Welcome to Lovely Greens

My blog focuses on country living projects including diy tutorials, home cooking, and recipes for handmade bath and beauty products. Click this image to see my project gallery! All the best, Tanya from Lovely Greens x

DIY Healing Eczema Balm

Learn how to make a healing balm for dry and inflamed skin with this video tutorial. Made with Neem oil, it's a natural product perfect for those suffering from eczema and psoriasis.

Grow your own Beauty Garden

Learn how to create your own beauty products using flowers and herbs from your own garden. This is the first post in a series and focuses on the types of plants you can grow for different types of skin.

Learn how to make Crystallized Flowers

Unique, beautiful, and natural decorations for cakes and desserts

How to Make Natural Soap Series

This is the first of a four-part series showing how you can make your own handmade and natural soap at home.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Blackcurrant Rum Infusion Recipe

While at the allotment today I couldn't help noticing that my gardening neighbour had several bushes of blackcurrants just ready for picking. Sadly I don't have any of my own but feeling inspired, I trekked down to the PYO (pick your own) farm to buy some. It might be cheating but seeing those berries reminded me that I wanted to make a boozy blackcurrant infusion that I'd tried over at my friend's place a couple of years ago. When complete, the almost syrupy liqueur is fruity, sweet, and deceptively potent. Perfect for getting the party started!

Blackcurrant Infused Rum...aka Ribena for Adults

1/2 bottle Jamaican Rum or Gold Barbados Rum
Sugar and/or Agave Syrup

The method is incredibly simple. Start with half a bottle of rum then fill the rest of the bottle with blackcurrants. You want the berries to release as much of their flavour as possible so tear each one open as you pop it inside.

Once full, seal the top of the bottle and allow the berries to infuse in the rum for two months in a dark and cool place. Though my friend didn't mention it in her directions, I think I'll also give the bottle a shake every few days (or whenever I remember).

After the two months have passed, strain the liquid from the berries and add sugar and/or agave syrup to taste. The flavour should be rich, sweet, and delicious when sipped neat.

It's going to be tough keeping my fingers off this bottle or even waiting the full two months. If all goes to plan, it will be ready in time for my birthday in September. I have a mind to mix it into Champagne for a blackcurrant liqueur version of a Kir Royale. Yummy...I can't wait!

If you enjoyed this recipe for Blackcurrant Liqueur you might also want to check out my recipe for Blackcurrant wine. It's a bit more involved but will give you six bottles of delicious, fruity, homemade wine!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Siting a New Hive

This being the third year of being a beekeeper it's only natural that I have three hives. Beekeeping is highly addictive and seems to be the sort of hobby that appeals to hoarders...or maybe instigates cases of hoarding. You don't want to see a photo of my garage. Or attic. Anyway, doesn't everyone have a junk drawer?

Many beekeepers that I know of have at least eight hives if not fifteen or more and are constantly on the lookout for swarms to collect. The main challenge to beekeepers intent on adding to their collection is finding the space to put them. Often times you'll start with a hive in the back garden or a friend's field and then grow it into two and then three and then realise you need to find a second location to put any new bees.

My first two hives are located in gorse covered scrub land near my allotment and I put a lot of effort into clearing space just big enough for the two of them. Then I had a swarm last year and placed an empty nucleus near the hives in an attempt to lure the swarm into moving in. They didn't but I left the nuc box there a few weeks before I had the chance to bring it back. When I eventually got up there, I was surprised and delighted to find bees had moved in on the day I went to fetch the nuc back. Of course my friend I borrowed the nuc from still hasn't been given it back but it's heading in that direction shortly (a full year later!).

The new colony of bees thrived last summer and easily survived the mild winter. I'd planned on moving it to a new location in the spring but I didn't really know of a good location. There's no way I could have brought it back home and the other location I had in mind didn't pan out. Finally I put a request up on my Facebook page asking if anyone had space in the area. I really should have done it sooner because I had quite a few people message me back saying they were keen for me to put bees on their land.

