Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Busy Bees Life

Look closely...can you see her? One of our bees gathering white dutch clover nectar.
   We are fascinated by the life of a honey bee. There really is no other creature in the animal kingdom that has adapted the social and life cycle like the honey bee. We enjoy the wonderful benefit of their sweet food supply as a result of their behavior and success. The social order and organization of bees has been developed to the point of extreme efficiency. It's been said that a bee will gather one twelfth of a teaspoon of nectar during it's lifetime. 
The entrance of a hive is like an airport with departures and arrivals all day long and TSA-like agents checking arrivals to make sure they belong to the hive.  In a strong hive would-be intruders, usually robber-bees from another hive, are turned away.
    A bee will live 35-45 days and during that time will do nearly every task required to keep the hive going. From the time a bee emerges from the protective wax cell she (all worker bees are female) will undertake a variety of tasks beginning with feeding newly hatched larvae and future sisters, to wax building, honey manufacture, guard duty and finally and the last job of their life is a field worker. These are the ones that fly to and fro from the hive to the nectar-bearing plants. When you think about it, leaving the hive going out into the world is dangerous business.  Calamities of all types await the little flyers. Predatory insects, lawn mowers, pesticides, dragon flies, birds, and dozens more insects all await the little worker. And don't forget sudden changes in weather such as rain. 
    The bee is effective because of their sheer numbers. A good egg laying queen, during peak spring honey flow, will lay perhaps a 1000-1500 eggs a day!  In just 21 days that will be another 1000- 1500 bees added to the colony. Of course, nearly that many are dying off each day as well. But a healthy colony will have perhaps fifty to a hundred thousand bees on any given day.
    This time of year the Dutch white clover is the best source of nectar for the bees of central Kentucky.  In the early spring honey locust is the finest source of nectar in our neck of the woods.  But as the summer rolls on, fewer nectar producing flowers suitable to honey bees are available. 
Our honey comes in two sizes presently, one pound jars: $9.00 without comb;  $10.00 with comb, and in eight ounce jars without comb only: $5.00
    Since this is our first year of operation we have limited supplies available. We expect to harvest more honey in the next couple of weeks. Most of this honey will be from the clover. We harvested some very light honey (from the honey locust tree) with the comb a couple of weeks ago and those supplies have just about sold out. We still have a few eight ounce jars left. We will post when the next supplies are available.

    If you are interested in purchasing or have questions about our honey please send us an email- We will be happy to ship anywhere in the U.S. at this time. Shipping charges will be calculated for your review before we complete the order. If your are in the central Ky area, we can make arrangements to deliver your honey.

Thanks for visiting B&E's Bees!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What in the Bee's Wax is Going On??

Beautifully golden in color, it is one of nature’s perfect products…

Did you know...that throughout history in Europe people actually paid their taxes with beeswax ? I am not so sure that Uncle Sam would let us do that now but if he did, why, everyone would be raising bees!  Let me tell you something else while I'm at it...beeswax  makes the   finest candlesbecause the wax is so pure and burns so clean. The Catholic churches (and maybe other churches) burned them forcenturies because of that very reason.
In our working with the bees, after we rob them and harvest the honey the beeswax remains. When I was a child, chewing wax with globs of honey still attached was a HUGE TREAT. For children with very little pocket money, it was the BEST!
     Sometimes we like to leave the wax for the bees but sometimes I like to find ways to use it. Before I can re-purpose the wax it must be cleaned. There are  impurities in that sweet golden mess and throughout the process of being cleaned or washed you will be able to see just how dirty the wax really is. 

Kind of looks like fried bacon!
I can tell you one thing, I was downright surprised at how much debris is embedded in the wax. Nothing toxic, it just looks like something I would not want to eat. For all I know, it might be absolutely delicious but I won't be trying it just yet. Oh wait! Come to think of it, if I eat honeycomb in its natural state - and I do - then I am ingesting this stuff. Has it made me sick? Nope. Absolutely not.

It's actually a very simple process to clean beeswax. Grab an old crock pot and fill halfway with warm water. Place the beeswax into the pot and heat with the lowest temperature. After the wax has melted (remember, it's a crock pot so it will take a bit of time) the impurities just sink to the bottom and the clean wax will float. Unplug the crock pot and let the wax cool completely.
When the wax is cool to the touch, remove it and pour off the dirty water. Hey, don't pour this stuff down your sink! Pitch it outside on the ground.
If you see brown spots on the hardened wax it will need to be cleaned once more so repeat the process.
Once you have done that - what do you have to show for it?
Cakes of clean & bee-u-ti-ful golden wax!
You may ask..."Beeswax? So what! Whatcha gonna do with it now that you got it?"
Well, just you wait and see!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Homemade Biscuits

Once you get the hang of making homemade biscuits you can   whipthese out just about as fast as you can Whop and pop canned biscuits. This is a tried-and-true generational recipe. Standing next to my mom and grandmother in the kitchen while watching carefully, I learned to make these. Like them, I don't measure my ingredients's a "you just know" how-it-will-turn-out recipe and it's a recipe meant to be shared and passed along.

2 cups self-rising flour
I only use White Lily flour because it is what my Mom and Grandma Hall always used so why mess with a good thing and I would hate to cause Grandma to spin in her grave.

1/4 cup shortening or lard (really and truly...lard is BEST)

Cut shortening into flour using a pastry cutter until flour looks like corn meal.

1 cup of  buttermilk or sweet milk (sweet milk is just another name for regular milk for you modern folks). If you don't have buttermilk just add 1or 2 T. lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk to substitute). Most recipes call for 3/4 cup milk in the recipe but I always use one cup because the biscuits are just, well, better!

Add buttermilk and stir gently into flour mixture.

Tip: Don't over-stir
- it'll make your biscuits tough. Dump the biscuit mixture onto a lightly floured surface and carefullly work the dough so it's covered in flour. Tip: Here's where most mess up when making biscuits...they knead the dough like they are making a loaf of bread. Lord have mercy, don't do that! Who wants to eat rocks? Just turn the dough enough into the flour so it's not a sticky mess.

Gently flatten the dough with your hands so it's about 3/4" thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. I usually just pinch the dough into a ball and

flatten it out in the pan with my hands but even I have to admit cutting with a biscuit cutter looks better on camera.
Place in a well-greased pan or cast iron skillet.

Bake in a 450 degree oven until they are golden brown - about 15 or so minutes.

Nothin' better than homemade biscuits, butter and HONEY
and maybe a big ole glass of sweet iced tea to wash it all down