Honeyfacturing is a 3-day job which takes twelve whole months to complete. That’s because the simple secret to great honey is rearing healthy bees – and that is an all-year-round project. So the countdown for a new honey year starts as soon as the final lid is twisted onto the previous year’s batch. In my book, that makes the gestation period for a jar of honey 25% longer than that for a human child.
And the culmination of that process, the first flow of honey, has one other thing in common with child-birth – all those in close attendance are ritually altered. Grown men coo and clown, brusque functionaries flash melting smiles and stalwarts of the Grumpy Club temporarily mislay their membership cards. And that’s just over a jar of freshly-poured honey !
These three videos attempt to capture the “trimesters” of 2014’s Honeyfacturing. I leave behind those 362 days of the year which have been all about the bees. Now it’s about converting heavy, wax-sealed frames of honey into a strictly EC-regulated foodstuff in eye-catchingly smart packaging. And this year, my Honeyfacturing confinement lasted for 3 days.
The initial phase of the labour is pretty mundane: the roar of the hot-air gun melting back wax cappings encased in a wooden frame to reveal the liquid honey: Uncapping.
Things get a bit more interesting when the frames, eight at a time, are placed in the honey extractor, which is then hand-cranked to generate centrifugal force. The honey can be heard, pitter-pattering like a shower of rain, onto the stainless steel side of the drum. Look and listen: Spinning.
And finally, the high drama of delivery – raw honey pulsing into the filtering bucket: The Honey Flow.
Exhilarating as this last lap of Honeyfacturing always is, the reality is that beekeeping is like a race which never ends. Once the honey harvest has been brought home, my duty of care to the bees reasserts itself as the priority – and we are already working together towards a thriving 2015.
For now, though, I am delighted to inform you that the honey is doing well and will be on sale at the Bermondsey Street Bees’ stall at the Bermondsey Street Festival on 20th September 2014. And the beekeeper is recovering at home. Deo gratias.