An overview of beekeeping.
In June we extracted our first honey . . . dark, much tangier than regular clover honey and super sweet. An extra room in our small adobe pump house became the “honey house,” and there the extractor—a big metal drum with wire cages for holding the honey frames—was bolted down to a wooden base. A battered electric skillet full of water was set up to heat the wide-bladed capping knife used to cut the wax caps from the comb.
I uncapped the frames while David cranked the extractor, a relatively easy job because of the gear ratio. We put a clean plastic bucket covered with copper screening under the spigot at the bottom of the drum and, after the first super was empty, we opened the spigot . . . and out gushed the glorious, golden rewards of our and the bees’ labor.
We poured the honey from the bucket, with no further processing, into glass gallon jars (we had inherited hundreds from our bee lady), screwed the lids on and that was that. Nothing could be simpler. When honey is processed (or not processed) in this way, it’s called raw honey . . . as opposed to pasteurized honey, which is heated to 160° to kill possible yeast spores (a process that also destroys any vitamin content and most of the enzymes that make honey so superior to refined sugar).
We got approximately two and a half gallons of honey per super and each gallon weighing about fourteen pounds. A hundred pounds from our first extraction! But now my underlying fears began to pop up: here we were with 100 pounds of honey . . . what if no one bought it?
Mrs. Schulze had supplied us with the names of her old customers, so we took five gallons with us on our next weekly trek to town and started down the list. Not only did we sell them all—at $4 a gallon—but almost every old customer suggested a new prospect and we added more names to our list!
By mid-July, we were extracting about 100 pounds of honey a week, with the main flow still to come. And already we had more demand than honey! Just one account, a friend of ours—again operating on the principle that in this part of the country one must create his own work—makes items for natural food stores in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos. He uses large quantities of honey in his breads, granola and cookies and he and the local natural food store will buy all we can supply.