Posts Tagged With: diy

Waxing On Honey Comb

Aunt Linda Here: writing to you on a rainy Thursday morning.

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This morning I am watching Santa’s cap go up in flames. The heat is nearing his face, now, poor thing. He does not look happy. The Buddha on the other hand, appears downright enLightened. On this rare rainy morning in the desert South West, the smell of rain is merging with the aroma of melting bees wax. The impact is enchanting.

The color of wax in a hive changes as the season progresses. In last month’s post, we delighted in how different nectars and pollens produce different colors and flavors of honey. So do they affect the colors and scents of the wax itself.

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Honey Bees are the only creatures, that I know of, that build their homes from substance secreted by their own bodies. Solitary bees, wasps, and other relatives dig ground nests, collect mud and create mud nests, paper nests, bore into wood. In contrast, the honey bee “draws” comb using wax flakes secreted from their own bodies. What fascinates me is that they will INVOLUNTARILY secret wax flakes when there is a need for it.  One of the great delights of my life is watching the bees pass along these flakes to one another in a process called “chaining”. It is like the old toy “A Barrel of Monkey’s” where the plastic monkey’s arms entwine as they hang together.  As the build comb, honey bees link up in a similar way, as they pass a wax flake at a time, all while directing heat  to make the wax more malleable.

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This comb functions as the skeleton of the hive, in that it provides structure. It is also a pantry for the honey and nectar stores. It is a nursery, for the brood. It also functions as a kind of liver. Beeswax absorbs and holds oil- and fat-soluble toxins, which are, sadly, all too prevalent in today’s environment. These toxins can build up, especially in hives near monoculture farmland (now often more polluted than cities because of our agricultural practices) and in hives in which the beekeeper treats bees to deal with mites etc. The wax can literally become toxic for the bees!  Ironically, these days it is the small scale bee keeper, even within cities, that have the purest wax both for the bees, as well as for lip balms salves etc.

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Throughout history, humans have used beeswax in surprising variety of ways.  In addition to candle and salve making, the use of beeswax has been used in both honorable and quirky ways:  encaustic painting, mustache wax, use in dread locks, accordion making, bullet casting, embalming (last two are used probably in that order!) furniture polish, wood waxing , glass etching, crayons, candy making, basket making, ear candles, blacksmithing. I could wax on and on about all the different uses of beeswax. And have begun writing and crafting several recipes for this post using beeswax – from a DIY Lip balm to a Beeswax Furniture Polish, a Wax Varnish, even a Grafting Wax for horticultural grafting, even a  ax furniture “filler” . The possibilities for practical utilities using beeswax are seemingly endless.

In the end, though, I settled on candle making once again. Mostly because it smells so darn good. And it is satisfying to light a candle in these days approaching the winter solstice.

RECIPE : (in the quantities that you choose) Candle making is a kind of process where we find our own way … at least it was that way for me.

A few rules of thumb:

*Have a dedicated just-for-wax melting pot. Melt wax on low heat (or use a crock pot on “low” setting) as you would chocolate, and do not let it boil nor even smoke.

*When you are “threading”  your candle mold, ( I use rolls of wick #2/0) leave the wick uncut. That way as you release the candle from the mold, you pull the fresh wick up through the mold for the next pour.

*Pour the wax slowly for a better result.

*Organic beeswax – (you want to breath in the great “ions” that beeswax produces, and not the toxins from a more polluted wax.

*Candle molds ( check out bee keeping supply companies such as Brushy Mountain, or Dadant, or simply google “candle making  supplies” or “candle molds”). Make sure you buy molds for wax, and not for food. I have found my most interesting molds in quirky google searches. Molds can be pricy; I buy one new one a year. Once you get versed in the craft, you’ll find yourself experimenting with all sorts of things. Yuo can make sand caste molds … you can pour wax into tea cups from thrift stores … and of course you can relish in the simplicity of Hand-Dipped Beeswax Canldles and skip the whole mold thing completely. Use your creativity as your guide.

*Wicks (beeswax requires wicks are #2/0; or ask the person you are buying from for advice.)

*A large needle to thread the molds with (this is a must and you can get them from candle making suppliers; you just need one and it will last a lifetime)

A mold release spray to help the wax candle separate from the mold once it has cooled.

TIPS: Melt your wax slowly

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Pour your wax into the molds … slowly for a smooth result, and allow the wax to cool. This depends on the mass of the candle and the ambient temperature.

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Beeswax Candles are beautiful. Their smell is enlivening. They make great presents. Making them is a great project for any age.

They light the dark.

They are also a great lessons in the nature of change.  From the pristine new candles above, to the fully burned Buddha candle below. The real Buddha found part of his enlightenment in making friends with the nature of change and cycles and impermanence.  Here is his candle version, left hand still visible in the photo, filled with rain water and mesquite leaves from today’s rain.

