Jun 18

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

 

I went to show a friend some beekeeping equipment and materials this weekend and discovered this!

 

 

 

 

This is what happens when you don’t clean your homemade leather and cloth gauntlets properly and the local mice get a bit hungry.

 

I had never seen this before and it’s no wonder the cats were so interested in the box where the gauntlets were stored.

The really annoying thing about this is that they were homemade gauntlets with soft leather riggers gloves that were easy to use and gave great feel and control while providing good protection.

It looks like I will have to make another set. The silver lining in all this is that I will be able to make a few improvements to the next set based on my experience with the first pair.

What’s the craziest thing mice have eaten at your place?

 

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Jan 30

Mostly Homemade Cheesecake

We had a party to go to recently and we were asked to bring a dessert. At the last minute, I remembered and thought, “Oh Oh, what are we going to bring”. I stressed for a few seconds and said, “I know, I’ll try to make a no-bake home-made cheesecake or something. How hard could it be?”

As it turns, a little harder than I wanted it to be. However, a short time later, I had modified my plans and decided to just do the filling and buy a flan and some pastry cases. I had seen a few simple recipes andΒ  to based my attempt on some of those.

I ended up making a lemon filling and an apricot filling using Ricotta cheese (from the shop) and ingredients from the garden (or made from ingredients from the garden). I was pleasantly pleased with how they turned out.

Lemon Filling in Pastry Shells

Lemon Filling in Pastry Shells

Apricot Cheesecake

Apricot Cheesecake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how I did it. None of the measures are exact and I’m sure there are other ways to do it but this way seemed to work and it was so easy.

Lemon filling Apricot Filling
250g Ricotta cheese
Two tablespoons Honey
Two tablespoons Natural Yoghurt (optional)
Grated rind of one Lemon
Juice of one Lemon
250g Ricotta cheese
Two tablespoons Honey
Two tablespoons Natural Yoghurt (optional)
Half teaspoon Vanilla essence
100g Apricot jam with fruit pieces
Beating the Ricotta (and Yoghurt)

Beating the Ricotta (and Yoghurt)

 

The basic technique is the same for both just make sure the Ricotta is at room temperature before you start beating it to make sure it becomes smooth with no little lumps. I just used a fork to beat the mixture, it doesn’t take long. The optional Yoghurt gives it a real creamy texture.

 

 

 

Adding the Honey

Adding the Honey

Beat in the honey. We used home grown honey from our busy little bees in the backyard but commercial honey will do just fine. You can use more or less honey according to your tastes but add it one spoon at a time and taste because some honey has a very strong flavour.

If you use more honey you may need to reduce the yoghurt so the mix doesn’t get too runny.

 

 

The wonderful Smell of Lemon Rind

The wonderful Smell of Lemon Rind

Add the lemon rind and juice last because it will stiffen the mixture. The lemon also came from the garden.

With the second batch we used home made apricot jam (made with our own apricots – Oh, and some of the neighbour’s πŸ™‚ ) instead of the lemon. You can also add vanilla essence but not too much. If you are using commercial jam, get one with lots of fruit and with little chunks of real fruit. Add these last as well.

 

Use the mixture to fill the flan or pastry shells. You can also cook up some crepes and roll up the mixture in those.Β  Put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour and they will get quite firm, unlike the gooey mess the supermarket versions become.

These should keep a week in the fridge and will continue to improve in flavour. However, It’s difficult to know for sure as ours were gone well before then. πŸ˜€

A lot of the ingredients came from the garden and it’s possible to make it even more homemade if you want to. For example you could have a go at making your own ricotta. There are a number of sites that show how to make ricotta including this one by a mate of mine http://www.littlegreencheese.com/search/label/Ricotta

But it doesn’t matter if the ingredients are home grown or shop bought, it’s such a simple and delicious recipe and only take minutes to prepare, why not give it a go.

 

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Nov 05

A Taste of Honey

Well, after all the madness with the Swarms over the last few weeks it was a relief to settle down and extract some honey this weekend. I collected four swarms and apparently missed two more over the last five weeks and managed to sell one to a friend of a friend. That leaves me with five to manage which is more than I had planned but it is still do-able. If it seems to be too much effort I can always combine a couple to reduce the total number.

Using a friend’s two frame extractor I extracted 14kg from 9 frames, I was expecting a bit more but quite a few frames were not yet full or had brood in them. But that’s OK I wasn’t after a huge yield and I’m not currently using queen excluders.

I like to get a hive done in one hit and then return the extracted frames (stickies) to the hive for cleanup and refilling. It also helps me to keep the frames in the same hive as much as possible to minimise the spread of disease. Because I only have a few hives to manage it’s pretty easy. With a lot more hives I imagine it would be more difficult to keep track of the frames and hives.

