Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Citrus time

Over the last couple of weeks we've been getting some pretty stormy weather, lots of rain and it's been cold with southerly winds. At this time of the year, when we get a day with some sunshine it's a welcome break. Apart from a few showers this morning, today was pretty calm and sunny. The washing even dried on the line for a change!

Here on CTF the citrus trees are producing. This year we've had quite a good harvest of reasonable sized mandarins, the Satsuma variety in particular has been the best we've had so far.

The mandarin trees are only small, most of them only about 1m high and only a few years old. They are in quite a sheltered north-facing spot and I have been feeding them regularly. Despite the Summer droughts they seem to be doing a lot better than our other citrus trees which are in a much more exposed position.

This is our Seville orange tree, planted near to the mandarins so also in a sheltered position. It's also very small but bearing fruit. The fruit is not ready yet though - one we picked and tried was really sour! (UPDATE - have since realised - doh - that this orange is supposed to be sour! It is a cross between a tangelo and a mandarin and great for making marmalade.)

The one citrus tree I'm really looking forward to bearing fruit though is the 'blood' orange. I think it may be a few years off doing so at this stage as it is less than 1m high now.

Other citrus varieties we have are grapefruit, Rangpur limes, lemons (Meyer, Lisbon, Yen Ben), lemonades, kaffir lime and tangelo. The lemons are still a way off producing, but the limes are really quite hardy and the lemonade tree has a fair few fruit on it this year, although not yet ripe.

What citrus do you grow and what is your favourite?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Rain and photo

It is pouring with rain here, but the worst of the hail storms have passed over thankfully. We're now getting cold southerly winds and it's not a day for being outdoors!

On a different topic, this morning while searching the net I found this old photograph of a huge cabbage tree:

A large 'cabbage tree' (ti kauka - Cordyline australis) in flower, with two men under it
 A large 'cabbage tree' (ti kauka - Cordyline australis) in flower, with two men under it. Harding, William James, 1826-1899 :Negatives of Wanganui district. Ref: 1/1-000492-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Have a great day!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Making beeswax

OK so the credit must of course go to the bees rather than me for actually making the beeswax.... All I've done is just clean it up and let it solidify into nice blocks which I can then use for all sorts of crafts.

I was very fortunate to be given a lot of "cappings" from a local beekeeper. Cappings, from my limited knowledge of  beekeeping  - so correct me if I'm wrong,  are essentially bits of the honeycomb and are leftover from when the honey is extracted. From the photos below I will show you how to process these cappings and turn them into lovely blocks of pure beeswax. It is an easy process, albeit time consuming and a bit messy. 

First off I soaked the cappings in a bucket of water overnight to help wash off the honey residue. I strained the cappings and then put them into my rice cooker with a cup or so of water. I hasten to add that I will no longer be using this rice cooker for cooking rice since it is near impossible to clean all the wax off (even if I wanted to try)! You will notice I've put newspaper down to protect the garage floor, just in case of any spills.

Next I put some water in my rice cooker, maybe a cup or so, then filled up the pan with cappings. I turned the cooker on to "cook" to melt the wax. This happens quite fast, maybe 20 or so minutes. I turned the pan often to agitate the wax to allow for better melting. I should note that it is necessary to keep a close eye on the wax during this process, as it can eaisly boil and there is a risk of it catching fire. If it looked close to boiling, I turned it to the "warm" function. When it was completely melted, I turned the cooker off altogether.

Next step was to fill the molds with wax. I used a combination of old milk cartons and some square plastic containers that used to contain baking soda (400g). The milk cartons did not require any priming but I sprayed the plastic ones with oil to help with the removal of the hardened wax later.
Using my ladle with handy pourer I scooped out wax and ladled it into the molds straining it through muslin that I had secured over the tops of the containers using a rubber band.

Once all the wax was used up, the molds were filled, the wax was left to cool and harden (overnight).
I removed the wax from the molds and repeated the process until I had used up all of the cappings.
So that's basically one way to process beeswax. I will probably melt and strain it all again before using to clean it up even more. I will say this though, it takes a lot of cappings to get a decent amount of wax. From twice filling the rice cooker I got 810g of wax.

NOTE- The water added to the pan separates from the wax and can easily be drained away. I did this into a bucket and put it on the garden. For all the cleaning up afterwards too, I used a bucket and very hot water. The used muslin and the 'brown gunk' left behind from cleaning the wax went into the compost. As you would imagine, it is not a good idea to tip anything from this process down your sink as once cooled any wax will block up your plumbing!

Now I have a good amount of wax to use in various craft projects, lip balm, hand cream, candles (maybe tealights to start off) etc.

Have you processed beeswax? How did you do it? What do you use it for?