Posted by: Kate | February 10, 2010

None of your

Beeswax. We get lots of calls for beeswax, and sell out of it as soon as we render it. It’s popular and labor intensive to make. Since I now work for the farm, rendering beeswax has become one of my duties. When we harvest honey, we scrape the wax capping off each frame with a hot knife, and spin it in a centrifuge to separate the honey from the wax. The cappings then get stored in five gallon buckets until we get a chance to render the wax. We usually render wax in winter when we have more time. To render wax, we take the capping out of the buckets (a very scientific method of hacking at the hard cappings that are squished in the bucket with crystallized honey drips) and melt them down in a large pot. Once it is melted, we let it cool. The wax rises to the top of the pot and the honey/dead bees/other impurities stay on the bottom. We lift the block of wax out of the top, and let the bees harvest the sludge from the bottom of the pot by leaving it outside for them to play with. This yields a round disc of wax that is still dirty. We melt that disc down again and then pour it through some lovely ladies pantyhose into a cleaned out empty milk carton. Yes, my job is this glamorous.

A few weeks ago, I got a call inquiring about beeswax for sale. I made arrangements for the customer to come the following day, forgetting that I had also made arrangements for the priest from my church to visit at the same time. Five minutes before they both showed up, Linnea’s pants exploded. I started cleaning her up, and was about to get her dressed when there was a knock on my door. A farmer holds her naked baby as she opens the front door to a priest and an artist. There’s a joke in there somewhere.

I did the logical thing. I left the naked baby with the priest. He was unfazed: Father Lawrence has three kids of his own (and he’s about to become a grandfather!) and I am sure he’s comfortable with a naked baby grabbing her feet and babbling on her lambskin. He stayed in the house and chatted with Linnea and read a beekeeping magazine while I went downstairs to sell some wax to Diza.

Diza is a very interesting person, and I wish I had more time to chat with her. She uses our wax to create some very beautiful art. You can see it here. I emailed her about her work recently, and this is what she had to say about it, “…all of the pieces there are encaustic except for the large paintings of birds were done at a hotel in Manhattan.  Encaustic is an ancient form of painting, second oldest behind tempera, it was developed in Egypt. About 4-6 pounds of wax to 1 lb. damar crystals (a resin from a pine tree) are melted together and mixed with pigments.  Very exciting medium because of the transparent layers that can be achieved, fairly durable, obviously not great for areas of extreme heat, melting point is about 114 degrees Fahrenheit.”

She displays her art at Blue Sky Gallery in Willits, for all you locals out there. I really want to go check it out!

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