A blog originally for keeping track of my hobby of being a Beekeeper which has evolved to include Home Brewing and even more recently to follow me and my families approach to "The Good Life". Eventually I hope to include baking recipes and stories of our flock of chickens also reporting on the success and failure at the allotments.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Homebrewing Gifts from Grandad

I visited my Grandad the other day as he had told my Dad he had a demijohn or 2 that I could have. When I got there he started bringing all sorts of pieces of equipment out of a plastic bag plus had 4 Demijohns lined up behind his chair ready for me to take.

 In the image you can see a 2 gallon and 1 gallon earthenware Demijohn, these are really heavy but look excellent, they really don't make them like they used to! In front of them are 2 glass Demijohns that I believe used to be cider bottles, these are also 1 gallon. Between the 2 glass Demijohns there is a couple of lengths of tubing that are used to syphon mead/wine out of the Demijohn and in to bottles. To the front of the picture there is a variety of bits of equipment. There's a wooden corking machine, several bungs, a bag of labels, a bag of corks and 4 boxes of aluminum foil caps for adding a professional touch to the finished bottled product! If you look carefully on the red boxed equipment on some of them you can see they have a very old Boots logo on them and also on has a pre decimalisation price sticker on, though this isn't visible in picture. This shows how old some of this equipment is but all still perfectly usable if I sterilise it well. There was also a receipt in the bag that showed what I believe is last time my Grandad bought equipment and this is from 1990!

A couple of days later he brought me a bottle of his last wine he made that is from around this time, so over 20 years old, and in my opinion it was very tasty though my better half was a bit dubious. We think it is Sloe wine made from Sloe berries (obviously). He has told me he has a couple more Demijohns I can have but these still have wine in them from one of his relatives that was made before he was born, so the content of that will be at least 86 years old! I'm not sure how nice they'll be but I may have a small glass then leave it 24 hours to see if I get ill and if not then I'll drink it!

Update on current Meads

My first batch of Mead, the Jao, is very nearly ready. I find myself checking it every couple of days and each time the liquid looks slightly clearer, I reckon another week and it'll be ready to bottle. My second batch is still active but has really slowed down. Now I have all the extra demijohns I am in a good position to start racking it and then I'll get a better idea of how its going, as the container its in at the moment isn't see through.

Update on Beekeeping

Not much to say at the moment but I am now a member of BBKA and have received my welcome pack. This means I now have the liability cover needed to keep Bees in my Dad's allotment. I have also received details of the course I will be attending in May/June.

Update on Allotment

Again not much to say here. I have not heard anything back from a couple of members of my group to get my allotment so have requested these members be removed, which will put me back to needing 2 members. Finding another 1 member isn't going to be a problem but finding the second could be. I will have to put another appeal for members on Facebook. My Dad will let me use part of his allotment for growing but I would rather have my own within walking distance

Thursday, 10 February 2011


Some time ago I did some research into acquiring an allotment and found information on http://www.landshare.net/letsgrow/ that states all I need is myself and 5 other people who pay council tax to apply together and the local council should provide allotment space. I then went on to create a group on the website and since have been patiently waiting for my group to fill up. Today I was successful in filling my group with 6 members including myself, the last 2 members where acquired rather rapidly after putting a plea on facebook. After looking at my group and list of members I got slightly annoyed as I noticed 2 members of my group have postcodes that are a long distance from me. One is in Manchester and another is in York. Upon finding this I decided these members needed contacting to see if this was just a error on the site or if they truly don't live close to me. I have sent them a pleasant email asking them to confirm if they are interested or not and hope to hear from them soon. I am going to give them a few days to get back to me before contacting the website to try to get them removed from my group, as unfortunately there is no facility to remove members from your group. I hope they respond quickly but if not a back up plan is available. As I am facebook friends with 2 interested members I can easily contact them, another member of my group seems active and lives fairly close so I will contact him through the landshare site and try to obtain his details. I do have a couple of other people who may be interested so will add their details as well and then I should have 6. Then using the template on the landshare website I will send my own letter to the council. I have no idea how long it will then take for the council to respond and then how much longer it will take for them to act upon it. Hopefully I will have a allotment area before the end of the year or next year at the latest, I certainly want one before my daughter is old enough to help. She can even have her own little corner, away from my bees, where she can plant flowers and grow what she wants (or make mud pies!).

