A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

My Girl's

Although I quite often write about my army of ladies, the Bees, every now and again I like to show off my 2 ladies. This photo was taken at a recent WPBKA apiary meeting and was the first time Lauren went to the Bees. She was brilliant for the time she was there but got a Bee in her suit so Steph dealt with that and then took her back to the house.

Friday, 30 May 2014


Malta is a tiny country in the Mediterranean closest to Sicily. It takes barely an hour to travel from one end of the island to the other (it takes even longer if you keep going the wrong way and having to backtrack). The name Malta is thought to derive from the Greek word μέλι or meli, which means honey and the ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη, pronounced Melite (info taken from good old Wikipedia). This is believed to be due to Malta having its own endemic species of honey bee and being well known for its honey production.

Me, Steph, Lauren and Steph's Aunt have just come back from a 10 day holiday in Malta and in that time got to see a large amount of the tiny Mediterranean island and it's even smaller island, Gozo. Whilst we were there we had various sites we wanted to visit, including some that were used to film the first series of Game of Thrones! One site I really wanted to see was in a town called Xemxija, near the north of the island. In this town there is an area which has  several ancient sites including burial grounds, a Bronze Age village site, Neolithic remains and a Roman apiary site! Not surprising the area I was most interested in was the ancient apiary site. At the end if this post there will be some photos showing the area.

On Sundays there is a major fish market held in a town called Marsaxlokk, to the southeast of the island near to where we were staying. The town is fairly peaceful and quiet during the week but on a Sunday it seems like half the island descends upon this area for the fresh fish that is sold there. By the time we got there the market was well up and running and there were a large variety of fish and shellfish that I recognized and even more that I couldn't. Steph and Lauren weren't too impressed with the smell of the fish although in my opinion it wasn't too bad. Although it is best known as a fish market there was also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables plus toys, clothes and general tourist tat. There was also a stall selling local honey. I bought a sample of 3 varieties of honey from the lady and also talked to her for a short while. Her husband is the Beekeeper and he has over 100 hives spread over Malta and Gozo. I'm a long way off having the time, patience, equipment and sanity to have that many Bees but maybe when I retire it could be an option. Below are lots of pictures of the Bee related parts of the holiday.

The 3 sample honey's I bought at Marsaxlokk

Inside one of the apiary caves - The bees would have been kept in these upturned jars.

More inside the cave.

The apiary site from outside.

Yet another inside the caves.

A different apiary site in same area.



Below is a small selection of the photos I took of Bees on flowers.

Bees and a beetle on a flower.







I think this is my favorite!


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Spring Honey Extracted

Continued on from my last post, which had no photos, here is the process with photos!

Spring honey extraction
Steph tending the smoker

Spring honey extraction
Lots of full frames of honey

Spring honey extraction
All capped and ready to go

Spring honey extraction
Using a sharp knife I sliced the cappings off

Spring honey extraction

Spring honey extraction
My brand new extractor - the plastic protective layer has since been removed

Spring honey extraction
More cappings sliced off

Spring honey extraction
The extractor takes 4 frames at a time

Spring honey extraction
Honey and bits of wax going into a 2 stage strainer

Spring Honey
A part bucket of honey 2 days after extraction, it has set solid!

Spring Honey
The full bucket of honey - again set solid. There's approximately 15 kg in there!

Spring Honey
After vigorously beating and stirring the set part bucket of honey I was able to get it soft enough to put some in jars.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Spring Honey

I have recently come back from a family holiday in Malta (which will be the subject of another post) and all the time I have been away I have had in the back of my mind the honey in the combs. At this time of year there is oil seed rape (OSR) in the surrounding fields to my apiary and OSR honey is well known for it's properties of setting solid in the cells. Before I went on holiday I did conduct an inspection and at that point there were several frames of honey ready for extraction however I didn't have enough time to get hold of an extractor before my holiday.

The first chance I got to go to see the Bees I was especially lucky to have my wife with me to help as once I'd opened the first hive it was clear that we were going to be taking lots of honey from the hives. The first colony I checked had the most and I still didn't take it all. I think I took approximately 12 frames from the first hive. When I moved onto the second hive it was clear there wasn't as much honey to take but there was still about another 8 frames! Between me and Steph we got the job done quite fast; Steph operating the smoker and passing me equipment while I shook the Bees off the frames and took them to the side to be taken away later. I also did a quick inspection while in the hives and couldn't find any queen cells, although there was a huge amount of Bees therefore they could be near to swarming.

After we had finished in the hives we headed off home with 2 supers mostly full of honey. I was unable to lift them together and lifting them 1 at a time was a struggle. The next problem was extracting it. The same day I had a WPBKA committee meeting and there I discussed with another member the use of her extractor however while in the meeting I got a notification on my phone telling me I'd been the highest bidder in an auction for an extractor! The extractor arrived 2 days later and I cracked on with extracting the honey. I will put the extraction process in another post.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Bumble Bees and Bits

Over the last week I have been contacted twice by members of the public who believe they have Bees in their house or garden. The first one wasn't sure what kind of Bees they were but they had made a nest in the eaves of his new property and his builders wouldn't return until they had been removed. As this was fairly close to where my mother in law lives and my daughter was staying with her that night I informed the gent that I would pop round and have a look for myself. I took equipment in case they were honey bees and I could get a new colony from them but wasn't hopeful. It turned out that they were in fact Bumble Bees but the nest had already been damaged when the builders removed the roof tile. All that was left were a few sorry looking Bees in a small huddle of approximately 5-6 Bees. I did my best to remove them but they kept flying back. The only advice I could give to the guy was that as the main nest had been destroyed then the likelyhood was that the small amount of Bees would move on soon with them not having a home or a Queen. A shame really as I knew these few Bees were actually doomed.

