Monday, June 30, 2014

Making beeswax

OK so the credit must of course go to the bees rather than me for actually making the beeswax.... All I've done is just clean it up and let it solidify into nice blocks which I can then use for all sorts of crafts.

I was very fortunate to be given a lot of "cappings" from a local beekeeper. Cappings, from my limited knowledge of  beekeeping  - so correct me if I'm wrong,  are essentially bits of the honeycomb and are leftover from when the honey is extracted. From the photos below I will show you how to process these cappings and turn them into lovely blocks of pure beeswax. It is an easy process, albeit time consuming and a bit messy. 

First off I soaked the cappings in a bucket of water overnight to help wash off the honey residue. I strained the cappings and then put them into my rice cooker with a cup or so of water. I hasten to add that I will no longer be using this rice cooker for cooking rice since it is near impossible to clean all the wax off (even if I wanted to try)! You will notice I've put newspaper down to protect the garage floor, just in case of any spills.

Next I put some water in my rice cooker, maybe a cup or so, then filled up the pan with cappings. I turned the cooker on to "cook" to melt the wax. This happens quite fast, maybe 20 or so minutes. I turned the pan often to agitate the wax to allow for better melting. I should note that it is necessary to keep a close eye on the wax during this process, as it can eaisly boil and there is a risk of it catching fire. If it looked close to boiling, I turned it to the "warm" function. When it was completely melted, I turned the cooker off altogether.

Next step was to fill the molds with wax. I used a combination of old milk cartons and some square plastic containers that used to contain baking soda (400g). The milk cartons did not require any priming but I sprayed the plastic ones with oil to help with the removal of the hardened wax later.
Using my ladle with handy pourer I scooped out wax and ladled it into the molds straining it through muslin that I had secured over the tops of the containers using a rubber band.

Once all the wax was used up, the molds were filled, the wax was left to cool and harden (overnight).
I removed the wax from the molds and repeated the process until I had used up all of the cappings.
So that's basically one way to process beeswax. I will probably melt and strain it all again before using to clean it up even more. I will say this though, it takes a lot of cappings to get a decent amount of wax. From twice filling the rice cooker I got 810g of wax.

NOTE- The water added to the pan separates from the wax and can easily be drained away. I did this into a bucket and put it on the garden. For all the cleaning up afterwards too, I used a bucket and very hot water. The used muslin and the 'brown gunk' left behind from cleaning the wax went into the compost. As you would imagine, it is not a good idea to tip anything from this process down your sink as once cooled any wax will block up your plumbing!

Now I have a good amount of wax to use in various craft projects, lip balm, hand cream, candles (maybe tealights to start off) etc.

Have you processed beeswax? How did you do it? What do you use it for?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Using tablet to post

I've just posted on cleaning beeswax, first time I have used the Blogger app on my tablet, so please excuse any typos or double ups in text!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Still having technical problems

Sorry guys. I'm still having some problems with the technical stuff, now the card reader isn't working and I can't get the photos from my tablet onto the PC........and I tried and failed to post from the tablet. Very frustrating! Hoping that hubby can sort it today. I have a post about beeswax I want to share.

Meanwhile we've been having some rain of late. Thunderstorm last night, and a bit of hail to boot. Not that cold though as the winds have been mainly coming from the north (subtropical), although the storm last night blew in from the South West.

Hope to be back soon with that beeswax post...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Delay with comment approval

I have to apologise to everyone who has left a comment here over the last few weeks, because, due to a technical problem (I won't bore you with the details) and a bit of brain fade!, I have only just managed to fix this.

Normal transmission is resumed..................

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


With all the recent rains we've been getting, the plants (including the weeds...!) have all shot up recently. My pea plants in particular have put out a lot of new growth and are getting quite tall now. The little pod in the picture though is from the variety 'Massey', which is an early season pea. This is a dwarf pea and is starting to produce. I harvested a few pods last night and we had some at dinner, they tasted great. Also great to have a little helper who just loves to pod the peas!

The other pea varieties I have in are 'Onward', 'Greenfeast' and 'Wando Select'. I also have the Mange Tout pea ('snow' pea) 'Carouby'. These are all a wee way off eating yet though.

Do you grow peas? Which varieties do you prefer?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making 'stuff'

Just sharing a short post on some of things I was doing when at home last week.

Last week we had a big storm and a LOT of rain, so I spent a bit of time indoors knitting and baking. The boys love to eat homemade cookies so I try to always have some on hand. This week it was shortbread which I cut into various 'space' themes using my rocket, sun, moon and star cutters. D was also learning about the solar system at school so this fitted in well for his school lunches!

The knitting was my first attempt with circular needles. I've been a knitter for years but for some reason never used circular needles. Never knew how easy they were! This project was a beanie (Rikke hat) and the wool had been recycled from an old hat and scarf I'd made a while back for D but he didn't wear ("too itchy" because of the wool). I like the hat and am pleased with it. Now onto another one in different yarn.

I also made up a big batch of baked granola. I used honey and sunflower oil to oven roast the seeds, nuts and oats, then add various dried fruits. It tastes great with some greek yoghurt and milk. Sometimes I use maple syrup instead of honey, but as our stock of maple syrup is running low I chose to use honey instead (still have a good amount of it from when we had our bee swarm).

Talking of honey, I will be sharing with you my efforts to purify beeswax in a forthcoming post..

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Recent batches of cold-processed soap

I've been trying my hand at more cold-processed soap making again.

For the two coloured soaps at the back I used the recipe from The Greening of Gavin (see here ) substituting 100g of my herbal colourant sunflower oil for the plain sunflower oil. The round slightly orange coloured soap top left of the photo is coloured with annatto and scented with rosemary, white thyme and cedarwood. It has a scent reminiscent of the old Pear's soap, which I used to use and loved. Maybe sometime in the future I will progress on to making translucent soaps and try to recreate it. But as this one has turned out OK I might just stick with this recipe for now. The soap is nice and moisturising. In fact, I saw it 'sweating' badly to start with. On investigation this isn't leaking moisture it's attracting it from the air, which is apparently a sign of a good quality soap. On the negative side, I think it's fair to say it's quite a soft soap and doesn't last very long.

The soap top right is coloured with alkanet and paprika and scented with lavender and patchouli essential oils.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the 2 coloured soaps came out, although as I said, they are quite soft and won't last long.

Therefore I decided to dig out my tallowate from the freezer (made from rendering beef fat). I used the recipe from Suburban Jubilee (see here), however I did scent it with some lavender essential oil. I am still curing this soap so am not sure how hard the bars will be. Two things that I was a little unsure of also - firstly it was very sticky on removing from the molds. Possibly I should have left it longer before unmolding them (it was about 48hrs). Also I used some silicone flower shape molds which I sourced from a charity shop. The soap from these molds came out a little orange in colour, so I'm figuring the soap reacted with the silicone somehow, or maybe they'd been used for coloured soap before me! I did wash them before using. A little bit of a mystery. Hopefully if I use the molds again this will not occur. We have a good number of the plain round soaps anyhow, but I will probably use the 'duds' for hand washing only. Has anyone else had any problems with using silicone molds for soap?