My Most Popular Post

“What brings you here?”

It’s a common question.

Having a blog means you have access to all kinds of cool stats. I like to explore them every once in a while, as I have my morning coffee. Gets the grey cells moving.

I’ve been writing this blog for over three years now – covering everything from green home building, to mental break downs, to gardening and saving distressed animals. Without a doubt though my most popular post is a simple “how-to” article I published quite a while ago: the installation of a shower curtain rod in the upstairs bathroom.

Besides the home page, the shower curtain rod install is the most popular page on the blog.

Besides the home page, the shower curtain rod install is the most popular page on the blog.

I get a hit on that post every day from somewhere in the world. After forty years of living, solving that little problem of how in the heck do you mount a shower curtain rod on a sloping ceiling, is my contribution to our modern society.

Keep in mind though, my meager little blog only gets about forty visitors a day (twice though what it was just four months ago). A real blog gets hundreds and thousands of daily visitors. But I enjoy writing so it’s worth it even if I just get one visitor a day.

I always imagined I’d accomplish something more earth shattering or sexy. But I suppose writing a popular article on a shower curtain rod is achievement enough for all the DIYers around the globe who were scratching their head, googling “L-Shaped shower curtain rod installation” or “sloped ceiling shower curtain rod”.

The list goes on, but you get an idea of what searches that bring people to the site.

The list goes on, but you get an idea of what searches that bring people to the site.

Somewhat unrelated it’s always cool to see where in the world readers of the blog live. Not surprising most are in North America and english speaking countries. What I did find interesting is that only one hit from China, the most populous country in the world. There’s something to be said for internet freedom.

I bet there are a lot of people over there scratching their head, L-shaped shower curtain rod in hand, staring up at a sloped ceiling in their bathroom.

Billions of people and only one hit from China.

Billions of people and only one hit from China.

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Drying More Herbs

Today was pretty busy, as all week has been for the most part. But I have been knocking things off my “to do” list. I carved out an hour and a half to process the herbs that had been drying in my studio.

We have a lot of mint. Three 8 oz. bottles.

The other herbs are piling up too, though not enough to trade or barter with yet. One of these days I need to make labels.

Unrelated to herbs, I love my new phone. We, the wife and I, got new phones a couple weeks ago. The old ones were worn out, and the new plan is cheaper with better reception in our enchanted little hollow.

The new phone’s got a decent camera which is nice because I use my phone often for taking photos to put on the blog. It even has a flash. And I’m not a big phone case person but I got an awesome matte black case that make my glossy white phone look snazzy.

I had to share, ’cause it makes me happy.

I borrowed jars that were supposed to be for honey to put my dried herbs in. I need to make labels.

I borrowed jars that were supposed to be for honey to put my dried herbs in. I need to make labels.

Bees Wax

The double boiler I ordered from Amazon finally showed up today. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to melt the bee’s wax I collected from the cappings a couple of weeks ago. Here’s how to turn bees-wax into usable “blanks” that can be stored and eventually used to make bees-wax products such as candles or lip balm.

Collect Raw Wax

I took all the cappings from the extraction process and washed them repeatedly in cold water right after I was done extracting honey earlier this month. I then dried the wax out as best as I could. In reality I didn’t realize it’d take so long to select and get a double boiler, used in melting the wax, that I actually let the wet wax sit too long. It got moldy. And attracted a lot of fruit flies. I did my best to then spread all the wax out on a pizza box and dry it out in the sun on the screen porch.

Washed wax ready for processing.

Washed wax ready for processing.

I could’ve also taken the wax from the bee hive frames, but I had left most of that for the bees after extraction. Side note: we checked the bees last week. The bees did a freakishly neat job of cleaning up the extracted frames. What was a train wreck after my brutal uncapping was turned into a geometric masterpiece by mother nature. I can’t even describe it, you’d have to witness for yourself what an incredible job they did cleaning up the frames. They’re already filling them again with honey as I write this.

Okay, back to wax melting. You need a double boiler to melt the wax. We couldn’t find one locally so I ordered this one from Amazon.

This is the double boiler I bought on Amazon for like $15. Worked like a charm.

This is the double boiler I bought on Amazon for like $15. Worked like a charm.

