Category Archives: Campbell Farmer

Harvesting honey – our first year

After having installed, fed and kept an eye (or two) on our first honeybee hive in 2008, a couple of weeks ago I cruised out to the hive to see how the colony was doing. I popped the lid on the hive and, sure enough, there was a bunch of buzzing as the girls came up from below to fight off their “attacker”, me. (Without any regard for the fact that I was the guy who fed and watered them when they moved in last year. Boy, some people’s insects.) Anyway, it seemed like things were looking good, so the top went back on the box and I got the heck outta there.

About a week ago I went back out to check on them and the hive was empty. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada, as in “Nada damn bee to be found.”

Who knows why or when (I figured out the “how” part, thank you very much) they left the hive and never returned. So there I was: No bees in the hive and more than a bit ‘o honey. But what to do with the honey? Should I remove the (honeycomb) frames and harvest the honey? Should I freeze the frames as-is so when I installed a new package (colony) of bees next month they’d already have plenty of comb for their brooding chambers and honey to feed themselves? I called Mr. C. for his opinion, then checked with forums and read many opinions on the subject, then finally said, “So, what’s it gonna bee – they get the fully furnished pad and I wait another year for payoff?


I decided to harvest the honey. To do that, I’d need an extractor (to spin the frames, removing the honey by centrifugal force) and an electrically heated capping knife (to remove the wax caps from the honeycomb cells.)

Following Mr. C.’s advice, Al and I moved the hive in to the garage and rigged a 75w light in the bottom to warm the hive / honey so it would flow out of the extractor as required. Then, last Saturday I rented the extractor and knife from Mr. C., easy peasy. (Here’s Al threatening the long-gone bees with a hammer. Tough guy, Al 😉

Here’s a shot looking down in to the hive just before I remove a frame to check on honey content.

Here’s a partially combed frame with a bit of honey. Ok, I admit it: That big gash in the honeycomb and honey – yup, Al and I ran our fingers through it to see what it tasted like. Big Surprise, it tasted like fresh honey and beeswax 🙂

Here’s a frame that’s pretty well packed with comb and honey, ready for harvesting.

Partially filled frame, but the comb on this frame was really puckered out with honey… it was like hitting the MotherLode.

On Sunday mid-day (55F degrees), I began removing the caps from the comb and placed two frames in the extractor. Closed the lid of the extractor and began cranking that bad boy like I was a monkey playing an organ for the old guy on the corner. Did it work?

Nope, not a bit… despite my warming efforts, the honey wasn’t flowing. So I got on the phone with Incline Mike (Sunday is Mr. C’s day off so I didn’t want to call him) and said, “Now what?” Well, I could freeze them or put them back in the hive and let it sit until the new bees arrived… or, I supposed I could use the heated capping knife, take the comb down to the frame foundation then put the honey/comb “mash” in a couple of old fruit strainers we’ve got around the house and “rough filter” them, then run them through fine cheesecloth to get rid of any wax, bee poop, etc.

Got it: Do nothing or get my honey. Easy peasy – I took the knife to the frames of honey, and in draining the comb / honey in to a couple of big pots. In an hour, I had 2 big pots full of honey / mash and here’s what I left behind in the garage. (Yeah, it doesn’t look like a commercial operation… it’s not. Things get dirty, they get sticky and – to tell the truth – they get left in a messy state until the kitchen work gets cleaned up and it warms up past 50Fdegrees.)

So here’s what I left behind (Please do CLICK THE PICS cause the honey looks gorgeous up close.)

The pics above are the partially harvested frames… I left a bit of comb and honey to give the bees a headstart next month.

Here’s a stack of some of the frames that had no honey on them.

Ah, the work bench.

Next, we took the large pots of mash in to the kitchen and began glopping them in to the fruit strainers. With the house warmer than outside temp, the honey began to loosen up and flowed fairly nicely… not fast, but at least it was flowing. The pic below is of the mash in the strainer.

The pic below shows the mash / strainer / collection bowls we were using. By the time we were done with the mash, we had ~4 gallons of raw honey.

After going through the rough fruit strainer, we filtered through the fine cheesecloth and the jars below are the first of our first year’s filtered harvest. We estimate the jars below represent ~25% of our first (partial) harvest.

And here’s Joanne’s first version of the Vamoose Juice label.
And there you have it. Our honey has a very deep color and flavor… it’s very good 🙂 (Oh, and since the bees deserted the hive, we’ve named this first batch, “Vamoose Juice” honey.)

