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Making Pot Pies

Fall                                                       Waxing Autumn Moon

We had our final straight from the garden meal last night.  Roasted potatoes, onions, fennel, carrots and a lone beet.  Raspberries for dessert.  Marinated chicken for protein, not from here.

Today I cut up the leeks, cooked some chicken breasts, carrots, celery, peas and corn (none of these ours), and cooked the leeks in salt water for five minutes.  After shredding the chicken, a roux thickened the broth with the vegetables.  The shredded chicken went in the pie crust, then the leeks (our own), and after that the thickened broth and vegetables.

A rolled out pie crust for a top to the pies and they went in the oven.  4 chicken/leek pot pies, frozen now, treats we can have when we get back from South America along with raspberry pie.

Had an aha about our garden while cutting up the leeks.  We’re not feeding ourselves in any significant way with our garden, though we do eat several meals a year with our own produce and fruit.  What we can grow, and the leeks, garlic, heirloom tomatoes and heirloom potatoes are good examples, are specialty vegetables that, even if we wanted them, probably wouldn’t be available and would certainly not be available fresh from the garden.

We preserve tomatoes, store potatoes and onions, garlic and honey.  Kate makes currant jam and wild grape jelly.  We have raspberry pies frozen and now the chicken/leek pot pies.  We also freeze chard and spinach.  Our garden supplements our diet in ways that would not be possible without it.

It also gives us a joint project, a place we can work together, while keeping us in touch with the Great Wheel and the ways of the vegetative world.  We get a lot from our garden.

Pictures of September

Lughnasa                                                  Waning Harvest Moon


Harvest Day

Lughnasa                                                      Waxing Harvest Moon

Yesterday during the honey harvest (before the swarm) activity shifted among pulling frames from honey supers, delivering them for uncapping (Kate), getting them set in the extractor and going downstairs to work on Mark’s Saudi visa.  Shifting from the concrete tasks of honey to the abstract and electronic tasks associated with the visa application caused some mental whiplash.

We had a few setup problems.  In fastening the extractor to the deck (again) we positioned the rack so we had to work with it in the rear, clumsy but not impossible.  After we got it in place, we loaded it up with fresh frames full of honey.

Turned it on.  Nothing moved except the electric motor.  Neither Kate nor I are what I would call mechanical geniuses so we dithered with it, trying this and that, until we discovered it needed the top snugged against one side to allow the motor to mate with the rod connected to the centrifuge.  After that the extraction moved along as  planned.

Not sure on the total yet but we have at least double last year’s harvest, maybe more.  Now, though, we have to bottle it and get its moisture content checked.  Anything with a moisture content below 19.6 (if I recall correctly) is grade A honey and will keep forever though it may crystallize.  Just warm it up and it will become liquid again.

Honey with too much moisture will start to ferment.  This may be ok with you.

The harvest took from around 10 am until 3:45 or so.  It was at that point that I decided to test my bee’s perimeter defense with my head.

A Change

Lughnasa                                                  Waxing Harvest Moon

Issue briefs have begun to trickle in from the various Sierra Club issue committees.  The political committee has its first meeting tonight in anticipation of the 2012 elections.  Labor Day weekend is almost upon us.

The transition from the so-called carefree days of summer to the more serious days of fall happens on Tuesday.  Carefree days of summer doesn’t describe the growing season for those with gardens and livestock, even if the livestock is bees.

Here at Artemis Hives we’ve had to delay our honey harvest one more day, too cloudy and cool today, but tomorrow looks good.

When the honey harvest has gone into bottles and the potatoes and leeks have been dug and when the tomatoes ripen and get eaten or canned or made into soup, when the apples come off the tree for table use and the last of the beets and carrots leave their earthen homes, then we can focus on different matters.  Like that cruise to South America.

Fall brings political work, work that matters more than usual since the Republicans took many seats in state houses and Congress and those of us with a progressive outlook will once again work to turn them out.  School tours begin anew at the MIA as kids return to their classrooms.  We have some exciting exhibits coming this year, among them a Rembrandt show and a pop Japanese show.

Katsushika Hokusai
Japanese, 1760-1849
The Manor’s Dishes from One Hundred Tales, c. 1831-1832

This will begin my 11th year of touring and this one excites me as much as the first, maybe even more.  Art repays greater attention and more attention over time, something my volunteer work at the MIA has afforded me. A real gift.

The political work maintains a sense of agency, a capacity to reach into the external world and have some impact, to work on behalf of values and beliefs in a concrete, practical way.  Again, a real gift that opportunities continue to come.




Harvest Home

Lughnasa                                                 Waxing Harvest Moon

Tomorrow the season’s honey harvest.  Kate and I will haul out the extractor, fasten it to the deck and begin uncapping our honey.

