Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Sarsaparilla Soda

On hot summer days, I like to drink soda.  I purchase the more expensive brands (A&W move out of the way!) because I don't drink soda all that often, and when I do, I like to really enjoy it.  Jon decided last summer to try making our own soda.  Recently we made Sarsaparilla!
We got this recipe from Homemade Root Beer, Soda, and Pop by: Stephen Cresswell

3 to 4 quarts of water
9 T chopped dried sarsaparilla root
5 T chopped dried sassafras root bark
1/4 cup raisins, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. yeast (we use champagne yeast)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a simmer.  As the water heats, add the chopped roots, chopped raisins, and sugar.  Simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let cool for 30 minutes.

2. After the sarsaparilla mixture has cooled 30 minutes, pour it slowly into a jug with 1 quart of cool water, straining as you pour.  (I use a one gallon jar with a metal lid).  Fill the jug to the top with water until there is about a 2 inch headspace.

3.  In a small bowl, proof the yeast----add yeast to 1/4 cup lukewarm water.

4. Shake the water & sarsparilla mixture in the jug vigorously for about a minute. 

5.  Add the yeast mixture to the jug and agitate vigorously again. 

6.  To reduce the sediment that will settle to the bottom, use a coffee filter to catch the debris.  Pour the mixture into your sterilized bottles.  Cap and let sit for 48-72 hours.  After 48 hours, check the carbonation.  When the carbonation is right, refrigerate and use within 6 weeks. 

Makes 7, 12-ounce bottles. 

This was our first attempt at making sarsaparilla.  Next time we will use less sassafras root bark and add a vanilla bean for a little milder flavor.  The carbonation results were pretty impressive---probably the result of the champagne yeast.  In the past, our soda results had a strong yeasty smell and flavor because we were using brewer's yeast.  Champagne yeast doesn't produce that yeasty smell and taste, but it certainly produces the bubbles quite nicely!!

Queenless Problem Fixed but I'm Still Waiting for Honey...

Funny thing happened last week---one of my hives swarmed...again!  This time I witnessed them leaving their swarm spot in the tree going to their new home; so I have no idea which hive this swarm came from or when the swarm happened.  Thankfully it was a small swarm and I couldn't keep it anyway because my hives are full.  It was an amazing sight to witness though because they moved together in a swirling motion as one large cloud as they went across my yard and then across the street in the wooded area behind my neighbor's house.  I don't know where their final resting place was, but I have been told there is a beekeeper on that street so hopefully the bees will be taken care of.

Today I decided to check both hives.  The queenless hive that I had introduced the swarm to, now has larvae so I know there is a queen present in this hive. Whew!  There is always the fear of killing or injuring the queen during the swarm catch and transfer into the hive.

For any beekeepers reading this, I need your help!  Both hives have had honey supers on for almost two months now and there is no new comb built!  Last summer one hive drew out about 3 frames of comb and partially capped honey so I saved it for this year because I didn't think it was worth the time to harvest that little bit of honey.  The only frames that have comb built this year, are those same frames that were built last year (they have repaired the broken comb, added more honey, and capped it).  I've taken the queen excluders off for two weeks to give the queen a chance to walk on the frames to emit her pheromones; and I've smeared sugar syrup all over the frames to entice them.  Nothing seems to work.  The brood boxes in both hives are absolutely packed to the gills with nectar and capped honey.  In fact, if I remove frames, I end up destroying comb and capped honey (which becomes a real mess) because they build the frames out really wide.  Help anyone??

Update: July 22,2011
This week I sent an email to the Zenger Farm bee listserve about the bees not building wax in the honey supers.  One member suggested I spread melted beeswax onto the frames to entice the bees.  I decided to give this a try!  Honeybees just love beeswax and are drawn to it...quickly.  I forgot to close the back door and had several visitors in my home.  No big deal really, just a reminder...

I melted the beeswax in a stainless steel pan that I dedicate to beeswax melting only

Using an old pastry brush, I spread the wax on the front and back of all frames.  Just like the pan, this pastry brush will now only be used for beeswax. 

Solar Wax Melter

Another project out of the woodshop this month!  We found a lot of great designs for solar wax melters online, and decided to combine a lot of the ideas into this wax melter.  Everything you see here is reused materials.  The wood came from scrap wood from miscellaneous project; the handles are chair legs leftover from the milk stool project.  The window came from our house when we replaced the windows 2 years ago;  the black sheet metal is leftover scraps from the solar food dehydrator project; and the silver sheet metal came from a random thing a friend gave us attached to a canvas bag (she thinks it was a grass catcher for a lawn mower).  The screen with large holes is leftover from a big piece we bought for catching leaves in the rain gutters.  All in all, the project was fairly simple and free to build.  Ideally all of the sheet metal should be black to absorb the heat and increase the temperature, but we are trying to be resourceful and use what we have.  I don't like the idea of using black spray paint like others have suggested.  The dimensions of this melter are 17x26 inches.  My husband did a little research and found the suggested angle for the melter is 20 degrees.

To give this wax melter a good trial run, I melted a lot of brood comb and some broken wired wax foundation.  Brood comb is old comb in the bottom of the hive where the nursery, honey, and pollen stores are located.  This wax was given to me from Zenger Farm, an urban farm located about 3 miles from my house.  

Melting Point of Beeswax: 144 to 147 °F

This is a pile of comb that was taken from the brood boxes. It's darker than honey super comb.

When the sun hides behind the clouds and the temperature drops, the wax immediately hardens.  It's pretty amazing that this bright yellow wax came from the dark comb.

Here is the final product----golden yellow and smells wonderful!  I lined the box with waxed paper so the wax can easily be removed with no sticking.

I used an old diaper changing cover for the filter.  You could use a sheet, t-shirt, or anything to catch the small debris.  I wouldn't bother using cheesecloth because you'd need several layers and it's one more thing to buy. Let's be resourceful and use what we have.

This picture shows something you don't do: put plastic foundation in the melter.  I was like, "Duh! What am I thinking?!"  The temperature gets too hot and will warp the foundation.  I am humble enough to show my mistakes.  ; )

I thought it'd be helpful to list a few tips if you're interested in solar wax melting

Tip 1:  When you store wax, make sure it's in a mice-proof location.  Mice love to eat old comb!!

Tip 2: Do this away from your hives because bees will be attracted to the wax aroma.  The wonderful aroma does waft in the air!  For this very reason, I did the melting in the front yard and the beehives are in the backyard.  I had a few interested bees come and visit the wax when I was replenishing the melter, but it didn't become a huge problem. 

Tip 3: Remove the foundation wires before adding the wax to the melter---makes cleanup easier. 

Tip 4: For easy cleanup, use aluminum foil on top of the metal sheet. 

And for a little bee humor...
q: Where did Noah keep the bees?
a: In the ark hives, of course!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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