Next month I’ll pick begin a 2nd hive and install a package (colony) of bees in each hive.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed the journey. Don’t forget to write when you get work.

Hello Tommy (!) and lots to report :)

Joanne and I heard from one of our former neighbors, Tommy, a kid that Owen grew up with and pal-ed around with for all of our time over on Springfield. It’d been, what… 4 years since we last talked with Tom… it was when Tom and his bride were married, I think.

Turns out that Tommy and his wife (Renell – spelling?) have gotten their AA’s in a legal-related field and their both focused on finishing their BA’s, then hope to earn their JD’s. In the meantime, they’re in the music-production business down in Hollywood, doing their best – and succeeding, it seems – in placing music in TV shows and films.

Tom and Owen were very close in their middle-school / early high school years (before Owen moved back to LA) – there are darn few photos of Owen around our house that don’t have Tommy in the frame… darn few.

We love Tom like a son and are very pleased to hear life is treating him (and his bride) well and they’re loving life.

On to other news… my calendar’s been a little pinched with paid-activities lately, but we did manage to extract ~4 gallons of honey over the weekend. We’re in the final stages of jarring that (tonight, I think) and so I hope to have a write up and photos for you over the next few days. (Oh, and, it looks like I’ll be adding a 2nd hive next month… and neighbors have already begun signing up for their own “co-op” share of the hive / honey. You go, modern CampbellFarmer-guy 😉

That’s about it for now, I think. Thx for visiting and don’t forget to write when you get work 🙂

Thanks to Hector & Elsa, Springfield Al and Incline Mike

I stopped by Hector and Elsa’s to confirm it’s ok to filch, er, harvest, their pomegranates this year and managed to catch them just as they were backing out of their driveway.

What’s the first thing Hector says to me? “Hold on, I have something for you.”

He pulled back in his driveway, walked up to the front of his garage and brought me 3 cases of brand new jars he’d gotten on sale from BigLots. When I offered to pay for them, he said, “If you pay me for them, I can’t accept any jelly or goodies.”

Since that’s a line I’ve used, myself, over the years, what could I say, except, “Thanks very much.”

And after posting my request for assistance last week, Springfield Al and Incline Mike both offered to help with harvesting and pressing of the pomegranates… something we’ll begin doing later this week.

And speaking of pomegranates, Joanne and I harvested our tree this weekend… not nearly as many in years past, but enough to make a case or two. Hector and Elsa’s tree is full, though not as full as years past, either. We (all) attribute the lower production to the heavy storms that blew through in the Spring when the blossoms were in full bloom. But, it is what it is so we’ll make whatever we can and distribute accordingly.

And speaking of making goodies, this past week Joanne made ~5 cases of fig and 2 (or 3?) of pear / apple fruitney… it’s uh-mazingly decadent and will go very well on toast, waffles, as “chutney” with pork / other select meats and even over vanilla cream… 1 spoonful is like eating an apple / pear pie – raisins (2 kinds), apples, pears, cinamon, almonds, walnuts, a touch of brown sugar and… voila, die, Jenny Craig diet!

(sugar / diet watchers note: Joanne began to experiment with low sugar pectin last year and the results were so good that she only makes low sugar goodies these days… much, much better flavor and for sugar watchers.)

Until next time, thanks for visiting, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work.


Lettuce harvest time…

Watering the Phantom Pergola Pharm last night, I couldn’t help but notice some of the lettuce plants (discussed here) were looking a little full around the edges. In fact, some of them were so full and heavy they were drooping to the ground.

Time to harvest, I suppose.

This morning I dressed in my Pharming clothes (shorts, t-shirt, bare feet) and headed out with a large bowl and pair of The Missus’ scissors in hand. (Speaking of scissors, please don’t tell her I use her scissors to harvest vegetables… she’s a little sensitive about my misuse of her sharp-pointy tools and accuses me of trying to emulate Edward Scissorhands.)

When I was done, 9 of them were looking an awful lot like the newly-inducted recruits I mentioned in the I am a dumb-ass post back in July – but they’ll grow a new crop in – all the way over (3′, I believe) to the Cherokee Purple Heritage Tomato and grabbed our first from this new (to us) plant.

It’s looking like salad night @ our place tonight.

Lettuce alone…

A couple of months ago we decided to put in a couple of tomato and lettuce plants.

Now, “a couple” usually means “two”… and in the case of our tomato plants, that was appropriate: we bought and planted two tomato plants – one roma and one ace. easy peasy.