One location in particular really caught my attention - it was in a field owned by the Manx government and was the site of a newly planted orchard. Though the baby trees and fruit bushes wouldn't provide much forage at first, the location was great and my bees could forage from the nearby glen and from the gardens of people in the surrounding area. Honeybees will travel 1.5 miles from their home to collect pollen, nectar, and propolis.

So one night before I left on my holiday I went up to where the nuc was, bound it in straps, and then placed a piece of cardboard over the entrance and duct taped it close. It nearly killed my back but I picked it up in one piece and stumbled with it uphill to my car. I have to admit that I tripped and nearly had a serious situation on my hands though. Fortunately we made it in one piece and after wedging the furiously buzzing box of bees in the boot, I slowly drove to the new site. I wonder what other drivers thought when they saw me driving at night in my beekeeping suit? Normally I'd have been laughing at the thought but the handmade nuc was banging around in the back every now and again. The thought of it tipping over and bees filling my car kept me soberly paying attention to every bump on the road.

Placing the bees in the new hive was simple. I smoked them bees then took the existing frames out of the nuc and put them into the new National hive. I poured as many bees that were left on top of the frames in the new hive and then placed the nuc next to the new hive. The remaining bees would have made their way into the new hive within minutes but it's best to leave the nuc overnight.

A month on and I'm happy to report that the bees have settled in and that they're putting down honey and producing loads of baby bees. I'll likely not take any honey from it this year but we'll see how much they have by the end of August. Maybe I can pull off a frame or two just so I can get a taste of what the new location is like.

So all is well with that little colony and now the only really pressing matter is noticing how much more space I have at the new site. I could potentially place more than a few hives alongside this one! Hmmm...more to consider.

Monday, 14 July 2014

My Trip Back Home

What a trip! It really doesn't feel as if it's over even though I've conquered my jet lag and unpacked my bags. Three weeks in the USA and it feels as if I could wake up tomorrow and go hang out with friends in Queen Anne or drop by my mom's for a barbecue. Modern communication and travel make 4500 miles seem right around the corner and I really wish it were because the twenty-four hour door-to-door trip is killer.

A lot has happened in my personal life since late last year and I've avoided mentioning it online in ways both deliberate and subconscious. The most life-changing factor is that my husband and I separated and are now divorced. I've tried not to let it affect my work and pursuits but I can't escape the fact that I have a lot more on my mind than ever before. Part of the reason for my trip back to Seattle was to re-evaluate and decide what my next steps will be. Even now I'm torn as to whether I'd like to stay on the Isle of Man or to move back home.

Seattle did its best to seduce me while I was there...with more than a little help from my friends and family I might add! Every day yielded gorgeous weather, a new activity, places to visit, and people to see. It's been years since I was back (far too long really) and the city felt both familiar and more exciting than it ever had in the past. I was told that it's now the fastest growing big city in the US and believe it. At times you could literally feel the buzz of a city full of vibrant young professionals.

I was also delighted by the greening of Seattle: regular Farmers Markets, Allotments (called P-Patches) in every neighborhood, open gardens, funky little bars and restaurants, and brilliant music and gigs. Though I do love the peace and tranquility of the Isle of Man I couldn't help imagining myself back in the Pacific Northwest. Being on holiday is a lot different than day to day life though so I'm going to give myself a bit of time before I make a decision.

As far as holidays go it was a blast! For the past few years I haven't been away from work for more than a week and the physical distance from my computer, customers, and stock was extremely stressful to start off with. I even had a moment of panic at one point since I desperately needed something off my computer to send to an online partner. I was going to have a friend stop by the house to send it for me but when I thought about it again I decided it wasn't as imperative as I thought. After a few days struggling with work guilt I did slide into enjoying being away from it all and having a good time.

