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Introduction to Beekeeping with The Hive Supply Chicago — 9 Mind-Blowing Facts

Here, at Simply Wood Rings, we strive for eco-consciousness and sustainability; so, naturally we are interested in local initiatives that encourage such practices. The NWI Times.com reported that Mayor Daley began a green roof initiative on Chicago's City Hall in 2000 and three years later added two beehives housing about 10, 000 bees. Today, the number has grown to an estimated 160,000 bees. But that’s just the tip of the proverbial beehive. Last Sunday, I attended a Beekeeping 101 course taught by Naaman Gambill at the ReBuilding exchange (Bucktown). Naaman runs The Hive Supply Chicago (Homan Square) with his partner John Hansen who, Naaman told us, has 40 years of beekeeping experience in Chicago.

The Hive Supply Chicago

Photo: TheHiveSupply.com

The course was a three-hour introduction to the topic of urban beekeeping. It was amazing to learn about bees in a context I had never had the opportunity to do before. Naaman began the lesson with an overview of hives and provided information about basic necessities for urban beekeeping.

Here are a few things I learned :

1. If you're interested in keeping bees in Chicago, you’re easily allowed up to five hives on your property.

The only requirement is that you register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture which consists of filling out a “brief one-page form and mailing it to the IDOA.” This process is free of charge and you will receive access to necessary, yearly inspections from a IDOA Apiary Inspector. Naaman explained that the inspectors are actually there to help you in any way possible — they are there to serve the beekeeping industry.

2. There is such a thing called “bee space.”

Bee-space is the amount of space bees need to move around in the hive—this is typically 3/8” to 1/4”.  The amount of bee-space you allow for in your hives determines the amount of propolis — a type of bee glue — and comb that the bees will produce.

SWR Bee Space

Bee-Space

3. There is one queen per hive — around 20,000 bees in total. 

When a colony starts or an old queen retires, queen bees hatch and then duel it out GoT-style. 

4. ….And she only mates with drones from other colonies.

Drone bees are male (non-worker) bees and take up about 3% of a beehive population. Within a hive, they are virtually useless. These bees are the first to sacrifice themselves in times of bee-hardship (i.e. disease or cold spells) as they live on the flanks of the colony.

5. One hive can produce up to 62 lbs of honey. On average, hives produce around 29 lbs a year.

And they fly pretty far to make it. According to the British Beekeepers Association website "Bees fly about 55,000 miles to make just one pound." 

6. Bees are very type-A.

They remove pests and dead/dying pees as soon as possible. However, when a pest finds its way into the hive — the colony will sting the pest (for example a mouse) to death and then, if they’re unable to carry it out, they completely seal off the pest in propolis, i.e. that bee glue I mentioned in no. 2.

Bee Dance Video by Georgia Tech College of Computing

Screenshot from The Waggle Dance of the Honey Bee video published by Georgia Tech College of Computing

7. Bees are highly skilled communicators. Especially through dances.

Bees are hyper aware of time and space. Bees know where the sun is at all times because they have a polarized lenses and an internal clock. They utilize encoded dance moves (wiggling, figure-eight patterns, orientation, length of dance time, and pheromone expression) to indicate to each other where food and water supplies exist outside of the hive.

8. Also, when bees rub against each other they are communicating through pheromones.

The pheromones act as a sort of telephone-game relaying back to the queen, who makes decisions about how safe and healthy the colony is. If her own pheromones take too long to travel back to her, she knows the hive is getting too large and she must leave with part of the colony and allow the remainder to choose a new queen.

9. Different breeds of bees have different temperaments.

For example, Italian bees are comparatively gentle while Russian bees are more defensive in nature. Naaman suggested that, of the existing breeds, Carniolan bees have the best combination of traits while still maintaining a hardiness that is suited to Chicago’s climate.

Bees are amazing creatures and they’re integral to the health of our ecosystem. There are tons of beekeeping communities in Chicago and resources available on urban beekeeping and I’d encourage you to check them out. Below are a few links to get you started. Have a great week!

