Yesterday morning we woke up to find snow covering our world! The hives on our roof looked so chilly, although the snow acts as an extra layer of insulation.
M and I were stuck inside as he is suffering from a nasty cold, so we decided to make some marmalade. This year I substituted some of the sugar with our honey – it has made the marmalade have a deeper more flavoursome taste – delicious on my toast this morning!
I have always been a fan of Burt’s Bees lip balm, and now that we have our own supply of beeswax and honey I thought that I’d have a go at making something similar. Browsing the internet and studying various ingredient lists gave me lots of ideas of what to put into mine. This morning M and I had some time to play around with a few variations and we came up with our favourite recipe which we’d like to share with you. It is very quick and easy to make.
To make a batch of 9 10ml tins we used:
1 tbsp Unrefined shea butter
1 tbsp Cold pressed coconut oil
2 tbsp Sweet almond oil
1 block of beeswax (approx 1oz)
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp peppermint essential oil
4 drops of rosemary essential oil
We melted everything expect for the peppermint and rosemary oils very gently in a double boiler. Once everything had melted we stirred in the oils and poured it into our tins. That’s it! They take about 20 minutes to harden enough to put the lids on. M will testify that it is actually good enough to eat!
I bought all our ingredients (except of course the wax and honey) from Naturally Balmy
All we need to do is put some stickers on the lids and we’ll have some very nice Christmas presents to give away.
Now that all our hives have plenty of honey in them to keep them stocked through the winter I have closed them up. I’ve put mouse guards over the entrances to prevent vermin from creeping in and helping themselves to the honey and brood. I have put straps round the hives, if they get blown over then at least they will still be held together and should be relatively easy to right again. I have also stuffed the roofs with insulation to prevent excessive heat loss.
We have also put up a temporary willow fence along the railings in front of our home hives. They are 4 floors off the ground on the side of a hill – the wind is pretty strong up there, so I hope that the fence will help to stop it from howling straight into the hives and chilling the bees.
Last night was the London Honey Show, which is held at the Lancaster Hotel. We are so excited that our home honey won the “Best Rooftop Honey” award! I’m so thrilled that our bees have done so well this year.
The show was a really good experience – lots of interesting stalls to look at, enthusiastic people, and a particularly interesting talk about bumble bees by Dave Goulson. He was very inspiring and has made me think more about how we can introduce even more insect friendly plants into our garden.
Here it is! Lots 1 to 7 from left to right. I’m staggered at the contrast in colours and flavours, all delicious! The most extreme difference is between the second jar from the left and the second jar from the right, they were both taken from the same hive, just one month apart.
We have finally got round to jarring our final lot of honey for this year. It is such a beautiful deep amber colour – perfectly matching these golden days we are enjoying at the moment.
When I was arrived at the honey show last night I was astonished to see that our honey had won the medium colour class. Someone told me that I really should look at the other categories too.
I glanced across the jars of honey to see that I’d got 2nd in the novice class and a highly commended in the cut comb category.
Then my jaw hit the floor when I saw that I’d also won the dark honey class and that honey had also been awarded the Best Honey in the Show prize!
I’m absolutely thrilled that our bees have done so well and am still wandering around with a huge grin on my face.
The show was really interesting – I am in awe of those who produced beautiful blocks of wax and candles. The judge gave a very interesting talk about the things that he looks for when judging, such as shining a powerful torch into the honey to check for any debris or bubbles.
The children were really excited this morning when I told them how it had gone, and as soon as M had finished his breakfast he raced upstairs to thank the bees and tell them that they make the best honey ever!
We will soon be adding all these honeys to our little shop, so you will be able to taste them for yourself.
Today is The North London Beekeepers annual honey show for members. For fun I decided to enter a few classes. We’ve never even been to a honey show before, so I’m not really sure what to expect.
The schedule is very exacting about the type and size of jars and containers to be used and there are different classes for light, medium and dark honeys. You have to enter 2 1lb jars in each class, and the pairs should be as similar as possible. When I dropped them off this morning I had to get the colours checked against a special grading glass to see which class they should be entered into. I also entered a box of cut comb.
This morning M and I polished up the jars and replaced the scratched lids before packing it all up in newspaper for the bus journey. I was nervous about the cut comb leaking and we kept checking that it was upright in my bag. Fortunately everything survived the journey. I’m really excited to see the other entries this evening and to see how we get on.
As well as delicious honey, another product of the hive is wax. When we remove the super frames to extract honey we check that most of the comb has been capped. This means that the bees are satisfied that the honey trapped inside has a low enough water content that it won’t ferment and will store until it is needed. Exploding jars of honey would be a disaster!
Before putting the frames into the extractor we have to gently remove these wax cappings so that the honey is free to run out.
After much washing and filtering this wax can be used for all sorts of things like candles or polish. Cappings wax is considered to be the highest quality and is a beautiful pale golden colour.
I was watching the hive entrances earlier to make sure that there weren’t any wasps getting in, and noticed that rather than wasps getting in there were drones being thrown out!
The smaller workers were frog marching their brothers out of the hive and viciously attacked them if they tried to return. At this time of the year the drones are evicted – the colony has no use for them over the colder months, they would just be extra mouths to feed.