Honey harvest

The hive inspector was here the other day to check hives, and we discovered that the three hives were all honey bound. Honey bound happens when the bees fill up all the frames with honey and the queen has nowhere to lay eggs. The solution is to move emptier frames from the outside of the box to the inside (bees work from the center frames to the outer ones), and to harvest the honey from the filled and capped frames, then put the emptied frames back in for the bees to use.

All told, I extracted around 20 pints of honey from the frames. I didn’t harvest all of the honey-filled frames on the advice of the inspector. The final product is beautiful and tasty! I’ll also be processing the wax to use for salves, balms, and candle-making.

Flow honey super update – I have the slowest bees ever, I think! They are taking their time to fill in the gaps with wax, then make the honey. I’m hoping since I harvested a bit of the honey they had, they will start working on getting the Flow super filled up. Only 3 frames have activity at this point.

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Pre-bacon

This was bound to happen…

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It’s been fascinating to watch these two little girls – we have them in one of the large barn pens until the weather is better. This is the pen where we keep the beeves while they are waiting to be taken to the butcher, so there is a nice deep layer of cow poo, straw, and hay for the pigs to root through. As you can see, they got right to work looking for yummies to eat!

They have pretty precise control over that snout of theirs – I’ve seen them delicately root in one spot, but they can also use that snout like a plow and move through several feet of debris.

They also “nest” – we have a heat lamp for them, and I watched them paw the hay around where they were going to sleep until it was where they wanted, then they snuggled into the nest together.

Little Pink is more wary than Big Black, who will come right up to me now. They both know the sound of the feed bucket, and start running around until I get in the pen.

And they don’t stink. Really, they don’t. In my experience, stinky animals come from being confined to too small of a space, or being fed a poor diet. They do have a scent, but everything has a scent. 🙂

 

More whole grain success

Too darn cold to work outside, except to feed the critters, so why not play with some more whole grain recipes?

I’ve (re)discovered that the longer you soak the grain flour, the better the finished product will be. 12-24 hours seems to be the conventional wisdom.

Yesterday morning I started a batch of tortillas, pancakes, and bread. I left the bread dough to soak all day, and the tortillas and pancakes soaked overnight.

Results?

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Whole grain pancakes

 

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Whole grain tortillas

Thus far, we are pleased with the pancakes, tortillas, pita, and pizza crust. I did a batch of whole grain buttermilk biscuits with a longer soak, and they turned out much better.

The bread is a work in progress – maybe I’m soaking it too long, maybe the yeast is not active enough, maybe it’s in too warm/too cold of a place to soak, maybe… It’s rising, but this past batch only came out around 3″ high – better than the first batch, but not quite sandwich bread yet!

I still need to tweak the hamburger buns recipe with a longer soak to see if that lightens them up a bit – they were pretty dense.

Nothing has been inedible (yet!), which is reassuring!

 

As easy as garlic

garlic

 

If I would have realized that garlic is so easy to grow, I would have done it long before this year.

Garlic should be planted in the fall, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Be ready to plant about 6-8 weeks before frost.

*Do not use the stuff from the grocery store! If no one at your local farm market grows their own, buy from a good seed company. We support companies like Baker Creek.

Break apart garlic cloves a couple days before planting.

Plant about 4″ apart and 2″ deep. Plant the pointy side up and the flat side down. Mulch well (I used straw).

In the spring, remove the mulch (I forgot to do that…). When they flower (called “scapes” and very good to cook with), cut off the flower to keep the energy in the root.

For us, harvest was in July. Loosen the soil around the bulb and dig it out – don’t pull it like an onion. I read several ways to know when the bulb is ready – when the stem is anywhere from 1/2 dry to all dry. I harvested when they were a little more than 1/2 dry.

Dry the bulb (with the stem still on it) in a dry place, out of direct sunlight. Put them up on something so the air can get all around. When the whole bulb is dry and has the papery outside, it is ready to cut off the stem, brush the dirt off, trim the roots off, and store. You can also keep the stem and braid them all together.

