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Funny story, Chris and I are beekeepers …something I never would have guessed would be a part of my life but now, mixed into my love for sushi and rap, I don a bee bonnet and do my best to wrangle 200,000 feisty Italian females and encourage them to work their stingers off so that I can enjoy a little honey on my toast.

Todos Ranch Honey Harvest 2012 Boulder ColoradoWe call our urban farm “Todos Ranch” and this was our first batch of honey. Not only did our first year yield 5 gallons but we won a Blue Ribbon AND a Red Ribbon at The 2011 Boulder County Fair – yea girls!

Photo of Todos Ranch Garden Vegetables, Chris and Spice JonesIn addition to the wonderful sweetness of having our very own honey source, Chris and I reap many other rewards through the byproducts of beekeeping. Hold on, before I type any further let me put on my “Vegans Dig Beets” tee and my thrift store Burkenstocks….ok, now I’m in urban farming mode. So bees of course keep the garden healthy and strong, they offer medicinal options to those who adhere to natural remedies, they are fascinating to watch and give a new perspective on how we should try to live with our fellow man, they enhance friendships and encourage neighborly spirit…because everyone wants free honey. And (let me change back into my designer sweats and Anthro tee) they provide lots and lots of organic wax for me to save almost $100 bucks a year by making my very own lip balm and cuticle cream.  Oh yes, that’s $100 smack-a-roos per year and it gives me so much pleasure to stick it to the Sephora man!

And here’s how I do it…

In the honey extraction process we use a hot knife to shave the tops of the honeycomb away so that the honey can be “spun” out of the comb. You’ve seen honeycomb in jars of honey at the grocery store (hopefully a local grocery store that sells only local honey) and you’ve probably bitten into a chunk and felt the honey ooze out. If not, remember that chewing gum with the liquid center? It’s like that except the wax doesn’t chew like gum, it chews more like, well, wax…and it doesn’t destroy your teeth. When you’re extracting honey you do your best to keep the body of the comb intact so the bees can reuse the wax “containers” and not spend energy building more storage.

After cutting the tops off the comb we have a big wad of honey and wax. Imagine grinding up candles into little bits and pouring honey all over it – that’s what you have at this stage. So we take this mix, rinse the honey away (through a strainer), and then leave the wax to dry. What we’re left with is a pile of clean wax bits that are infused with the flavor and scent of honey -unbelievably wonderful! From here I’ve done two things. 1. I’ve left it in little bits to make it easier to measure with measuring spoons, and 2. I’ve melted it down into little wonky blocks. The blocks are what you find in stores that provide food grade wax for making your own beauty products. You can either melt the blocks for more accurate measuring or you can simply shave off what you need with the very scientific “eyeball” approach.

Ingredients for homemade peppermint lip balmHere’s my recipe for Todos Ranch Lip Balm… often described as “Better than Burt’s”:

-6 TS Wax

-4 TS Coconut Oil (it can be in solid form)

-5 TS Grape Seed Oil

-2 TS Lanolin

-1/2 TS Honey

-10+ drops of Peppermint Essential Oil (pick a food grade that’s safe to ingest)

-10 Chapstick tubes (sometimes you can find these at a health store, I ordered mine online… I think I found 100 tubes for like $20 bucks)

Double boiler for melting natural beeswax into homemade lip balm

This is one of my pre-measured wonky blocks of wax. I've discovered that mason rings are the best for raising the pyrex off the bottom of the pot.

Set up a double boiler (seen above) and put everything but the Essential Oil into your pyrex. I use a kabob skewer to stir. Try not to bring the water to a boil, the goal is to heat everything until it melts into a stirrable (sp?) liquid but if you boil it you will “kill” the organic properties of the ingredients. As soon as everything is mixed, add your Peppermint drops… weird thing here, sometimes the drops turn dark brown in the heat but they always seem to go back to clear as the balm cools.

Photo of filling lip balm tubes with homemade peppermint lip balm

It's actually pretty easy to fill the tubes, just set them up with a little space in between

With everything mixed together, give it one last stir and then begin pouring the liquid into your tubes.  Try to be fast so that your mixture doesn’t separate in the cooling process- but remember you can always reheat if you need a little more time. If you’re a Type A like me you’re going to notice little divots forming at the top of the tubes as the lip balm cools. I like to go back and top off each of the tubes to make them look pretty. After 10 tubes are filled I usually have about two or three tablespoons of liquid lip balm left in my pyrex so I pour that into a larger cosmetic container to use on my cuticles… although most of the time I just run my lip balm across my cuticles after applying to my lips.

Because these ingredients are difficult to measure (or because I don’t pay attention) I sometimes find that Todos Ranch Lip Balm is a little too hard or maybe a little too greasy. When this happens I twist all of the balm back out of the tubes and back into my double boiler to remelt. From here I add a little more oil (coconut or grape seed) if it’s too hard, or a little more wax if it’s too greasy… this is also a good time to adjust the peppermint strength. I’ve never added more than a tablespoon of either ingredient so use a light hand as your making adjustments. If you’re interested in expanding upon my recipe (as if???) there are plenty of natural ingredients you can research that will include SPF, antiseptics, tint or even more flavors.

Since my first batch I haven’t purchased a tube of lip balm in over two years – hells yea!! Enjoy!