Mind Your Own Beeswax Or Maybe Not, Beeswax Alchemy by Petra Ahnert

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March 30, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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 ”Beeswax is the miracle of the beehive. The comb is built up from nothing and serves as a house, a nursery, and a food pantry.”     Petra Ahnert Beeswax Alchemy

     I love books. I love the feel of the paper, the pictures, the fact you can carry a book anywhere and you don’t have to worry about the power running out and the screen going dark. I ,also, admire anyone who creates and finishes a story or puts out a book on a subject that they love. So when I got an email asking if I was interested in reviewing a DIY book published by Quarry Books, Beeswax Alchemy, How to Make Your Own Soap, Candles, Balms, Creams and Salves from the Hive, written by Petra Ahnert, I of course said yes. I thought you, the Local Beet readers, would be interested in it because in order to have local food you need bees. At some of the farmers market you can find products made of beeswax sold by the Chicago Honey Coop. Maybe even some of you, have your own hives and then this book is really a terrific resource for you!

      This book basically lets you become your own Burts Bees, but better, with clear instructions on how to make candles, soaps, salves and creams out of beeswax and much, much more! Beeswax candles help clean the air, beeswax salves have anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral benefits. For people who have allergy problems, beeswax is a “go to” product. Once I started looking into the benefits of beeswax products, it made me realize all the man-made chemicals in those same products bought at a store. It seems kind of ironic, for example, to practice yoga which is all about the breath, while paraffin tea candles are burning, putting possibly cancer causing chemicals in the air. Beeswax candles smell lovely and actually help clean the air but they aren’t as cheap as the paraffin candles. But this book demonstrating how beeswax candles are made and what the chemicals in beeswax are, puts the price in perspecitive. Yet again, the adage, “you get what you pay for” comes into play. I think I will take time to scrutinize all the products on Chicago Honey Coops table the next time I see them at a farmers market. If you don’t feel inclined to make them yourself, you can find most of the products mentioned in the book, sold online at her site BeehiveAlchemy.com including the book.

     Petra Ahnert is the creative force behind Beehive Alchemy, a growing artisan soap, body care and home goods business out of Wisconsin. After a serendipitous meeting with a beekeeper at the library in 2002, Petra soon had a couple of hives of her own and extra honey to sell. Of course, with the honey, comes beeswax, too, so she sought out ways to make good use of the wax she had on hand. Since that time Petra has first looked to her own life and products she uses to replace them with items she could make herself with the honey and beeswax. Eventually those products made their way into the product line-up for Beeshive Alchemy.

     She and her team are small scale beekeepers in Wisconsin and Beehive Alchemy is the creative arm of their business. They sell artisanal raw honey under the Wildermann Apiaries name and honey infusions, soaps and other body care products under the Beehive Alchemy name. For the most part they try to utilize their bee products in their body care products (where it makes sense). While they like to use silk, goats milk, honey and essential oils in their soaps and body care products, they try to offer vegan and unscented options as well.

     This really is a beautiful DIY book because as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. The paper quality is high so it will stand up to much viewing and there is a lot of great information in the book so it is a good “go to” book for a reference shelf.  It is written in a style and form that is good for school children as well as adults. She has a section on “Ingredients” which gives detailed descriptions of usage and benefits for butters, oils, herbs, essential oils and more. For me, a person who loves to “read” cookbooks but really isn’t an amazing cook, I do love to find out the details behind how things are made and what to be aware of. For anyone interested in the process of making soaps, she offers detailed instructions for a starter recipe (no beeswax or honey), honey and beeswax (cold process recipe) and a honey, oats, and beeswax soap (hot process recipe).

    Some say that the expression “Mind your own beeswax” came from the 18th century where women supposedly used beeswax and powder to cover up pock marks and if they sat too close to the fire it would start melting (which isn’t so farfetched if you think of how obsessed some people are with Botox these days) and others say it arose in the early 20th century and meant “mind your own business”. Well, in this case, you can mind your own beeswax through the help of this book, or buy some of the products online at Beehive Alchemy. If you have further interest in bees or beekeeping, the Chicago Honey Coop is an incredible community of beekeepers and bee enthusiasts and has suggestions for sourcing local beeswax if you don’t have your own hives.  I know for one thing, I will not take for granted any handcrafted beeswax products ever again that I see on a farmers market table!!!!

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