Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

LET PROPOLIS CURE YOU: TINCTURE



Last year I read the book "Bee Propolis: Natural Healing from the Hive" and although I was eager to make a propolis tincture after reading the book my bees weren't cooperating. They weren't making much propolis. This year I bought another package of bees and they are propolis crazy. I was able to go into the hive a couple days ago and scrape a generous portion off the side of a hive body.

Propolis is messy, sticky stuff that is composed of resin and wax and bees collect the resin mainly from trees, the poplar tree being a favorite source.

Contents in propolis: resin, wax, essential oils, pollen, other organics and minerals.

Here in Minnesota propolis is a yellowish brown color but the color varies in different areas of the world. Propolis is used by the bees to seal up cracks/space in the hive. Usually they stick it anywhere the drafts come in. They also use it to wrap up intruders like mice. Propolis is antibacterial so encasing a mouse in propolis would prevent the spread of disease within the hive. It is also antimicrobial and is being researched as a treatment for HIV

But I'm interested in its ability to treat winter ailments. So on to the details on how to make a tincture. A tincture is a medicine made by dissolving an herb or a plant in alcohol, glycerin or vinegar. I use 80 proof vodka. I took the following tincture recipe from the book listed above.

The process:
When I scraped the propolis from the hive two days ago it was warm and sticky and I did it with my fingers which was a big mistake. I spent the entire day trying to get it off. Today was a much cooler day so it hardened enough that I could handle it again. I could have put it in the fridge to harden but that would have been too easy, right! :D

Step One:
Gather supplies
(vodka not pictured here)
You need a bottle with dropper. A little funnel (unless you want a big mess) a marble size bit of propolis and a small bottle of vodka (about 2 oz will be needed).



Step Two:
Put the propolis in the bottle. (Now the book recommends cutting the proplis into little pieces and then putting it into the bottle, I chose not to follow that step).



Step Three:
Fill the bottle with 80 proof alcohol (vodka). Cover. Shake. Keep bottle in a cool dark place. Shake once a day and leave for one week before using.



I've done things a bit differently than was suggested in the book. Our family will not be taking this as a preventative so we didn't want a large amount. The book suggests taking a few drops per day to boost the immune system or prevent colds and coughs (which goes along with their larger recipe). Small amounts are recommended at first due to the fact that nearly 1% of the population has been found to be allergic to propolis.

I won't list all the things that propolis is good for because I don't want someone reading this blog and then thinking that propolis can cure their ailment. I'm not a doctor. I just trust what I've learned about my bees and their gifts and wanted to share a bit of that information with my readers. Please do more research if you are interested in using propolis.

Here are some of the things propolis has been used to treat (not all of these can be treated with a tincture. Some require propolis creams, ointments, tablets, etc...):

Dental Problems
Coughs & Colds
Flu
Fungal Infections
Fever
Immune Support
Back Pain

Wondering where you can get propolis? Contact a local beekeeper or check at your local farmers market. I would avoid buying it at the store since commercial varieties come out of areas like China and reports warn of the possibility of contamination.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BUCKET LIST: BOUNDARY WATERS CANOE AREA

On July 10 my family and I took a trip to the Boundary Waters in Ely, MN. This was our 2nd time visiting the area. The first time was in February this year for a dog sledding trip and this time around it was for some canoeing. I've always wanted to (#1) canoe in the Boundary Waters and (#2) swim in one of the beautiful BWCA lakes but neither my husband or I could read a topography map very well, much less use a compass so... we got lucky. In February we learned that our guide Jason at Wintergreen Dogsledding just happened to own a guide and outfitting service by the name of ELY OUTFITTING COMPANY (You can read more about the company HERE and HERE). We really like Jason so we decided to give his company a try and we are really happy that we did.

Although Jason wasn't our guide for our time in the Boundary Waters, we did have someone who was equally as amazing, her name is Ellen Root. She was an awesome (Ely Outfitting Company) guide, lots of fun to be around, and was fantastic with our kids. Unfortunately our oldest daughter was away at camp but we had our 11 year old and 4 year old canoeing with us. Kate, the manager at Ely Outfitting Company, packed up everything we needed for our 4 days and 3 nights in the BWCA, which included all the food and equipment we would need. She dropped us off on July 12 and we canoed our way into the wild. The weather was fabulous, the scenery was magnificient, and the overall experience was pure bliss. Ellen cooked up 3 yummy meals for us each day, took us swimming and hiking, and taught us about the various local wildflowers and wildlife. The trip was definitely worth our while and we will certainly be back again. Thank you Jason, Kate & Ellen for making our time in the BWCA a very enjoyable experience!!

Here is a little photo "log" of our time in the BWCA:



































Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ART TO HELP THE GRAY WOLF

My daughter Maya and her friend Kim have started a new blog called GENERATION OF THE WOLF. They plan on using the blog to share their thoughts about wolves and to sell their drawings in order to raise money for the International Wolf Center in Minnesota.