I like it because it’s a single piece that fits into a variety of pot sizes. As you may be wondering, a double boiler is essentially two pots on top of each other. Fill the bottom one half full of water and put the other pot on top. Boil the water in the pot below and it evenly warms up the upper pot, allowing stuff to melt up there without burning. “Stuff” can be anything from chocolate, cheese, or in our case: bees wax.

What You’ll Need

As mentioned, you’ll need some tools to melt your wax. I recommend having a set of items that you use specifically for melting wax, if for no other reason than melting wax is super messy or rather super hard to clean up afterwards. Wax cools and dries almost instantaneously, leaving a film on everything that is difficult to remove without reheating it.

  • double boiler
  • wooden spoon
  • bowl (for draining the wax into after you strain it)
  • butter knife (for scraping wax off wooden spoon)
  • muffin pan ( or milk carton or other form, your choice, to make wax blanks in the shape of your choice)
  • towel
  • cheese cloth
  • raw bees-wax (from cappings, scraps or frames)

Melt The Wax

I set up my double boiler on the range and turned on the fire. As everything warmed up I started shoveling bits of wax into the pot with a wooden spoon. When the wax started to melt I stirred the pot and added more. I had ten (10) frames worth of capping wax this time around. All of it fit handily in the boiler, no problem. As the wax melts you can see impurities in the was, and ours was a dark gold clear color.

Wax is just dumped into the double boiler and slowly melts. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Wax is just dumped into the double boiler and slowly melts. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Bees wax melts in the double boiler, muffin pan stands by. I was going to embed twine in the mold to help release the dried wax muffins, but decided I probably wouldn't need to do that. I was correct.

Bees wax melts in the double boiler, muffin pan stands by. I was going to embed twine in the mold to help release the dried wax muffins, but decided I probably wouldn’t need to do that. I was correct.

Strain The Wax

Once all the wax is melted I covered the top of an old bowl with cheese cloth. You can fold the cheese cloth over a couple of times to really get a fine mesh. I just left it folded over like it came out of the package. With the cheese cloth in place I poured all the molten wax over it and into the bowl: straining the wax to get all the impurities out. It was amazing how much “garbage” was in the wax including the aforementioned mold, bee parts, honey, and other debris. There was a huge ball of brown muck in the cheese cloth, and purer wax in the bowl.

Cheese cloth filters out impurities in the bees wax. Some wax dries on the cloth is lost; not sure how to recover it so it goes in the trash.

Cheese cloth filters out impurities in the bee’s wax. Some wax dries on the cloth is lost; not sure how to recover it so it goes in the trash.

The cheese cloth filters impurities: bee parts, honey, mold, etc. Pour liquid wax through cloth into a bowl then put the wax back in the boiler to melt again; repeat until pure wax is left.

The cheese cloth filters impurities: bee parts, honey, mold, etc. Pour liquid wax through cloth into a bowl then put the wax back in the boiler to melt again; repeat until pure wax is left.

I then poured the wax back into the double boiler. I used my wooded spoon to scrape the bowl and a metal knife to scrape the wooden spoon; returning all the clean wax I could gather back into the boiler. Once back in the boiler the wax that had cooled remelted. I then strained it a second time.

Two passes through the cheese cloth made wax that looked clear to my eye. I did lose some wax as it dried on the cheese cloth and the bowl. I’m not sure how to avoid wax loss unless I had a custom set up in the studio with more than household items. Having now done it once I do know what to do in the future to be even more efficient.

I tossed out the cheese cloth and put all the wax back in the boiler for a third time. Bowl and implements were scrapped again and all the clean wax I could gather was melted once again.

Mold The Wax

Once it was liquid I poured the wax into a common muffin pan to let the wax cool into easy to store “pucks”.

Bees wax cooling in a simple muffin pan to make bees wax muffin shaped blanks.

Bees wax cooling in a simple muffin pan to make bees wax muffin shaped blanks.

Bees wax "muffins" ready for storage or use.

Bees wax “muffins” ready for storage or use.

Our ten frames worth of cappings yielded three “muffins” of bees-wax. Enough to make one medium size jar candle. The wax is a deep yellow color and looks pretty clean. The best part is it’s 100% natural. Because of the mold issue I won’t use the wax for lip balm or soap but I don’t see why it can’t be used for candles. Wax in this state can now be easily stored and remelted when the time arises.