Almost too much fun...I gained five pounds in three weeks! Have a look at some of the food I had and tell me that you blame me. Tacos, local berries and fruit, wild-caught salmon and crab, desserts galore and mind blowing cocktails. I was teased for taking pictures of food and grocery store interiors but the food choice was "amaze-balls". You'd think I hadn't grown up in the states by my fascination with American edibles.

Though the timing of my trip meant that I'd miss two big events back on the Isle of Man I planned it so that I could be there for the Fourth of July and to see one of my besties who would only arrive back by then. I'm sorry to miss anyone who looked for my stall at Tynwald Day or the Queenie Festival but I was having a ball watching fireworks and travelling around the Puget Sound those days!

Being back in the states for Independence Day was so much fun and the amount of fireworks set off over the days leading up to and after the fourth was incredible. It was like a war zone around my friend's house when we arrived back from Lake Tapps and I even managed to get burned by a malfunctioning Roman Candle at my Uncle's house...it tipped over and shot a charge up my SLEEVE from thirty feet away. What are the chances? A week and a half later and it's healing just fine thanks to an application of raw honey, lavender essential oil, and aloe vera.

Though the sights, smells, and food was amazing, the best part of the trip was seeing loved ones and friends I hadn't seen in years. I feel so lucky to have such amazing people in my life and even though I hadn't seen some of them in a long time, it felt as if no time had passed and we picked up from where we left off. True friendships know no boundaries of time or distance and I'm trying to console myself with the thought that no matter where I decide to live, the relationships that last are the ones that would have always lasted.

Now that I'm back on the Isle of Man I have a lot to think about. I spent the first few days cleaning the house, spending time with my cats (who weren't thrilled at all about being at a Cattery for three weeks!), seeing friends, and settling back into routine. So far I'm only spending the quiet moments when I'm lying in bed in the morning and evening to think about things - I've had almost no other time to do so.

Tomorrow I'm going to visit my overgrown allotment and look in on my bees. Over the past few months I've found myself spending less time doing the things I love and losing sight of my purpose. No matter what I decide as a long term location plan, it's time to get back on track with the things I'm passionate about and I'm going to start by weeding the heck out of my garden.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Juicing for Dogs and You too!

Did you know that dogs can benefit from the vitamins and minerals packed in fresh fruits and vegetables? Alex Kennedy, the brains and creative baker behind the doggy bakery Doggielicious shares a recipe today for a juice that you can drink yourself but also share with your canine companions!

I recently got into juicing and am in fact in the process of doing a 5 day detox (so am surrounded by fruit and veg!) So why am I doing it? Well, one to improve my health - sometimes your mojo disappears and you need something to bring it back into line again. Also it’s a natural way of being energized and it helps you lose a bit of weight. It’s a win-win situation.

However something total unexpected happened the other day when I was preparing a juice. I was putting the produce into my juicer and my dog Amber came over looking interested. Given that she loves food it didn’t surprise me very much. Once I had juiced everything and sat down to drink it she was still interested so I let her have a finger-full. To say she liked it would be the understatement of the year!

So I thought about creating a recipe that you could make for both yourself and your dog to enjoy together. The recipe below is a mixture of sweet and sour and is packed full of minerals and vitamins. Unlike artificial juices, which will give you and your dog a rollercoaster of a ride on refined sugars, this juice will provide energy and nutrition in a very natural way.

The Green Energizer
you may have to double up if you want to make one for you and your dog.

¼ medium pineapple (I remove the skin and cut it into medium pieces)
1 large handful of spinach (see tips section)
¼ medium cucumber
½ medium courgette/zucchini
1 medium carrot
15 sugar snap peas
1 small handful ice cubes (for the human version, not the dogs)

Tips for preparing and juicing

Get the right juicer – There are lots of juicers on the market and it’s difficult to tell which one is the best. The juicer I use is a fusion type which has a low induction motor, meaning you get more and better quality juice. There are a number of other types out there so if you haven't got one at the moment then I suggest you do a bit of research to see which one will suit you best.

