Big Brown Box

The excitement of a big cardboard box as a child and the endless possibilities were much better than the contents. A train. A house. A tunnel. A fort. A big cardboard box could become all that and more. Colouring markers (aka sharpies) or a few crayons and a scissors (preferably without supervision) and I would be in ecstasy and busy for hours. 

The big brown box was waiting for me when I arrived home. It was approximately waist high and I would have hugged it but it was too wide to put my arms around it. I didn’t care for the box, I knew what was in it. Shiny. 😊

I had been instructed by the seller to check the box for damage before opening and to take plenty of photos.  You cannot take enough photos. You only learn that AFTER you’ve unwrapped everything and hit a snag.

I opened the perfect cardboard box down one side so I could slide the heavy object out, there was an ocean of bubble wrap to be unwound and then cling film snuggling it. The object was a film star at a show premier, smile please, click, click, click.

It all feels a little crazy at times. What nutcase would voluntarily get stung regularly, do all that hard work, shunting and shifting bee boxes from A to B and back, destroy their car with the detritus of many beekeeping operations, smoker fuel such as grass, hay, pine cones, pine needles and cardboard all have been tried and tested and littered the car as well as drips of honey, thousands of tiny pieces of wax, insects (also including bees) as well as a myriad of equipment and PPE)? That’s not all, we make frames and boxes, hammering and banging for hours. Make a mess, clean it up. Get sticky, clean it up. Splash beeswax on the floor, clean it up. Go through the many highs and lows all for little return and even less profit. (What profit I ask myself?) I did a calculation early on and figured out that I’d need about 300 hives to be able to afford to give up my day job and devote my life to beekeeping. I didn’t factor in having to buy land to put the hives on, or the purchase of sheds or trucks or fancy equipment. I don’t know how anyone makes a living at it.

Last year, was my best year yet for honey. Using a manual 3-frame tangential extractor some of the honey flowed easily out of the honey combs and some was stubborn and needed plenty of persuasion to get out. See how they make it all look so easy here it’s a 19 minute video so go to 10.40 to get to the actual extracting.

It’s really exciting for the first few frames but believe me it’s really hard work. It’s best to extract shortly after you have harvested and in a warm room so that the honey flows more easily. You’re sweaty. You’re sticky. Your arms, body and muscles everywhere get a great work-out so much so that you feel like you’re going to get a heart attack! I was delighted with the bumper crop, a box of 10 frames was followed by another box of 10 frames of honey followed by another and another (it was a really good year). All beekeepers would love 3 full supers of honey per hive. We are lucky and do not get what we wish for! But do the math. If you have only 2 x supers/boxes with 10 frames of honey that is 20 frames x 2 rotations of each frame x 2 times cranking (slowly then quickly) of the extractor handle which is fast becoming your frenemy!

Two boxes of frames of honey is 7 times the following:

  1. Scrape/remove the cappings – you can get an idea of one way of doing this operation from the video above at 8.06
  2. Put the frames one at a time. into the tangential extractor
  3. Crank handle slowly
  4. Crank handle more vigorously in one direction to extract half the honey from first side.
  5. Make sure you are rotating it the right way or you’ll break the comb and have a fine mess on your hands. Yup… I learned this the hard way.
  6. Slow down when the drum on its spindly legs starts hopping across the floor due to unbalanced frames as not all frames will be chock full of honey and won’t weigh the same. You’ll think that the extractor is going to take flight or break up with nuts and bolts shooting like bullets embedding into the walls with bits of comb and honey decorating your lovely kitchen. Just keep calm and fake sereneness.
  7. Take out each frame and change sides.
  8. Crank handle like mad to extract half of the honey from second side
  9. Take frame out and change sides to get last of honey from first side
  10. Take frame out and change sides to get last of honey from second side
  11. Put empty “wet frames” as they are called into an empty bee box.
  12. Reach for the next 3 frames
  13. Do it all again.

Time for some math again, if you are lucky enough to have only 6 supers of honey that is 60 frames and 20 times filling the extractor and going through steps 1 -11 above. Mind you that would be a really good year for a beekeeper with a small number of hives but it happens. Be careful what you wish for indeed!

Never again!

The brand new shiny electric extractor had arrived!!! 😊😊😊😊😊😊

It was simple enough to assemble, just add the legs, slip on the motor, plug it in, close the lid, switch it on, pull a lever and away you go.

Click. Nothing.  Click, click, nothing.  Check plug, click, nothing.

This is where the photos came in handy and I found out that I should have taken many more as I had to zoom into the very corner of the only one of them that showed me what I needed. One quick fix later and off she went with a whine that was sweeter than a newborn’s cry.  Joy of joys. Forget your cholesterol tablets, this is how to prevent a heart attack.

Of course, all I need now is my honey harvest.


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