The month of September is a time set aside to recognize the sweet treat of honey, the bees who make it and the beekeepers who work hard trying to save the bees, pollinate the crops and provide honey for you. The summer honey flows have come to an end and we begin to prepare for winter with our bees. We reflect on the year - the ups, the downs and the lessons learned so far.
Every year's activities are a learning opportunity for us. We have had good rain here in this part of the state this August and we are praying that the remainder of the Fall continues this way. If it does we will likely have a nice flow of amazing rich honey full of the flavors from the Fall. Of course we only take honey from the hives that have extra as we want to make sure they have plenty of stores for the winter.
As I reflect on what it means to be a beekeeper, I am reminded of why I got into this adventure 4 years ago. I LOVE HONEY!! I always have had a fondness for honey and love the golden color, not to mention that it has helped so much with my allergies. I am amazed that God has provided such a perfect wholesome treat without creating it in a factory or having to heavily process it. Just a golden delectable sweetener, made just perfect to satisfy that craving!
Now that I’ve gotten more deeply involved with what it takes to raise bees and gather the honey, I feel its really important to help our community understand the honey bee issues and the challenges in getting clean, chemical-free honey. Since one of the goals I have for this blog is education, this is a perfect time to talk about honey, the differences in local, raw and unadulterated honey and what you may find in your grocer's shelves.
Local Honey - why is it important? First local honey contains traces of pollen, nectar and resins from local plants in our area. If you suffer from allergies, ingesting small amounts of local pollen can over time help in building immunity to allergy reactions to these plants. Second - if you buy local honey, chances are you know your beekeeper and how they keep their bees. Due to many different treatments of beehives, chemicals can be placed in the hives that may be harmful to you and your family. Third - large honey resellers buy honey from all over the world many times not knowing what they have put into their hives. Keeping honey local also reduces the carbon footprint required to bring honey from oversees and supports the US economy.
Raw - What’s the deal with this “raw” honey label? Many large honey bottlers are required to pasteurize and ultra filter their honey due to the large scale imports of honey from other countries. Pasteurization and filtering removes all of the beneficial pollens, bacteria and other helpful qualities we believe are best for health and healing. At Hathaway Farms, we minimally strain the honey while extracting it directly from the hive frames. Raw honey will often crystallize when stored in your pantry, another indication of its un-pasteurized state in bottling.
Unadulterated - Basically means that what you see is what you get. Total, pure honey straight from the hive. The only way to get it fresher is to slip on a bee suit and pull the frames yourself. Some honey sold in stores may be even have added corn syrup or other fillers. Be sure to read the fine print on the bottles - beekeepers are required to tell you where your honey is harvested and that there are no other additives.
Chemical Free - You might have heard that honeybees are having a tough time these days battling a variety of pests, diseases and pesticide troubles. As beekeepers work hard to help correct these problems and help bees survive, however there are a few pests that often require chemical treatment, much like we treat our pets for ticks and fleas. Some beekeepers use conventional or commercial methods by applying chemical treatments. Other beekeepers practice sustainable or "integrated pest management" methods go a bit further and use more labor intensive and organic management techniques, but takes a lot more time, intervention and understanding bee biology to manage the pests effectively.
At Hathaway Farms, we work extremely hard to be “chemical free” and yet practice sound animal husbandry. We believe that it is important to offer you chemical free clean food options. We don't classify ourselves as "treatment free" because we do to try to help the bees be as successful as they possibly can. For those of you who follow us, you have likely heard that using these sustainable practices we’ve seen some tough times but it has certainly paid off!
Location. Location. Location. Can you keep bees in town? Absolutely! Check your local city ordinances first, but in Tulsa you can absolutely do this! We have two apiaries, one right here in the heart of Tulsa Hills at our 5 acre farm and a second apiary SE of Tulsa, near a small community called Hitchita, at the west end of Lake Eufaula. We plant bee friendly crops in both locations to ensure that our bees have plenty of options to make a great quality honey for you to enjoy. With completely different flavors, pick the one that is just right for you.
Throughout the month we will continue to post information about honey, honeybees and beekeeping to give you an inside look at this sweet delicacy!
The 2018 Honey Harvest is finally here! The spring crop is finally harvested bottled and ready to go!
The bees at Hathaway Farms have finally finished working the early summer nectar into sweet golden honey! We have been blessed beyond expectation at the harvest this year and are so glad to be able to offer two varietals of our local, chemical free, raw unadulterated honey.
