Tag Archive | honey

2014 Frederick County Fair – Popular Bees!

September 20, 2014

One thing I look forward to each year is working the fair with the Frederick County Beekeeping Association.  In addition to selling hoards of honey and educating our locals about beekeeping, colony collapse disorder, the benefits of honey, and so much more, we also teach them how to make hand rolled beeswax candles!

People make a bee-line to come visit us and see the bees!  It’s really a wonderful event.

Here are some fun photos highlighting the FCBA at the fair…

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Boo Bees and Their Garden

June 6, 2014 (Friday)

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The whole yard is blooming, from evergreens to honeysuckle to clover. The girls are hauling in the nectar and pollen. The veggies are planted and staked. We’re harvesting asparagus and strawberries. I love the spring and summer months, even more since we have bees. I could sit in the garden all day and watch the hives. I’m still amazed at how far we’ve come in one short year. From two nice to five hives.  That’s right!  We now have 5 hives.

Welcome Purple Hive!

After missing out on the split from Blue Hive’s swarm, I took several frames of fresh brood, larvae and eggs from Green Hive and made a split while there’s still enough time in the season for them to queen themselves and become established. Although I might just help them along if I can find a queen locally. As always with my splits, I closed them up for two days to allow the smell of their queen to dissipate, then placed branches in front of their entrance so they could reorient themselves and return to their new location. It’s working. They’re going and coming with legs full of pollen.  A few robbers are floating around, but for the most part, the big hives are leaving their new little neighbor alone.

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Pink Hive Has a Queen (Yay!)

Pink Hive has eggs, brood and larvae, which means they have a queen. Yay! All those queen cells transferred from Blue Hive did the trick. They’re drawing out their frames and I’m preparing to give them a second box of drawn comb and new wax foundation.

Blue Hive is Queenless (Ugh!) 

Blue Hive, on the other hand, has gone from tons of brood to no brood. Queenless, for now. I was told that after a swarm it would take 3-4 weeks for them to straighten themselves out and have a laying queen.  I’ll check back in another week or two and see if they need any help. Their numbers are still strong, but they’re packing in nectar where there should be brood. Nectar that should be going into the honey supers. Blue Hive has barely made a dent in their one honey super. The frames are still empty and undrawn. Disappointing since they were so active and strong.  I was hoping for a good honey harvest from Blue Hive.  I’m starting to have second thoughts about my Texas bees.  Once good thing about the swarm is that the mean wicked queen left behind a calmer, less aggressive (albeit less productive) colony behind.  Let’s hope their next queen is a little nicer.

Yellow Hive Going at its Own Pace

Yellow Hive is active and well, but they’re not growing as fast as I’d hoped. I was ready to give them a third box, but based on the number of frames they have yet to draw out, they aren’t ready for it. So I’ll just be patient and let them tell me when they’re ready.

Green Hive is Making Honey (Yay!)

I just added another super to Green Hive. They’ve just about filled their first super, and boy is it heavy. Green Hive started out slow, but they’ve picked up and are very active and healthy. I’ve heard that about the Carneolan (Italian) bees.  No signs of swarming yet. No drones, no queen cells, no hot temperament. My Italian bees are very gentle and calm and I can work them with minimal smoke.

Incase they do have thoughts of swarming, we’ve left the bait hive hoisted up in the trees with a cardboard sheet at the entrance that’s been drenched in lemongrass oil. Someday we’ll catch a swarm.

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I forgot to mention that a bit of honey dripped out of some burr comb in Green Hive’s super. I couldn’t resist taking just a little taste. Oh my. No sugar syrup, no chemical treatments – just pure, unadulterated honey from our own hives. Wow…really…just wow.

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Super Spacers DIY

May 23, 2014 (Friday)

I’ve added supers on both Blue and Green Hives.  In fact, Blue hive looks like a skyscraper compared to pink and yellow.  Since we don’t feed the bees once supers are added (the girls fend for themselves since we want pure honey), I didn’t have the upper entrance exposed.  Also, we didn’t have any entrances or vent holes between all of those boxes.  With all of that activity, it can get darn hot in those hives.  Not to mention,the forager bees didn’t have direct access to the honey supers, which means they had to travel all the way up and down through 3-4 very busy boxes to get in or out of the hive.  That does not make for efficient honey production!

