I didn’t want to sell it. I wasn’t planning on letting it go. I had just about 3 pounds of the most beautiful, sweet smelling beeswax that you’ve ever laid eyes on sitting on my shelf when I got the phone call. ‘Hey Melissa, this is D. we’re friends with R and we want to … and we’re looking for beeswax… starting a candle company… the refinery…’ I think my first response was something like ‘that’s awesome, but we don’t have any beeswax right now but if I hear of someone else with clean/chemical free beeswax then I’ll let you know. We are a very small operation and we don’t have bulk beeswax for what you’re looking for…’ It went something like that because I wasn’t going to sell my last couple of pounds of wax that I worked really hard to render and get all the bee parts cleaned out of to the competition. No way! After all, I just started making candles and needed it for my own candles and lip balms and soap. Besides, beeswax is valuable. At least to me. At least my beeswax is valuable to me because I know that it is 100% clean and free of toxins. I know our bee yard is very secluded and we don’t treat our bees with medications and our honey ‘crops’ are wild and aren’t being sprayed with herbicides and pesticides and other junk. Mosquito control doesn’t even fly over. I know it takes 7-9 pounds of honey to make a single pound of beeswax and that a honey bee spends its entire life to make 1 teaspoon of honey. It’s valuable. And it’s sold. Andy sold my beeswax.
After I spoke with D for about 10 more minutes guaranteeing him I’d let him and his wife know if I hear of any beeswax, I put Andy on the phone because of some other mutual interests and friendships. After my hackles went down (did you read the part about them starting a candle company and them being all professional with a cool name? ‘The Refinery’ is the name of their candle company by the way and Deliciously Unrefined is our farm business’ slogan by the way-weird, right?) and I heard Andy give a dissertation on honey and beeswax and beekeeping and then ask how much beeswax they need and heard him say-oh just a pound? Then I sort of gave him a glare and ‘don’t even think about it’ and then I totally caved and started looking for the scale to see how much I had. Because I’m a sucker and I felt guilty for having jealous thoughts and for hoarding my beeswax-even though it’s not technically hoarding when you use it and make things and sell those things that you make. That’s actually a business even if it’s a tiny business. Maybe it’s more of a hobby, but it doesn’t matter. My beeswax is sold and we’re actually having dinner with these strangers in a few weeks, because Andy also invited them over for dinner sometime and I suppose I’m going to have to get over the fact that I have to wait a while before we can harvest anymore beeswax for my own candles. That’s okay. Lord willing, we will harvest more and I’ll get over myself.
Every winter Andy takes inventory of our unoccupied beehive boxes and frames and repairs, cleans and assembles them to prepare for the Spring honey flow.
Some frames need to have propolis scraped off or wax moths parts removed (we don’t fumigate and they don’t survive in empty boxes) or boxes just need a good dusting. I love seeing how our beehive collection has grown over the years and remembering the ones that were painted with ‘oops’ paint or that are so chippy they’d make the latest shabby chic trend setters proud.
I love thinking about the honeybees that will occupy these beehives and hoping that they’ll survive for years to come. The hives all change year after year. Some strong hives have half a dozen shallow or deep boxes on them. Some weak hives just a couple. It’s always a puzzle and an interesting one to configure and observe.
Andy’s been keeping bees for 8 or 9 years now and it’s something we are both proud of and love to reap the benefits from. Just tonight, Pinecone asked why we have so much honey and simply understood that it’s because we are beekeepers. We are beekeepers.
I did a little marketing. The tiniest bit. I mean the bare minimum amount of marketing that one can possibly do. I shared some photos and a few lines about our honey on social media.
It was so simple. I shared some photos of our honey stash and our bee yards and then I bottled, labeled and delivered the goods. It was brief. It was simple. It was intentional and it felt so right!!!
It’s been a long time since we’ve made any candles. I guess between the farm work, house work and school fun the fun stuff that I love has been pushed to the side. That plus the fact that we really needed a solar wax melter to render some more beeswax.
He did get the solar wax melter fashioned and some wet comb went in right away. Now we’ve got beeswax (plus more from our friend/bee mentor Harold) and we’re back in action. Sort of…
I recently bought a mini pillar mold and made a few 3″ pillars for some adorable galvanized lanterns that I bought at Target last fall for 75% or something. I love them, but haven’t had candles to put in them. Knowing we had a stash of awesome beeswax and the other essentials, I knew it was time to get back to work on some candles. I made a couple of adorable mini pillars and made some super clean beeswax cakes and put my supplies away for a few days.
