Saturday, July 4, 2015

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.

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! 


Carol Stearns said...

Very interesting and good for your girls to participate!

gayle said...

My brother keeps bees. Now I have all kinds of new questions to ask him...

scraphappy said...

After spending way too much on a tiny bit of beeswax last summer when I made lip balm with my girls, I wondered if you had any beeswax to spare. So interesting to see the process of harvesting. Hope that it all ends well. You will be busy learning new recipes to try if it all works out. Candles? Those would be fun too.

Kevin the Quilter said...

I love the fact that you are so thrifty and homestead-esque! LOL
I am sure the smell was heavenly as you were working!

Linda said...

Fascinating post. Thank you so much for sharing.

katie z. said...

I'm jealous in a good way. I'm so excited to follow your adventures, so thank you for sharing. One day, I want to have bees and make more soap!

JB said...

Your girls are so lucky to get real-life learning experiences. I just think of all the science they are being exposed to in this new adventure along with all the fun memories you guys are making!! Thanks for sharing you adventures with us.