Remove the seeds from the fruit and veg if you are juicing for your dog. This is particularly important in the case for apples. Whilst many dogs love apples, which is great, as they contain calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and pectin (soluble fibre) the seeds and stems in fresh apples contain cyanogenic glycosides which can cause tummy upset and more serious problems if consumed in large quantities.

Juicing leaf vegetables (spinach, kale etc.) To get the best amount of juice from a leaf veg roll it gently into to a ball and then when putting it into the juicer wedge it between two harder pieces of fruit.

Can I grow these ingredients on my allotment?
Yes you can grow all of them bar the pineapple (not unless you live in a sunny climate).

Things that might surprise you about the ingredients:

Pineapple contains calcium and potassium. Frozen pineapple, in small quantities, can be a fun summer treat for your dog. It can also help in stopping your dog eating its own poop – not very pleasant!

Spinach contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin K, beta-carotene and plant crude fibre, which can promote gastrointestinal peristalsis and improve defecation. Vitamin C and vitamin K can promote healthy bones for dogs. If you have an anaemic dog, feeding spinach may be more helpful, because spinach is rich in foliate and iron, which can improve blood circulation and treat anaemia.

Cucumber provides a good low calorie filler with meals and an excellent treat.

Courgette (zucchini) is actually great as it is low in fat, and has many nutrients, it is a great food to give to dogs.

Carrots are safe for your dog and make excellent low calorie filler with meals or as a treat. Only use ever raw or frozen raw carrots as canned carrots are loaded with salt.

Sugar Snap Peas (mangetout) are a great source of vitamins A, C thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

Other ideas for the juice.

Ice Lollies - If you and your dog are feeling a tad hot you can make lollies or ice cubes!! It’s fun for both you and your dog and it’s also a natural way of getting the vitamins and minerals for you both. Beware of recipes out there that recommend fruit juice you buy in your local store they tend to be full of sugar.

Don’t throw away your pulp! - Make some handmade dog treats with it: mix about two cups of pulp, an egg and a half cup of oats, until you get a reasonably stiff mixture. Press it flat onto a baking sheet and cut it into squares using a pizza cutter.  Bake the treats in the oven for two hours at 100 degrees C or 200 degrees F. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Warnings Juice is not a substitute for fresh drinking water, which should be available to your dog at all times. As this is a fresh juice recipe it should be consumed pretty much after it's been made. It can be stored in the fridge for a day but any longer and they should be frozen.

Visit this link for more details on fruit and veg your dog should not eat

Alex Kennedy is the owner Doggielicious, an online store dedicated to dogs. She makes all sorts of produce ranging from birthday cakes for dogs to some very scrummy everyday treats. Her websites are www.doggielicioustreats.com and her blog where you can get her recipes, tips and news is www.doggielicious-blog.com.

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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes

There's absolutely nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato picked right off the plant. One bite and all those debates on whether it's a fruit or a vegetable go straight out the window. The flavourless tomatoes you buy at the shop just cannot compare to the sweet and juicy treasures you can grow yourself. Today Kelly from My Soulful Home gives us some tips on how to grow your own. If you think it's difficult, think again and read on! 

Got six hours of sunlight? Got some dirt and a pot? Then you can grow tomatoes! It is almost that simple. Follow my advice and you will have bumper crop of sweet, juicy, red orbs all summer long.

If you are a follower of Lovely Greens you probably already know why you should grow your own tomatoes: better nutrition, better taste & more choices.

But maybe you don't know how. Well then read on! Even if you do know read on... You might pick up a tip or two that will take your harvest from steady to abundant. I also have a wonderful easy recipe to share.

There are 3 basic types of tomatoes fruits:
  • cherry/grape
  • paste
  • slicing
There are two types of tomato plants:
  • Determinate - grows to a certain height and stops ( good for containers )
  • Indeterminate - keeps on growing & vining ( needs to be trellised )

All tomatoes flourish in a well drained rich organic soil with 6 hours of sunlight & plenty of water.

