By Jason Walker • SFA Communications Coordinator
Our beehive that began with around 7,000 inhabitants has swelled to approximately 40,000 in just a couple of months. That’s a serious population explosion, and the honey is being produced at such a fast rate that we’re going to start extracting before too long.
My latest bee project, though, was to build a solar wax melter. This little contraption will use the sun’s warmth to melt and filter the beeswax so that it can be used in candles or whatever other project we dream up. It’s a fairly simple project if you have some wood scraps and a table saw; here’s a link to the easy-to-follow plans from University of Minnesota researcher Gary Reuter (I built the “Mini” solar wax melter as the large one is for more commercial beekeepers). Boy, there are a lot of doodads you can build for your bees.
We went in with some other beekeepers to buy the honey extractor. At this point with the extractor, permit and some supplies we’re in for about $300; the good news is that with beekeeping you can use your boxes and frames over and over again. Hopefully after this initial cost the honey will keep rolling in for years to come and it’ll be basically free.
I’m also struck by the fact there are 40,000 bees in my backyard yet you would barely know it. Neighbors have said they can’t tell any difference now that our hive is here, and most of the time I see a pollinator it’s not one of ours but rather a bumblebee, sweat bee, or wasp. It makes me think that in a perfect world we could have a beehive on every block in this city and produce enough honey for the whole metro area.
At this point, my beekeeper mentor Pat thinks we’re looking at around 100 pounds of honey this season. And according to him, that’s an average total for an urban hive. Imagine how much honey we can produce in an above-average year.
My homebrewing neighbor asked me yesterday whether I’d be able to spare three pounds so he could make a cider. Somehow, I think there’s always going to be enough honey for homebrewing.
On another front, we canned a few pints of green beans last week. It’s the first time we’ve grown enough of our own beans to can. The cucumbers have about a million blossoms, so pickles will hopefully be put up in the next couple weeks.
The trouble with green beans was that we grew plenty of vigorous-looking pole bean plants, but they wouldn’t bear much fruit. We’d get enough to eat here and there, sure, but not enough to blaze up the pressure canner. Usually I’d have to buy a bushel at the farmers market, but hopefully this is the year they all come from our garden.
I’m particularly happy that our beans in the boulevard are doing so well. That’s such a usually boring, unused space as I’ve talked about – so it’s gratifying to know we’re doing something productive there.
Then on Monday I noticed a beautiful tree down my block filled with crabapples. I asked the owners if I could take some and gave them some eggs; in return I got four pounds of crabapples that I turned into a mess of crabapple butter. It’s tart but will taste great on some turkey sandwiches this fall.
Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.