It’s that time. We’re pulling the first honey of the season off our new yards in Creston and getting it bottled for delivery to waiting customers.
This week is an important one for us: we’re still in the midst of moving to Creston and are juggling two operations at Swan Valley Honey and at Honey Bee Zen Apiaries in New Westminster, but we also have a growing list of customers who are needing honey now.
So on Tuesday Amanda and I left New Westminster with another load of 20 hives bound for Creston. We drove all through the night so that the bees would stay cool and not be inclined to fly. By the time we came down off the Kootenay Pass and on to the flats at Creston the sun had already been up for two hours.
We got the hives safely to a new yard in the Canyon-Lister area, grabbed some breakfast and then immediately went out with our two summer staff, Jason Crumback and Shawna Taylor, to begin pulling honey boxes off the other hundreds of hives already in the valley.
Jason pulled the first box of our new business off a colony at a dairy farm overlooking the Goat River. “Should we break out some champagne?” he asked.
We darn near did; it was a lovely box, new and clean and with a hint of that golden honey waiting just below the white wax covering.
In a matter of hours we had more than 50 boxes stacked into the back of the big flat deck truck, ready for transport back to the extraction plant. And that was from just four small yards.
Jason used a backpack leaf blower to clear the bees from the boxes; we’ve never been a fan of using fume boards or chemicals to get the bees off the honey. Instead, they were blown on to the ground in front of their hives, where they then collected and dusted themselves off and marched back into their homes.
Over the next few days we’ll pull hundreds more boxes and extract and bottle several thousand pounds of honey, and that’s only a small part of the waiting harvest. The previous owners say they usually do four pulls between July and the end of August.
Still, this is going to be a short year for honey. The late start to the season, the dry weather and the disruption to operations as Swan Valley Honey goes through transition means we’ll likely have half the harvest the previous owners had last year.
We’ll have to manage expectations. But for now, we expect to begin delivery of our new crop beginning later this week.
As for the honey from our berry field operations in Abbotsford, those boxes will get transported to the plant in Creston in August. We’ll be extracting and bottling those under the Honey Bee Zen label in September.