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   Chapter 5 GATHERING THE HONEY

The White Crystals By Howard R. Garis Characters: 14031

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Whether it was the country air, or the exercise Roger took after his sudden bath, he did not know, but he felt no ill effects from the plunge into the creek, nor did he catch cold. There was merry laughter over the affair when he came downstairs dressed in a dry suit, and, on Mr. Kimball's suggestion, the boys decided they had gone through enough excitement for one day.

"I would think Roger needed a rest," said Clara.

"Ef ye ain't got nothin' else t' do this arternoon, Ade," said Mr. Kimball, "ye might git off some a' th' clover honey. I'm goin' t' send a load a' stuff t' Syracuse in th' mornin', 'n' I'll want some honey t' take 'long."

"Would you like to help at that?" asked Adrian of Roger. "It's easy work."

"I guess so," replied Roger, who thought it would be interesting to see how the busy little bees worked and made the sweet stuff he had eaten the first night he came. So the boys made their preparations after dinner, which was soon served.

Mr. Kimball had about two hundred swarms, or hives, of bees, the little houses for the insects being arranged in rows in an orchard just south of the farm dwelling. The honey crop had been nearly all gathered in when Roger came, but some of the later swarms were still busy filling up the "caps" with the sweet juices of flowers. Adrian got out two big straw hats, around the edges and coming down on all sides of which was mosquito netting like a long veil. He put on one hat and gave the other to Roger.

"What's it for?" asked the city boy.

"To keep you from getting stung."

"But," began Roger, his ardor cooling as he thought for the first time of the chances of being nipped by the bees, "isn't it dangerous to go out among the hives, even with these veils on?"

"Not a bit," replied Adrian.

But when he saw his cousin heading for the midst of the collection of hives, Roger became somewhat apprehensive, in spite of the assurance. He hung back a bit.

"There won't be any danger for you," said Adrian, observing his hesitation. "I'll put you in a safe place, but if a buzzer or two does come singing around you once in a while just keep perfectly still and it won't hurt you. In fact it can't get at you with the veil on. You can have a pair of gloves, too, so every part of you will be protected. Come on."

Thus assured, though still a trifle doubtful, Roger advanced. As they walked along the path to the orchard Roger noticed that Adrian carried what looked like a big funnel, on the bottom or large part of which was a leather bellows.

"What's that for?" he asked.

"To smoke the bees."

"Smoke the bees?"

"Yes; you'll see in a minute."

On the edge of the apiary was a tool house and another building where the honey and bee hives were stored in for winter, for here in the north bees cannot exist through the cold weather out of doors. Entering the tool house Adrian collected some small pieces of wood and some shavings, and built a little fire in the tin funnel, to which the bellows was attached, using the folded leather arrangement to make a good draught.

Adjusting his hat so that the mosquito netting veil hung down all around his head, Adrian started out with the smoke-machine trailing a fleecy cloud behind him.

"Come on," he called to Roger, handing him a pair of gloves. "Put these on. They're rubber, you see, and the bees can't put their stingers through them."

"Where's yours?" asked Roger, as he drew the gauntlets well over his wrists.

"Oh, I couldn't take off honey in gloves. They'd be too clumsy. But I seldom get stung barehanded, and if I do I don't mind one or two. Got used to 'em. A little ammonia on the sting takes the pain out."

He kept on toward the cluster of hives, and Roger could not help noticing how much his cousin seemed like a diver, with the big head piece on. He, himself, must look the same, he thought.

"You see," explained Adrian, as he saw Roger glancing curiously at the rows of bee houses, "each hive is divided into two parts, top and bottom. In the lower part the bees live, raise their young, and store honey in what we call the big sections. These are beeswax combs, set in light wooden frames. In the top part of the hive are several smaller, square, wooden frames, into which the bees build the comb and fill it with honey. When they have these upper sections filled and capped up, or sealed over, we lift them off and sell them."

"It's rather rough on the bees," observed Roger.

"We always leave them enough," explained Adrian.

As he talked Adrian approached the bee colonies.

