Those who know Farm Aid staff personally know better than to ask us to participate in any non-Farm Aid activities leading up to the Farm Aid concert. With our small staff of 12 plus 1 intern, we all have way more on our plate than at any other time of year. We often joke that we are a mild-mannered Clark Kent of a non-profit nine months of the year and then for the concert months we all become our own version of Superman.
My one exception to the no-new activities rule is always bottling honey with my Dad. I put my Dad up into the Farmer Heroes’ page (even though I wasn’t eligible to win) just because he is so amazing. An engineer by trade, he has long aspired to farm. Amongst his many hobbies are rebuilding 1930s Fordson tractors and beekeeping. My dad’s hives are located at his home in Connecticut and at his cottage on Cape Cod.
This past weekend, I visited my parents and participated in our family autumn ritual. My father had already taken all the frames off the hive (frames go inside the big white bee boxes many of us are used to seeing around orchards or farms).
We assembled into a working team of family. My brother and father taking turns using the de-capping knife (a hot electric knife that slices the top off the wax comb the bees store honey in), with my sister-in-law transferring the frames to the extractor (a big metal centrifuge-like thing that holds two frames at a time and whisks the honey off the frame and into the barrel). My husband, a more senior member of the extracting crew, fulfills the function of inspector to insure all the honey has been spun out of each frame. Additionally, he empties the honey out of the extractor into a bucket and carries it uphill to the house, where he dumps it into the bottling contraption (2 big buckets with a strainer and fine netting to strain the honey). Meanwhile, I’m bottling the honey as fast as it comes out of the spigot. In the background my Mom is cleaning bottles, wiping rims and sealing each jar. All of us are also keeping an eye on the four girls (ages 9-1) who are “helping.”
Each bucket of honey is weighed before being emptied (my Dad likes to compare honey yield year to year that way). So far this year he has yielded 150 lbs out of seven producing hives.
All but two of those hives were started in the spring since the colony collapse disorder decimated my father’s hives. Most of the honey came from two hives that were not impacted by colony collapse disorder and located on Cape Cod. In addition to the Southbury, CT and North Eastham, Cape Cod location, we also added honey from our hive at my brother’s house in New Gloucester, Maine. We were missing my younger sister, also a senior member of the team and her husband, a newbie to the team last year, due to their inability to come out from Indiana. Dad doesn’t sell the honey- he mostly gives it away and often Farm Aid staff gets to taste the bounty. It’s a great treat in the soothing tea we need to drink when concert chaos means we need to take a break and relax!