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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)

 

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!

DIY Rain Barrel Tutorial

6 Jul

I promised a rain barrel tutorial (like the one on the fire escape but not blocking the egress in my last post) for a friend, so here it is!

Stuff you’ll need:

*Plastic Barrel with lid – food safe…they come in 5 , 15, and 30 gallon sizes.  I’ve done these with trash cans, but I’m not super sure of the food-safe-ness of them, and they’re a lot flimsier than food shipping barrels and tended to break more easily.

*Drill – cordless preferred, but not required.

*1″ spade bit that fits said drill.

*silicone caulk labeled for outdoor use – I’ll put a picture of mine down below

*fittings – definitely a spigot, possibly a hose attachment — 3/4″ and 5/8″ fittings both fit in the holes that 1″ bits make.

*some washers that fit over the base of your fitting (3/4″ in my case)

*a bushing that fits over your fittings

*some plumber’s tape (this is semi-optional – it’s my first time using it and I think it’s a good idea, but I’m not totally sure if it’s crucial yet)

*a hunk of window screen that fits over the top of your barrel

*scissors or garden shears

I got this barrel on craigslist for $12 – it’s foodsafe (there’s a symbol on the bottom of a fork and a spoon, if you’re checking – but the person you’re getting it from should know both if the barrel is foodsafe and what it was used for).  This one was used for peppers, apparently.  This type holds 30 gallons and has the added bonus of being a sort of neat shape (not fully round and tapered top and bottom).  I chose plastic because it’s lightweight and easy to work with – no special tools needed!

The first thing I like to do is punch holes in the lid.  I’m using a 1″ spade bit for all of the holes – you could make the top drain holes a different size than the holes in the main body of the barrel, but I don’t really see the point.  Look, that’s me!  Drilling! Punch holes all over the lid.  Get fancy!  Or not!  Make it look like swiss cheese!  Sorry for not wearing eye-protection, mom!

Lay the barrel on its side and punch a hole toward the bottom.  The lower it is, the higher off the ground you’ll have to put it so that you can fit your watering can under it…the higher that it is, the more water you have to have in order to access your water.  It’s a conundrum.  I always eyeball it.  On these, I like to put it just below the start of the barrel’s taper.  Turn the barrel to the side and put another hole up near the top – this is your overflow, so don’t go too low with it.

When you’re done poking holes, your barrel should look like this.  At this point, I’d go ahead and dump any plastic shavings from the barrel into the trash.

These are my plumbing items all lined up.   You don’t need a fancy spigot, unless you’re me…in which case…you need a fancy spigot.  The plumber’s tape looks like medical tape but has no stick to it…and then there’s the washer and the bushing.  We went right to left on that, in case you were wondering. 🙂

When all assembled, they’ll look like this… but with a barrel in the middle.

Next, wrap plumber’s tape around the threads of the spigot once or twice.

Then goop on the caulk.  Goopy!

This is the caulk I’m using.  I recommend knowing what you want instead of going to the hardware store and asking the guy to help you find some caulk…and then spending the entire conversation over-pronouncing the word caulk so as not to fuel some weird porno fantasy he may or may not already be having about you. 😉  The key to the caulk is not shrinking or cracking, being rated for outdoor use, and being silicone.  I also like the not molding part.

The great part about the 1″ hole is that it’s snug enough to a 3/4″ fitting that it actually allows it to screw in (rather than just pushing through).  I feel pleased about that.  This is what the outside looks like after you’ve screwed the fitting in (caulk and all)…reached waaaaaaaaay down into the barrel and added a washer or two (enough to make the bushing screw tightly on and press the washers to the barrels in one, tight mush)…smoothed the inside caulk and possibly added a little more to make it seal up tightly and then smoothed the outside caulk to a tidy-ish seam.

If you have short arms like me, this part may involve having a friend steady the barrel while you wriggle into it to place your fittings.  It’s hilarious to watch but sort of annoying to do.  No photographs, please.

If you want to put a hose attachment on your barrel, it’s the same procedure except easier because you don’t have to crawl into the barrel.  I was going to put one on, but can’t find it.  It’s nice to do while you have the caulk out….but you can always add it later.

Next, lay some window screen over the opening of the barrel.  Precision is not terribly important to this step.  Mostly just make sure it covers the opening and overlaps on all sides.

Mash the lid on and trim the screen.  This is way easier than it looks.

……aaaand done.  Probably about a 30 minute total project.

I know you’re now dying to test it out, but the hardest part of the project yet remains…waiting for the caulk to cure.  I always give it 24 hours.  You could probably wait 12 (which I think is what the container says), but I don’t like to risk it.

Happy Rain Water Harvesting!

Package Bee Install – Warre Hive

3 Apr

I got my bees today!  I went up to North East Bee Supply and picked up my girls from Rick.

Safety first!

I think they were pooping out the bars all over my car seat…weird.  They also got REALLY angry sounding and loud in the tunnel – I’ll bet the pressure threw them off- they calmed down again when we got beyond it.  I brought them home, took them out on the roof, grabbed my tools and then…

I installed them into the hive!  I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be – in fact it was pretty exciting, and I’d love to do it again – unless it meant my bees were dead, then I wouldn’t like it.  I made a video with the help of my neighbor, Ashley.  It gets a little silly and motion-sick-y toward the end, but it’s 9 minutes of good, clean bee install.

I made one major mistake – I took the cork out of the wrong end of the queen cage – which either means she is dead right now or it’s fine.  They seemed to be really interested in her and had even started building comb on the outside of the queen cage near her – which to me means they’re strong and active and into it (I can’t find any reference online to bees building comb in the package anywhere!) – but I’m a newbie, so I could be wrong.  I emailed the guy I got them from (Rick) and my teacher (Mel) to see if they had any thoughts or advice – I’ll go out there tomorrow and see what I can see through the windows.

Also, another friend who was over today informed me that her mother wants us to call it Sweet Honey in the Rox (our neighborhood : Roxbury).  Popular opinion on this is yes…so maybe that’s what our jars will eventually say…and maybe I’ll change my blog title.

When I told everyone that we probably wouldn’t have honey until next Spring they were pretty dismayed and are all doing mondo nectar flow dances.  I told them if we had 4 full boxes, I’d take one off – meaning honey in September – but we’ll see.

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