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The harvest crew

The harvest crew

Recently we spent a day at the farm with the Sacred Valley Honeybee Sanctuary harvesting honey from the 12 hive apiary. Several of the Sanctuary’s recent apprentices came to help out with hive checks and harvesting honey from two of the top bar hives. This was a pretty exciting day in our role as hosts to sustainably managed bees at the demo farm!

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Comb from a top bar hive

We started out suiting up and checking on hives in the more standard Langstroth (box shaped) hives in which honeycombs are pre-fabricated. Jerry pulled a fast one on everyone and insisted the inspectors could not wear gloves…eek! Luckily only a few stings later we were on to the top bar hives to harvest! The top bar hives foster a more natural form of beekeeping. The bees make the comb size and shape themselves, adding personal decorating touches that are more in tune with their needs. With this type of hive, you literally just cut off part of the comb oozing with glistening, fresh honey and drop it into a bucket. The pre-fabricated Langstroth hives take a more intensive harvest process that keeps the combs in tact for future use.

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Fresh sliced honeycomb

So Jerry, the head beekeeper, identified the most honey filled combs for harvest, then quickly sliced the comb into a bucket. I wanted to reach out and eat the honey right there. The bees were less than pleased but I’m sure they had plenty to share!

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home filtering processes

Next we crushed the comb up in a bucket and poured it into a new bucket with holes poked in the bottom. The honey sat and dripped through several layers of strainers to make the final product, pure organic honey. Home filtered! I’d say I can’t wait to try it but we definitely dug right in at the farm, slurping the fresh honey out of slices of comb. Each comb had a little bit of a different color and taste due to the various plants the bees foraged. Yummmmmm it was so good, messy, and amazing despite the sugar crash that followed. Can’t wait until the next harvest! ~Kat

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Checking on the ladies one last time

 

The Sacred Valley Honeybee Sanctuary is making progress in developing their space at the farm! The hives are now arranged in the shape of a serpent with an in progress medicine wheel at one end. Eventually the area will have a medicine wheel at both ends. The serpent head is under way too (small lump of dirt at bottom left). Can’t wait to see everything done and the space flourishing with herbs and flowers. The bees will be buzzing and happy!

Check out our photos from the 1st Demo Farm open house held yesterday, Sunday October 17th.

Click here to view the whole photo album on  Andean Alliance facebook page!

“Every healthy farm should have bees” – Jerry Freeman (expert bee keeper)

 

These bees, or as Jerry calls them,” his girls,” increase yields, pollinate like crazy, and of course beautify the farm by supporting the bountiful biodiversity it contains. So, we’re learning bit by bit about beekeeping but finding there is so much more you can do with your bee buddies! On Tuesday, Ruben and I learned how to make pure beeswax candles. The wax is straight from the The Sacred Valley Honeybee Sanctuary’s hives located right on AASD’s Demonstration Farm. Visiting expert bee keeper, Freddie Terry from Arizona and our local beekeeping experts Ruben and Jerry were a wealth of information, sharing insights into making natural bee products ranging from candles, propolis extract, and lotions, creams, and more!

Buzzing about experiment #1: Beeswax Candles

 

Above is  a picture of our experimental candles, part way through the process. Yes, I know this round of candles is relatively unappealing to the eye. But hey, we’re just getting the process down. Once the wax dried we peeled off the cups and took off the q-tip holding the wick. Can’t wait to get some wax molds and cool designs going. Vegetable candle molds anyone, ehh?? Plus, the candles burn 10x longer than normal candles and it is a cleaner burn than many other candles. Neat!

The Sacred Valley Honeybee Sanctuary is working closely with the Andean Alliance to launch beekeeping courses. They are experimenting with sustainable, alternative hives and of course creating awesome bee products. They hint at even eventually open a apitherapy clinic. I’m pretty excited to be part of this process, learning, creating, and enjoying the natural products of our farm’s busy buzzing bees!

Thanks to Freddie for giving us some candle making tips – this photo below shows him heating up the wax before we start candle making. ~Kat