Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Life Goes On

Where have I been?! Well, typically I get up at 5:30 in the morning to have my steaming hot cup of coffee in peace before the whole house wakes up. During the last school year I had until 7 a.m. to pound away on my computer but THIS YEAR ... my Benjamin, now in middle school, has to wake up at 6:00. Gone are my relaxing mornings and . . . my blogging. I know, I need a new routine -- that doesn't include waking up at 4:30 a.m.! But meanwhile, life has gone on . . .
Here is a sampling of what we have been up to:

My garden is winding down, but the bok choy, arugula, parsley and celery is still going strong.
The bees are put to bed for the winter, and we are hoarding our small honey harvest to try and make it until next summer.
The hens are now all laying. We get 1-5 eggs a day. Helloooooooo Quiche!
My nephew Spencer learned how to walk . . .
The grandkids enjoyed a last northern romp on Gramp's boat (a motorkat) before it headed south for the winter . . .
We saw our last unmarried 'Seinfelder' (long story) tie the knot . . .
(In the photo: The entire Seinfeld Clan L-R: Lori, Jeff, Annie, H.O.G. aka: Bob, Sue, Steven, Tanya, Scott, Victor and me (the photographer) minus 3 -- the two newlyweds, and 'Hand' aka: Jeff Fink, the hand surgeon.)
The Original Seinfelders ... The 'Core Four' minus 'Hand'
We went to a Harvest Party with the classic sack races . . .
and doughnut on a string eating contests . . .
Note to self: avoid the powdered sugar doughnuts-on-a-string . . .
Ripley turned 5, and we threw a party . . .
on Halloween, so it was a costume party!
Later that day, we celebrated Halloween . . . it had been a full day for the chicken . . .
Here is a picture of the chicken in better spirits . . .

Ripley learned how to Rollerblade . . . it took him all of 5 minutes to be on his own . . .
Ripley completed his first Soccer Season, words cannot express how this kid can excel at sport. It's borderline embarrassing. But as his parent, it's also thrilling.
And we've enjoyed quieter moments like listening to Daddy reading a book at the end of the day . . .
Be well, and I'll do a better job keeping in touch.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hostile Takeover

I was only able to catch one hen on this swing set on my camera, but there had been five! This shot is from a few weeks ago. Since then I've tried to cut their wings three times, as they'd even gotten into my fenced in garden! Still, every afternoon, I find a few of them roaming around outside of their fencing. So, today I have a neighbor who also has hens and has just successfully trimmed his hens wings, coming over to help me. My hens are out of control. The little whipper-snappers.

However, they have started to give me some good gifts . . .
I don't think my Barred Rocks are laying yet, but my New Hampshire and Rhode Island Reds are just starting. My champion layer so far is my New Hampshire Red, Pearl. Named for her pearlized colored legs -- they are supposed to be yellow at this young age.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Extracting Honey

Last Friday was my big moment . . . I had the opportunity to go to a friends house (and fellow bee keeper with 6 hives) to use her extractor just before she extracted honey from 8 honey supers (x10 frames each = 80 frames of honey!) As you would expect, I brought along my camera to document the momentous event . . .

Here is the inside of her very nice electric extractor. A lot of extractors are of the cranking variety - which is a lot better than no extractor. But the electric one sure was nice!

First, you have to remove the wax capping that the bees build on top of each cell filled with aged honey. This was a very small splash of honey on one particular frame, but it's a great picture of removing the cappings. You slide the angled metal comb just under the cappings, lift it off, and dump the gooey piece of wax into a bucket.
Here is my friend Diane helping me with my frames.
Using this comb like cappings remover is slow business, but it generally damages the comb that the bees build the least. There are heated knives and slicer things that you can use, but they cut into the comb more than this small hand-held number.
And, here I am!
Diane had everything set up nicely. As a bee keeper in her 5th year, she has gotten this project down to a science. The plastic sheeting was a great idea. She also put some pieces of cardboard down on the ground between the table and the extractor to catch drips. If you don't put some effort into creating a good system, I could see how this would be a HUGE mess! As is was, it was pretty dern sticky!
Here are all of my frames sitting in the extractor. The extractor spins at a high speed, pulling out the honey using centrifugal force. Then, the honey drips down the sides and out through a spigot.

