Yesterday I pulled on my giant winter boots, waded through the almost hip height snow drifts, and with shovel and pocket knife in hand dug out the bottom entrance to the beehive. It's so hard for me to know if they're still alive in there (and so very hard not to pop open the lid to take a peek) but I know I will need to be patient and wait until spring to say hello to my dear little friends. (The photograph above was taken in autumn, as I was inspecting the hive and making sure all was ship-shape for the season to come – it certainly looks much different right now!)
When I had harvested my honey crop this past year I saved the wax cappings in a large pot and took them back out to the bee yard for the bees to completely scrape clean of honey, and completely lick it clean they did – such diligent workers they are! When all the wax was free of honey I brought the cappings home, melted them down, strained it all through a few layers of pantyhose, and poured the clean wax into containers to cool.
It was my first time rendering my own beeswax and I was so pleased to get almost a kilo of wax! For the first time, Emory and I were able to use our own beeswax as well as our own honey in our kitchen apothecary and for that, we are incredibly grateful to the honeybees and all their hard work.
Each spring and fall Emory and I will set aside a day or two to make what we think we'll use for the next half a year in terms of remedies and general body care products. More often than not, we'll run out of something (usually it's the hand cream) and another day here or there will have to be set aside to make a quick batch or two, but for the most part we've got the big stuff (like soap) figured out.
Our recipes come from all sorts of places and some have evolved into our own creations over the years but I would say our favourite sources are the book Organic Body Care Recipes, Amy Karol's Potions and Concoctions booklet, the Miller's Soap website, and Amanda Soule's Rhythm of Family.
Below, the usual winter suspects: elderberry tincture and facial astringent in the back, black drawing salve, deodorant, eucalyptus vapour rub, Emory's lemon exfoliating scrub, hand cream, and lip balm (in the small container). In the summer months the tincture and vapour rub aren't needed and instead we make bug spray – lots of it.
Visiting the hive yesterday I was once again reminded of how amazing these tiny little creatures are and of how much they give us.
Fare well over this winter, sweet honeybees. Stay warm in your cluster. I hope to greet you again in spring's sunshine.