Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Garden, A Skep and Lunch

Picture-a-day that I've been working so diligently  sporadically to - do hasn't come easily.....  feels that I'm fading fast on this project.

Yesterday I should have taken a picture and posted, tweeted, Instagrammed a picture of something GARDEN.

This bee skep ^ has been in my garden for years. It is looking the worse for wear. Cannot part with it though - it has such character. Here is some info on skeps. A bit long, but really interesting also ~

Traditional manufacture of skeps from straw in England
A bee skep at Dalgarven Mill. The base is part of an old cheese press
Skeps, which are baskets placed open-end-down, have been used for about 2000 years. Initially they were made from wicker plastered with mud and dung but from the Middle Ages they were made of straw. In northern and western Europe, skeps were made of coils of grass or straw. In its simplest form, there is a single entrance at the bottom of the skep. Again, there is no internal structure provided for the bees and the colony must produce its own honeycomb, which is attached to the inside of the skep.
Skeps have two disadvantages: beekeepers cannot inspect the comb for diseases and pests, and honey removal is not easy- often resulting in the destruction of the entire colony. To get the honey beekeepers either drove the bees out of the skep or, by the use of a bottom extension called an eke or a top extension called a cap, sought to create comb with just honey in it. Quite often the bees were just killed, sometimes using lighted sulfur, to allow the honeycomb to be removed. Skeps could also be squeezed in a vise to extract the honey. As of 1998, most US states prohibited the use of skeps.
Later skep designs included a smaller woven basket (cap) on top over a small hole in the main skep. This cap acted as a crude super, allowing the harvesting of some honey with less destruction of brood and bees. In England such an extension piece consisting of a ring of about 4 or 5 coils of straw placed below a straw beehive to give extra room for brood rearing was called an eke, imp or nadir. An eke was used to give just a bit of extra room, or to "eke" some more space, a nadir is a larger extension used when a full storey was needed beneath.
A person who made such woven beehives was called a "skepper", a surname that still exists in western countries. In England the thickness of the coil of straw was controlled using a ring of leather or piece of cows horn called a "girth" and the coils of straw could be sewn together using strips of briar. Likenesses of skeps can be found in paintings, carvings and old manuscripts. The skep is often used on signs as an indication of industry ("the busy bee").
In the late 1700s more complex skeps appeared which had wooden tops with holes in them over which glass jars were placed. The comb was built in the glass jars which made it commercially attractive.

And, now that we've spent so long studying-up on bee skeps, it's time for LUNCH! Tada... I give you my Instagram for today ~


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