These bulbs were on the small side, but I planted them in a new area that hadn’t been worked before – I expect that with looser soil, the bulbs will be much bigger.

 

I’ll be planting a lot more this year – the almanac says our first frost will be around October 25th or so. I guess that means I better be getting an area ready very soon!

 

More gardens

Growing herbs in pots is great, but I wanted a more permanent solution to growing culinary and medicinal herbs that didn’t involve lugging large planters around. Enter 24×4 cinder blocks, lots of sticks, and lots of dirt.

These are a type of hugelkultur raised bed, which uses sticks and logs as the base, and dirt piled over them. This website has a good explanation, with pictures! And since we have plenty of sticks around here, it’s a good way to use them.

 

First, set up the cinder blocks, and add sticks. The two closest beds don’t have sticks yet, but the two farthest to the right do. Break up the sticks, toss them in, and when you have a good pile inside the blocks, stomp them down. Repeat until the sticks are more or less halfway up the blocks.

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Beds filled with dirt. And a chicken…

 

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I will be filling the side holes for herbs, but the main bed is ready to go. I’m going to let it settle for a few days to let the dirt get in between all the sticks. It’s supposed to rain, which will also help tamp down the dirt. After that, add more dirt to even it up, and start planting.

Since we have free-ranging chickens, a welded wire cover for each bed is in order. I’ll build those while I’m waiting for the beds to settle.

Cinder blocks around here are usually about $1.00. We used dirt dredged from our creek, but just about any dirt will do. You can put topsoil over the “fill dirt” if you like, or add compost. It doesn’t have to be an expensive process to get a nice raised bed. And if you decide to take the bed down at some point, the blocks can be reused, and the dirt/sticks (or what’s left of the sticks) can be spread around.

 

 

 

011514 – the bucket garden

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This is all it is – a 5 gallon bucket, some soil and seeds, and a light fixture with a grow bulb in it. Denny made the stand the light is hanging from (the vertical piece goes all the way to the bottom of the bucket). We have the light on a timer, but as long as you turn it off at night, you should be good to go.

What corner could use to grow things? Lettuce, carrots, radishes, potatoes, tomatoes….experiment and see!

011414 – food in a bucket

If you have room for a 5 gallon bucket, you can grow food. Fill bucket with soil, plant some seeds, put a grow light on it, and water. Wait a bit and you’ll get food! These are our first radishes, and we’re going to try carrots next. Growing food, in the winter, in the house – it can be done!

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Day 258 – laptops and plumbing

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times. My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology […]

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times.

My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology that was purchased in 2006, I’m told that this is a good long life. Off to our computer boneyard it goes, probably to be resucitated at a later date as a robot or something. We do have the “family computer” for me to use when the tablet or phone just won’t do the job. At this point, the only thing I really need it for is making presentations for my humanities class. I’ve figured out how to do everything else on the tablet. Yay, me.

It’s been a relatively calm week on the farm – it was too stinkin’ hot for a few days to do much of anything except stay inside and drink lots of water. So I got some studio time in – mostly glazing. I went to Cornell Studio Supply in Dayton for their “Clay Day” festivities. Nothing like a bunch of clay artists getting together for food, beverages and clay games. I was the left hand in a pair throwing contest, and made a 30 degree bowl – while blindfolded! Saw some friends, made some new friends, and generally had a good time.

My friend Erin (who owns Cornell Studio Supply) – she was part of the 13 pound challenge, which was to form the tallest/widest work from 13 pounds of clay.
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The highlight of the week came today – plumbing! Our kitchen sink has needed a new faucet for a while, so a trip to Menards netted a nice faucet/sprayer combo. That was about 4 months ago. I guess I needed time to work into it. Or something! My problem is I want/need a whole day for this stuff in case I screw it up and need to make trips somewhere to get, well, something to fix the mess.

