Category Archives: Honey

Castle Buchanan Part Deux!

Stage two of the Hummer was of course showing it off and getting a little feedback. Thus, it was hauled to the Alameda County Beekeepers Association meeting the next opportunity.

Folks were either impressed or suitably baffled. Next of course would be a location and occupants. In this case, it was a cart and horse thing. We had rescued a colony a couple of months earlier. and they were plugging away in a nuc box. So the search was on to expand the growing Melliferalle effort. And…… TADA!!!!! An opportunity presented itself!!!


Not much to look at….. but the BART tracks bees had a home. My friend Paula had oodles of room on a 4 acre property about three or four miles from the house. So the noble experiment was off and running! More to come of course.


The Story of Castle Buchanan. Part One!

Buchanan inspection

My first hive was a top bar hive (see previous post). Of course I was fascinated by this hive. I was also fascinated by everything beekeeping! I wanted a hive of every configuration. Wanted to learn it all. I mentioned to my mentor at the time, Alan Kramer, that it would be wonderful if there was a horizontal Langstroth type hive and by golly he referred me to Michael Bush.

It took some years and some experience with regular Langstroth beekeeping for me to get around to it. Alan and I had planned to build an experimental “long-Lang” but we never got to that. What makes “Langs” work is bee space (future post) AND almost as important is the interchangeability of standardized components, especially the frames the bees use to build their comb. And in order to make the frames work in a hive, there must be rabbeted frame rests for the frames to seat themselves nicely in the hive boxes. There are a few ways to accomplish this. The main method is a “dado” blade in a table saw. Alan has a table saw; I did not. Time passed……

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I pondered the question for what seemed like forever about the build itself and EUREKA!!  – the solution presented it self. What if I BOUGHT lang boxes which were ALREADY rabbeted, and cut and pasted ’em all together all nice-like and all????…….

The trick was to cut off the dovetailed joints on the rabbeted sides. Not all of them, just the ends which were “butt” joined. The bits on the ground above show the first effort…..


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That-there is the basic configuration!! AND it would fit 30 deep frames!! which was monstrous, indeed! the question was would the bees like it? STAY TUNED!!

Swarm Box Success!

Swarm season is here, and since our top bar honeybee hive is packed to the rafters, it has been a very swarmy couple of weeks. The first swarm landed in a tree way way too high for us to reach, so we put a couple of swarm boxes out in hopes that the bees would move in. And it worked!

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Watch this exciting video of the bees going into the swarm box!  This is a Langstroth deep with 10 frames, baited with bee lure to attract the scouts who go around to find a good location for the hive to move into.

Happy bees, happy us!!

Sweet Extraction Day

The wonders of beekeeping and helping struggling honeybees are the main reasons we have beehives, but harvesting honey and beeswax from our girls is an extra special bonus. We don’t take honey every year. If the bees need it for food we leave it, but some seasons the stars align and there’s extra.BeekeepingGeorge and I are suited-up and ready to extract. Smoke calms the bees.Beekeeping

George selects some frames and we carry them away from the hive. This frame is full of honey – it doesn’t ooze out because once it’s full the bees cap the honey with wax.BeekeepingThe first step: uncapping (scraping the wax from the honey).BeekeepingWe have a hand-extractor to spin the honey from the comb without crushing the wax, so we can put the frames right back into the hive and save the bees the work of reconstruction.

After vigorous spinning, the sweet reward starts pouring out. Beekeeping

We use the beeswax to make candles and Honey Kissed beeswax soothing hand lotion.

Beekeeper with Honey Kissed hand lotion
Beekeeper George with handcrafted Honey Kissed hand lotion

We also make Honey Kissed lip balm from our honey and beeswax.

Honey Kissed lip balm

You can find La Ferme honey – and lots of other delicious local honey – at BioFuel Oasis on 1441 Ashby Ave., Berkeley California. If you’re local you can pick up from us in El Cerrito, email George at with your order. And if you want some of our Honey Kissed hand lotion or lip balm, email George or Heidi at

To Catch a Swarm

I originally posted a version of this story of our friend’s Joan’s bees on my art and nature photography blog.

The tale of Joan’s bees began almost exactly two years ago. Much has happened since. Here I told you about the epic-sized swarm her first hive spun off.  After that the hive continued to produce more swarms, and these are the bees that Joan got to replace her swarmed-out hive. Joan’s glorious garden is surely one reason her bees thrive.

Honeybee on Spanish lavender
Honeybee on Spanish lavender

Two days ago, one of her hives swarmed again. Rather than staging their journey from the olive tree, where most of Joan’s swarms head first, this one congregated on the stone border around the tree. It was a relief to have a ladder-less swarm capture for once.

Honeybee swarm
Honeybee swarm

Joan tried to entice them into a box with some tasty honey and comb, but although they eagerly ate the honey they weren’t ready to move into the box. George and I brought over more temptations: bee lure and an extra-fancy beekeeper’s box. Okay, that’s just a cardboard banker’s box all duct-taped-up with one side handle left open for the bees to enter.

Honeybee swarm
Honeybee swarm

The bees were interested, but moving slowly because the weather was cooling. We beekeepers were patient, but only up to a point. Joan and George decided to suit up to help the swarm along.

George and Joan catching the swarm
George and Joan catching the swarm

Those lingering in the rocks started marching up to join their sisters.

Honeybee swarm

More waiting.

Honeybee swarm

Until finally the whole swarm was tucked into the box.

Honeybee swarm

And on to their new home. But that’s a story for another day!

Celebration of Old Roses, El Cerrito May 18

How are your roses doing this year? After the recent rains they’re flourishing in our garden.

Blue rose

We’re very excited about the upcoming 34th Annual Celebration of Old Roses, our favorite El Cerrito event. The Celebration is always held the Sunday after Mother’s Day; this year it’s on May 18th, from 11:00 to 3:30 pm. Sponsored by the Heritage Rose Group Bay Area , it’s at the El Cerrito Community Centerseveral blocks east of San Pablo Ave, at 7007 Moeser Lane (cross is Ashbury Ave).  All are welcome; the event and parking are free, and it’s wheelchair-accessible.

Double delight rose

The heart of the Celebration is an overflowing 100-foot display of all kinds of roses. Everyone from expert cultivators to casual gardeners bring cut roses to share and show off. The roses are arranged by type, so just by cruising the collection you’ll get a great education.

Mr. Lincoln rose

Along with the roses there are wonderful arts and crafts and flower-related products for you to enjoy – a don’t-miss chance to stock up on gifts for those rose and nature-lovers in your life. We’ve had a table at the Celebration for the past nine years. Heidi brings the things she makes from her original photos, rose and flower-related, including jewelry, scarves, decorated boxes, purses, cards, prints, and much more!

Rose Show

George brings his wonderful handmade soap and all-natural beeswax candles from our beehives. And for the first time we’ll have La Ferme Melliferalle honey for you to sample and buy.

George with honey

If you can’t wait until the Celebration, you can buy our honey at Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley.

La Ferme Melliferalle honey at Biofuel Oasis

Mark May 18th down on your calendar — go to smell the intoxicating roses and then stop by our table to say hello. If you have any questions, please email Heidi at