Saturday, September 13, 2014

Where Oh Where Have The Honey Bees Gone?

I'd like to tell you beekeeping is easy.  But that is simply not true.  There are too many things that can (and will) go wrong while keeping bees.  I already knew my lotus hive wasn't going to make it through the winter.  They went queen less mid-summer and failed to produce a new queen.  I could (and probably should) have ordered a new queen for the hive.  Alas I did not requeen and now there is only a small cluster of bees present with no brood.  

The dragonfly hive also had problems.  It had a heavy varroa mite infestation. I've tried my best to be a natural beekeeper (this means leaving the bees alone and letting them do their thing). However I knew if I left the hive as it was the bees would die.  So I decided to treat for mites. 

I used a natural but harsh product called Mite Away Quick Strips(MAQS). The bees apparently did not like the treatment and absconded(i.e. they took their honey and abandoned the hive). Argh! I treated one other hive with the MAQS and, quite frankly, I'm a little nervous to go see whether or not the bees are still there. 

At this point that means three of eight hives have failed which is pretty darn close to the average failure rate of 33%; not good statistics for the survival of the honey bee. 

Of course I'm not giving up. I took this opportunity to relocate the hives back on our property (they were previously in the empty lot next door).  Next spring I'll repopulate the hives and have another go. 

Here's hoping my remaining hives stay sturdy and strong through the winter.  


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rustic Socks

It's noon on Sunday.  I'm still in my pajamas and trying to figure out the best way to photograph socks. It occurs to me this is a wonderful position to be in. Last Sunday I was knee deep in critical cases at work. Today is definitely a day to be appreciated. 

Last night I finished knitting these rustic socks.  They've been on the needles for, oh I don't know, six months or so. This is a thick sock made from a local worsted weight yarn; Columbia from Imperial Stock Ranch. I loosely followed Susan B. Anderson's pattern using size four needles. 

I ran out of yarn before I was able to knit the last toe.  So one toe is purple and one is blue.  These are my cozy around the house socks -- thus warm and not perfectly knit.  They will lead to happy winter feet.  

Someday, perhaps, I'll truly learn to spin.  And maybe even have some sheep of my own. I harbor these fantasies every time I knit.  

My fantasy farm

Now we're off thrifting.  We have a trip planned this winter for which we'll need some extra cash.  Hopefully we'll find some amazing treasures that we can fix and sell.  

Perhaps tonight I'll work on some other half finished knitting projects.  

Happy weekending!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spiced Plum Butter

Here on our farm (aka our home in the suburbs) we have an Italian plum tree. Though we live in a climate that isn't conducive to growing fruit we've been lucky.  This tree has been, well, fruitful. It is a dwarf self-pollinating tree which is perfect for our property. 

We've eaten some of the plums straight off the tree. But we won't be able to eat all the fruit before it goes bad. Thus some sort of preservation is needed.

This year I decided to try spiced plum butter. Even the name sounds delectable -- something one might spread on a fresh scone on a cold December morning; coffee in one hand, scone in the other, wrapped in a blanket and watching the snow fall.  Oh I can't wait!

I altered the recipe a touch to use what we already had in our kitchen. I used three cinnamon sticks instead of one, substituted a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves for the whole cloves and used 1 2/3 cup sugar instead of the recommended 2 cups (I'm suspecting I could have gotten away with even less). 

We ended up with six half pint jars; five canned and one in the fridge for immediate use. I sterilized the jars in a boiling water bath. It just felt like the right thing to do.  

I'm thrilled with the fruit we've grown thus far (plums, peaches and apricots). Today the hubbie and I came up with a plan to renovate our side yard and turn it into a mini-orchard.  Cherries and apples and pears, oh my!