Bottling the Brew

Siphoning the brew

Well I hope Christmas was a success for everyone with heaps of relaxation and good food. Ours sure was and it was really exciting today to finally add some fizz and bottle the cider that we started making over 3 weeks ago (Check out our earlier posts on cider making). There are lots of different ways to enhance or improve the way your cider tastes, especially if you have made it using supermarket apple juice. Some people choose to add flavourings such as cinnamon, apple, pear, apricot, etc, which are available as natural flavouring rather than artificials. However, if you are just starting out it might be worth saving the expense and giving it a go without adding flavours. Your cider may not taste quite as nice but it will give you a feel for the cider process without spending too much money. Having said that I was quite surprised to find a nice, appley, alcoholic flavour at the end of my siphon tube (rather than a vinegar) even though it was luke warm.
A step that I was really keen to take was siphoning some of the cider into a hydrometer to measure the alcohol content. I found that it measured 980, whereas the pure juice measured 1080. What does this mean? Well, by taking the Specific gravity (S.G.) reading at the end of fermentation (980) from the S.G. reading at the beginning (1080) as well as multiplying by 125 we should get a result of 7500 or 7.5% alcohol content (ciders usually measure between 2-8.5%). As you can see ours turned out quite strong.

A note on cleanliness: It is important. I try to sterilize or soak everything that may be used for bottling in a specific solution designed for food grade sanitation, this will ensure that no ugly bacteria will spoil our brew or make us sick!

Making a fizzy cider by adding white sugar

Bottle your brew – Our local home brew equipment supplier gave me an easy option for bottling a fizzy cider. However if you are happy with a still cider just siphon the finished cider into any bottle that can be air sealed because there will not be any pressure placed on them. On the other hand a fizzy cider undergoes carbonation in the bottle hence creating pressure. In this case added glass strength is required. Swing cap bottles that have previously held beer are great because they are made to withstand pressure.

Gather your bottles together (I ended up filling 10 x 450ml Grolsch swing cap bottles full of cider) and clean them. Obtain a brewing specific sugar measure from a homebrew supplies. Ours has a measure for 330 ml, 500ml & 750ml bottles so all we have to do is fill the 500ml measure nearly to the top with fine white sugar and tip it into each bottle (The 500ml measure equals a little under 1tsp sugar).

After adding the sugar you can start siphoning the brew into the bottles, gently shaking the bottle to dissolve some sugar. Leave about 4cm gap from the top of the bottle and seal with the swing caps. I plan to give the brew 2 weeks carbonation until cracking one open. If in 2 weeks the bottle turns into a spewing geyser then I have put too much sugar in. Instead I hope to hear a nice pop and not too much froth when releasing the swing cap.

Our hidden trapdoor

We are only in a small house but I did manage to find a spot where the bottles can be stored. They wont be too warm, nor will they be in sunlight (I have read that keeping the brew in a dark spot is good to maintain a nice colour but I’m not sure how true this is). Anyway, I ended up putting the crates down through our little trapdoor and onto the dirt under our house. The temperature will be nice and cool/constant and should reduce the risk of the bottles warming and ‘bottle bombs’ forming. You might see this trapdoor mentioned in future posts as we plan to put a little timber shelf next to the cider crates to age some hard cheeses.

Varying ways – There are many different stages and ways to make cider and we have just skimmed the surface. We have chosen a particularly easy way to make cider for our first batch as we wanted it to be relatively cheap, simple and natural (containing no artifical flavours or colouring). There are ways to clear your cider more by racking (transferring) it into another vessel, which reduces its cloudiness and some people age their brew for many months prior to drinking. In the end it depends on how much time, money and effort you want to spend on cider making. With us it is more for the interest and the taste of cool cider on a hot summers day along with the joy (and a little bit of pride) in knowing that it was made in our kitchen 🙂

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Buttermilk Pot Cheese & Biscuits

Fresh Buttermilk Pot Cheese

I still had left-over Buttermilk after drinking some and making Quark so I decided to try Buttermilk Pot cheese. Pot cheese is half way between cottage cheese and farmers cheese and is similar to Cream Cheese and Ricotta. I ended up using it as a base for an Avocado dip. Buttermilk Pot Cheese consists of only Buttermilk and salt and varies from Quark in that it is heated to a higher temperature, which seemed to separate the curds and whey to a greater degree than in the Quark making process.

