Saturday, July 24, 2010

Honey Storage

This post is more of a personal nature, but in sharing it with you, I hope you get ideas of things you can do to increase your own storage by relying on Mother Nature a bit.

As some of you know, our family raises bees. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying,..."I" do not raise bees...nooooooo way! My daddy did that while I was growing up and I didn't enjoy a single minute of it. I told my husband when we married that if he wanted to get involved in yucky hobbies like beekeeping, he had to deal with it by himself. A few years ago, we moved in with my parents for a few months, and of course it was during the honey season. Daddy got Tommy hooked...and now I live with bees again. For some reason, its not as terrible now that I'm grown as it was when I was a kid. Perhaps that's because we tend to worry about the bees together instead of it being just one person in the house doing that. Perhaps its because I'm a Family Herbalist now and I recognize benefits I never even heard of when I was kid. Or maybe after all these years, I've gone crazy. Who knows!

Anyway, here in Georgia, the "honey flow" as it's called happens just as summer is beginning. Sometimes you can even rob the bees a second time at the end of summer. And because bees are especially dedicated workers, they do their best to keep that honey coming in. [Inserting a sidenote here: I've written an ebook about bees and beekeeping. It doesn't teach how, but instead it correlates bees with life and looks at them in a spiritual way. Interested? Visit and click on The Honeybee Religion.]

Last Saturday, our family went into "busy bee mode" and robbed three beehives. Tommy and Manti suited up in whites, hats, veils and gloves and approached with smoke. The smoke is used just to help calm them down a bit...the bees, not the men. It makes me think a little of those old ways of Native American people where they sat amongst their enemies and smoked a pipe. It was a calming experience then too so that matters of importance could be spoken of in appropriate ways. Interesting thought, don't ya think?

Anyway, back to the bees... When the bees move out of the way enough you can put your hands inside their house, boxes of frames filled with wax are taken off and carried inside. Some beekeepers believe that they can form a relationship with the bees, where the bees recognize the beekeepers scent and mannerisms and respond differently towards them than to other people. Tommy is this type of beekeeper.

Once you have boxes/frames of honey-filled wax inside, you quickly find you have a dripping mess and sometimes even bees who just can't walk away from their hard work.

I was particularly intrigued to watch these bees cleaning each other up. Some of them get squished as their hive is disturbed, and some of them get honey dripped on them. They actually tended to each other and worried over the other bee instead of themselves. Impressive characters!

Notice the covering you see on the frame of wax? The bees make that, and it is formed over those little slots to act as a cap. It protects the honey once it is "ripe"...I guess you could call it that. It means the water content has been sufficiently evaporated and the honey is ready to be used. You can't get honey out of it that way though, which means you have to slice off those cappings and quickly put the frame into your big gadget called an extractor. It's an ugly gadget, but it does the job!

Our extractor has 3 slots for frames. You can see a frame in each one. A lid goes on top of it, and then you turn the handle on top. This causes the basket inside (which holds your frames) to spin, thus slinging out the honey from the open wax compartments. It slings little droplets of honey all inside this big barrel (which is the size of a 33 gallon trashcan) and collects at the bottom. After you spin it one direction, you turn the handle in the opposite direction to more fully empty the wax frames. THEN, open the lid, remove each frame and turn them around so you can spin the honey out from the other side of each frame. If you don't put the lid back on, will be glittering from honey splatters! Ask me how I know!
(overlook my unorganized pantry showing please)
When you complete all the frames, you've got gallons of honey in the bottom of your extractor. There is a "gate" on a spout at the bottom of the extractor, and you open the gate to let the honey flow out. It is always possible for debris to get into it at this stage, but not a lot. From here, it pours into a 5 gallon bucket that has 3 baskets on top of it. The first basket has a mesh bottom that filters out the large particles of broken wax and whatever else. It's very much like bridal veil fabric. The next basket has a smaller weave that filters even smaller particles, and the third basket has such a tiny weave that it can catch the ittiest bittiest things you can imagine. What you collect in the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket is clean honey. This bucket also has a spout and a gate, and from here, you fill your clean jars and cap them. Here is our first jar of honey this year:

There is something about bees that is really remarkable... take a look at last Saturday's honey collection in jars....

Do you see how there are 3 different colors of honey here? Remember that we robbed 3 different hives. Each hive made its own unique honey blend. As tiny as they are, they are still so individual!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Vinegar Magic

Multi-purpose items are just fascinating to me. I love it when I discover ANOTHER reason why I want something, and now I've done it (yet again) with vinegar. I already knew vinegar makes pickles taste great, and it preserves my hot peppers and cleans my mirrors and windows. Recently I found that vinegar applied to a sunburn will relieve a lot of the fever and pain associated with it. That makes it cool! (ok, bad pun, sorry) Well here are MORE reasons to keep vinegar stored in your pantry:
  • vinegar will take out smoke smells from clothes
  • vinegar will remove sweat stains from clothes
  • vinegar can deodorize the kitchen drain
  • vinegar (combined with baking soda) will unclog a drain
  • vinegar deters ants
That list is found on, so go read more!

My friend tells me that she uses vinegar on insect bites and it takes the itch away FAST and PERMANENT. You don't even see a whelp for very long after using it. See to learn as many as 1001 uses of white distilled vinegar! That's a LOT of uses!

