Thursday, September 24, 2015

Changing the Feeder - Video

When we re-leveled the hive last weekend my husband took some video of me getting in and out to change the feeder. Well, Google Auto Awesome very kindly made a little video story of the adventure, complete with peppy music. To get the sense of what it actually was like, turn the sound off and imagine a lot of buzzing.

Salsa and Beer

Today I'm home waiting for a package so I made sure I had enough projects to do. I made 2 batches of salsa. First a batch of garden salsa (red and yellow tomatoes, scallion and onion, green peppers and jalapeños) and then a batch of tomatillo salsa, which finished the tomatillos. I don't think I'm going to get much more of those from the farm so it seemed wise to start to use them up. We're going camping tomorrow and I wanted to have some salsa to take.

Last night we tasted the beer to see if it was ready for the "Homebrew Showcase" at my husband's work. Even though we bottled it last Friday it was, amazingly, ready. We squeaked in under the wire this year! The difference between the 2 half-batches is noticeable, both the aroma and the taste. The beer with the added hops is definitely a deeper hops flavor. I prefer it. He'll take 2 liters of each in tonight and we'll get some feedback from people there.

I still have some apples to contend with, as well, as beets, another monster zucchini (I took 2 the other day and made 4 loaves of chocolate zucchini bread, 1 for dinner, 1 for work, 2 in the freezer), and a whole lot of squashes. But I think I'm going to take a little break soon. After I make more apple cake.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Working My Way Through

Today I started to tackle the apples my family picked last week. I made a double batch of apple cake which, unfortunately, suffered from me getting distracted by fixing the hive. There was a little singeing around the edges. Fortunately, it was easily cut off and the rest tasted fine. I might have to make another batch, though, as we ate a fair amount tonight and some is earmarked for work. What I need to remember (Hey! Note to Self!) is that the oven is too hot on the edges and I should not overfill it.

Why did I get distracted by the hive? I went to swap out the feeder and discovered the whole thing was significantly tilted and the legs had moved. My husband had been planning to swap some of the bolts in the legs for carriage bolts with locking washers so they wouldn't slip anymore. Now seemed like a very good time to get that done. I didn't mind being that close to the hive but he was not as familiar with having the bees inches from his nose. He seemed a little tense while he was shifting the hive back and forth as we leveled it. I think he was glad to get through that unscathed. Without his help, there was no way I could have leveled the hive and I'm so appreciative of his plan to fortify the legs of the stand.

Once we got that taken care of, and the cake out of the oven, I made a batch of applesauce - 14 larger apples made 3 quarts of sauce which is smooth (food mill) with white sugar. The last few things I did today were the second batch of grape jelly and then I warmed up the remaining almost 4 cups of grape juice, added some sugar, and then cooled it down so we could drink it with dinner.  For dinner, we grilled the last piece of venison from the freezer.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Late Night Bottling

After dinner this evening we bottled the beer we've been brewing. We'd split the batch in half and added fresh ("wet") hops to one half. After a week, it was time to bottle. First we tasted and bottled the half-batch without the extra hops, this was about 9 liters. Then we racked the half-batch with the hops into the other carboy and bottled that. Again, about 9 liters. The half-batch with the extra hops tasted smoother, almost sweeter, than the other. It'll be interesting to taste it again when they're ready to drink.

Also today I made a batch of grape jelly using 5 of the cups of grape juice I made a few days ago. I have enough for another batch which I'll try to get to in the next few days. I still have almost a half-bushel of apples to work with and some zucchini for another batch of chocolate zucchini bread but I just don't have those big chunks of time right now.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sometimes, Plans Change

Today I was going to make grape jelly. I have over 13 cups of grape juice prepared, and that's enough for 2 batches of jelly plus some for drinking. I bought sugar and jars. And then I went to pick up my farm share.

In the share, I could get peaches and pears in addition to the usual fruits: melons and raspberries. As the allotment of berries was only 1 cup, and I had all these lovely fresh peaches, I was reminded of peach melba jam and thought maybe I'd make some. That means putting off the grape jelly, and the applesauce I was also thinking about making, but that's OK. Those ingredients will keep longer than the berries and peaches will.

The berries, when crushed, made about half a cup. To this I added 3.5 cups of peaches, 2 T. lemon juice, 5.5 cups sugar and a package of pectin. This made exactly 6.5 cups of jam.  Last time I made this flavor, I used more raspberries than peaches and one couldn't even taste the peaches. I am not sure I can taste the peaches this time, either! Maybe it needs to mellow out some.

Tonight for dinner we will have the last of the portions of paté I made, with the cornichons and the spruce paste, along with cheese, bread and fruit. After spending over an hour in the sun picking vegetables, I'm worn out!

