Saturday, August 29, 2015

How to be Sure You Are Buying Real Honey

jars of honeycomb

It's honey season. One of my favorite parts of being a beekeeper is getting to introduce people who have never had real honey, to real honey. If you haven't enjoyed all the wild goodness of raw unfiltered honey with the comb included then you haven't lived. Okay, you've lived but life sure could have been sweeter!

Actually I hated honey as a kid. It was disgusting. Yes I'm talking about that little grocery store brand with the bear that most people have eaten assuming it is honey.

It isn't.

Most of the honey at the grocery has been filtered to such a degree that all the pollen has been removed. Did you know that being able to identify the pollen is the only way to tell where the honey is from? Without it the honey could be from China, India, or anywhere. Actually China smuggles honey into the US all the time, so what's a honey loving consumer to do?

local honey for sale

Buy Local. Beekeepers are helping to protect the food supply which giant commercial farms and their practices have put in danger. Support them and your local farmers!

Get to know a beekeeper or find a reliable one at your farmers market. If you are in California you want honey from your area especially if you are using it for allergies. Eating lobster in Maine? You want a beekeeper from your neck of the woods! It is a lot of fun to try honey from different locales (who doesn't love Tupelo honey?) but the benefit for allergy sufferers comes from a local pollen source.

bees suites

When the honey is ultra-filtered and/or heated all the good stuff is removed and the flavor changes. Raw honey especially with comb contains an array of vitamins and minerals, pollen, and enzymes that are good for you. Honey is a form of sugar but instead of empty calories you are ingesting nutrients that help your body metabolize it. Plus the honey, comb, and propolis have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. There's a lot of good stuff in there!

jar of honey with comb

Buy from a reputable source.  There are amazing places to buy honey like the Savannah Bee Company. There are lots of great places online but SBC is the only one I've actually purchased from so I feel comfortable directing you to them. Plus the people there are really awesome. You might want to plan a field trip.

savannah bee company

You have figured out by now that beekeepers are cool, right? ;)

Get some bees! If you can't find a reliable source for your local honey, you can always get into beekeeping yourself. I have met so many people lately who have told me they would love to have bees. I'll be writing soon about how to get over your fear of bees if that's your issue but if you are wondering what's involved start with my post 10 Things You'll Need to Get Started in Beekeeping.

bees with pollen

So let's review: You want raw unfiltered honey. You probably won't find it at the grocery store. Look for a honey stand at your farmers market. Remember to buy local. Get to know a beekeeper or get yourself some bees! There ya go!

Easy peasy! Or...easy beesy.

Sorry. You know I can't resist.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Harvesting Honey Without an Exractor

honey super-smoker

The spring and early summer honey flow ended weeks ago. We are in the startup of the fall honey flow now. I harvested this season's honey without an extractor. Here's how to do it. First, let's review.

The bees start with empty frames. I use plastic foundation coated with wax.


 As the season goes on they build out the comb and fill it with honey. Then when the water content is around 18% they cap it off.

frame of honeycomb

When all the frames are capped you are ready for harvesting. Using an extractor means scraping off the wax cappings and placing the frames in an extractor. It is about the same amount of work for the beekeeper either way, but scraping the entire comb off into a jar makes more work for the bees.

To read how to harvest using an extractor read this. 

capped honey

You just take a tool of your choosing (I use a metal spatula) and scrape the honey comb off into a container. If you want to filter it you can just add a filter to catch the comb. For this honey harvest I put large pieces of comb in the jar and then ladled honey in to fill the jar the rest of the way up. Here are some of my favorite pics from the process.


Want more pretty pictures? Follow me on Instagram HERE. 

capped honeyframes of honey


You might have already guessed but I get pretty sticky during the process. 

jars of honey

I have the best job ever. Well, the sweetest anyway.



honey and beeswax

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Make a Bride's Garter from a Vintage Wedding Dress

bride's garter

My daughter and I are both celebrating anniversaries within the next couple of weeks. It made me think of one of my favorite projects ever. I hand made her garter from my mother's silk wedding dress. A little piece of nostalgia from 1956 that doubled as her something blue.

One day while talking on the phone to my mother she told me that if I still had her old wedding dress stuck in a closet somewhere it would be fine to throw it away.

"It's probably dry rotted anyway."

I dug it out of an upstairs closet, washed it and hung it out in the sun to dry. Looking at it, I had an idea. A couple in fact. I wouldn't be throwing it away, but I did cut it up. I photographed it first, for posterity's sake.

Next I cut it into different sections and thought how they might best be used. Don't be afraid to cut up something to rework it. It's much better to make use of it and share it than to keep it tucked away where it is just in the way. Cutting it up also makes it possible to share it throughout a family instead of having to decide who gets to keep it. This is also a great tip for quilts and other treasured family textiles.

I decided it would be nice to make my daughter's garter from this vintage silk taffeta, and gifts for my mother, sister, and niece as well.

 Normally, to do this you would cut a strip of fabric, fold it over and stitch together to form a tube.

 This dress however had a bow with 2 long tails ready made for this. I love it when I can save a step.