There you have it. My only feedback is I think wax making is messier than honey extraction because wax is so difficult to clean up. For example, I hate to wash anything in the sink because I’m afraid of wax build up in the drains. I recommend having wax specific implements so any dried wax can remain on them, possibly being remelted the next time you process.

I cannot wait until the bees have made more honey and wax. I enjoy processing both, very therapeutic and rewarding. It’s cool having new experiences and learning new skills, especially when it’s not that common in our hectic world.

Sadly I think our mama deer lost one of her fawns as we’ve only seen one of the twins the last few times they visited our yard. My absence in the yard (been busy with work, so the yard is a mess) has meant that the deer have gotten comfortable coming up close. They are loving all the clover in the yard, not to mention my poor choke berries.

Yesterday we, as a family, got to enjoy our lunch watching our spotted newcomer play in the front yard with two does (presumably mom and “aunt”). It was funny to watch baby, er actually toddler deer, practice running, jumping and antagonizing. She’d run from one end of the yard to the other and back. Then practice kicking. Our boys would look out the window and laugh. The fawn would spot them, get real serious and commence practicing her hoof stomp-n-snort. Threat averted, she’d be back to playing until receiving a deft hoof in the ass from one of the does, when she misbehaved.

I suspect most folks don’t get to see this sort of thing too often and we had a front row seat. Or if they do, they don’t pay too much attention.

To everyone else they’re just deer.

Not so here.

They’re part of the fabric that makes this a magical place indeed.

Baby deer pushing the patience of mom and aunt.

Baby deer pushing the patience of mom and aunt.

Honey From Caps

We processed the honey from the cut off comb caps, as well as the rest that was in the bucket that we didn’t bottle at the end of last week. Six more 8oz. bottles! Bringing the total close to 30 large bottles and 20 small ones. Not too bad.

Draining the honey from the uncapping tank.

Draining the honey from the uncapping tank.

Once most of the honey dripped out of the capping, I then washed the wax cappings in cold water, rinsing them repeatedly until the water was “clear” for the most part – meaning any residual honey was gone from the wax. This is how much wax we got from the cappings (and other wax bits we collected during the year):

Washed wax ready for processing.

Washed wax ready for processing.

Next we’ll melt the wax down in a double boiler and pour the wax into a muffin mold. I went to Walmart to look for a cheap boiler but didn’t find anything, so I’ll order one online for $10-$20.  I could also make a solar melter, but for now I’m fine with the ease of using a stove top boiler.

We’ll be making lip balm with the wax and eventually I’d like to make candles.

P.S. The bees did an awesome job cleaning up the extractor and honey laden bins. All I had to do was hose them off and wash them down with some soap and water. I did not lay the extractor down at a great enough angle though and we did lose a couple dozen bees to drowning (in honey residue).

First Time Honey Extraction

We’re very excited to have our first honey harvest! Yesterday I extracted ten (10) medium-sized frames of honey and this morning we bottled it.

Having never done it before I was needed to know what to do. As with most “grass-roots” hobbies information and communication are not strong suits of the bee industry. I sat down and read the “instructions” that came with our extractor and uncapping knife – suffice to say they were horrible. Decent information but haphazardly presents and NO illustrations or photos. So I looked at the bee keeping for dummies book and it just glosses over extraction, once again with no photos.

I guess they just figure we’re supposed to be born with the knowledge of how to extract honey.

So I went online to YouTube to search for videos on uncapping and extracting. I was met with a decent amount of success but frankly none of them were overly great. Huge opportunity to improve the process and education of the process in my opinion.

Taking a step back here is what extraction is all about in a nutshell:

  1. bees make wax cells on a frame, fill them with honey and cap them off, all in a very organized manner.
  2. we pull the wooden frames, filled with capped honey and put them in a food safe “air tight” bin.
  3. we set up all our equipment – uncapping tank, knife, extractor, and honey bucket.
  4. take a frame and run a knife along all the cells, removing the layer of wax that caps each cell, like filleting the skin off of a fish, drop all the wax cap pings into the uncapping tank for later.
  5. place frames in extractor (standing up length wise, bottom of frame in direction of travel), close the top and spin for about 4 minutes.
  6. flip the frames over so the other side faces out, and spin again, all the honey hits the walls of the extractor and flows to the bottom.
  7. place a 5 gallon food safe bucket under the extractor gate, with a fine mesh filter insert on top of the bucket.
  8. open the gate at the bottom of the extractor and watch the honey flow.
  9. repeat for all the frames of honey you have.
  10. wait a night then pour the honey from the bucket into jars, voila! fin.

