Saturday, July 4, 2015

Rendering Beeswax - 2nd filtering of brood-comb

Original plans of heading up North were way-laid this morning due to Candace not feeling the best.  By 11:00, I was certain we weren't going to be leaving, so I took measures to check on the initial filtering of the brood-comb beeswax for the next step.  Why not, right? ;)

Of the eight (or nine?  I can't believe I didn't pay attention to my final count from yesterday!) buckets from the first filtering, this wax cake was the nicest and thickest.  

The others were a bit thinner and were a bit of a challenge to clean; aka: scraping off the gunk from the back. However, I took my time with the thinner cakes, delicately scraping the backs.  Being my first time rendering, I wanted to get as much wax as possible, so after rinsing each bucket, all the sides were scraped with my knife.  Every last morsel of wax that I could scrap off was added to my load for the 2nd rendering.

A quart or two of water was added to my melting pot and the heat set to low.

The water/wax liquid was strained into ONE ice-cream pail today.  I also rinsed the gunk through the strainer with boiling hot water after seeing this on one of the recent YouTube videos I watched on the topic.  Again--I wanted to render and save as much wax as possible...

The second-filtering results!  I'm quite pleased....

Most likely, the third-filtering will be done tomorrow.  And then, mostly likely a fourth or fifth will be needed before I'll call it 'good.'

Reading up on beeswax use -- author Kim Flottum 'The Backyard Beekeeper' doesn't recommend using dark wax (wax rendered from brood-comb) for cosmetic or candle uses since tiny particles of propolis (bee-glue), nectar, and what-not may still remain after multiple filterings.  HOWEVER, she says "
...dark wax is good for making soaps because of the colors, for household uses such as lubricating drawers and the like, and for polishes and water proofing lotions."

FYI -- I stopped reading that sentence after "...making soaps..."
;)

The newest adventure: Cleaning/Rendering Beeswax

I think I'm going to deem this summer as the Summer of Lifelong Learning.  It started with soaping three weeks ago, which lead to lip-balm and then to lotion-bar making (not blogged yet).  

The lip-balm and lotion-bar utilized beeswax cappings that Paul removed last Fall when he harvested the honey.  And those cappings STILL remain, uncleaned, in an ice-cream pail bucket.  When I made my lil' batch of balm and lotion, I simply scooped out 1-2 Tbs required.  As I poured the final product, I simply slowed the pour as I neared the end in order to simply toss the "gunk" that remained in the bottom.

Hm.
There must be a simple way to clean the wax, right?
Youtube, Youtube, Youtube.  I could link all the videos I watched, but that would take a while, me thinks!  
Enter, Thursday.  Paul left EARLY for fishing; Cassie was picking berries, and the other girls were relaxing in the living room.  I wandered into the garage and took a look around Paul's beehive supplies (all unknown to him -- shhhhhh!)  There was a box of scattered frames... hm... two of them didn't look to be of any major importance to our hives (??), and they had a lil' bit of wax-comb on them, most of it virgin-wax (comb produced but not utilitzed by the bees for pollen, brood, or honey yet),
so..... I grabbed a knife, scraped off the lil' bit that were on the two frames, grabbed a soup-pot I purchased as Goodwill a few weeks ago...


...and later that afternoon...
Two ounces of clean beeswax!
And that folks, is where this story begins.....

Paul came home, exHAUSTED, from the day of fishing.  Darn!  He wasn't in any condition to share my excitement with, so I waited.... patiently.... until the next morning.

Enter Friday, 9:30 AM...
Deep down, I think Paul is excited that I'm getting more "homesteady" lately.  So, when I showed him the lil' cake, and then showed him the frames I used, I asked him if there were any frames I could play with.  He directed me to this box of old OLD frames that he received from his supplier.  I'm still not 100% informed of how he receives his bees, but I guess these were part of the nuks he received (??).  He said he had no interest in using any parts of them in his hives, so..... 
my day of play began.

These are clearly brood frames - created and utilized by the bees for birthing baby bees, and holding some pollen.  VERY dirty and icky!  But, I was determined.  It was work, but a FUN, NEW kind of work :)

This was the cleanest frame -- not much in the form of dead bee body parts.

The girls joined me on-n-off all day, always excited to try out new things too!  

I found it interesting to see the different forms of framing methods.

This wire frame style was used in most of the frames I cleaned.  In the picture, most of the wires had already been removed, but imagine a criss-cross of wires extending along the entire width and length of the frame.  These frames were most FAVORITE to 'clean' the comb from.  

There was one frame that had this thin plastic piece ...  Cleaning it was also super easy!  The comb literally flaked right off the plastic.

And then there were three frames that had this harder plastic 'comb-style' insert (this is also the type of frame Paul uses).  Ugh!  These were a PAIN to clean.  I will have to research other methods if I plan to clean (and if Paul allows me to clean) any of our frames in the future.

