Adventures, Inspiration, Montana, Photography

Honey harvest 2014: Bees, bees, more bees, and some honey!

Buzzing, busy bees!

I returned from a night of fun with old friends (our cheer was “to old friends and new memories”) to head immediately over to the Platt haus. Julia is a beautiful friend of mine whose family has been raising bees for awhile. They keep hives a few miles from their haus and I was invited to come over and help them harvest all the honey their industrious bee ladies had produced!

I showed up and was immediately intimidated- right outside on the porch was an enormous extractor, surrounded by hundreds of flying, busy bees. I have never been a fan of stinging insects so I thought of not leaving the house at all. Plus, the sound! They hummed and buzzed and the air was practically vibrating.

However, Julia’s mum quickly assured me that they were in “foraging” mode, and weren’t in the mood to bother anybody. They literally just wanted to be left alone to eat.

I ventured outside with my camera, while the air hummed and moved with the bees moving everywhere. I watched Hamilton run the extractor with the honey trays being centrifuged inside- physics!

The honey extractor is basically a large metal silo with metal parts inside to slide honey trays inside. Before you can centrifuge the honey you have to first de-wax the trays, because the bees have capped them. “De-capping” requires a couple odd looking tools. There’s a hot metal rod that you can use to melt the wax off, or you can use a little comb-like device to get the wax off. The wax is then put into buckets outside for the bees to clean a little bit! The wax is hard to clean but once it’s clean it can be used for so many things!

Once the wax is removed  the extractor holds the honey-filled trays. Two people work the extractor, holding it steady while one person cranks it to get the centrifuge working. Honey (and some unfortunate bees that got into the trays) are removed through sheer force and fall to the bottom to be gathered once enough honey has been centrifuged. I watched as they opened the extractor and took the trays out and turned them 180 degrees, to get the honey out of both sides of the tray.

Once trays have been centrifuged and there’s plenty of unfiltered honey in the bottom, somebody opens the spigot while another person takes a bucket with cheese cloth secured across the top. The de-honeyed trays are put back into the bee boxes in the yard for the bees to return to. These are later transported back to the hives where the bees will live for the rest of the year!

The cheese cloth over the honey buckets filters out wax and other things in the honey. Whatever bees were stuck in the extractor also come out. Then, more cheese cloth is placed over the top of the filtering buckets to prevent more bees from getting in the honey and drowning. Although, they are damn quick and still manage to usually find their way into the honey! Poor bees.

Once the honey has been filtered and whatever unlucky bees have been removed, the honey is ready to be jarred!

The honey is poured into special spigot buckets with lids, and then poured into whatever Mason and Kerr jars you have on hand. This must be done quickly because bees will literally zoom into the honey if given the chance.

The color of the honey varies depending on what the bees have been eating- in this case the bees were apparently eating thistles, mint, and clover! The flavor also varies based on what the bees eat. It’s actually incredible to watch the filtered, pure honey come out of the spigot and be jarred- it’s the most amazing, rich shade of gold! Plus, honey has the most incredible smell. I want to smell like honey.

While we were doing all of these random tasks, honey got on our hands, faces, clothes, and in our hair. The bees, which are hungry, immediately land on you. This part was the most intimidating and yet the most interesting- the bees are calm, not scary, but they’re definitely not shy about invading your personal space! We all periodically washed our hands with the ever-handy spray bottle or the spigot hose to keep our hands especially from attracting bees. We also had to rinse off the spigots for the honey. The inside of the Platt’s haus had honey on the floor, table tops, and chairs. Sticky everywhere!

The Platts have a lot of help, but the honey harvest is hard work. A lot of bending, lifting, and working while trying not to step on or bother the bees, which are literally in the thousands all over the yard. They’re in the honey buckets, on the wax, in the trays, landing on your person, and  eating honey off of every surface possible. My camera got some honey on it and bees landed there! By 5 pm we were all getting tired, and we were all sticky to some degree. I shook out my hair at the end of the night and thought a bee came out but it was actually something from a tree, ha!

My favorite part in all of this was admiring all the hard work the bees do and how incredible it is that these little ladies made all of this delicious stuff!

