The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Honey: The Sweetest Season

Written by David Green.


There’s a lot of talk about how busy bees are, but who’s to know if this year’s workforce has truly been keeping their collective noses to the grindstone or if they’ve just been standing around flapping their wings?

Rollin Lauber is just the guy to ask. He spent a good part of last month harvesting honey from the hives he keeps north of Morenci. Honey may be sweet, but for him it’s also serious business.

bees Rollin, who also owns Mill Creek Bee Supply, supplements his income by breeding queen bees, but the bulk of his cash flow depends, literally, on the bulk of the honey flow. And in order to get the honey flowing, he has to wrestle it from the thousands of bees who spent the long, hot summer producing it, which makes harvesting honey a little more exciting than harvesting corn or soybeans.

“They can get angry,” explains Rollin, driving out to a cluster of his hives on a sunny and pleasant October morning. “In the summer, you can work with [the bees] in jeans and a T-shirt, but when it comes time to pull the honey, we wear the full protective suit.”

Jasper’s John Fankhauser, owner of the J & J Honey Farm, is waiting for Rollin as he arrives at the mowed patch of isolated field that holds around 30 of Rollin’s 100 or so hives. John’s already garbed in his protective wear—long boots, elbow-length gloves and a thick white coverall. Before the honey extraction begins, he’ll also don a plastic helmet and a fine net draping from his forehead to below his chin.

It’s an extensive assemblage to be sure, but Rollin says the bees have a nasty way of finding even the smallest chinks in the protective coating, and that there’s usually only one painful way to find out about it.

After pulling out his own suit from his truck, he takes a second to light his smoker. As the tasty smell of burning hickory filters into the silent, still morning air, it’s easy to forget that hundreds of thousands of bees are lying in wait less than a dozen yards away. In a few minutes time the field will be awash with the confused, clamorous, enraged roar of legions of displaced insects.

The displacement is what makes honey harvesting so exciting. Each hive is comprised of five or six stacked boxes. The two lowermost boxes are where the queen dwells—where eggs are laid and tended. The honey, and the general worker population, is housed in the rest of the boxes above. The trick for beekeepers is to take the honey and leave the bee.

There’s more than one way to separate the honey from the bee, says Rollin. Some beekeepers use a chemical that smells like vomit to ward the worker bees off, but harkening back to his career as an agricultural mechanic, Rollin has a more mechanized way of going about things. From the back of his truck, he and John pull down an odd-looking device that, at the base of which a leaf blower is mounted.

“We blow them right out of there,” says Rollin. 

It’s a speedy process. Each hive is first plied with a liberal amount of smoke, which makes the bees react as if there’s a nearby forest fire. After a few minutes, many of the bees migrate to the lower hive boxes to protect the queen and her eggs.

Then it’s time for the harvest to begin.

Alternating from hive to hive, one of the keepers pries the lids off the boxes containing the honeycombs then passes them to the man on the blower, who swiftly pulls the combs apart and blasts the remaining workers into the morning air. The bees careen out in hoards, rattling and ricocheting off the basin, pasting themselves onto the nearby hives or buzzing about in bewildered circles.

It takes Rollin and John less than two minutes to clear out a box, but it takes the resident workers less time than that to identify the source of the tumult. The beekeepers watch out for each other. It’s not uncommon to see a slathering of bees around the ankles—one of the most vulnerable regions of the beekeeper get-up. Occasionally, Rollin and John take the blower to each other, but aside from that, rarely pause. They are unimpressed by the ruckus.

They are impressed, though, when they open the top box of the sixth or seventh hive and are greeted by a veritable flood of workers.

“That’s a lot of activity,” Rollin says over the blower’s bellow. “That’s what we like to see.”

The honey combs in this hive are much fuller than the others. It indicates a queen well-adapted for the region, says Rollin.

Ideally, beekeepers want to see all of their hives displaying that kind of output. According to Rollin, the national average for honey output per hive is between 70 and 80 pounds, but his hives last year netted him about 114 pounds a piece. It’ll be hard for him to come up with a number for this year until all the hives are harvested, but he says that this past summer’s uncharacteristic dryness probably had a negative effect on honey output.

In less than two hours, the hives are clear, the combs ready to be carted off to the honey house.


”Some people fall in love with the smell right away, other people can’t stand it,” says Rollin of the rich, sweet scent hanging in the honey house.

Rollin and John have relocated to John’s J & J Honey Farm in Jasper, where a sophisticated set up aids them in converting the honey combs into pure honey.

The main task is to separate the honey from the wax in which it’s stored. To this end, the beekeepers employ what amounts to an amped-up spin drier.

Rollin’s partner, Lillian Warren begins the process by feeding the combs into an uncapping machine, which uses a broad blade to shear the wax caps off of the honey comb. This gets the wax flowing freely.

The combs are then lined up to be inserted into the extractor, which is an immense basin that can hold up to 48 combs. Inside the extractor, the combs are spun rapidly and the honey they contain is whipped against the walls of the basin. The honey then slowly makes its way through a comprehensive three stage filtration system aimed at ridding the fluid of any remaining wax sediment.

During one of the final filtration cycles, the honey is heated to 160 degrees fahrenheit in order to pasteurize it. After that, it’s straight to the barrel.

Rollin, John and Lillian work industriously, but one of the beauties of honey is that they could take however long they please—honey is one of the few foods that doesn’t spoil.

But then again, who wants to stand around? After all, for these folks, honey means money, honey.

  - Nov. 16, 2006 

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