Friday, August 22, 2014

Fair Update

    I spent four hours at the Evergreen State Fair yesterday as a volunteer at the Open Honey and Beeswax Exhibit. It was a little slow at times, but was a pretty fun time over all. I answered lots of questions about the observation hive with live bees in it and generally informed the public about the importance of honeybees in their lives. The biggest deal is that fact that about half of our food supply is pollinated by honeybees. We would have a pretty bland diet if we only could eat foods that were pollinated by the wind. Grapes are one of the few wind pollinated fruits. Other than that it would be lots of potatoes, wheat, oats, rice, and corn. It would be a fairly plain uninteresting diet.

    I really need to take a video some time of different individuals' reactions when they look at the observation hive and first realize there are live honeybees in there.  They are either instantly repulsed or instantly grabbed. Many who fall into the repulsed category still can't tear themselves away from staring at the hive. It would be a funny thing to post on You Tube for people guess what the heck these people are looking at. One of my favorite things is to ask the younger kids if they want a bee on their hand. Most don't respond positively until I show them the little bee stamp and the stamp pad. There are a few brave little ones that would be very willing to have a live bee on their hand. Some of those are somewhat disappointed rather than relieved when they discover I'm only offering to stamp a bee on their hand.

    I was gratified to learn that not only did I get blue ribbons for both my extracted honey and my beeswax entry, but the beeswax entry also got Best of Division and Best of Show.  I wasn't as impressed with the Best of Division as there were only 6 entries in the beeswax division. Best of Show is a big deal because that means the entry scored higher than all other entries in the Open Honey and Beeswax Exhibit. I guess maybe I've learned a few things about working with beeswax in the eight years I've had the bee store.
Blue Ribbon Blackberry Honey

The really big ribbon in the back is the Best of Show ribbon
     I started yesterday on my bucket list of Fair Food.  I'm signed up for six volunteer sessions at the Fair.  My fair food selection for yesterday was a nice big pork bratwurst smothered in onions and sauerkraut. That still leaves Curly Fries, a Purple Cow, Crepes, Fair Scones, a Walla Walla Onion Burger, and an Elephant Ear to go. This comes at a time when I've made some recent progress in losing weight.  My eight year old grand daughter, Britton, is really looking forward to the Evergreen State Fair.  As she was talking to her dad the other day, she told him that she had $13.00 saved up and she was going to spend all of it on "Fair Food". 

  The Honey and Beeswax Exhibit was not the most exciting thing for me that happened at the fair yesterday.  The biggest deal for me was that I managed to buy a working antique Fulton hand crank corn sheller. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about admitting to Linda how much I paid for it. I'm very lucky that Linda likes old things (in more ways than one). I considered it somewhat of a bargain as it only cost about half of what it would cost to buy a new one. They are actually still making hand crank corn shellers. I suspect the Amish buy a lot of them. I bought it from a guy at the Western Heritage Center at the Fairgrounds. This is a museum dedicated to things like early agriculture, logging, mining, hand woodworking, trains, and other cool things. It is actually one of our grandchildren's favorite parts of the Evergreen State Fair. Its right up there with the toy pedal tractors.  As we have taken grand children to the fair they have all enjoyed shelling corn with the old hand crank corn shellers.  I grow indian corn for corn bread and have always shelled it out by hand. I grow enough of it that this is not a particularly fun task. My fingers are usually pretty sore by the time I've finished. I'm looking forward now to having lots of young and enthusiastic volunteer labor to shell out Grandpa Jim's annual corn crop.  I'll post a picture after I've got the corn sheller painted and mounted in a wooden box like the ones at the fair.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Entering Honey in the Fair

   I entered honey in the fair again this year.  I'm not all that excited about getting blue ribbons as I am about supporting the Open Honey and Beeswax exhibit at the fair. I think things like that are very good for beekeeping.  While I'm not excited about getting more blue ribbons, I would be crushed if I got something less than a blue ribbon for my honey. That would reflect on me personally as a beekeeper.

