Posts Tagged With: Honey Comb

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

Welcome to Savor the Southwest ! Savoring Honeycomb

Blog Post # 1

This is Tia Linda, one of several “food friends” who will be collaborating on this blog, and the lucky soul who gets to welcome you to Savor the Southwest, a blog Savoring the wild plants, herbs, and animals that grow here in the Southwest.  The focus for my part of the blog is to converse with you about the animals and insects that we live among.  You might already be raising animals, or may flirting with the idea.  Some of my posts may be “notes from the hive”. Some will come from the corrals;  some from the coops. And all will have an offering of some relevant food or recipe.

This week we greet Halloween,  Dia de los Muertos, and less well known, from the Celts Countries, Samhain.   Samhain  means the “End of Summer” and is considered the years third and final harvest. It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st.  Originally a “Feast of the Dead” it was celebrated by leaving food offerings on altars and lighting candles. Extra chairs were set out as an invite to the spirits of loved ones to come home while the veil between worlds thinned.   Symbols at Samhain included apples, Jack-o-lanterns, and gourds, among others.

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“Apis Mellifera Becomes Apis Calavera”  (a quilt by me).  On display at Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery here in Tucson; proceeds will be split equally between Raices (to support one of our best local art venues) and Xerces Society (for quality bee research and protection)

Dia de los Muertos, whose roots are traced back to an Aztec Festival, is celebrated throughout modern Mexico as well as the Southwest.  Favorite foods and beverages of departed loved ones are placed at private alters or gravesides. In the spirit of both Dia de los Muertos and Samhain (and Asian and Afirican cultures have similar rituals)  my offering this year extends beyond the human family to the insect world. Because of my love of bees, and because they are so crucial to our food supply, I am Remembering the vast number of honeybees colonies that have died in the past few years of Colony Collapse Disorder. By setting out honeycomb at my beehive alter, I am both welcoming them home and acknowledging their place – very significant place – in the interconnectedness of all things.

Image                                             So the first food offering to you from this blog is:  Honeycomb.  I offer it both as a food of interest,  as well as to the departed bees that may visit my alter. If you have never eaten honey straight from the honeycomb,  you have a real treat in store.  It is the purest form of honey that we can eat. It is not processed by human hands at all. In fact, the last “hands” to touch it were those of the worker bees, as they placed the wax capping over hexagonal cells holding the honey.

What do you do with the wax? You can swallow it;it will pass right through your system. Or just spit it out. Some people like to chew it like gum. Find a local beekeeper and taste honey from the plants/trees that live in your environment. Mainstream markets will be unlikely to have comb honey, so visit your farmers markets and local health food stores. And consider getting to know the local beekeepers around you.  More than that,  consider becoming a beekeeper yourself!  It will  transform you from being “just” a food consumer, into being a food producer – even if you keep just one hive. Small scale beekeepers play a powerful role these days … but that is for a future post!

Bye for now.

Categories: Beekeeping, Gardening, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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