The process goes like this.  Each colony with surplus honey, 2 & 3, has at least two full honey supers and a third with some honey.  The bees have to be removed from the super, then the super covered with a bee tight lid.

The super goes in a wheel barrow and gets trundled to the deck.  Kate will uncap the frames by sliding a hot knife over the capped cells.  This is a sticky process, one that had several uninvited guests last year, but we’re taking steps to keep the bees away from the extraction.

In the first place we’ll only have one extractor load of frames at a time (6).  That means there will not be frames sitting free, inviting bees.  If we can, we will do the uncapping inside, further removing a source of attraction.

At any rate bees away from their queen are not defensive, so even if they do show up they’re not inclined to sting unless harmed.

Tomorrow’s work completes a journey begun two weeks late, at the very end of April and the beginning of May with three, three pound boxes of bees.

(6 frames go in the slots.  The motor turns the frames and centrifugal force extracts the honey)

Colony 1, which will over winter, has no surplus honey, and I have yet to determine if it has adequate stores.  That will come in the days after the extraction.

If my estimates are correct, we’re going to have a large harvest (for Artemis Hives).

Bee Diary: August, 2011

Lughnasa                                                                   Waning Honey Extraction Moon

Checked the honey supers this morning.  On the two package colonies that I do not intend to overwinter, we have approximately four full honey supers.  That is, we have for harvest the amount of honey they would have needed for the winter, close to 200 pounds.  Figure that 40 pounds is not recoverable due to drips, stuck on honey comb even after extraction then that should leave around 16o pounds to harvest.

If we chose to sell it at, say $7 a pound, that would create around a $1,ooo in sales after keeping some back for own use and gifts.  After the bee packages at $60 each and amortizing the honey extractor, supers and hive boxes, syrup, hive tools, smoker, pollen, queen excluders, honey jars, top and bottom boards and telescoping covers, we’d still be in the red for the first three years.  Don’t know what we’ll do with it this year, probably give away a lot again.  It’s good for barter and gifts for sure.

Artemis Hives has produced honey two years in a row now, an artisanal honey created by bees aided by the beekeeper, me, and the bee equipment and harvest partner, Kate.

Looking at the gardening year in total we will have a good, not great honey harvest, a good potato harvest, leeks, beets, chard, beans and possibly a decent tomato crop.  Kate has good success with her zucchinis and the decorative gourds have bloomed but produced no fruit yet.  The gardening and beekeeping year will wind down in September, just in time for us to finish our cruise preparations.  Caring for gardens and bees requires a lot of face time with the plants and hives, visits to nurseries, attendance at Hobby Bee Keeper meetings, not to mention all the work of harvesting and putting food by.

I’m at the point in the year when my enthusiasm has run out a while ago and the only thing that keeps me active now is the need to finish, to harvest.  When it’s done, it’s over for the year.


Bee Diary: Memorial Day Weekend

Beltane                                                                     Waning Last Frost Moon

The bees.  Today the second hive boxes went on each colony.  This means that 70-80% of the frames in the bottom boxes have brood and pollen, requiring more space now for expansion of the growing number of bees.

Without a second hive box the chance of swarming, increased by overcrowding, would become probable.  In the ideal bee keeper world, adding the second hive box, with moving a 500honey-extraction_0231frame from the box below to the new one to entice the bees up, eliminates swarming.  No bee keeper wants a swarm because about half the bees and the young queen leave and the remaining, now queenless workers and nurse bees have to create an emergency queen.  Since half of the workers are gone and emergency queens are not as productive as the new, young queen the beekeeper gets little if any surplus honey.

(this is where we’re headed.  this colony has three deeps and three honey supers.  last august)

On two of the colonies I added regular hive boxes, or deeps, that is a box able to hold the 9 5/8″ frames.  This is the standard UofM beekeeping in northern climates method and it aims toward overwintering of the colonies and using them to both create a new, child colony next spring and a maximum honey producing colony, the parent.  On the third colony, however, I added two honey supers instead of a deep.  This is the same amount of space as a deep, but the honey supers are lighter since they’re only half the size of a deep.

This last colony I plan to manage solely for this year, attempting to get maximum honey production from it.  I’ll accomplish that by extracting all the honey this colony makes.  I estimate I would have had another 150 pounds of honey last year had I practiced this method.  The downside of this method is that the colony will die in the fall because it will have no honey stores to live on through the winter.  It also doesn’t create a parent colony for the UofM method.

This may sound cruel, but if it’s effective, it will only reflect the reality I experienced last winter.  All three of my colonies died.  I had to start with new bees this year.  The honey those colonies made to overwinter filled a deep and a half, the equivalent of 36 full honey supers.  Since we only extracted from 2 full and several partial supers last fall, that would have meant a good deal more honey.

An experiment.  We’ll see how it goes.

