Beekeeping – Honey Production


We’re done!

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The warm room is empty once more.

All the honey is pulled, extracted, and ready for your enjoyment.

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Travis and Neil with just 2 stacks to go!

To head off some of your questions at the gate: yes, all of our honey is raw honey.  Yes, that’s the stuff that’s actually honey, the stuff that’s good for you, and the stuff that also is the tastiest.  What is raw honey?  Honey that has been handled respectfully and gently by the packer, in this case, us.

Raw honey is never superheated — superheating honey breaks down the delicate enzymes the bees add to it, i.e., part of what makes honey, honey.  Why do the big packers superheat it?  So it won’t crystallize on their shelves.  The Big Box Store wouldn’t be too happy if it ordered a million pounds of honey and had it go rock hard on the shelves, now would it?  So, crystallization, while annoying, is often indicative of honey’s “rawness.”  And crystallization is reversible — here’s our post on how we liquefy our crystallized honey.

Raw honey is never filtered — filtering honey removes pollen, wax, and other goodies that make honey, honey.  Why do the big packers filter honey, and sometimes send it through a diatomaceous earth filter?  Again, to cut down on that crystallization factor.

Honey is a super saturated sugar, so there’s not much that can grow in it.  There’s no reason to mess with nature’s perfection, so we don’t.

Happily for us, we live in the middle of nowhere (we love you, Pioneer Woman, but compared to us your ranch is in Brooklyn), in the midst of plants that make the best honey you’ve never tasted.  Mostly sweet clover and alfalfa, if you’re wondering.  As a result, our honey is mild, light, and sweet, of course, but not cloying.

There’s no difference in the Glacier County Honey Co and Chief Mountain Honey Co honeys.

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Chief Mountain Honey on display at Natural Grocers in Kalispell!

Everything for sale is this year’s crop and yes, we have comb honey this year!

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Ross Rounds are $15 each.

We welcome more of your questions, and your orders.  Check out www.glaciercountyhoney.com or email sales (at) glaciercountyhoney (dot) com for more information.

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Howard helped me pass out honey stix at Natural Grocers last week.  

We appreciate your support, and of course your business, more than you know.

And now, we’re going to say a few words of thanks for our harvest, and take a nap on our sticky couch ….

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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We’re in the midst of the honey harvest!  And therefore, you’re invited to our 2nd Annual Fill Your Own Bucket Day on Saturday, August 10, 2013, from 8am-5pm. See you at World Headquarters for tours of the honey house, candle making, the bees themselves, and outrageously low prices on honey.

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PRICES HAVE BEEN SET FOR the 2nd ANNUAL FILL YOUR OWN BUCKET DAY!

To fill containers under 20 pounds:  $2.95/#

To fill containers over 20 pounds: $2.75/#

There is a 60 pound total limit per person.  If you are a business who needs wholesale honey, please contact us beforehand to discuss pricing, etc.  Fill Your Own Bucket Day is meant for our retail customers, only.

Only cash or checks will be accepted for these Fill Your Own Bucket prices.

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If you bring your own (clean) containers, we’ll fill them with honey for you at a wholesale rate – ONE DAY ONLY, NO EXCEPTIONS.  Please do not show up the day before or the day after and ask us to honor these prices.  We pull all of our employees out of the field and change the setup on our entire extracting process for this one day in order to offer these prices, and that is only feasible for ONE day each summer.  Thank you in advance for understanding.

Frequently asked questions about the honey, answered: yes, the honey is 100% natural, pure, and raw.  Unfiltered, unheated.  The best sweetener for you on earth, and the best tasting to boot.  Our bees are tops, y’all, and our locations in pristine Glacier County can’t be beat.

We’ll have all of our retail stock — honey, beeswax, and gifts — available, too.  Credit/debit is fine for those purchases, as long as the internet connection holds.

Directions are here.  Mapquest/Google are not reliable.  Print these before you leave home.  Without a booster, you won’t have cell service near World Headquarters.

We hope to see you near Babb!

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

How’s the honey crop?  Everywhere we go, especially in our painted bee trucks, people want to know.

Well.  We’ve had plenty of moisture, but we need some heat.  If we get some heat, oooh boy pretty honey crop!  All we can do is wait, and hope.

In the meantime, Travis has been putting his fancy new work phone to good use:

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Jackie, your bees say hi.

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Sweet clover foreground, alfalfa background – both excellent honey plants.

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First honey of the year, happy working bees.

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This is an old frame, so the comb and the honey look dark, but the close up of the bees is pretty cool, no?

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Neil, channeling Jackie Park-Burris.

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The bees have quite a view of Glacier National Park while they work.  Keep at it, girls!

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  Photo credits to Travis Looney.  All Rights Reserved.

The Baby Beekeeper is about to give up her title, as we expect a new baby beekeeper next week.  If you need honey or beeswax, please contact us ASAP so we can get that out to you in a timely fashion – there is no maternity leave for the self employed, but we do intend to count all the baby’s fingers and toes before resuming shipping.  Thank you for your understanding!

Last week, to celebrate the last days of her reign, Baby Beekeeper took to the fields with Daddy for the first time, wearing a precious pink daisy printed bee suit her Grandma Sarah made for her 2nd birthday.  I could not believe that Daddy wanted to take her to work with him, as we were/are in the midst of potty training.  And in general, the attention span and patience of a 2 year old is famed, and for all the wrong reasons.  And bees sting.  And etc.