Everything we did was done at room temperature in my studio. We washed everything ahead of time. In theory you should warm the frames up to 90 degrees for two days, but that sounds like a lot of work to me.

This is my set up for extracting honey, in my art studio.

This is my set up for extracting honey, in my art studio.

Uncapping

I started out by uncapping a frame. We got a free electric hot uncapping knife and a regular one. Without going into morbid details, the electric one is used because everyone needs everything to be electric; there is a chance it can burn your honey. And it’s a bitch to clean afterwards. The “cold” knife is just a serrated flat blade. Supposedly  you warm it up with hot water and cut caps off.

Well I tried the cold knife first and it worked like garbage. I did not warm it up, instead relying on its serrated edge. I massacred the first frame but did get the cap off. After that I didn’t even want to try the hot knife, mostly because I didn’t want to clean it. But another reason is because I think these knives were designed to work in a perfect world, but that’s not the case. Look at this illustration I made:

Uncapping the honey frames is easier said than done. The uncapping knives made by the bee industry leave much to be desired.

Uncapping the honey frames is easier said than done. The uncapping knives made by the bee industry leave much to be desired.

The bees make honey comb in a not always perfect manner. The knives are designed to slide along at a certain height, even relying on the wood frame to act as a guide. If the honey comb ungulates below the wood frame line or is in any way not a flat plane then the standard uncapping knives are useless in my opinion.

After massacring two frames I said “screw this”, went to the kitchen and got a serrated meat cutting knife. A fishing knife would have worked well too if it’s serrated. And like a charm I went about carving off all of the caps without any problem. I found it elegant and meditative compared to the brutality of the regular capping knife.

Uncapping honey using an uncapping knife. I don't think these knives are the best tool for the job; the overall design of everything leaves much to be desired.

Uncapping honey using an uncapping knife. I don’t think these knives are the best tool for the job; the overall design of everything leaves much to be desired.

This is an uncapped frame after using the standard uncapping knife.

This is an uncapped frame after using the standard uncapping knife.

Between you and me, I think that half of the crap invented for endeavors such as bee keeping are created by people who are really good at raising bees, but are, at best, marginal inventors and designers. Not to be a pompous designer (I am though), but I see it all the time. You could fall out of bed and improve upon the status quo. (It’s just frustrating because it could be easier to learn and do this but the effort is mixed at best)

I think part of the goal with any uncapping is to leave nice cells on the frame so the bee have less work to do when you reuse the frames with the wax comb already in place. Well, if it were up to me, I’d rip ALL the wax off, make candles and let the bees start from scratch.

I don’t know why we have to coddle our bees when it comes to honeycomb. And the stock knives did such an awful job uncapping that I probably should have ripped the comb off.

Extracting

After two frames are uncapped I placed them in the extractor. Once again, NO ONE will show you how to place the frames in. The extractor is a wire basket with no discernible way that you put the frames in. Apparently you just set them in there. My anal retentive self would have designed it to be more intuitive, or at least provided illustrative instructions, but once again: the bee industry is more adept at raising bees than communicating method.

Before I extracted though, I placed a food safe 5 gallon bucket below the spigot (gate) in the extractor. The bucket came with a fine mesh filter that you place on top of the bucket. The honey will have a bunch of wax and bee parts when it comes out of the extractor so that needs to be filtered out.

Also I placed 50 lb sand bags on the legs of the extractor. If you spin a couple of frames that are different weight then the whole extractor will dance across the floor.

The extractor works by using centrifugal force. The honey flies out of the cells as they spin around, it hits the walls and slides down to the bottom.

The extractor works by using centrifugal force. The honey flies out of the cells as they spin around, it hits the walls and slides down to the bottom.

I had to guess how to place the frames in the extractor. Regardless the bottom of the frame is the leading edge. Once one side is extracted, flip them over and do the other side. I spun them for about 4 mins. each time.

I had to guess how to place the frames in the extractor. Regardless the bottom of the frame is the leading edge. Once one side is extracted, flip them over and do the other side. I spun them for about 4 mins. each time.

