Honeysuckle Buzz – a Champagne Cocktail from the Garden

29 Jul

So one of my besties’ bridal showers was this weekend:

IMG_6367Observe – I clean up well, and enjoy wearing dresses (not just my bee suit).  Also, my dress is Rhode Island themed.  Not really.  I have always loved nautical things.

Regardless – I was in charge of games and favors (the former, I was not so excited about – the latter gave me an excuse to get crafty)…and then I put myself in charge of creating a signature cocktail for the event.  I walked out into my garden for inspiration and decided to use the last of the honeysuckle blossoms!

I remember as a little girl, walking in the woods with my mother and pulling the stamens out of honeysuckle blossoms and “drinking” the nectar, it is such a fond memory that although the vine is wildly invasive, it’s hard to think of removing it.

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The first step is creating honeysuckle simple syrup, which of course necessitates gathering up some blossoms -erring on the side of whiter rather than more yellow/orange.

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Add hot, but not boiling water to the jar (I sized up – so this is a pint jar), cover it, and let it sit for 12-24 hours.   You should *just* cover the blossoms.

IMG_0048After it’s set – strain it into a measuring cup – for every cup of water, I add 2/3 cup of honey.  You can go 1:1 and for more strongly “scented” syrups  - but I find that the honeysuckle gets lost easily with too much honey – unlike mint which can stand up to it a bit better.  Whisk the honey in until it’s dissolved – on a warm day, you shouldn’t need to add any heat to it – but if you do, you can feel free to transfer it to a pan – just DON’T LET IT BOIL!

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Et voila.  Once it’s done, transfer it to a storage container and move it to the fridge.  Cool & then shake before using!

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The Honeysuckle Buzz

Tablespoon of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup

4 ounces of Champagne

Stir with a bar spoon

Garnish with an edible flower or a honeysuckle blossom (I picked Borage for some color, but the honeysuckle adds a lovely scent)

 

Raised Rain Garden + Rain Barrels

23 Jul

My bosses let me do crazy things (and sometimes encourage me and/or help)…and I’m dragging 10 teenagers with me.  I love designing water systems – so I designed this (somewhat) and my boss constructed it over our break.

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It gathers rain from two downspouts that originally hadn’t been attached to anything into a single catchment and then into a pair of rain barrels that my kids painted.

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The water from the barrels flows down a hose that irrigates the split bed (i’d designed it a single height, but my boss got creative when he built it).   There’s an overflow in the side for drainage and two standing drains in case water pools up too much.   My kids studied rain gardens and chose the plants (and we went to Weston Nurseries in MA to get a tour and pick them out).

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Obviously – we have some kinks to work out – WHOA – and the hose doesn’t appear to be flowing into the low bed – I thought the pressure would be enough, but it’s not pushing up and over….but that’s it so far!

Warre, Baby! – Downward Motion! – Nadiring!

17 Jul

The watched warre never goes downward?  After a 2 week vacation and a week and a half where I couldn’t get out to Queen Juju Bee’s hive, I returned to find her in pretty immediate need of nadir – after not having anything in the bottom box at last check.

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Upstairs and downstairs full!

 

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Lots of hot bees – even in the late, late afternoon!

 

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So nadiring happened!!!  

The top box was SO HEAVY!  I love that.  

I never wear the full suit except when it’s so hot that I’m wearing shorts…which is maybe paradoxical.  Also, I feel like a ghost buster.  I really like the traditional face mask better than the fencing style, but either way.  Who ya gonna call?

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Three high and about to get the roof put back on!

And, I don’t have honey yet – but I have another sweet reward in the interim – there’s a black raspberry bush about 4 feet from the hive.  I’m up to 6 pints of jam (and counting).

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Pickles are best made at midnight.

14 Jul

Pickles are best made at midnight after the thunder has rushed out the heat of the day. You can sneak into the yard barefoot to pick the grape leaves you’ll need, feel the grass between your toes cold with rain, the night air still breathing the conversations of far away strangers. Everything else you’ll need is inside wrapped in the quiet of the house where soon the rumble of the jars in their water bath will sound like an approaching storm.