Make it!

1. Obtain or make 2L (2 quartz) of buttermilk and a little salt and heat slowly to 93°C (200°F), stirring to ensure the milk doesn’t boil.

2. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat resistant clear tub (see photo).

3. Let sit for 2 hours until the curd has separated from the whey. The whey will look like a yellow watery substance and the curds will be kind of chunky and white.

4. After 2 hours pour the curds and whey into a double layer of butter muslin, draining the whey into a container to be used later. Let the Pot cheese sit and drain for 1 hour at room temp or 5-6 hours in a sealed container in the fridge.

Pouring into the butter muslin

It ended up getting late during the time I made this so I let it drain over night, which created a drier cheese. Hint: Dont over-drain unless you like dry cottage cheese ;).

5. Salt can be added at this point to reduce the risk of spoiling and to add flavour. Refrigerate and keep for up to 1 week.

Whey: Lots can be done with the whey that is left over from cheese making. I dilute it with some water and use it to feed my plants, in particular the tomatoes, which tend to tolerate a little acidity (lemon juice was used to make some of the buttermilk). Be careful if using whey from acidic sources (Any cheese making where acid was added to aid the curdling process) as some plants don’t like acidity. There are many other uses for whey and there is a great blog post by The Prairie Homestead that lists 16 of them.

Using whey to water pot plants

Buttermilk Biscuits (Cookies)

I STILL had left over buttermilk after making the Pot Cheese so I decided to make some Buttermilk biscuits. Buttermilk is great for baking. It has acidic qualities, which react with baking soda (an alkali) in a flour based batter. The reaction that occurs causes carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles give whatever you are baking a fine, moist, yet stable texture. These bickies are best eaten when they are warm straight out of the oven, however you can freeze them. This is a really simple recipe, it takes about 20 mins to make and yeah its a little unhealthy, but its not intended to be eaten all at once.

The Ingredients are:

1/2 cup butter (made during an earlier post)
1 cup sugar
1 egg (will hopefully one day come from our own chooks :))
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 cup buttermilk (made during an earlier post)
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour

Cook it !

Buttermilk Biscuits

1. Mix the sugar and butter together with an electric whisk

2. Add Soda, Vanilla extract and Egg

3. Mix in the flour slowly while adding small amounts of Buttermilk to keep the moisture up.

4. Form small dollops of biscuit mix onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 10-15 mins or until lightly browned.

Dairy – Yoghurt & Quark

Heavy based pots help with heat distribution

Many of the soft, un-aged cheeses and dairy products are very easy to make. Yoghurt is one that is particularly easy. Yoghurt is produced by adding a yoghurt culture to milk, which can come in either a packet form or you can use store bought, living culture yoghurt. The introduction of yoghurt culture leads to the bacterial fermentation of the lactose in milk, which then reacts and leads to the production of lactic acid. Lactic acid is what gives the final product its tangy flavour and lumpy characteristics. Buying a commercial yoghurt maker is a good idea if you are going to make a lot of yoghurt as it regulates the yoghurt to the correct temperature throughout the incubation period, however I will explain another option.

Yoghurt

1. I used 1L of whole store-bought milk and 1/4 cup of store bought yoghurt which contained living cultures for my first batch and it turned out well. It is a very cost effective way to make yoghurt as you only need a small amount of bought yoghurt to culture milk.

