The Sweet Life

Chasing the sweet scent of honey, the lovely Dutch Martine and Swedish Daniel left their respective countries independently at the close of last century and relocated to Samford. Here, the couple now operates their flourishing business, Highvale Honey with the help of their teenage children, Simon, Vera, and Anton.

Martine and Daniel from Highvale Honey

Their beekeeping journey began in 2015 with 4 hives, and it didn’t take long before they were producing more honey than they could eat or gift to friends. This is when Millen Farm’s farmer’s market came in handy, and Highvale Honey was born. 

More than just a cost-neutral hobby, Highvale Honey is also a parttime business and passion project for the local couple. Martine’s interest in bees grew the longer she spent on her Samford acreage, basking in the liberty and the rush she felt from so much open air, brainstorming ways to live off the land. Amongst honey, the couple also produces edible plants, eggs from their poultry, and honey from their bees. 

Martine explained the formalities behind the fruition of Highvale Honey, revealing, “In February 2015 I attended a course organized by Millen Farm called ‘Introduction to Honey’. [One of the presenters] offered to teach me beekeeping, and six years later he’s still my bee mentor. We talk bees once a month!”

Daniel at his hives on their property

She also explained, “I’m very intrigued with the way the bees operate, and I love to care for them so that they thrive. Another thing I really enjoy is sharing my honey and bee knowledge with other people. And get them excited about the bees and beekeeping.”

      Other people, of course including Martine and Daniels’ three children. They love getting involved here and there, and learning about hives, beekeeping, and the production of honey. Their youngest lights the smoker while Martine gets dressed to visit the hives, their daughter looks after the harvested honeycomb, and the oldest helps Daniel do the uncapping of the frames while Martine takes more full honey frames from the hives. When it comes to attending the occasional market or fair, Simon, Vera and Anton can always be relied upon to show up and educate the public about beekeeping and honey production

Honey: How it’s made

Martine and Daniel from, Highvale Honey give us a brief run down on the honey production.

Anton attaches the wax foundations (wax sheets) to the wired frames.

Pictured above: Anton attaches the wax foundations (wax sheets) to the wired frames. These frames will go in the hives. The apparatus he is using sends a small 12V current through the wires which heats the wire. The wax of the foundation then melts locally. When the wax cools down again it solidifies and results in the wire being embedded in the foundation and stuck to the frame.

To explain it briefly, nectar — a sugary liquid — is extracted from flowers using a bee’s long, tube-shaped tongue, and is stored in its extra stomach, or “crop”. While sloshing around in the crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes that transform its chemical composition and pH, making it more suitable for long-term storage.

When a honeybee returns to the hive, it passes the nectar to another bee by regurgitating the liquid into the other bee’s mouth. This regurgitation process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb.

Once in the comb, nectar is still a viscous liquid — nothing like the thick honey you use at the breakfast table. To get all that extra water out of their honey, bees set to work fanning the honeycomb with their wings to speed up the process of evaporation.

Simon uncapping the honey frames (on his right is the extractor)

When most of the water has evaporated from the honeycomb, the bee seals the comb with a secretion of liquid from its abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. Away from air and water, honey can be stored indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for when food is scarce.

    It’s a lot to digest, we know! But trust me, honey goes down nicely—especially when it’s local. The environmental benefits of shopping local are astronomical. Not only are you helping the planet, but you’re also helping yourself and your community. While no formal studies have been conducted, the idea has been fostered that consuming honey involves trace-exposure to common allergens, which can in turn desensitize patients to their allergy! 

   So, wonderful readers, if you’re obsessed with the sweet taste of honey, check out Highvale Honey’s site on Facebook. Better yet, come find them at the local markets! 

Martine in her bee suit, handing over a full honey frame for Simon to uncap at ‘The Bee Hut’



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