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Herbal Sunburn Relief – Skin Cooler

6 Jul

So it’s the 5th of July, and everyone in the house has managed to get at least a spot of sunburn.

I forgot the correct order of operations and put on sunscreen after I had my swimsuit already on, so there’s a funny burn band along my décolletage where it must have shifted. L has a red back. D has red shoulders. Summer has officially begun.

Between us, there are 3 aloe plants in the house, but it’s hard for me to commit an entire plant to this project, so I decided to make something a little broader spectrum.

Herbal Skin Cooler
6 Plantain Leaves
2 Bags of Green Tea (organic preferred)
6 Healthy Sized Branches of Peppermint (not spearmint!) or 5-6 Bags of Peppermint Tea
4-6 Meaty Aloe Leaves

Do this:
* Put the kettle on!

*Gently wash the plantain leaves (more of a rinse, really) and crumple/mush them into the bottom of a quart sized mason jar.

*Gut the green tea bags (and peppermint if you’re using tea bags) and empty the tea into the jar.

*Smush the peppermint branches (stems and all) into the jar (if using branches).

*Fill the jar about halfway (should cover at least most of your plant material) with hot but not boiling water.

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*Set the jar on the counter to cool for 2 hours, shaking occasionally once it becomes cool enough to handle.

*Get the goo out of your aloe leaves. After some trial and error, I decided on slitting the leaf up the middle, cutting off about a 2-3 inch section at a time, flattening the section out, and then using the side of the jar to scrape the goo into the cooled tea. For good measure, I threw the aloe leaf husk parts into the tea as well.

*Cool/steep that in the fridge for at least an hour, shaking occasionally.

*Strain the cooler into a separate jar (or spray bottle) and then store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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You can dab or spritz this refreshing cooler on any part of your body, but definitely hit up the sunburn spots first.

Plantain has amazing healing properties, peppermint has a cooling kick, green tea is soothing and antioxidant, and aloe does what aloe does…

I was just out watering the garden and when I came back, I spritzed it on my face, neck, and pulse points and felt instantly cooler.

Enjoy!

A Bee Being Born

1 Jul

More from THE PAST.  Today (read back to June 19th) when I took the nuc apart that I’d been trying to situate, the frame that I tossed out for robbing that was mostly nectar had some brood in it, and while I was watching…it HATCHED!

20130619-192110.jpgSee the chewed capping in the middle of that cluster?

20130619-192100.jpgMaybe hard to see, but the whitish thing in the middle is a new bee crawling out of her cell.

SO COOL!

Herbal Nyquil – or – the effects of Catnip on Humans

27 Jun

Once upon a time, I was a poor college student.  When Christmas time came, I didn’t know what I would do.  So I decided to make herbal neck wraps for my family that they could put into the microwave, heat up, and wear while relaxing after a hard day of whatever they were doing.

I got little bits of fabric and then did research on herbs with relaxing qualities.  Then I went to the co-op and got lavender, chamomile, and catnip – which I’d read all had said relaxing qualities.

I mixed them up in a little bowl, added wheat berries (thermal mass), and stitched up little pouches.  I even made myself one.

A few weeks after Christmas, my dad called me to ask what I had put into the wraps because whenever he or his partner used them, they felt pleasantly woozy and then fell asleep.

I wasn’t sure what could have had that effect.

Then I tried my own out – pleasant wooziness, sleep.  I’d had one with just lavender in it previously and had NOT had that issue.  Chamomile is pretty mild too, so I figured it must be the catnip…further research seemed to indicate that catnip was in fact the culprit.

Now years later, I’m delving more into Things Herbal and remembered my adventures with catnip and decided to see what else it could do.

So one night, many days ago, when I was having trouble sleeping, I tossed some fresh catnip into hot (but not boiling) water:

20130619-201840.jpgLike so.