I will likely rinse him off,  and put this version of him back in the wax pot to melt down for the next round of pouring candles. The cycles continue.

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Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Within & Without: WILDFLOWER Honey Facial Mask (DIY)

Aunt Linda here, on this breezy Tucson morning. IMG_7283 As I write, the full moon shines powerfully in the west, as it sets. The bee yard is aglow. The beams of moonlight bounce off the hives;  alight upon the honey house roof;  shine through west facing doors and windows. The bees are hunkered down in their hives this morning. They will not launch into their foraging flights as early as they did in the summer. They are solar beings, and navigate with the sun. Being past the equinox , and with less sunlight available, their first flight begin later and their return home in the evening, earlier. They are also affected by cooler temperatures,  and are not partial to the winds we have been having. We are all, bee and human, between night and day; between summer and winter. As the cycles of flow and blossoming  constantly change, so do the stores of nectar, pollen and honey within the hive. The “inside” of a hive here in Tucson reflects the light yellow color/light aroma of Mesquite Flows from earlier in season, to the darker, stronger tasting and smelling honey of desert wildflowers of late summer and fall. The pollen comes in different colors as well. So it is that bees, in the process of their practicality, create mosaics of pollen and canvases of honey, depending on what is available to them regionally and seasonally. Below: you can see the variation of color and texture of pollen both on the bees’s “pollen baskets” on their hind legs, as well as in their “mosaic” of pollen stores within the hive. IMG_2744

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See how this desert wildflower yields a bight orange colored pollen (back legs of bee) as compared to the lighter yellow in the above photo.

By now you may be reveling in all the colors and tastes (and smells!)  of honey. Visit your local beekeeper at a farmers market  or health food store this weekend, and see how real and raw honey differs from the “honey bear honey” sold on many grocery store shelves. Bees have “honey stomachs” that they use to carry nectar back from the flowers, and into the hives to produce honey. The variation in plant nectars account for the variation on types of honey.

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Note the difference in color of the  very light Mesquite Honey (in the exquisite photo ABOVE – taken by Ben Johnson; you can learn more about this talented man at ben@benjohnsonart.com) as compared with the deeper colored Cactus Flower honey (photo below).

IMG_7793 True Fall Wildflower honey is usually an even deeper brown (bottom photo) and has higher antioxidant levels, which may be better for our skin! IMG_7218  Within and Without:  WILDFLOWER Honey Facial Mask (DIY)

Ingredients: raw honey and time How To:

This simple facial mask takes us from our own pores to the pores of plants.  As you can see in the photos,  the honey produced inside the hive literally reflects the environment around it. When we plant a garden or keep a hive, we move from being being a food consumer, to a participant in our food production. So, too, with our health products. It is wildly fun, and often more economical,  to use your own honey (or to purchase directly from a local beekeeper!!! That is a powerful act which moves you closer the “source”), than to purchase a  prepared product.

Honey has been used for skin repair and nourishment for thousands of years. Literally.  It is a humectant,  an anti-oxidant (darker, fall wildflower honey shows higher anti-oxidant levels than other types of honey,  in scientific studies),  and aroma “therapy” (is smells so, well, sweet!).

The idea here is as much about the Ritual as the Result.  Enjoy the smells and sensations WHILE applying the honey. Place the attention we so easily abdicate to the external world within once again. Our attention is rarely our own anymore, and a ritual as simple and everyday as washing our faces, can be a vehicle to practice enjoying the moment.

1) Exfoliate, however you like. This allows the properties of the honey to do their magic, without the barriers of dirt and oils.  Rinse. (Facials are not for everyday … at least not in my world.   I like to do the facial mask in the shower, on days when I wash my hair (which is not everyday) in order to utilize the humidity that the shower provides to open pores. (Water is a precious element in the desert, and I like to use Permaculture wisdom of “stacking functions” in order to lessen my water use.)    Truthfully, I do this facial mask less frequently than I should.

2) Right as you apply your conditioner, apply the honey to your face. Then wrap up your conditioning hair in a towel and step out of the shower  for about 20 minutes.  Who knows … during those magical twenty minutes you might even the feel the flights of the worker bees,  the “waggle dance” as specific foraging information is passed along,  the way the flowers tip and bend in the breeze, the smell of flower,  the sacred offering of pollen at dawn.  Once you have soaked up both the tangible and intangible properties of the fall facial mask, rinse (both face and hair, if you are doing a duo) and apply your favorite facial cream. Your skin will GLOW.

More Wild-Flower Foraging Fotos IMG_7193 The photo above shows how the hairs on a bees body gather pollen; note head on left bee. The photos  below show honey bees (and native bees) foraging in a variety of desert plants; and what “uncapped” honey looks like.   IMG_0748 IMG_1293 IMG_7804 IMG_1886 IMG_2173 IMG_7071

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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