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Gift Bags

I’m excited to introduce our latest items in our web site shop!

Highgate Honey 1 jar gift bag

Highgate Honey two jar gift bag

We try and keep all our packaging as sustainable as possible and I’m delighted to have found these lovely jute bags with bamboo handles. They make the perfect container for a jar or two of our delicious honey. For the two jars bags we will put a jar from two different batches of our honey so that you can have the chance to taste the differences between them and appreciate their golden colours. These will make a lovely gift for a honey lover!

Honey crop 2017

Each year after the last batch of honey is safely bottled, I like to line up a jar from each different lot number that we have harvested. Regular readers will know that we take off small batches of honey throughout the season, so that we can appreciate the diverse flavours and colours of the honey.

You’ll see from the pictures that there is quite a range in colours this year, and the flavours are equally as varied. The colour and tastes are determined by the particular nectars that the bees were foraging on at that time.

Highgate honey 2017

At the moment we still have some of each lot in our web shop   The picture below gives the lot numbers for easy identification.

All of them are really delicious, but each year there are always one or two batches that are my particular favourites – they somehow have something extra in the flavour that makes them really special.

This year the Beekeeper’s Pick goes to Lot#33 and Lot#32!

Rendering small batches of Beeswax cappings

When we extract honey we have to remove the little wax caps that the bees put over the cells once the honey stored has the correct water content. This wax is prized and once cleaned makes the most beautiful candles and other products.

Needless to say, we collect all the wax cappings from the extraction process and have found that using a use a slow cooker to filter them gives really good results. I rinse the cappings in filtered rain water to try and flush away as much honey as possible to start with.

 

First I place a liner into the slow cooker so that it doesn’t get ruined by the wax during the process…


I’ve found these liners to be very good and can be reused several times :Pack of 3 – Slow Cooker Liners (5pk) – Keeps Pots Clean & Seals In Flavour – Swan household ®

Slow cooker liners

I then put in about an inch of clean rain water in the pan – if you don’t have any rainwater then filtered water is the next best thing – tap water can be very hard and cause the wax to become spongy.

I then use a long piece of elastic to hold a piece of fabric over the top of the pan. Some people swear by using silk or other specialist fabrics, but I’ve found that a bit of old cotton sheet or pillowcase is fine. I wouldn’t recommend using an elastic band as they have a tendency to break when they get warm which results in having to start the process all over again!

I place a double layer of nappy liners on top of the fabric to complete the filter.

I’ve found these liners to be very good – they are a decent size and hold together nicely. Link:Bambino Mio, Supersoft Mioliners (Nappy Liners), Single

Nappy liners

Then, all that is left to do is to put the cappings on top of the filter, put the lid on and turn on the slow cooker to Low. As the wax warms up, it will drip through the filter into the water below. You don’t want  the wax to get too hot as it can become discoloured – I’ve found that on the low setting one batch will take about 30 minutes to filter through and the water doesn’t get hot enough to boil. I then turn off the slow cooker and leave everything to cool down over a couple of hours.

 

You’ll end up with the filter looking grotty like this.

Debris after filtering

You can then peel off the filter and look in at the beautifully clean wax below!

Clean wax after filtering

Ta da!

Clean wax

If the wax is particularly grubby to start with I’ve found that it generally needs to be filtered twice to get it really clear. All that is now left to do is to dry off the wax block and then it’s ready to be used for candle making etc.

I cut up the filters into strips and roll them up – they make excellent fire lighters.

Rendering beeswax

 

Honey for Hayfever

Every year I have people who return to us to buy our honey to alleviate their hayfever symptoms. I’ve read many articles that condone the use of honey and many that condemn it – it is all rather confusing.

I started thinking about hayfever the other day when I noticed that the Hazels suddenly seem to have catkins on them. I’m always pleased to see them at this time of the year as they are a great source of pollen for our bees. However, my friend that I was with was groaning as she is sensitive to Hazel pollen and it triggers her hayfever.

Thankfully I don’t suffer form hayfever, but from what I’ve read different people are sensitive to different species of pollen, from grasses to birch.

Honey bees collect pollen from many, many different flowers, this means that their honey will usually contain a rich selection of pollen grains. The pollen grains are so minute that it is impossible to see them floating about in the honey. The theory behind eating honey to stave of hayfever is that if you eat a small quantity of honey each day that contains the pollen that you are allergic to, then your body builds up a resistance to it. Then, when the flower that you are sensitive to does come out, your body is better able to cope.

From what I understand people should start taking their daily honey dose several months before the pollen that they are allergic to is flowering. This allows the body time to build up some immunity.

If this theory is true, then it is important to eat honey that is likely to contain the pollen that you are allergic to. There is no point in taking honey produced in Central London if you live next to an oil seed rape field that sets off your hayfever. There aren’t fields of rape being grown where the bees are foraging, so there won’t be any of that type of pollen in the honey.