Steeped it for 20 minutes….mixed it into what I had left of a honey mint julep (effectively creating a catnip hot toddy)…and fell asleep before I had finished drinking it.

Herbal Nyquil.

***Your Mileage May Vary***

The end.

Honey Mint Julep – the tastiest honey cocktail!

24 Jun

So I’m on vacation right now in the South and I’m scheduling a few posts, so I’m writing to you FROM THE PAST right now.

Mint Juleps are my favorite summer cocktail – they’re a no brainer when you have a mint plant in the garden that just won’t quit.  I also, no surprise, have a little honey around (not mine yet, but local and raw and tasty).  So I decided to make my own version of the classic.

First of all – Minty Honey Simple Syrup:

Fill a mason jar (or equivalent) about a third full of mint leaves.  Then 1/2-2/3 full of tap water as hot as you can get it to come out.  The rest of the space in the jar should be filled with honey!  Leave a little “headspace” in there for future shaking.  I like to stir or swirl it a little at first as it’s cooling and then close it up and give it a good shake.  I’d steep that as is for at least 20-30 minutes…get it good and minty.  Shake it occasionally.  I like to make mine the night before and then leave it in the fridge to really get good and steeped.

Next, strain all the leaves out – and combine with a good bourbon (Four Roses is my current fave) at 1 part syrup to 2 parts bourbon.  I like mine sweet!  I’ve also seen a shot an a half of bourbon to 2.5 tablespoons of syrup…but that’s too precise for my taste.

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Serve over crushed ice in a julep cup if you’ve got the gear…or regular ice in something you like drinking out of…and obviously garnish with more fresh mint.  Delish!

20130619-201820.jpgCould also be consumed IN the actual garden….it’s worth considering.

Also, today is my mother’s birthday – so feel free to raise a glass to her.  I think she’d approve.

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Supply Chains

20 Jun

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More Bee Expansion….aka I am a Bee Hoarder. Big Update.

19 Jun

So, let’s see….

After the disaster of a crop & chop, which never really shaped up to be anything but a mess, I hived Betty up the hill into a foundationless Langrstroth next to Foster hive.  I had this whole plan about how I was going to put the styronuc into this rubbermaid container I keep all my bee junk in, but it didn’t fit.

So plan B…which I had to formulate on the fly…involved closing said rubbermaid container, rolling my window all the way down, and balancing the nuc on top of the container with the door out the window….and driving really really really slowly with a smoker lit and my veil on. Luckily, I was just driving it from one end of a farm to another, so really less than a quarter of a mile and no real roads.

20130619-190034.jpgOk, there’s sort of a picture….the corner of a white thing in the mirror is the nuc sticking out my window…and then you can obviously see the smoke.

20130619-190051.jpgAnd here’s Foster hive on the left, I really need to combine that down into one box…although I’m tempted to let them sort themselves out.  Then there’s Betty all tucked into her single brood box, and the lavender styronuc waiting to be cleared out totally.  It’s empty now and stored away.

Cleo, at the other end of Scratch Yard is doing great – she’s on 13 or 14 bars and building like a little champ.  I couldn’t seem to get a good shot in the window last week, but I’m headed out tomorrow to check on them and do some other work….

I checked on Miss JuJuBee last week it seems like they’re starting to move down into the second box.  I have fingers crossed hard on that one.  Last year my girls in that hive swarmed rather than move down.  I have seed comb in the second box *and* I put a swarm trap out in the woods a bit just in case.  Here are two pictures of her girls:

20130619-191155.jpgPollen pants!  I love it when their pollen baskets are full and they have puffy pollen pants!

20130619-191204.jpgHere’s looking at you, kid.

Then!!! I got a community garden space (I alluded to that previously).  I’ve been doing a lot of work unearthing it from weed city.  It’s coming along.  They told me I could have a hive there, which I was really excited about and then the other community garden that I was on a waiting list for said I could keep a hive there too!  Two hives!  So I brought the long hive (Daphne) to the garden I am gardening in:

20130619-191441.jpgThis is Daphne in my little plot…in the distance….failing at blending in.

