The First Parish Pantry Gardeners had a productive summer, planting FEDCO Nor’eastern Pole Beans (2 oz for $7.00), which consistently yielded a basketful of beans, every week, for the two South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) shelters the team supports. During Russell’s Farmers’ Market in August, the team sold garlic from their garden, learning that there is demand for good, locally grown garlic.

Next year, the team will streamline its efforts from growing 10+ types of vegetables to focus primarily on growing garlic and flowers to generate sales at Russell’s. These funds, together with those generated from Stop and Shop’s “Bloomin’ for Good program,” will be used to purchase one or two Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares from a local farm. Garden volunteers will pick up a weekly share and deliver it to the two SMOC shelters.

But where would our gardens be without bees? The First Parish Bee Team cares for some of our local pollinators as an environmental stewardship project.

In late July the Bee Team harvested and bottled more than 20 pounds of honey from one of the parish’s four hives. Working in the First Parish kitchen, team members spent half a day processing honey from seven hive frames, bottling it in 1-lb, 8-ounce, and 3-ounce jars. The team will make some honey available to the First Parish community and will continue donating honey to area shelters and food pantries.

The team used a honey extractor — a large, stainless steel, cylindrical device that uses centrifugal force to extract honey from honeycomb — to harvest the honey. Bees place honey in the small cells of wax honeycomb they build, and cover each cell with a wax seal or cap. Harvesting honey involves carefully removing the wax cappings with a knife, and placing the frames of exposed honey into slots in the extractor.

The extractor then spins the frames – either electrically or by way of a human-powered hand crank – and the honey flies out of the cells onto the inside walls of the extractor. It drips to the bottom and flows out a “gated” hole, through a double sieve (to filter out wax) and into a waiting bucket.