Thank the Bees for Pysanky

When I was a small child, my class went to visit a museum devoted to many different cultures. It was made up of a cluster of small cottages, with each dedicated to a different culture; such as Denmark, China, and Hungary. Yet, the House of Ukraine stuck out to me the most when I looked upon a basket of ornate and fantastically decorated eggs on display. I was so ecstatic about these pretty little eggs throughout the rest of the day and until we all went home. I remember when I tried to tell my mom about these eggs with unique lines and brilliant colors that my younger self couldn’t properly explain, and there was no computer to look up proof of these Easter wonders as the internet did not exist – it was the early 1970’s. So, that fantastical image of the decorated eggs sat in the back of my mind for years and years, until one day when I was home from college.

It was spring break; as I recall, I had left college and returned home to visit my family. My high school friends came over to hang out and ended up taking me to some sort of bazaar or fair that I can’t quite recall the name or proper title of. Several booths of artisans, crafters, and self established little businesses filled the gym of this local college where I encountered a wonderful ghost from my past. This lady there was decorating eggs, just like the  ones from when I was a kid.I was so happy to see them took it upon myself to learn of these neat little wonders. One of the coolest things I remember she was using beeswax to write designs on an egg. “It has to be beeswax. No other wax will work.” She told those of us watching. What I know now is that other waxes paraffin or soy do not have the properties that beeswax has and they won’t seal the egg or come off the egg cleanly at the end. Beeswax has very unique properties that are gentle enough to not harm the egg shell.

My bored friends drug me away before I could learn more. It was the late 1980’s and information still was’t at your fingertips like it is now. When I went back to school, I was so busy with classes and work, that I quickly forgot about the eggs again.

Later on in life, I popped into the bookstore, looking for a recommended title on parenting, and saw a book on decorated eggs. From the sublimely simple to the gloriously intricate, the book was dedicated to Eastern European egg art. Ukrainian pysanky, Polish pisanki, Croatian pisanici, Sorbian pisaci. The book called to me, but my time and funds were limited, so I put it back, and got the book I had come looking for. With three small children and a full time job there was not time for such a luxury. I was so busy keeping up with day to day life, and my thoughts of eggs were put aside again.

Since then, computers have brought the world to our fingertips. I’ve learned that most countries in Eastern and Central Europe have egg decorating traditions, and these traditions have a few things in common. The eggs are prized possessions, and often given as gifts, meant to bring luck or protection to the owner. Many of the motifs, patterns, and colors have traditional meanings; such as green meaning spring, hope, and growth and purple meaning fasting, faith, patience, and trust., ect. Many of the cultures that make the Pysanky eggs happen to keep similar traditions. The craft is passed from one generation to the next, with many families having their own recognizable style. Almost all of them are made using a wax-resist method, and all of the wax-resist methods rely upon beeswax.

Beeswax is necessary for the wax-resist methods because it adheres well to to egg shells; doesn’t crack, rub, or scrape off; and fills in even the fine pores of the egg shell. Other waxes either don’t stick well or don’t fill the pores of the eggshell. This means that only beeswax keeps the colored dyes used in the wax-resist method exactly where you want them to be. Only beeswax can give fine crisp lines and; when done, the beeswax melts off, without causing discoloration to the egg.

The kids are much older now, but life isn’t any simpler. Now, we keep bees and make and sell beeswax and honey body products. There still isn’t much spare time. But I do get to make my own colorful creations using beeswax. They are not eggs they are our soaps and without it, our products just wouldn’t be the same.

Neither would the decorated eggs of Central and Eastern Europe.

 

So, You Wanna Be A Beekeeper?

Every market season, all the way into the fall, people tell us how they are going to get bees.  Many think that they can just go out at any time and buy some. Many people don’t realize that by the time they see us in the markets, it may just be too late to get bees for the year. You see; most of the sales of bees occur in spring, and orders often have to be made in March or April. So, by the time you see us in a farmers’ market in June or July, it’s likely too late for you to go buy bees for the year. So, if you are going to have bees this year, now is the time to get the ball rolling

 

What should you do and when should you do it? Before anything; you should get your money together to start keeping bees can cost as little as $400 and up to $2000 depending on what equipment you get.

