How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rendering Wax for the first time!

I am rendering wax for the first time. I tried to melt some wax a few months ago the first time I harvested some honey. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I used a double boiler and my measuring cup to melt the wax. The issue was that there really wasn’t much wax and a lot of slumgum. I did use a little of my wax that I melted down and used it in some lip balm that I made. Since I have divided my hives the two that have had to make queens have also made a lot of honey so I have been able to save the wax. I watched a great video by Linda’s Bee. It showed exactly what to do to make a very simple solar wax melter. Linda’s Bees is a great blog site and I am hoping that this method will render a very nice block of bees wax. http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2007/06/video-on-how-to-use-simple-solar-wax.html

Here is what you need to do:
  • 1. Purchase a Styrofoam cooler
  • 2. Have a piece of glass cut to fit the top
  • 3. Line the cooler with aluminum foil
  • 4. Choose a plastic Tupperware like container that you will use to melt your wax into
  • 5. Place approximately 1 ½” of water in the bottom of the Tupperware container
  • 6. Wash your wax renderings
  • 7. Lay a towel and paper towels to dry the water from the wax renderings.
  • 8. Place the wax renderings between two paper towels and let dry for 24-48 hours
  • 9. Make little wax balls
  • 10. Cover the Tupperware like container with paper towel (I used cheese cloth because it fit my container better than paper towels. They were too small).
  • 11. Place the wax balls on top of the cheese cloth and place in the Styrofoam container.
  • 12. Place glass on top
  • 13. Allow to sit in the sun for several hours until melted.
  • 14. The water in the container will allow the wax to melt on top.

I looked for several different types of solar melters. To purchase a wooden one was about $100. You could also purchase the plans to build one for about $6.00, plus materials. This simple solar wax melter looked perfect, was inexpensive, and looks like it would work beautifully. Today I put together the solar wax melter. It cost me about $8.50 for the glass. I washed my wax renderings and let them dry. Tomorrow I am going to try using the solar melter hopefully the weather will be very sunny. Here are some pictures of the process so far.
Today the weather was perfect. I made wax balls and set them on top of the paper towels. Placed the Tupperware containers in the cooler, placed the glass on top and set solar wax melter in the sun. I had them in the sun melting throughout the day. Here are several pictures of the process and finished wax. I rendered approximately 13oz of beautiful pure yellow bee’s wax. It did crack but it really doesn’t matter because I am going to use the wax to make lip balm, soap and lotions. Maybe someday I will enter my wax into a honey contest, but I am not there yet. One step at a time! This method worked perfectly!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Adorable Bird House

I found this adorable bird house to add to my garden. I find the most original things on www.etsy.com. This is from an artist Steve Lundberg in the North Carolina foothills. He actually has a blog at HisPalette.blogspot.com. I don’t know if we have any birds in Florida that will nest in it, but I just thought it was so adorable. I know exactly where I will hang it, in my African tulip tree.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trip to Albuquerque New Mexico

I just got back from a very wonderful but way too short trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I went out there specifically to take some bee classes from Top Bar Hive (TBH) beekeeper Les Crowder. Les has been keeping bees for over 30 years and I consider him an expert in TBH. He is in the process of writing his book on the subject, which should be published by August of this year. You can read all about him on his website I took a Spring Maintenance Class. Les offers a series of different classes. One of his courses is a certification class in TBH Beekeeping; it is a series of several classes that encompass an Introduction to Beekeeping, Spring Hive Maintenance, Catching Swarms and Hive Removal, Summer Hive Maintenance, Queen Raising, Fall Hive Maintenance, and Making Wax Products. At the end of these classes you receive a certification in Natural TBH Beekeeping. It was wonderful to watch someone with 30 years of experience work the hives with expertise. I learned so many pearls to bring back with me to Miami. The spring maintenance class was exactly what I needed to learn, at this point in my beekeeping, since I am still trying to requeen my hives. Even though my hives aren’t exactly queenright, I did learn that I am doing what I need to do. Our seasons may be two months apart but I could still apply what he was teaching to my hives. I learned all about swarming, why bees swarm, and how to prevent them from swarming by looking for early signs of swarming. I learned about a mix origin divide, the use of smaller nucs to start a divide, how to prepare the hive for fall, how to make divides at different months of the year, how to evaluate a queen, how to manipulate the bars and comb within the hive. I took the same course both Saturday and Sunday as we worked different hives. I am so glad that I was able to experience these classes. I wish I lived closer so I could participate in the entire series. Unfortunately that would be geographically and financially impossible!!
The class on Saturday took place at a beautiful Visitor Center called the Open Space Center. During the day Les took us around the property to identify many different native plants. It is important as a beekeeper to be aware of what is in bloom and to provide your bees native plants for forage. The landscape in New Mexico is very different than Miami and Florida. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and wished again that we had so many beautiful flowers here in Florida. I took a very short video of some bumblebees in a garden of Rocky Mountain Pentstemon, Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, Coneflowers, Blanket Flowers, Wild Hyssop, and Blue Flax. We no longer have bumblebees in Florida that I am aware of. These were the biggest bumblebees I had ever seen. There were also many native bees in the garden too.
The weather and landscape was very dry compared to Miami. The sun was hot but no humidity at all, and the nights were cool. Gardening has to be very different in New Mexico as it only rains about twenty days out of the year. The Open Space Center had traditional gardens that showed ways to conserve water. I have taken many pictures of the flowers and landscape and will put them in a slide show so you can see the different plants and gardening techniques. One of the ways they conserve water is by creating a waffle garden. A waffle garden is basically a grid of 3’x3’ compartments surrounded by a raised border of low clay walls to contain water. Another type of garden is a Spanish Garden. In this garden are techniques and plants introduced by Spanish colonists. One technique was the use of ‘ollas’, or unglazed clay pots that can be filled with water. Ollas are buried in the garden with the neck and opening exposed and filled with water. The unglazed clay allows water to wick into the soil.
After Sundays class I got to drive up to Santa Fe, which was about an hour and a half from Albuquerque. The mountains were breathtaking, very dry in some places with little bushes of green, and then there were also some contrasting areas that were much more green and lush. I so enjoyed taking it all in. The ride went very quickly as I couldn’t get enough of the landscape and mountains. I drove to Santa Fe to meet Kate who has been mentoring me via email and phone calls. She has been very helpful!! She lives in a beautiful home surrounded with beautiful landscaping. Her bee hives are scattered around her yard. You could see bees flying throughout her garden. I had the opportunity to go into her hives with her and she spent time showing me different things. The evening was very special as I got to meet several of Kate’s friends and experience the Solar Eclipse. The Albuquerque/Santa Fe area was one of the best places in the country to visualize the eclipse. We had protective glasses so we could actually look at the sun. It was so bright that my eyes hurt after awhile. What made the evening so special was that I was able to spend time with several wonderful and interesting people and share such a special occasion. I feel that New Mexico has a different sense of respect of nature than here in South Florida. Maybe we take our beautiful environment, the beach, palm trees etc. for granted. It seems the people I met had a better sense of the importance of nature, and respected that importance.
My trip was wonderful. I would have liked to have spent some more time in Santa Fe however. I wanted to bring back something for my garden to remind me of my trip, but there just wasn’t enough time. I have a feeling I will return to New Mexico again. I would love to complete the certification series, although it may take several years to complete.
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