Bees are Out and About!

Today was a glorious warm sunny day - one of the best we've had so far this year. The sun was out, the temperature was warm and the wind was fairly calm. The sun shown on the fronts of the bee hives, warming them up and letting light into the tiny little front doors. The bees, who have been clustered inside keeping warm most of the time this winter, came out for some flying time and to relieve themselves. There are now lots of little brown spots all over the area near the hives. There was also the chore of carrying out the dead. Bess don't live very long and some die in the hive during the winter and these corpses need to be carried out of the hive and dumped. Normally the dead bee is carried off a distance from the hive, but when it's quite chilly out, the body will get dumped just off the hive landing.
The bees were also flying about looking for anything tasty, so I put out some broken up honey comb I had stored. After finding the sticky sweet wax, some bees went back to the hive to report their find by doing the happy waggle bee dance on the front of the hive. The excited bee would dance around in a figure eight while waggling its butt. Through out the day, the bees worked hard to clean the honey off the wax. Once they've gotten all the honey out of this wax that they can, I'll use it for making beeswax candles.

Today I also saw my very first flower of the year - iris reticulata.

I'm surprised a bee wasn't on it. It's the only flower I saw anywhere today. Yet some bees found enough pollen from somewhere to fill their little pollen baskets and bring it back to the hive. Look at the bulges on the hind leg of one of the bees entering the hive in this picture.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Big Birdie

As I type this, there's a large bird sitting way up high in my neighbor's cottonwood. Every evening it goes there to rest. I can't quite get enough detail to tell for certain, but I think it's a Red Tailed hawk.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice Sunset

As I post this, the sky is black out and it is only 5 o'clock on the shortest day of the year. It was a beautiful day. The temperature reached a comfortable 50 F. The last day of the Mayan calendar ended with a beautiful sunset - in the east. Here in Colorado our entire sky can fill with intense colors of the sunset. Today, the color was just in the east since that was where the clouds were. The west was clear.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tiny Handmade Mermaid Dolls

Almost every year I make hand dyed ornaments for sale at the Boulder Handweavers Guild sale. These ornaments are actually tiny little cloth dolls. Each one is cut out of a tightly woven cotton cloth, sewn on my 1948 Singer 15-91 and then stuffed with polyfil. Then each one is hand dyed, painted and beaded. Depending on what the ornament is, other embellishments such as hair or wings are added. While these are quite small, each one takes quite a bit of time to make. The other day I noticed that it took 4 hours just to sew and stuff two mermaid ornaments. I don't know how long it then takes to dye, paint, bead and hair them yet, but I know it's quite a while. Here are 4 new mermaids I just finished:
Mermaid 1

Mermaid 2

Mermaid 3

Mermaid 4