Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chickens and Bee Wax

Last Sunday we went to Charlie's farm in Hamburg MN, where Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary will set up a second bee yard this summer. Charlie has recently procured 10 hens and two roosters. Assuming female farmers I was a farmers wife in one of my past lives. The chicken coop could easily become a second playground for me. The hens were beautiful, the roosters handsome. I know nothing of the the art of keeping chickens but I want to learn. I love nothing better than being in the bee yard and hearing the crow of a rooster in the early morning, the wet dew on the ground, the sun rising and  the hope of finding our queens. I imagine heading in to the chicken coop in hopes of finding an egg or two is somewhat the same. I am looking forward to mingling bees with chickens.

I  spent two days this week in the bee room trying to harvest wax from our old frames. During our last visit to the bee yard, the visit were we discovered total carnage we brought back a few boxes of frames. I had no idea how difficult it would be to pull the wax off some of these frames. In fact some of the wax is so hard and packed with dead bees and old tacky pollen that I gave up. I am stymied as to why the wax is so tough and impossible to remove. I see a great deal of pollen, lots of dead bees and some old unhatched brood but damn I can't get some of the wax pulled to save my soul. It certainly confirms my suspicion that the wax is not habitable for the bees. I worked on about 24 frames and probably have a dozen left to go. Worse though is this is only a fraction of what is sitting down in the bee yard. There must be at least 8 more boxes waiting for us. Frankly its all a bit overwhelming. Although it is hard work I enjoy being up to my elbows in sticky wax.

I spend some time organizing, getting all the harvested frames separated from those that still need work and getting the wax all in one box but the amount of work to be done is staggering. Hopefully the temperature will warm up and I can get back down to the bee yard and pick up more boxes. Every single frame needs to be inspected, scraped clean and either kept or tossed, depending on the condition of the frame. Every single box needs to be scrapped and painted. Another bee bench needs to be made and a leveler for the new yard needs to be made. The equipment needs to be inventoried and new equipment ordered. Today, I just dented the work load.

This is about 1/3 of the wax I have harvested so far. Today's wax was so full of dead bees and pollen that I am not sure how easy it will be for Paula to work with but I will turn all of it over to her for candles. I am always amazed by how much wax we have and then it melts down to a few candles.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Polar Vortex Cranberry Mocktail

In between harvesting wax and cleaning up the bee equipment I am puttering in the kitchen.

Since getting sober some 25 years ago I am still in constant search for the perfect party drink. I love my tonic water but sometimes a girl needs something a little special to flaunt and offer her guests during a dinner party especially when she isn't serving alcohol. We lean towards an alcohol free house, rarely offering our guests alcohol. If we want to entertain with booze we do it outside the house. It just keeps the house safe. On the rare occasion you find yourself sipping wine or enjoying a beer at our house its because you came with a bottle in hand. I am not crazy sober, its just that I don't comprehend marginal interest in alcohol. Excess is the story of my life. So we play it safe around here.

I love to wow my guest with fun non alcoholic drinks. One of my summer favorites is a concoction of passion fruit puree and simple syrup with fresh lime and lemon juice.  In the winter I gravitate toward cranberry.

Last week we had a group of Tina's colleagues over for a special dinner. They are the intellectual power house women of the college but they don't get out out much. Something about needy husbands and helpless children.  Its the second time they have come up from Northfield, MN for an evening of fun. Last May I blew them away with my Passionade and and Indian dinner that they are still talking about. I knew that meal would be hard to beat. I had to start with another signature drink.

I started with two bags of fresh cranberries, some fresh ginger a few whole cloves and a cinnamon stick and the next thing I knew I had a brilliant cranberry syrup that I topped off with a splash of club soda.  Make this, now. Thank me later. The ginger is just enough to give it a fabulous kick.

Polar Vortex Cranberry Mocktail

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberry
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar plus extra for dusting cranberries
knob of fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
a few whole cloves
club soda

Combine water and sugar and simmer over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add cranberries. Peel and grate ginger into cranberries. Transfer to an air tight container and add a cinnamon stick and cloves. Refrigerate for about 24 hours.

 After allowing cranberry, ginger and cinnamon to seep strain and reserve the syrup in a jar. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves from the cranberries. Remove some of the cranberries to use as a garnish.

Process the rest of the cranberries through a juicer or fine mesh strainer to get juice.

Add this juice to the syrup. Cover jar of syrup and store in fridge until ready to use. Take remaining cranberries and toss them in sugar to lightly coat. Allow them to dry

When ready to serve put two or three sugar dusted cranberries on a pick. Fill a lovely glass with ice. Pour two to three ounces cranberry syrup over ice, top with club soda and mix. Serve with pick of sugar dusted cranberries on the side.

Your welcome!