But again, the girls enjoyed helping out!  They jumped right in when I needed to take breaks to check on the comb that was 'cooking.'

So, the process I used.......

I set up an ice-cream pail filled about half-way with cold water.  As we cleaned the frames, everything was placed into the water.  From time to time, I swished it around, which also helped me keep my hands relatively clean.

Once two buckets were fairly full, both were completely dumped (everything!  water-n-all) into my 8-quart stockpot.  I set the burner to medium.  And yes, this is done in the kitchen.  It's the ONLY step that I did in the kitchen.
As this was getting up to temperature, I continued cleaning frames for the next batches.  From time to time (5-10 minutes here-n-there), I gave the pot a stir.  It was an ugly mess, certainly!  But it had the smell of honey :)

Once it appeared all the wax had melted, I took the pot outside for straining.  I really can't say how long it took to melt the wax -- time flies when you are doing other things.  However, once the pot appeared to boil, heat was reduced and even turned off as I continued to stir for the final melting stage.

Once outside, two more ice-cream pails were set up to catch my strained liquid, and another was grabbed to dump the "gunk" into.  Each batch needed two pours in order to strain out all the gunk.  Meaning:  I poured about half the batch into the strainer and then used a spoon to squish the gunk in order to remove as much liquid as possible.  The gunk was then dumped into the "gunk-bucket."  The remaining batch was then poured into the strainer, into a second pail, to complete the batch.

The strained pails were set in the garage in order to cool.  By the time I completed my second batch of rendering, the first batch was already setting up :D  Yay!!!!

After 6-7 hours of play, I had completed 5 batches.  The outcome is still yet to be determined!  Stay tuned!  This type of wax will need to be filtered a few different times in order to be cleaned.  And all of that filtered gunk.... ?  I dumped it into my compost pile.

Now that I've done the hardest type of cleaning/rendering (icky, old brood comb).... that bucket of beeswax cappings will be a piece of cake now! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Smith Mountain Morning - Greens [Hrs 0 - 4]

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to create one of your quilts, start-to-finish?  Have you ever kept track completely of the entire process? 

I was feeling some inspiration the other day due to a recent fabric purchase of some gorgeous greens and purples.  I purchased them together with no project in mind, and despite really liking the look of them together, after sifting through my countless magazines and books, Bonnie's Smith Mountain Morning struck me with the most inspiration!  With greens and browns!  I've made a SMM already in browns and blues (as written), but I have also seen it done in browns and greens.  Simply amazing colors together -- like a forest.

The idea of keeping track start-to-finish didn't hit me until after pulling fabrics.  Therefore, I'll be adding another half-to-full hour of time to this project for fabric pulling.  Not to mention the HOURS of sifting through magazines and books for the 'perfect' pattern!  ;)

Hr #1 -- the stacks of browns were pressed and cut into 3.5", 2" and 1.5" strips.  Greens just started...

Hr #2 -- green 3.5", 2" and 1.5" strips cut;  both green and brown 3.5" strips cut into HSTs and TRIs.  No sewing yet.

Hr #3 -- 2" brown and green strips were pressed right-sides together, cut and fed through the machine to start the pinwheel units

Hr #4 -- 2" brown and green strips still seeing action;  pressed right sides together and cut with the Companion Angle to start the hourglass 3.5" (unfinished) units.
These four hours have not all been accomplished on the same day.  Whenever I leave my sewing room, I pop the battery out of the clock and simply pop it back in when I return, even if for only 15 minutes.  ;)
Stay tuned...

If you've kept track of your log-time during the quilting process, I'd truly love to hear about it.  Please consider sharing a link and/or URL addy in the comments for me to peek at :D

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ducks, Meat birds, Teen-chicks and Hatchlings

I know.  I know.  I'm waiting for a quilting post too!  There's never a lot of downtime around here lately.  (and soaping doesn't take much time). ;)   Three weeks into summer vacation, and I've been in the quilting room twice -- maybe three times.  SOON though!  (I hope!)

For the past week -- it's been birds of one sort of variety or another.
Paul has been dutifully working on a quaint lil' movable coop.  Initially, it was being built for our teen-chicks that were hatched out about four weeks ago;  they have outgrown the brooder box!

However, after seeing how big the ducklings have gotten at seven weeks old (!!!), they got first dibs on the new digs!  Even with 'pond' installed :D

Our two older (and only remaining ducks from our seven we had earlier this spring :( have migrated over to the teen-duck area.  They stick fairly close to the teens, but no intermingling will happen for a while yet.  King, the white Pekin, picked on our ducklings and teens last year something awful, so... nope.  No intermingling.  Yet.  Prince, the mutt male, had been one of those teens last year.  He started taking over as dominant 'big meanie' when we still had our female, Angel, this spring.  However, since we lost our last female, both of the boys calmed down and have become good buds.

