Psalms from the Hive

by Jeannie Saum

Propolis, that orange sticky goo

Was the bane of our first year,

Until we found the good it can do.

Now instead of cursing, it, we cheer

And save it, to heal ourselves

And others!

Clover, Bee, and Revery

Reverie (revery) –(n.) state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing; a fantastic, visionary, or impractical idea

 

Tomorrow, Laurie and I will be cooking and mixing up our next batch of that miraculous propolis.  We have so many people asking us for it – we need to get moving! If you don’t know about the miracles of propolis, check out my recent post on Amazing Propolis!

To get ready for this process, we had to do several things first.  Here’s how we collected and cleaned propolis so that we can make oils and tinctures to use for health, healing and skin care.

  • We have been collecting propolis from our hives by scraping it off the frames and boxes at every hive inspection.  We just put in in a container or baggie and freeze it.  This is important. If you don’t frese it, and it sits in a warm area over the summer, it will melt into a big hard blob, full of debris inside it.  It willb e impossible to clean in this form!  Freezing it keeps all the pieces separate and once frozen, easier to break up and pick out the debris.
  • We also tried propolis traps – a plastic open mesh sheet you place over the top hive box, so the bees will fill in the cracks with propolis.  We got these late in the season last year, and didn’t really put them on at the right time, so didn’t get a lot of propolis.  The trick to getting it off the  plastic traps is to put the whole thing in a large trash bag in the freezer overnight.  When frozen, propolis is hard and brittle, not sticky.  Then, you just take it out and bend and whack it a few times!  this breaks the propolis off the plastic trap.  (Kind of like when you make hard tack candy and then whack it to break it up!)

    propolis trap with a little propolis on it

    propolis trap with a little propolis on it

  • We also save propolis from rendering down our beeswax cappings.  Whenever we harvested honey and cut the tops off the combs, we saved the beeswax cappings we cut off. (Again, in the freezer, until we were ready to deal with a large amount!)  This beeswax is melted down in a big pot of water and left to cool. The beeswax floats to the top and hardens.   Once hardened, we scrape take the block of beeswax out and scrape off the dirt that has collected at the bottom.  SOMETIMES, you will get a next layer of  propolis.  You really need to taste this and see if it really is propolis and not just dirt or dark, old wax.  (Update:  we have abandoned this method of getting more propolis, finding that we don’t really get much of a layer of propolis on the bottom!)
pile to left is debris, to right is bottom of block of beeswax

pile to left is debris, to right is bottom of block of beeswax

scrapings of propolis from bottom of beeswax

Scrapings of propolis from bottom of beeswax

bottom of the beeswax chunk - layer of propolis

bottom of the beeswax chunk – layer of propolis

  • We put the propolis in a container- see the cut down gallon jug in left picture above.  You must find old pots, pans, cans, spoons, strainers etc, to dedicate to this process, as you will NEVER get them clean again!   We then  pour boiling water over it several times, stirring and chopping it up.  This helps clean out the wood shavings, bee parts and debris stuck in the propolis. (Though we find this goo is so sticky, it doesn’t work very well! – see a later post on a better way to clean propolis!)
  • Then, we flatten the sticky goo out on a sheet of aluminum foil and freeze it.
  • Once frozen, we take it out, break it up into small pieces and spend some time picking out debris. ( The propolis oils or tincture will be filtered eventually, so getting out every single piece of debris isn’t necessary, but the cleaner it is, the more accurate the weight measurement for the mixture.)  And we figure, it’s kind of like drinking fresh apple cider – the smashed worm parts add to the flavor, right!?  So what’s a few bee parts in the propolis??

The collecting goes on all year as we inspect and clean the hives and harvest honey.  The cleaning preparation takes place over several days, as we wait for batches to cool or things to freeze.  Pretty labor intensive, but once done, we are excited to be able to use it to make oils and tinctures that will improve our health, treat and prevent illnesses and sooth skin.  Tune in next time for our process and recipes for making propolis oil and tincture.

Romans 11

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”  

35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”  

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

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