Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interesting Facts and Tidbits about the Honey Bee

Today my husband and I are doing a lesson on honey bees for our kids at church.  We have a basic lesson and lots of pictures to show them and then we're going to show them our beekeeping equipment, serve them some peanut butter (and honey) popcorn for a snack, have them color a huge honey bee mural and teach them lots of things they probably never knew about this amazing little creature in hopes that they will have a newfound respect for the humble little honey bee.

I had planned to do a honey tasting, but haven't been able to take any honey off of my bees this year because of slow build-up after losing my queen early.  The merger I did with the small swarm is doing great though and I'm going to start feeding them soon for winter and just hope to have a better year in 2012.

I've put together a collection of fun facts about honey bees from various sources that I think you all might enjoy as well.  (I still have internet for a couple more days and I'm glad I get to post this one for you!)

Honey Bee Fun Facts

Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers.  Solitary, native, wild bees did all the pollinating prior to that.

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating approximately 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S., especially big commercial crops.

Einstein postulated “"If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”

Bees collect 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive. Pollen is the male germ cells produced by all flowering plants for fertilization and plant embryo formation. The Honeybee uses pollen as a food. Pollen is one of the richest and purest natural foods, consisting of up to 35% protein, 10% sugars, as well as carbohydrates, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

Pollen comes in different colors and a beekeeper can guess which flowers the bees have been visiting based on the colors of pollen packed in the cells.

A colony of bees consists of 20,000-80,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.

Worker bees will live for 4 to 9 months during the winter when they have no foraging to do.  They literally work themselves to death in the summer.

Honeybees never sleep!

The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 worker bees.

Male bees, called drones, are mostly useless and are kicked out of the hive in the fall and left to die so that the colony won’t have to feed them through the winter.

Honeybees will usually travel approximately 3 miles from their hive, but can go as far as 6 miles.

The bee's brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.

In its flight, a honey bee uses the sun's compass position, gravitational field direction, and the UV polarization pattern to determine its direction. Along the way, a honey bee also memorizes any geographical landmarks.

Worker bees will scout for good nectar sources and when they’ve found some, they come back to the hive and communicate its location to the others using one of two complex dances, the waggle dance or the round dance, depending on how close by it is.  They also give the others a taste of the nectar so they will know which flower they are looking for.

Honey bees will usually work only one type of flower at a time until it runs out, then they move on to another.  Because of this, beekeepers can take honey off of the hive after that particular “honey flow” has ended and can isolate very different tasting varieties of honey.

The color and taste of honey will depend on the flower it was collected from.  It can be very light and floral or very dark and strong flavored or anything in between.

Honeybees are the only insect that produces food for humans.

Out of 20,000 species of bees, only 4 make honey.

Honey is the ONLY food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water.

Honey never spoils.  It has been found in Egyptian tombs and dated to be around 2000-3000 years old and it was STILL edible.

Honey is used by the bees for food all year round. The bees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. Honey is an easily digestible, pure food. Honey is hygroscopic (attracts moisture, like salt does) and has antibacterial qualities. Honey is a good salve to apply to burns. Eating raw, local honey can fend off allergies.

A typical beehive can make up to 400 pounds of honey per year.  Beekeepers only take off the excess and must leave each hive with at least 60 to 70 pounds of honey to make it through winter. 

Honey bees survive winter by clustering into a tight group for warmth and eat off of the honey they have stored from all their work in spring and summer.

Each honey bee colony has a unique scent for members’ identification.   That’s why you can place many hives in a row next to each other.  The worker bees know which hive is theirs based on the scent and also their ability to memorize location.

Honey bees are true patriots.  Worker bees on guard duty will defend their hive to the death. 

The honey bee is the only bee that dies after using its stinger.  The tip of the stinger is barbed like a fishing hook and is torn from the bee’s body as it tries to fly away.

Contrary to popular misconception, honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless protecting their hive from an intruder or if they are unduly provoked (or stepped on!)

Unless you are one of a small percentage of people who are highly allergic to bees, it is estimated that about 1100 honey bee stings are required to be fatal.

Bee venom therapy—the practice of deliberately applying a sting to a person’s skin -- is widely practiced overseas and by some people in the US to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even MS.

There have been occasions in history where honey bees were used as a weapon of warfare.  Some have thrown hives at their enemies like missiles or left them as traps.  Others have set out poison honey as bait, utilizing an invading army’s tendency to loot and pillage.  The advancing troops would eat the honey and become very sick and delirious and therefore easy to defeat!

Oh, there is so much more I could add to this list and many more amazing things I'm sure mankind will continue to learn about the honey bee.  I didn't include here much about the intricate order of business within the hive.  My husband had already done a basic lesson and my job was to hunt up "fun facts" and I think I got a little carried away.  Ha.
Is it not in the heart of every beekeeper to want to encourage everyone to have an appreciation and admiration for our wonderful bees?  I think the honey bee is an awesome testimony to the creative hand of God!

