Filtering honey

IMG_0969.jpgWe harvested about 70 pounds of honey from two hives in the past two weeks. One of the hives is three years old now, while the other is a two-year-old hive. Both seem to be doing well and producing lots of new brood. We won’t take any honey from the new hives this year.

This picture is honey flowing from the spinner (which spins the honey out of the cells) and then through a filter. The top of the filter is covered with a single cheesecloth layer to catch any bits of beeswax that might be in the honey. Then the honey goes through a fine and an ultrafine wire mesh filter. From there it is ready to eat!

This year’s honey is a much better batch than last year. They honey is darker in color and very flavorful. Taste and color all depend on what pollen was available to the bees when they were making honey.

Solar wax melter

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We harvested honey over the weekend. One of the by-products of honey is all the other stuff in the honeycomb – wax, bee parts, pollen and so on.  Beeswax is valuable for a lot of things but is not easy to render. In the past we slowly melted the leftovers on a stove in a pot of water. The wax separated and floated and everything else either dissolved in the water or sank to the bottom. However, that is a long process and must be watched carefully as the melted beeswax is highly volatile and can catch fire (think beeswax candles!)

So this time, we are trying something different – a solar wax melter. We lined a styrofoam cooler with aluminum foil. Then we took a plastic bowl, added about an inch of water, rubber-banded two thicknesses of paper towels over the bowl, and placed a pile of the honeycomb leftovers on top. Put a piece of clear glass over all of it, and placed it in the sun all day.

By suppertime the wax had melted through the paper towels and was in a perfect ring of solid beeswax floating on top of the water. The rest of the leftovers (called ‘slumgum’, and don’t ask where that name came from but that is the right name) remained on top. We’ll keep the slumgum as a firestarter.

Overall, it worked great!

Turtle Stew

Snapping Turtle

We found this snapping turtle by the garden this morning on the way to feed the dogs. He (she?) is about 14” long and was aggressive, snapping his jaws at us. I picked him up by the sides of the shell between his feet and carried him way out into the woods. All the while he was scratching and struggling, and trying to pee on me. He had a lot of pee.

Here is what I found out later with an internet search; carry them by the tail, and stay away from the head! They eat fish and frogs, so we want to keep them away from the pond.

If he comes back to our pond he’s going to become turtle stew. More internet instructions for cooked turtle: whack him on the head, pull his head back with pilers, and cut his throat. Flip him over, cut off the feet, then split down the middle. Soak the meat overnight in salt water, then boil for 90 minutes. Fry quickly with onions.

Sam Whittemore – American Hero

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Captain Sam Whittemore

On April 19, 1775 Samuel Whittemore was a crippled old man living peacefully in the town of Menotomy in the colony of Massachusetts. Despite long service to the British King as a commander of Dragoons in the French and Indian wars, Sam was a staunch supporter of freedom. When Captain Samuel Whittemore heard the alarm ‘The Regulars are out!” he knew what he must do.

Sam originally came to America as a member of His Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Dragoons, the King’s shock troops of the day. At 50 years old, he charged into battle at the Siege of Louisbourg during King George’s war. Years later, when 64, he fought in his second war, the French and Indian War, again at a Siege of Louisbourg. After his 68th birthday, in his third war, Sam engaged in hand-to-hand combat for the King in Pontiac’s War, earning a pair of matched dueling pistols from, as Sam said, ‘an enemy who no longer needed them’.

April 19, 1775

Now, after making America his home, this experienced 80-year-old warrior gathered his musket, those two dueling pistols, and his old cavalry saber. He told his wife he was going to meet the Regulars and fight for liberty. Sam moved to a stone wall about 150 yards from where he knew the British would retreat to Boston. There Sam waited with the patience of old age and experience.

When the 47th Regiment of British Grenadiers came within range, Whittemore fired five shots with such speed and accuracy that the British assumed several Colonials were assaulting them. The British commander sent a large detachment to attack this threat.

As the Regulars charged, Samuel Whittemore killed one with his musket and two more with his flintlock pistols. He was reaching for his trusty old saber when a musket ball blasted his face.

The Regulars then fell upon the old man with their bayonets, stabbing him repeatedly until he stopped moving. They left Sam for dead and resumed their march back to Boston.

Friends found poor Samuel barely alive, bleeding from at least 13 wounds. They picked him up and carried him with great care to Doctor Cotton Tufts in Medford. Dr. Tufts looked at old Sam and shook his head with sorrow; “Your friend will not survive”.

Alas, Sam did not survive. At least, not in the long run, for Sam Whittemore was a man not easily vanquished by Redcoat bayonets. He lived another 18 years.

An American hero

Captain Samuel Whittemore became the oldest known colonial combatant in the American Revolutionary War. Outside Arlington, Massachusetts a monument reads: “Near this spot, Samuel Whittemore, then 80 years old, killed 3 British soldiers, April 19, 1775. He was shot, bayoneted, beaten, and left for dead, but recovered and lived to be 98 years of age”.

Sam is the official state hero of Massachusetts.

So what?

Sam Whittemore, at the age of 80, made his choice for American Liberty on April 19, 1775. What peaceful choices must we make today to maintain those liberties? We have the power to contact our legislators, to write letters to the editor, to attend political meetings, to run for office, to speak with our neighbors, and to vote. Make your choice for liberty.

Bees on the firing line

These funny little bees live in the ground right in front of the firing line at our local range. They build their nests in the ground there each spring. By mid-summer they have disappeared. No aggression towards people at all. In fact, they are so used to the shooting that each time a muzzle blast hits them they just bounce an inch in the air and keep on about their business.

It’s too bad that not everyone is as friendly towards the marksmanship sports as are these bees.

Appleseed Weekend

Here is our class of Project Appleseed students and instructors from this weekend’s marksmanship class. We had a superb session. Of the 21 students, all improved a lot, with four earning a Rifleman’s patch, equivalent of a World War II Army expert qualification. Beautiful but warm weather on Saturday, then dropping 30° by Sunday with heavy rain. 

Opening the bee hive

Here is a video showing opening one of our bee hives. You can see honey and capped pollen. The bees have moved higher in the frames than we expected, which may indicate queen issues. The bees seem to be healthy.

We expected more capped honey than is shown. That may mean the nectar didn’t flow as early as last year. By this time in 2016 we took 10 pounds of honey out of this hive. This year so far – none.