I guessed I was doing it right; had two medium-sized frames (all our extractor can hold) inside the wire basket. I do know that the bottom of the frame should be in the direction of travel (honeycomb is actually built at a slight angle), and I knew that I’m supposed to rotate the handle clockwise).

I started spinning frames.

I have no idea how long you’re supposed to spin for so I spun the thing for 2-4 minutes per side. I’d pull the frames out and they were lighter and I didn’t see any honey inside the cells.

Good enough for me.

An extracted honey frame.

An extracted honey frame.

Close up of an extracted frame. You can see several cells that didn't get uncapped and they still contain honey.

Close up of an extracted frame. You can see several cells that didn’t get uncapped and they still contain honey.

The honey flows as you spin, from the extractor to the bucket. It’s pretty cool.

Honey flows from the extractor as we extract, into a 5 gal food safe bucket with a fine screen filter on top.

Honey flows from the extractor as we extract, into a 5 gal food safe bucket with a fine screen filter on top.

This is the honey resting on top of the filter. The honey flows through and all the wax and bee parts stay up top.

This is the honey resting on top of the filter. The honey flows through and all the wax and bee parts stay up top.

 

 

We extracted ten frames.

We extracted ten frames.

Note, the stupid extractor legs are too short and not adjustable so I had to jack them up to get all the honey out. Regardless, use a spatula to get the last bits of honey out of the extractor the next morning.

The makers of the extractor didn't make the legs long enough so I have to prop them up to get the last of the honey out.

The makers of the extractor didn’t make the legs long enough so I have to prop them up to get the last of the honey out.

I placed the spent frames on a handy-dandy stand that came with the uncapping tank. Of course the stand is too narrow by about a hair so I had to wiggle the frames in place to make them fit – another bad design. Plus it would be nice if the stand (a big piece of plated metal) would also act as a uncapping tank lid. But hey, that would be too logical.

All the wax and honey from uncapping sits upon a perf screen in the uncapping tank. We’ll let that sit for a few days and then bottle the honey from there too, after running it through the mesh screen and bucket.

We yielded 20 8oz. bottles and 22 4oz. bottles of honey (or vice versa). I don’t know how many “pounds” that is other than saying 16 fluid oz. = a “pound” so 15-1/2 pounds. I don’t think that’s right. Regardless we have a boat load of jars.

This is our set up for jarring the honey. It's best with two people. One filling jars and the other capping and resupplying jars. Takes about 20 mins to fill 40 bottles.

This is our set up for jarring the honey. It’s best with two people. One filling jars and the other capping and resupplying jars. Takes about 20 mins to fill 40 bottles.

Filling our first ever jar of honey.

Filling our first ever jar of honey.

It's best to have two people when extracting and filling jars.

It’s best to have two people when extracting and filling jars.

22 8oz. jars and 20 4oz. jars is our harvest so far. We still have to pour what we get from the capping tank and what's left in the bucket.

22 8oz. jars and 20 4oz. jars is our harvest so far. We still have to pour what we get from the capping tank and what’s left in the bucket.

Clean Up

Everyone flips out about how messy the process is. If you ask me it’s not a big deal. I worked methodically and was able to keep spills and drips to a minimum. I had four damp rags on hand and I have a sink in my studio perfect for washing sticky hands.

I placed the frame bin and extractor on their sides, out back by the bee hives. The bees will gladly clean those up, then I will wash them. The extracted frames go on top of the hive and the bees will clean them up as well. I’m still on the fence – I may pull more wax honey comb from those frames to start making wax blocks for home use or resale.

I simply set the extractor out in the yard for the bees to clean up. Then I'll hose it off and wash it.

I simply set the extractor out in the yard for the bees to clean up. Then I’ll hose it off and wash it.

We placed a medium box filled with the extracted frames so the bees can clean them up in hive No. 1.

We placed a medium box filled with the extracted frames so the bees can clean them up in hive No. 1.

My Take-Aways:

  1. It’s not that messy of a process if you take your time.
  2. Uncapping knives / frames are poorly designed for the uncapping process.
  3. You can just use a serrated kitchen knife to uncap.
  4. Extractors should be taller than a 5 gallon bucket and have adjustable legs.
  5. You need to ballast or bolt down your extractor.
  6. Instructions for the honey harvest process are dismal.
  7. The harvesting process can be very relaxing and meditative

So there you have it. It’s awesome to finally have honey from our hives (actually hive No. 1). And we got a lot. I’m not sure what we’ll do with it all, but we’ll definitely need to sell it one way or another, just because we don’t need that much honey. I’m going to make labels even.