Edit: After dinner, I got the 20 small tomatoes peeled and into a quart jar in the canner, just as I did last week. There are just too many tomatoes for us to eat and I found these jars of peeled, whole tomatoes really useful in the past year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Now They Have Something to Protect

And getting into the hive just got harder!

Last night I went to a class about winterizing my hive. It was nice to see my beekeeper friend again, and meet new people with lots of experience to share. I learned some things about when to stop feeding, when to start putting the insulation on and how to manage things like mice. Yeah, that's right. MICE. I do not want to open my hive in the spring and find a dead mouse. I will be purchasing a mouse guard soon.

Anyway, they recommended I examine the hive again, now that I've been feeding them for a month, to see if they have made honey. This morning I put on all the gear and went out there. I tried the GoPro again but I still did it wrong and have no video! That's OK. I saw what I needed to see: that they are making honey, there were lots of capped honey cells and even more open honey cells. There are very few larva. I only saw one, but I only examined 5 of about 11 combs. The bees were getting fairly agitated and getting into my sleeves again so I decided I'd seen enough and left them alone. The false back got moved closer to the combs so it's just behind the feeder. And I got a little honey on my prying tool; it tasted a bit like the essential oils from the syrup I'm feeding them. If I can keep going with this for a while, then I think they'll have enough food at least.

After going raspberry picking with one of my coworkers this morning, I'm now getting the grape juice extracted from the grapes. I had 1.5 pounds of wild grapes and 6.5 pounds of Concord and Zinfandel grapes so I mixed them all together with 8 cups of water and they're simmering. I'll strain the juice overnight and then, depending on how much I get, will make 1-2 batches of jelly and maybe some canned juice.

The raspberries are for eating. The kids will be happy.

Monday, September 14, 2015

More Eggplant and Other Updates

This afternoon, I made another batch of eggplant caponata. This one had both celery and peppers, as well as red onions and both kind of olives. The batch made 3.5 pints of caponata. I suspect I'll be getting more eggplants from the farm soon so should be able to make even more!

Also, the kids and my husband went apple and peach picking yesterday, so last night I made a peach crisp with half the peaches and this afternoon I made apple dumplings. Each dumpling is pie crust wrapped around a peeled, cored apple that has butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg shoved into the core. Here's what I discovered: it is much easier to roll pie crust into a circle rather than a rectangle. Also, the recipe called for a sauce of butter and sugar; there is no way this needed that much extra sugar! Also, wrapping the apples is pretty fiddly work.

I received another dozen eggs from my friend at work and will bring her a jar of bread and butter pickles in return. I made a carbonara sauce for dinner and served it over mushroom ravioli and chicken and cheese ravioli. It always tastes so much better with fresh eggs.

Tomorrow night I'm going to a beekeeping class about getting the hive ready for the winter. I think it'll be helpful. And I'm looking forward to meeting other bee enthusiasts and becoming reacquainted with the ones I already know!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Fair Season

While I was at work today my husband did me a very big favor. He and the kids drove up to the Fairgrounds and dropped off my entries for the canning competition. I had not planned on the Fair drop off schedule when the work schedule was set up. Whoops. They also met up with Roxanne and she sent a few jars of goodies and 2 bottles of homemade Limoncello back for me. The Limoncello is MIGHTY TASTY. Wow. (Thanks, Roxanne!)

Now that I'm home, I'm getting dinner organized, but first I had to check on the bees. It was time to change their jar of food. I'm better at getting in and out of the hive pretty quickly but as it is a sunny and warm day the bees were pretty active. They did get a little annoyed at me but I stayed as still as possible and they evidently decided I wasn't a threat.  Tuesday I'm going to take a class about how to winterize the hive.

At least I'm not working the first weekend of the Fair. Because I don't think I can wait too long to see how I do!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lovely Scents

Today was the big day:  I took my Pediatric Recertification exam. We have to do this every 10 years. And I'm tired. Afterward, I got home with enough time to do a little foraging on the bike path. Something I felt might make me feel less stressed out. The hops and black walnuts smell so lovely this time of year!

In keeping with the theme that every tree and plant (except blackberries, for some reason) has done really well this year, the hops and the black walnuts on the bike path were plentiful and easy to reach. I picked almost 50 black walnuts off the trees and didn't have to resort to picking up any off the ground. The squirrels chattered their displeasure at me the whole time but, trust me, the trees had plenty to spare. Once I ran them under the wheel of the car, only 3 were bad. They're drying in the garage.

As for the hops, I picked a bag full and I timed it just right and most were fresh and green. We had been planning on using the hops from last year, which were oasted and in the freezer, but decided instead to try the "wet hops" technique of adding them in fresh. After coming back from the Town Day Fireworks, we split the beer into 2 containers; half will stay just as the kit instructed and the other half gets the fresh hops. Next week we'll bottle them and see how they taste. I'll keep those other hops in the freezer for the next time.