The reasons I want to have my own allotment is so I can have somewhere close to keep my bees and grow fruit and veg. I would also consider having a couple of chickens. Also a allotment is a good outdoor social activity. I have visions of all 6 plot owners working hard in the spring and summer and then towards the end of the growing year, when it is still warm and sunlight lasts into late afternoon, clubbing together and having a outdoor feast and drink using produce from the plots. I could provide the mead from the bees and by using outdoor stoves we could cook a pot of chili with a fresh as possible side salad and baked potatoes. I would also consider building a small outdoor clay oven so we could have outdoor baked flat breads or pizzas. I will try to keep putting updates on my success or failure in this matter.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Wakefield and Pontefract Beekeepers: January Meeting

On 31st January I attended my second Beekeepers meeting with Wakefield and Pontefract Beekeepers Association. This months meeting was about British Beekeepers Association examinations and qualifications and was hosted by a lady called Val Francis. In the presentation she covered all the certificates available ranging from a Junior Certificate all the way to becoming a Master Beekeeper.
I am too old to do the Junior Certificate but this seems to aimed more at school children or scout groups etc with the intention of hopefully getting new people into the idea of Beekeeping from a young age. I will be encouraging my 8 week old daughter to help with the Bees and do the Junior Certificate when she is slightly older!
A requirement for the first certificate I will be able to go for, the Basic Assessment in Beekeeping certificate, is that you need to have kept bees for over a year so it will be some time before I can apply for this but imagine I will go for it when I can.
After the Basic has been completed there are options as to what to do next. One path leads you down the theory route and another path leads down the practical route. There is also a Microscopy Certificate available at this stage which involves using microscopes to see inside bees to get a idea of their health and spot disease.
If you go down the theory path there are 7 modules that can be taken in any order with the exception of module 8 (there used to be 8 modules but module 4 has been removed) which has to be completed last. When the first 3 modules and any 1 other (except 8) have been completed you will be awarded the Intermediate Theory Certificate, if you then go on to complete all modules with module 8 last you will be awarded the Advanced Theory Certificate.
With the practical side there is the General Certificate in Beekeeping Husbandry and then the Advanced Certificate in Beekeeping Husbandry. These both require you to have kept Bees for a number of years and involve both practical and theory assessment but mainly practical. They involve you being able to demonstrate skills in taking the hives apart and doing checks on the Bees health. In the advanced part you need to be able to demonstrate queen rearing skills also.
When the General Certificate and the Intermediate theory have both been completed then you get the title of Qualified Beekeeper and when both Advanced Certificates are completed then you can call yourself a Master Beekeeper. I will be aiming towards Qualified Beekeeper as soon as I can with a aim of about 10 years to get there. With the Master Beekeeper qualification I won't be giving myself a time scale as there is a lot of hard work to do and it requires me to be a qualified Beekeeper first. Here is a link to the BBKA site with details of examinations and a flow chart explaining this in more detail.
There is also a certificate in becoming a show judge but I don't think this is something that really interests me.

Also at the meeting this month there was a silent auction to get hold of some equipment cheap. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in any of my bids. Oh well, maybe next time. Also while I was there I paid my £20 subscription so I am now a official member and will have liability cover when I have my Bees. While I was there I paid for the Beginners Beekeepers course which runs through May and June and includes a option to buy a starter Nuc of Bees locally bred at a discount price. I am not sure exactly how much the Bees will be but believe they will be cheaper than I can get elsewhere so will probably try to get them from the course.

While I'm typing I may as well put a quick update on my meads. My first mead is now about half way through it's fermenting and has really slowed down with it's bubbling, it smells really nice and looks to be starting to get clearer. As soon as it is clear I will be having a taste. My other mead is still bubbling away but not as rapid as when it first started. I have changed the airlock to a different kind that makes less noise as the previous one was rather annoying. This second mead is also smelling nice and possibly smells quite a bit stronger. This mead should be ready to drink in June or July but I will need to rack it before then and will post a update at that point!