Once you have your tube of fabric you take a piece of elastic shorter than your tube and begin working it through. Tweezers and patience are useful for this task. It is also helpful to pin a safety pin to the end going through so you can determine the end of the elastic. Pinning the other end to the opening will keep you from pulling it through accidentally. The tube/elastic ratio is going to depend on how gathered you want the garter to be. I wanted something that would mimic the bride's dress, so I needed just a soft gather. My elastic was about 2/3 of the tube length.

Sew both ends of elastic together when you are finished. Then fold over the fabric and neatly stitch the two tube ends together.

 This is what you have. At this point you could add any embellishment you like, fabric flowers, bows, lace, beading, etc. I wanted something simple and elegant. I used blue embroidery floss to hand stitch a heart (there's her something "blue") and cream floss to work the date. Simple. Pretty. Meaningful.

I made the throw away garter (which--have you noticed?-- no man is ever trying really hard to catch) from the lace of my own wedding dress. Nothing about synthetic fabrics says "heirloom".

I also saved some lace from the dress to give to my sister, niece, and mother in glass pendants. They were perfect gifts to commemorate the event. This summer when my niece and nephew visited I gave them both pieces of fabric and lace from their grandmother's dress to make their own heirlooms in the future.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Open House Sneak Peek


Just a couple of days left to get ready for the open house on Saturday! Everyone is really excited about the honey but I have been experimenting and have a couple of other things to offer. I've tried a couple of hand cream recipes that I really like. I'll be letting people sample them this weekend. On site product testing!

beeswax hand cream

The one I committed to is something I whipped up because I wanted to have a hand cream made from the clover that the bees use for the honey. I infused olive oil with white clover blossoms. Remember making clover chains as a kid? Everything about them says summer to me!

I'm pretty in love with how the label turned out.

packaging for hand cream

Of course we all know who the star of the show really is, Honey.

jar of honey

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Buzz About This Season's Honey

beehives and blackberries

If you are waiting for honey here's the buzz about what the bees and I are up to around here. I'm working really hard to get ready for the Pen & Hive Open House and Apiary Tour.

promo banner

If you have questions about beekeeping and honey this is your chance to ask them! I'm getting the guest cottage kitchen in shape and packaging the last jars of honey. I am in love with the new logo and color scheme! I'll be writing about the blog and product redesign sometime soon.


  I'm running what I like to call a Micro-Apiary, a small boutique honey operation with limited supplies.

Read about how I got started beekeeping here.

Honey is kind of the Snapchat of products. It's  available for a short time in quantities that the bees determine. Time and tide and honey wait for no man. Or woman. The bees are in charge of production and all the workers are female so they aren't open to a lot of suggestions. Have you tried working with a hundred thousand females? I'm the beekeeper but I'm not really running things.

honey harvest

 Many of the beekeepers who have large enough operations to sell their honey in the grocery store sometimes buy honey from other beekeepers to keep up with demand. Most of the honey is filtered. Once it is filtered it all looks the same on the shelf and it's hard for the consumer to know exactly what they are getting.

 Read about this year's honey harvest here!

Simply filtering out the comb bits isn't bad, it still contains pollen and it allows the bees to get back to making honey for the beekeeper as soon as possible. If you are selling honey in the comb the bees must rebuild all the comb in addition to making honey.


It's a lot of extra work for the bees which is why it cost more. But when you see it you know as a consumer you are getting all the benefits of the honey. If I'm scraping it all off the frame into a jar, it is completely raw and unfiltered. Everything takes place on site. It is artisan neighborhood honey.


This season the super raw version is all I'm selling. I've had so many people request either honey with comb or raw and unfiltered that I'm providing the most natural honey you can access unless you want to get your own hives (which I would love to see you do!). My hives are chemical free. I'm using only all natural pest controls.

 capped honey

On the blog you can see pictures of the bees at work making the honey I have available. I post regular updates about how the girls are doing and what is involved in managing them. I'm also willing to give you a tour and answer questions about how the bees work and live and why they are so important to us. Leave your questions or comments in the comment section at the bottom of this post or visit me on my Facebook Page.  


These 1/2 pint jars are $10.00 and a pint is $18.00.

I'll also have soap and hand cream at the open house. More about that coming up later this week!

Friday, August 7, 2015

How to Make a Beeswax Candle in a Teacup

beeswax candle in teacup

I should be completing decorating the guest cottage since that I use for jarring up honey and testing skin care items. I'm having an open house and honey sale in here next week. But I just can't stop making things! Like this precious candle in a teacup. 

Besides honey the other product produced by a colony of bees is the beeswax that they create to store brood, pollen, and honey. It has a lot of uses. While I generally use the wax I end up for skin care products I finally got around to making my first candle. I decided to make it in this adorable tea cup that belonged to my mother in law.

See what the wax looks like in the hive here. 

I haven't made candles since I was about 12. Remember making them in milk cartons? Those were with paraffin wax and weren't even scented. This little project took just a few minutes. If you don't count the hundreds of hours tending bees and an hour or so rendering the wax.

Read about rendering beeswax here. 

You start by grating the beeswax into a bowl so that it will melt faster and more evenly.

