Tag Archives: Garlic

Honey Harvest, finally!

honeyfromlucinda

My family and friends have been very patient with me in my eccentricities. When I first brought up my interest in beekeeping, they were cautiously encouraging, not sure their required level of participation. As I’ve delved deeper and deeper into the art of apiculture, they have become more encouraging and enthusiastic, and I suspect this is because they saw “sweet things” on the horizon.

I got my first beehive 3 years ago, on July 1st. I knew I’d have to wait at least until the second year before I’d get any honey from her. But she had a rough first year. Not only because of my inexperience, but also because of the problems with her location. She was in the shade, she was bought late in the year, she didn’t have a lot of natural food. It was rather rubbish for her really. So I was just happy she survived her first Winter.

Finally on her third Summer, I opened up the top super to have a peak and found it was wall-to-wall honey! Well, the box weighs at least 55 lbs, I cannot lift it, especially with my protruding tummy. (Go Baby!) So my Honey helped me and got suited up and lifted the super for me, and found the next super down was also 10 frames of beautifully capped honey. Yeepee!

This is my first official extraction. Last year I tried to extract 6-8 frames but I made the mistake of leaving them where the bees could find them, hoping they would clear off. What? Abandon their honey? Never! Yeah, they took it all back and all I was left with were such chewed up empty frames.

There is a story about a beekeeper, he took his honey supers off his hives, took them to his basement. He spent all day extracting the honey from the frames, and went upstairs in the evening to take a break and watch a film. Meanwhile his well-meaning wife came home and went to the basement. She found it very stuffy and humid. Unknowingly, she opened a window to air out the basement. That night, the bees found all the honey that had been stolen from them and stole it back! All of the beekeeper’s hard work was for naught. He woke up in the morning to find not a drop of honey left in his basement. So the story goes…

Well folks, I’ve seen it happen and was much disappointed last year too.

Anyway, this year, I was more careful. It’s amazing how fast we learn when our sweets are stolen!

extractor

This fancy cylinder is an extractor. You can put two frames in and then you spin the basket inside and using centrifugal force, it flings the honey to the sides of the cylinder and drips out the bottom spigot.

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cappedhoney

The honey is capped with wax, and that’s how we know it’s done. Honey has a “water activity of 0.6.” This basically means that there is not enough moisture in honey to allow fermentation. So honey cannot go bad. If we take honey that is not capped from the hive, it may not be evaporated enough. Thus you could have honey that ferments in the jar. You may notice that if you have honey in a jar for a really long time, it crystalizes. This is not your honey going bad, it just needs to be microwaved. Or you can stick the jar in hot water and the honey will melt again and become liquid. Most micro-organisms cannot grow in honey if you extract it when it’s capped. The “cappings” -wax- on honey is also pure white and makes excellent candles.

Anyway, you have to uncap the honey prior to extracting it.

uncappingbucket

It’s a sticky process. It’s best to have a bucket to do this in.

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uncappedhoney

Then you put it into the extractor, spin it, then you let it drain into a container with a filter. We used a cheese cloth as a filter to get out unwanted beeswax, bee legs, pollen etc.

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preppingbucket

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This picture shows really clearly how the honey is sometimes different colours depending on the flowers that the bees take from. We found that we had some really light honey and quite dark honey in this extraction.

The next time is either to pasturize it (heating it up) or you can bottle it straight from here.

We have yet to pick up our jars so in the bucket it stays for now.

And now you have learned more than you ever wanted to know about the process of honey extraction. Of course on a commercial scale, it’s a little different but the principles are the same.

In other news, we’ve been planting our Winter garden here this weekend. Peas, beans, cabbage, kale, and leeks among other things. We’re getting ready to harvest our garlic. The curly scapes are straightening up, letting us know they are just about ready to be plucked from the Earth. Since planting them in October, it seems like a wait well worth it.

I just have to mention this, I L-o-v-e gardening in a dress!

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And sunhats….

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Go on, call me a “Fashionista.” I can take it…..

Curly Scapes and Strawberries

The blackberries are starting to hold out their flowers like presents and the bees are gulping it up. They are on the blackberry bushes on the entire walk to work, just over 1 km. It’s like having friends to walk home with.