Diane tipped the extractor when it was done spinning to get all of the honey to pour out of the spigot and into my bucket. I used a strainer this year, but next year I may try making the raw honey that is not strained -- and then is creamed in some way. At least I'll try to do some that way. That honey is supposed to be even better for you.
Look at all of that honey! When it was all said and done, I ended up with about 1/3 of a 5 gallon bucket worth of honey. This will have to last me through July of next year. With all of the baking I do with honey, my granola, yogurt and tea I will probably end up buying some in the end. But, my harvest wasn't bad considering I had two swarms this year!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hen Bliss

I can't imagine there is a better day in keeping hens than the day you find the first egg. After 21 long weeks, our moment finally arrived! A wee little egg, found yesterday morning. The first eggs that young hens lay are small. We have plastic Easter eggs in their nesting boxes to encourage the hens to lay there.

For breakfast today we will cook up our lonely egg for the boys and split it. It's gotta be good. I'm hoping.
We had friends visit the other day . . .
and they fell in love with our hens.
Give us an afternoon with your kids . . .
and we'll have them begging for hens of their own!
Incidentally, we received another wee-little-egg today.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pepper Jelly Recipe

Pepper Jelly is particularly yummy over cream cheese served with crackers, as an appetizer.
You can also mix the cream cheese together with the pepper jelly for a dip.

(I doubled the recipe listed below and used 1/4 pint jars ... so, for example I used 2 sweet bell peppers, etc.,)

1 cup ground sweet bell pepper, approximately 1 large pepper, including juice
2 to 4 T (depending on how hot you want your jelly, I used 4) finely chopped jalapeno peppers (I used cayenne, jalapeno and sereno)
3/4 C cider vinegar
1/2 C water
1/8 t salt
2 T lemon juice
1 box standard powdered pectin (1 3/4 oz)
2 1/2 C sugar

Seed the sweet and hot peppers (chop, then measure) and then throw in a food processor until "ground", put peppers and the juice into a large pan. Add in and stir together: vinegar, water, salt, lemon juice and pectin. Set the heat on medium-high and bring to boiling. THEN add in the 2 1/2 C sugar. Bring again to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down; boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim froth, stir. Ladle into sterilized (boil 20 minutes) hot (from being sterilized) 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headroom. Thoroughly wipe sealing rim of jars with fresh paper towel, put on prepared disk lid, and screw the bad down firmly. Process in a covered pasteurizing water bath at 185 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove jars and set on a dry folded towel where they can cool upright and naturally.

Yum. Yum.

Cooking Edamame

Aren't they cute? These are edamame picked fresh from my garden. I made them on Sunday to compliment the Patriots game. They were so yummy. I planted these at some point in August, and they are finally ready for picking -- just in time before the frost comes. Chipmunks apparently love Edamame seedlings, and ate several baby plants. But I ended up with enough to keep me cheerful.
I searched online to see how to cook them. It seemed as though they'd be pretty straight forward, but I just wanted to be sure. My favorite explanation was created by a young Japanese woman on YouTube. She was quiet and simple during the presentation, but the best part was that she had obviously learned to cook from her mother or grandmother using observation instead of time to determine 'doneness', and other tips. She said the way to know if your edamame are done, is by looking to see when the pods crack open slightly. Then, she insisted that to cool them off, don't use cold water as this (apparently) hurts flavor. Rather, she fumbles through a cabinet, and whips out a hand held fan to cool them (like everyone must have fans hiding in their kitchens, at the ready). I thought that was priceless. Of course I've been cooling beans with water, even ice water, for years, but I dutifully used a folded piece of paper to cool my homegrown edamame.

Basically, you put about 1 T salt into a pan of water (filled enough to be sure the beans are covered with water) and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling throw the beans into the water for 4-5 minutes (when the pods start to crack open slightly). Drain. Fan to cool, gently stirring to give them all a chance in front of the fan. Toss with one teaspoon or so of kosher or coarsely ground sea salt. They were so yummy, and I was so proud!