Julia’s dad explained to me how they house the bees and give them the trays which already have the wax the bees need. The bees do not have to expend more energy building wax combs, so they can spend time producing more honey.

Julia’s boyfriend Isaac and her brother Hamilton at one point donned handsome (ish) white bee suits to go collect more boxes. This is the part where the bees aren’t too keen on being friendly, because when an invader shows up to take away their honey, they go into defensive mode. This is when the suit is necessary- Hamilton described how the bees would bounce off of the mesh face net, obviously attempting to keep the eerily suited creatures from stealing their food! Hamilton did get stung once, and so did his dad, but other than that nobody was harmed! (Except the unfortunate bees that couldn’t help themselves and ended up in the honey or the centrifuge…)

Overall yesterday was the most interesting observance of a truly symbiotic relationship. The Platts give the bees housing, security, and give them back more than enough of their honey. The extractor doesn’t really take out every bit of honey, and crystallized honey trays can’t be centrifuged effectively, so the bees eat that as well. The Platts have been doing this for years and it was really amazing to work with them and help harvest the honey! Plus I felt really at ease after a while being surrounded by the bees.

I went home with 3 beautiful golden jars of the stuff, which I am planning on putting into pies, pastries, and tea!

Honey is also fantastic for cold sores, chapped lips, and exfoliating skin. Mix sugar and raw honey and scrub your face and wash off- honey has anti-bacterial and antiviral properties and it’s 100% natural. Using raw honey, not processed, is necessary to get the good properties out of honey- buying local is best.

Or go make friends with some folks who have a honey harvest. They’re the best! Thanks to the awesome Platt family for letting me witness such a neat event and help you guys!

Bzzzzzzzzzzz

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Adventures, Exploring, Montana, Photography

Escapism

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I’ve been slowly scanning in film and getting familiar with my scanner.

Getting the colors right in the scan is definitely probably my biggest challenge! I know that certain films highlight different tones than others, and seeing as I use a mix of Fuji, Kodak, and whatever else, I definitely just scan it in and sometimes it’s pretty obvious that it’s not…quite right.

For now, that’s alright.

I’m learning and I’m  happy seeing images I’ve captured. I had such a beautiful weekend up North in my favorite National Park. Summer is winding down, and it’s currently raining outside. I’m wearing a grey angora sweater and cashmere socks and I can now drink hot tea and I am in love with this weather. I like taking walks just after the rain stops, when it’s slightly misty out and people aren’t wandering around because it’s still not right.

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Adventures, Americana, Cameras, Exploring, Photography

Sturdy old things make beautiful new things.

Shooting with a 70 year old Argus Argoflex is not an easy task. The top glass viewfinder is rather dark, and focusing never feels steady. There’s also no light meter, so proper guessing skills are a must!

However, for finding this beauty in a Goodwill in near perfect condition for $20, I don’t mind. Getting a good frame with this lovely camera takes work, so you have to earn each frame.

Not that I’m not looking at investing in a decent DSLR…with a decent lens…but first, I am planning a trip to Europe with my lovely sister and saving for graduate school. Those two things come first financially!

These images are from Cape Cod, on walks with my mother, meandering around the Portuguese-founded whaling town of Provincetown, and feeling salt in my hair and on my skin. It’s like nothing else! I also had a good quantity of decent gin on that trip. :)

 

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Food, Photography

I made a thing. A thing made of Brie, butternut squash, and apples. A galette!

 

I tried to go to work today but I threw my back out of wack taking peanut butter chocolate chip toffee cookies out of the oven. I went to work for an hour and after realizing I couldn’t even sit comfortably I went home, put a hot pad on my back, and slept for a few more hours.

I feel so restless lately. I walk up and down the same streets. I’ve been devouring books, so many books, and they make me even more restless, because when I am done with them I am back to my life, not on a beach in Normandy or in the Carpathian mountains. I decided to foster some creativity and cook, which for me is always a test of my ability to read directions closely and not get too neurotic if it doesn’t come out well.

I have a folder on my computer that holds recipes for everything from Vietnamese spring rolls to sloppy joe sandwiches. However, one thing that I have wanted to try for months was a recipe that Happyolk posted. The recipe below is entirely from her, I take no credit!

