I am making my own lip balm this year as part of my homemade gift basket. This sounds much more insane Pinterest-mom than it is – I promise. I spend much more time sourcing appropriate containers than anything else, and that’s my favourite part. I mean, containers!
As a beekeeper, I also have access to a good chunk of beeswax, should I want to do the messy work of rendering it down.
A word about beeswax: know your source. I know you can buy those beeswax pebbles on Amazon and Etsy, but please, go to your local beekeeping association and get your wax through an actual beekeeper, and ask them how they manage their bees. As you probably know, keeping honeybees is a difficult job these days for a number of reasons. Plenty of beekeepers choose to fight off the many diseases by giving their bees medicines and antibiotics every year. These substances build up in the wax, which you are then putting on your lips. You don’t need to ask for organic beeswax, just say you’d like beeswax from someone doing natural beekeeping without medications. Small-scale beekeepers are more likely to work like this. Beekeepers are a funny lot, but most are happy to help you out, especially if you come with cash in hand. This is a good time of year to get it, too. I didn’t know anything about this until I started beekeeping myself.
On to the rest of it!
I bought empty lip balm tubes as I don’t like sticking my dirty fingers into a lip balm pot while out and about, but if you prefer that kind of container, there are lots out there. For decanting into your container, try using a [amazon_link id=”B00MH7SDS0″ target=”_blank” ]children’s medicine syringe[/amazon_link]. You can find them at most pharmacies, and it makes things much less messy, especially for decanting into the tubes.
Basic lip balm recipe ratios
Makes about 15-17 lip balms in tubes
40g coconut oil
1-2 tsp honey
- Melt the beeswax with the coconut oil. I do this in a mason jar sitting on a jar ring in a pot half-filled with water over medium-low heat. Whatever vessel you melt the wax in will become hopelessly covered in wax, so use something you can dedicate to the purpose. The pot will get a bit of wax scum on it too, fair warning!
- Once everything is melted, add the honey and stir to combine. Test the consistency of your lip balm by taking a small amount out on a spoon and letting it cool. Test it out! Too greasy? Add a bit more beeswax. Too stiff? Add a bit more coconut oil. If you add too much honey, it won’t mix in with the wax mixture.
- Get some tubes gathered together and standing upright. Whisk your wax mixture vigorously, and then pull some into your syringe and fill tubes madly to the top. Once the first round of tubes are filled, you will need to add a glob of balm to the top of each one. Pop on the lids and label them up.
A note on honey separation: I found that when I added too much honey to my mixture, when I filled the tubes, the honey would sink to the bottom. It’s easy to roll the lip balm out of the tubes and into your melting pot, and then wash the honey out of the tube (or, er, dip your finger in it and then wash it out with hot water…). You can remelt this lip balm as many times as you need to get the ratios right. The whisking before pulling up the melted balm helps distribute the honey as well, but some batches just wouldn’t come together for me.
I like telling people about our orchard, the 42 fruit trees in our rooftop garden, and watching their eyes go wide.
Well yes, but they are on dwarf root stock, so they grow in pots.
We partnered with TreeCity/TreeKeepers to procure our trees, pots and soil. One Saturday morning, a large group of us moved our trees from the basement to the roof, and planted all of them in pots. We have figs, pears, apples and crabapples spread out throughout our garden.
It will be a couple of years before they produce fruit, at the very earliest, but in the meantime the bees will be very pleased with the flowers.
It’s funny, in the past few weeks, a duck has nested in our garden, and then we waddled down five flights of stairs to the ground and walked a block to the pond in the park. We’ve planted fruit trees, started some of our spring crops, worked with our bees to make sure they’re set up for the spring nectar flows – you would never know we are deep in the city.
The pot with the string running to the roof in the first photo is actually hops, we have some keen microbrewers in our co-op.
This past weekend I attended Bee School, so now I feel slightly less mystified by our bees. Slightly less! Our instructor said taking care of bees is more work than having a dog but less than a human child. I’d say that’s about accurate, having both a dog and a small child. We’re watching one hive raise their own queen right now, and it’s fascinating.
Do your part to protect our pollinators and avoid pesticides and fungicides in your garden. Want to know more about bee-friendly plants? Here’s a good guide for the climate around Vancouver and Seattle. I’m going to order some bee garden blend from Westcoast Seeds and do a little, er, guerrilla planting in the neighbourhood for the benefit of our bees, and our sister bees over at Science World.
Photo above: one of our beautiful honeybees on a pear blossom.
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably have heard about the bees. I can’t stop talking about them, because I have been fascinated with the idea of keeping bees for ages.
When I worked at the arts centre in London, we had a hive on the roof of the concert hall. Hilariously named the Royal Festival Hive, it was also in the shape of the Festival Hall, and looked after at least partially by one of the guys from Saint Etienne. These crazy mashups are why I particularly miss working there. Anyway, we had artists in residence come up and sing to them, our poet in residence Lemn Sissay recited poetry for them – they were very cultured bees. Occasionally we hooked up microphones to the hive and ran cables down to the ground so people could hear the hive. The hive-keepers even had the National Poetry Library (located inside the Hall) look up bees in poetry. Apparently Sylvia Plath’s father was a beekeeper and she wrote quite a few bee poems herself. My favourite was a trio of singers who performed a selection of bee-related music, including a traditional English round first written in 1260.
We even had a party, and our one of our on-site bars made honey cocktails. It was a long night, I remember that much.
When the possibility arose that we could have a hive in our communal roof garden here at our co-op, I was beyond excited. Thankfully everyone else was keen, and from there things moved quickly. Late one evening last week, I helped Sarah from Hives for Humanity carry one of our hives up to the roof. The bees were so quiet, I couldn’t feel them at all.
The next morning, Elliot and I went up to put out the bees’ water dishes. I had no idea they need water dishes, but if you don’t put out somewhere suitable to drink, they will drown in fountains, or perch on the hosepipe scaring the landscapers. We used terra cotta plant saucers with different sized rocks in, as well as a few twigs for sitting on close to the water level. They seem to enjoy it, when I came out the same afternoon there were four or five on each one.
Our hives are sponsored by both Legacy Liquor, a lovely local neighbourhood shop, and Hives for Humanity. We will have the chance to watch the Chief Beekeeper from Hives for Humanity work on our hives, and hopefully learn a bit about beekeeping ourselves. After our first beekeeper visit, our bees have been pronounced happy and healthy. I admit, I sing to the bees when I bring them their water in the morning, in a bit of a homage to the old arts centre hive.