Lastly, I cleaned out the basement and brought everything to my neighbor's house; we're having a neighborhood yard sale to raise money for a traffic calming study and it seemed like a good opportunity to get some things out of the house. Since I'm working tomorrow, I figured it'd be easier to drop it off today. I think it's going to be rather big.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

At Least I Got One Done

Today I didn't get a whole lot done, as I'm super tired from studying and the inevitable adjustment of the kids starting school again. But I currently have 7 cups of tomatillo salsa in the canner. All I had to do was get cilantro while I was out; the rest of the ingredients were mostly from the farm share. I used 10 jalapeño peppers from the bag of them I have in the freezer. Before I cooked everything up, the vegetables were roasted under the broiler for 7-8 minutes. Then I cut open the jalapeños and scraped out the seeds. It's still pretty spicy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fast and Furious

Everything is ripening on schedule this year which means all at once.

This morning I dashed off to a friend's house to pick her grapes. She has Concord and Zinfandel grapes growing on a fence and they are well established and do very well. Sadly, she is selling this wonderful house and yard! Knowing this was going to be our last year to enjoy these grapes, I picked over 6 pounds. We'll see how much juice they give me; right now they're in the freezer. I have too many other projects and they do well if you freeze them first.

After that, I immediately went to the raspberry farm and picked 3 quarts of berries in about 30 minutes. There are plenty more, and I do plan to go back next Wednesday with someone from work, but I wanted to get a batch of jam done as it's going to rain tomorrow. Three quarts was enough for a batch of jam, I left the seeds in for one of the quarts and strained out the rest so it's not too seedy but certainly not seedless. It is too late, however, to enter this in the fair, so I can't test my theory that the judges like their jam with seeds. Anyway, I was able to get 9 cups of jam (7 half-pint jars and 4 half-cup jars).

Yesterday's farm share was even more out of control than usual: blackberries and raspberries (eaten), a cantaloupe (also eaten), watermelon, 3 quarts of cherry tomatoes, 20 field tomatoes, 3 pounds of regular tomatoes, kale, collards, tat soi, parsley, 8 tomatillos, onions, garlic, 3 pounds of zucchini, golden beets, broccoli (eaten), a delicata and a spaghetti squash, and 10 hot peppers. I skipped the flowers, herbs, and husk cherries. After making the raspberry jam today I peeled and canned the 20 little tomatoes (I got the ones that you see in the store labelled "Campari tomatoes" so they were small and all about the same size). I was able to cram them into one quart jar. The other 3 pounds of tomatoes are in the freezer so they can be made into sauce eventually.

The mason stopped by tonight with gifts from his garden: celery, chard, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Yum! I can make more caponata soon!

Also on the agenda this week: tomatillo salsa, once I get some cilantro, chocolate zucchini bread, seeing how the hops and black walnuts are doing, and taking my once-every-10-years board recertification exam. Oh, and working the weekend. My husband will take my fair entries up this Saturday as I won't be able to get out in time. I've entered 7 classes this year: Dill Pickles, Bread & Butter Pickles, Sweet Relish, Strawberry Jam, Blueberry Jam, Apple Jelly and Other Jelly (Mulberry this year). The fair opens October 2.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Spent Grain Bunny Treats

The last time we brewed a batch of beer, which was, sadly, over a year ago, I attempted to make bread with the spent grain and it was a disaster. I don't really know why, but it was. The bread didn't rise or bake all the way through or something and it was a gelatinous mess. This time I'd planned to make horse treats with the spent grain, but my husband wondered if I could make treats for the rabbit as well. I did a little research and made these:

Bunny Cookies

1 cup spent grain
1 pureed carrot
1 T. honey
some raspberries and blueberries
1/4 cup flour

This was mixed up and then spooned onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and baked at 350 for about 30 minutes. After they'd cooled a bit, I brought one to Mocha. He sniffed it and licked it a few times, then turned his back on me. I put it in his bowl. About 5 minutes later he went over to his bowl, dragged out the cookie, and ate some before he accidentally dropped it. It took a few minutes for him to find it again, but when he did he ate some more. I guess he likes them! However, for future reference, I think it'd be better to use dried fruit rather than fresh.

The beer itself is the "Hophead Pale Ale" kit, and when it's time to do the second rack we'll split it, so half will get the foraged hops and half won't. This way we can see what they add to the flavor. The only other difference with the kit this year is that we added Irish Moss as a clarifying agent which we hadn't done before. I also boiled about 3 gallons of water ahead of time and kept them in the fridge so we had enough sterile water to top off the brew. Starting SG is 1.042 at 72 degrees.

The rest of the spent grains are in the freezer; when I have time to make horse treats (and more bunny cookies) I'll thaw them.