"You'd better stay back, now, under that tree," he called to Roger, and the latter was glad enough not to be asked to go any nearer the hives, from which he could hear a busy, droning hum. He much preferred to watch Adrian from this vantage point.

He saw his cousin come up to one of the bee houses from the rear. First the top cover was carefully lifted off, and this was set on the ground, edge up. Next Adrian lifted up a piece of oilcloth that kept all possible dampness from the honey. As soon as this was moved aside Roger saw a black moving mass of bees crawling upward. Adrian quickly took the smoker and puffed a gentle white cloud of vapor on the insects. In an instant they melted away, scurrying downward. The smoke irritated them and made them drowsy, and they wanted to get away from its smarting vapor. This made it safe for any one to work about the hive, under the protection of fumes from the burning wood.

This left free the upper section of the hive, which was filled with caps full of the clear white, or darker buckwheat honey, the bees being below. Adrian then lifted off the whole top part of the little house, and Roger could see that it contained a number of the full caps, in this case there being only the white clover honey. Setting his load down on top of the hive next to him, Adrian replaced the cover on the first hive. Then he puffed several more clouds of smoke on the top section he had just removed, to drive away the few remaining bees that were loath to leave their property.

Adrian carried the section, which contained twenty-four small caps, to the bee house, and returned to repeat the operation on other hives. Roger looked on with much interest as Adrian worked rapidly.

"Got stung yet?" he called to his busy cousin.

"One nipped me on the finger a bit, but I don't mind that. I'm used to it. Are they bothering you?"

"Well," answered Roger, moving his head from side to side, "some of 'em seem anxious to make my acquaintance, but the veil keeps 'em away. All the same they make me nervous."

"We'll soon go inside," called back Adrian. "I'm only going to take off a few more. Then we'll box it and be through."

He removed half a dozen more hive-tops, with the honey-filled sections, each one containing twenty-four pounds of the sweet stuff, a pound to a cap. Then, when he had given the few bees that got in the storehouse a chance to escape, Adrian prepared to pack th

e honey for market. To do this it was first necessary to scrape from each wooden cap, or the small, one-pound honey boxes, the beeswax that, here and there, marred the clean white wood. Roger wanted to help at this, and, as he could do it safely, Adrian got two dull knives, and he and his cousin began.

"Be sure to keep the caps standing on the same end they are on now," cautioned Adrian.

"Why? What difference does it make?"

"A good deal. If you change 'em around any, and there happens to be some cells that aren't capped over, the honey will run out."

Then Adrian showed Roger that the honey-comb, which is familiar to almost every one, was composed of a number of openings or cells, shaped like a hexagon. These cells were double, there being two sets of them, back and front, in each cap, and they were divided down the middle by a wall of wax. The wise bees gave to each cell a downward slant toward this dividing wall, so that when they had filled them with honey the sweet stuff would not run out. Then, as a further precaution, each tiny opening was sealed over with wax. But sometimes the bees neglected to seal up one or two cells in a cap, and unless these particular ones were kept upright, with the openings slanting downward, there would be a fine mess.

"These caps are pretty well sealed," observed Adrian, "but you always have to be careful," and he was on the lookout to see that no mistakes were made.

The two boys now busied themselves with scraping off the dried wax from the outside of the caps, and, as each one was finished it was placed in a pasteboard box, labelled with the contents "White clover honey," and with Mr. Kimball's name and address.

"Dad's got a good honey crop this year," commented Adrian. "Plenty of white clover, which sells better than buckwheat, though I don't like it so well as the dark honey."

"What do they call it buckwheat for? Because it's made from buckwheat flour?"

"Land no. Because it's from the sweet juices of the buckwheat flowers. Lots of people say buckwheat honey is too strong for 'em, but we all like it better than clover, which is made from clover blossoms. Buckwheat seems to have a sort of 'whang' to it, dad says."

"Wa'al, boys, how ye makin' out?" asked a deep voice from the doorway, and Mr. Kimball entered the storeroom.

"All right, I guess," answered Roger.

"Glad t' hear it. We'll make a reg'lar bee-farmer out a' ye 'fore ye git home."