I melt it in the microwave 30 seconds at a time. Don't forget that whatever you melt beeswax in will be unusable for anything else. Designate one bowl for this project. 

I stuck a wick in the bottom of the cup. You could glue it to keep it in place but mine seemed to stay secure. Just pour a little bit of wax in the bottom and let it set in place, then continue.

 Use a knife to keep the wick straight. When the wax is thoroughly melted quickly quickly pour it into the cup.

Allow the wax to harden. You will see that the color changes to a beautiful honey yellow.

You could add color and scent to candle in the melted stage but I thought it was lovely in its natural state. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

10 Things to Do When Your Blog Dies

 I recently had a blog bite the dust. It happens. Maybe you have decided that your blog wasn't the best idea, or maybe your situation changed, or maybe, like me, you forgot about that Go Daddy account-- remembering the annual payment as my blog partner was texting asking why he couldn't log in.


As much as bloggers like to encourage everyone to "hang in there!" sometimes you just have to know when to give up and have a margarita. People blog for a lot of different reasons and there are just as many reasons to stop doing it. So you've decided you would rather do something else on Saturday night other than document your knowledge of 17th century pie tins.

Now what?

As I looked around the internet there wasn't a lot of information about what to do when you decide to shut it down. As I went through the process, here's advice I came up with for deleting your blog: 

1. Sit down and make sure you are really finished. That it ran its course and that you are okay with it. Here's the post I wrote about the process:

 Blog Obituary: RIP Professor & Housewife

2. If you can still access your blog in your browser go ahead and export it to a flash drive or even just the hard drive of your computer. You are done at the moment but you don't want to wake up a month from now and remember that one remarkable post. Back it up.

3. Write a final blog post explaining what happened. It's good for closure too. Depending on how long       you kept your blog up and how hard you had worked on it, it may feel a little bit like a breakup.

4. Scout around for old email addresses and the remains of unfinished blogs you started when the process was in the works. I found an old Wordpress blog that just had a message directing readers to the host I finally settled on. Did you also connect a Tumblr account to your blog? Look for any loose ends to tie up. Delete those accounts.

5. Decide what you want to do with Twitter. Would the time consuming blog you had work as a Twitter account? Would you be even more snarky or informative in 140 characters?

6. Decide what you want to do about Instagram. Again, maybe you are brilliant at photos. Maybe you would be the next big Instagram thing. 

7. Think about Pinterest. If your blog was image rich or you had a zillion pinners following you it might be possible to rework some of your boards by eliminating certain pins. Otherwise delete boards that were very specific to your blog. They'll go to a dead link and that's not fun for others. 

8. Post your farewell post and/or explanation on your Facebook page. I posted the obit for mine on Pen & Hive. If it was your only blog write it on your FB page and share it to your personal page if you had readers who were friends.

9. Reply kindly or not at all to comments. Resist the temptation to ask all the people who send you condolences where they have been until now. If you kept some other form of social media just invite them to follow you there.

10. Decide that your blog was just a warm up act for what you really want to do. Start planning your next venture!

Monday, August 3, 2015

How a Kitten Took Over the House and Found Her Name


Last fall we had to have our old cat put to sleep. You may have known her as Decor-cat. She was always busy supervising all my projects, which for a cat just means lying all over them so you can't get any work done.


Last week my son found an adorable fluffy kitty on Craig's List and called the people to see where they lived and he could pick up the kitten. They lived around the corner! It was love at first sight when he brought her in the door.


Introducing two dogs to something the size of the chipmunks and squirrels they like to chase is a tiny bit nerve wracking but by the second day they were licking her all over and following her every move.

dogs with kitten

A particular beagle is completely mesmerized and will stare at the new member of her pack long after the border collie has lost interest. The next problem of course is what to name the little darling. I posted her pic on Facebook and got some clever suggestions: Charlie Chaplan (or some combination thereof), Groucho Marx, Poochy, Smitten, Buttons, Shuwee, Piper, Pepper, Kit Bull (we have some strange friends), Checkers, GaGa (as in Lady), Sylvester, Flower, Gatsby, Figaro, Salvadore and/or Dali, Oreo, Angel, Perry, and Scout. 

Purina even has a cat name generator. According to it this cat's name should be Biscuit. 

beagle and kitten

We still hadn't decided though my son had decided to call her Pat the Cat. I know, I know. 

Then all at once she came bounding down the stairs like a champ took a swat at the dog nearest her and walked through the kitchen with all the attitude of royalty. My husband said "She just took charge and is now the queen of the house. Let's name her Cleopatra. We can call her Cleo."

How Brilliant is that? 

My son can still call her Pat. But so far, Your Highness seems more appropriate.

The next time you have a new pet post a cute picture of it on Facebook and let your friends weigh in. Even if you don't use any of the suggestions it'll be a lot of fun to see what folks come up with.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Pen & Hive House

 This post (along with the house) is undergoing updating perpetually...

pen and hive

bedroom decor
cottage guest room
artist studio
updated bathroom

The Cottage

lettering on door

colorful kitchen

 moss ball
colorful tiny house

mason jar chandelier

vintage style window

simple window treatment