Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm up to my ears in honey, honey!

In honor of my beloved world traveled Canon Power shot camera, which took its last breath here in El Pelmar this weekend, I'll let the photos tell the story this week.
 One of the oldest inhabited Peninsulas in Europe, with the main  town residing in a space of 1800 meters long by 1200 meters wide, Carnival in Cadiz was a bit of everything. We found the perfect place to park for the weekend beside El Castillo de Santa Catalina and just outside of Barrio de la Vina, where the majority of carnival activities happen until the early hours of the morning. 


Days and nights were filled with Gaditanos, (people from Cadiz) who take great  pride in their Chirigotas, clevery written thematic songs, performed in groups of up to 20 people and dressed in intricate matching costumes. Many spend the months leading up to the festivities practicing their performances in preparation for the competition, where only the best of the best receive the privilege of  taking to the streets via the floats. The floats then find their way through various neighborhoods during the day and again at the night.


Here I am in front of the water tap in Plaza de Fallo, the main theater in Cadiz, where the  original  Chirigota contests take place for the month leading up to Carnival. As the contests goes on the groups get cut from the contests and begin to line the streets surrounding the plaza. These same groups, known as "Illegals" continue performing through the celebration, and take to the streets at all hours of the day, and surrounded by eager listeners. 

After 3 full days and nights of Gaditano culture and plenty of Fried Fish, Shrimp and squid, typical to the peninsula, Ramon, Nick ( a befriended traveler on his way to Paraguay) and I made our way back to our cove in El Pelmar. Back in our tranquil, creative minded friend filled neighborhood we continued elaborating La Galvez. We continue to put to use the many items collected along the way, and picture above shows Ramon putting the last stitches of our matching Minnesota born, taken to Serbia and now brought to Spain upholstered furniture.

We took advantage of the relaxed Monday night atmosphere, and presented the first of many film nights in the neighborhood, with one of my favorite films by Richard Linklater, Waking Life. We made a fire in our recently acquired BBQ, set up chairs, our bench and a bean bag, and projected the film on our friends house wall under the stars and beside the ocean. With all the passers by we were 10 that enjoyed the festivities.

Before departing for another week of Apiculture in La Muela, we dined on a plate of Spaghetti's and sat around for a bit of music before sending Nick on his way. The Accordion, one practice session at a time, begins to be softer on the ears.  

We made it back to la Muela just in time for joining of 2 beehives, the first of many technical lessons to come.

The previous evening Daniel situated one strong beehive immediately on top of another, leaving the 2 separate entities to familiarize their scents. The following morning, we joined the beehives together by removing the queen bee from the top box , removed the box's floor, lined news paper on top of the bottom panels, and placed the recently orphaned bees on top of the paper. Following the scent of the queen bee below them, the young worker bees eat their way through the newspaper and acquaint themselves with their new queen by alimenting her larva with nectar, pollen and Royal Jelly.

Here Daniel and I are jarring the honey from the last falls harvest.

Due to the cool temperature of the Apiculture shed where the honey is kept through the fall and the winter, the honey crystallized and took a grainy form. In order to jar it at ease, we used a double boiler system and slowing warmed up the honey and brought it back to a creamy substance.

A panel in position to be scraped and placed in the centrifugal force honey extractor.

A specially designed pollen collecting house placed in front of the main entrance of the beehive removes half of the pollen carried back by the worker bees. The pollen is scraped off their back legs by the entrance and drops into the removal drawer below.

In preparation for queen bee rearing, I assisted Daniel's brother Carlos in the fabrication of waxed lined Queen cells where we place the larva transplants.

With Daniel's ingenuity and Carlo's artisan skills, we modified a standard beehive into 4 separate spaces to be used as the queen bee's first home. The advantage being that we need less bees to support the living space of the colony, and can work withing our limited resources.

He we are modifying the size of the false nutrient filled panel to fit in the baby,

After a week of preparation and honey harvesting we followed the sun back down to El Pelmar and spent the weekend as artisans ourselves selling fresh local honey, karite (Shea Butter from Burkina Faso), necklaces, masks, and wire figures from Burkina as well.

After a successful weekend of sales and waiting for the weekly concert to start up, we watched our Austrian friend Norbert fly his gyro copter back and forth through the sunset. Moments like these I really am beside myself.

Not long after we went back to La Muela, where my first queen bee larva transplants began underway.

Step one in the translarve is finding and removing a panel of freshly laid eggs from the beehive. All eggs turn into Larva between their 3rd and 4th day of existence and Queen bee breeders take advantage of this 24 hour period to transplant the larva from the panel into an individualized cell.

One at a time, larva are transplanted into the wax molded cells using a dentists metal scoop, and the full panel of 26 queen cells is placed into an orphaned beehive full of young royal jelly giving worker bees. Following their natural intuition the worker bees fill the cells with Royal Jelly and the queen cells take their form. Before coming to life between their 14th and 16th day of existence the queen cells will be placed into their respective beehives.

The mild mannered Carnican bee in action.

We had the pleasure of befriending a commercial beekeeper in the area interested in Daniel's approach to Queen Bee rearing, and he was fascinated by the difference of race behavior. Unlike the aggressive Iberica bee local to the country, the Carnican bee can be worked with free of gloves and protection. 

We were invited his beehives and were fascinated by his collection of cork hives. As one of the oldest methods of beekeeping in Spain, the bees build their honeycombs naturally inside the hollowed out cork trees.


In all the activity a friendship was sparked and we loaded La Galvez with boxes filled with 2 strong queen bees and her workers to take with us back to la Muela for breeding.

We finished off our visit by visiting his families honey production warehouse, and petting his pure bread Spanish stallions.