For an all natural way to feed those hungry plants try my three secrets. You probably have them in your kitchen right now.

Tomatoes benefit from deep roots. They just like it that way and it certainly helps keep them upright and in the ground when laden down with heavy fruit.

To give your plants a solid foundation you can dig a deep hole & sink the plant in so only the top several branches are above the soil line.

If you have new gangly plants you can dig a trench and lay them sideways and cover all but the top several branches with soil. They will soon be standing tall reaching for the sun.

When planting deep pick off the lower branches & leaves so only the stem is underground. Also pinch off the suckers as the plant grows. Those are the branches that grow from the V between the stem & a strong branch. These "suckers" will not produce fruit and will suck the energy from the production.

Once your tomato plants are producing lots of fruit, you will need some recipes. Here is my favorite just about right off the vine tomato recipe….my tomato, mozzarella and basil skewers.

Drizzled with olive oil, sea salt & fresh pepper or not, these are perfect little bites and great for parties or just for snacking.

It is truly easy to grow tomatoes once you know what they like & how to provide the best conditions for them to flourish. Just a bit of effort is rewarded with a season ripe with juicy goodness.

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Thanks so much to Tanya for having me over to guest post. I look forward to hearing your comments, answering questions and having you over to My Soulful Home. If you like what you read you can follow me there, on Pinterest or Facebook. I wish you a bountiful season!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

How to Make Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable Wines

I'm very pleased to reintroduce you to a guest blogger who first appeared on Lovely Greens a year ago. Since then, Ben's piece on making your own Country Wines has proven especially popular and has no doubt helped many get started making their own wine at home. Today he's expanding on his first post with his piece called 'A' is for Apple - a Wine Alphabet.

Last year, Tanya asked me to write a guest blog in her ‘DIY Homesteading’ series about my wine making activities. I was honoured to do so, and received positive feedback from her readers. Much of this centred around a flippant comment I made, saying that I wanted to make at least one wine for each letter of the alphabet. My quest continues, and here is how I am getting on.

Essentially there are three types of country wine: fruit, flower and vegetable. I will use all three to reach my goal, and the basic method for each is a little different. Below I have produced a skeleton recipe for each, and you can adapt them to suit whatever ingredient you want to use. Often this will be dictated by your garden surpluses, or what looks cheap in the market.

There are of course many letters where I have made multiple wines, and my list below is a suggestion for your starting point. The letters B and E are particularly traumatic in recommending just one wine. Blackberry or Blackcurrant? Elderberry or Elderflower? All are excellent, and you should try each one. However, I have picked Blackberry for B because it is easier to source the fruit, and Elderflower for E as it is a flower wine, and my list is mostly fruit.

You will note that there is only one vegetable in the list, unless you count Rhubarb. Prune wine is genuinely nice. Beetroot is okay, as is Peapod. Potato and Celery are not. My wines are mostly made from fruit. Fruit, after all, is sweeter and juicier than either vegetables or flowers and it is no coincidence that grapes are fruit!

