Happy New Year.
As I write my last blog of this year I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Over this last week, temperatures plummeted and we woke up to a sparkling frost spangled world in Nairnshire. Rain freezes overnight leaving plants and trees encased in ice. As the sun warms up the world at noon, there’s snowy softness around and the gentle plop of melting snow falling from the larch trees by the wall where I stop to watch chaffinches eating seeds still clinging to dried up hogweed plants.
A Year of Walking.
I’m not the only one to have spent most of this year out walking. I read other blogs where this activity highlights an antidote to a year of enforced confinement to home environs. Jackie Elliott from Ayrshire sets herself the target of walking 3 miles a day which is impressive. Even more impressive is that she sticks to it. Well done, Jackie.
As I reflect on my beekeeping year and set goals for improvements, I note a greater interest in local honey this year than ever before. Somehow the message about buying locally produced food is impacting on people and they couldn’t get enough honey around here. I’m glad that I process honey in small batches of 25-30 jars, and kept buckets over till December because I’ve had so many orders from locals wanting to give honey to friends at Christmas. I’ve sold out now till June when, hopefully, I’ll be harvesting oil seed rape honey.
Increasing Apiary Size.
Having spent this year expanding the apiary, I need to focus on honey production in 2021. However, I’m planning having an out apiary and further increasing to 25 colonies so will need to ask some local farmers for space on their land.
Improving Honey Processing Facilities.
This is a work in progress. I may end up with a purpose built honey house in the garden but meanwhile I’m renovating the kitchen.
Jars and Labels.
Customers seem to prefer buying honey in smaller jars and I’m not buying many more lb jars. Instead, I will pack honey mostly in 12oz and 8oz jars. It used to be that honey in the UK could only be sold in specified quantities, but with the change of regulations allowing any size of jar also comes flexibility. One of my previous quandaries had been filling jars to the correct weight (for example 12oz) but finding that there is a noticeable gap under the lid which looks like I have underfilled the jar. These particular jars were sold as jam jars and they hold more than 12oz. A friend kindly sold them to me when I was out of jars.
Having visited a commercial beekeeper who is very careful not to overfill jars, I’ve come up with a solution for myself. I’m going to be flexible about the weights and fill jars to just under the lid so they look good but I will charge the customers and not give away free honey. The product will look more pleasing. With my own labelling system, I can change the weights easily and sell 14 oz honey if that’s what fills that particular jar. One of the disadvantages of using printed labels bought from beekeeping suppliers is the cost of having so many different batches printed if applying my new system. But with these Dymo labels I can print individual labels and it should be more economic.
I’m still playing around with my new toy and experimenting with the design and layout but I’m quite pleased with the results above. I currently sell honey at my door. The label complies with regulations and shows the weight in a suitable font height (needs to be at least 4mm for 12oz jar). The label shows the country where produced, and has a link to the packer and a best before date. I have given a specific date, but if I had printed “best before end of 2023”, for example, I would have been required to show a lot number also. If I sell to a shop though I need to show a lot number as well as best before date. In a note book, I am recording the batches, and from which apiary they come from. The best before day is calculated from the day you jar the honey and not when you extracted it. For further information on honey regulations in the UK see.2015 No 208 FOOD The Honey (Scotland) Regulations 2015
I like simplicity and find some of the labels on the market too “Busy” and detracting from the beautiful product inside the jar. For this reason I favour black and white and a small logo.
You can look forward to some interesting guest blogs in 2021.
Thank you for supporting the blog this year. Have fun this evening those of you not already in 2021.