Thursday, October 15, 2009

Definitely a soup day.

Ava and I got chilled to the bone trying to hurry up and plant some thornless blackberry starts ahead of the rain.  After stoking up a good fire, I decided soup was definitely on the menu for the evening!

I planted 16 Waltham butternut squash vines this summer and they were very prolific.  I ended up with a stockpile of nearly 100 squash heaped in a dark corner of my basement.  Certainly enough to last through winter.  Don't be surprised if I give you squash for Christmas!

Butternut Squash

Potato soup has long been my favorite, but last year I came up with the following recipe for butternut squash soup, which in my book far surpasses potato.  This is my own version and after a several batches, I believe I have finally reached perfection.  The coffee shop I used to work for in college served homemade butternut squash soup and I was always too picky to try it.  I did not realize what I was missing out on!  It is creamy and savory, slightly sweet and the ginger makes for a pleasing accent.  Serve it up with the firmest, crustiest bread you can find, like a chewy french or artisan bread, lightly toasted and buttered.  Good stuff! 

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 large or 2 small butternut squash

  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced

  • 2 (14 oz.) cans of chicken broth

  • 1/2 stick of butter, plus 2 tbsp.

  • 1 tsp. of ginger (or more, to taste)

  • 1 tbsp. salt

  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

  1. Using a veggie peeler, remove all skin from squash, cut into 1-2" cubes.

  2. Place squash in a large soup pot and add just enough water to barely cover, toss in a little salt, cover with lid and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender.

  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt 2 tbsp of butter and saute onion until caramelized.

  4. Drain squash, reserving the water.  Add in carmelized onion and puree in blender until completely smooth.

  5. Return puree to pot and add the chicken broth, 1/2 stick of butter, ginger, salt and pepper.  Add enough of the reserved cooking water to reach desired consistency.

  6. Over medium-low heat, slowly bring the soup back up to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

  7. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream.  Serve with bread and enjoy!

Also, I recently learned that you can eat butternut squash seeds, just like pumpkin seeds.  (They are related.)  Wash your seeds, drain and spread out on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with a little melted butter and salt to taste.  Toast in a 325 degree oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted.  These are great just to snack on or would make a crunchy addition to a salad.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A tribute to my father-in-law and his roses.

Today is the one year anniversary of my husband's father passing.  I wanted to post some pictures of his famous roses in his honor.  At the time of his death he was maintaining 67 rose bushes planted on the hillside behind his house.  He was one of the most amazing greenthumbs I've ever known and it is a tremendous loss to me to no longer have him around and his garden wisdom.

He was a retired coal miner, school bus driver, former boxer and Vietnam Vet.  To look at him, you would never guess what a love he had for flowers, roses in particular. 

He tended to his roses almost daily, cutting blooms every other day to keep them prolific.  He did not like to use sprays on his roses because he wanted you to be able to smell them without burying your nose in pesticides.  He faithfully picked japanese beetles by hand. 

While he had many beautiful varieties of floribundas,  grandifloras and hybrid teas, what he valued most in a rose was its scent.  And it was his joy to give them away!  He was known around town for his roses and made many a lady's day by unexpectedly presenting her with a bouquet.  He'd give them to the nurses in the doctor's offices, which he frequented often because of his health problems and melted the icy hearts of many a receptionist at the VA clinics.

This was a hobby he took up as he was recovering from a brainstem stroke suffered at the young age of 50.  It is known now that his exposure to Agent Orange is linked to stroke.  He was such a big, strong, bear of a man and his doctors believe that his exceptional health at the time, in addition to early detection allowed him to survive this kind of stroke when most die from it.

This time last year, after a successful week of ginseng hunting, he went to bed, had another stroke in his sleep and was gone.  He had made an amazing recovery from the first stroke, but we knew the threat of another was always there.  But we never expected to lose him so soon.  He was only 57 years old.

We still have his rose garden to help keep his memory blooming in our hearts.  My brother-in-law does his best to give it the care it deserves.

Here are a few shots of his roses from a couple years ago.  I used these to make coasters for Christmas presents one year.  My mother-in-law has commissioned me to make 7 more to give in memorial to his close family and friends.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Honey bees on white cosmos.


My dad says it has gotten too cold to open up the bee boxes now and that I should give them an entrance feeder and leave them alone until spring.  Given the weight of honey in the boxes and the vigorous bee activity visible from the outside, we believe they are quite healthy.  I do have to replace the bottom board though, as mice have made swiss cheese of it.  A couple bales of straw behind it for a windbreak and we should be set for winter. 

I really look forward to getting a look inside next spring!  I am going to purchase a second hat and veil and set of gloves for my husband so we can work them together.  He is really finding himself fascinated with these amazing little insects.  Their intricate design is a wonderful testimony to God's Creation.  I can't wait until I can get my daughter in a little bee suit of her own.  This will be a really cool educational experience for her someday.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The thrill of victory!

I got 'em home.  Took lots of duct tape, but we made it!

This was a very complicated scenario for a bee-ginner's first experience handling bees.  Aside from the hive being knocked over at an angle, there were also holes in 3 of the 4 corners from mice chewing.  It took me FOREVER to get it closed up enough to pick up the hive and move it.  Then we had to come through brush, briars and mud to get it on the truck.  I lost my boot in the mud at one point and had a really hard time pulling it out!

But we came out of it with very few stings (3 for me, hand and both wrists), and one for Brandon on the bee-hind after sitting down in the truck.  LOL.  (Forgive the puns!  I can't help myself!!)

Having the veil and other protective clothing on makes one very brave!  I feel as if I just conquered the world.

Once we got back home, we decided to leave the hive sitting in the truck bed for right now.  Tomorrow I will need to build another hive bottom before I set them up permanently.

I am eager to open it up and see how they're doing inside!  I hope they are healthy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm ready for some bees.

I still haven't gotten my bees home. I will not be able to rest until I do! The UPS tracking number says my gear should arrive today, but I am still looking for them to come. It doesn't matter anyway. Brandon had a squirrel hunting trip scheduled with a buddy from work, so I can't get out there today. It's raining a little too. Surely tomorrow I can get them home.

The gentleman who is giving me these bees is very anxious for me to get them home and ready for winter. It has only been a week since he contacted me about it (my initial call was nearly a month ago, and at first he turned me down), so I really can't help that it is taking awhile for me to get my gear and get out there. Brushy Mountain shipped my gear really quickly too, which is great. I've had my site picked out, leveled and set up for several days. I am just as anxious to go get them too.

Being my first hands-on experience with bees, I would not have chosen to do it this way if I could have had more control over the circumstances. It is the off season to be doing this and these bees should have been winterized by now. Another downfall in taking on an existing set up is that the hive boxes are old and not in the best shape. He has given me a second piece on everything, including extra supers. I am really going to need them too.

I can't wait to get the hive home and opened up so I can see what's going on in there.  From outward appearances it seems to be a very strong colony.  When we lifted the box to set it back upright, it was very heavy.  Every bit of 70 lbs or better, so they have themselves stocked up with honey for winter.  I am hoping they are healthy and that this will work out for me.

After I initially thought I was not going to get any bees from this gentleman, I got online and looked for plans to build my own hive boxes.  If you buy everything outright from a catalog, the cost is prohibitive for someone like me.  But I have found plans for a top-bar hive that with a little elbow-grease will only run me around $50.  I am all for do-it-yourself.  I currently have no intentions to sell honey anytime soon, so the reduced output of a top-bar hive is not a deterrent for me.  And the ease and sustainability of managing a top-bar hive is definitely a plus.

This is truly a new adventure.  I cannot rest until I get these bees home and winterized!