Beekeeping is an amazing and wonderful endeavor. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested. It’s easier than you think, though it’s not easy per se.

Now we can’t wait to harvest more!

Ask any questions in the comments below.

A jar of our wildflower honey.

A jar of our wildflower honey.

The obligatory Daisy photo.

The obligatory Daisy photo.

Herb Harvest

Preparing Dried Herbs

The last couple days I’ve taken some time to process the herbs I had dried, and harvest a new batch.

I took down the herbs I’d previously dried, untied them and in batches I went about grinding them up. This first batch included mint, catnip, rosemary, and two types of oregano which I combined. I ran my hand along the stems of each and pulled all the leaves off, depositing them into a bowl. I discarded the stems. I then used our handy herb mill and ground up the leaves of each; cleaning everything off between herb types to minimize “cross-pollination” of herbs.

Once ground down, I used a funnel to put the herbs into 4 oz. round glass jars. It was amazing, I almost filled a whole jar with mint alone.

I ripped the leaves off and tossed the stems.

I ripped the leaves off and tossed the stems.

using an herb mill to grind dried herbs down.

using an herb mill to grind dried herbs down.

I used a funnel to put the herbs in glass jars.

I used a funnel to put the herbs in glass jars.

herbs-in-jar

Mint, catnip, oregano, and rosemary in 4 oz. jars. It didn't take much to yield this much dried herbs.

Mint, catnip, oregano, and rosemary in 4 oz. jars. It didn’t take much to yield this much dried herbs.

Picking And Drying More Herbs

I was excited I ran out the next day and harvested more herbs. I learned you’re supposed to harvest in the morning, so I’ll remember that next time. This week harvesting in late afternoon sufficed as far as I was concerned. Here are some garden and harvest pics:

Corn is growing.

Corn is growing.

Harvesting herbs.

Harvesting herbs.

This is yesterday's harvest. There's more where this came from. I bet I'll have about six jars worth of dried herbs.

This is yesterday’s harvest. There’s more where this came from. I bet I’ll have about six jars worth of dried herbs. (Yes I misspelled oregano, sue me.)

I sorted all the herbs I harvested. I then washed them all with cold water and set them out to dry a little. As they were drying I tied them in bunches, about six (6) stems per bunch, about eight inches apart – basically creating a clothes line of herb bundles. I then hung them up in my studio to dry. Some of the smaller bundles or leaf only herbs (no stem) like sage, I used a drying rack.

A drying rack for chives, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

A drying rack for chives, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

I then used towels to get as much moisture off of the herbs as I could. In the studio I strung them up and now we wait, probably about a week for them to dry out. I’m drying these herbs right now:

  • rosemary
  • sage
  • thyme
  • chives
  • italian parsley
  • catnip
  • mint
  • spicy oregano
  • oregano
  • french tarragon
  • dill
  • basil

Some of these herbs, my herb book says don’t dry well: parsley and basil for example. But I’m going to experiment because I can have only so many herbs in my freezer. Throughout the process the kitties were very attentive – they can tell there’s copious amounts of catnip in camp.

 

Basil and catnip up top, other herbs below. I try to space them so they don't intermingle too much. Not sure if they'll transfer scent, oils or properties.

Basil and catnip up top, other herbs below. I try to space them so they don’t intermingle too much. Not sure if they’ll transfer scent, oils or properties.

Next up we’ll be extracting honey. Suffice to say if you’re on our Christmas list you might get some homegrown goodies this year. Actually we just made our first barter trade: I exchanged veggies for beer with a friend of mine that does home brewing. I like the idea of living off the land and trading what we grow for other things we want or need.

I did look at the lone surviving peach today and it’s starting to turn yellow. It’s not very big though. We shall see.

Okay, here are some flower and pollinator photos for you. Pick up a good nature sighting after the pics….