He carefully inspected the boys' work and seemed satisfied with it.

"I guess that'll do fer this trip," he remarked to Adrian, counting the caps. "Say, Ade," he went on, "how'd you 'n' Roger like t' take a load a' grapes over t' Tully t'-morrow? Andrews wrote me he could use some."

"I thought you were going to take the horses to the city with your load," replied Adrian.

"So I be, but I'll borrow Truem Wright's hoss 'n' wagon ef ye think ye kin git over Tully hill 'ith th' rig. I'd send Jim, th' hired man, only I want him t' pick grapes t'-morrow when I'm gone. What d' ye say? Want t' go?"

"Do you?" asked Adrian of Roger.

"I think it would be lots of fun," replied the city boy. "I'll be glad to go along."

"All right, dad; you go and ask Truem for the horse, and to-night Roger and I'll load up the wagon so's to start early in the morning," said Adrian.

"Aren't you boys hungry?" asked some one standing in the doorway, and they all looked up to see Clara with a big plate of freshly baked molasses cookies.

"Hungry? Well, I just guess we are," exclaimed Adrian, as he held the plate and passed it to Roger, who took a cake. Adrian helped himself to two, and Mr. Kimball was not satisfied with less than three, which he munched successively with every indication of satisfaction.

"No use talkin'," he said, looking at Roger with a twinkle in his blue eyes, "your aunt does bake the best cookies in Onondaga County," and he took a fourth one, while Clara laughed merrily to see her father's enjoyment of the little lunch she had provided.

"They are certainly fine," agreed Roger, finishing his second one.

The plate was soon emptied, and Clara offered to go for more, but they all voted they had enough for the present. Then Mr. Kimball cut open one of the caps of honey, and he and the boys ate the sweet stuff, which, a short time before had been in the hive.

"Don't you want some?" asked Roger of Clara, offering her a thick slice of the comb.

"No, thank you," she replied. "I've eaten so much this last month I'm afraid I'll turn into a bee," and she hurried back to the house with a ringing laugh.

It was only four o'clock when the honey had all been packed ready for shipment, and Mr. Kimball left to make arrangements for the trip to-morrow. Adrian, for whom there was no more work that afternoon, proposed to Roger that they take a walk to Truem Wright's grist mill. So they tramped up the street to where the mill stood on the edge of a pond.

They met quite a number of boys and girls carrying tin pails and books, and most of the youngsters spoke to Adrian as he passed them.

"Where are they from?" asked Roger.

"School's out."

"Oh, sure enough. I'd almost forgotten there was such a thing. But don't you go?"

"Not until winter sets in," said Adrian. "You see there's too much to do about the farm, and then I'm pretty well along in what they teach here. They're going to have a higher class for the older pupils in January, and I'll start in then."

The boys soon came to the mill.

"Hello, Ade!" cried a man, who seemed to be covered from head to foot with white dust. "Heard ye went fishin' yist'day," he went on. "Ketched a whale, didn't ye?" and he laughed so heartily that he almost shook the side of the building.

"Well, we did have some such luck," admitted Adrian. "But, say, Truem, can we come in? Are you running now? This is my cousin Roger, from New York."

"He were th' whale I were referrin' t'," said Mr. Wright, laughing again.

Roger smiled and bowed to the dusty miller, who held out a huge white hand for him to shake.

"Yep, come right in," said Mr. Wright, genially. "I'm grindin' a bit a' flour fer George Bennett."

The boys advanced into the dusty place, which shook and trembled with the whirring vibrations of the two big millstones. They watched these spinning around, grinding the wheat into a fine, light dust.

"What power does he use?" asked Roger, who was somewhat surprised to see no sign of an engine.

"Turbine water wheel," said Adrian. "Come along and I'll show you." He led the way to where, at the bottom of a deep pit, the turbine roared around and around with the weight and force of the water that fell on it from above, a dam giving the necessary head. This furnished the power for the entire mill. It was all very interesting to Roger, who had never seen anything of the kind. Before he realized how quickly time passed, it was almost the hour for supper, so he and Adrian raced home, both bearing good appetites.

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