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But Daddy is quite a guy.  And Baby Beekeeper is quite a gal.  And off they went, while I “baby mooned” with my mom, shopping for “antiques” (i.e. junk furniture for Baby Beekeeper’s new Big Girl Room), getting ahead of paperwork, stocking the freezer, setting up the nursery and doing all those last minute baby things massively pregnant women suddenly find imperative to accomplish.  Biology is a beautifully mysterious thing.  Hilarious texts from Daddy as the week wore on included: “being Mommy is hard.”  Thank you for providing a patch of calm before the storm, Honeydew.  Much appreciated.

Anyway, here are a few shots of Maggie Rose’s first day as a working gal.  She’s yet to be stung and can eat her weight in honey straight from the comb.

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Arriving in the bee yard.

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Helping Uncle T.

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Very busy and important.

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First lessons in hive tool-ery.

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Is it lunch time yet?

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She helped catch her first swarm, too.

We’re mighty proud of our girl.

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

As y’all know, Honeydew is a 2nd generation beekeeper.  In the 1970s, Honeydew’s dad, Bob Fullerton, started what eventually became Chief Mountain Honey Co., and as a result Honeydew grew up keeping bees, packing honey, and making beeswax candles.  Eventually, Honeydew worked for Chief Mountain Honey and started Chief Mountain Pollination.  When Honeydew and I were married, we founded our own company, Glacier County Honey Co., and Bob carried on with Chief Mountain Honey.

This spring, Bob decided to retire from the retail aspect of Chief Mountain Honey — though never from beekeeping! — and he passed the Chief Mountain retail torch to us.  We are so proud to offer honey under the label that Honeydew grew up with, a label that has enjoyed a 30+ year relationship with the folks who flock to Glacier National Park in the summertime and the folks who live here year round, too.

CMHC 12oz bear

CMHC 1lb

Under the Chief Mountain Honey label, we offer 12oz honeybears, 1# squeeze skeps, 2.5# tubs, and 5# tubs.  All of these containers are available for purchase at www.glaciercountyhoney.com, along with our Glacier County Honey stix, 8oz, 1#, 3#, and 5# squeeze bottles, and 12# and 35# buckets.

Chief Mountain Honey is also available all over Glacier County and Glacier National Park.  Please look for our “new” label at Thronson’s in Babb; the Leaning Tree and Two Sisters near Babb; Johnson’s and Park Cafe in St. Mary; Faught’s, IGA, and Glacier Family Foods in Browning; Albertson’s in Cut Bank; Glacier Park Trading Post in East Glacier; and more!   A complete list of our retailers is available here.

Here’s to the next generation!

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2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Beekeeping is like any other profession in that generally, everything happens at once.  This time of year, the phone rings off the hook with retail orders — we are lucky enough to be located next to not just a national park, but GLACIER National Park! — at the same time all of the flowers burst into full-hearted bloom and the bees start going gangbusters working said flowers.

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Dandelions.  If you need a reason to leave them undisturbed in your yard, tell your neighbors how tasty the bees find them in late spring.  A very important food source for the girls!

Beekeeping is not like any other profession in this way: if we beekeepers are not quick enough to expand the size of our hives by adding what are called “supers” (the boxes that sit on top of the existing 2 boxes that make up the hive — they are called supers because they are for the storage of superfluous honey), our workers will say Sayonara and hit the trail.  There will be no meeting called for their union, or for upper management, to discuss the situation and its solutions.  They will simply round up their Queen and head for a roomier tree trunk to call home, i.e. they will swarm.

What this means for us: when Honeydew determines that the time is right for “supering” the hives, he doesn’t mean when the crew gets caught up on the candle pouring and the hive painting and the oil changing.  He means right then, and he intends to work until the work is done.  Beekeepers’ hours ain’t bankers’ hours.

So Honeydew and the crew spent the end of last week and half the weekend supering the hives.  And they look mighty purty now, all supered up, and so filled with promise.

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May it be a good honey year.

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Earlier in the spring, Honeydew brought a couple of hives over to Flathead County, mostly for my amusement purposes.  I love to watch the bees.

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And Maggie loves to check on “her” bees.  She’s got a great bzzzzzzzzzzzzz noise, too.

While we were inspecting the gals on Sunday morning, we saw a worker hauling a huge load of bright red pollen.  Now, what in the world do y’all suppose that could be from?  It seems as though everything over here is currently in bloom, so it’s hard to say, but it sure makes for a pretty picture.

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The bees bring pollen back to the hive, using pockets on the sides of their legs that Honeydew and I like to call their chaps.  The technical term is pollen basket.  According to Karl von Frisch, it takes a honeybee between 3 and 18 minutes to fill her basket.

On a related-only-in-the-craziness-of-my-mind-note, have y’all heard the new Pistol Annies song, Loved By A Workin’ Man?  This shot of Honeydew’s hands, endlessly abused in beekeeping, brings it to mind.  It’s a simple song that people who enjoy making fun of country music will probably have endless fun with, but it resonates with this country girl.

Other interesting observations from Sunday morning … they’re starting to make honey!

Uncapped:

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Capped!

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All of the equipment in this hive is brand new (some of our stuff is about 40 years old) and it’s been amazing to watch the bees create all that gorgeous wax comb – they start from scratch with new frames.

The queen lays her eggs in parts of the comb.  The workers store honey in some areas, and pollen in others.

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See the pollen, stored in the comb?

The bees secrete flakes of beeswax from a special glands in their abdomens in order to form the hexagonal comb — hexagons being nature’s perfect, space saving shape, of course.  Researchers have estimated that bees have to fly about 150,000 miles — or about six times around the Earth! — to produce one little ole pound of beeswax.  In doing so, they’ll eat about eight times as much honey by mass.  What does that mean for beekeepers?  Roughly, for every 10 pounds of honey we harvest, we harvest about a pound of wax.

I never get tired of learning about bees.  Hope y’all feel the same way.

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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