Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Bees at Home: Projects in Progress

Our blog has taken you to the farm, to knit night, and to our planning meetings, but we thought it might be about time to show you some of the crafty things us Bees work on in our spare time. Most of the time, we've all got something (or a few things!) in progress at home, so we're going to start showcasing them on the blog a little bit! Hopefully this will give us more motivation to get these projects finished, and maybe inspire you to start (or finish?) a project you've had on the go as well!

First, Kate is working on an assignment for her program at Sheridan - embroidering a number of fashion related pieces. She's working them into this AMAZING dress she designed, which she'll then have modeled and photographed to create a look-book:

Second, Meg is working on an alphabet crewelwork sampler. Using all the standard stitches, this piece is interesting and enjoyable, and will likely take a while to complete. Every letter is totally different, and the colors are super fun!

Next, our east-coast member, Anna, has been naturally dyeing some silk. The growing seasons in Nova Scotia are a little shorter than in Ontario, so when she moved back there recently she managed to just catch the end of the Goldenrod flowers. Anna dyed a piece of satin silk tied up with shibori knots (see second picture). Anna said that the color was very subtle, but a lovely muted yellow-green came through and with a simple rolled edge it will make an elegant scarf.

Last, Hollie has been working on a quilt! This is her first attempt at one, and she started all the way back in January with the guidance of quilting pro Melanie. Progress was halted due to a busy summer and a finicky old sewing machine. She recently acquired a new-to-her machine for her birthday and has been getting back at it. She chose bright and busy fabric and a simple half-triangle design for her first quilt. She's looking forward to finishing it any day now!

So, there's a little sneak-peek into some of our current projects! If you've posted your progress on a piece you've been tackling, feel free to link to it below, as we'd love to see! Happy crafting!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Real Bees!

It's no secret that we're big fans of bees over in these parts. Within the last couple of years, I personally have taken a great interest in beekeeping, and dream of one day having a backyard hive of my own. When our friend Brandi decided to put bees up on the farm that we all help out on, it was like a dream come true. I was lucky enough to help Brandi, along with our friend Sean, with her first ever honey harvest a couple of weeks ago.

Oh, and just a little sidenote before we get into it - Brandi is an actual descendant of Old MacDonald. As in, Old MacDonald had a farm. Ee i ee i o. Pretty perfect for a modern beekeeping farmer, no?

Brandi has two colonies up at the farm. The first one she got in the early Spring, and the second one she added mid-Summer. It's seemed as though it was a productive year for the bees, but being Brandi's first year she wasn't sure what to expect. The three of us got together on a rainy afternoon ready to work like worker bees.

After Brandi removed the honey supers from the hives and brought them to the barn, the next step was to remove the layer of beeswax that the bees cap the combs with once they are full of honey. We took turns doing this carefully with hot knives. You can buy high-tech beekeeping electric knives that stay continually hot, but a kettle full of boiling water did the trick well enough for us.

The frames were then put into the extractor that Brandi borrowed from her fellow beekeeper friend Jess. An extractor works by placing the frames within a barrel, and then spinning them around. This removes the honey by flinging it out and allowing it to collect at the bottom of the barrel, while doing no damage to the frames so that they can be used again in the hive.

While we watched the motor running on the extractor, Sean (owner of  Downtown Bike Hounds, and a serious bike enthusiast) came up with the incredible idea of making our own extractor powered by the pedals of a bike. Maybe next year that's how we'll be doing things.

And then liquid gold poured out when we opened the spigot at the bottom of the extractor drum.

At this point, the honey is still full of small bits of wax and other debris, so it is poured into food grade containers with very fine filters, and is left to drip drip drip slowly over a period of days. It was impossible for us not to sample the goods at this point, and man oh man, I've never had better honey in my life. Sweet and floral and fragrant. We wanted to bathe in it.

Between her two hives, Brandi ended up with around 12 gallons of honey from her harvest. Not too shabby! And really, the bees did most of the work! I'm so grateful to Brandi for letting me help out and learn some of the ropes of harvesting honey. Now all I have to do is convince my husband to let me put that (illegal) backyard hive in our yard.