The Hive Supply Chicago

Cook Dupage Beekeeping Association

Chicago Honey Co-Op

Garfield Park Conservatory

Windy City Beekeepers Association

Westside Bee Boyz

Belmont Feed and Seed 

Class Materials at The Hive Supply Chicago, photo taken by Madeeha

Class Materials at The Hive Supply Chicago, photo taken by Madeeha Lamoreaux

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How to Compost in an Apartment or House

Image from biocycle.net

Here at Simply Wood Rings, we are always looking for ways to be more environmentally conscious. Composting is a wonderful way to help the environment and really doesn't take much effort! In Chicago, most people live in small apartments or condos, and therefore composting outdoors isn't an option. There is another way to compost, which is by using a bucket and some friendly red worms! We  started our own compost bin here at the Simply Wood Rings shop, and it's been a wonderful addition to the shop!

Food Scraps and yard waste make up 30 percent of what we throw away, and are the largest category of municipal waste going into landfills and incinerators. Food scraps in landfills not only take up space but release methane which is a potent greenhouse gas. Composting helps keep these items out of landfills and provides you with rich soil that can help your houseplants grow or you can donate it to a local urban farm. 

Here is a chart from Sustainable America that can help you start your own compost bin! 

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How To Order Your Simply Wood Ring

wood ring, wedding ring, custom ring, wood ring builder, engagement ring

The thought of buying a wooden ring or a custom wood ring for that matter can be overwhelming to some. The buying process of any ring can be overwhelming if you don't know the specifics or your size or what you are looking for. We want your buying experience with Simply Wood Rings to be super easy! We try to make it as easy as possible no matter what type of ring you want. but if you are hesitant at all to order because you don't know where to begin, we can help! Here are the steps and information you would need to order a ring from us!

The first step when buying a ring is to figure out your size. Most people don't know how to figure out their ring size, and that's totally fine! We have another blog post that can help you figure out your size, which you can read here or you can order a plastic ring sizer from us  by clicking here!

custom ring, inlay, wedding ring, wooden ring, engagement ring, simply wood rings

The next step would be to think about what you want your ring to look like. If you look on our site you can see all the options that we have In-Stock and those are good to order if you need a ring ASAP. Click here to view all our In-Stock rings!  It's also a good way to gain some inspiration for a custom order if you decide to go that route. If you do decide on a custom ring order, the next step would be to either use our Custom Ring Builder tool on the site or email us at craftsman@simplywoodrings.com. The Custom Ring Builder tool can be found here, and it is a fast and easy tool to plan and design your ring. Some people have more complicated custom orders or provide materials for us to use, and in that case you would email us and our master order-taker Sara would help you. She would put together a list of the materials you want to use and the pricing for them and then all you have to do is pay online!

If you do go the route of sending in materials for us to work with, the next step in the buying process would be to send us those materials! Once we get them, we can start your ring. Otherwise, once you place your order online, the turnaround time for us to ship out your ring is 5-6 weeks. You do have the option to expedite your order for $65 and that would get it to you in 2-3 weeks time. Also if you spend over $125 on an order you receive free shipping!

One of the best ways to get an idea of what you want and what types of wood we work with etc is by coming in to visit us in the shop. When you schedule a visit, we will size you, show you around the shop, show you all the different inlays and types of wood we have, and can make a custom order in person with us. Our shop is at 1500 S. Western Ave in Chicago. We love meeting people in person and showing them the process of how we make our rings. Even if you don't want to purchase a ring and just see where we call home, that is fine too. Call us today to schedule your appointment! 

We hope this helps with your purchase and makes the whole process easier! 

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How To Make Valentine’s Day Cards From Recycled Paper!

Valentine's Day, Cards, Paper, Recyle

We are an eco-friendly business and are always thinking of ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle everything around us. With Valentine's Day coming up, we wanted to offer directions for how to make your own homemade paper from paper scraps lying around! This is a good way to recycle and reuse, and is also going to make your cards unique from all other cards! 

How To Make Paper

Tear scrap paper into small pieces.

Each piece should measure no larger than roughly 1 inch (2.54 cm).