Here is the YouTube link: Kirin's Edamame
Take a look at her modern spice drawers -- I want one!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Disobedient Hens

Do you remember this?
I do. Victor and I worked our rear-ends off to make a protected area for our little hens.
Don't you know that now as many as five of them at one time hop out (flapping, half climbing up the fence) at will and peck around the yard.
Ahem . . . why did we bother?!
They were hopping out so frequently, and so many of them, that one late afternoon Benjamin and I let them all out figuring they'd stay close to home and come home easily at dusk. Nope. Those hens started trekking deep into the woods like a group of mountaineers beginning a expedition to climb Mount Washington. We had to pull out the stale hot dog buns and have Benjamin and Ripley coral them back towards the yard like sheep dogs -- luring them with crumbs. Bad hens.
To top it all off . . . we have no eggs yet. This is the week they start to lay. We are waiting.
Not too patiently.
Victor is already starting to talk about soup . . . and I don't mean egg drop.
We do have pole beans, harriot verts, dried beans, parsley and tons of arugula though!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Turkey Burger Recipe - the best ever!

We had these last night and they are fabulous. I changed it just a little bit from a Rachel Ray version.

1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 t salt
2 t cumin
1/4 t turmeric
1 t paprika
1 t coriander
1/4 t cayenne
1 t curry powder
1 small onion finely chopped, or grated
1 large garlic clove, pressed or minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro leaves
1/2 lemon juice and zest

I like to mix all of the spices all together first to be sure they are evenly distributed throughout the burger. Then mix all of the ingredients together and form turkey burger patties. Grill for 5 minutes per side. I served them on whole wheat buns, with mayo, barbecue sauce and bread and butter pickles. Rachel baby serves them with 1/4 C mango chutney (or any), 1/4 C plain Greek yogurt and one sack of shredded cabbage -- mix together to make this slaw, and serve inside a pita bread, or (not as messy) on a whole wheat bun. Eat up and enjoy! Yumola.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sole Sisters

(A group of the Sole Sisters, after running the Willow Tree Half Marathon this spring)

The running group that I'm apart of made it on television, featured to highlight the upcoming Caremark 5K this weekend. As my mother (and husband) stated, I sure know how to "hide" from the camera. Really I wasn't hiding, that's just how it worked out. In the video at first I'm wearing black running shorts and a black running jacket, with my hair down. When we start running (a four mile run apparently, but when you're running with friends, and being filmed for a news piece it sure goes by quickly!) I'm wearing a blue running top and my Princess Leia buns (because my 'pony tail' looks like a small powder puff).

Here is the link to the video:

Enjoy! And all of you local aspiring runners out there -- join in!
If you're feeling intimidated, start out with our walk / run group.
You know where to find me . . .

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Free-Form Raspberry-Rhubarb Tart

As you may recall, this spring we planted 12 raspberry plants this year. Some are early bearing, others later -- which is nice because you get a steady flow of gorgeous raspberries. On the first year you can't expect to get much of anything, but perhaps because of all of the rain we received, we have a nice little smattering of raspberries. Even though I figured my rhubarb was tough at this point, a found a few relatively new shoots and cut them off. Together with the raspberries I made a free-form raspberry-rhubarb tart. Boy was it good.

For the filling, a free-form tart is great because it doesn't have to be a certain size and you can just try different things. It takes a lot less time than a pie, and is smaller.

I added:

Approximately 1 1/2 pints of raspberries
4 small stalks of rhubarb, thinly chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 T flour
shake of cinnamon
shake of nutmeg
few slices of butter for the top
sprinkle sugar on top, including crust part.

mix all of the non-fruit ingredients together first, so you don't damage your raspberries too much when you mix everything together. Then add your fruit and gently fold to mix.

PreHeat oven to 425 degrees.

