Honey, Beeswax, a Bird House, and an Olive Correction

Here it is.

Six half-pints (plus another quarter pint in the cupboard now) of lovely, golden honey. The best part is, we didn't expect it. And we're totally out of honey, so it couldn't have come at a better time.

Tom asked that we save the beeswax and render it, so I did some research on that. I finally found a method on a blog called Montana Homesteader  that sounded doable. 

First, I gathered the leftover wax into a cheesecloth package, securing it at the top with a rubber band.

Then, I plopped this whole parcel into a large pot of water which had been heating on medium-low for a while.

I probably let this go for about an hour, just on that low heat, while the wax melted out into the water, and the cheesecloth held on to the bits of bees and other gunk that was stuck in the wax. Then, when I thought it was close to done, I used tongs to smush the cheesecloth together and squeeze out all the melted wax. I threw that cheesecloth away. Then, you just have to let the pot sit and cool. The wax rises to the top and forms a disc floating on the water.

When it was totally cool, I ran an offset spatula around the edge of the pan, scooped out the disc (breaking it, darn) and put that on several thicknesses of paper towel. I then scooped out any random bits and pieces of wax and added them to the paper towel.

It's pretty, isn't it? Maybe we'll melt this down further and make it in to a candle or something, but I have to say the clean up from rendering wax makes me never want to do it again. Beeswax melts easily, so I just warmed up the utensils I was using over a hot burner flame (gas) and then wiped off the melted wax with paper towels. The pot was warmed over the burner and then wiped out with many, many paper towels, then given a coat of coconut oil and wiped again for good measure. This uses a lot of paper towels that can't be put in the compost, but on one beekeeping forum a guy said he uses these for lighting his smoker. This is a good idea, but I don't use the smoker very long, as I only have one hive to check, and I don't like the idea of melted wax all over it. So I just threw the paper towels away, guiltily.

If one was going to make a habit of rendering beeswax and melting it, one might consider getting a dedicated set of tools. Ahem.

I forgot to show you a picture of the new birdhouse we got, a gift from my parents who visit Williamsburg every year. This is an authentic Williamsburg-era birdhouse. Tom installed it behind a cover of ceanothus, as we find the birds are more likely to use houses we give them if they are behind cover.

One more thing I wanted to share with you today: I tasted the olives in that extremely salty brine I made, and holy shrunken tastebuds, it's waaaaay too salty. So I drained all the olives, rinsed them thoroughly, washed the containers, and made a new brine using a recipe I found on the UC extension preserving website. It involved a little salt, some red wine vinegar, and water. I re-packed the olives in this brine, again with herbs and garlic, and with a thin layer of olive oil on top. These will keep for a year at 60-80 degrees.