A – Apple (of course). One recipe I tried called for 24 lbs, but that is excessive. Use 6 lbs fruit.
B – Blackberry. This is exquisite, easy, and virtually free. Use 4 lbs fruit.
C – Cherry. I have only made this once (and yet to drink a bottle) but it tasted fabulous on bottling. Use 6 lbs fruit.
D – Dandelion. This gets better the longer you store it. Try for at least 2 years. Use 6 pints flowers.
E – Elderflower. Irritating to make (all that flower plucking) but summer in a glass. Use 1 pint of flowers.
F – Fig. I have only helped make this, and not tasted it, so don’t know if it is successful. Use 6 lbs fruit
G – Gooseberry. When it succeeds, this is possibly the best white. It doesn’t always, though. Use 6 lbs fruit.
H – Hawthorn Blossom. My only H, and rather bland. Use 4 pints of flowers.
– I have yet to tick this off.
J – Another missing letter
K – Kiwi Fruit. I have only done this once, and had one bottle, but enjoyed that. Use 5 lbs fruit.
L – Lemon & Lime. My only L and still in its demijohn. I used 11 small lemons and 4 limes.
M – I haven’t done this yet, and am thinking ‘Mango’.
N – Nettle. Don’t bother. But if you must, treat it as a flower wine and use 4 pints of nettle tops.
O – Orange. One of my regulars, with a sharp taste. Use 12 oranges.
P – Prune & Parsnip. This produces a sherry-like wine and is fabulous. Use 2 lbs of parsnips and 8 oz prunes.
Q – Quince. Floral, yet dry. Use 20 quinces.
R – Rhubarb. This comes close to tasting like real wine. Use 3 lb fruit.
S – Strawberry. Delicious and refreshingly dry. Use 5 lbs fruit.
T – Tea. Again, don’t bother. It isn’t fruit, vegetable or flower. Use 2 oz tea if you must.
U – This will be difficult. I don’t know where or when to source Ugli Fruit.
V – By the time you read this, I hope to have made Vanilla Wine . But for the moment, it is untried.
W – Whitecurrant. I made this last year, but have yet to drink a bottle. It tasted good on bottling. Use 3 lb fruit.
X – Xmas Tutti Frutti. Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, but how else am I going to get an X? It is all the leftover fruit in my freezer at Christmas. Use whatever is in your freezer.
Y – Not done. Yam wine anyone?
Z – This will be my last letter to tick off. I will pander to my half-American heritage, and do Zucchini.

Ingredients for Fruit Wine
A quantity of fruit – usually between 3 to 6 lbs (1.3-2.6 kg) (see above)
6 ½ pints (130 fluid ounces) (3.7 litres) Water
3 lbs (1.3 kg) Sugar
1 teaspoon Wine maker’s yeast
1 teaspoon Yeast nutrient
1 teaspoon Pectolase

1. Sterilise all equipment you are going to use. (NB – you must repeat this every time you begin a new stage in wine-making. I have a useful, if long, footnote about it here. It deals with many other things besides and is worth reading.)
2. If using soft fruit (e.g. berries) crush it in your bucket with a potato masher. If hard fruit (e.g. apples), chop them into small pieces – using a food processor helps – and put those in the bucket.
3. Boil the water and pour over the fruit.
4. Add the sugar and stir.
5. Leave 24 hours, and add the yeast, nutrient and Pectolase.
6. Between four and seven days later (depending on when is most convenient to you) strain the fruit out and put the liquid into a demijohn.
7. Let the demijohn sit for approximately 2 months, preferably in your warmest room (but don’t over-worry about the temperature).
8. Siphon the liquid off its sediment into a new demijohn, picking up as little sediment as possible.
9. Top up the gap left in the new demijohn with a sugar and water syrup. As a rough guide, the ratio of water to sugar should be a pint : six ounces (0.5 litres : 150 grams) but you may need more or less of this, depending on the sediment’s size.
10. Leave the demijohn to stand until at least 6 months after starting the wine and bottle.

Vegetable and Flower wines are only subtly different in ingredient and method to Fruit wines.

Ingredients for Vegetable Wine
A quantity of vegetables – usually between 2 to 6 lbs (0.9-2.6 kg)
7 ½ pints (150 fluid ounces) (4.25 litres) Water
3 lbs (1.3 kg) Sugar
1 teaspoon Wine maker’s yeast
1 teaspoon Yeast nutrient
1 teaspoon Pectolase

1. Chop the vegetables into small pieces (don’t peel them) and put into a pan with the water.
2. Bring water to the boil and simmer for half an hour.
3. Pour the water into a bucket, discarding the vegetables (or saving them for soup)
4. Continue the Fruit Wine method from stage 4 (though for stage 6, ignore the bit about straining out fruit).

