This lady is not for turning... it's Thomas who made all these fabulous honey spoons!
He used curly birch (visakoivu) from our own birch wood and turned them on the lathe in Espoo. They are amazing!
When they are finished (the ends need to be trimmed) he wants to sell them alongside our honey at the Slow Food fair in Fiskars.
We have potted 360 kilos of honey altogether including the 50 kgs approx from Friisilä and the rest from Pojo.
We had a small stall at a local street party yesterday and sold 22 pots of Friisinniityn Hunaja. This is the honey from our garden in Espoo. We did not whip it up so it has remained clear and runny. We printed our own very simple labels (not a great photo).
The locals were quite impressed that someone had made a honey that was, so to speak, a product of the flowers in their own gardens! In fact some of the neighbours seemed quite sceptical so I guess we will have people peering down the driveway looking for the hives soon. Others asked if they could come and knock on our door and buy more.
It's a limited edition (93 pots only) and ONLY available in Friisilä. Now that's what I call local food!
Friisinniity is the name of the main street through Friisilä (our postcode in Espoo) and literally means Frisians Field, named after the original settlers who arrived in the 16th century from Frisia in the Netherlands.
The weather suddenly got cooler and we have had days of torrential rain. Needless to say we have started feeding the bees with sugar solution. All the hives have a feeding tray on top now.
We took one of the small hives from Espoo back to Pojo. We transport them in the back of the car with the lid off and a mosquito mesh over the top. This stops the hive from overheating as the main entrance is blocked with a strip of foam. Straight away, and very quickly, the bees start to deposit propolis (a kind of bee-glue) in the mosquito mesh to plug the holes. We installed the hive on the foundations of the old barn in Rosendal. It's a nice sheltered spot. We will probably put two more hives there.
Potting has commenced and will take several days. We are putting the Friisilä honey in 500g glass jars and the thicker, creamy Pojo honey is in the 450g plastic pots. A small amount of Pojo runny honey has been put into smaller glass jars, mostly for Peter's colleagues at work who put in a special request for runny honey. We forgot to have the Best Before date printed on our address labels so we have had to stick one sticker on the lid (our name and address) and a separate sticker on the base with the Best Before date. Extra work. Also, the plastic lids are much harder to snap onto the pots than the ones we had last year. Hoping they are more robust though as last year's lids were rather flimsy. After a few hundred pots you can really feel the difference in your hands and wrists.
Peter added thymol to all the hives (this is a natural protection against varroa destructor).
We have not yet started feeding the hives with sugar solution but we need to get this done soon. All the hives have nice supplies of honey and pollen (and brood) so they look in pretty good shape for the winter. one of the hives (#2) seemed to have a lot of drones but it is possible that they have not yet been "purged" from the colony. The workers destroy the drones before the winter and the hive stops producing drone larvae..
It has been a really busy weekend. Peter has been stirring the honey which has crystallized really quickly and is very difficult to work with.
Tom and I have been putting the "runny" honey into jars (I hate that job). We were plagued with wasps the whole time because we were mostly working during the day. When I come back to pot up the thick honey I think I'll do a night shift.
I haven't taken any pictures yet (forgot to take my camera) but will go back this week and do that.
The Espoo honey tastes milder than the Pojo honey and it is much lighter in colour.
Decided not to stir today and just let the crystallization process take its course. I'll go up tomorrow morning to take a peek at the primers.
Gave all three primers another stir this afternoon. No real change in the appearance or consistency of the honey though.
The temperature in the root cellar is 15C (outside temperature was 26C this afternoon). We have had official confirmation that southern Finland is now at 36 days of heatwave (ie temperatures at more than 25C during the day).
The next stage is priming. We will take a small amount (several kilos) of fresh honey and mix a primer with it (ie a jar of last year's honey which we already processed). This initialises the crystallization process. The primers need to be stored in a cool place so we are going to use the root cellar for this. The root cellar is, in my opinion, a bit damp but the temperature is perfect and everywhere else is way too warm at the moment. We will keep lids on the primers anyway. The primers need to be stirred gently for several days and the honey will thicken. Then they can be added to the rest of the honey, and finally they will be potted up.
