Creek House Honey Farm

This post is originally published at Local Llano.

It’s the science behind it that draws George and Paige Nester of Creek House Honey Farm in Canyon, Texas together to produce sweet, floral, and bright local honey. An intense love of the bees — an entire ecosystem in your hands — a world encompassed in a 10-frame wooden box, attracts this couple to cultivate and breathe life into the hives. George believes what sets him apart from other beekeepers in the area is his partnership with his wife, an everlasting team. In fact, for George, honey pulling is a family affair— children, cousins, and friends all join together to watch the sweetness seep from the extractor while the Cowboys game flickers in another room.

DSC_0220

Now in their fourth year, the farm has grown to 14 hives over 100 acres, including four swarm-hives that they’ve collected from the local community. After reading about colony collapse, Paige wanted to try out keeping a hive to learn from the bees and to help pollinate her backyard garden. They never thought it would turn into a business. George, a pharmacist, and Paige a biologist-now-art-teacher just thought it would be an interesting learning experience, a hobby to enjoy together. Now, the demand for local honey has exploded and each pull yields 800-1000 jars which sells out in 1-2 days. There’s even a waiting list.
Creek House Honey Farm has the goal of educating the public about keeping bees and what goes into their food. George offers classes for those who want to learn how to harvest their own honey, and what they can do to keep bees thriving in our area. With the drought, people are more aware of the importance of bees to the rest of the ecosystem and have started to shift perspective on how best to manage our slice of the Llano. George ultimately wants to build strong relationships with our farmers to help pollinate our food, work together to survive and to help the bees survive.
But keeping bees takes time and care, especially in the drought-ridden Llano Estacado. Bees need water to survive, produce honey, and to cool their hives in the summer. In winter, they need pollen substitute and sugar water to continue to produce and survive the harsh Panhandle weather. With an alarming average 20-30% hive loss among beekeepers, George and Paige pride themselves on a 0% loss due to their careful cultivation, and it shows in the beautiful honey bounty twice per year.

DSC_0214
When preparing for a pull, George places the frames into his shop and keeps the indoor temperature around 90 degrees— the same as the inside of a hive. This temperature keeps the honey loose and allows for the extractor to pull the optimum amount of honey. The boxes that contain the frames sit atop two brooder boxes — the slats filled with capped-off decadence within the combs.

DSC_0200

 

Layers of aged honey line the walls, filled with the scent of a prior brood. George carefully places the frames into the extractor and makes it spin – the forces cutting through propolis and drawing out the honey. Capturing the flow is a slow and beautiful process, taking hours to days filtering through fine mesh into a bucket.

DSC_0201 DSC_0206

A seemingly crude process, but it works, and what’s left is pure, golden honey.

DSC_0209
The Nester’s love for the bees traces back to George’s grandfather for which the farm is named. George wanted a place locked away from the outside world, a place where he could disconnect from distraction and connect with nature. When he opens a hive, his senses are battered with the scent of honey, the hum of the bees. In winter, George lowers his head, presses his ear against the wood wall to check on them, to make sure they’re still humming. He proudly states, “It’s the most amazing thing to witness.”

DSC_0218

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s