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HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING BEES

 

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HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING CHICKENS


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Monthly Archives: April 2010

Doing Splits





A few weekends ago, I went over to my friend Jenny’s gorgeous house in neighboring Leicester (about a 25 minute drive from door to door). Her home, built in the 1800′s, is a testament to the staying power of quality craftsmanship. A former glassblower and metalworker, Jenny now spends her time as a bike mechanic (she recently founded an awesome bike school on her property that will teach you all you need to know about the world of cycling, and then some!), as well as a hobbyist beekeeper.


I love going over to Jenny’s place. Not only does she provide me with a lovely cup of rose tea and honey (from her ladies, of course) the minute I walk in, her place is cozy and lovely and reminiscent of the south of France, with it’s sweeping views of grassy hillsides and lush trees swaying in the wind. My recent visit was to take photos, and take note, of Jenny and her friend Bryan (co-owner of Asheville salon Beauty Parade, as well as an actor in small, independent films) as they split her single hive into two. This is done in order to accommodate a growing, thriving hive of bees that might otherwise swarm should they feel too crowded.

The day began a bit breezy and chilly, so we waited indoors for awhile, sipping tea and coffee and chatting (Bryan’s very pregnant wife, Terra, and their 3 year-old son were also in tow and were a pleasure to meet, let alone veritable founts of full-on hilarity). As the morning warmed and the wind calmed, we made our way outdoors. Jenny’s bees have thrived on her property ever since she first acquired them. Her love and attention, and probably their prime digs on a south-facing hill, have aided in their doing remarkably well during a time of considerable losses for many beekeepers.

The split was a success. Bryan and Jenny transferred several supers full of bees and brood at varying stages of development onto a new bottom board and topped off both the existing hive and the new split with empty supers full of frames with foundation, screened inner covers (which I’d never seen before and was pretty enthralled by), and gorgeous copper-topped telescoping outer covers.

I’ve provided some photos above of Jenny’s set-up. To view images of the split itself, check out my Flickr page. Jenny has been an absolutely indispensable beekeeping mentor. We met almost a year ago at a “swarm” of female beekeepers get-together and became fast friends. If you’re new to the world of beekeeping, I cannot stress enough the importance of buddying up with another beekeeper in your area. While books (included my forthcoming one, “Keeping Bees”, out next spring) are invaluable tools in your apiary arsenal, nothing beats the real world, tactile, lived experience of a seasoned beekeeper. Find a buddy and you’ll both be catching a buzz.

The Kindness of Strangers




I’ve met a good deal of wonderful people through this blog. A handful of them have gone on to become trusted friends and confidants. I’ve come to know the regulars, sort of like an online version of “Cheers”, looking forward to their comments and smiling to myself when they drop by.


Cyn of River Dog Prints has proven to be not just a regular reader but a gracious bestower of gifts, as well. Back in the fall, she sent me a lovely package of canning labels. After a brief q&a a few weeks ago about what I feel is missing in the world of canning labels, the goodies pictured above showed up in my mailbox last week. She was at it again, making gorgeous labels and tags in a variety of colors, graphic prints, and sizes. Now both my large and small lids can be properly tricked out, with ample room left on top for writing in pertinent information such as what’s inside and when it was made.

One of my greatest pleasures derived from penning “small measure” has been the opportunity to meet and connect with people I might never otherwise have had the fortune of meeting. Cyn is one such person. I’m incredibly grateful for your continued, and consistent, patronage. Many, many thanks!

Herbed Pickled Asparagus

Lately, I’ve felt as though I’m continually engaging in a Sisyphean battle with the 8-ball; I’m finding that I’m perpetually behind it. Maybe it’s on account of the colossal shift in my schedule since late March, when I handed over the remaining bit of text on my last book, “Keeping Bees” (the fourth in the “Homemade Living” series). My days opened up into wide expanses of time. The schedule of the past two years coming to an abrupt halt, I’ve found myself attempting, futilely, to juggle all of the balls that have fallen to the wayside and been relegated to the back burner while I’ve labored fastidiously on writing.


In any event, I know things will settle. I’ll fall into my new schedule. I’m digging my new job. Exciting prospects are on the horizon. I was featured in this magazine. I’ve got an interview with a reporter for the Washington Post at 11 a.m. today. I’ll be hopping up to the Big Apple next Tuesday and Wednesday for a dinner at this place with the entire sales staff of Sterling, my publisher’s parent company. I haven’t been to New York in a good number of years, so I’m especially looking forward to that tiny vacation.