Of course, while doing all this, I have been listening to a lot of honey related music including this old favourite.

What’s your favourite track with the word Honey?

 

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Sep 29

SWARM!

BEES! Everywhere! Swarms of them!

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an over statement but…

About four weeks ago, my mate came and checked on his bees that he overwintered at our place. He also checked on ours since we were away. He rang to say that he was gobsmacked! because the bees were overflowing in the hives! They were doing so much better than his other hives and he had to put an extra super on each one of the hives, his and mine. He was reasonably confident that the additional supers would keep them under control and not prone to swarming until we were able to do a thorough check on the them and extract some honey. In the process he used the last of my frames and needed to replace them. “Not a problem”, I said. Little did I know.

Two weeks ago on the Sunday, my neighbour rang me to say he had a swarm in his backyard. I told him I would come over and check it out. Sure enough, there was the swarm in some ground hugging bottle-brush. Were they mine? Maybe. In any case, in the interest of keeping everybody on side, I grabbed a box to collect the swarm and remembered that I had no frames! Fortunately, I had a base and a lid. They hadn’t been painted yet but they would be fine. What to do? I opened up the largest hive and grabbed three of the new frames that hadn’t been built on yet and a frame of honey and just used four frames in the hive and collected the swarm with no problems, under the watchful eye of a few friends.

stragglers swarm001-watchers

My mate dropped off the replacement frames on the following Friday and I dropped them into the new hive and the large hive on Saturday morning. That’s it, I thought. Now all I had to do was build another base and lid to be painted and build some more frames for the additional hive. Easy!

The next day, Sunday my neighbour’s son came over to tell me there was another swarm.Β  Damn!Β  I was in a bit of a bind now because I had no lid and no base as well as no frames. I scrounged around the garage and found enough material to make a serviceable base and a temporary lid. I quickly built the base and, because I had no Em-locks, tacked it onto the super. I opened up the largest hive again and took back the frames from the previous day including a full capped framed. I went over to the swarm, which turned out to be in our backyard near the fence , and successfully lured them into the hive.

swarm001 swarm002

So, now I had another hive with an ad-hoc lid with spacer and a temporary bottom with no feet. I was also short eight frames again! That meant I had to make up another eight frames to fill in the gaps in the two hives, make a new lid to replace the existing temporary one and make a new base to replace the one with no feet. So during the week, I bought some frame kits and foundation and made another eight frames. I also bought a sheet of 3-ply and some masonite and built a replacement lid.

Today, Sunday, I went down to the hives to replace the frames and, in the tree near the compost heap, I saw…yes, you guessed it…another swarm!! “This is getting bloody ridiculous”, I thought.

swarm003

This time I didn’t even have any material to make a temporary base. So it was off to the hardware store to buy some lengths of pine to make the spacer and opening for the base. I quickly assembled the base, dropped in four of the frames I had built during the week, one drizzled with bit of honey, and unceremoniously dumped the swarmed onto the hive. They seemed to have settled into the hive now.

swarm004

I took the remaining four frames and put them into the new hive from last week. Just as well I did because they had already constructed a full comb in the empty space and had started filling it with honey!

Now, in the space of three consecutive Sundays, I have gone from two hive to five hives. I have two hives that need four frames each as soon as possible. Plus I will need a further 24 frames fairly quickly to allow for expansion of the new hives as they are growing at an astonishing rate. I also need to build another two lids and bases so that I can paint them and start rotating out the temporary lids and bases. In addition, I will need to build another three supers at least to accommodate the additional hives And I have to start extracting honey from the established hives!

I might be able to give my mate one of the hives, particularly the first one as we think it may have come from his original hive with his brand new queen. If so, that would mean he would get his queen back and I would be left with four hives. I think that is a more manageable number.

This was supposed to be a relaxing hobby! πŸ™‚

 

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Apr 16

A Little Flat

Sometimes, a good idea doesn’t come off so well. This was the case yesterday when I decided to add some of the left over honey and water mixture left over from collecting the beeswax to our normal bread mixture.

Oops! There must have been too much sugar which stopped it rising properly and this happened…

unrisen-honey-bread

I think (hope) there was some other reason as well. It kind of tasted like it would been nice if it had only risen properly and not burned.

Anyway, I quickly made another loaf on the fast setting of the bread-maker and used less of the honey syrup and ended up with a much better result.

risen-honey-bread

This loaf would have risen more on the standard setting and was a bit dense, but yummy just the same.

At least the new chooks had a nice surprise today πŸ™‚

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