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. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Back in the Saddle

Metaphorically speaking, although I am going riding tomorrow...

It's been a long and busy springtime and I have been putting off various cooking and canning projects. But strawberries don't wait and today was a perfect day to go picking. The elderchild and I got up early and arrived just when the farm opened; in half an hour we picked almost 18 pounds of berries. After stuffing our faces with warm strawberry doughnuts and visiting the baby goats, lambs, and all the bunnies (we caught a glimpse of a baby bunny but it didn't want to come outside) we rushed home.

[Actually, we rushed home because I had an opportunity to buy tickets for Hamilton when it comes to Boston. My purchase window opened at 10 am, we got home at 9:46 am. I am psyched to say that we have tickets for October!!!]

First I made one batch of strawberry jam. I have SO MUCH jam leftover from last year if you roll all the flavors together that I won't make a whole lot this year. One batch to start, anyway. We'll see how much I have left. Then I set aside some berries for eating and enough berries in sugar for shortcake. The shortcake is currently in the oven.

Next up, pie filling. Since the youngerchild loves cheesecake, particularly strawberry cheesecake, what better than to make my own pie filling? Using this recipe, I made 6 pints of pie filling. And it's glorious (we licked the pot).

After a few errands and the like, I stopped at the store and bought some rhubarb since I don't seem to have any. I bought almost 4 pounds so I chopped 12 ounces and mixed that with a quart of berries, 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of cornstarch. This will become a pie tomorrow. The elderchild has wanted to learn how to make a pie so this is a perfect way to start. The rest of the rhubarb was chopped and is now frozen in 1-pound bags.

That has used up about half the berries. I have to think about what to do next!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Unexpected Split

Two weeks ago, when I checked on Beeyonce and her entourage, all appeared well. I didn't even check every bar because they were getting a little loud which suggested they weren't pleased. But I had been surprised by how many combs had been built compared to my last colony. I suppose I shouldn't have been, they started almost two months earlier in the season and it'd been a mild one with lots of flowers. So I guess it should have also not been a surprise that they would do the other things a vital and prolific colony would do...

Today I had a little more time than expected so I decided to check out the hive. It's a very good thing I did. I managed to get to every bar and I found queen (swarm) cells on bars 3, 5, 6, and 11. There were so many capped brood cells that it's clear Beeyonce is there somewhere and doing well, even though I didn't see her today. After pondering for a few minutes whether I should just let them swarm (and basically be a bad neighbor) I closed up the hive, pulled out my nuc box from the garage, and set it up next to the main hive. I then reopened the hive and pulled out those 4 bars, along with another bar full of what looks to be mostly honeycomb. These are now set up in the nuc colony, with the entrance facing the opposite direction and I'll let the bees sort themselves out. In a few weeks I'll inspect again and see if there is a queen in each box.

After that, I'm not so sure. If Beeyonce isn't around and there's no evidence of a laying queen, I'll recombine them. If there are two healthy colonies, then I have to decide if I want to manage a second hive. All the beekeepers I know think I should have two. Or more. I'm not sure how all my new neighbors (three of the four houses around me are in the process of getting new owners) would feel about more than two hives!

Monday, May 14, 2018

School Project

For English, the youngerchild had a project due today. The assignment was to pick a poet from a country other than the US and make a presentation about the poet and their poetry as well as incorporate some of the elements of the culture. Creativity was encouraged. My child chose Hafez, a poet from Persia in the 14th century. So, in addition to the writing parts, we jointly decided that there should be traditional Persian sweets for the class to consume while the presentation was happening.

Last week the youngerchild and I made baklava. It went pretty well, considering the youngerchild hadn't really done anything like it before. My goal was to step back and let my kid do most of the work and we had a lot of fun. This stayed in the fridge, uncut, until yesterday when we were putting everything together.

Yesterday we attempted zoolbia. This was much harder as it required deep frying and then dousing the fritters in saffron and rosewater syrup. First we made the syrup and set it aside. Then we made the batter with corn flour, yogurt and water. On the first attempt to use a squeeze bottle to drizzle the batter into hot oil, the squiggles were too thin and they looked like shredded wheat. I cut off the tip of the squeeze bottle and tried again but the batter sank in the oil and stuck to the bottom of the pot. So I carefully transferred the hot oil to a muffin tin and tried again, getting hot oil EVERYWHERE. Amazingly enough, nobody got burned. In the muffin tins, the batter came together more like a cookie than a squiggle, but at least they didn't stick. I would transfer the zoolbia into the syrup and the youngerchild would take them out when they were sufficiently infused and put them on the cooling rack. We put them in a container and poured more syrup over them to give them more flavor and then this morning before taking them to school drained off the excess syrup. They taste good even if they don't look quite right!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Quick Check

It's a perfect spring morning today and since it's been a while since I checked on Beeyonce and her colony I decided to pop out for a look. This time, I finally saw the elusive Beeyonce! I also saw plenty of capped brood, both workers and drones. I even saw a little bit of capped honey. They're doing fine. Today I moved the false back to the back of the hive, to give them more space which they don't need yet and also because it's warmer and they don't need to work to keep their hive warm anymore. If anything, very soon they'll be too warm!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Bees are Brooding

And that is a good thing!

It's gorgeous out here today, 67˚ and sunny. I'd noticed the bees were not eating as much syrup so it seemed like time to get the feeder out of there and check on everything. All good news: while I still can't find Beeyonce there are larva and capped cells so I know she's healthy. There's stored pollen and even the beginnings of honey - no capped cells, but definitely nectar being stored. I pulled out the feeder, did a bar by bar inspection, and closed everything up. They seem pretty well established.

My plan for this year is to get in there more often than my first colony, in an effort to keep an eye out for things like cross-combs, queen cells, and other things which are either a nuisance or signs of impending danger. That means I should aim for a weekly or biweekly inspection.