And after you make a couple pages of notes, head out to the store and stock up on vinegar! Don't forget to label the bottle with the date and USE it. Don't let stuff sit in the pantry and just wait for a disaster to happen. Use the things you store and when you open a bottle, buy a new one to replace it in your storage.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sun Preparations

I recently dealt with quite an ugly sunburn. In trying to take care of it, I used several different products in hopes of getting pain relief as well as speed up the healing time. Fortunately, I had several options already at home in my first aid kit and in my herb collection. I say "fortunately" because my burn was so severe that certain articles of clothing caused me tremendous pain. If I had to have gone to the store to purchase something, I would have needed to wear very uncomfortable clothes and suffer from those clothes rubbing my burns. Thank goodness I was prepared!

If you are living in a southern state, your chances of getting a sunburn are increased due to the nature of the environment of your area. Don't think that you are "in the clear" if you live in Alaska! The sun DOES still shine there too! None of us want to live in a cave with no sun exposure, so the wise thing would be to store some items you can utilize should you have a little excess sun exposure.

Now remember I tried several things, and luckily I had good results with all that I tried, but I did have some favorites. I think my MOST favorite was aloe gel. My skin absorbed it rapidly which kept moisture in it and I think it has helped reduce the severity of the peeling and itching. I have a Natures Sunshine brand aloe gel that is thin and easy to apply. It doesn't leave a sticky residue behind like aloe gel straight out of the plant does, so it felt good and it brought instant relief. It has citric acid in it too, which is a plant matter that acts as a preservative, so it lasts a while even once its been opened. (I make my own deoderant and this is one of the ingredients of my recipe, giving me a second reason to have it on hand.) I have another aloe product that has menthol in it, which brings on a cooling sensation right away too. I liked that one as well. Aloe is inexpensive and readily available, so its definitely a top choice for me. I also have an aloe plant in my kitchen windowsill which is an added bonus because its pretty, its available if I get a kitchen burn, and it replenishes itself regularly. Renewable resources are GREAT!

Next is lavender oil and a calendula cream. Calendula takes care of the skin and is an ingredient for a lot of skin preparations, even for babies. Adding lavender essential oil to it gives added antiseptic properties and awesome analgesic abilities. So I took the lavender oil and doused my skin with it. Lavender is great for pain relief, but it can get expensive so that makes it more of a second choice option for me. The calendula cream is one I make, so that cuts cost down for me there. It has a wide range of uses, but by itself it doesn't take the pain away nearly as much as I'd like it to.

Third is cider vinegar. Now you can use any vinegar of course, but I prefer REAL cider vinegar (the kind that still has "the mother") because it has none of the chemical stuff in it that I prefer to avoid. Plus, cider vinegar has other abilities (too numerous to mention in this post) and its inexpensive too. I poured a good amount onto a tissue and dabbed it on my burned skin. It eased the pain significantly and immediately, and I think it sped up the healing time too because I started itching immediately as well! Tommy said he thought it was probably the histamine release that caused me to itch,...I don't know. I just know it was maddening for about 45 seconds. Mesa had gotten a bit of a burn too and we tried this on her back with identical results.

Those are my top 3 picks. All three are easy to store and have multiple uses.
Whatever YOUR choices are, plan ahead and store a little extra just in case of burns....whether by the stove, a campfire or the sun...they all hurt! Burned skin compromises your immune function too, so take care of it before it can become a bigger problem.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sanitation Preparations

We always think about preparing our pantry with food storage, or packing a 72 hour kit, or remembering to store batteries for every imaginable tool, or having enough bandages in our first aid kit...sometimes we remember to store toilet paper and soaps and such...


Have you ever considered putting a whole TOILET into your storage?

This might sound odd until you've thought on the subject a little longer. I might even suggest you print out this post and take it to your bathroom where you can give it your focused attention (heheh) and consider why it might be a valuable thing to invest in. In our not-too-distant past, a hurricane ripped through Louisiana and other coastal areas leaving terrible devastation for the residents. Some who went to provide aid there saw filth strewn everywhere by the storm and the decay of all forms of matter was dangerous to the health of all there. Sewer systems weren't very helpful for a bit, because there were few homes and no clean water to use. In this extreme example, sanitation was crucial just to survive, and many became ill from exposure.

We never know when our precious running water and comfortable facilities will be lost to us, but our need for sanitary conditions will continue to be mandatory. So how do you prepare for this? One way is to store a portable toilet. It's a simple thing really, its just a bucket with a special lid. The only things you need to store with it are the enzyme packets (or the "blue stuff" as we call it at our house) to help break down waste material, and toilet paper. This is an inexpensive venture. In fact, I'm sure you've spent more on toilet paper than you would on this toilet!

Your health needs you to think ahead about things like this. If you have a portable "john", you have something you can take camping with you. For those with physical disabilities or difficulties, this little gadget is MOST helpful to cut down on the need to search for a place "to go". It eliminates the concern of poison ivy in uncomfortable areas. And on top of that, it is a part of the group specials for the month of July at Emergency Preparedness. (Carrollton Ward, we will be participating in this special so we can get them for $6.) Those of you who do not live in Carrollton, you can still purchase one of these at a sale price too! Visit and place your order, or check with your own ward to see if you can participate in the group specials too.