Basically, you use your favorite pie crust recipe (just for one crust). Roll out into a rectangle shape (or small circle, just as long as it could fit on your cookie sheet). Flip onto a cookie sheet. Pour your filling into the middle. Flip the edges of the tart up and onto the filling with a knife (a flexible one is helpful, like a frosting knife). Make sure that any holes on the bottom edge are pushed back together with your knife or finger -- otherwise the syrup will ooze out. Once all of the edges are flipped up and over onto the tart, put a few thin slices of butter on top, sprinkle with a little sugar and pop it in the over for 25-30 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden. Cool slightly (so the filling isn't too soupy) and EAT. Yumola. So good. We serve with vanilla icecream. Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hens, Bees, Peaches and Apples

How are my little hens doing?
They are almost full grown. In two weeks or so, they should start laying tiny little eggs. How exciting! We have one Barred Rock who likes to exercise her wings. At first we were concerned that she was a he, but other than being slightly larger and able to fly a little bit, she doesn't display any other "he" characteristics. But we're still watching, just in case. She occasionally hops out of their chicken run and waddles around outside, but she wants to be with her friends, so shortly after doing a little exploring she pops back in.
Don't you just love the barred rock feathers?
So pretty.
Here is one of our New Hampshire Reds, Pearl.
Uncharacteristically, her legs are pearl color. Usually, when a chicken is older their legs slowly bleach out. Pearl's legs are literally pearl colored. Recently highlights of brown have shown up.
Here are six of them (out of eight) giving me the one-eye.
My bees. Oh, my bees. As you know if you've kept up with my bee saga since April, my left hive swarmed in spite of all of my efforts to make sure they had "room". I'm starting to think that eight frame hives tend to make bees swarm -- I have got to research it. Has anyone read anything about this? My left hive made their own natural queen who was able to return safely from her mating flight, and starting laying. The hive is calm, thriving, and I happened to see the darling lady two weeks ago, and she's HUGE. Wonderful!

My right hive has been thriving. There have been a TON of bees in there. I have carefully added on supers to give them room, but ultimately I think I had a case of "my queen only wants to travel UP" syndrome. I hadn't gotten down to the bottom box to check in 2 weeks because I was inspecting on my own, which would have been fine, except that I was getting a bit overwhelmed by HOW MANY BEES there were. It was set up just as you see it here and every frame was PACKED with bees. This is when the foragers are out, so at night and early morning there were even more in there. An extremely healthy hive. Anyway, I dutifully went to do a hive check and go down to the bottom box when I'd noticed eggs in the first honey super the week before. I should have done it THAT week, but the bees were crabby with me.

I let a week and a half pass and they had made swarm cells. There were about ten of them. I'd just talked to a life long beekeeper and he'd suggested that at this time of year it is possible to stop a swarm. As a new bee keeper, I was very proud of myself for removing all of these cells. For me, when crazy things happen in the hive, my brain short-circuits and goes to mush. All I can focus on is the crazy thing (whatever that might be). This is where my error was. I didn't look to see if there were fresh eggs in the hive, to know that the queen was still in there. There were still so many bees in there, frankly I couldn't tell that any of them had left. I know, it sounds crazy. What can I tell you, I'm new at this. So, without a queen in the hive, I removed all of the queen cells. What does that give you? A hive without a queen! Not a good thing.

The woman I was working the hive with that day thought that she'd seen some queen cells that were torn open, which would mean that at least one queen hatched. So there was the slight possibility that a virgin queen was in the hive. I checked two days ago for eggs and still saw nothing, so I made the call to get a new queen. Just in case. It's getting a little too close to fall and cold weather to play the waiting game for two long.

So, just yesterday, I put my new queen, in her cage, into the hive. The bees noticed her right away and cruised over. The big question now is, if the hive DOES have a virgin queen in the hive (that should start laying within days), they will kill the new queen. But, I was willing to take the $25 gamble to make sure I got a queen in that large hive pronto.

I'll let you know how it goes.
I wasn't able to use my organic sprays this year because of the lack of time spent at my house, so my fruit trees have had some issues -- but all in all, they are okay. The peaches were finally ready on our two dwarf peach trees.
These apples weren't quite done yet, so they are still doing time.
One apple tree, and Empire, had apples that were ready. It was a very small harvest and each apple had issues. But hey, it's only my second year. Right?
We gardeners live for the hope of the next growing season.