Updated: Feb 7
I don't think we talk about failures enough.
Most of the failures I've experienced in my life- true failures, where I've actually tried hard and still failed, are few.
But the bees might be one of them.
This is a picture of the wonderful golden goodness from our bees last year...before they died. Alas, another fail, and not the one which instigated this blog.
This is part of half a gallon of honey which is now 'ruined' thanks to me.
Thankfully, mistakes are often the best methods in which I am able to learn. My mom can attest to this. I was one of those kids that had to learn through experience, even when I knew what the ramifications would be. Ooops.
And yet, the bees. The honey. The waste.
One of my favorite ways of incorporating my herbal medicine background and beekeeping has been by infusing honey with different herbs, which allows for many of the benefits from the plant to be harnessed within the honey. It's pretty dope. When we began our beekeeping journey last year I was excited to be able to use our own honey, which we should not have been able to harvest had our bees survived. RIP. They didn't make it to winter, but on the flip side I had 80 lbs of honey to play around with.
This is one of my best selling, and most favorite herbal honeys. I've been making it for years, and have never had any issues.
This year was different.
So, stoked to use our very own honey and our very own honeysuckle flowers, I did what I do, same as usual. Except this time, 6 weeks (possibly earlier) after infusing the flowers and honey, there were bubbles. Awwww, bubbles are cute! Yes, they're cute in kombucha (which I make) and sauerkraut (which I make). I know what bubbles mean. F E R M E N T A T I O N.
It would also be cute if I wanted to make mead, but I don't have near enough honey to make mead.
Is this a hygiene issue? Doubtful- I'm pretty good about sterilization. The honey itself has been sitting in nice dark, quiet spot for some time -and honey almost never goes bad. I did, however, think it looked a little more watery than I was used to, but since this is my first go at extracting our own honey, I didn't worry about it too much. There's also a way to test your honey for water content. Part of me thinks this may have been an issue; I'll probably test our honey in the future.
What I think the real culprit is, is yeast.
Funny, I had just read an article this spring about collecting wild yeast from your yard to make bread or what have you. I put that on my mental list of projects to try in the future. Looks like maybe, just maybe, I willed that into existence, as I've been willing plants to my yard. More on that another time...
So I've got some slightly fizzy honey. Not the worst thing in the world. Doesn't even taste bad! Still had that honeysuckle flavor with a little something tart in there. Actually, people who aren't into honey (do they even exist!?!) would think it's pretty good. No, friends. The real problem is the orders.
I had a listing on my Etsy (please don't go there. It's sad and empty and neglected and embarrassing and another fail) where I had been very successfully selling my infused honey- including honeysuckle honey. In fact, it sold out last season (it's a seasonal item since I can only harvest the flowers at certain times). Yet I renewed my listing, knowing my new batch was about ready. And people ordered it.
And my honey was jacked up. I can't sell this to people. I don't even know if it's safe! Although, based on all my research I'm pretty sure it is. And, I've eaten enough of it by now to know it's very much safe. I ended up refunding all the orders, just to be...ya know...safe.
Then, as I'm explaining my dearth of problems to JP, he decides to shake up the honey.
And I'm left with this:
This is literally what all the honey turned into, but the picture is only a section. Half a gallon of foamy honey.
Honestly, it's probably one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. It's similar to marshmallow fluff but not quite as thick.
All the honey was now foam, and unlike my crappily-poured beers, the head on this didn't go down.
Finally I ended up getting some liquid back, but it took a few days, and I still had about 3 inches of foam on top, which I scraped off and put in a separate jar.
I still don't know exactly what went wrong but I'm pretty sure it's the combination of wild yeast and watery honey, since everything was fine before the flowers were in it. And I didn't have an issue with dried herbs I purchased and infused- only the fresh stuff.
It's a waste of a lot of honey, not that we won't put good use to it here at home. It also makes me a little wary of what I make in the future, since now I've experienced a flop that felt out of my control.
These bees, man. Not an easy task. We're supposed to be finishing our finalizing of the winterization process, but I'm in a failure-mode mindset right now, and I don't even feel like bothering with them. And as much as I read, or talk to people, or join the monthly meetings with our bee club, I still feel overwhelmed and unsure of things. As soon as I feel I've mastered one area of beekeeping, a new task throws me off.
I guess this is part of the eternal process of learning and homesteading, through failures.