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Owning her own equipment will give a young teenage girl from Wisconsin the tools she needs to succeed at growing her business.
Created by

Freaks Geeks

264 backers pledged $9,136 to help bring this project to life.

Recent updates

We are down to hours!

This is going to be our final update before the end of the project. It has been an AMAZING experience! Please give it one last push by sharing this update in your email, on Facebook, sending it out on Twitter and Tumbr. Every contribution from increased backers makes for greater success. We will be buying more hives with any extra money, after we buy the extractor and bottling tanks. Each complete hive costs about three hundred dollars, so the extra backing will get eaten up quickly.

Natalie sells her honey on her web site (offering free delivery to Chippewa Falls and if you are not in a hurry, Eau Claire) She sells door to door. She sells at craft fairs. The demand for the honey is quite high. It's going to be great next year to have the additional production capacity to increase those sales. We still have high hopes of being ramped up enough by the following year to sell in the organic isle of our local grocery chain. Thank you so much for your part in helping aid those big plans.

We have also really appreciated the feedback and advice from other beekeepers we have gotten during the last thirty days. It has helped us better formulate our plans. It has helped us realize some of the things we thought we needed were not, and other things are more important. It has been a great learning experience for us!

Once the project is complete and we get the funds we will send out some more updates. We will show you how we go about getting the hives ready for our harsh Wisconsin winter. We want to show you the remodel job we will do on the honey harvesting room in the basement. Of course, there will also be the most exciting part, the delivery and unpacking of the new equipment you all helped us buy! There are lots of things we would like to show. We are very happy to have all of you backers along with us to share the journey.

Could we have done these things without Kickstarter? Sure, we could have. …eventually. But your help has put us on a much faster track. We will always appreciate the kindness you have shown us by the simple act of opening your wallet and giving a boost to an idea. We will continue to work hard to make a thirteen year olds dream move forward. Thank you backers!

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The Pointy End

The first and most common question Natalie gets asked is "So, have you ever gotten stung?" Getting a bee sting is part and parcel of the life of a beekeeper. If you are careful and wear your bee suit all the time, you can minimize the risk, but it still happens. Beekeepers who have been doing this longer go without gloves, suit and sometimes even a mask. …We are not that brave yet.

Bees have jobs within the hive depending on their age. Some bee's job is to take care of the brood, the baby bees. While, another bees job is to collect nectar, while another bee might be making wax. The bees you have to worry about are the guard bees. It is the job of those bees to protect the hive. Those are the bees who are willing to lay down their lives (a bee dies after stinging you) to protect the hive from the large white invader.

But, the guard bees are only within the hive. A bee who is foraging flowers and accidentally lands on your arm is not intending to hurt you. In this case, the most important thing you can learn to do is also the most difficult. If a bee lands on you, do nothing. Wait. Usually the bee will fly on. That bee isn't protecting their home, that isn't its job.

For the beekeeper though there is a silver lining to getting a few stings. Bee sting local reactions, the swelling and itch you experience when getting stung, diminishes with repetition. A beekeeper, after twenty stings in a season usually won't swell up or react. After the initial pain, the sting is behind you. Its getting through those first nineteen that is the trick!

Thank you to all the backers that have almost seen this project through to the end. Less than 48 hours now! Keep spreading the word. Sharing on Facebook. Posting it on Twitter and Tumbr. We like to tell our story to as many people as we can!

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Natalie visits the Angry Birds

There is one task where the three of us are all perfectly willing to procrastinate. Visiting the Brick House hives. And really, it is only one of those hives that is the trouble. The one that Natalie calls Angry Birds. She was lucky last time. A school engagement came up the day we had slated to go out there, she was able to weasel out of going with us. Not today though. We were pulling honey supers off and we needed the full crew.

Five years ago we didn't know the difference. We thought they were all the same. But now we know that there are bees and then there are bees. Bee hives have personalities. Most of our hives we open them up and we can work with them. They might initially be a bit angry when we open up the hive but they settle down after a couple of minutes. Or, they might become more angry if we are doing something really invasive and settle down as we put things back together. But other hives start angry and aggressive and it only gets worse and worse. It gets fearsome when you have a cloud of bees around you, trying their best to sting through it, or find a hole inside. There have been a couple of times where Natalie sounds the retreat.