Make a frame.

This step can be done while your paper scraps are soaking.

  • Cut a hole in the bottom of a disposable brownie pan. An aluminum pan is best, as it can be cut using sharp scissors. The hole should be rectangular and 1 inch (2.54 cm) smaller on all sides than the bottom of the pan.
Paper making, recycling, valentine's day
  • Place a piece of screen or wire mesh in the pan. To keep it from falling through the hole, simply cut it the size of the pan bottom.
Make a slurry of paper pulp.
  • Fill a blender with warm water, halfway. Add some of the shredded and soaked paper--about a handful. At medium speed, blend the water and paper until it takes on a soupy consistency.
  • Pour the slurry into a large tub. Fill the tub with warm water. Mix the tub contents until they are evenly incorporated. At this point you can add food coloring if you want to make colored paper!
  • Holding the pan level, shake all the extra water out. Use your hands to press the pulp against the screen to get more water out. 
  • Place the frame on a clean, dry towel and press paper out onto towel.
  • Place another towel on top of paper, and roll over with a rolling pin to get extra water out.
  • Peel paper off towel and set somewhere to dry overnight.

Voila!  You have your own homemade paper for Valentine's Day cards! Cut into whatever shape you want and send to your friends and family!

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Size Matters

Ever wonder if size actually matters? When you are buying a ring for someone, it does!!

Wedding season is right around the corner, and if you are planning on getting wedding bands made or surprising someone with a proposal, you want to make sure the ring can actually be worn by that person, right? We have some tips for you so that your loved one can say "I do" and comfortably wear their ring at the same time.

Here is some of our favorite customers ring sizing stories.

  • Make up a story about a friend needing to figure out a ring size for their significant other and say you think yours has the same hand size.
  • One customer tried to use the "string test" while their partner was sleeping (the string test is not a preferred method). 
  • There are many customers who size a ring that their significant other already owns. If you're going to do this, be careful! Make sure the ring is a for their ring finger!
  • You can always ask a family member or friend to have them "try on" a ring. ("Hey, do you like this ring? Do you know your ring size? Oh mine is a 7, what's yours?")

Ring size is measured in millimeters based on the inner circumference of the band. The easiest way to get sized and make sure the size is accurate is to go to a professional jeweler. The jeweler will have a ring mandrel, which is a graduated metal wand with marks on it stating ring sizes.  If  you bring a jeweler a ring that your significant other wears on their ring finger, the jeweler can place it on the mandrel and get an accurate sizing. You can always purchase your own ring mandrel, but this is a more expensive option. 

There are also plastic ring sizers, which we sell here ! This is also one of the most accurate ways to size someone. 

​Another way is to use the string test. You just need a string (or even a strip of paper) and use it to wrap around the ring finger.
Then you can measure that length in millimeters and use the chart we have provided below to match the length up to the ring size.
Don't pull the string or paper too tight! You should be able to slide the string/paper off your finger without a struggle. 

If you can't get your significant other to a jeweler or need to be more secretive in general, we have ideas for that as well. If your significant other takes his or her ring off while they shower, you can grab the ring and place it on your finger and then make a mark on your finger where it falls. You can show a jeweler and have them size that part of your finger. You could also press the ring into a bar of soap and then measure the impression of the ring! Also don't forget, most mothers, sisters, or bestfriends can help by taking the person out and trying on rings together. 

In order to get the most accurate size, you should try to make sure your hands are room temperature! Hands shrink when cold and can swell in heat, which could result in an inaccurate sizing. Also, the wider the ring band, the tighter the ring will be. If you know you're going to purchase a 6mm or 8mm band, be sure to get sized with that width of a ring.Your ring should go on easy and come off hard. The worst thing imaginable is losing a ring because it is a little too big!! 

We're able to resize our wood rings 1/4 to 1/2 of a size. If the ring you order is off by more, we will need to remake the ring.
We hope this helps you in your ring sizing ventures! Remember you can always come into our shop to get sized.
We are located at 1500 South Western in Pilsen! Happy ring sizing!!