This post is linked to the Homestead Barn Hop #23.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Taking a Sabbatical

After some discussion with my husband, we've decided to do something akin to Dave Ramsey's debt diet and therefore we will be getting rid of our $50/month cable Internet connection this week along with a few other things we think we can live without.  Let me say though, it's going to be hard to live without the Internet and email!  (What will I do without Google?)

It's hard enough starting out as a young family, but this economy has really been the pits.  We have a little bit of consumer debt that we want to go ahead knock out while we're in a good position to do so, hopefully leaving us with less worries hanging over our head if things should go south.  We also have some costly repairs we need to get done on the house that we'd like to save up for and pay in cash.  It just seems like the most pragmatic thing to do and we both faintly remember what life was like before the computer took such precedence and we're pretty sure we'll survive.  ;)

Also, considering how much I will really be able to get done around here without any time distractions, all in all, it's shaping up to look like a really good idea and I think it's something that God could bless in our lives.

So this will be my last post for awhile... I may try to do an occasional update from the library if I get a chance and I will still check my email there from time to time.

It's going to feel pretty weird, living "unplugged" after all this time.  I might even go through a little withdrawal.  We're keeping the electricity on, so don't worry--I'm not going completely Amish.  Ha.

I'm really going to miss all of my blogging friends.  A special thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my ramblings and leave such nice comments.  I've really enjoyed the feeling of community and chatting about our shared interests.  Take care, everybody!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Prep Work For Canning

Well, I've been able to confirm that some of my paste tomatoes have contracted Early Blight and I'm going to have to yank them out of there.  I'll be making a trip over to Ohio to purchase some additional canning tomatoes since I can get them for $5.00 a bushel there.  Really, I'm not sure why I take up so much garden space on tomatoes since it's easier to buy them all at once.  I do have certain varieties that I prefer, but that's just me being stubborn I guess.

Since I don't have enough paste tomatoes to can a full load right now, I've been washing, coring and quartering them as they ripen, then sticking them in the freezer until I'm ready.  This will speed things up considerably when I go to can.  All I will have to do is dump the frozen paste tomatoes into a big pot and cook them down (no need to remove the skins on paste tomatoes because you'll run it through a sieve later.)  This method also works well for your diced tomatoes too, because freezing the tomato whole will cause the skins to slip off nicely and in my opinion this is a little easier than blanching them in small batches.

I almost have enough banana peppers to make my Hot Pepper Mustard.  Oh, it's so good!  We are addicted to it and go through it quickly, using it to glaze a ham, on sandwiches or as a dipping mustard with our homemade venison summer sausage.  I like to make up a lot of half-pints to give as Christmas gifts too.

This prep-work also makes it so quick and easy to whip up a batch of mustard.  I pre-measure my four quarts of chopped peppers in to one-gallon Ziploc bags.

While I'm on the subject of hot peppers, let me give you a few words of wisdom on chopping them up, if you've never done it before.  These are things I learned the hard way!

1)  Always wear gloves.  Be very careful of what you touch with the gloves (i.e. the handles on the sink) and wash those things off thoroughly before you go back later and touch them with bare hands.  There is nothing worse than rubbing your eyes with so much as a hint of hot pepper oil on your fingers.  It hurt so badly I thought my contact lens was going to melt into my eyeball!

2)  This was a weird one I found out the hard way too.  All those hot pepper seeds and veins you toss into the sink will give off caustic vapors when you go to spray the sink down with water.  Dispose of them all before you go to rinse out the sink.  The vapors off of them will burn your eyes and lungs.  It's horrible!

Other than that, I love hot peppers.  :)

Now guess what I have planned for these glossy green beauties...

I am going to make homemade jalapeno poppers!  These are Mucho Nacho Jalapeno peppers.  This was the sole reason I grew them.  I also have another recipe for stuffing them and wrapping them with bacon then cooking them on the grill.  The poppers can be made up ahead of time and stored in the freezer to enjoy later.  I will be preserving most of them this way.  I'll share those recipes too as I make them and have pictures.  :)

We purchased a 20 pound propane tank this week for my canning so I wouldn't run out.  I'm still trying to find the correct adapter/hose for my Coleman camp stove, but I think I can buy extra parts to make the one I have work.  I bought the small canisters of propane for it last year and that is not very economical.

This post is linked to Barn Hop #22

Monday, August 1, 2011

Starting the 3in30 Challenge

I've decided that I NEED to do the 3in30 Challenge.  It may be my only hope.  ;)

I first heard about it over at Sparing Change.  Basically, it is a monthly challenge designed to motivate you to accomplish your goals.  I think the added accountability will do me good!

Those of you who know me personally or have followed my blog for some time have probably come to notice that I tend to lack follow-through sometimes.  I too frequently daydream about things I want to do, start projects, buy the materials for them, then lose them by the wayside.  I have a detailed, very itemized to-do list on my fridge that has been there for a few months now and I've only managed to cross off nine out of about fifty items.  Sad!  And frustrating.  I pass by and look at things everyday and it drives me nuts that I can't seem to get around to accomplishing them.

Remember the antique armoire my mother-in-law gave me that I was going to convert into extra kitchen storage?  I bought six cans of spray paint to do it, but it's still collecting dust out in the garage.  In my defense, I did finish painting the free desk I got from the plant and it is in use as my computer desk now.

The roll-out nest of my dreams, designed to make egg-collecting and egg-washing easier... There is a stack of plywood out in the garage designated for that project.  At this time though, I decided that what I really need is a whole new chicken coop and to kick the chickens out of my little barn so that it can house some goats in the winter.  Add it to the list!

Here's one that makes me hang my head in shame.  My mother-in-law commissioned me to make seven sets of photo coasters with pictures of my late father-in-law's famous roses so she could give them to friends and family as a memorial.  I was half way done with this one then for some reason put it all into a basket and later found it buried when I went to clean out my craft room.

Speaking of my craft room, I did finally get it all cleaned out, shampooed the carpet, put in lots of storage cabinets and a table for workspace.  I still have to sort through the boxes of my craft junk, throw out or give away some of it and sort it into the drawers.  Will this ever come to pass so that I can start using and enjoying my own special space set aside just for me?

If my family were depending on me for soap, they would all be very dirty and stinky right now.  For months I have been collecting the supplies.  The only thing I yet lack is a sturdy plastic pitcher for mixing lye.  What is stopping me from running to Walmart and buying a $3.00 plastic pitcher?  I don't know, but I'm sure it's purely psychological.  I will make soap sometime before I die...

My husband and I started building my new super-duty hive stand for my bees about one month ago and although it has been very hot and also I was quite sick and useless for two whole weeks, I think that one might actually get done here soon.  I also must confess that I still have frames left over from this winter that still need to be assembled.  Good thing my bees didn't swarm, huh.  :P

So you see what I am up against?

Hello.  I am the President of the Procrastinator's Anonymous Club.  Eventually I will get around to chartering the club so that you can join too if you  want or have time to.

Well, I had a really hard time deciding on my three goals for the month of August.  Naturally, I want to start out simple and not completely overwhelm myself so that they can be attainable.  I'd sure hate to totally tank and scare myself off track on the first round.

By the end of August, I am going to:

1)  Sort and back up to Kodak online at least one month's worth of digital pictures.  Since I got my new camera for Christmas, a Pentax k-x DSLR, I take a lot more pictures than I used to.  I'd hate to lose them if my computer ever blew up!

2)  Finish sorting my craft room, as mentioned above.

3)  Take my poor child to the playground at least once a week.

In future monthly challenges, I plan to try to work on an assortment of to-do's, farm projects, fun things I've meant to learn to do and also an occasional aspect of self-improvement.

I do tend to do at least those things that I really want to do.  My garden is probably the one area of my life that I faithfully keep up with.  Well, that and my blog.

Wish me luck!  And if you're feeling the need for a little encouragement to tackle some goals you've tentatively set for your life, be sure to go check out the 3in30 Challenge today.

Weekly Harvest Weigh-In #7

I'm starting to get a little bit of everything from the garden now, except for the beans and okra which I am still waiting on, and of course the pumpkins/melons.

I've been up to my eyeballs in summer squash and have to pick it everyday.  It seems to be a little easier to give it away when you get to them while they're still small and tender!  I've frozen several batches of summer squash/zucchini for soups and Summer Squash Casserole to enjoy this winter.  The casserole is one of my all-time favorite recipes and I'll be sure to post that for you all the next time I make it.  It's really good!

Here's my numbers for this week:

Yellow Squash - 7.24 lb.
Zucchini - 1.42 lb.
Asst. Paste Tomatoes - 4.59 lb.
Asst. Slicing Tomatoes - 4.72 lb.
Asst. Cherry/Plum Tomatoes - 2.36 lb.
Eggplant - 0.66 lb.
Asst. Peppers - 4.65 lb.
Fennel Bulbs - 0.86 lb.
Blackberries - 1.98 lb.
Cucumbers - 0.84 lb.

Total - 29.32 pounds of produce

Year-to-Date - 87.82 pounds

Some of this week's colorful harvest, minus all the summer squash which I gave away!

I predict next week's numbers will be pretty substantial.  The garden is really starting to hit its full stride now.  I'm gearing up for canning as we speak and waiting for my 20# propane tank adapter to come in the mail so I can hook up my Coleman camp stove and get down to business.  I'll keep updates on that in the weeks to come as well and share some of my favorite recipes as I go.

Please take some time to leave me a comment and/or link and show us how your garden is doing!  :)