Tulsa Hills Honey Variety - Harvested at our Tulsa Hills Farm, just west of Tulsa Hills from our Apiary right here in the heart of the Tulsa Hills area. This variety has a richer, deeper flavor with a kind of "Tulsa Twang" made from wildflowers and trees in the SW Tulsa area. ~Buy yours here~
Hitchita Honey Variety - Harvested at our farm near Hitchita, OK, SE of Okmulgee. A lighter, floral flavor, from the fields of clovers, crimson, yellow and white clovers as well as sumac and other wild flowers and trees from the area. ~Buy yours here~
For many of you, you've heard the stories and the pains on how we've grown our apiaries and how it has taken 5 years to finally get to a good honey harvest. If you're wondering, wow! why that long? Can't you just put bee hives in your garden and the bees will make honey? Well yes and no. We thought that at first too, but we have found that beekeeping is quite a lesson in biology. We took the class, we listened to lots of opinions and well meaning mentors offering advice.
But when it comes right down to it, there is a lot to learn about bees and their biology. Especially if you want to go “chemical-free”. I will post an article on treatment-free and chemical-free and the differences but for now just know that both are much more time intensive than most can invest into their bees.
We are super excited to provide with options to your food choices and would be glad to answer any questions you might have or point you in the right direction when we can’t.
Thanks for reading and learning more about this awesome food system the God gave us! If you have questions about honey bees, honey or any other farm item, drop me a note. Be sure to watch our website and social media for updates as we begin to harvest our summer elderberry crop!
On our 5 acre farm here in beautiful Tulsa, our girls have free range access to over 3 acres of land and enjoy a diet of wild plants, bugs and some additional grains that we provide each morning. They love to forage from early in the morning until late afternoon and when they are ready they march right inside the henhouse and go to roost for the night. Super easy for us!
We have different varieties of hens, Americauna, Austrolorp and Leghorns.
This summer we have 18 new little ones, adding Brahmas and Buff Orpingtons to our hen house. The Brahmas are particularly cute with their little feathered feet!
Each breed of chicken lays a different color egg - Leghorns lay white, Austrolorp lay brown and the Americaunas (also called the Easter Egg chicken) lay a blue-blue/green egg. No matter the color, they all taste the same - delicious!
The flavor of a free range farm egg is amazingly different than the ones you may purchase at the store. Also the color is incredibly vibrant, a beautiful bright yellow and even almost orange! If you haven’t tried a fresh from the farm egg, reach out and grab some today!
We started raising chickens because of our desire to have healthy food options where we know how they are raised and what they eat. While we also thought it would be a cheaper option, I'm not sure about that now! Although they sure have been a constant source of entertainment around the farm! They are always doing crazy chicken things and have funny little personalities.
I get a lot of questions about the chickens and the eggs, so I thought sharing them here would be helpful in case you were wondering the same thing!
Elderberry plants are native to Oklahoma and you can often times find them along side roads or near the edges of river and creeks. Be sure to carefully identify the plants as others that are similar can be toxic! If in doubt buy local root or plant stock from your local nursery or right here at Hathaway Farms.
We've been growing elderberries here at Hathaway Farms for several years and we harvest both the flowers in early summer as well as the berries in the late summer. I'll write another post about what we do with the flowers but for now lets talk about the berries.
Smaller than a blueberry, elderberries have a larger seed inside. When we harvest we try to wait until the crown has 90% of the berries turned to a beautiful hue of deep purple.
Once we harvest them, we pop the berries off the stems, making sure to remove any stems, sticks or leaves from the mix as they can be toxic. I find that taking a small fork or comb will work to separate the berries from the stems. This can be quite tedious but so worth the effort!
After the berries are separated, they are given a double wash to make sure and remove any thing (or anyone) who might be along for the ride! We dry the bulk of our berries in the dehydrator as it is much easier for us to store. But we also freeze them depending on how much time we have during harvesting time!
Once you have the berries, whether you grow them yourself or buy them from a local farmer, whip up a batch of your own Elderberry syrup and help keep the sickness away!
Gma B’s Elderberry Syrup
2 C Elderberries - Dried, fresh or frozen
1 C Rose Hips
4 sticks Cinnamon
1-2 Tbsp dried ginger pieces (or fresh)
1 tsp black pepper
1 C. Raw Honey (more/less depending on how sweet you like it!)
Simmer until reduced by half (about 2 1/2-3 C). Smash the mixture with a potato masher and then drain.
Let cool. Add honey and stir.
Take 2 Tbsp 2-3x day.
Store in refrigerator for a week to 10 days.
We clearly don't grow all of the ingredients here at the farm (I wish!) but we do offer links to products we recommend through Amazon listed above.
*Please consult with your physician before using any herbal remedies. These statements have not been endorsed by the FDA.
For the record, this is my first blog post. If you like it or want to see more in these posts, please drop me a comment. I'd love to hear!