Please check it out when you have time. They are still in the development stage but they will hopefully have art available very soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I AM AT A GARDENING CROSSROADS

and I'm not sure what to do. I know herbs. I spent years reading about herbs and perennials, planting and experimenting, but veggies and fruits... not so much. My first attempt at gardening a little over 5 years ago turned horrible. My carrots didn't grow, my tomatos were consumed by some unknown creature, and my gourds were planted incorrectly so they turned to mush. After moving to our current home 3 years ago I planted strawberries and it went well (no pests, no stealing, great production, easy to harvest). Year two I graduated to lettuce, broccoli, onions, raspberries, corn and cucumbers. That is when it hit me. I had no idea when to harvest anything. I asked and read what I could but I still didn't know how to recognize when something was actually "seeding" or "flowering." What one would call a flower, I didn't. Sorta like beekeeping... I don't know what is normal and what isn't. Our corn was destroyed by earwigs, the cucumbers turned yellow because their vines had nothing to attach themselves to, the brocolli ended up flowering, the lettuce was great but I didn't know you could cut it down and keep using it so instead I pulled it all out *sigh. The onions never grew very well and the raspberries were fantastic!

Year three. I decided to plant more raspberries and strawberries (easy to grow, don't have pests (not yet anyway), can recognize harvest time). We now have 4 raspaberry bushes and 16 strawberry plants. We also planted cucumbers (we have a wire for the vines this time), pumpkins, watermelons, dill, basil, gords and luffahs.

As of July 9, 2011The cucumbers are doing great.

The watermelon... not so much. It just isn't growing very well.

The pumpkins flourished.

The raspberries and strawberries are fantastic.

The gords and luffahs are amazing.

Dill and basil look healthy and big.

STOP!

I checked on things today after being gone for a week and what did I find?

The pumpkins have been taken over by something. I think it is a squash bug. The plants are still alive but I imagine not for long.

The rasberries and strawberries... well... the plant looks great but there are no berries to speak of. In fact, the birds are so bold they come down to eat them right in front of me.

The luffahs, gourds, cucumbers... all look fine and hopefully stay that way.

The dill and basil looks ready to be harvested but again... I'm not sure.

Here is where I'm confuzzled. (yes, that is confused + puzzled). I never know when to harvest things, how to preserve them, or how to prevent pests. I'm not giving up on gardening. I think I can get this but I need some help.

1. Is there a way to prevent squash bugs?
2. Is there a way to keep the birds from eating the berries?
3. How about harvesting... I want dill for pickles (yup, that's what those cucumbers are for) but I'm not sure when to harvest the seeds or how to save them for use when I can the pickles.
4. I want the basil a homemade sauce but do I harvest it now and freeze it for when I make the sauce? Can it be frozen?

The crossroads I'm at is deciding whether or not I just give up on the veggies. I find the berries much easier and of course, I can tell when they are ready for harvest and I know of numerous ways to use them but the veggies I'm not so sure about. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated because I will tell ya, having an entire family chearing on the pumpkin growth just to find out we failed just doesn't feel very good. The kids were not happy when I said they'd be getting their pumpkins for Halloween from someone elses garden patch again this year :(

Some pictures:

Vine base of pumpkins



Raspberries


Basil


Cucumbers


Dill

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SOAP!

I've been so obsessed with my bees lately I haven't said much about soap. So, here is a picture of one batch. I have many more to come. Trying to use up all the supplies over the summer and then take a soaping break for a while.




After corresponding with a few chemists at the University of Minnesota and based on what I've learned from my professors at ACHS I'm finally more comfortable with the use of Titanium Dioxide in my soaps. I gave TD a try a couple times in the past several years but waited til I had some reliable info on it's safety. Of course, now I'm addicted to it. I love that it is so easy to use and gives such great color variation.

I'll be taking a little blog break now to do other things but will be back with more bee and soap pictures soon. HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MORE NEWS ON MY BEE SWARM

They did it! They swarmed a 3rd time and they attached themselves to the same tree as the other two times but moved on quickly about 5 feet further into the neighbors yard. Thankfully, after talking with the neighbors, they have been great sports about it. The bees are in a ball again about 30 feet up on a tree limb, not reachable by anyone. but that isn't my news.

Attention all beekeepers because I have a strange one for you.

We witnessed our bees swarm and then come right back shortly after. When they returned they went into the hive they orginally came out of hive #1 (the 2 yr hive). Next day they swarmed again but when we came home their clump in the tree was gone. We noticed hive #2 had an unusual number of bees. We added a third hive body Sunday and already the three boxes were overflowing with bees to the point that hubby and I started to wonder if the swarm went into the wrong hive. We debated it a while and decided that was crazy and we started brainstorming on what we should do with the new overflowing hive since the queen wasn't laying as fast as the bees were appearing (weird right) and in the 2nd hive body only 4-5 frames are drawn and in the 3rd hive body it looks like 0 are drawn. Hmmm...

What happens next? The swarm of bees emerge from the new hive (the 3 month old hive) and go right back up into the tree they swarmed to the last two times. What the heck? I'm still in shock. Is it even possible for a swarm to go back to the wrong hive?? I figure two things, that both hives have swarmed, which seems odd considering there is sooooooooo much space in the new hive for the queen to lay and she is NOT laying enough to compare with the number of bees that were inside or the bees from the first hive returned to the wrong hive.

We were fortunate to see all of this swarming. Two times from the 2 year old hive and now once from the hive we acquired in May this year.

Here is the video from the 2nd swarming:



Here is a video from when the swarm returned the first time and was scattered all over our yard: