Friday, June 25, 2010

Garden Visitors

I just happened to glance out the window at the garden in time to see these little gold finches passing through the other day.  They didn't stay long.  I hadn't seen them around here before or since.

Male and female gold finches

My camera doesn't zoom very tight, so it's kind of hard to see them...

Male and female gold finches (2)

After a little while, they were joined by two more males.

Four gold finches

I pulled in the zoom with Photoshop, but the resolution is not so great, but at least you can see them.  I need a new camera!

They were picking at the seed heads on these pink cosmos.  I wouldn't have thought the plant's gangly stems could hold them.  They must be lighter than they look.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Broccoli, From Seed!

I harvested 21 heads of broccoli this week.  My first success with broccoli in the garden, from seed to table!

Ain't it purty?

Let's see, I spent about $2.95 on a pack of seeds -- Packman Hybrid.  Flats and cell packs I reused from last year.  About $3.50 at Wally World for a bag of seed starter mix.  I transplanted my seedlings into a particularly fertile patch of my garden where I had penned 35 Cornish X broilers last spring.  21 heads of broccoli multiplied by approximately $3.00 per head for what I would pay for them at the grocery when not on sale...equals $63.00 worth of broccoli.  I saved $56.55 growing my own.  Score!

Look how big it is!  (Sitting on an 11" dinner plate for scale.)

 Plus I still get to harvest all those little side shoots that come along later.  We eat a lot of broccoli, about once a week on the side or incorporated into the main course.

I will be starting a fall crop here soon.  I am hoping to grow and freeze a year's worth of broccoli and not have to buy it at the store.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Honey for my Honey

Monday was our 7th wedding anniversary.  It was a beautiful, clear, perfect day to be outside.  When my husband arrived home he presented me with a flat of bedding annuals that he had carefully picked out and some nice chocolates.  I told him, if he wanted to throw on his bee suit and come with me, perhaps I could get him some honey for his present.  

I jumped headlong into beekeeping last fall, when I got word that an older gentleman my mother-in-law knew by acquaintance was going out of the beekeeping business.  He was very hesitant to give me any bees at first, because he had in mind to give them to an already experienced beekeeper, which I am not.  So in light of that...anything I chronicle on here in regards to my keeping bees is probably not the best way to go about doing things.  I imagine I will get a good laugh out of it 20 years from now... At any rate, I thought it was particularly memorable and special that I got my very first honey harvest on my wedding anniversary.    

I went down to visit the bees in much nervous apprehension as to what I would find on this second visit, about a month and a half after the mess I made of things on my first visit.  I had to put it back together as best I could and hope that all the brood that was still sealed would emerge as they should and be alright.  I had to put an extra super around it and just allow the bees to do their thing.   

The first thing we saw after taking off the telescoping cover was ants.  Lots of them.  Rather foreboding...    

I knew the bees would continue to hang comb from the inner cover, but what they would do after that was an uncertainty.  I removed the super and cover together as one piece and finding all the natural comb cleanly attached only to the inner cover, I was then able to take the super off, turn the cover over and deal with the combs individually.  I was presented with the best case scenario I could possibly hope for--they had filled it all with capped honey, ready to harvest!  I did have two pieces of the old, previously damaged comb come off, but they were not capped honey anyway.   

I was going to have to remove all this comb, one way or another at some point.  I was so glad the queen had not been laying there.  Had that been the case I would have had to very delicately remove each individual comb and attach it carefully to a new top bar, while working quickly and trying not to chill the brood by leaving them out of the hive too long.  That really would have been a job!    

I propped the whole thing against the entrance to the hive and tried to smoke the bees off of it.  They did not want to go.  So I came back at dusk when most of them had made their way back into the hive and found it much easier to smoke the remaining few bees off of the comb.  

The darker comb in the center is the old comb that got mangled the first time I opened the box.

We took it up to the house and removed the combs one by one and placed them into big bowls.  The bees did not come after it because it was dark and that worked out really well for us.  They can smell that honey from far away and if they otherwise can, they will find you!  

It's amazing how heavy it is.  God gave them the design for maximum honey storage and it works perfectly.  I weighed the bowls and came out with 26.6 pounds of honey.  Those supers are always heavier than they look.  Good thing I am strong from lifting my 40 pound toddler.  


I started working on extracting it last night by crushing and straining it.  There appears to be two distinct varietals stored within the combs.  The outermost combs contain a very light yellow, floral tasting honey.  The inner combs had a medium-amber colored honey that was much richer flavored.

The jar in front has lots of bubbles in it because I had just finished straining it and couldn't wait to take a picture.  Pretty, isn't it?  :)


I came away from this visit to the hive feeling such a rush.  I had FUN.  Neither of us got stung.  These bees must be Italians because they are exceptionally gentle.  They paid no attention to us and were only concerned with their honey.  It's really something to stand over a box full of buzzing bees.  I think I'm addicted.     

Life is sweet and I feel truly blessed.  I can't believe it's been seven years!  God's been good to me and I love the adventures we get to have together as a family.

Here's my honey in his bee suit.  He couldn't wait to get that veil off and take a bite out of that honeycomb!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Killdeer Nest, Update

Forgot to mention this a few days ago...

The folks down at the little church did spot the nest and put a few stakes up to alert people that the killdeer's nest was there.  Mama killdeer wasn't bothered by the new objects and is still faithfully sitting on her nest.

As I understand it, she will relocate her babies once they hatch.  That would be a good idea.  We have a lot of barn cats around here.