One of the many tasks I’ve been intending to get to that fell, somehow, through the cracks, involves participation in this month’s Tigress’ Can Jam. The chosen ingredient to bottle up in jars for April was herbs, chosen by Marisa over at Food In Jars. Tigress, in her endless graciousness, sent me a head’s up that I’d missed the deadline, but said she’d still allow my recipe’s inclusion if I could post by Wednesday. And so, I offer you “Herbed Pickled Asparagus.” The recipe, one of the Spring offerings in my “Canning & Preserving” book, couples fresh, seasonal asparagus with a medley of herbs. I chose marjoram and oregano, but in truth, you could just use whatever your preferred herb is, or whatever you might simply have on hand. Thank you, Tigress, for the grace period. Happy canning, everyone!

Oh, and 8-ball, consider your self forewarned; I’ve got my eye on you.

Herbed Pickled Asparagus
Yield: 4 pints.

You will need:
-3 pounds fresh asparagus
-2 1/2 c. white wine vinegar
-2 c. water
-2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
-1 1/2 tsp. pickling or kosher salt
-4 sprigs fresh oregano
-4 sprigs fresh marjoram

To prepare:
1. Sterilize 4 pint-sized mason jars, lids, and screw rings. Fill a canner of large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to the boiling point. Place the lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and set the pan aside.
2. Wash the asparagus and trim each spear to 4 inches. Quickly blanch the spears by placing in boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately plunging into an ice-water bath. Remove from water and pat dry.
3. In a heavy, medium-sized stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring the brining solution just to the boiling point, cover, and remove from heat.
4. Place the hot jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. Pack the asparagus spears into the jars, tips pointed down. Add 1 sprig of oregano and 1 sprig of marjoram to each jar. With the help of a canning funnel, ladle the brining solution evenly over the asparagus, reserving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a nonmetallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
5. Using a jar lifter, place the filled jars into the canner. Process for 20 minutes, beginning processing time only once water is at a full, rolling boil. Remember to adjust for altitude.

Earth Day Eating

Wow. So, the other day, when I talked about hopefully catching my breath this week? Yeah, so much for that. This past week was full of sheer madness. To begin, my new job, which I adore, saw me up at 4 a.m., twice. In order to arrive at work at 5 a.m., it’s necessary that I tug-of-war myself out of bed well before the slightest sliver of sunlight warms the eastern sky. I know I’ll get used to it, but doing it twice in one week was brutal, to say the least.


My zombie-like, eye-rubbing, out-of-sorts situation was compounded by an internet that was on the fritz. As I rely heavily on the world wide web for much of my work, hubs and I had to pack up and set up shop in a nearby coffee shop several times during the week while we chinked away at solving our internet conundrum. After trying both a new modem and then a new router (neither of which solved our quandry), a technician came out this morning and saved the day. We’re back in business. WHEW!

Meanwhile, my “Small Measures with Ashley” post went up on Design Sponge on Friday. Inspired by Earth Day, I chose “Earth Day Eating, Everyday” as this week’s topic.

I’ll be in bed in 1 1/2 hours, gearing up for another early morning at the bakery. I’m on my own tomorrow (at least for the first few hours until the owner, Jodi, comes in), as the lead baker will be moving back to Vermont this week (bon voyage, Jenne!). Wish me luck! And have a fabulous week, yourselves!

*Image from here.

Earth Day, Everyday

When I was in junior high, I was a member of the choir. In addition to wearing a crisp white dress shirt, black slacks, and a bowtie with an elastic band for our performances, choir participation also included singing a host of songs that have left indelible marks on my adolescent memory.


It was in choir that I learned all of the lyrics to “My Favorite Things.” It was in choir that I also learned the holiday diddy “Christmas Is a Feeling.” I couldn’t shake this song. I sang it all during the holidays, I sang it in July. Even today, I’m sitting here humming it in my head, telling you about it. The song isn’t especially well written, the medley isn’t particularly riveting. What got me the most about this song, and resonates with me still today, is the ending refrain: “If Christmas is a feeling, bringing such good cheer, then why O why don’t you and I try to make it last all year?“.

Which brings me to Earth Day. Today marks the 40th anniversary of the holiday. Founded in 1970 by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was initially created as a means of inspiring awareness of and appreciation for stewardship of our planet and all of its inhabitants and ecosystems. While that mission remains true today, I would amend it to include a call for daily, consistent, conscientious action on the part of all of Earth’s inhabitants. We’ve really only got one world, as the Black Eyed Peas so poetically detail it. Like the holiday song I learned so long ago asks, if the message of Earth Day brings such good cheer (along with cleaner oceans, skies, arable lands, and so, so much more), then why don’t you and I try to make it last all year? Let’s make Earth Day everyday.

*Image from here.