Ingredients for Flower Wine
A quantity of flower petals – between 1 and 6 pints (0.6-3.4 litres) (see above)
6 pints (120 fluid ounces) (3.4 litres) Water
A carton of white grape juice (in the UK this comes in 1 litre cartons)
2 Lemons
3 lbs (1.3 kg) Sugar
1 teaspoon Wine maker’s yeast
1 teaspoon Yeast nutrient
1 teaspoon Grape tannin (or a small mug of cold black tea)
1 teaspoon Pectolase

1. Thinly peel the lemons, trying to avoid the pith, and put the peel in your bucket with the flowers and grape juice.
2. Squeeze the lemons and pour juice into the bucket.
3. Boil the water and pour into the bucket. (Alternatively, for elderflower I put in cold water, but I add a crushed Campden tablet to remove any yeast on the flowers.)
4. Continue from stage 4 for the fruit wine. The tannin goes in at the same time as the yeast.

Now you have these three basic methods, you can make up your recipes – though (at least to begin with) refer to a wine recipe book or blog for exact quantities and variations to these methods.

Ben Hardy is the author ofBen’s Adventures in Wine Making’, a wine-making book published by The Good Life Press. When not brewing, he can be found playing the bassoon or being a property solicitor in Leeds. For more on his wine making exploits, please visit his blog and to read his first piece on wine making please visit this link.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Getting Started Keeping Honeybees

I am especially pleased to introduce this week's guest blogger on Lovely Greens, Linda Tillman of Linda's Bees. A Master Beekeeper with over 1170 pieces on her blog, she writes about her own beekeeping experiences as well as provides invaluable information for newbie beekeepers. In this guest post, Linda gives a fantastic introduction to getting started with keeping bees but if you'd like to learn more, please head over to her blog for more in-depth information.

The smell of the beehive is delicious and alluring. That alone is worth it. The buzz of the bees as they go about their daily work is entrancing. Watching them can occupy hours of my time. The taste of honey is delectable, whether off the tip of my finger as I go through a hive, or out of the honey jar after harvest.

I am a beekeeper and I love it.

Beekeeping is both an art and a science. The draw of keeping bees has been part of the history of man and honey was found, thick and still tasty, in the Egyptian tombs. Honey never goes bad, never spoils, but that is part of the science of beekeeping and I am getting ahead of myself.

Requirements to get started:
1. Curiosity about bees (passion develops over time and experience)
2. A place to put your beehive (this is simpler than it might seem)
3. A budget for equipment (and bees)

Years before I started keeping bees, I read books about bees. Mostly those books were poetic and romantic such as The Queen Must Die by William Longgood and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved it that Sherlock Holmes was a beekeeper. And then there are Mary Oliver’s many lovely poems about bees, particularly “Hum.”

As I prepared to keep bees, I read books about the science of beekeeping. The more I read both books and on Internet forum posts, I realized that I wanted to keep bees as naturally as possible. My father was a doctor and he never took any medicine himself because he said there are always side effects. I couldn’t see any reason to think any differently about bees and the beehive. So the books I then chose to read were more about keeping bees without the use of pesticides or treatment in the hives.

Here is where the fuzzy line between beekeeping as an art and beekeeping as a science begins. Every beekeeper has to take a philosophical stand about the use of treatment in the beehive. I prefer a treatment free approach, so my favorite books are The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping by Stiglitz and Herboldsheimer and Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad. If you want to keep bees, read for yourself and make informed decisions about how to manage the inevitable pests in the hive.

The next focus in getting ready to keep bees is deciding where to put them. People today keep beehives everywhere and anywhere. Hives are on the tops of buildings in New York City. My first hives were on the deck of my house just a few feet from my back door.