It continues to amaze me that these bees are calm, giving me no problem when I do colony inspections.  With smoke they go about their business while I go about mine, the work gets finished and I move on.  Don’t know what the difference is, whether I’m calmer or these are more docile bees.  Maybe a bit of both.

Bee Diary: April 18, 2001

Spring                                       Full Bee Hiving Moon

My bee pick up date and time has come.  I get my gals around 2:30 pm on Saturday.  I’m mostly ready, having prepared the hive boxes and the frames on Sunday.  I need a couple of entrance reducers and a bottom board, but that’s no big deal.  I have frozen pollen patties so I’m good there and the honey frames I’ve got in the hive boxes will feed my bees to begin, 06-27-10_beekeeperastronautmaybe enough to get them through to the dandelions.

This is a new season and I’m hopeful that my increasing experience will make it a successful one.  We plan to sell some honey this year, at least enough to cover package bee costs and equipment, perhaps turn a little profit.  That entails finding a bee-proof spot to do the extracting; I’m hoping the garage will work.

Went to see my dermatologist.  No skin cancer.  First time I’ve been checked, but, hey, this skin ain’t gettin’ more pliable.  He says once a year from now on.  Now on until.  Now on until death, I suppose.

Another busy day with Leslie at 11:30, dermatologist and Woollies tonight.  Heading out.

Bee Diary March 26, 2011

Spring                                               Waning Bloodroot Moon

All three colonies are dead.  I rechecked them last weekend.  I have ordered three packages of bees, the larger 3 pounds boxes, that will arrive in early April, perhaps April 9th.  Hiving 500honey-extraction_0231the new packages takes place as soon as possible after I pick up the bees from Nature’s Nectary outside Stillwater.  They may wait a day, but not more.

I’m weighing whether to take the route of several beekeepers I know who buy new packages each season and harvest all the honey that’s made, rather than trying to overwinter the colonies.  If I do decide to go that route, we’ll have to sell the honey to recoup the costs, perhaps show a little profit.

There are arguments for and against this method.  Obviously it gives the bees only a season of a life, that’s a definite mark against it.  On the other hand, if colonies die anyhow, then there’s really no change except the certainty of their death.

This does allow harvesting the maximum from a colony’s first year, which would have added about 100 pounds of honey last year, or maybe 12 gallons to the five we collected.  On the other hand, it doesn’t allow for maximum production because an over-wintered colony produces more, since it already has its stores and will proceed to fill honey supers right away.

Another positive would be holding diseases down since they would have not have the overwintered, weakened condition that allows some diseases to take hold.

As I write this, I can see the argument for only one season of the bees.  Still not sure which say I’ll swing.

This will be the third season at Artemis Hives and I have a few new management ideas in addition to the one I’m considering above.  Instead  of a third hive box, I will use two honey supers instead.  This gives the same volume as a hive box, but in lighter by half units.  This will also make retrieving all the the honey easier if I decide to go with one season only for all 400_honey-extraction_0225the colonies.  I’m also going to check out better ways to have a bee proof environment in which to extract honey.  It was pretty bad last year.

In spite of the cold weather projected now through June according to Paul Douglas, we will hive the bees in early April and begin to plant cold weather crops as soon as the soil becomes friable.  Early April through early October is a major season here at Artemis Gardens and Hives.

At the end of it Kate and I will pack our bags and sail away to South America.  We’ll greet October 28th, 2011 somewhere in Ecuador.  That’s the time the world changes according to one understanding of the Mayan calendar.

Next to Last Day

Imbolc                                   Waxing Bloodroot Moon

I’ve had visitors now for lunch every day.  Father Chris and I discussed being hard of hearing.  When I mentioned saying something inappropriate occasionally in noisy places, he recounted a time when a parishioner said he was going to his sister’s funeral.  That’s nice! Father Chris replied.

Brother Paul presented me with a pound of Blue Cloud Abbey honey, from one beekeeper to paulpage-2another.

I’ve gotten to know more of the monks on an individual basis, mostly through lunch since I spend most of my time here in the room writing and when I finish in the afternoon no one’s around.  Dinner is in silence and afterward the monks retire.

(brother Paul is on the left)

Breakfast is usually in silence although Sunday morning is not, I learned today.  The rhythm goes silent breakfast after morning prayers, then day prayer and eucharist followed by a lunch when talking is ok and a silent dinner not long after evening prayer held at 5 pm.  Vigils come at 7:30 and after it, at 10 pm, the night or grand silence.

The silence at regular intervals and the quiet in general make this a wonderful place to write.  The only noises here are bells, singing and chanting, howling wind and the occasional train.

…these are the country deities, nymphs, fauns and satyrs, dwelling in mountains and in woods… Ovid, Metamorphoses

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Black Mountain Drive, Colorado

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