I poured five one pound jars like this one and chose the best three for my fair entry
    I did something different this year in that I also did a beeswax entry.  On one hand, I do a lot with beeswax. Together with my trusty minions at the Beez Neez, we rendered out 542 pounds of clean unfiltered beeswax this past winter.  I teach candle classes in November and December each year and I sell a lot of 100% beeswax candles in the store, especially around Christmas.  The problem is that most of what I do with beeswax is not done with beeswax from my own beehives.   It takes a large number of beehives to generate 542 pounds of beeswax and I only have 12 beehives in my back yard.  Usually my personal beeswax gets lumped in with all of the other beeswax. In order to submit a beeswax entry to the fair, the wax has to come from my personal apiary.

    It just so happened that a few weeks back I stumbled upon a large paper grocery bag at the store which contained the cappings from last year's honey harvest.  I put the cappings  into my solar wax melter and was lucky enough to have a good 90 degree day just a few days later.  I ended up with a nice brick of beeswax weighing just a little under three pounds. Being more than a little prone towards procrastination I delayed filtering the wax until yesterday, then had to stay up until close to midnight in order to remelt the filtered wax and pour it into one pound hexagonal molds.  I removed the wax from the molds this morning and chose the best of the two blocks for my beeswax entry.  The block in the photo below is the one which didn't make the cut. It had a small speck of some foreign material. It still looks pretty nice. I have to admit that I am pretty proud of the girls' work.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Baby Ducks and Propolis Varnish Update

     We had some new little baby ducks start to hatch on the morning of August 4th, just as we were leaving for Oregon to go camping at Fort Stevens.  Fortunately, the babies don't require much to eat or drink for the first three days so I was able to postpone putting in chick waterers and feeders until we returned from Oregon.  I don't believe that there is anything on the planet cuter than ducklings.  Out of  eleven eggs the mother duck successfully hatched out nine ducklings, seven of which survived the first week.  I thought we were doing fairly well on letting the mother care for them.  I removed the low water containers from the duck pen so the ducklings wouldn't get stuck in a water dish and drown or die of hypothermia.  I left just one 2 gallon bucket in the pen for the mother duck.  I figured it was high enough that it didn't pose a danger to the very little ducklings.   It turned out that I was very wrong. All but three of our ducklings managed to jump up into the water bucket and drown.  I was as impressed with their leaping ability as I was unimpressed with their decision making. I'm now making the mother duck drink out of the chick waterer for the next few weeks until the ducklings are big enough to be safe from water hazards.
one egg hatching while one duckling hides beneath his mother

Proud mother duck a few days prior to the duckling disaster

    Raising ducklings isn't so very different from raising teenage children. It seems much of our efforts are directed towards protecting them from serious dangers that just look like a good time to them.  I'm glad we successfully survived that time of our lives. I have a lot of sympathy for some of the struggles that our children have with our grand children. I'm glad I did a lot better protecting our children than I have with our ducklings.

     Regarding my propolis varnish.  We have had some unseasonable rain over the past few days.  I had accidentally left one of my wooden folding chairs out in the rain.  The propolis varnish seemed to be just as water proof as had been advertised.  There was no color change in the varnish, nothing whitened or turned opaque.  The amazing thing is that I had only applied one coat of varnish to the chair.  I ran out, of varnish before I even finished one coat on all of the chairs.  Anyhow, the appearance of the chair was unchanged after three days in the rain. I was very impressed.  I think the propolis varnish will work very well on the wood trim on my little row boat.

   I'm preparing this post while I'm waiting for beeswax to melt. I ran last year's beeswax cappings through my solar wax melter a few weeks back and ended up with a nice brick of beeswax weighing a little less than three pounds. I have often entered my honey in the fair, but I have never submitted a beeswax entry. I rendered out over 500 pounds of beeswax over the past year, but in order to enter it in the fair it has to come from my own apiary.  Most of that beeswax came from cappings I had purchased from a local commercial beekeeper.  Anyhow, a few weeks ago I stumbled on a paper sack containing the cappings from last years honey harvest. I had cleaned them, dried them,  put them away and then forgot where I had put them. I found them just in time to take advantage of a nice 90 plus degree day to help me render out the beeswax in my solar wax melter.

   Earlier today I melted the beeswax in a double boiler with an equal amount of water. When the wax was fully melted I poured it through some Tshirt material into a bucket in order to filter out impurities. Now I am remelting it without water so I can pour it into molds for the fair.  I have enough beeswax where I could also do a poured candle entry, but it is too late for that now. I'm just going to pour the wax into one pound molds and pick the best one to submit to the fair.