Adding yoghurt culture using store bought yoghurt

2. Firstly heat and stir your milk to 85°C (185°F). A heavy bottomed pot is ideal for this purpose as it will reduce the risk of scalding your milk.

3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to about 45°C (113°F) before adding 1/4 Cup of yoghurt (containing live cultures), this will ensure the bacteria have ideal conditions to function.

4. Place the mixture into your yoghurt maker or an insulated cooler with a few jars of hot water and leave for roughly 8-12 hrs (depending on how tart you would like the yoghurt) I found that 10hrs in a commercial maker produced good results.

5. Turn the yoghurt maker off and allow the yoghurt to cool a little before refrigerating.

Breakfast time tastes so much better 🙂

Quark

Quark is an unripened German cheese that is similar in consistency to sour cream. The Quark I made contains nothing but buttermilk and has quite a bland, and at the same time refreshing taste. Quark is hard to find in Australia therefore it usually has to be home-made, which is very easy as it requires no additional ingredients (rennet, etc). Some dairy producers, mainly in eastern Europe, do add a small amount of rennet to make a firmer quark, however the German Quark is usually smoother and creamier. Note: to make Quark from store bought pasteurised milk you must add a live buttermilk culture to your buttermilk or see my earlier post on making your own buttermilk.

The process

Fresh Quark can be a nice substitute for sour cream

1. Start with 2 L (2 Quartz) of buttermilk from the butter making process or homemade buttermilk (I used 1L for my first batch and it only made a small amount of Quark so I suggest that if you can, use 2L).

2. Pour the buttermilk into a ceramic, oven-safe pot and place in an oven for 24 hours. The oven will not be turned on, however if you can keep the pilot light on it will help to maintain an ideal temperature for the Quark. Because I don’t have a pilot light on my oven I placed the Quark into my yoghurt maker for about 12 hours, which produced good results.

3. Strain off the liquid through a double layer of butter muslin lining a colander. Wrap the sides over the Quark to cover the top and let drain for over 2 hours and under 6. Place a small plate on top of the Quark to encourage drainage of the whey.

4. The whey can be used for cooking, watering your plants or feeding the cat :). Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Sniffing out the whey

Dairy – Butter and Buttermilk

We took a drive to the farm a few days ago and picked up about 7 Litres of creamy milk straight from the dairy vat. The milk was carted home in an icebox (simple insulated cool box) with the milk bottles surrounded by ice and the temperature measured on arrival. This was crucial to ensure that the temperature would not rise above 5°C (41°F), which would allow harmful bacteria to develop. I wanted to start with a couple of simple products at first, with the eventual aim at making hard cheese in the future. I chose Kefir (see earlier post), Buttermilk, Quark, Buttermilk pot cheese, Yoghurt and Butter for the first recipes. I must give credit to the author Kathy Farrell-Kingsley and her book ‘The Home Creamery’ as I got many great ideas from her recipes, some of which I heavily relied on.

Cleanliness is the key to success

Cleanliness

It is always important to be extremely clean when working with hazardous foods, such as raw meat or dairy. All utensils should ideally be sterilized and if this is not possible they should at least be washed in very hot, soapy water, rinsed with hot water and air dried on a clean surface. A quick note on equipment: Try to avoid using aluminium cooking equipment as it can taint the cheeses/dairy products. You will need a milk thermometer, assorted bowls, strainers and general kitchen wear. I have found that a kitchen food processor is extremely efficient in churning cream into butter, however you can hand churn or use a food mixer with spinning beaters. The NSW food authority here in Australia has guidelines for using the 4 hour/ 2 hour rule for food temperature control, which is a very useful resource.

Separating cream from milk

5L 'separator' container

The great thing about raw, unhomogenized milk is that you can do so much with it. You can make butter and buttermilk from the separated cream, which in turn makes various cheeses and cultured dairy products, you can drink, make yoghurt, Kefir and other low fat dairy products from the separated milk and all without destroying beneficial bacteria, which is often removed during commercial milk processing procedures. With a little effort and attention to food hygiene the benefits are numerous.

The first thing for me to do in making my dairy products was to separate the milk from the cream. I ended up finding a really simple 5L (a little over 1 Gallon) plastic, food grade container with one screw on tap and one sealed cap. This container was cheap and allowed me to collect 5L of milk, which would sit in the fridge for roughly 12 hrs, allowing the cream to rise to the top of the milk. Because I collected 5L of creamy milk from the top of the still vat (not stirred) I only ended up with about 3cm of milk in the bottom of the container, allowing me to make lots of butter for freezing.

Caution: If you are lucky enough to have access to raw milk you must be particularly vigilant with handling it to ensure that bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella are not given an environment in which they can function. Having said this it is quite easy to do, as long you are 110% sure that the livestock you are receiving the milk from are healthy and the farmer has adequate dairy wash-up procedures in place. HOWEVER, I am not condoning the sale or use of raw milk because I don’t want to be held responsible for any issues surrounding this product, I am simply showing you why I use and like it. I grew up drinking raw cows milk right up until leaving home, when it was no longer practical to go back and collect some and I never once got sick from it. For more information about raw milk Raw-milk-facts is a great website that states the facts without all the extreme opinions which often surround this simple product.

Butter

Unhomogenized milk and cream contains very small globules within its structure. These globules have membranes, which contain proteins and fatty acid emulsifiers (phospholipids). These membranes prevent the fats in milk from sticking together. When we churn the cream, the membranes are damaged or destroyed and the fats are able to stick together and separate from other parts of the cream, hence producing butter and buttermilk.

Modern day household butter churn

1. Pour the cream off the milk from the tapped container, the cream can then be placed in a sturdy container and left on a benchtop or surrounded by warm water until it reaches 15°C (60°F), this will ensure that the cream will churn into butter. At this point you can simply place the cream into the food processor (750ml into a 2L food processor bowl) and whir on low speed for 5-6 minute or until the buttermilk has separated from the butter. It is really that simple, but wait there’s more.

2. Strain the butter from the buttermilk (you may want to save the buttermilk for drinking, cooking, making pot cheese, culturing).

Working the butter

3. Place the butter in a bowl and massage with a very clean spoon until more of the buttermilk drains out. You may like to wash the butter multiple times with some clean water and keep kneading until all water has become clear and completely removed from the butter.

Freshly churned butter

4. I like to scoop the butter into a small container lined with plastic cling film, which molds it into a rectangle, I then wrap the butter and freeze it for later use.

Buttermilk

Buttermilk is traditionally the liquid remains after cream has been churned into butter. However if you need more (as I did) or would like to make buttermilk without churning cream and without buying it from the supermarket you can mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice OR white vinegar with 1 cup of whole milk, which makes a bit over 1 cup of buttermilk. More on the practical uses of buttermilk later.


A visit to the farm.

'Raelands' Farm

Yesterday Lauren and I drove up to the farm for the day to say hello and to grab some milk. We ended up bringing home nearly 7 Litres of raw milk straight from the dairy vat to make some dairy products. While we were there I had a quick look around for some timber offcuts so that I can soon make a basic cheese press for hard-cheese making. I also had another look at our old hand driven corn cobber that I might use to crack Pecan nuts. We have a great row of Pecans trees that dad planted years ago to shade the cows through summer and they have been bearing well for many seasons now. This season I am going to try and make some honey roasted pecans, maple syrup roasted pecans and maybe some pecan pies before the white cockatoos eat them all.

On the way home we dropped in to say hi to my grandmother who, at 90 years of age is still very sharp with her memory. We ended up having an interesting conversation about how they used to preserve all of their fruit for the year (mostly peaces, plums and citrus) either whole, halved or as a syrup for re-mixing with water to make refreshing summer drinks.

Green green grass

My grandfather apparently grew some amazing peach trees, with huge fruit that would ripen prior to the fruit fly season, which meant that Granny would peel and preserve peaches until she “felt like one”, as she put it. Its funny because when I was a kid I remember granny would often offer peaches and ice cream for desert, even after the days of canning had long gone. Growing food seemed to be very diverse in those days. Every household had a canning/preserving kit and would grow many different fruits and vegetables, and a variety of different animals. Long rows of peas were often grown down on the river flats and my ancestors would walk down on dusk with the children and pick peas with some of the other neighboring farmers. This would of course result in shelling peas “until you felt like one”. Some of this connectedness with our food has seemingly been lost, even to farmers, who grow things for a living. Maybe this is because it was done more out of necessity back then. Maybe it was done because you couldn’t buy as many items in the supermarket, whereas now you can. What ever the reason I think it needs to start shifting back the other way because relying on a single or a couple of bulk commodities leaves the farmer at the mercy of the market, whether driven by fluctuations in market demand or just greedy price givers determining how much profit they should make.

'Tubby'

Another result of this loss in diversity may be the subsequent reduction in small farms due to the industrialization of food production. It no longer seems as viable for the small farm, whereas many years ago the small farm was the back-bone of a community (in our case). Since a de-regulated dairy production system was put in place in the year 2000 we now have 2 dairy farms along our road. In 1995 there were 14. Some may say this was necessary, however, it has had a profound effect on our dairy farming community, which now seems driven by economies of scale and a few large producers. This in itself leads to environmental and animal welfare issues, where maximum production is a primary goal for many diary farms. This is not because the farmer is greedy or wants to push animals to the limit but rather the demand by price givers and a growing population wanting milk year round and lots of it. We have forgotten to eat seasonally. Cows produce less milk during winter, fruits and vegetables grow in the seasons they are suited to, chickens lay fewer and smaller eggs during winter and somehow we feel the need to alter this for the purpose of everyone wanting all foods year round. I think the growing popularity of farmers markets here in Australia will see more and more seasonal produce offered to consumers and there is a real connection and education with growers and consumers alike. Change is happening.

Dusk

Dairy – Kefir

Kefir (pronounced Ke-fear) Ingredients. The green stick is an airlock for the culture sachet.

Kefir is a probiotic, fermented milk drink. Sounds kind of gross doesn’t it, but it is supposedly one of the healthiest cultured dairy products that we can make in our kitchen. Kefir originated in the Caucasus mountains in Russia where shepherds carrying fresh milk in their leather pouches would occasionally find a fermented beverage after their days work. It is prepared by inoculating milk with Kefir grains (small tapioca like grains that grow and produce additional grains during fermentation). Traditional Kefir was made in skin bags, hung over a door way and purposely knocked by passers-by to help with the fermentation process.

Let sit at room temp, in a dark place/dark containers for 24-36 hrs

The Process

I decided to start making Kefir with a Kefir culture rather than Kefir grains. The culture also reproduces and can be used up to 3 times per packet/half packet, etc.  I plan to use Kefir grains in the future to give the traditional way a go.

Note: All utensils should be very clean before use. That means either sterilized or washed in hot water with detergent before air drying.

1. Obtain Kefir grains or Kefir culture sachets.

2. Stir in the culture to the recommended rate or 1/4 cup of Kefir grains to 2 cups of milk.

3. Leave covered in a dark spot or a dark jar for 24-36 hrs at room temp depending on how strong you would like your Kefir. At the end of this time your drink should be thick and some whey may be present on the surface (just stir it back in).

Straining the thicker Kefir off for re-culturing.

4. I strained the kefir through a fine strainer to catch about 1/3 cup of thicker Kefir culture to re-culture the next batch.

5. Pour your Kefir into a clean/sterilized container and refrigerate for 12hrs before consuming. I used some old spice bottles (see photo) so we can have a small Kefir ‘shot’ each day. Mmmmm 🙂

Half a litre of Kefir was made for the first batch, but I found that 1 litre would have been better so I just used the thick Kefir that I collected and added it to another 1/2 litre of milk. It ended up re-culturing well (I kind of wasn’t expecting it to work) and it should be ok to use once more.

Re-using spice bottles for Kefir 'shots'.

Building ‘The Peoples Hive’ (Warre Hive)

Abbé Émile Warré, checking 'The People's Hive' with his friend, the cocker spaniel 'Polo' - Photo from "Beekeeping for All"

AbbĂ© Émile WarrĂ© (1867-1951) was a beekeeper in France during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Over 30 years of his time, as an apiarist, was spent studying 350 different hives of different systems, leading to the eventual development of ‘The People’s Hive’ (now often referred to as the ‘Warre’ hive). His book ‘Beekeeping for all’ was translated into English by Patricia and David Heaf in 2007 allowing non French speaking people to gain access to this wealth of knowledge.

It is suggested in ‘Beekeeping for all’ that it is unwise for a novice to experiment with different hive types, as 10-12 hives are required per type, which should careful be observed over 10 years to gain a real grasp on the functionality of each. Having considered this I read a little on each type of system currently being used in Australia and decided that ‘The People’s Hive’ should suit my purpose well.

I found that the main restriction with The People’s Hive/WarrĂ© system here in Australia is that it has only recently been adopted by a scarse few commercial apiarists, this may be due to the only recent translation of ‘Beekeeping for all’. However, during my university holidays I was lucky enough to find and attend a natural beekeeping course run by Tim Malfroy of Malfroy’s Gold, which was based on the WarrĂ© system. This then lead to the building of two hives. I found the Warre construction guide at the beespace invaluable to the building of my hives and generously provided for free. I had an issue though. I wanted hive components that I hadn’t seen for sale before, in particular hive boxes with observation windows and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on them.

The Design

The People's Hive components. © 2011 theroadtoraelands

The People’s Hive comprises of a base, hive boxes, top-bar removable frames, a quilt box and a roof. The hives here are made from radiata pine due to its affordability and weight. The closest measurement to Warre’s 20mm thick timber in Australia is 19mm thick boards with a width of 240mm. As long as you can achieve dimensions close to this it doesn’t matter if you go a little thicker or wider.

The dimensions for the images at left are listed below (L) – Length, (w) Width, (d) Depth:

The base (floor) – 1 x Bee landing board 420(L) x 160(w), 1 x floor plate 350mm x 350mm (this could be cut out of 2 pieces and sits on top of the landing board), 2 x short legs 210 x 30 (these legs are screwed/nailed parallel to the land board to join the two base plate pieces and create a more stable floor. The landing board protrudes 70 x 160 mm out the front of the base and the entrance gap for the bees is 120 (w) x 40 (d). This entrance is decreased during summer with a board and an opening cut 120 (w) 15 (d). During winter another board can be installed, this will have a gap cut 70 (w) x 7.5 (d) to prevent rodents entering the hive.

The hive boxes – I have added observation windows to my hives because I would love to be able to check the bees and show friends and family without opening the hives. I have seen other designs, however, I had the tools available to build slide window covers. If you would like to build standard hive boxes a lot less equipment is needed and you should ignore the sliding window.

For the standard hive box you simply need 2 x 240 (w) x 19(T) pine boards that measure 310 (L) and 2 that measure 350 (L) (external measurements on all components except the roof will measure 350×350). The short sides need to have a rebate cut into the top of them 12mm (w) x 11mm (d) to allow the top bars to sit on them (This is for Australian timber sizes). Note: see photo below, the short side with the rebate is butted against the long side. This leaves adequate room for 8 frames in each hive box. The short sides can then be glued and fastened with screws or nails to the long sides. 2 x short handles should also be screwed to the sides that run parallel to the frames (the sloped top of the handles allows water run-off).

Filling the gaps with a linseed oil/beeswax mix

Windowed hive boxes – I came up with the window design after seeing similar ideas. However I decided to use a router and rebate the window covers to create a sliding action that would allow no light into the hive unnecessarily, it would make the hive look neat and would allow me to attach handles to the windows that could withstand lifting on the side that looks onto the frame sides. The basic measurements and items in addition to the standard hive boxes are:

240 x 350 x 3mm(T) perspex sheeting per hive (must be drilled and screwed), enough timber for a window cover 190 (w) x 350 (L) and 2 window slide frames 40 (w) x 350 (L) (Leave a gap when rebating the windows to allow for swelling). The window is only on one side of the hive box and by having it rebated has allowed me to put one window on each hive box looking side on to the frame (the handle side), whereas other designs I have seen only allow you to look at the ends of the frame.

The People's Hive window design

I am yet to test this design and I hope that the orientation of the window is ok. My main worry is that there will be too many bees to see the comb from a side aspect.

The Quilt box – The quilt boxes external measurements are 350 (L) x 350(w) x 100 (h). Its sole purpose is to be filled with straw or sawdust to allow any condensation in the hive to pass into it and become absorbed rather than dripping on the bees. It should be fitted with a single layer of fly/insect mesh on its underside so that the bees can’t chew into the box. Below the quilt box will also sit a single layer of hessian on top of the hive box (not seen in the components photograph), this hessian square allows the beekeeper to gently observe the hive.

Quilt box board – This board is a simple square board that sits on top of the quilt box 350 x 350 x 10 (t) to protect its content from moisture, rodents, etc. If you use a piece of white coated, weathertex type board you can write down your hive observations each time the hive is opened (Use permanent marker).

The hive roof – The gabled hive roof construction can be found at the beespace construction guide, however I decided to build one sloping roof for interests sake. I used the design in ‘Beekeeping for all’ and found it quite easy to construct. The roof top dimensions are 1000 x 1000 x 19 (t). The 2 sides measure 360 (L) x 150 (w) – This depth is useful to keep in mind as it ensures the quilt box and some of the top hive box is covered by the roof frame. The lowest end piece is 400 (L) x 150 (w) and the high end piece is a little more tricky as it is 150 (w) x 400 (L) until having to spread out to meet the edges of the roof top (this creates the slope). I angled and raised it 60mm higher, which seems like a good angle to shed water. The final step to finish is a couple of boards spanning across the frame but below the roof (these boards sit on top of the board above the quilt box, they also make the roof sit level.

Timber treatment – I treated my hives with a 15:1 linseed oil beeswax mix heated to 75·C and painted on. You could stop at this stage or you could also treat the hives with two coats of low sheen, low toxic paint.

A frame full of honey

Well I hope I have been somewhat clear about my slightly modified design of ‘The Peoples Hive’. This hive is not at all different in function from WarrĂ©’s original, however it is simply adding some modern touches to make observation a little less disturbing for the bees. If you would like more information on natural beekeeping there are some great websites and blogs around, such as The Barefoot beekeeper, ‘beekeeping for all’ , The natural beekeeping trust, natural beekeeping blog, bee natural, A year with Warre hives. If you live in Australia and are interested in attending a course check out Malfroy’s Gold, as Tim is one of few commercial WarrĂ© hive apiarists in Australia. I found the course to be interesting and practical and without attending it I feel that I wouldn’t hold the skills or confidence to give ‘natural’ beekeeping a go.

Keep checking in for more news on our bee progress 🙂

“Therefore go, my People’s Hive, go into all the gardens of France (or Australia). Go and give the children some nourishing sandwiches, and give the grown ups well being in body and mind. Go and remind everyone of the necessity of work, the gentleness of unity, the beauty of devotion, the prosperity of countless families. Go and fill every fireside with honey and happiness” AbbĂ© Émile WarrĂ©