 

First, you need to see what your local laws and regulations, zoning codes, and CC&R’s have to say about it. Bees may or may not be in your future.So take a few moments to find out if you are allowed to own bees where you live, and if there are any restrictions

For example, most Oregon cities in the Portland Metro have regulations covering the owning of bees, Clark county doesn’t.

 

Second, get online and see when bees will be available for your area, and when orders can be placed. Keep in mind that demand outpaces availability in some area, and make your order as soon as you are sure you are ready. Ready means you have figured out what you want, and you have bought and set up a hive so it is ready to house the bees (or will be buying an assembled hive with your bees). See links below for some suppliers.

 

Before ordering your bees, jump online, go to the library, or go to a bee supply store, and research, research, research. Find a mentor and check out local resources: clubs, associations, and the likes. Because there are lots of things to consider when making your choices.

What will be your main goal in keeping bees? Providing local pollinators, creating survivor stock, or harvesting honey? Each goal can affect the type of bees you buy and the type of hive you house them in.

 

What kind of bees should you buy? Russian, Italian, or Carniolan? What is the difference between each type? What are their pros and cons? Which is best suited to your goals? And what is the availability of each? All of these questions should be considered when making your choice. Here’s a great discussion about bee types that covers some of these questions.

 

How should you get your bees? Should you order a package, which is a wire mesh box full of bees with a mated queen included, but no frames? The packages are sold by the pound usually, and a pound of bees is usually between 3,000 – 4,000 bees or should you buy a nuc (nucleus colony), which is a mini hive (usually 3-5 frames of drawn wax with honey, worker bees, and a mated queen bee). So which is better? Nucs cost a bit more, but because they contain frames of drawn wax, they are ready to go. Package bees need to expend time and resources to draw out wax but the bees will feel like they are a swarm and will draw out wax more quickly then the queen can start laying eggs bees can start storing honey and pollen. Because of this, it can take a little longer for a package to take off, and you will likely have to supplement feed a package if it is early in the season, and there aren’t sufficient resources available yet in terms of open flowers in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, consider What kind of hive you should get. Where will you get it? How much will it cost? Will you buy it pre-assembled, will you buy one you need to assemble yourself, or will you look up plans and make your own? You might even decide to buy a kit that includes a basic hive along with some tools &/or bees. This article has a nice discussion of the three main types of hives you are likely to encounter: the Langstroth, the Warre, and the Top-Bar Hive.

Langsworth
Warre
Top-bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you go with Langswroth you will need to pick if you are going with 10 frame or 8 frame. I recommenced you go with 8 frame,  a box full of honey can weigh a lot and the two extra frames push the weight further from your body pulling on your more. It is what commercial beekeepers use and it is lighter than the 10 frame boxes. The other choice is to deeps or mediums boxes for you hives. I suggest mediums because they are lighter, a box full of honey can weigh a lot and the the shorter boxes will cut the weight down. An eight frame medium box full of honey will weigh about ½ what a 10 frame deep box will weight.

 

You also need some basic tools, A hive tool, frame grip, smoker (something you should try to use infrequently), Vail, protective clothing, marking tools, queen catcher, feeders, and queen excluders. There is a big list of options for the beekeeper..

 

What to do if you miss this year’s bee boat? You make sure you have thoroughly considered all the questions above, and you get everything ready for early next spring to place your order. Continue to educate yourself. Cultivate your new friendship with mentor(s), neighbors with bees, and local bee club and association members. Take a class or see if you can spend time this spring, summer, and fall shadowing a few established beekeeper, to learn the ropes.

 

By the way, that last paragraph applies to those of you who have already gotten bees. Further your knowledge. Help others further theirs. Remember, knowledge is power. And if the bees are going to flourish under our hands, we need to educate ourselves.

Here are some links to explore.

Examples of regulations covering the ownership of bees. This is not an exhaustive list. Please look for laws for your specific housing community (if it has CC&R’s), city, county, and state.

