Sunday, April 30, 2017

Honey! And Bread and Gardens: Lovin' That Country Life

 We've been having a wild old time around here the past few days. I guess it started Thursday when we planted the tomatoes. We didn't have some of our favorites so we made a quick 100-mile round trip to the Charleston Farmer's Market to get what we needed--Cherokee Purple, Golden Jubilee, Yellow Pear, and Cherry. I mean, these are the eating tomatoes! Gotta have them, that is all.

Friday Larry said he absolutely had to get to work on his bees, so that was what he did, and in the process found out that he really needed to harvest and do a bunch of cleanup work. I spent the day puttering: hanging out laundry, pricing totes for the booths, planting flowers, a little painting, and the ever-present housework.

We figured out what to do with this big cracked cast iron bell we bought last year. I'd sold the yoke and stand for a nice profit, but we still had the bell itself. I could not bring myself to junk it; it was made in 1887 or thereabouts and just too cool to toss. Then we came up with this idea. I love it.

Saturday morning was nice; we took time to go into town and have breakfast with a friend and do a little shopping. I found this cool old Scotch Kooler at a thrift shop. I also came home with a lot more flowers to plant. Will I ever have enough? Seems doubtful.

Then it was time to start on the honey. He'd pulled the frames from the hives the day before. I set up the kitchen, hoping I'd planned for all the possible stickiness.

Part of the harvest; about half of the final amount.

I wasn't even close! If it was possible for honey to get on something, it did. If it seemed impossible for honey to get on something, it did. Sticky on the table, on the stove, on the floor, on door handles and faucet handles, on me, in my hair. It was really pretty funny. Eventually the job got done and we ended up with about three gallons of sticky sweetness. Cleanup fell to me because just as we were getting started, a neighbor came tearing down the driveway to tell us a swarm had landed in a tree in his son's yard.

Now for those of you who don't know about honeybees: they will swarm if their hive is overcrowded or if their queen is old or weak. They will build a new queen cell in that case, and when the new queen hatches, most of the hive will leave with her. They will land almost anywhere: on a house, a building, a vehicle, a tree, you name it. Catching a swarm is fairly simple. The bees are so intent on their queen that they stay in their cluster and can be simply swept into a waiting bee box.

Sometimes the swarm is very high up and difficult to reach but fortunately this one was within arm's reach. So Larry got a box ready and suited up in his beekeeping outfit and headed to the neighbors. He had it in the box in little time at all, then went back after dark when the bees were settled down to bring it home.

So now we have four hives, we hope. Last year he split his big original hive twice, and those colonies made it through the winter. We took no honey last year, preferring to let the bees build up their store, and we fed them often throughout the fall and winter and into this spring. Feeding can be anything sweet--I have a lot of old jelly in the freezer that we have been giving them. They recycle it into new honey!

We are definitely beekeeping amateurs, and there is a lot to know about these fascinating critters. But we are happy with our hives at present and hope they continue to do well.

Today I continued cleaning up the stickies, and stored away the honey in the cabinet. Then I moved on to making bread--honey oatmeal this week, from a recipe in the booklet that came with my KitchenAid mixer.

I must be in a cooking mood because I decided to try making hollandaise sauce from scratch, a process that was about as messy as the honey. The sauce went over a stack made of thin chicken breasts, asparagus and hard-boiled eggs, then sprinkled with a little paprika. It was delicious but I don't know if I'll try making that sauce again.

I'm also doing all the laundry today and hanging it out to dry as tomorrow's weather looks to be a very wet day. We will start the week with lots of clean clothes, and lots of clean dishes as it feels like I've washed every dish in the house at least twice.

And lastly, I'm trying hard to meet the NaPoWriMo challenge of 30 poems in April, one every day. I fell behind when things got hectic so I may not complete it, and many of the ones I write will be drafts for later work, but I am glad of this annual challenge that gets me writing poetry again.

So that's life on the gravel one-lane. What's happening at your house these days?

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Michelle said...

I love a day of puttering. Sounds like good times at your place!!

Kathy said...

I love your blog. I live outside of Chicago in the suburbs and I enjoy your blog so much!

Granny Sue said...

Welcome, Kathy! So glad to know you're visiting. I think there are many of us who love home, wherever it may be.

annie said...

I enjoyed this post, I admire Bee keepers!
Must be great having fresh local honey!
I'd be afraid to deal with them though myself.
The only swarm we ever saw was on the outside of an old log house near my sissy one's farm house. She was hoping the owner would have it caught, but I'm not sure if they ever did. There is a fellow in the next county who catches them. I'd like to just get some honey though, hoping a trip to the local flea market will find me some soon.
It was selling here for ten dollars a pint last year. Like most times, my desire was larger than my pocket book! So I missed out. Smile. They sell out at the farmers market before they ever unload their truck!
Always another season to look forward too!

Quinn said...

Your lilies of the valley in their special vase are perfect :)
I find bees fascinating and I use honey just about every day - but I have never had the urge to grow my own. Very happy so many other folks do, and so many of them right close to me! If a beekeeper ever asks to put a hive on my property I will likely say yes, but that's as close as I'm going to get to having honeybees.

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