Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to make bees wax sandwich wraps; no more glad wrap!

So here is the promised 'how to make a bees wax sandwich wrap' post!

These are so simple to make, we even did a Make Your Own stall at our local farmers market (to be the subject of another post). I've been using my sandwich wrap for about eight months and it's still going strong. I love them so much I also made some larger ones to use for wrapping my loaf of bread and also storing lettuce, celery etc in the fridge to stop them going limp - you know it's true, plastic does keep veggies fresher, but now there is an alternative!

You will need:
Cotton fabric approx 30 x 30cm. This is a good size for wrapping sandwiches but of course you can make them bigger if you like. 

Pinking shears. It's cute to use pinking shears to make the edges zig zag but not 100% necessary because the wax will stop it fraying.

Bees wax. If you have access to a hive you can refine your own but if not you can often get it from farmers markets or online. 

Cheese grater. You can use your good one and once you've finished grating the wax clean it by pouring boiling water over it. You might need to do this a few times.

Iron. Best to find an old iron from an opshop but you can use your good iron by covering it in alfoil.

Old towel to iron on. I think this is better than an ironing board so you can spread your gear out. 

Baking paper.

Grate your wax. This is pretty time consuming but easy. It looks like parmesan cheese once grated and is endlessly fondle-able. You'll need about 1/2 cup grated wax for one 30 x 30cm wrap, but less as you make subsequent ones because there will be residue left on the baking paper. 

Cover your iron with two layers of alfoil if you're using your good iron. Lay out your towels on a table for ironing on. Lay out your baking paper - you will probably need to overlap two sheets to make it wide enough for the fabric.

Cut out your fabric - here are the students cutting them at school. You can get some fantastic prints from fabric shops or if you want to be super sustainable you can cut up old shirts, bed sheets etc.

Lay your fabric on the baking paper and sprinkle on the grated wax just like sprinkling cheese on a pizza. 

Then lay over another layer of baking paper - again, you will need to overlap two pieces. Then get busy with the iron. It takes a little work to get it all melted and you have to be sure to sweep the iron from the centre to the edges to get the wax pushed out to the edges. You can see it going all melty under the paper so its pretty easy to judge how you're going.

Once it's all covered and while its still hot peel back the top layer of baking paper and then peel off the fabric by the corners. Its good to have a helper at this stage to hold down the bottom layer of baking paper. It takes about a minute for the wax to dry, so you can just wave it around for that long or place it on a clothes airer.

And this is the final product! The bees wax has anti bacterial properties which I really like and they smell great! To clean them simply lay them out and wipe with luke warm soapy water - not hot or the wax will melt again. I haven't tried but my eight month old wrap is looking a little sad now but I suspect if I ironed it again between the baking paper it would come back to its former glory.

Here we are making them at Hilton Primary School with the year 5/6 class. It really was such fun. The teacher had the kids working on other maths activities and we took three students at a time to the back of the class and made them. It took a couple of hours, but that's because lots of the kids loved them so much they stayed in at lunch time to make extras for their friends and family.

Lat weekend we did a second big event with a Hilton Primary School P&C stall at the local farmers market. We had four parents and three students helpers and we made about 70 wraps. I'll write a separate post about how to do that as a big event just in case you're as inspired as I am to cut the plastic AND get everyone else around you to too!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chooks paying their way

The chooks are finally paying their own way. We have started to sell our eggs to friends and colleagues for $6 a dozen. We are selling 1-2 dozen a week now so this easily covers their food and hay costs and should pay for the next lot of hens too.

Towards the end of last year we had 4 chooks laying an average of 1 egg a day (total of 7 eggs a week). We took the hard decision to cull the lot and we got 4 Hi-Line browns and two Australorps. They settled in well, with the browns laying straight away and the Australorps being a bit slower to get laying. We are now getting about 40 eggs a week and the chooks are thriving.

One thing that has changed is that we helped our northerly neighbour to prune her Lily Pily tree and this has let lots more sunlight into the pen. This is a big help in winter when the sun angle is lower but won't affect the amount of shade they get in summer.

We're now considering buying 2 new chooks so we can do succession planning better next time around. Who says it doesn't pay to be green?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

How to refine Bee's Wax; from sticky mess to clean and usable

I'm really into bees wax at the moment. It smells beautiful. It feels so interesting. I can't stop touching it. If you have a chew on the unrefined honeycomb it tastes like honey. Mmmm. It's one of natures miracle products.

My friends at Ecoburbia have hives and after they do a honey harvest they have bucket loads of honeycomb wax left over. Another friend learnt how to refine it and she had been giving me her wax to make lip balm and hand cream. You hardly need any bees wax for these recipes, but then I learned how to make sandwich wraps with bees wax (which will be the subject of my next post), for which you need a fair chunk of refined wax. So I decided I needed to learn how to refine it myself. And I'm so glad I did. Turning a sticky, dirty, mess (bees apparently do not wipe their feet when they go home to their hive) into something amazing and useful is such fun! So here's how to do it.

First you need some gear from the op-shop. You wont be able to use your wax refining pots for food again, it gets too messy. You need a big stock pot, a smaller pot and a bowl to fit in the small pot for double boiling, a sieve, some fabric and some silicone moulds (actually I use these for cooking too). 

Take your bucket of sticky honeycomb, complete with dirt, honey, dead bees, sticks and whatever else you find and plonk it all in a big stock pot filled with water. 

Stir it and bring it to a hard boil for about 10 minutes or so. This dissolves all the honey and loosens the other debris from the wax. 

Let it cool in the pot. I usually leave it over night. The wax floats to the top and the honey and much of the dirt is left in the water. When the wax cools and sets you end up with a disk of wax with all the remaining grainy debris on one side of it, sadly this often includes the bees too. Take out the disk and just pour the water away. 

Then you simply cut off the grainy edge with a sharp knife, break up the cleaner bits and then double boil it to melt it again.

Once its all nicely melted in the bowl, pour it into the silicone moulds through a sieve lined with muslin or cheesecloth to catch the very fine bits of debris in the wax. I haven't found a way to clean the cloth and use again but somehow we always seem to have some kind of fabric around the house to use.

Let it cool for a 10 minutes or so then pop them out of the mould. And that's it. Beautiful, clean refined bees wax ready for further uses. And yes, I'll be sharing some of those other uses soon.