City of Portland, Oregon

Hillsboro, Oregon

State of Oregon – Oregon Bee Law

Clark County, WA

 

Local places to buy bees and bee supplies:

Ruhl Bee/Brushy Mountain Bee Supply

TSC

 

Local bee resources:

Beeline (Portland Area)

Clark County Beekeepers Association

WSU Extension

Seattle/Puget Sound

 

Been There, Done That- Portlanders, Why Not Liven Up Your St. Paddy’s Day?

Parades, festivals, corned beef and cabbage, green beer, pinches for those who don’t wear green, and don’t for get the parties. These can all be great fun!

But what if you feel like ‘Been there, done all that.’

Are you tired of the Same old, same old on St. Paddy’s Day?

 

How about something new this year.

 

Imagine a place where you can go that has fun and excitement all day long on St. Paddy’s day.  We’re talking samples galore, including food and drink, ‘How to’ demos, activities that you can participate in, lots of goodies that you can peruse, and take home with you- if the fancy strikes you. There will even be St. Paddy’s Day prizes.

 

What am I talking about, you ask?

 

Why; it’s The Woman’s Expo -right here in Portland- at the Oregon Convention Center, Saturday, March 17th – AKA St. Patrick’s Day.

Don’t let the name fool you- it’s isn’t just for those of the female persuasion. Fun can be had here by everyone -even kids! So, why not try something new? We’re going to; maybe we’ll see you there.

 

Still not sure? Check out their Facebook page, Groupon page, and website for more info. If you were wondering, The Woman’s Expo is one of two yearly fundraisers for The Portland Women’s Resource Initiative, which is an Oregon 501C3 organization.

 

Oh!  And before I forget – Mentioning this blog post at our booth will get you a free gift.

So; throw on some green this Saturday, and come check out the Woman’s Expo!

The Nose Knows

Who’s heard of patchouli? If you lived through the 60’s and 70’s, you probably recognize the smell of patchouli, even if you aren’t sure what it’s called. That’s because many Hippies were very liberal in the use of patchouli oil. Some people say that the Hippies liked it because patchouli covered the scent of body odor. Others said it was so popular because it covered the scent of weed. Either way, they used lots of it.And its use seems to be making a resurgence, not just with Hippies, but with people from a large cross-section of society.

By now, if you’ve never smelled it, you are probably wondering just what patchouli smells like.  To me, it has a very noticeable, pungent, loamy smell. But, that may not be how it smell to you. I say this, because in selling our body products over the last several years, we have noticed that some people really like the smell of patchouli. Others absolutely despise it. And believe it or not, there is even a small percentage of people who say they really can’t smell it at all.

 

How can that be? Why do some people like some smells, while others don’t? Turns out there are some really good, scientific reasons.

The first reason has to do with genetics. There are about 400 genes for olfactory receptors in the human nose. The genes vary from person to person. With 400 genes, there are about 900,000 different combinations of genes a person can have for their scent receptors. different combination of genes ‘smells’ a scent differently. That means that there are many different smells for each and every scent. The smell you experience when you smell a rose is different then the smell the next person experiences when sniffing the exact same rose. Some people have a pleasant experience when they sniff the rose, but some find the scent offensive.

The second reason has to do with our brains and how they are wired to receive sensory information. Smell information is the only sensory information transmitted to the hippocampus and amygdala, in the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system is associated with emotions and memory, which in turn, influences how we react to the scent. The first time you smell a particular smell, the memory of the scent gets intertwined with emotions and memories of behavior and feelings of nostalgia. Because these neural connections are formed at the same time, they are intertwined.This makes scent the most powerful sense for triggering emotions and memories, and evoking feelings of nostalgia, or even deja vu.

 

I know about that first hand. I can remember being a kid in Billings, Montana. The neighbor down the street had a lilac bush that was as big as the side of their house. During the summer, whenever it was breezy, you could smell that lilac bush for blocks.

 

Now, 40 years later, whenever I smell lilacs, I get a contented, carefree feeling, just like I did when I was a kid, playing with my friends.

What about you? Do you smell things differently than your friends and family? Why not give it a try and see if you have any unique little quirks to your smell registry? Then; if you learned something cool, share it with us either here on the website, on facebook, or even instagram with #MoreBees. We would love to hear about it either way you all want to share it.