The Solution

I saw some nifty spacers at my last bee meeting and immediately put the hubster to work.  Using 1″x1″ lengths of wood, he built frames with entrance holes that fit between the supers.  Super easy and much needed.

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I also added a 1″x4″ spacer frame at the top, above the inner cover, to elevate the top cover an expose the inner cover entrance.  We also drilled a hole into this spacer for yet another entrance and for added air circulation at the top of the hive.

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The girls wasted no time using these new entrances – a simple solution with great benefits. Quicker access means faster honey production, and better air circulation makes for happier and healthier bees!

Soap Making Obsession

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Lavender Milk Mash (left) made with milk, lavender essential oil and crushed spent grains; Forest Glen Yogurt Soap (right) made with whole milk yogurt.

My latest craze…soap! I am learning all kinds of wonderful ways to make soap. Soaps in the crockpot, cold process soaps, soaps made with milk and yogurt, soaps made with beer and spent grains, and of course soaps made with beeswax and honey!  It’s surprisingly easy to make, and based on the number of recipes, sites and tutorials out there, everyone is doing it!

For beginners, I recommend the hot process method, for two main reasons:

1. You don’t have to be precise, and
2. It’s ready to use straightaway.

The crockpot cooks the soap, pushing it through the gel process and allowing it to soaponify within an hour’s time, so you can start using it immediately.

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Start off with a few basic recipes using inexpensive kitchen oils (like crisco, soy oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, rendered fats like beef tallow – and don’t forget beeswax), some hardware store lye (like Red Devil – I get my from Ace Hardware), and distilled, bottled or rain water.   Don’t use water from the tap since it has different chemical make-ups and can cause inconsistent results.  You can substitute other liquids for the water, like beer, tea, and milk.  These liquids need to be treated differently because they react differently with the lye.  But the options are endless.

You can use the hot process method on virtually any cold process soap recipe.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be designing all kinds of different soaps, and family members will become your test subjects.  Ha!  No more store bought Coast soap for you dear husband!

Soap making resources are everywhere on the internet, so instead of adding yet another tutorial, I will refer  you to some of my favorite soaping resources so you can begin your own soap making obsession…

GoodEarthSpa Hot Process Soap Step-by-Step (my favorite tutorial for hot process soap)

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More of my favorite tutorials and resources…

GoodEarthSpa Channel on YouTube – Full of detailed tutorials and recipes for all types of soaps, cold, hot, solid, liquid, laundry, and more. Plus, she’s a beekeeper!

SoapQueenTV Channel on YouTube – Tons of wonderful soap making video tutorials and more!

Chickens in the Road – Hot Process Soap Tutorial

Chickens in the Road – How to Make Soap Tutorial

From Nature with Love – My favorite Soapulator (for calculating soap recipes)

The Chemistry Store – favorite supply resource

Amazon – my other favorite supply resource

Smart Soapmaking by Anne L. Watson (99 cent kindle book on Amazon.com – a great starter book and she has other books to help you advance into other areas of soap and lotion making, all 99 cents)

Pinterest – for soap recipes galore!!!

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Happy Soaping!!!

 

Our First Taste of Honey

March 9-11, 2014

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During my 1st year beekeeping presentation, someone asked me about the supers on my hives.  I told them they weren’t supers.  Up to that point, I didn’t think of them as supers.  I was allowing the bees to create sugar syrup stores for winter, but not honey for harvesting.  When in fact, they are supers without a queen excluder – and the bees built up quite the stash.  So what to do with the stash?  My answer – extract it and feed it back to the bees, for a number of reasons. 

  1. It’s healthier for the bees to feed from their own food vs. sugar.
  2. The bees will clean up the wet drawn frames so I can reuse them.
  3. I’d rather practice extracting for the first time using sugar syrup than the real honey.
  4. I don’t have the freezer space to store the frames and I can’t keep them outside forever. I can store sugar syrup in the fridge.
  5. And best of all – I have an excuse to buy an extractor!

The boxes I took were from my dead yellow hive.  I purchased a complete extracting kit from Brushy Mountain.  It included the tools, the extractor, the uncapping tank, and a straining bucket.  I thought about waiting a week, but was so excited that I decided to start that day.   I moved the uncapping operation into our guest bathroom, and the extracting operation in the kitchen.

Lesson 1 – Honey Extracts Best When it is Warm

This explains why beekeepers extract their honey when its 90 degrees outside, and not when its 30 degrees outside. Warm soft wax slices easier and liquid honey comes out of the comb much easier.  Most people extract in their garages (too cold) or basements.  Our guest bathroom is small, so I added a space heater and left the room to warm for over 24 hours.  So much for extracting over the weekend…

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Lesson 2 – Keep a Wet Towel and Hot Water Handy

Everything gets sticky – the floor, the door knobs, the cats.  Keep a wet towel handy to clean your hands and wipe things down as needed.

The pitcher of hot water is for the capping knife. Store the knife in the water when its not being used to clean the honey off the knife and warm it up (unless you have an electric knife) to help cut through the wax easier.  Be sure to wipe the water off each time so you don’t get water in the honey.  You don’t want ANY excess moisture in your honey.  Although its not as big a deal when working with sugar syrup.  But start good habits early.  

Lesson 3 – Elevate the Uncapping Tank

I uncapped 16 frames.  Initially I was bending over.  Uncapping frames one after another is physical work. After 3 or 4 frames, my back got the hint and I elevated the tank so I could stand upright while uncapping.  Trust me on this.

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Lesson 4 – Uncapping Tools

Those uncapping knives are huge.  I used a Pampered Chef bread knife and it worked great.  For the small missed spots, I used an uncapping tool, and I also kept a fish knife handy for areas that were hard to reach with my larger knife.

Lesson 5 – Bottom Up vs. Top Down

Beekeepers always seem to uncap from the bottom up.  I’m not sure why, but for me, the cuts are thinner, cleaner and smoother.  Top down caused more butchering of the comb.  Comb is soft and delicate.  The bees will put it back together, but still, be careful not to mash the cells shut.

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Lesson 6 – Extracting Makes it All Worthwhile

Add frames and churn.  This is the fun part!  A good churn in one direction, then churn in the opposite direction, flip the frames and repeat.  Honey accumulates at the bottom and when it reaches a certain level, drain the tank.  I can tell you, the even though it wasn’t honey for us to eat, it was still tasty and unbelievably satisfying to see how much real honey our girls had produced.

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Lesson 7 – Filter the Honey

I had cleaned and sterilized gallon jugs ready to go. Be sure your containers are dry.  Again, no water in the honey.  Because this was going to the bees, I didn’t bother to filter and released the honey directly into the containers.  Truth is, I ended up filtering anyway before feeding.  So lesson learned, add one more step and filter the honey from the extractor through a filtering cloth and into the 5 gallon filtering bucket.  THEN filter it into containers.  The filtered honey won’t clog up your feeders, and you’ll have more wax to clean up for lotions and potions.

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Lesson 8 – Don’t Forget Your Wax

Cappings make the best quality wax.  Allow them to drain in the uncapping tank then put them in a plastic bag and in the fridge til you’re ready to clean it up.  Also, you’ll be amazed at how much honey has collected in the bottom of the uncapping tank after the wax cappings have drained.

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Final lessons learned….

  1. Mount the extractor onto a more solid surface so it doesn’t shake or wiggle while churning.
  2. Dedicated extracting equipment will make life easier – pitcher, knife, towels, containers, etc.
  3. No mite treatments when supers are on.  I didn’t think of my supers as supers, so it didn’t occur to me to remove them when treating for mites.  As a result, the sugar syrup and comb smell of thymol.  I’m told the smell will dissipate, but I don’t want my honey to have any taste of thymol, so I’ll either use fresh spring drawn comb in my supers this year, or new foundation.
  4. I will use 7 frames in my supers so the bees draw out thicker comb.  Thicker comb will be much easier to uncap because it will extend farther outside the frames.
  5. Another reason why beekeepers extract in the summer – the equipment can be left outside and the bees will be much more active and willing to clean it all up for you!
  6. Uncap and extract in the garage – this is not an indoor job.