So, as P is back at work I am in charge of priming. Urgh, because I hate going into the root cellar, it is dark, damp and creepy.
We are also going to sell some of the honey as fresh "runny" honey. Finnish people use a lot of "runny" honey in cooking (and in tea) so we won't be priming/crystallizing the whole of this year's yield. The runny honey will be sold in glass jars with our own labels. The regular "creamy" honey will be in both 450g plastic pots and smaller glass jars.
Oh, and we also need to do a big clear up, clean all the equipment etc. and order labels for the honey pots.
This evening Peter removed the honey frames from the hives in Espoo, in order to being them to Pojo for spinning. Unfortunately the bees did not think this was a good idea. They went berserk, crazy and started attacking Peter, Fred, the neighbours, the house, the car.... everything in range. P said he had never witnessed such aggressive behaviour from a hive. It took several hours before the colony calmed down and he was able to remove his suit and start the drive to Pojo. He even had to hose himself down with water to try and get them away. The big mistake was to think he could visit the hive without smoke (lazy) and the other mistake was not telling the neighbours to take cover (but he did warn them that he was about to open the hive).
Needless to say, the aggressive hive contained a huge queen and a large amount of honey!
During the night Tom and his friends helped to decap the frames and Peter spun the honey. When I was decapping I told Peter that the honey from Espoo had a completely different aroma to the Pojo hives. Then, later on, when Thomas took over he said exactly the same thing! For me, the Espoo honey smells more "flowery" - like a perfume, but it is very difficult to describe.
Anyway, we have resigned ourselves to the fact that having hives in Espoo is not a good idea: the logistics are too complicated and it causes too many problems (mowing the lawn, swarms etc) so this year's Espoo batch will be unique! We will bring the hives back to Pojo before the winter and leave them on the foundations of the old barn in Rosendal. We will also do something about that queen - maybe buy ourselves a nice, gentle italian queen and oust the old lady who is breeding all these aggressive monsters.
About another 50 frames from Espoo to add to our yield, we are somewhere around 380 kg of honey now.
Peter usually does the spinning and I do the decapping. Four Farrar frames fit in the spinner so we need to synchronise the decapping in order that we don't have too many frames piled up waiting to be spun. Once the wax is removed the honey may escape (especially if it is very runny which was not the case with this particular frame) but even if this happens it is collected in the decapping basin where it runs off from the wax and is collected in a honey bucket. I always wear gloves for decapping because it is a very messy process especially if the frames are uneven and if they contain very fresh runny honey.
The frames can be very heavy so they are balanced on a spike which you can see in the photos, this also helps to rotate the frame as both front and back have to be decapped.
There are machines for decapping on an industrial scale but our own volumes don't warrant that kind of investment. Mesimestari sells an electric decapping comb which slices through the wax covering each cell. I assume it uses heat to do that so I'm not sure what the effect is on the honey. Anyway, our bottleneck is the spinner so there is no point speeding up the decapping process.
Decapping is a repetitive asymmetric process so after a few hours the tendons in my right hand and forearm start to ache and also the muscles in the neck and shoulders. Standing on a concrete floor is hard on the legs and back. But this year we are pacing ourselves over three nights. We make tea and coffee in advance and we have background musak: the first night was Finnish Iskelma (we were too sticky to find a different wavelength) and the second night was Classic FM. I think there is still room for improvement in the audio department!
Best of all, Thomas came to help on the second night so I was able to get to bed early (about 2 am) - he was very quick and efficient and is much stronger than I am. We can decap and spin about 90-100 frames during a 6-7 hour night shift. Then the whole area and all the equipment needs to be cleaned to remove splashes of honey which might attract bees or wasps during the day.
The wax is recycled and the frames are reused unless they have become very "dark" in which case we dispose of them as they could attract disease and pests like varroa. Most of our frames are quite new (1- 2 years old).