In our family we have several people with very sensitive skin. Finding soap that doesn’t irritate their skin has been a challenge for years. We also aren’t keen on heavily scented products, especially the sort where the aroma sticks around for far too long.
We decided to try making our own, completely unscented soap, using all natural ingredients. The result was wonderful – a soap that lathers beautifully and cleans well.
We loved it so much, that we thought that you might enjoy it too. We’ve created three types of soap – all use beeswax from our own hives. The All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap and The All Natural Beekeeper’s Soap with Oats also use our own honey. We’ve avoided using any palm oil and any added scents.
In line with our minimal packaging ethos, we’ve avoided packing them in plastic and just use a simple paper label.
They are available to buy from our website shop here.
It’s the time of the year when all the seed and bedding plant catalogues arrive through our letter boxes. It’s so easy to get carried away by all the bright colours and glossy pages!
Unfortunately many bedding plants have very little or any nutritional value for bees. They have been bred to appeal to our senses and not to feed pollinators. Over the years of intensive breeding, most of these annual bedding plants are now sterile and can’t produce any pollen or nectar. They are raised in vast factories of hydroponics and are so far removed from nature. They are completely useless to bees.
If we are serious about helping bees to thrive, it is vitally important that we pick our plants wisely. Don’t forget, that without pollinators our diets will be severely restricted.
If you would like to find out more about the best plants to pick to benefit bees, then take a look at our book – 80 Flowers for Bees. Available here.
If you follow us on instagram, you may have seen that this year we have partnered up with Shilpa Agashe for a fun project for the year.
The idea is that we post pictures of the flowers that we see while we go about our business each day. Shilpa is a wonderful artist and she often draws what she sees. We are focusing on flowers that are particularly beneficial for bees.
We’d love it if you join in and post what you see. We’ve already had people joining in from some very far flung places – Singapore, Switzerland and Scotland. It’s been very interesting to see what’s flowering where.
This year has started with the very exciting news that Helen was named as one of the UK’s most inspirational and dynamic female entrepreneurs by the f:Entrepreneur ‘#ialso100’ campaign 2022.
Delivered by Small Business Britain – the leading champion of small businesses in the UK – f:Entrepreneur was launched in 2017 to highlight the stories of amazing female business owners and help provide inspiration and role models across the wider small business community. Now in its fifth year, the campaign offers a host of events and training and networking opportunities to boost skills, capability and confidence.
Helen was chosen because of her work at Highgate Honey, her engineering expertise on cantilever stone stairs, championing UK honey in her honey tasting workshops and her book “80 Flowers for Bees”.
Both f:Entrepreneur and Small Business Britain were founded by Michelle Ovens CBE, who is also the director of Small Business Saturday UK.
“Congratulations to Helen Rogers of Highgate Honey, and all of the brilliant female entrepreneurs featured in this year’s #ialso100,” said Michelle Ovens.
“It is so vital that we recognize and celebrate the phenomenal contribution that women running businesses are making across the UK, and the far-reaching, positive impact they are having, not just on the economy, but on wider communities too. The last few years have been hugely challenging for small businesses, yet despite this female entrepreneurship continues to grow and flourish in the UK, and is very much at the heart of the UK’s recovery.”
I love to read and I get through a lot of books of all different genres. It’s fun to look back over the year and reflect on which books have stayed with me. Interestingly, some that I didn’t particularly rate while I was reading them keep popping back into my head and have changed how I think about things.
If I had to pick my favourite I’d have a tough choice between these two:
Both are very nature based, both are written by women who are scientists and both are beautifully written – weaving their lives and the work that they do together. I devoured each of them in a few days. They have both impacted the way that I look at the world and constantly pop into my head. I can’t recommend them enough!
This book was interesting too – it is a day by day diary of the seasons in the UK over 2020. It compares the changes in nature to the 72 mini seasons defined in Japanese culture. The author is a bird watcher, so it focuses mainly on which birds are around and what is in flower. Beekeepers tend to pay close attention to weather patterns as they affect our bees – so this was interesting to me. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it over a year, reading the relevant chapter to match the actual date.
Very occasionally I read a novel that is so completely unlike any other novel that I’ve ever read. Piranesi is one of those books. It is dark, other wordly and extraordinary.
Somehow I only recently discovered that Tove Jansson, the writer of the Moomin books, also wrote for grown ups. I’ve been savouring them ever since! This is a short novel about a grandmother and her granddaughter, spending the summer on a remote island off Finland. It is absolutely delightful, witty and wise.