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Feeding it Back to the Bees

To feed back to the bees for spring, I’ll just add water and mix well to achieve a 1:1 consistency.  For now, the syrup is going into quart size ziplock freezer bags.  I set a bag on the top frames of the hive, stick several times in the top using a sewing pin, and let the bees enjoy their nectar in hopes it will stimulate their spring activity.

Thanks for sticking with me through this post.  I know it’s a long one, but extracting is a process that’s worth documenting.  It’s a sticky job, but someone has to do it.  I personally cat wait to do it again with real honey!  

Chipotle Honey Roasted Peanuts

For the first time this year we grew 1 peanut plant in the garden.  We let the plant go and virtually forgot about it until the last weekend (first weekend in November).  We pulled the plant to find tons of ready to pick peanuts hanging off the roots.  Of course we were excited, then we wondered what the heck we were supposed to do with them.

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Step 1 – Clean the Raw Peanuts – I put the dirty peanuts in a bucket of hot water and washed and drained them several times to remove the dirt.

Step 2 – Dry the Peanuts – I then placed them on a window screen and put them in the sun to dry out for several hours.

Step 3 – Roast the Raw Peanuts – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When the oven is preheated, place the peanuts on a baking sheet and pop them in (shells still on).  Roast for 30 minutes – no more, no less – stirring every 10 minutes.  Cool.

Step 4 – Honey Roast the Peanuts – Shell all of your peanuts. Don’t worry about the skins, we left them on and they turned out great.  Recipe is below…

Chipotle Honey Roasted Peanuts

(From AllRecipes.com Makes 1 pound of peanuts


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INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup white sugar1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons butter2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound skinless peanuts

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Stir together the sugar, chipotle powder, chili powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Stir together the butter, honey, and kosher salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until the butter has melted, and the mixture is bubbly. Stir in the peanuts until well coated, then pour out into a 9×13 inch baking dish.
3. Bake in preheated oven until the nuts are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Stir the mixture 2 or 3 times to ensure even cooking. Once done, scrape the peanuts into a large metal bowl, and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Toss the peanuts to evenly coat with the spice mixture. Allow the peanuts to cool to room temperature, tossing every few minutes so the nuts do not stick together.

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Fresh Honey Ginger Ale

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In search of a Ginger Beer recipe, I stumbled upon this easy, delicious, all natural version of ginger ale.  This produces a sweet, refreshing drink with a nice pungent kick of ginger spice.  Although the original recipe calls for granulated sugar, the addition of raw honey would make this a perfect sore throat, cough/cold beverage.  For carbonation, I simply add 50% club soda or seltzer water.

Paula’s Fresh Honey Ginger Ale

  • ¼ Pounds Fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
  • ¼ Cups Fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup honey* (1 cup sugar can be used in place of honey)
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • Seltzer or club soda
  1.  In a 2-5 qt pot, combine all in ingredients (unless using raw honey, see note below).
  2.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  3.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and into a pitcher.
  4.  If using raw honey, then stir it into the warm liquid now until dissolved.
  5.  Drink warm as a cold and sore throat soother, or chill and serve carbonated with selzter water for a refreshing drink.  This is a strong sweet mixture, so I add about 50% seltzer.  Adjust to suit your taste.

Click here to view my complete SnapGuide tutorial.

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The Ginger Beer Concept

I still haven’t given up on the idea of turning this into an actual ginger beer.  Multiply the recipe to equate to a 5 gallon batch.  I’d add more water for a dryer beer.  Add to a sanitized carboy, pitch an ale or champaign yeast, add an air lock, wrap with a towel and keep in a cool dry place for 2-3 weeks.  Not yet proven, but in theory it sounds good!  I’ll post the results when we actually get around to trying it.