The main things to keep in mind in locating hives are:

1. Will you have easy access to them? If they are hard to get to, you will learn less from them because you will go there less frequently. And your bees will get less attention from you.
2. Can they face east or southeast? The sun hitting the hive entry first thing in the morning gets the bees out and working.
3. Will they get at least a half day of sun and are they in a dry location? The sun helps keep the small hive beetle at bay and generally helps the hive thrive.
4. Is there a water source? If there isn’t, you can provide one such as a pan with pebbles in it filled with water. The bees can’t swim so they need the pebbles for landing. If you do not provide a water source, the bees will use your neighbors’ swimming pools and you will be a target for complaint.
5. Will you be able to manage your neighbors’ concerns? My hives on my deck were masked by a hedge so that the neighbors were not reminded every day that I had bees on my deck. Hives that I manage at an inn face a fence so that they fly out and up and are high in the air before they reach the neighbors’ yards.

Finally you need to purchase equipment and find a source for bees.

An exact bee space of 5/16” is required for bees to move about and function in their hive. This informs the way man made beehives are built and how the frames for the bees to live on are constructed. Luckily there are bee equipment companies that make equipment for beekeepers. They build the hive boxes according to the specifications needed by the bees.

I make my hive box decisions by thinking about weight. I want to keep bees until I am old and feeble, so I use all medium Langstroth boxes. Their weight, even full of honey, is manageable for me. Also I can move frames around in the hive, if I need to, because all of the frames I am using fit all of my boxes. You’ll have to decide what type of hive equipment configuration will work for you.

In the United States, a basic hive includes a couple of boxes for brood and then boxes for honey. A beginning hive here would need at least a total of four boxes to make it through a season. Other countries use different configurations. In Lithuania where I traveled last year to look at beehives and meet beekeepers, the bees were kept in chest configurations. Instead of stacking up boxes to make the hive taller and taller as we do in the United States, they continuously removed honeycomb and added empty frames for the bees to continue storage and growth.

Once you’ve set up your hives, you are ready for your bees. Bees can be ordered and actually arrive through the postal service. I prefer to order nucleus hives and pick them up from the supplier. A nucleus hive is a mini-beehive, with a laying queen, bees, honey, pollen. You install this mini hive into a bigger hive box and the bees take it from there.

An exciting way to collect bees is to capture a swarm. Every year the hive is inclined to split in two in a Darwinian way of increasing the species. The queen leaves with half of the bees, mostly the young ones. She and her retinue then begin a new hive. If the beekeeper can find and capture a swarm, it’s a gift from nature. Often they are hanging from a tree or shrub and are easy to get.

Once your bees are installed in your hive, your beekeeping responsibilities begin. It is now your job to take care of your thousands of little charges. Your main responsibilities include inspecting your hive to make sure the queen is alive and functioning and giving the bees enough space and resources to live. I always try to think respectfully about the beehive and recognize that I am entering uninvited. I move slowly and carefully to honor their tiny lives.

Along the way you’ll get to harvest honey, if you are lucky, and the bees make enough to get themselves through the winter. The beekeeper only takes what’s extra after the bees are prepared to survive the cold months. And the beekeeper only takes fully capped honey that is below 18.6 percent moisture, which is why honey can be completely fine after being in the Egyptian tombs. Real honey (below 18.6% moisture) can’t mold.

Beekeeping has taught me so much and introduced me to so many interests. I now check the weather every day; know a lot about construction; pay attention to the botany of my area and what is in bloom; am informed and care about sex and the honeybee; and have learned to use the products of the hive. I make lip balm, lotion, candles and soap. I melt wax in the sun almost every day in the summer.

My house smells deliciously of honey and wax when any bee action has taken place that day. I love the bees and hope you will join the great beekeeping adventure with your own hives.

Linda Tillman lives in the middle of urban Atlanta and keeps her bees in her postage-stamp backyard. She has been keeping bees for nine years and is passionate about her tiny charges. She manages about eighteen hives in various parts of the city and tries to maintain her beekeeping in a treatment free manner. When not talking about her bees or working in her hives, Linda is a clinical psychologist, a grandmother, a bread baker (every week) and a blogger. Linda started her blog, Linda's Bees, so her family would know about her beekeeping activities, but it has grown to be a source of experience and information for beekeepers all over the world.

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