I’d love to know which books you have enjoyed this year – leave a comment below!
Transparency time – if you end up buying using the links in this post I will receive a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.
About a year ago I had an idea to make a crochet blanket based on the colours of pollen that I see stored in the honeycombs of our hives. Honey bees collect pollen to feed to their young – it is full of protein and forms the base of “bee bread” which is essential food for bee larvae.
Different flowers produce different colours of pollen. When you look inside a hive you can see which flowers the bees have been foraging on. They appear to store different types of pollen into different cells of the comb. This creates a beautiful stained glass effect.
This has been a stop-start project. When it was hot in the summer it got abandoned for several months – it was just too uncomfortable sitting with most of a blanket over my lap. The recent colder temperatures have meant perfect blanket making weather, and I’m glad to finish it at last.
In front of our house we had a small, north facing lawn. We never used it and it was a chore to keep it mown. I had always thought that because it is north facing, it would get a relatively small amount of direct sun, which would limit what can be grown there. However, being at home more than usual over the past year gave me time to watch how much direct sun it actually gets. I was surprised that from March until October it has around 6 hours each day, which is plenty for many flowering plants that bees like to forage on.
I didn’t like the idea of digging up all the grass, or using a herbicide to kill it off, so we decided to use the “No Dig” method advocated by Charles Dowding. We’ve used this method successfully in the past to create a vegetable patch in our back garden. It’s super simple – you lay down a layer of carboard over the entire area, then cover it with compost. You can then sow or plant directly into the compost. Over time the card will rot and the grass will die. I waited until our recycling collection day and collected all the card in the neighbourhood! There was more than enough to make a good layer.
I then added a layer of compost. Some I bought and some we’ve made. We compost nearly all our kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, so we had quite a good stash. Here it is layered up.
The plan is to sow a lot of flower seeds in March, which I’m hoping will then bloom right through until around November. To add some earlier flowers, I poked holes through the card board and planted lots of spring bulbs. They are now poking their noses through the compost layer, so it shouldn’t be too long before there is some colour in the muddy patch!
In the autumn I also sowed some biennials, such as Foxgloves and Sweet Williams, which are overwintering in our tiny greenhouse – I’ll plant them out once the risk of frosts have past.
The hope is that we will have a feast for bees and other pollinators from spring until late autumn – much better than a boring lawn!
We are always striving to plant more flowers that benefit bees – the trouble is that it can be bewildering choosing appropriate plants, so we have produced a one page guide to just 4 plants that you can plant right now.
If you’d like a copy then pop your email in the form below and we’ll send you a link to download the file.
4 Things to Plant Now for Bees
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It’s now the end of the beekeeping season for this year. We won’t be opening our hives for inspections until the spring now. At this time of the year wasps can be a real pain for honey bees – they will attack weak colonies and raid them for their stores. Thankfully this year our colonies are strong so have been able to stop any raiders from entering the hives. This morning I helped a friend who is looking after a small colony that was getting hammered by wasps. We came up with a rather Heath Robinson contraption to try a fool the wasps. The idea is that direct flight into the hive is now impossible, which confuses the wasps. The bees are smarter and quickly worked out that they could get in by going round the edge of the plastic plate. Let’s hope that this colony makes it through the winter.
A few weeks ago we entered the The North London Beekeepers’ annual show. Many honey shows have been cancelled this year for obvious reasons. I was so pleased with how our entries got on this year – we have very talented bees! We joined a Zoom call to hear all the results announced and then I ran another popular honey tasting session.
We have now extracted all our honey for the year – it is available to buy through our website shop. My favourite lot for the year is #80 – it is a very dark honey, with a tangy and spicy flavour. We don’t have very many jars of it, so I recommend that you grab a jar while we still have some available (or before I eat it all…).
The Book of Bees
Piotr Socha + Wojciech Grajkowski
Thames & Hudson
This is such a great book. Our copy was given to us as a present and since then I’ve bought multiple copies of it for other people. It’s a big book (about 40cm x 28cm) so you can’t slip it into your back pocket, but it’s perfect for browsing through at home. It is fully illustrated with large, clear pictures – I usually take it with me to schools if I’m talking to a small group of children about bees. It covers everything bee in a surprising amount of detail – ranging from the different jobs that bees do in the hive, to pollinating plants to beekeeping in ancient Egypt. It’s genuinely a book that appeals to all ages – every school library should have a copy!