Last week we trooped up the hill to Levisham village to join our friends and neighbours Janette & Robin, who kindly invited us to tag onto the end of their Heather Honey pressing. Leaving our bees with plenty of honey for the coming winter we have harvested just a few frames of our own this year, our first season of beekeeping at Levisham.
Raw heather honey is thixotropic, meaning it becomes viscous, thick and gel-like when left at rest for a period of time. However, when stirred it becomes liquid again but it must be pressed out rather than spun in the manner of traditional honey extraction. Fresh from Levisham Moor's August heather flowering it has a unique texture, strong flavour and a lasting floral taste. A real must for a honey connoisseur, and frankly an acquired taste I am coming to appreciate!
To extract it today we gently scooped the honey and comb from the frames into a muslin bag, leaving the wax foundation intact. The resultant mixture was then mechanically pressed, separating the honey from the wax.
Not a drop of the precious liquid or the wax is wasted. The empty frames were returned to the hive in the morning for the bees to clean up, with the remaining sticky honey being taken down by the bees and returned to the hive stocks. The pressed, sticky wax will similarly be returned to the hive for cleaning before melting and processing for future uses at Grove House.
We hope to have some sample jars of our heather honey ready soon for our cottage guests to try. Fresh from the hive with the food miles measured in paces!
Next year we look forward to expanding our apiary and to sharing spring and summer flower honey crops from the wild meadows & forests of Newtondale as well as a bountiful return from the August heather flowering on the adjacent moor a few yards from our doorstep. We will lavish much care and attention on our precious bees throughout the year in return.
David, September 2017
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