We ate our first small handful of strawberries from our own garden yesterday. Our garden is in shambles this year. The upper garden, right in front of our house, is green and growing with inadvertent things. Potatoes that we did not get out last year in time. They are over-running the celeriac, the peas, the strawberries, the spinach and the beets. We have another fragrant invasion. The oregano. What I thought were weeds, and I was pulling up with fury, then wondering why I kept thinking of spaghetti. I put it down to a weird pregnancy craving, until I realized the little fuzzy stems were babies of our oregano monster.

Our lower garden needs constant love and weeding or the horse-tail takes over. We’ve tried mulching (which helps a little) weeding, though not as often as required. And we’ve got strawberries, asparagus, beans and garlic down there. The garlic is growing tasty scapes which we harvested for dinner last night.

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Scapes are the Dr Seuss looking curls atop the plant that are where the garlic makes it’s flowers. Garlic has been sterile for many years and can only make clones of itself. There is research into putting the umph! back into garlic’s genetic pool but what we’ve got right now are clones of different varieties.

If you ever see garlic scapes at a farmer’s market or in the grocery store, snatch ‘em up! They are such a treat. They can be eaten raw but they have quite the bite to them. If you toss them in olive oil and put them right on the barbecue, sear them a little on both sides, it takes the sharpness out of the taste and you get such a tasty treat. They made the perfect compliment to our kale and potatoes last night.

scapes

They are also great for freezing and putting into soup, stock or stews in the Winter.

Have you discovered any amazing foods lately? I’ve been really interested in using more beans in our diet. Does anyone have good recipes for different kinds of legumes?

And since it’s strawberry season, don’t forget to pop a few of these drops of sunshine in your mouth!

Dec 27th Potatoes

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So ya know how yesterday I was complaining about my lack of planning. If you will remember, I mentioned not having a garden to eat out of. Well, go ahead, prove me wrong…

Today I abandoned my tea for a good 15 minutes and tromped out to the garden. This is not a big endeavor as this is the garden just beyond my sliding glass door. I had a report from Washington state that a friend farmer had lost all of her potatoes to the cold weather.

I had been storing these potatoes in the ground as I was too lazy *ahem* as I was too busy knitting, tea drinking and Christmassing to dig these up. The top layer of smaller potatoes were mushy as a result of frost, but the biggers ones that burrowed deeper are quite crunchy and edible.

These babies are for dinner!

Also, our garlic seems a little confused. Last year I was told to plant garlic before Hallowe’en. I was obedient, I mulched it and let it sit over the winter. Then the garlic sprouted in February or March and we ate it in August. This year we planted a whole bed of garlic. We bought it from the garlic farm. But it’s already sprouting and pushing up through our cozy layer of mulch. Um, hello! Go back to sleep silly garlic!

And other things are sprouting as well!

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We went for a walk to check on the bee hives too. I cannot open the hives up because it is too cold right now. Honeybees form a cluster in the winter to keep warm. If I break their cluster, they can die from exposure. They bundle together and eat all their stored honey they gathered in the summer. I like their lifestyle! A very interesting fact is that summer honeybees live for approximately 6 weeks. Winter honeybees (those born in November) live for an ancient 4 months. The summer bees exhaust themselves in an effort to gather pollen and nectar. All the winter bees have to do is stay warm, eat, carry their dead sisters out of the entrance, and hold the hive over until the winter thaws and the Queen starts laying again. In our mild climate, she will begin laying in January or February.

To check on the hives right now, I try to clear away the entrance (which is reduced to fit one bee in and out at a time) as the entrance is littered with dead bees. And I press my ear against the box to hear any distinct hum of a live colony. Out of the three hives I checked, I heard one buzzing. It doesn’t mean the other two aren’t alive, they are both smaller hives and may not have enough bees to generate a buzz that I can hear from the outside.

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It still looks pretty green here, eh? If it stays this cold, I may have to go out and tap some big-leaf maple trees to see if I can procure any syrup for my Sunday morning pancakes!

Wishing you some sunshine wherever you are!

Sprung!

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Spring has sprung!

Just a quick note to show off my seedlings.

quinoa

 

This is my quinoa! It’s multi-hued and very colourful and quick to germinate.

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And my garlic sprouts. The deer seem to despise this. Don’t tell them that they are very tasty sauteed in butter, not to mention the benefits for the immune system.

So excited!!!