“TTTTTURN IIIIT DDDOWN!” I shout above the rattle of the extractor and whine of the motor. I am stating the obvious. My nose is inches from the lever, but we have a rule; I am not to touch the lever. That’s his job. I am too sticky.
One of my feet is firmly pressed on the 6 x 2 plank of timber that one of the extractor legs is bolted to. My other foot cannot reach a second leg of the tripod as I’m sprawled across the machine grasping either side of the plastic cover to the top to keep it in place. The extractor is straining at the leash, a tethered rocked. I cling on desperately to prevent the extractor from hopping across the floor or soaring through the roof! My aider and abettor is wedged against the other side of the extractor with a foot firmly restraining another leg. I watch in apparent slow motion as he lowers the lever. As the revelations slow, the vibrations and noise settles down.
“This is so much easier than using the manual extractor.” I shout (but not so loudly). He nods in agreement. We are both delighted that we can extract 9 frames with the simple press of a lever. The sweat and drudgery of cranking the handle of the manual extractor is thankfully a distant memory. The heart attack that nearly gave us (mainly him, as he heroically did most of the cranking) a couple of years ago drew a line under the manual extractor. Never again!
I still use a capping fork to scrape the wax cappings off the honeycomb. I prefer this method even if it does make my gloved hands incredibly sticky. We had chosen a rainy day to extract the honey. It was do it then or in the wee hours of night so that bees and wasps don’t get the whiff of the honey and torment us. They always find a way in.
Buckets, extractor and every surface and tool had to be washed and sterilised before we started. It all takes time, but now the extractor is the centre of attention hungrily waiting for frame after frame to be laboriously scrapped to expose the treasure of honey in the comb. I try to balance the frames evenly around the drum; light ones opposite light ones, heavy opposite heavy. If the weight of the frames in the extractor drum are not balanced, then the extractor lets us know by its loud clumsy dance. I am really sticky by the time the 9 frames are sitting snugly in the extractor, as is everything I touch.
The extractor continues its merry dance but it’s a half-hearted effort as the frames empty and balance out. We keep our grip on it. Round and round spin the frames. The honey dislodges bit by bit. Looking down through the plastic cover of the extractor it’s exciting to watch the honey being spun from the comb. Drops of honey are thrown against the sides of the stainless-steel drum. It briefly looks like threads of candy floss before it trickles slowly down the sides and gathers leisurely at the bottom under the rotating frames. When enough has collected, I open the honey gate and the thick golden honey pours slowly to fill the 5-gallon food-grade bucket. There’s no rushing raw honey. I am mesmerised as I watch it flows slowly, gently and calmly. The millions of drops gathered by the bees combine into one mass of stunningly beautiful golden liquid. This beekeeper’s epitome of job satisfaction.
Some of my related blog posts:
A Fine mess – short and sweet about manual extracting
Big Brown Box on manual extracting and the work involved
Feature image SpaceX rocket launch and is not my extractor taking off 🙂