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Reaping the Harvest

 Reaping the Harvest

From mayor, to beekeeper, business owner, philanthropist, gardener and cancer survivor are just a few of the hats Jim Broich has worn in his lifetime. And it is his love of keeping busy that he attributes to battling esophageal cancer 10 years ago. while he’s done many things for a business venture to support his family when he was younger, in his retirement years he sticks mostly to hobbies. two of his most prominent hobbies include beekeeping and wine making. Beekeeping for Jim started some 50 years ago when he planted his first apple tree in his yard. when the tree was mature and was not producing fruit, Jim searched for the reason why. He discovered he didn’t have a pollinator to pollinate the blooms. That’s when he started a beehive. He says that he started with maybe only two to four hives and in the height of his beekeeping days, he was up to 50 hives at one time. Having so many hives, Jim decided to go into the business of harvesting the honey and selling it. He said he would sell it by the barrel full (650 pounds of honey are in a barrel) at his brother’s retail grocery business. Jim notes that at times he sold pure comb honey with the wax included. now he mostly sells his honey at farmer’s markets and has since started to strain the honey to sell only the liquid without the wax. although he adds that he does continue to have customers who continue to buy comb honey from him. Jim keeps his bees year round and simply insulates the hive for the winter. He explained in colder temperatures the bees will form a ball with the queen in the middle to stay warm. when the bees on the outside get cold they move to the inside and the bees from the middle move to the outside. Jim went on to explain that the bees in the winter will eat the honey they have stored to stay alive. Most often the bees are kept busy in the winter with raising young since there is no nectar to collect. During his 50 years of beekeeping, Jim has become a sort of “expert” on the life cycle of bees, explaining how the hive begins. a queen bee leaves the hive she is hatched from at the time she hatches. she takes a “wedding flight” as Jim calls it where she is fertilized for life and takes the male bees, called drones, and builds a hive where she lays approximately 1500-2000 eggs per day. The eggs that the queen lays hatch within three weeks and become the worker bees. Worker bees, according to Jim, are the housekeepers, nurses, undertakers and  maintenance personal of the hive. After three weeks of being worker bees, the bees graduate to field bees where they fly from the hive to gather honey. After they have become field bees, their life is over and they die. Jim explained that bees work themselves to death so their lifespan is not very long. “In the fall, they are not out flying as much so they can usually live through the winter and start the hive again in the spring,” he said. According to Jim, male bees, called drones, do not sting or make the honey. Their job is simply to breed with the queen. The queen does not sting either, he said. The only time a queen bee will sting is if two queens are hatched within the same hive at the same time. Jim went on to explain that if the queen is no longer fertile and dies, the worker bees (female bees) will select eggs that the queen has laid to be the new queen bee. They do this by feeding the eggs what Jim referred to as “Royal Jelly,” a white milky substance full of nutrients. The “Royal Jelly” is used to hatch the first egg within 15 days. if two of the queen eggs hatch at the same time they will fight to the death by stinging each other. The one that lives goes on to be the new queen of the hive. Worker bees will sting, Jim explained, because their job is to guard and protect the hive. to make the honey, Jim said, the bees will bring the nectar back to the hive and insert it in six sided cells. Once the humidity of the honey gets to 18.6 percent, the bees make a substance from their body to cap the cell. This is known as bees wax. “They (the bees) are engineers and perfectionists,” Jim said about the honey making process.  Jim puts a foundation in the hive to assist the bees in the process of making honey. “it is the equivalent of seven pounds of honey to make one pound of wax,” Jim said about why he uses the foundation. “if bees don’t have to make wax cells they have more time to make honey.” when the honey comb is ready, Jim uses a centrifuges to extract the honey. This is a stainless steel tank that holds a basket in the middle. when the basket is spun at a high rate of speed it throws the honey against the sides of the tank where it runs down to the bottom where it is collected. Beekeeping isn’t the only thing that keeps Mayor Jim Broich busy, he also gardens a large plot behind his house for produce to sell at the local farmer’s market. In addition, he also uses some of the produce to make his homemade dessert wines. Jim wanted to stress that he makes wine as a hobby and does not have a license to sell the wine. Jim added that he gives a lot of his wine away to different people and charitable organizations. Some of the different wines that Jim has made include raspberry, strawberry, ground cherry, grape, parsley, horseradish blossom, pea, sweetcorn, dandelion and rhubarb with blackberry just to name a few. “You name it, I’ve probably made it,” Jim said with a chuckle. Jim describes the process of making wine as harvesting the fruit he is going to use and placing it in a hydrometer, which is a device that tells Jim what the sugar content of the liquid is. Once the yeast is eaten up, the mixture turns to alcohol. After that, Jim said he moves the wine to a carboy where it sits with a bubbler for the next 4-6 months. a bubbler is used, he explained, to let the air escape to bubble off the gases the liquid is making while it ferments. After the liquid has sat in the  carboy, Jim bottles it as wine. “that wine is as dry as it can be when I bottle it,” Jim said. “before bottling it I add a stabilizer, which essentially kills all the yeast. And then I sweeten the wine with sugar,” he said. And Jim says he lets the wine age for a varying length of time. He added that some wines, like his sweetcorn wine, should not age as long as say, a grape wine. “I made a blackberry wine once and I tried it after a couple of months and it was terrible. but I had given the same wine to another person a year or two later and they said it was the best wine they had ever had,” he said in gauging how long his homemade wines should age. Jim said as time has gone on, he has been able to improve his process of making wine. for example, he said, he never used to strain his wine and now he does. “it makes for a better wine,” he added. when asked what drives him to stay so busy and continue to keep up his hobbies Jim answered with a grin, “I like to keep busy.” 

Reaping the Harvest

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