Category Archives: Local Eats And Treats

Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? Is it a gigantic Swarm of BEES?

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I walk home at lunch because I just can’t get enough of my husband, my kittens and I get to eat leftovers for lunch instead of grocery store concoctions. Well, I was walking back to work, and I heard this roaring buzz. I ran back up to the house, breathless as my tummy is growing, and asked Marc to come help me spot a suspected swarm.

And there it was, 75 ft up a tree, the size of a beach ball. *sigh* It was a primary swarm and after checking all the hives, the only hive that could spare that many bees without emptying the hive completely would be good ol’ Gertrudabelle, my oldest hive. She’s 5 supers (boxes) high and was the most productive, my biggest promise of honey supplies. She’ll still be a source of honey, but not as much as I was hoping. Unless we can catch these bees.

My very helpful co workers suggested phoning the fire department for the longest ladder on island. Yeah, not even the most esteemed fire fighters have a ladder that would have to reach 100 ft. And then you’ve got 30 lbs of bees to haul down a ladder. What misadventure that would be! So instead we went to plan B (or Bee, if you prefer. ha ha)

We made a nice little home for them. A hive box, with honey smeared around the entrance and inside. A bedsheet spread out beneath it with sugar syrup, and a welcome home mat at the front door. Think it’ll work?

And I phoned the neighbours to ask them to check their eaves periodically in the next few days just in case they decide on a different home.

I’ve dealt with swarms quite a few times before but they were never mine, this is the first swarm I’ve personally had and keeping bees for 3 years, it’s surprising that it took this long.

In other news, the strawberries are ripe and selling like hot cakes at the Farmer’s Market. (Not ours, we are the blueberry people…) So my pregnant belly is really enjoying these red explosions of flavour. And, yesterday I ate the first ripe-ish blueberry! *key the ominous music*

Blueberries would usually be greeted with nothing but thrilled excitement, and yes they still are, but they are also greeted with loads of long days picking. When you have 500 bushes to rake through, it means rising at 6am and picking well into the evening. Good thing blueberry bushes are not the prickly type! And selling at the market is ever-so fun!

Hope the emergence of Summer is finding you well, swarm-free, and floating in your favourite berries!

Feast your eyes on the Garden

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It has been remarkably cold for the mildest part of BC this year. The bees I’ve ordered are much later than expected. The tomatoes are dreadfully behind, and our garden has gone to shambles. In the midst of the chaos, between family weddings and family events, our garden has continued growing alongside the weeds. The lettuce has bolted but now we can collect seeds. The radishes have self-seeded from last year and the peas are climbing the trellis, aspiring to be Jack’s “pea-stalk.” Potatoes have sprouted in every corner, despite the cats’ best attempt to dig them up and turn their growing bed into a potty.

Between reading Gabor Mate’s book “When the Body says No” and attending weddings, I have found time to knit a baby vest for a friend who’s having her first born. This friend’s mother and my mother were friends since they were wee. This friend of mine and I are a year apart and grew up together. And finally, she is expecting her first baby. It was with such love and pleasure, I got to knit her this little vest. The thing I love about knitting for others is that it is a meditation for the person it is going to. I can sit and knit and think about the person, the impact they’ve had on my life, and what good things I wish for them.

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Even though today feels like October with the weather wet enough to demand a warm up with the wood stove, I am looking forward to the summer commencing. The blueberries have a great set on them and I’m happy to return to the season of plenty as the Farmer’s Market really expands into veggies, fruits and flowers.

Wishing you, dear reader, all the best as your May folds into June!

Aspiring to be Asparagus

I’ve never eaten asparagus that I’ve just freshly picked. But it was one of the priorities of our first year having a vegetable garden. This is because the crowns have to be 3-4 years old before you can harvest any of these juicy stalks for a great Spring treat. So last year, after attempting to grow asparagus from seed, and getting frondy little seedlings that were semi-successful, we heard rumour that you could buy two year old asparagus crowns (which is a root ball) from the nursery. We went to Victoria on a hunt. I phoned absolutely every single nursery in BC’s capital city and we literally got the last 8 crowns of asparagus on Vancouver Island.

Even then, we weren’t sure we’d have success. Asparagus flourish is sandy well-draining soil. All we have in our garden is soggy clay soil with lots of equisetum (that is, horse tail) and we had such misery with radishes- the apparent easiest vegetable to grow- so we weren’t sure how the asparagus would fair with our rudimentary gardening skills.

We tried to prepare the soil the best we could but we were using lasagne gardening which we quickly discovered was a favoured method among the colony of wire worms. Wire worms adore chewing on roots, especially grass roots. Asparagus is a grass. Again, another strike against us.

Though we’ve been told that a seed wants to grow, a plant wants to be exactly what is genetically prepared to be. And often, plants grow and succeed in the most unlikely environments. So we are grateful and excited to introduce you to our Aspiring Asparagus.

