Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mama Elizabeth's Diary: The Beekeeper's Daughter

You may or may not know this, but I'm a third generation beekeeper. The stories that Mama Elizabeth told, about my grandfather, in some ways...was the starting point for Folk Wisdom magazine.

For me, there's nothing that says both old-fashioned and timeless as someone out there, reviving old traditions, while keeping our pollinators going. That's a beekeeper for you. My mother's stories about WWII era beekeeping, before the advent of fancy equipment, and before the fear of too many chemicals and pesticides..were shear joy.

My favorite story went like this:

"I remember when I was about eight or nine. I was playing in the hortabogy (prairie, in Hungary) with a group of little friends. All of a sudden my father came around from the corner of the house. It was swarm season, you see. And he yelled at all of us: 'did you see that swarm?'  And he pointed just past us, to a small whirlwind of bees flying in a straight line.

'Quick, follow it, and then tell me where it went.'  Actually, this was not unusual for him to do. He had forty hives, and swarm season was always this crazy. Luckily, most swarms landed in nearby trees on our farm. But not this one. This one was headed straight to town. So we all jumped up, my friends and I and we ran after it. It went down past our farm and straight into town."

The reason I loved this particular story was that I could just imagine this sight: a large swarm of bees whizzing by, followed by a large pack of children, running straight after it. It probably made for the talk of the town--err, village-- that day. Such was the life of the Old-Fashioned Beekeeper's daughter.

To celebrate our beekeeping roots, here are some rather interesting uses for honey for you to try:

Honey Facial:
Honey is a humectant, which means it draws and holds moisture. For particularly dry skin this makes a great therapy.
WE HIGHLY recommend you USE RAW or ORGANIC, LOCAL honey, as we cannot tell what procedures store brought honey have gone through, and may be less nourishing.

1. Slather a thin amount of honey on your face.

2. Leave on for 10 mins.

3. Wipe off with warm, moist wash cloth

4. Try this 2-3 times a week before you go out on cold, chaffing days, to help with dry skin.

Honey/Rosemary Hair Treatment
1. Take a large jar of honey (We like RAW or ORGANIC HONEY).

2. Take either a large sprig of fresh ROSEMARY (washed and THOROUGHLY DRIED) and place into honey (or just pour the honey over it in the jar) or 1 drop rosemary essential oil.

3. If using fresh rosemary, leave that concoction in a sunny windowsill to infuse into the honey for a month.  If using essential oil, you may use immediately.

4. In am month, you may remove Rosemary from your herbal mixture, and use the honey.

5. When ready, you may simply slather on hair, wait 10 minutes, then shampoo out. It adds moisture, shine, and body to your hair.

Besides healthy honey,  bees make beeswax which smells divine, in my opinion. There are many uses for beeswax: Medieval to Victorian ages hold records for using it to plug wooden buckets, and waterproof shoes (to name a few uses!)

This beeswax polish is ALL NATURAL--many recipes call for the use of Turpentine, which is an easy thinner to the beeswax. Frankly, I feel it sort of kills the lovely beeswax smell and, again, falls into the chemical department.

Ours is so natural you could use it to polish your cooking spoons, or even use it as a hand cream, if you desire!

*1 oz beeswax (we like the natural, non bleach kind. It's yellow instead of white).
*8 oz of olive oil
*2 or 3 drops of essential oil like lavender, lemon or rose (if you like a scent other than the beeswax)

1. Grate or cut the beeswax into smaller pieces.

2. Heat the beeswax IN A DOUBLE BOILER (beeswax is extremely flammable, it cannot be put onto direct heat).

3. Once all the beeswax is melted, add olive oil to the mix. Make sure you are heating at medium or low temperature.

4. Stir a few times and continue to heat until wax and oil are well blended. 

5. Add a few drops of essential oil if you wish.

6.Pour into clean and thoroughly DRIED glass jars. Allow to cool.

7. Once cool, take clean cloth and rub into polish. Use this and rub in circular fashion on all your furniture until you cannot see the wax. Enjoy the lovely scent and your shiny wood furniture!

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