Not much to report on the girls lately. They have been busy collecting pollen and nectar and we've been busy leaving them alone. One of our weak hives really seems to be coming back, but one of them still isn't doing so well. Bob W. from the Department of Agriculture felt we don't have a queen in that hive, and he'll be coming out again in the next couple of weeks so we can check again. Hopefully he'll be able to bring a queen with him - just in case.
Today we rendered beeswax for the first time. I guess I really had no clue what to expect. I figured we'd throw all the bur comb and hive wax that we've collected into a pot on the stove and it would melt into beautiful beeswax that I could use to make candles and other things. Well, I was wrong! There's a lot of other stuff in there that isn't purely beeswax - way more than I would have expected.
I'm certain there are about a million ways to render beeswax because I've read most of them. I decided on a method that involved putting a bunch of wax in a piece of burlap bag, tieing it off, and then sinking it a large pot of very hot water and weighing it down with a rock. Well, that method turned out really sucking. We let the hot water stay on the stove at a near boil for about an hour and all it made was a mess. There was certainly beeswax floating on top, but man was it ever taking forever. I have no patience, so we scrapped that idea.
Bernie suggest using 2 of my old pots and making a double boiler to melt the wax. I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea! I don't have an official double boiler, so I decided his idea was as close as we would get and would likely even work. So that's what we did. We filled the larger pot with water, and then put the smaller pot on top of that one so the it floated a little on the water. Then we filled the smaller pot with wax and as the water in the bottom pot started to boil good, the wax in the top pot started to melt!
But it doesn't really melt - most of it was just black goo in the end, and a small amount of wax was on the bottom. So I kept feeding it wax until I thought it looked soupy enough to contain a cup or so of wax. Then we covered a pot with a piece of tshirt I cut up and strained the concoction through it. It actually ended up to be golden yellow wax! Wow - we were impressed! We were also really surprised of all the black goo left behind.
A couple of lessons learned:
1) Only use pots, pans, utensils you are willing to dedicate to nothing but rendering wax. You can not get all that stuff off your kitchenware once you get started.
2) Save old 1/2 gallon orange juice cartons and 1/2 milk cartons to put wax into. It gets really hard, really fast and it's difficult to get out of a pot, to say the least.
3) Rendering wax is a messy job - but it sure is rewarding.
So today was a learning experience, and we learned a lot! Tomorrow I'm making lip balm from the beeswax - which was why I needed to render some beeswax tonight in the first place. I'll let y'all know how that turns out.