Make Beeswax Cubes

This is not a new tip for crafty folk, but I finally tried it out this week. Making beeswax cubes was fun and a little messy.

Melt beeswax in a double boiler


Purchasing beeswax in bulk is usually cheaper and if you’re planning on making homemade lotions, balms, and salves it will be worth it in the long run.

Buying beeswax as “bricks” may not be as convenient as beeswax pastilles or sheets, but if you don’t mind a little work in the kitchen you can get your beeswax into a smaller, more manageable size.

By melting and pouring beeswax into ice cube trays you’re saving yourself a lot of wasted time trying to saw through the brick. Or in my case a few wild swings with a meat cleaver.

Melting beeswax and molding with ice cube trays


I used the double boiler method. In my case, it was a pan of hot water with a glass bowl above. The trick is to not let the bowl rest on the water below.

I bought two bricks from local beekeepers, Beverly Bees during HerbStalk. I melted them in batches and poured the liquid, not too carefully hence the mess, into ice cube trays.

Clean up?

Yikes! I didn’t really think about that and I could have done a much better clean up job. Instead of trying to wash the bowl out with hot soapy water like me, go for a more painless and efficient way.

One herbalist said she heated the bowl back up and wiped it out with a paper towel and another suggested using rubbing alcohol for those pesky flakes that inevitably happen.

What for?

Well, I’m getting ready to make another salve soon. Last time, I made a basic calendula salve but once my St. John’s Wort oil is ready I’ll be making a new recipe! What about you?

beeswax cubes via @cmckane

Plant ID by Facebook

This summer I’ve been bitten by the botanical bug and channeling my inner 5 year old asking “what’s that?” of every plant I see.

I have Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide at home but my plant identification skills are rather rusty so when I stumbled across this large Facebook group, Plant Identification, my biggest issue has been not spamming it with ALL THE PLANTS.

Here’s a smattering of the plants I’ve seen in Massachusetts this summer that I added to the group for identification.

Common Milkweed. Asclepias syriaca.

I usually only notice it when the seeds burst later in the year but now that I know what I’m looking for, it has been so pretty to watch through all its stages.Milkweed plant id common weeds

Pokeweed. Phytolacca americana.

I’m really tempted to dig one of the many plants in the yard up this fall to make a tincture out of its root. But it is toxic so I’d have to handle with care not to mention get a proper shovel! In complete honesty, I’m rather lazy and will probably skip it.Pokeweed common weed plant id

Prickly Lettuce. Lactuca serriola.

This is the one that really got me hooked on using the Facebook group! The detective work that went into this ID included me driving home between dinner at a Korean restaurant and dessert at a coffee shop to get better shots. Plant Id prickly Lettuce common weed

Prickly Lettuce milky sap plant id common weed

Poison Ivy. Toxicodendron radicans

Plant Id poison ivy common weed

Conyza. Erigeron canadensis.

Conzya common weeds plant id

Norway Maple. Acer platanoides.

Norway Maple. Plant Id common weeds

I posted this college on Instagram with #plantid hashtag but dropped a single picture of the top left plant and within minutes got an ID. I should’ve known it was articum lappa (Greater Burdock) since it’s everywhere and even saw on my plant walk in June!

There were a couple more, but you get the idea! What about you? Do you use social media to decode your weed-ridden lawn as well? Share your plant identification tips please, I could use the help!

HerbStalk 2017: Plant Walk

Last month I attended one day of classes at HerbStalk. I picked the urban plant walk around Somerville as my first class. Though a terrible note taker, here are a couple plants we visited. Sorry about the quality of my mobile photos in advance.  Take a virtual plant walk with me!

Our guide began with sharing her “bug juice”, a yarrow, catnip and mugwort tincture. She got us started right in front of the building talking about plantain, dandelions,¬†and maple. That was before I started taking pictures or proper notes. Did you know maple leaves were edible?

A few plants that may be growing unnoticed

Burdock: Arctium L.
Burdock growing in Massachusetts The picture is a first year plant.  In its second year, a tall stalk rises.

Roots are the most commonly used portion of burdock. You dig them up in the fall of first year or spring of its second. Our guide uses them in soups, stews, and chews them too!

Two facts about burdock
1.  You can find it growing in much of North America as a weed. Especially on river banks. I see it along Charles River.
2.  Can be used as a diuretic.

Here is a great overview from University of Maryland’s Medical Center.

Milkweed: Asclepias syriaca L.
Milkweed in Massachusetts Some avoid this butterfly haven because of its poisonous milky sap. But during the late¬†stage in August, you can take the pods. Our guide steams them first and you don’t want to eat raw leaves.

Two facts about milkweed
1.  Native Americans taught colonists how to safely eat it.
2. ¬†The floss has been used as tinder for fires. Now I’m tempted to harvest some later this year for car camping.

Here’s a general overview from Farmer’s Almanac.

White Cedar: Thuja occidentalis
White cedar in Massachusetts One of my favorite scratch and sniff portions of the walk. Can make tincture or tea out of this tree and is good for many things including the lungs. But use with caution and do your research about the quality of any products.

Two facts about white cedar
1.  Some use for managing pain in trigeminal neuralgia.
2.  Used to treat warts and canker sores. 

You love science? Then check out the 2005 article:  Thuja occidentalis (Arbor vitae): A Review of its Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Clinical Properties.

Linden: TiliaI love linden tea! I used to mix it with juice when babysitting my sick cousin.

Our guide suggested making a double infusion hot and then cold. A nervine that’s¬†also good for the heart and delicious when added to footbaths. Another great idea she shared was to mix¬†powdered linden with cocoa powder to make chocolate. Yum!

Two facts about linden
1.  It has safely been used for children for centuries.
2. Also called lime blossom in certain regions and drunk as a tea in Britan during World War II.

A great article from Herbal Academy about the sacred tree.

Altogether it was a wonderful way to start HerbStalk and now I keep looking at the weeds in the yard or on the side of the road and try to place them.

Pop Quiz: Which plant is this about a month later?
Wild weeds in Massachusetts