Then, we picked up a crockpot that could hold more than a cup of melted wax at a time and I made some more candles. I forgot to tie a knot at the bottom of the mini pillar the third time (don’t ask) and wax poured everywhere… Thankfully, I got most of it up because it was on wax paper (genius), but there are still bits of beeswax stuck on our counters…
It is incredibly satisfying to make candles from beeswax from our beehives. We know the beeswax is clean and doesn’t have any chemicals in it from treated hives. The candles smell amazing and make beautiful light. The lanterns are now glowing (after a year of doing nothing!) and I learned a good lesson about remembering to tie the wick.
Candles are simple. Beeswax candles are great. The best. Hopefully I’ll get a good stash for the moonlight farmers market coming up in Swainsboro at the beginning of September and for Andy to drop off in Augusta at Southern Made during one of his deliveries. Either way, I’m just glad we have our own candles again!
After the Tupelo harvest, Andy relocated the bees to the Savannah River where we have access to a secured bee yard full of hundreds if not thousands of Chinese tallow trees. It’s really amazing that we can move our bees from one honey flow to another just as soon as they happen and that we can harvest honey twice a year and have two distinctly different types of honey.
For being a very, very small operation with just half a dozen bee hives or so at any given time it, we’ve got a pretty good thing going on. Currently, I have 5-5gallon buckets of our spring honey from the recent Tupelo flow in our bedroom and have been bottling it up by order. The big guys harvest their honey in 55 gallon drums, but our little operation suits me just fine and has actually grown quite a bit from the first few wee harvests, where we ladled out each precious drop.
Lord willing, we’ll have an official honey house some day and won’t have to convert ‘Papa Harold’s’ garage into a honey house after each flow, but for now his garage is set up perfectly with the equipment and tools that we need to extract the honey on a bi-annually basis. Papa Harold has been Andy’s bee mentor for almost a decade and has been keeping bees longer than we’ve been alive. It’s so good to have him in our lives and we’ve learned so much from him, including how to remove bees from buildings and trees and everything in between.
The Chinese Tallow honey crop is almost guaranteed each year whereas the Tupelo is a much more fragile flower with absolutely zero guarantees and a very specific region of growth. The Chinese Tallow tree is hardy and invasive and actually illegal to plant in some areas, because it can take over-sort of like the kudzu vine.
It’s really neat to learn more about bees and their nuances and just how particular they are about specific measurements and all the amazing things that make them so important to our lives. Even after years of beekeeping, it feels like we are just getting started.
Since before our children were born, I’ve dreamed about the day they put on their wee bee suits and check the hives. ‘Wee bee suits’ are in the major bee keeping catalogs and look absolutely precious. We don’t have a wee bee suit for our kiddos, but today that moment arrived and our Bullfrog helped Andy check our nucs and the hives on the farm wearing my veil and gloves. It made my heart so very happy to see him following in his daddy’s footsteps. I love that our children are learning about these amazing things at a young age! After all, we love the honey bees!
Andy’s been a beekeeper longer than I’ve known him. He’s been building up his honey market for the last 9 years and together we have acquired a spectacular regular customer base for the liquid gold that our bees produce. In fact, he’s harvesting Tupelo this week and he said it is GOOD with a whole lotta Tupelo, whereas last year was a yummy mix of Tupelo with a splash of Gallberry. Since the stuff is gold, it’s afforded us the opportunity to barter with friends and associates for goods and services and we’ve loved being able trade all sorts of things.
I say Fair Trade although we might have gotten the better end of the bargain on some of this stuff, but bartering has become sort of a way of life. At least it’s more normal to us now than it was when we entered our initial trade agreement. I remember that trade pretty clearly, because it involved a gallon of honey and a little cash for our first heritage sow, who was an Ossabaw Island pig named Sassafras.
Since that initial trade, we’ve bartered for everything from doula services to coffee mugs. Even my blog logo was traded for some of our honey and homegrown food. Our CPA traded us firewood for his services and a local jewelry maker recently traded me a gorgeous copper strand/beaded necklace for some raw honey.
We’ve also traded lots of labor for goods, because more often than not we have goods and not cash money on hand. Quite frankly, if we weren’t beekeepers and farmers and growers then we probably wouldn’t want to or be able to fork out the dough for the high quality/organically grown goods that we can produce. What I mean is, if we didn’t grow it ourselves, we probably couldn’t afford it. At least, not on a farmers income… Or a bakers for that matter. We’ve tried. Nonetheless, we are able to eat like kings and queens and barter for some pretty spectacular goods in the meantime.
Sometimes it’s easier to barter than pay cash and there is something kind of amazing about avoiding a cash exchange. If you haven’t done it, let us know what you’ve got. Maybe we can make a trade! Or come to the sweet farmers market at the crossroads of Swainsboro and meet the local artists and farmers and join the club.