She’s an amazing blogger in Colorado who posts beautiful photographs and recipes that make me want to drool. A lot of her posts are accompanied by gorgeous swaths of text. It’s more than a recipe- it’s a little mini story. She gets creative in clever ways, and this galette didn’t look too difficult to put together!

I’m not defective in the kitchen, but to be honest I don’t try. I’m exhausted after work and the gym, and the last thing I want to do is devote 1 or 2 hours to putting together meals.

However, lately I’ve been feeling very antsy and very disconnected to myself. I think cooking, or trying to, will give me a chance to listen to my body more and give it better things than something frozen or quickly, hastily put together. I’m trying all sorts of things to listen to myself more, because it’s hard sometimes to know what’s really wrong. Is anything really wrong?

Anyway, I followed her recipe pretty closely, except I already had pre-chopped butternut squash, so I sliced the small chunks pretty thin. I think getting a whole squash, peeling it, and then slicing much bigger slices would work better!

For the pastry dough you need: 

1 tsp sugar

Pinch of salt

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup ice water

12 tbs unsalted butter, cold

Mix flour + sugar + salt, then use the pastry chopper thing (ugh I have no idea what it’s actually called) or your fingers and break the butter apart and blend with flour until the mixture is course. Mix in the rest of the butter the same way. Pour in the ice water and mix dough into a ball. Roll dough flat, put in the fridge for 30+ minutes.

 

For the inside things (butternut squash, apples, cheese):

3 lb butternut squash

2 cups brie cheese w/o rind

2 apples, preferably Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Fuji (I used Pink Lady)

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

1 egg

Peel and slice butternut squash. Lay flat on a baking tray; drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in oven at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, then take out and let cool. Slice apples into 1/4 inch pieces with the peel on. Pull or slice apart the brie.

Take the dough from the fridge, and put on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Have it be about 12″ or so in a disc shape. Then begin layering cool squash, apples, and brie cheese as you want! Use all your ingredients, leaving a 1 1/2″ empty edge on the dough disc for pulling it up and securing the delicious filling inside!

Gently fold the edges up around the filling. Pinch edges. Put an egg wash on the outside, then put back into the 400 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes! Then consume the delicious concoction you just made and swell with pride that you did it. YAY!

I made this for myself, and I have plenty leftover for lunch at the office! No more sandwiches!

Again, all recipe content from Happyolk.

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Montana, Photography

Lonely landscapes

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I have been lonelier as of late than I have in a long time.

My social life is bordering on dead, a husk of what I imagined it would be this summer. I had a break-up, took a job I was very unsure of, and have spent most of my summer working and catching up on sleep, feeling as though I never had enough.

I moved out of my apartment in Bozeman permanently. Packing is hot and sweaty work but it also brings to light how much unnecessary stuff one has. I wanted to throw most of it away. I cried intermittently. I know that many people have bigger struggles and harder lives than I do but it doesn’t make it easier to move and deal with a break up.

This summer has been the hottest, loneliest, and hardest one I can remember. It doesn’t help that I worked too much and didn’t see enough of the good people in my life.

I hope my next post has better positive vibes attached to it, but I’m not going to apologize for being a person and having a difficult time at the moment.

 

 

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Black and White, Inspiration, Montana, Musings, Photography

Newly found moments

 

These are from 2012. I haven’t honestly seen most of these myself- I had made contact sheets and just never got around to making prints.

Here are some photographs of and with people I love. I am lucky in that even though I spend a lot of time alone I am surrounded by creatures with lovely souls.

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Adventures, Americana, Exploring, Montana

A little peek at where I’ve been

I joined a gym.

I’ve been working so much I have to in order to sleep well or get any semblance of adrenaline going. I love having something to do after work, and I feel better already, even after only a week of going.

I also received a beautiful, sleek, almost professional grade Epson V700 scanner as a graduation from university gift.

And it’s amazing.

I’m definitely still getting the hang of it but I am definitely in love.

I can’t wait to be able to shoot my pictures and still be able to scan them in myself. It’s very gratifying to do so!

These are some shots from Glacier National Park. I want to film a series like Twin Peaks there, except among the hotel staff and the guests. It’s perfect, don’t you think?

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