December 02, 2023

A beekeeper's winter reading list: 3 ultrashort book reviews

The title is one of many honey bee factoids smattered throughout the book.

A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings: A Year of Keeping Bees

Originally from London, Helen Jukes gets lucky in a multitude of ways, not the least of which is friends who gifted her bees… and Luke Dixon for a beekeeping mentor! She's a bit on the nerdy side, and there's lots of beekeeping facts and factoids in her memoir. Plus she has a top bar hive!  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I'd've given it 5-stars if the title were more than a factoid. Maybe it's a hint that this is a "I found love" story? If so, I don't know what the other four things she found were. Read it and let me know what I missed!

Another true story, Meredith May, weaves a surprising amount of beekeeping details into The Honey Bus.

The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees

A broken family at a young age, displaced and impoverished… This one resonated with me because my mom, like Meredith's, had a seriously messed up childhood which was not without ramifications for her children. But her grandfather is a beekeeper, and life lessons from him and the bees enable her to not just survive but to triumph. "He showed me how bees are loyal and brave, how they cooperate and strive, all the things I'd need to be when it was my time to navigate solo." This book made me really miss beekeeping! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My husband is getting me a t-shirt that says, "I read banned books. 📚"
Trigger warnings: attempted suicide, bullying, child abuse, domestic violence, LGBTQIA+ violence

Mad Honey: A Novel by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Every time I get vaccinated, I tell the nurse that I completed VIT. Naturally, the beekeeping conversation ensues, and this time the nurse said, "You must read Mad Honey!" You would not expert a murder mystery to have the word "bees" 39 times in chapter one, but wow, what a great start. Of course there's a plot twist, and this one's was unexpected in not the usual unexpected way. If you're looking for more inclusiveness in your literature, this New York Times Bestseller covers the bases. At the end there are recipes. The one I'm wanting to make the most instructs, "Bake in oven for 40 minutes, or until an impossible thing comes true. Whichever comes first." ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who else picks books by their covers?

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. Set in Louisiana (relatively close by), another crime and social issues novel is my next pick. What's on your reading list? 

November 20, 2023

Beeswax Wraps & 3 DIY tips that work!

DIY beeswax wraps that work! A 5" wrap covers a Oui jar perfectly. A 7" wrap is more than ample for an 8-ounce ramekin.
Determined to make a substitute for plastic cling wrap and foil, today's post is on things I learned from making beeswax wraps. In case you've got the crazy idea to make your own, too, I hope I can save you some trouble.

Tip #1: Wraps made with pure beeswax alone are brittle and don't cling at all. If you're a beekeeper with a Warré Hive, they are fantastic between the top bars and quilt!

Tip #2: A little oil provides flexibility, so your wraps bend without cracking. Think of a wax/oil version as a foil substitute. It's bendy and holds its shape but doesn't make an airtight seal. Stay away from cooking oils with short shelf lives. I like meadowfoam, which is a North American native wildflower. It has a longer shelf life than jojoba oil, and I can use a tad less oil.

Tip #3: Resin is what puts the cling in DIY cling wrap. If you're wondering about using propolis, the resin-like substance made by bees, at the amount needed to create cling it imparts a strong odor and bitter taste to wrapped items. And I mean really bitter. Invest in pine resin in powder form; chunk form takes too long to melt, which degrades your wax/oil. A 1-pound bag of pine resin will make about 12 dozen wraps. (If you find a smaller bag for less than $15, please let me know!)

If you're ready to embark on making your own, my formulation makes an extra sticky blend for beeswax wraps that actually work! I'm providing volume measurements for convenience but, especially if small-batch crafting, I highly recommend a quality digital scale like a MyWeigh, which is accurate to a tenth of a gram.

DIY Beeswax Wraps Recipe

Makes ~(5) 12"x12" wraps.

60 g. beeswax (about 1/2 c. pastilles)
20 g. pine resin (about 2 1/2 Tbsp.)
12 g. jojoba (1 Tbsp) oil

Melt everything together using a water bath, stirring until completely blended. I use a milk frothing pitcher set in a small sauce pot over medium heat, and it takes about 15-20 minutes to make sure the resin is completely dissolved. The resin sinks to the bottom, so you'll know it's fully dissolved when you don't feel your stirring tool dragging anymore. Double-check that there aren't globs stuck to your stirrer, though.

Resin needs a good amount of heat to melt. Maintain a simmer.
Instead of brushing the liquid mixture onto fabric, I pour it thinly into molds. Once set, I pop out a few wafers and iron them into fabric that's in-between pieces of parchment paper. You want to barely saturate the fabric, but if you put on too much just use the iron to push the excess out past the fabric edges (but still inside the parchment sheets). Using the next piece of fabric to absorb it, it's almost zero waste and cleanup is a breeze. This is especially why I love the wafer/iron method.

A "cake mold" like this one is about $9 on Amazon. Clean each well with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol for a polished finished piece.

Beeswax Wraps Wafers

Quick to melt, three wafers will treat a large piece of tight-weave fabric. My first beeswax wraps were made out of an old but high-quality cotton percale pillowcase, upcycling at its best. An economical option is remnants at your local fabric store (mine is Joann), or buy quilting squares or fat quarters are cute and fun.

I prefer to wax my fabric first and cut it to size afterward, which minimizes fraying.
Use a rotary cutter or pinking shears if you have them. Either will reduce fraying but you'll always have loose threads…don't pull them! You can hem the edges if you're sewing the fabric into a baggie.
It's easy to pinch pieces off the wafers, to ensure even coverage. You move the pools of wax with your iron so you don't have to be perfect or precise. (Be sure to place a piece of parchment paper underneath and on top.)

Because my friends say things like, "You should sell these on Etsy," you can buy my Beeswax Wraps Waxing Wafers, four for $4. beeswax wraps waxing wafers, premixed

If you'd rather not spend $15 for resin and make 144 wraps, then these ready-to-use waxing wafers are for you! If you have year-old wraps that have lost their stickiness and need a refresh, these waxing wafers are for you! Or if you have beeswax wraps that weren't sticky enough in the first place, these waxing wafers are for you!

My Beeswax Wraps Waxing Wafers are four for $4 (plus cost to mail). Four wafers will make up to nine (9) wraps with plenty leftover for touch-ups. Depending on how you cut it, from one quilting square you can make:

  • three 7x7" (small) and two 10x13" (medium) wraps
  • 3 small, (1) 7x13" (rectangular medium), and (1) 13x13" (large) wrap
  • 3 small and 1 extra-large 13x20" wrap (perfect for covering a lasagna pan with handles)

Remember, you're not limited to squares or rectangles. I find rounds to be the most versatile. The cast-offs make terrific fire starters, and I mean terrific. 🔥 Or don't cut the quilting square at all, and sew it into a plastic-free baggie. The possibilities are endless. 

DIY Beeswax Wraps Waxing Wafers

BONUS TIP for making it to the end of this post: Making DIY, and indeed using, beeswax wraps is messy business. Rubbing alcohol will clean up drips and smudges, and hand sanitizer is your skin's best friend.