Today, they were not bad but we also used the power of some technology to help us. We used a fume board. A device we avoid since it is adding something foreign to the hive. But, in this case we make allowances. The fume board is a top that goes on the hive and has felt on the inside of it. We spray a citrus compound on the felt and put it on the hive. The bees all say "It stinks in here, lets go downstairs!!" and then we swoop in and take off the honey. Hopefully before the Angry Birds notice we have been there.

It was a windy day, which was a pity because Natalie explained some about what we were doing but with her soft voice in the wind we lost that stuff. You can barely hear her on the clips we did use. We were able to pull a box and a half of honey off the gentle hive, and three boxes off Angry Birds. Maybe 60-70 pounds of honey total that will be labeled Brick House.

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Filtering, Bottling and Labeling on the way to a final product

The last twenty four hours have been an amazing journey! We all thank every one hundred and ninety-five of you, famous and infamous alike that helped us reach our goal! I think that The West Hill Honey Company is a good idea. It is the right thing at the right time with the right person. We are so glad that you agree.

Our story continues. The honey has come up the hill and been extracted. On its way to our current storage method, a white bucket, it gets an initial filtering. This takes out most of the larger chunks of wax, bee parts, and other detritus that has found its way into the honey from the extractor. Once bucketed, it sits in the warmest, least travelled room in our house, the Dining room until we need it to be bottled.

Right before going into the bottling bucket is when we give it a final filtration. A fine nylon mesh catches tiny wax chips as the honey passes through on the way to the bottling bucket. This isn't really necessary because wax and other contaminants are almost all lighter than honey. Meaning eventually those things float to the surface. And point in fact, if we left them in, the honey would be healthier for you. Filtering always removes a little goodness too. But, doing this step makes for honey that is clearer, and a better presentation when the customer first opens the jar. Here we bow to the consumer.

The bottling buckets we have drip honey on to the floor, and the sides of the bottles so that has to be accounted for. We really look forward to the new bottling tanks we will purchase with the Kickstarter money. They will have a dripless valve on the bottom so we can bottle without drips. Currently we have to wash the jars after they are filled and before they are labeled or we get sticky from handling them. If someone picks up one of our jars at a sale, we don't want them to have to wash their hands.

Finally, there is the labeling. We print our labels on our own printer and attach them using an adhesive (my daughter's aluminum :-) dot roller. We think about some day going to pre-printed labels but we like the flexibility we now have. We can make changes to the label anytime we want now. And though the label isn't as permanent, it will smear if it gets wet for instance, the ability to design a custom label in an instant is what keeps us here.

Now you have seen our story of the harvest to the point where we have a finished product. Next comes sales and that will likely be the subject of our next update.

Now that we have made our initial Kickstarter goal we are evaluating what to do next. We are thinking some of setting a stretch goal out there. We work just like any other business. If we get more money, we will find a place for it. If we can line up more locations, we need more hives. We need a clarifying tank to hold warmed honey. We need a hydrometer so we can measure the moisture level of honey before we bottle it. We need some sturdy steel shelving to put jars on. We need a couple more smaller sized bee suits so we can suit up more kids and teach them about bees. When you have a business there are always needs. We will try to get these things laid out after Natalie gets home from school today and get something posted tonight. Keep passing the word!

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The honey moves up the hill

Our story of the honey harvest continues. As you saw in our first update a helpful mother and brother are pulling the honey out of the hives, brushing off the bees and putting them into new boxes. While the paterfamilias ( :-) is taking the mostly-bee-free boxes up the hill for Natalie to extract. Each hive can have upwards of four of the honey boxes, each of them weighing about fifty pounds. It almost always seems like it is a hot day when we all have the free time to work together.

It is a long and arduous job and takes the better part of two days to bring the honey up the hill. And we confess, it is mostly due to the poor physical endurance of the parties involved, but honey boxes are heavy. Once done though, the boxes form two tall towers of yellow boxes within our kitchen.  Natalie takes out each frame and uses a knife to cut off the wax caps and puts the frame into the extractor to spin the honey out.

Try as we might, everything gets sticky. A little bit of honey goes a very long way if it gets tracked on your shoes. It is impossible not to loose a drip or two as it moves between uncapping and extracting and before long the kitchen floor has an overall tackiness to it. Having your support will allow us to buy dedicated equipment that can be housed in our basement into what we will devote as a full time honey production room. We can't wait!

We thank you for looking at and backing this project!  Our project is now 30% funded!  With your help, spreading the word and pledging, the labor of doing the actual extraction will be reduced. The ability to expand our number of hives will be increased and our customers will better be able to buy our products. With your help, it will be a sweet deal indeed!

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