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Unlikely successes like this makes me wonder about the capacity of our race. If we, as humans, knew what we were genetically purposed for, then how could we flourish?

I remember wanting a garden so that I could benefit from the food, from the herbs, from the freshness. But I didn’t expect that I would benefit mentally and emotionally from the virility of the plants, the tenacity of life. It is the same with the bees. I wanted to keep bees because I have a sweet tooth. J’adore miel, but I found that I learned much more than I bargained for and I’ve gained much more by my relationship with the bees. I learned and am learning to calm myself and check my attitude, my breathing, when I approach the hive. I’m learning to observe in quietness, without expectation. These skills do not only enrich my hive, they enrich my life in all areas.

To go back to the asparagus, growing vegetables has not only lent miracles to my palate. It has also increased my faith. To put a seed into black soil, cover it, water it with no sign of life, with no immediate gratification, this is faith. And then the seed, wanting to grow, does what it knows how to do and I get to watch the tiny leaves unfurl.

And somehow, I grow with the tendrils, reaching for the sun.

Happy Easter!

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Last year I showed you our coffee order from Pot of Gold coffee. Last year they gave us two little chocolate eggs wrapped in foil to find in our coffee beans. This year, they have not let us down.

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I have a long weekend this weekend to flounce about the island. I’ve been enjoying the many treats it has to offer. Like the Nu-To-U. I found some excellent fabric there to continue my sewing disasters with as much flamboyance as possible.

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A bag? All I see is a bag.

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This is a dress of course. I have a picture of exactly the kind of dress I want to sew this into, in my head. But we’ll see how it actually comes out. Hopefully it will have more success than the “vulcan nighty” which is tenderly referred to now.

It is the first weekend of the farmer’s market. We got some leeks, onions and mixed greens from Hope Bay Farm. Then we galavanted over to the in-laws to work on the bee hives. I have 15 hives of bees coming in the next couple months so I have to make sure their homes are ready for them. They do not tend to bring a lot of luggage, and since they’re flying they’ll have a baggage restriction. Good thing they tend to travel light. We have been scraping out the old wax in the frames that have been pretty chewed by wax moths. We’ve been scraping propolis off the corners so that the frames do not stick together quite as much. Then we have been sanding and painting the supers.

This is kind of how it works. There is a bottom board, then the brood chambers, then the honey supers then the inner cover, then the outer cover. Like this:

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And then assembled, they look like this:

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Since I got a lot of my equipment second-hand, it has to be cleaned up, refurbished and renovated to bring it into modern times. None of that green shag carpet in my beehives.

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I’ve stained my hives and then when I ran out of stain, I painted them.

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Yes, it’s a lot of work. This, tending to the bees. But when the power has been out, what else is there to do but renovate beehives.

The beginning of our seedlings are coming up. We have a few varieties of tomatoes poking their heads up, as well as artichokes and sunflowers. Have you planted anything yet?

I hope your Easter lent itself to much chocolate, good food and a warm cozy place to curl up.

Wild Edibles

Green is everywhere on our farm and we have been taking full advantage by being outside a lot. Our asparagus is just starting to come up and the garlic is going gang-busters. In our efforts to eat more locally, to eat more sustainably and to grow our own food, we must also address the opportunity of foraging!

We watched a fantastic mini series by Ray Mears on wild foods, though admittedly in England, Marc has been reading up on what wild foods in our area are edible. Last year through Locavore’s blog, we were pointed to Miner’s Lettuce.

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Miner’s lettuce was eating in the Californian gold rush by Miners to boost their vitamin C. We’ve been foraging it and eating it in salads with sunflower seeds, cranberries, boiled egg and an olive oil and dijon mustard dressing. Sometimes I toss in a few capers to spice things up. It is delicious and we both prefer it to lettuce.

Stinging Nettles are our other wild edible at this time of year.

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Unlike the Miner’s lettuce, you cannot eat these babies raw. Unless you want a very stinging tongue. Right, Dad? The new leaves on Stinging Nettle are quite tender after you neutralize the poison. We do this by steaming or boiling the leaves. Then we use it in Soup, in with mashed potatoes or just by itself with butter and a touch of salt, like spinach. We have yet to try it in an omlette but I believe it’s on our list. Also, we need to see how it would fair on pizza.

You tried any good edibles lately that may only have to travel as far as you backyard? I’d love to hear about it!

Oh, and, we are slowly trying to cut down on our carbon footprint. We are currently driving a Dodge Caravan, with it’s V6 engine, we are doing the poor air no favours. So we have opted for something a little friendlier.

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The sides can fold down, making it a flat bed. It’s going to be a great truck for hauling bees. It also has a motorcycle engine in it (660cc) so it’ll be much friendlier on gas. Though it is not electric, every step in the right direction counts. And, it’s really fun to drive!

(Camo be gone, we plan on painting it.)