I think we’re up to last Wednesday now.  So I needed two nucs, found them!  Went and got them! Brought them back!  Got a hive for one of them, another foundationless Lang – I’m calling her Eleanor.  Hived her up right quickly on…I think it was Monday.

Today I went into the garden with the intention of doing an actually assisted Chop and Crop…better prepared and on a nuc that was all wood instead of all plastic…look, I’m learning.  Here’s my helpful friend in my spare bee suit:

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I pulled the nuc away from where it was, got the HTBnuc that I made (featured in my last post in all its adorableness), and went to work.  I figured, I’d chop and crop into the HTBnuc a few yards from the site of where the other hive is and nuc was so that there would be fewer bees around and that I could just drop the bars into the long hive when I was done with the traumatic operation.

I was wrong, as usual.

First, I’d accidentally switched nucs so there was a plastic frame in there, lame.  I figured I could just put that into Eleanor (the already hived Lang) no problem.

I was wrong about that too.

First things first, I shook the bees off of the first frame and into my nuc, helpful friend cut the bottom, the comb came loose, and then I noticed a little queen cell on it that was opened….so I put the brakes on.

I lay that frame out to be robbed as it was mostly nectar and set about shaking the loose bees off of every frame and into the nuc, figuring I’d shake a swarm into the nuc, check out the rest of the frames, and see what was going on.

When I really got in there and looked there were 6<<<<<<< SIX<<<<<<< queen cells in varying sizes on a variety of the frames.  Three of them were open.  Three of them were still sealed.

So I closed the nuc back up (after shaking almost all the loose bees out of it) and put it back where a mini swarm of returning field bees was congregating on the side of my raised bed.

And then I watched, thunk, and had a little snack.

A lot of the bees from the shaking process ended up outside of the new nuc.

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But within an hour they were all into the little nuc and fanning and foraging and quiet.  From that, I’d say there’s a queen in there.

I ran over to my new favorite spot, Cluck!, to get a new hive figuring that I’d just move all the frames with the other half of the bees into a new foundationless langstroth and call it good…but then as I thought about it more, I realized that I didn’t want to waste all of the queen cells and sooooooo….

I hived up almost all of the frames into the new foundationless Lang…who needs a G name…Genevieve and faced it away from where the nuc was facing and I left a different frame with a queen cel in the nuc (alone) and faced it to the side of where the nuc had been facing and stacked it up on top of the two Lang hives that are there figuring that they’d split themselves all up amicably (I hope) and I can take that frame and the bees in it tomorrow morning and take them down to the farm where Alice is empty – chop and crop that one frame, add the bees that are in the box, go get a couple of bars from Cleo and bring them down and call THAT a split….which leaves:

Alice (HTBH at Zephyr, currently empty) with a queen cell, some bees, and a few borrowed bars from Cleo.  Work to do tomorrow.

Betty, last seen about 10 days ago tucked into her foundationless Lang up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Cleo, last seen about 10 days ago being blue ribbon and wonderful in her HTBH up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Daphne empty in Sycamore Yard…but once I get back in two weeks I’ll move her to the other community garden (Brattle), bring the baby nuc over and transfer the bars into it….so next update in two weeks.

Eleanor – foundationless Lang full of happy bees being normal in Sycamore Yard.  Next check in two weeks.

Foster hive – status unknown…but couldn’t be worse than when I found her…next check tomorrow…up on Scratch.

Genevieve – newly hived foundationless Lang in Sycamore Yard, next check in two weeks, although she’s short a frame and I should probably put that in tomorrow…although they were QUITE irritable when I left today.

JuJuBee – Being a darling in Lincoln Yard, I think…next check tomorrow.

Jean Grey – Awaiting a swarm in Lincoln Yard.

And that’s that….sort of a fail…and I got chased from the yard…ha…but also sort of exciting!

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