A little while ago one of the area Hy-Vees started to put up these attractive "buy local" biographies for a number of their producers--this one was in Iowa City where we have honey in all of their stores:
They have also started posting "dietician's choice" signs that often promote local products as well. This is all further evidence about the return to more local options rather than depending on mass distributors to fill the shelves. It's a much different (and I hope healthier and happier) market than when we started selling direct to stores in the 1990s!
These types of signs have also reminded me of the measuring stick conundrum. For example, the sign from Hy-Vee states that the honey is sourced from Lynnville, 79 miles away. That is specifically our bottling location, whereas the bees and their honey production are situated elsewhere. About two hundred of my hives are distributed in locations within 15 minutes of this particular store, but that's rather difficult to communicate to the customer A lot of honey buyers in recent years have been encouraged to buy honey within 15 miles of their home in order to get the benefits of the most local floral exposures. It would be difficult to quantify the exact distance of our honey from the buyer in a realistic way since we have about 60 hive locations. Still, I'm obviously thankful for the time and interest that goes into this sort of marketing!
I'm going through my photo files from 2016, and I see that there are some fun ones that deserve a place in cyberspace.
First, I had the intriguing experience of spotting one of my bees making friends with the happy bee box that serves USPS at my place:
My son Andrew donned a bee costume for two of his first three Halloween experiences. This year he turned into a worker of a bee during the Halloween barn bash. Way to break bee-based gender roles! No one loves muck rakes and their ability to make piles more than this guy!
Of course he earned a refueling break:
He has already started asking for a different type of bee suit. I haven't invested in a proper set of beekeeping overalls with veil for him, but that doesn't stop him from checking the bees from time to time. He sometimes gets to look in live hives with daddy, but here I had him practicing with an empty nuc:
It's never too soon to get comfortable with a hive tool!
I once again got buried in the fall and early winter, so the 2016 harvest achievement is going up on the blog in Jan. 2017. The university life, honey harvest, and winter preparations always make for a life fully lived! Now in post-holiday mode, I see that I did not follow through on showing the extracting room at an operational point. Here are a couple of photos I took once there was honey in the system.
Behold the old-time Woodman extractors refurbished and newly baptized by honey!
We've always done the pit and pump method of draining our extractors into a sump and up into a clarifier, so we did the same thing at my place. The pump on the floor is an ancient Woodman sliding vane pump:
It all came together decently for this harvest. I had a few bugs to learn about and the box handling wasn't silky smooth, but I like the setup overall. The uncapper still needs some adjustment, and the cappings melter will take more time to learn to operate very efficiently. I was impressed with how little heat was needed to melt the cappings on the top of the melter and allow the honey to flow into the sump unharmed. Most melters are known for darkening the honey to at least some degree and degrading the flavor to some extent. A person needs several hundred hives at a minimum for this melter from Kelley to be worth the investment--it takes more honey to fill the cappings tank to its operating level than most hobby beekeepers will produce in a year.
Regardless of the learning curve with a new system, I was extremely happy to extract at the Mount Vernon property. The traveling hurdle of harvest season has now been removed from one of the busiest times of year! May everything work even better--and for the sake of a larger yield--in 2017!
One of the last pieces of the extracting equation came home a couple of days ago. An uncapper and stand came with the 50-frame Woodman that we refurbished over the winter. I'll post the completed extracting line sometime soon, but a fair bit is visible in the last picture with the newly blasted and powder coated stand. There was a little re-engineering to make the back end of the stand long enough to be compatible with the cappings melter, and we added a couple of retainers to contain the overflow from the top of the tray. Otherwise, it was just really ugly and needed a face-lift. The "before" pictures don't really show the full extent of the grime that needed vanquished.
And here is the shiny, much more sanitary result! Many thanks to The Powder Shop for a one-day turnaround despite a busy schedule. I apparently had good fortune in choosing John Deere black for the powder coat.
I'll include the mounted uncapper within the next couple of posts.
The extracting space continues to take shape. I'm looking forward to having the honey flow soon. In the meanwhile, my son decided the pit for the sump tank is a good place for his personal workshop:
We still like to melt the cappings rather than spin them, so here's the new melter unit. It's a Kelley model known for being a little touchy, but it produces very high quality wax blocks:
Now I just need to get the rest of the equipment lined up and connected. We also have an old uncapper stand that still needs blasted and coated--that will probably be the last piece of equipment to bring in before the hot water plumbing is possible. It will be pretty awesome when those wires coming out of the wall and ceiling are actually hooked into the equipment and ready to roll.