Tuesday, September 25, 2018

How To Render Beeswax

I didn't do a very good job this year of staying on top of the beeswax rendering in my solar melter. Now that I'm ready to do it, because you might remember 2018's new thing was making candles, it isn't hot enough for that process. Now, I'll just have to do it indoors. Of course if you have been keeping up on Instagram you know how much I've complained about the heat and late arrival of fall. 

So, no. I am not complaining. 

It's a pretty simple process. In this pic you can see the honeycomb as it is after the bees clean it up (after I process the honey I put the comb back out near the hive and the bees collect all the honey I missed and take it into the hive to store for winter) during harvesting season.  

I've crumbled some to help it melt faster.

 The pot was full when I started. It took about 30 minutes over low heat for me to melt it down. When completely melted the pot was about 1/4 full. 

There are a few dead bees and some debris mixed in so after it's melted you strain it through cheesecloth. Make sure to use something you only intend to use for beeswax after this. It will be impossible to clean.

Collect your containers to pour the strained wax into.

I heated the bowl I was going to use for straining in the oven first, to keep the wax from hardening so quickly.

Once you've strained it, remove the cheesecloth, and pour it ASAP into the containers. Even though I heated the bowl you can see how much had hardened in the ten seconds it was in there. 

I threw the used cheesecloth into the pot while it was still on the burner to mop up the excess wax. I'll use this for a firestarter in the fireplace.

I thought it was kind of funny that the imprint on the wax discs was the recycling symbol from the bottom of the containers. This is my favorite recycling project ever.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to Create Your Own Italian Seasoning

Every home needs an herb garden. Even if it's just a few plants in containers on a patio. The bees will appreciate you and your family will as well when you are roasting a chicken with fresh rosemary or topping their favorite pasta dish with a handful of chopped basil. In the late summer before the whole thing fades to nothingness except the thyme and rosemary it's time to harvest, dry, and store. 

Planting and Harvesting: 

For Italian seasoning, I like to plant: oregano, flat leaf Italian parsley, basil, rosemary, and garlic chives.  You can start cutting and drying them in mid-summer. 

When it's time to harvest the whole thing when the plants are winding down cut them early in the day before it's too warm. Wash them thoroughly and let them dry.  In these photos the herbs have flowers because I left them as long as possible for the bees. You may want to harvest them sooner. 

Next, separate the leaves from the stems. I like to save the woody stems of rosemary to toss in the first fire of the season. Do you have little seasonal rituals? If you love to grill out soak them in water and add them to the coals. 


Put the leaves in a mesh basket, on a window screen, or even out on a table to dry completely. You can place them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven, or if you don't care how long it takes you can play Little House on the Prairie and hang them up to dry. A food dehydrator is more trouble than it's worth for me since it's another gadget that must be stored except for a couple of times a year you are going to use it. Surely by now, Y'all know how I feel about gadgets. 

When they are dried enough for you to crumble them in your hands break them up over a strainer to keep out the larger pieces. Or cut them with scissors. Basically anyway you can get the job done will work. You just don't want your family picking actual sticks out of their food. 

Of course, I'm sure woody thyme stems are good for you. How is that not a thing? 

Usually, after that I let them dry a few more days. It's humid in the south and you don't want any chance of mold. When you think it's dry, give it another day or two just to be safe. 

Break them up until the pieces are fine enough to be used in an herb or spice shaker you have. 


Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place until you need them.

You can experiment with different blends of herbs you like to make your own, one of a kind mix!

Perfect gift for the foodie in your life. :) Pair it with a jar of honey for a delicious marinade. Tie a little bundle of herbs on top to become the gift giving champion! 

XOXO Y'all! 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What to Do Now For Next Year's Garden

What NOT to do: 

Let's be honest since we're besties and all. I have done everything completely out of order this summer. Read my post about it here: A Tale of Two Gardens. The proper thing to have done would've been to plan and execute the hardscaping first early in the year while the weather was cold, along with organizing the potting shed. THEN plant a garden. Of course, I should have done the porch (read about that here) in spring as soon as the pollen storm was over. But no! I did ALL of the things so I could redo all of the things.

In July. In Memphis. 

Do this instead: 

I do not recommend doing twice the work because your timing is terrible. And if you are planning a garden for next year, right now is the perfect time to get your act together. This fall and winter is the time to do a new garden layout and put in pathways.

Also starting your composting or setting up your lasagna garden should be done now if that's how you roll. All winter you'll be keeping things from ginormous depressing landfills because they'll be cooking along in your happy little compost pile.

According to Scientific American, "We throw away 25% of all the food we produce for domestic sale and consumption." Feeling guilty? Me too. We often think that if it's biodegradable it's okay to toss it in the trash but in a landfill, those scraps produce methane gas. In your garden, they produce food for worms and eventually soil. It's kind of a no-brainer. 

I'll be recycling cardboard boxes right into the garden for weed control as well.

If you have planted a fall garden then you have a ways to go to keep tending that until the first frost date which in Memphis and surrounding areas (zone 7 (a and b) is November 15th. I had good intentions for a fall garden. But the soil was so depleted after redoing everything it needs time to rest and regenerate.

I'm trying to avoid my own personal Dust Bowl over here. 

Right now my main focus, besides watching for the perfect honey harvesting day, is composting and rooting plants for next year.

Here's how:

Since I'm not looking to attract less than charming creatures I do compost the kitchen waste into a bin with the appropriate other goodies necessary for a happy hot compost pile. But grass cuttings, the contents from the vacuum (I know. Ew.), leaves, and paper from the shredder are going right into the beds in layers.

Read my more detailed composting post here. 

This is also the time to work on your leaf mold for next year. This is a huge thing in the UK but for some reason not so much in the US. Probably because we are such an impatient lot. The whole process can take 2-3 years. But it isn't like it's work or anything. You rake the leaves into a pile, I'm using some old fencing to contain mine and then you just pile them in there and wait. You can get fancier if you want but remember forests have been doing this for thousands of years without any interference from you.

If you are starting from scratch then this is the time to start thinking about your overall plan. That way you'll have all winter to complete a design, collect materials, and put in your hardscaping while your compost is cooking. Plus if you want something sexy like a wood chipper you can put it on your Christmas list. 

You genius, you. 

What I'm doing next: 

Only half my garden got made over in the heat of summer because the other half is closer to the beehives and I also have several things that need to be moved in winter while they are dormant. This gives me the chance to do it correctly and I'll be sharing that with you over the winter. I love do overs, don't you? 

Bee posts and updates are on the way soon! I'm gearing up for harvesting but that all depends on the weather. 

XOXO Y'all!