We arrived in Idaho at the end of August, Paul was about to start working at the Sun Valley Inn as an electrician and I had no idea what I’d be doing. After being in one spot for more than a couple days I got stir crazy (remember we had been moving around for the past 4 months), so I looked through the local paper for a job. One job in particular jumped out at me, harvesting and processing honey “plus free honey!” I called the number and the next day I was in a warehouse down the road helping a local beekeeper process honey from over 800 hives. Tom the beekeeper started in 2010 with just 4 bee hives gifted to him from a friend, now he has hives throughout the Wood River Valley as well as additional hives in Montana.
I helped Tom for a little over a month, working 3-4 days a week about 6 hours a day. I’m not gonna lie, when I saw the ad in the paper I thought it was gonna be a cutesy job where I’d sit at a table and bottle some honey, but it was much more labor intensive. Each morning I would fill buckets with hot water and place them all around the shop, when you’re working with this much honey you get pretty sticky, and hot water is the only way to get it off. Throughout the day these buckets would have to be emptied and refilled because they would cool off and fill up with globs of honey and wax.
After prepping the warehouse and checking that all the machines were working properly we would pull the beehives out of the hot room, this was a small room kept at about a hundred degrees in order to keep the honey from getting too hard. Tom would pull the frames from the beehives and feed them into a machine that would scratch off the top layer of wax. Someone else would be just on the other side of that machine to double-check the scratch job, because if the wax doesn’t come off the honey will not come out. The frames would then get handed to me to load into a machine that would spin until the honey came off. From there the honey is transferred into a large vat and then into 50 gallon barrels before it goes through bottling process. In a day we could make up to 150 gallons of honey. This honey is not filtered and it is only heated slightly so that it is easier to work with allowing the pollen and enzymes to still be present in the final product, making it great for fighting allergies and promoting a healthy gut.
After we processed the honey each day, we would transfer all the empty hives back outside and put new ones in the hot room for the next day. Cleaning up the warehouse after each work day was probably the hardest part, everything needed to be wiped down and sprayed off. The floors, the machines, the tools, it all got scraped and washed at the end of the day. While honey is sticky, it comes off easily with hot water, it was the wax that stuck to everything and needed that extra elbow grease to scrape it off.
I may have been stung a few times but I sure did gain an appreciation for my little coworkers. More than honey, almost all other aspects of our diet rely on bees. Without bees there would be an absence of pollination, resulting in a death of crops, as well as a decline in our meat and dairy products. Planting bee-friendly flowers in the yard will encourage the forager-bees to come visit, so please consider helping them out in that small way.