Baby Bunnies

Dixon was looking out the window curiously the other evening. So I got off the couch and looked out the window, and what did I see but literally a pile of rabbits! A mama bunny was nursing a whole litter of baby bunnies outside the family room window. It was so neat. Then they all scattered so we had adult and baby bunnies running everywhere. I wasn’t able to get any good photos. Sorry. But it was super cute. And of course now my pepper plants have more mouths to feed.

What baby animals have you seen this year?

Are you growing herbs?

Do you have any herb preserving tips?

Share below in the comments.

Honey Extraction Prep

We’re ready to extract our honey, or at least pretty darn close. We set up the equipment we purchased from our friends over at Blue Sky Bee Supply in Ravenna, Ohio. Christine researched what we needed, and found them to be the best value, with the added benefit that I could simply drive over and pick up everything we needed. We got an uncapping “tank” (a big plastic and metal box with a gate at the bottom of it) and an extractor (a big metal centrifuge). They were on sale and came with some free goodies. In all I think we spent around $450.

It’s recommended you rent or borrow extracting equipment first, but frankly we’ve got three hives so we’ll need it at some point and by time I borrow or rent the stuff, it’s just as easy to buy,with the luxury of working at our own pace. With our budget, I think we’re fine not getting the ‘Cadillac’ of extractors – judging by what I’ve seen, the equipment we purchased will work just fine for us as new-bees (get it? “new-bees”…like “newbies” but I used the word “bee”…it’s 5am, what do you expect).

The uncapping tank didn’t come with instructions but I figured it out easy enough. The wife found a picture online and was able to figure out what the pieces and parts were for. She’s really smart when it comes to this bee stuff, whereas I’m pretty much useless. What I thought was a lid…maybe it is a lid as well…this big metal pan is actually a big metal pan that you set this serrated shaped strap form on – it holds the hive frames before you uncap them. It’s mildly clever I suppose. The tank itself has a frame stand so you can “uncap” the honey; that is take off the top layer of wax that holds the honey in the little hexagonal cells.

The uncapping tank or bin. I'm guessing the frame rests on the angled arms as you uncap each frame.

The uncapping tank or bin. I’m guessing the frame rests on the angled arms as you uncap each frame.

This tray acts as a lid to the tank and provides a hand spot to rest frames before they go into the extracting tank.

This tray acts as a lid to the tank and provides a hand spot to rest frames before they go into the extracting tank.

There wasn’t much to assemble on the extractor, just the legs and handle. Both of which weren’t overly well designed in terms of assembly. I design stuff for a (meager) living so maybe the simple details bother me more than most. As for the handle, the nut that comes with goes between the arm assembly and the black handle and acts as a spacer. Otherwise the bolt in the handle intersects the plastic cover on the arm subassembly which is bad. It’s one point where you can see where they tried to save cost.

Assembling the legs was simple enough once I figured out what size socket I needed; of course it was the only one that was missing from my set. No less than five trips to and from the garage before I came back with a 10mm socket on a screwdriver handle. As for the design of the leg assembly, the bolts are set up in such a way that you can’t get a good grip on their head so they spin endlessly as you try to tighten them. Once again I can see why they did it this way but it made for a maddening ten minutes trying to single-handedly assemble the legs. As with anything in life, a second set of hands would have been helpful.

I found the design of how the legs attach to the extractor body to be mildly maddening.

I found the design of how the legs attach to the extractor body to be mildly maddening.

Our simple inexpensive extractor. The filtering bucket next to it is where the honey goes after it leaves the extractor.

Our simple inexpensive extractor. The filtering bucket next to it is where the honey goes after it leaves the extractor.

I gave the extractor a few spins and it runs smoothly. We’ll find out how well it works in the next few days I suspect. We still need to order bottles. We’re going to use 8 oz. tall round bottles, because of their contemporary feel. As well, we’ll order some 4 oz. ones for gifting honey. I suppose I need to come up with a label as well.

Because we don’t have one singular source of pollen in the area, our honey will simply be “wildflower”.

We use large Rubbermaid food safe bins to store our frames before extraction.

We use large Rubbermaid food safe bins to store our frames before extraction.

Yesterday we caught a glimpse of mama deer and her twins frolicking out back. I was able to snap a quick pic.

Our twins hanging out in my peach orchard.

Our twins hanging out in my peach orchard.

Daisy looking cute at 5am as I take photos for the blog.

Daisy looking cute at 5am as I take photos for the blog.