Honey bees are said to travel up to about 5 miles to forage for food. You can imagine what a huge range of different pollen could be being brought back to their hives!

Shops usually choose to sell clear runny honey because apparently that’s what people prefer to buy. However, the process of heating and filtering under high pressures used to produce honey like this has the detrimental effect of removing the tiny pollen grains. This means that a lot of honey is not going to help with the hayfever issue.

We don’t heat our honey and do not use any kind of fine filtering. We don’t mix our honey from different hives. On our jars we always state which hive that the honey was collected from and the postcode where the hive is situated. Sometimes our honey is a little cloudy and sometimes the honey will set – but it is always delicious!  Who minds taking that kind of medicine?

 

February Flowers

Our garden is beginning to stir, green shoots are pushing their way through the cold soil. My goal is to have something in flower for bees to visit for as much of the year as possible. On warmer days our bees are out flying and I’m happy to report that we have a few blooms ready for them in the garden.

Winter aconite

Winter Aconites

Snowdrop

Snowdrops

At the National Honey Show last year I picked up this book

and I’m so glad that I did. The first part of the book explains why it is important to plant for bees, about different types of bees and why it important that we take care of them. The main part is the part that I find most useful. It has a directory of the best plants for bees. Each plant has a clear photograph of the flower and a detailed description. It also tells you exactly which sort of bees benefit from each plant and whether they can forage for nectar and/or pollen from the flowers. So, I can see that my snowdrops are yielding pollen and a bit of nectar for honey bees, and my Winter Aconites are also yielding pollen and nectar for honey bees as well as buff-tailed bumblebees.
I’ll definitely be referring to this book when I’m next planning some planting.

Waxed Leaves

Autumn is well under way here. The bees are still flying when the sun shines – there is still plenty of ivy and Michaelmas flowers around for them to forage on. We stopped doing hive inspections a while ago and will leave the colonies to their own devices until spring now. Every so often I’ll heft each hive to get a feel for the weight of stores that they have – if they feel light then of course I’ll put some feed into the hive, but I do prefer our bees to eat their own honey supplies – it has got to be better for them than sugar syrup.

We have been enjoying the beautiful Autumn colours and can’t seem to stop picking up leaves that are particularly stunning. In previous years we’ve pressed some and used them as decorations, but they always seem to fade and go a bit crumbly fairly quickly.

This year we’ve tried dipping the leaves in beeswax and I’m really happy with the results. It is such an easy activity to do – my children really enjoyed doing it with me too.

Here are the leaves we collected…

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Here they are being dipped in the melted wax… Careful, it’s hot!

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And here they are cooling. The colours and shapes have been preserved beautifully.

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We stuck them on to a ring of card to make an autumnal wreath for our front door.

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Oh, and someone made himself a leaf crown with the left overs!

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A good season

This year has been a really good one for our bees. The colonies have flourished, they have raised some terrific new queens, have done a wonderful job of pollinating our fruit and vegetables and have produced a bumper crop of honey and wax – I couldn’t be more proud of them!

Last night was the annual North London Beekeepers Show. I am so chuffed that we came away with lots of prizes, including a few firsts and a cup.

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There is a lot of polishing and preening that goes into the preparation of the entries and it was really the first time that I looked at all the different colours of honey that our bees have produced this year.

Absolutely beautiful – and they taste amazing too!

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I have now taken off the last batches of honey this year, the bees are busy filling the hives with nectar to last them through the cold winter months. Around here the ivy is flowering – this is the main source of nectar at this time of the year. If you have some flowering in your garden I’m sure that you’ll see it teeming with busy insects.

Thank you for the pollination

Earlier this year our raspberry canes were buzzing with so many different kinds of bee including honey bees. Now we are enjoying the results of their work…

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It is the third season for our patch and we have more fruit then ever before, I don’t think that you can ever have too many raspberries, can you? Last year I planted some Autumn fruiting canes too and they have already started to produce fruit.

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We also have red and white currents, blueberries, cape gooseberries, gooseberries, loganberries, strawberries and grapes all ripening. We are so fortunate to enjoy this abundance – all thanks to the brilliant pollinators! Hardly any of our fruit makes it into the house, most of it gets eaten directly from the garden – what better way for children to learn the origins of their food?

Swarm Season

I’ve just shared a video of one of our hives swarming on our Facebook page – take a look here.

Despite the amount of buzzing and bees swirling around, swarms are not aggressive – they are simply looking for a new home. It really is an amazing sight. Once the bees have left the hive they usually cluster together somewhere until scout bees have found a suitable new home for the colony.

I was lucky that the swarm decided to settle on a nearby oak tree and I was able to easily shake them into a box and then install them into a clean hive.

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If you ever are lucky enough to see a swarm clustering like in the picture above, you can contact a beekeeper, who will be able to come and remove them for you. The British Beekeepers Association have an really helpful website to help the general public identify a swarm. It also has information about how to contact a local beekeeper who will be willing to collect them. Link here