The second contact I had was someone who believes he has Bumble Bees in his bird box. The advice I gave him was simply to leave them if they are causing no issue as they are very unlikely to sting anyone unless they are provoked but if they have to be removed I will contact my association and see if anyone has more experience with the matter. If they can be relocated safely with minimal harm to the colony that would be preferable.

It has been quite a learning curve being the secretary of my association but rewarding as the amount I am learning and the people I am getting to meet is great. I have been contacted by a school that want someone to come and give a talk on Bees and as no one from my association has got back to me yet I may have to do this myself. Having no experience at giving a talk of this nature I am a bit unnerved but I imagine I could wing it and still come off as knowing what I'm talking about!

Lastly, I will be heading on holiday to Malta soon and hope to visit an ancient Roman Apiary site they have there. I am quite looking forward to it and hope that some locals can point me in the direction of a Maltese Beekeeper to talk to. There has to be a post about that when I come back I reckon!


Last year I aquired a huge batch of apples and made cider. Below are the photos I took of the process

This is the original batch of apples collected while walking on common 

apples a bit of a clean in cold water

Me grating up 25kg of apples in a food processor, a sticky job!

The grated apple put into the press and starting to squeeze out the juice



All setup

The first dry apple cake. These were returned to my friend to feed to his pigs

4 Gallons of juice

The dried cake after pressing

More pig food

No yeast, water or sugar added, just let the natural yeast do their thing!

Monitoring the gravity to see when ready

Fermenting nicely!

After it had fermented away it was all bottled and is now in storage while it ages. I have drank a few bottles of it and although Steph isn't a fan I am quite enjoying it. Credit to Steph though as she did help me a lot with the process.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Beekeeping Update and Other Bits

It seems like an age since I did my last post, last September to be precise! I have been fairly busy since then with various Beekeeping shenanigans and some home brewing. The main point I'm mentioning, which is partly why there has been so few posts by myself, is that at my local Beekeeping associations annual general meeting last year I was, reluctantly, voted in as secretary: this entails me answering quite a few emails and forwarding on various publications I get emailed. I said reluctantly as the post of secretary is not the most glamorous of positions but I wanted to be more involved and we needed a secretary! At the same meeting I also somehow became the librarian for the association, I must learn to keep my hand down in future! I now am in possession of WPBKA's collection of Beekeeping books throughout the ages and some of them are rather old. I haven't checked them all yet but some are easily as old as my dad.

My Bees have survived the Winter this year and they seem to be thriving. I went into Winter with 3 hives but one was very light on Bees and I never confirmed there was a new Queen mated in there, that colony didn't survive but the other 2 have. I have seen the Queen in one of the hives and the other has brood at all levels. I have already added supers as the oil seed rape is in full flower and honey has started to be stored in the brood area. I'm hoping for an ok return this year and when the swarm cells appear I'm looking to take a nucleus or 2 from the hives. With any luck I'll have at least 4 colonies going into Winter 2014.

I have recently finished (almost) building a top bar hive from some wooden boards I have. With any luck I'll get this occupied soon and report back on my findings. I have spoken to people at my association and the general consensus is that people don't like them in my area but in other areas people swear by them. In my humble opinion the best way to find out is to try it myself. The only bit I have left to complete is the actual top bars, they have been cut and just need some wax foundation to be placed into the grooves. I have looked at other options but I will try wax strips to start with and if succesful will experiment with other methods as well. One other option is string soaked in molten wax which would be easier to implement but not look as nice! The below picture is prior to the legs being attached and has also since been painted more so looks nicer. I may dedicate a fulll post to it when it is fully complete.

Topbar Hive
Almost finished topbar hive

From my last post I have pressed all my apples using a friends cider press and it has femermented into an almost drinkable brew. It is now bottled and maturing. The last bottle I tried was better than the first so in time I could have a decent cider. The recipe was an easy one to follow: loads of apples, pressed then left to ferment, I kept it as simple as that. No yeast, sugar or water added, just apple juice. Again, I have lots more photos so will probably do a longer post for the cider making.

Home Made Cider

Lastly I will add details of my upcoming fund raising event with the hope I can get a few more sponsors. This August will mark the 3 year anniversary of my mother passing away and also approx 10 years from when I last had a full hair cut. In 2004 I had my head shaved for cancer research and raised an impressive £400. This time I'm aiming much higher and am attempting to raise £1000, however I will need a lot of help to do it. I am raising money for the Stroke Association this time, as that is what my Mum died of. Hopefully with your help we can reduce the number of people and families that have to suffer because of this condition. Any little helps, seriously, if you can just manage a pound or a dollar then that is fine. If you are in a position to donate then I ask that you share my donation link via your social media sites and hopefully I will raise a bit more. Here is the link to donate and if you live in the UK then you can donate via text, put this into the body of your text changing the amount to how much you want to donate "IMHS69 £5" and then send to 70070. Thanks greatly in advance for your kindness.