And Afro-Jack seems happy!!!!  Goofy duck.  If he ends up being female----(?).... I guess Afro-Jackie doesn't sound too bad.

Moving the ducks opened up one of our three ground-brooders.  The other two were housing our cross-breed meat birds.  And it was time to take care of those guys too!

Processing 18 meat birds was a family affair.  I know there are mixed feelings 'out there' regarding posting pictures of the process, but.... really?  I think this is our fourth (fifth?) year now of raising birds for meat;  I wasn't really involved much up until this year.  With a nearly empty chest-freezer (low on chicken, hardly any pork, beef mostly gone, zilcho venison!), I now truly APPRECIATE the fact of having full chest-freezers of meat and other garden goodies!  
These chickens here-- these are NOT EGG-LAYERS!  Good lordy.  I love my chickens that I/we hatch and raise for eggs.  They are more like pets to us than simply birds that provide us eggs.
  
But these guys.  They are like beefers, but only chicken versions.  They are bred to grow quickly.  Quickly!  At 10 weeks, these guys are a hefty size for processing.  They NEVER receive names from us, but we take care of them; feed them, water them -- raise them to grow :D

We waited until week 12 almost to the day.  This is the second (or third?) year Paul has used his DIY chicken-plucker.  Yup!  It's another one of those things that I rolled my eyes at when he purchased all the supplied to make one, but now I see the awesome purpose of this machine!  It makes such quick work of plucking those chickens.

The final outcome after a LONG day of processing?  Chicken!  We didn't weigh the final poundage we processed, but this was one of the larger chicken breasts we raised!  That's just a single breast, folks.  The average breast -- probably 1 1/4 pounds.  We sealed some half-chickens, but mostly breasts, legs/thighs and wings.
And, of COURSE, I made stock and rendered down chicken fat (schmaltz).  But that's for some other time.

Since all three of the ground brooders were now empty, the next day was spent reorganizing all the new and old pens in a new location.    The brooder box was hauled down to the new location for easy removal of the teen chicks...
The new-found freedom for some was too much to resist!  As they grow, they will eventually be free-range chickens, but we keep them safe from predators until they reach a few months old.

Watered and fed.  And it was only an afterthought--- we STILL never took the time to count how many chicks there are!!!!! **forehead slap!!**  In this picture----we're still sticking with 34 as our best guess.  One of these days when we start spreading the flock out, we'll get a good count.

These ground-brooders are roughly 8x8;  after another few weeks, these chicks will need more space, but for now, the new house for the next few weeks will be just perfect.  We attempted to remove Mama from the picture and return her to her coop/flock that evening.  It only took about 5 minutes for her to run back down to the babies.  *shrug*  It's all good.  Eventually, these babies will get mingled in with the new coop flock (Mama's flock) anyway.   

So, FINALLY!  Teen ducks and chicks are happy in new housing!
And just in time....

Seventeen new hatchlings (so far) from the incubator have now taken up room-n-board in the brooder house.  We're keeping track of how many chicks we get this time!!!

How many more do we expect??  Another two have hatched since moving these guys this morning, and there were 35 total eggs in the incubator.   There are always a few that don't survive the hatching process;  always such a sad time.  Your guess is as good as mine.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ginger Patchouli Oatmeal & Honey soap [Rebatch soap]

Continuing on my soap-making adventure...
Some research was done about incorporating oatmeal and honey into soap (it's actually quite simple), and how to naturally color soaps without dyes, clays, or even proclaimed "natural" soap colors.

The game plan...

The result...

Yes, it's quite pretty;  overall I'm pleased with using spices and other true natural colorants to soap, but.....
This screams a bit more like "Spiced Pumpkin," instead of "Oatmeal and Honey" to me, wouldn't you say???

SO.....
A rebatch was planned.
Using the microwave method...
All but one bar was grated into a microwavable-safe glass bowl.  The soap weighed about 2.5 pounds as it entered the microwave.  ONE Tbs of milk was also added.

This is FRESH CP soap;  it was made up two days ago, so the melting of this rebatch didn't take much time at all.
In minute-long spurts, the final 'melting' lasted 4 minutes.
After the last minute, 12g of Ginger Patchouli fragrance oil (a sample from Brambleberry with my last order) was added and mixed well.
OH WOW!  LOVE this fragrance!!!!

Spooning the sloppy mixture into the mold did lend a few difficulties, and I feared a few air-pockets would be prevalent.  However, this afternoon, the unmolding was seemingly unceremonious.

To be cut tomorrow, but let me just say.....

OH MY GOODNESS!  This Ginger sample fragrance from Brambleberry -- nailed it!  What an amazing smell!  By no means is my nose a fragrance connoisseur (is that word used for fragrances???), but...
there's an underlying musky fragrance (the patchouli, most likely) -- AMAZING!!!!  HUGE hit!  Can't wait to cut this and for the bars to cure!