Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I Guess I'm Going For It

Today I ordered a second beehive.

I went out this morning to check on the bees. It'd been a little over 3 weeks since I'd seen them last. The main hive was docile and polite, had plenty of room, plenty of honey, and evidence of a laying queen. I found larvae and capped brood. The average time from egg to adult for a worker bee is 21 days so any capped brood I saw had to have started their existence after the last time I checked in. They're doing fine. They will need to be fed starting next month. It's likely that queen is Beeyonce, even without her makeup.

The nuc colony was also looking healthy. They were more aggressive, had built comb all the way to the back of the nuc box, and I found honey and capped brood. I couldn't look very long because they we rather unhappy. Some of the bees even attacked and flew into my smoker. Anyway, using the same logic as above, I reasoned there must be a laying queen in there somewhere I just haven't yet found. Phoebee.

Checking in with my mentor, he confirmed my suspicious and suggested the nuc colony may feel cramped for space. Based on his recommendation, it was time to decide once and for all if I wanted to manage two hives. Most beekeepers seem to think this is a good idea. I decided I should go for it so I ordered another hive.

It should be here next week. With luck, we can get a stand built for it over the weekend. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Back In Town

For the past two weeks we missed out on the farm share because we were away. In the interim, there must have been a cucumber boom because today at the share pick-up the sign said, "Unlimited Cucumbers." I grabbed a bunch of pickling cukes but they were too large for making crunchy dills or bread and butter pickles. They were not too large for half-sours, though.

Using my fermentation crock and doubling the recipe for half-sours in The Joy of Pickling, I just set up all the cucumbers with 2 T. of dill seed, 2 dried chili peppers, 1/2 tsp each of coriander seed and peppercorns, crushed, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, and 12 cups of brine (this was 4 times the recipe amount, but required so I could use the weights to sink the cucumbers). They should be ready in about a week.

The rest of the farm share included cabbage, Napa cabbage, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, carrots, lettuce, green beans, flowers, parsley and other herbs. Lately every time I've gone to pick up the share a thunderstorm has come through and today was no exception. It started to rain after I got all the green beans but before I could get all the herbs. I decided I could skip the cilantro and dill this week (although in retrospect it'd have been nice to have a few dill heads for the pickles) and we made it back to the car just in time to watch the skies open up and drench everything and everyone except us!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A-worthy

Each of my children did really well on their report cards this year (straight A's!) so each got to pick how they wanted to celebrate. The elderchild chose ice cream so we had an outing to the local ice cream parlor. The youngerchild wanted, you guessed it, cheesecake.

I was worried I was running out of graham cracker crumbs so when my husband went to the store I asked for some kind of cookie I could use instead, in case I ran out. He came back with ladyfingers, the dry and crunchy kind. I wasn't sure that would work for crumbs. As it turned out I had enough crumbs, but I decided I could still use the ladyfingers:

Then, once the cheesecake was baked, I had this:

Finally, I made chocolate sauce and poured it over the top. After letting it run through the gaps between the ladyfingers, I chilled it for a few minutes to let it set before I put cut strawberries on top. (The last of this week's strawberries from the farm share.)

Congratulations to both of you for a great school year!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Strawberries and Saffron

This is a belated post, but when the elderchild and I made a strawberry rhubarb pie the other day there was a lot of pie crust left over. To give the elderchild more practice with rolling out crust, we collaborated on a rustic strawberry tart.

The filling was a little bit of strawberry jam topped with sliced fresh strawberries. When it came out of the oven, I immediately brushed it with the saffron simple syrup I'd saved from the youngerchild's baklava and zoolbia adventure. The liquid evaporates off and leaves a glaze which had a nice hint of saffron that went beautifully with the berries. Yum!

Flowers and Berries

This year the mulberry tree in our yard has been fairly prolific. In three picking sessions I got enough juice to make a batch of mulberry jelly. Since I didn't see the lime juice in the fridge right away, I grabbed the key lime juice instead. I think it makes it even better:

4 cups mulberry juice
3 T. key lime juice
5 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin

Makes 7 cups plus a little more.

The other thing I'd been toying with was the idea of a rose jelly. Not rose hips, just an extraction from the petals. I have scarlet creeper roses in my yard and picked enough to make 2 cups of infusion. Now, the issue here was that I didn't want to add lemon juice because the rose flavor is pretty subtle and easily overpowered. Cooking also causes the rose essence to evaporate or something. So I added some tartaric acid for the acidity without changing the flavor. Why tartaric? I didn't have citric acid but I did have tartaric acid for cheese making.

2 cups rose petal infusion
1 tsp. tartaric acid
4 cups sugar
1 package liquid pectin
1 T. rosewater

I tossed the rosewater in after the jelly had its one minute hard boil so there would be that rose scent and flavor preserved. Into each jar, I added 2 fresh rose petals. This made 4 cups of jelly.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Where is Beeyonce?

That seems to be the big question. I can't find her. She's painted with a red dot, I ought to be able to.

Today I inspected both the nuc colony and the main hive. The nuc colony consisted of the 4 combs I found with swarm cells and one honeycomb. Today I see evidence of an active queen - eggs in the cells, hatched swarm cells, and bees fanning (which indicate to the other bees that the queen is *right here!*). But I did not see a queen.

In the main hive, I did not see Beeyonce either. I did find an UNmarked queen. A new queen? Beeyonce without the paint? Not sure. The main hive is also thriving and more docile than the nuc colony.

I will have to plan on feeding both colonies in the latter part of the summer if I want them to survive. If my queens are both new then they need new names. Phoebee for the main hive and Hebee for the nuc. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ran Out, Improvised

One of the jams I've wanted to try was a strawberry-balsamic jam. I found a recipe online which used 4 cups of strawberries and 2 T. of balsamic vinegar. I thought I had enough balsamic but the bottle tricked me, the punt was bigger than I thought so I only had about 1 T.

Also, I wanted to use pectin, so I used the regular recipe; when I tasted it I felt the jam needed more...oomph, I guess. Since I didn't have any other bottles of balsamic vinegar around, I added a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. I think that did the trick! I'm hoping to enter this one in the fair so here's the recipe:

Strawberry-Balsamic-Plus Jam

5 cups strawberry purée
7 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
1-2 T. Balsamic vinegar
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
12 turns from the pepper mill

This made the usual 8 cups plus a little bit. The pepper is a nice touch. 

There is more to do to finish up the strawberries but I probably only have 2 quarts left. Later today I'm teaching the elderchild to make a pie.