Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bee Hood Failure Mode

It's been a while so I went to check on the bees. They're generally doing well but it is later in the season so, despite my smoker, they were definitely trying to defend themselves against me. I guess they thought I was going to rob the hive. Not to mention it took me a while to get the Flow hive off the rest of the boxes and once I got into the upper brood box I inspected a few combs and then decided to leave them alone as they were getting agitated. 

Normally, my hood works great, but there must have been a little gap today between the hood and my coveralls because a bee got inside my hood and proceeded to sting me on the side of my nose, up near my eye. All I could do was catch it in the hood netting and get it out, and then I grabbed my spray bottle of rubbing alcohol and sprayed my face. Yes, it did burn in my eyes, but I needed to neutralize the alarm pheromones and keep the rest of the bees away. That did work, but I was certainly done for the day. I closed everything back up and got out of there, quick!

Good news, though - I did see lots of honey and definitely larvae and capped brood. I have not yet seen Cybeele but I'll trust that she's in there somewhere. 

My nose doesn't hurt too badly, either. Could've been a lot worse. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021


The tomatoes from last week are finally ripe and I made another batch of pizza sauce. Despite having more purée from the same number of tomatoes, I ended up with fewer jars of sauce. Which is odd, considering it's the same thickness as the previous batch. I guess these tomatoes were just juicier to begin with? Anyway, I ended up with 4 cups of sauce. This way, even if the rest of the tomatoes at the farm aren't great, I still have a lot of pizza sauce until next season rolls around.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Salsa Verde

Yesterday, which was an uneventfully rainy day, I picked up the farm share.

I say uneventful because often when I am at the farm and it rains it takes the form of a tremendous downpour, complete with lightning; it's like a curtain of rain is drawn across the field. Yesterday it was more steady - no significant hazards, but still drenched at the end. So I can be forgiven for not picking the flowers, or the tiny handful of raspberries in our allotted share. But I did grab a bunch of tomatillos and tomatoes, before the wet weather destroys those crops.

The tomatoes still have some ripening to do, but the tomatillos were enough to make four cups of salsa verde. Since I only had three jars, there is more in the fridge to do something with. I did get three decent sized poblano peppers in the share and so I might make chile rellenos and top with salsa verde. Something like this recipe, in fact. 

Also today I prepped my four entries for the fair. I have to take them in tomorrow before work. 

As I typed all this, I looked up to see 5 monarch butterflies on my butterfly bush. That's the most I've ever seen here at one time. They're so beautiful!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Pizza and Doughnuts

Due to the frequent rain the tomato crop at the farm share has been limited. We're expecting more rain over the next few days so yesterday they said we could pick 15 large tomatoes each in addition to the sungold cherry tomatoes. I picked plum tomatoes and set to work this morning making pizza sauce, which is something that we use a lot of throughout the year. 15 tomatoes made a half-batch of sauce, about 4.5 cups. 

But that isn't nearly as exciting as doughnuts! Last Saturday I took a recreational cooking class at the culinary school and it was all about doughnuts. Mmm. In pairs we made a batch of yeasted doughnuts that were then deep fried; my partner and I opted for Boston Cream. It is, after all, a classic. And a favorite of this family for sure. Each student could also make their own batch of cake doughnuts; the choices were apple cider, gingerbread and Devil's Food; I made the Devil's Food and my partner made gingerbread and we shared the results. I also made a humongous batch of chocolate glaze which we shared with other groups and also the chef instructor planned to keep the rest and use it the next day. 

All in all, the doughnuts were tasty and easy, and now I have another pan to buy....

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Now I Have a Deadline

I finally checked out the exhibitors' guide for the Topsfield Fair and I have until September 7 to enter. I think I will enter the dill pickles and elderberry jelly I have already made, plus today's Salsa Verde and Bread and Butter pickles. The farm share was full of pickling cukes, onions and tomatillos today and I was able to make a batch of the salsa and 4 pints of Bread and Butter pickles.

Given the time constraints I have over the next few weeks, this may be it for my entries. I don't think I'm going to try to bake for the fair this year, either. I want to see how this year goes. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Dill Pickles

Provided things don't change too much, the Topsfield Fair is supposed to be happening this year. It seems like I should get a few things ready although I haven't really been making anything with the fair in mind until this week. Today's farm share had a lot of pickling cucumbers and I took my allotment (10) and made dill pickles.

The recipe I use, "Favorite Dill Pickles," from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, is nice because it has a little sugar and mustard seeds which temper the acidity of the vinegar. It's also really quick to make. In about an hour I converted most of the cucumbers to six jars of pickles. I say "most" because one was hiding under the bok choy and I didn't see it until it was too late. 

Wild Blueberries

Another thing that's been missed for the past few years has been wild blueberry season. We did find some when we were camping last year, but we hadn't trekked out to our favorite spot since 2017. Apparently, in the interim the bushes were sprayed again and have started to come back but aren't up to their usual bounty. 

Yesterday we went fairly early in the morning to go pick - partly because it was the coolest day of the week and partly because it was a weekday and hopefully not as crowded. As we're still fairly busy and everyone has been tired lately, we set a limit of two hours of picking. At the end of that we had just under 6 cups of berries. Last year I had made blueberry jam from the regular berries we picked in NH, and still have a bunch, and this was enough to freeze some and make a batch of scones. 

This morning I made a full batch of scones which made twenty. In addition to the blueberries I tossed in a bit of crystallized ginger. I froze a dozen and the rest we had throughout the day. Although they were at their best still warm from the oven, with soft butter. Mmm.