Well the bees are all nestled in their hive for the winter and we’ve been keeping busy with other things. Since I always need a project I signed up to decorate a tree for the festival of trees celebration in our town. The trees get raffled off at the end of the week and the 4H club, who sponsors the event, keeps the proceeds from the raffle. I decided to make our tree’s theme “A German Christmas” and plan to decorate it with German Christmas Stars and Lebkuchen. So far I’ve made 17 stars – they take about 45 minutes each to make, we’ll see how far I get. Next year I need to do a bee themed tree!
I also experimented with some lip balm making a while back! Since I had beeswax from some of the burr comb I removed early in the summer, I decided to give it a go. I love lavender so I followed this recipe (omitting cocoa and lipstick) to create an olive oil and beeswax based “honey lavender balm”. I was skeptical about how it would come out, until I added the honey and the consistency instantly changed. In the end it became about the consistency of Carmex but it has a much better taste and smell. I have been using it nightly before bed and I personally believe it works wonders on dried lips.
On another semi-bee-related note, I have been thinking a lot about mead lately. Problem is if I wanted to make mead from my hive’s honey I’d have to wait two more years for a taste of the stuff (one to harvest honey and one to ferment). But finding another honey source seemed counter-intuitive. I finally decided that I needed to bite the bullet and buy honey. Well, as I’d known all along, honey is expensive. For a 5 gallon batch of mead I’ll need 10 to 15 lbs of honey. That is quite a bit of honey. I found a couple websites selling 20 gallon buckets of honey for fairly reasonable prices, but the shipping price was greater than the cost of the honey. I looked on craigslist for local sources of honey but no one was selling that large a quantity.
I’d mostly given up the search until I found a groupon for Strange Brew, the local homebrew supply store. My friend (and a fellow home-brewer) bought one as well, so we stopped by after work last week. One of the staff showed us their honey for purchase (60 pound buckets), and we talked about mead and bees. Turns out he’d tried beekeeping himself, but had an unpleasant experience. He’d tried Italians, who had died over the winter, Russians, who didn’t produce, and finally a hybridized variety. The hybrid bees turned out to be a hybrid between the extremely aggressive Africanized honey bees and Apis mellifera (European Honeybees). Every time he approach the hive the bees would swarm him. In minutes he would become covered head to toe in thousands of bees. He had a state inspector come out to his hive to help him determine why they were so aggressive. The inspector immediately recognized that they were Africanized and instructed him to torch the hive. Scary.
Back to the honey. I’d thought that 60 lbs seemed like a bit much, even for us honey fanatics, but I decided to call Will and see what he thought. He told me to go for it (maybe he didn’t realize exactly how much honey is in a 60 pound bucket). Since I was expecting Will to be the voice of reason I was completely thrown off. It was then that I completely lost my mind, purchased a bucket of honey and headed home. As soon as I left the store I felt like a bit of a lunatic and started thinking what on earth I was going to do with a 7 gallon bucket of honey. I still really don’t have an answer.