As expected, it took awhile to complete – the cold water hose was cemented onto the threaded pipe under the sink (we have really hard water). Denny suggested the Dremel tool and diamond blade for some plastic wingnut demolition. It worked.

Here’s the remains of the wingnut, and the new faucet assembly:

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2013-09-15 14.53.09

Something I now know how to do, although it’s ok if I don’t have to do it for awhile!

Food for thought – we were discussing how people view animals and food. Example – at one of the farmer’s markets, a lady was very upset that the veg seller would be taking his unsold produce home at the end of the market and feeding it to his chickens. He and I weren’t quite sure why she was upset – the chicken eats the produce, gets big and strong, and is butchered for meat to feed the human. Seems like a pretty good cycle to me. Moving along to our own garden. We decided that we had canned enough tomatoes for our future needs, and have been picking tomatoes to eat fresh. This picture from last week shows that we still have a lot of tomatoes on the vine:
IMG_0361

And after the mini heat wave, they are going bad very quickly. What to do? Pull the vines and feed them to the chickens, who pull off the leaves and tomatoes for a nice feast. We humans will still get the benefit of the tomatoes down the road when we eat the chickens. So have the tomatoes (or the leftover produce of my farmer’s market friend) been wasted?

Day 258 – laptops and plumbing

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times.

My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology that was purchased in 2006, I’m told that this is a good long life. Off to our computer boneyard it goes, probably to be resucitated at a later date as a robot or something. We do have the “family computer” for me to use when the tablet or phone just won’t do the job. At this point, the only thing I really need it for is making presentations for my humanities class. I’ve figured out how to do everything else on the tablet. Yay, me.

It’s been a relatively calm week on the farm – it was too stinkin’ hot for a few days to do much of anything except stay inside and drink lots of water. So I got some studio time in – mostly glazing. I went to Cornell Studio Supply in Dayton for their “Clay Day” festivities. Nothing like a bunch of clay artists getting together for food, beverages and clay games. I was the left hand in a pair throwing contest, and made a 30 degree bowl – while blindfolded! Saw some friends, made some new friends, and generally had a good time.

My friend Erin (who owns Cornell Studio Supply) – she was part of the 13 pound challenge, which was to form the tallest/widest work from 13 pounds of clay.
2013-09-14 17.13.00

The highlight of the week came today – plumbing! Our kitchen sink has needed a new faucet for a while, so a trip to Menards netted a nice faucet/sprayer combo. That was about 4 months ago. I guess I needed time to work into it. Or something! My problem is I want/need a whole day for this stuff in case I screw it up and need to make trips somewhere to get, well, something to fix the mess.

As expected, it took awhile to complete – the cold water hose was cemented onto the threaded pipe under the sink (we have really hard water). Denny suggested the Dremel tool and diamond blade for some plastic wingnut demolition. It worked.

Here’s the remains of the wingnut, and the new faucet assembly:

2013-09-15 15.55.06

2013-09-15 14.53.09

Something I now know how to do, although it’s ok if I don’t have to do it for awhile!

Food for thought – we were discussing how people view animals and food. Example – at one of the farmer’s markets, a lady was very upset that the veg seller would be taking his unsold produce home at the end of the market and feeding it to his chickens. He and I weren’t quite sure why she was upset – the chicken eats the produce, gets big and strong, and is butchered for meat to feed the human. Seems like a pretty good cycle to me. Moving along to our own garden. We decided that we had canned enough tomatoes for our future needs, and have been picking tomatoes to eat fresh. This picture from last week shows that we still have a lot of tomatoes on the vine:
IMG_0361

And after the mini heat wave, they are going bad very quickly. What to do? Pull the vines and feed them to the chickens, who pull off the leaves and tomatoes for a nice feast. We humans will still get the benefit of the tomatoes down the road when we eat the chickens. So have the tomatoes (or the leftover produce of my farmer’s market friend) been wasted?