But when it came to buying lettuce, as a form of insurance (against doody-thumb disease, I suppose), we thought “the more the better”. So we bought, um, a couple of flats. If I recall correctly, we ended up with 11 or 12 plants in the ground.

Good so far, right?
Well, this first bunch you’re seeing ^^^ did pretty well right from the start. (They’re currently looking a little scraggly because the two on the right have been harvested a bit already. Yep, you heard me – harvested – I’ve got the farmer-lingo down pat.)

And this bunch in the center of the lettuce corral ^^^ did pretty well, too… except for the ones that died from over / under watering. (If you look closely, you’ll notice some of the corrals have two plants growing in them.)

And finally we come to the right-wingers – the corrals on the right-hand side of the lettuce farm. They’re doing pretty good, considering we let them bake in the hot sun without shade material for two weeks as part of our How much direct sunlight and heat can leafy green lettuce take before it dies? test-period. Turns out this particular type of lettuce wilts in the direct sunlight of the Phantom Pergola Pharm. Finally realizing we were killing the little buggers, we put up screen and watered them back to health.

Now, looking at these pictures you may find yourself wondering Exactly how many lettuce plants does it take to provide salad lettuce to twice-weekly dinnertime salad eaters? Good question – and one that I now know the answer to: It takes one – maybe two – leafy green lettuce plants to provide enough lettuce to twice-weekly salad eaters.

A couple of years ago when Incline Mike and Mimi were frequent guests @ our house, I’d often buy rib eye steaks for dinner. I come from the more is better school of steak-eaters, so the steaks I bought started at 1 lb. When he would see the steaks being prepared, Mike would say, So how many people are you going to feed with those steaks? (sarcasm dripping from his tongue)

Now, when I look at the lettuce growing out in the Phantom Pergola area, I keep hearing Mike say, So, how many people are you going to feed with all that lettuce?

Oh, the neighborhood 🙂

My message to you: If you want some Campbell Farmer lettuce, stop by the house and pick yourself a salad.

Life, huh?

Yesterday was quite a day around here.

Bike ride in to town early in the morning – nice, cool weather. Coffee, catch up on the 2.5 pages of local news in the Merc. Ride back home to shoot film (er, pixels) of ‘Liv harvesting tomatoes… we’ll get those up soon. Joanne and ‘Liv carving, burning and adding color to Chloe’s (‘Liv’s sister) birthday present – nicely researched, selected and applied to wood by ‘Liv and Joanne. I headed off to lunch with a friend / former co-worker that I met 14 years ago next month; he’s 39 now (he was such a gnarly puppy when we met), married with two children, busy career… sorting through life’s challenges and priorities, as we all do.

And so it was with great fear and trepidation that we took Delilah to meet her oncologist @ 1:45 yesterday afternoon. Wonderful place, all bright’n’shiny, very professional in appearance and operation… it was as professional and nice as a facility for humans – perhaps more.

Initial exam of Dee by a vet’s assistant, followed by our 1st meeting with the Vet. We found her oncologist to be warm, friendly and open. We confirmed Dee’s medical history (she had read her files from Kirkwood Animal Hospital and spoken with Dr. Ueno) and she gave us the basics on Dee’s situation: The biopsy revealed Dee’s cancer to be a slow-growth variety – if it hadn’t already spread to another place and they were able to remove the cancerous area, Dee would have a 90% chance of complete recovery / no further cancer. To determine the extent of her situation, Dee needed to have a chest xray… so, off they went.

Dee was returned to us in 5 minutes. Great news! Treatment options for the existing cancer are radiation and surgery, but with the location of Dee’s cancer, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get all of the cancer with surgery and radiation is 16 days of daily visits and a pretty miserable recovery.

Or amputation of the leg.

The doc tells us that cats do remarkably well with 3 legs; we’re encouraged by this and through our relationship with Claire (Mike and Mimi’s pack member), we know 3 legs are better than no legs… and no pack member. We ask about the recovery period – how painful, how long? Dee stays in the hospital 1-2 days after surgery so they can monitor her pain around-the-clock and from there, she’ll need to adjust and find her way. How soon should we have it done? The next couple of weeks or seriously risk spreading of the cancer.

So there we are. We’ll make arrangements early in the week and begin the process of everyone moving forward.

Challenges and priorities, we’ve all got ’em and have to deal with them, yeah?

As always, thanks for visiting, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work 🙂

btw – no small btw, either – we say thanks to each of you for your heartfelt inquiries and good wishes for Dee, they are much appreciated.