When people ask my dad, Waldemar, about his farm animals he likes to say he has a million head…of bees that is! My dad calls himself a hobbyist beekeeper but I think he’s an amazing caregiver of these incredible little creatures that keep our trees and plants bearing fruits and flowers and share their honey with us.
They are the ultimate sustainable artist. Everything they create is used and returned to the earth to be used again. Did you know that the honeycombs are built at exactly 7º – tilted just enough so that the honey won’t slide out of the comb. And when the honey is ready it only has 17% water remaining. How do the bees know that? They are truly the Leonardo DaVinci’s of the natural world.
My neighbor, Deb, started her first hive this past spring so this fall, my dad invited her to spin honey at his farm. She was SO excited! She had no idea how much honey she would get but we knew there had to be something. Her super weighed about 50 lbs!
Isn’t the golden color of the honey mesmerizing? And the smell was incredible. It took everything to keep me from snarfing the super! Clearly, I have inherited my maternal grandfather, Walt’s, penchant for honeycomb.
The melted caps are then captured in a warming pot where the bits of honey and wax are separated. I’ll clean the beeswax later with dad because I want to make my own encaustic paint using his beeswax.
Round and round and round it goes! It was a cold day so we had to begin the spin slowly so as not to break the combs apart. We just want the honey to flow out. Once some of the honey spun out and the trays were lighter, we were able to spin faster. We spun the centrifuge in both directions to make sure both sides of the trays yielded the golden treasure.
This is what the tray looks like after the honey is extracted. There is still a little honey left to attract the bees next season when the super is placed back on the hives. And, the beautiful, geometrically perfect beeswax combs are left so the bees don’t have to rebuild from scratch. Dad carefully wraps the trays up for the winter so the bees don’t come inside the barn.
Here is the honey in the bottom of the centrifuge. It doesn’t look like a lot but there is 21 gallons of honey in there. We had to scrape the sides down with a spatula, too. I told dad that on cold days (it was unseasonally cold for the summer), that he needed some sort of heated spatula or a warming blanket around the centrifuge so it would be easier to get the honey out.
Here comes the first wonderful pour of liquid gold. The honey is then strained through three fine sieves to remove any wax and leftover bee parts from the honey. Deb’s honey was an amazing champagne color and had a surprising after taste of mint. Whereas dad’s honey is a deep amber and tastes like a meadow.
It was a great day at Kokopelli House extracting honey. I’m already thinking about how to make my own watercolors with little bits ‘o honey and my own encaustic paints with the wax. I just love experimenting! What I love even more is how the bees are an inspiration to me. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could create food grade, artist quality paints from the materials around my home and mom and dad’s farm?