Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What now?

Looks a bit like breakfast cereal but it's not.



I have a friend who keeps bee hives. Lots and lots of hives actually. He sells the delicious honey. I also buy beeswax from him. Over the weekend he gave me a big bag, like probably ten pounds or more, of wax caps. When beekeepers extract the honey, they cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell with an uncapping knife or machine. Its color varies from nearly white to brownish, but most often a shade of yellow, depending on purity and the type of flowers gathered by the bees. Impurities accumulate in the wax -- like pollen, bee parts and dirt. Due to the impurities, the wax has to be rendered before further use.

So, in a really old metal pot that I don't care a hoot about (thank goodness my apiarist friend told me this very important part!), I melted the wax in water and let it boil a few minutes. Such a gloriously sweet aroma filled my house. Now instead of granola it looks like soup.



After melting and boiling I let the pot sit and cool for about 24 hours. The wax floats to the top and hardens. Those bee parts and other impurities that I talked about earlier all are heavier and therefore settled underneath the wax. That lovely layer is called slumgum. Seriously. That is the term for it. Kinda looks like browned ground beef.



I cut all the slumgum off and am left with this. I'm debating cleaning it again to see if I can get every last bit of the impurities out.



My does it smell good.



Now I understand why beeswax is so expensive.

-dana

P.S. I imagine some of you will ask what I will do with the beeswax. Sometimes I make lip balms and different balms for the skin. Plus, I may try adding it to some soap. Of course, after all that hard work, I may just set it in a pretty dish and admire it. And smell it 'cause have I mentioned how lovely it smells?

30 comments:

Amy said...

It looks pretty just setting there :)

Erica said...

We had bees growing up and mom did this too. If you'll melt the clean wax down again, and strain it through a few layers of clean cheese cloth you should be able to get the rest of the impurities out.

I love homemade lips balms!

I don't know where you live, but if you have those nasty chiggers, you can make a salve, then after it's cooled mix in some medical grade sulpher. Use this yellow salve to rub on the chigger bites... it kills them! Just be careful, because it will stain clothing and bed sheets. :-)

carolyn said...

I think I can smell it ALL the way out here in CA!! After the lip balm is made try making and easy votive in a dixie cup with a prepared wick from a craft store or http://www.brighterscents.com/25soycanwic.html then you can enjoy the small and the gentle glow.

beki said...

How fascinating!

Penny said...

neato post! thanks for the info and the visuals. I have to say as well, love the new banner! I have a pic of this same kind of mushroom from a backpacking trip, do you happen to know what they are called?

sarah, rsm said...

Wow, it looks kind of like peanut brittle minus the peanuts! What an interesting process.

Lexi & Josh said...

How fun. Ever since I read the book the Secret Life of Bees I have been interested in bees wax...plus it does smell so delish!

Renna said...

Thanks for the very interesting lesson! :-)

rhonda jean said...

Hello Dana. How fabulous! What a great resource to have. Do you ever make candles from the wax?

Sarah and Jack said...

Wish I had some sort of smell-o-vision for the computer.

Scottish Nanna said...

My grandad was a bee keeper I can smell the wax from here my grannie used to polish the furniture with it.
Hugs Mary.

Christina Joy said...

There are several local bee farms around here, and this post just convinced me to go visit one (even if I'm deathly afraid of anything with a stinger!)! Beautiful photography...you must post about what you end up doing with the wax!

susan said...

it is also good for batik...hint hint :-) i love my new dye area! all six of us were very comfortable and the basement is so kool in the summer. when mark puts in a new furnace next month, if we need a 60,000 he will put in a 80,000 and four defusers in the basement with one fresh air (blank). he wants to make sure i can quilt all year round with my gammill. he dropped a bundle to get it back and a few upgrades for me the sweetie pie. finally will get my oldest sons wedding quilt done, he and mary will be celebrating their 11th anniversary in aug. will take down to austin when we go in september....

purplegiraffes said...

Apiarist and slumgum. Two words I don't think I have EVER said out loud. And now I want to find the first so I can create the second just so I can fill my house with sweet beeswax scent.

Jaimee said...

I've said it before...YOU ARE SOOO INDUSTRIOUS!!!

I can just imagine the sweet smell.
Ooo, you could make yourself some beeswax candles. Then you could just light them and fill your whole house with the aroma!!!

Chickenbells said...

How lovely...I can practically smell it from here!

Em said...

OH MAN! Yum! It looks wonderful - I love the color!

Miss Jean said...

My friend gets beeswax and pours it into small molds. They can be little candy molds or butter molds or those little metal molds you get at the specialty cook stores. They are for sewers/quilters to run their thread through to keep it from tangeling. You can buy them in the store, but homemade is better. She even made me one from a vintage metal coaster with a scotty embossed in the bottom.

Bloggy Mama said...

I used to keep bees, when I was 12.. So neat!!!

Pony Girl said...

Great post. And who knew- slumgum!?
The new banner is very creative too!

Pony Girl said...

Dana, one more thing. Stop by my site sometime soon and see what award I gave ya! ;)

Blue Yonder said...

mmmmmm, oh I bet that DOES smell so good.
Thanks so much for sharing this!

susan said...

omg! i got the soaps...cant decide which i like the best, they all smell so good. your fabric is on its way and i hope you like it! as much as i like the soap.

Janera said...

How cool! I love the homemade products and appreciate the skills and dedication required. I'm going over to your website to shop.

Come visit anytime!

make it perfect said...

have you (or anyone else) ever had a go at making a homemade body wash? we prefer using that rather than soap in our house...would love any thoughts or recipes :)

Helz said...

Slumgum... Hey? Fascinating Post that Dana... The aroma must be really something...

hunnybunny said...

I must say that is quite amazing! It's so pretty, even the slum gum it looks so beautiful. I can only imagine the smell.

Jean said...

I melt it and use it on my art work....it;s a very healing and lovely experience...

Karen Mowrey said...

I found you through the quilt give away but am loving looking around here. I especially love this post and would like to feature you in my next "Bee Spotting" post where I feature a weekly spotlighy on great bees, great bee art and great bee artists! If it is ok to use a photo let me know, if not I will just include a link to you there.

as far as the photo for business card post you did in May, my pick would be #4 of your beautiful daughter, I loved everthing about that shot and it would have caught my attention of someone I would choose to photograph my own daughter.

Lucy said...

I miss our bees! I used to clean the wax with my mom. I love adding it to soap and salves. Nothing smells so wonderful as fresh beeswax.