Tag Archives: DIY

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.

IMG_0021

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.

IMG_0045

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!

IMG_0049

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

IMG_6347

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.

20130723-173553.jpg

20130723-173545.jpg

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.

20130723-173920.jpg

 

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).

20130723-173958.jpg

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!

How I spent my Friday night.

7 Jun

Well first, I got a pedicure with one of my besties, and then I thought….well….I drive right past my studio on the way home….I’ll just spend a quiet little hour in the wood shop….which dissolved into two…and a half….

But! I built stuff!

20130607-220210.jpg
Exhibit A) a new nuc out of repurposed floor board scraps I trash-picked! It can fit bars from Cleo’s hive (unlike Jean Grey, which can’t). So I can use it as a transport box when I split Cleo, which I plan to do in the next week or so. This baby still needs a proper roof.

20130607-220800.jpg
Exhibit B) milled all the top bars for what’s likely to become my community garden hive…aka the residence of Queen Daphne. I also started gluing comb guides, but I got tired of it….more to do later, and of course, legs and a roof.

20130607-221052.jpg
Exhibit C) assembled the boxes for Betty’s foundationless Lang. The finish came out darker than I anticipated, but I think it will be ok.

20130607-223149.jpg
Exhibit D) not tonight’s work…putting the frames together and adding starter strips of foundation. Frame assembly: easy. Adding starter strips: stupid hard.

As soon as this rain clears…Thursday? I’m going to go check Cleo and see if she’s ready to be split, she was on 13 bars after just a month. There are 15 in the hive right now and I’d intended to give her a few more today, but it’s raining cats and dogs…I haven’t checked since Wednesday and it’s supposed to rain until Thursday, could get a little crowded in there. Maybe they’ll get bored in all this rain and cook me up a baby queen!

Once I’ve split Cleo into Alice hive, which is in Zephyr yard….I’ll move Betty’s nuc up from Zephyr to Scratch and hive her up…that way returning foragers who can’t find the new spot (it’s about 1/4 mile away) can go into Alice hive and be just fine!

Last thing on the to do list for “when the rain clears” is check in on JuJu Bee. Her ladies were festooning down into box 2 last Saturday when I checked, so hopefully they’re building it up down there and about ready to be nadired!

My First Woodworking Project : Building a Top Bar Hive

29 May

I’m feeling both really stimulated and a little stymied by this project. As it’s my first woodworking project, I’m pretty impressed with myself…but I’m using Phil Chandler’s plans and they’ve been frustrating to follow for an absolute beginner.

I’m now to the roof and kinda stuck…at this point the directions basically say: do whatever. Whatever is less than helpful for me.

Anyway, here are my pictures.

20130529-223143.jpg
Day one, part one: Body, sliders, a couple of top bars.

20130529-223228.jpg
Day one, part two: Top bars, all the comb guides glued up and weighted down, screened bottom stapled on.

20130529-223411.jpg
Day two, part one: entrance holes drilled, landing board glued on (upside down, oops)

20130529-223523.jpg
Day two, part two: legs on, roof frame built.

20130529-223605.jpg

I’ve also built dividers for a second hive…and want to build at least one nuc while I’m at this….but before I get too ahead of myself…what to do about the roof? I think I may need to put fabric into it so that the bees can’t get up into it (through the gap between he edge of the bars and the roof frame…) and then….how to build the top? Any tips for a complete novice?

–Update–

So based on some input from readers (and the beesource.com forums – love it there) I’ve come up with approximately this:

IMG_5851

The glue is still drying on the triangle pieces (there are 4) and somehow between the parking lot and my office, I lost the foam inserts that go in to seal the ripples off…so I have to take my car apart later and find those before screwing it all together….and then I’m going to staple some burlap into the underside of the roof frame so that bees can’t get up into it, but it vents ala warre quilt…and I’m probably going to try to put it on in overlapping pieces so I can still fiddle with it to stuff insulation in for the winter…..but at that point….I’m done!  Hive 1!  Oh, and then the linseed oil/beeswax coating and the beeswax on the bars.  This is labor intensive, but I’m learning a lot -and- getting a pretty thorough working knowledge of the tools in the woodshop!

Bees Loose in my Car! (and a bunch of other little updates)

28 May

The weather has been pretty cold and rainy this week again, but since JuJuBee and the newly named Cleopatra have observation windows, I was able to peek in anyway.

IMG_5755

 

 

That’s the full panorama of JuJu Bee’s workings.  On closer inspection, there’s definitely honey being stored away!

IMG_5753

 

Also, out on the front porch, there’s the definite posture of Nasanov fanning going on.

IMG_5756

 

Over on Scratch Farm, Cleopatra has a lot of work going on as well.   Her girls had 7 bars built out on Friday and so I popped another one in for good measure.

IMG_5735

Even though there was intermittent drizzle happening, the entrances were hopping. Now that they’re pretty set up, I’ve opened two of the front three holes and have popped off the Winter bottom board (well, I took the picture first and then took the bottom board off).

IMG_5761

 

On a neighboring farm, the farmer has asked me to keep a few hives for her as well.  Finding bees after package season is a bit of a pain, but I found a nuc in New Haven, CT and dashed over there to grab them on Friday afternoon.

IMG_5764

 

IMG_5766

 

There’s a whole lot going on in there!  Because Betty was a close 2nd in the naming poll, I’ve decided that this is Queen Betty.  And, unbeknownst to me, I got a pic of her little butt as I was grabbing the shot of the frame.

IMG_5772

 

On the far left side about a third of the way down the frame is Betty Bee’s Beeeeeehind.  Doing her job!

On the hour and a half drive between New Haven and Cranston, I had the nervewracking experience of having bees loose in my car.  One got out pretty quickly and soon several more followed.  It was a bit of a nail biter to be sure, but they hung out on the ceiling, for the most part, and didn’t come see what I was doing….which was definitely for the best.

 

IMG_5770

 

This is their temporary hive in their new home – woods, and farm fields, oh my!

IMG_5767Coming out to explore a little…

IMG_5828

 

And this is a few hours’ progress on their new home!  I’m working on it in the wood shop in the studio where I teach.  I’ve got the followers and about 5 bars made (although with no comb guides) and the body.  Before I head home tonight, I’ll make a bunch more bars and figure out some kind of comb guide and then I’ll probably put together another set of followers so I can make a second hive body tomorrow (I have the bits for it).  I also need to figure out roofing and legs.  I have some legs-material at home, but not enough I don’t think.  I’m hoping to have at least one complete hive for Friday…and if I have two, then I have two and that will be exciting!

Spring is bursting into summer and I’ve got a lot going on!  I’m hoping to find another nuc or  two if anyone knows of one in New England!

Processing Beeswax!

14 May

Last night I was chilly – we got temperatures in the 30s – brrr!  I decided to warm up by processing the wax I’ve had kicking around since last August.

IMG_5694It started out looking about like this – only there was a bunch more.  This is stuff I saved in case I want to use it for something.  Old comb turns out to be somewhat useful to have around the house.

IMG_5690

 

I stuffed it all into a stocking and a muslin shoe bag I had in my Goodwill pile…I think there’s probably a more efficient way of doing this, but it worked fine for the right-then solution…and filled the pot up with water.  I put it on a low simmer, covered it to get the heat up a bit.

IMG_5689It’s important to not leave this bad boy covered for long…or unattended really.  Wax is super flamable and from what I’ve read, boiling does weird stuff to it – so I erred on the side of not letting it get that hot.

IMG_5691

 

After I’d let it all seep out and then left it to cool in the fridge for a time – I was left with this disk of wax.  I did two batches, so got two of these disks.

IMG_5692

 

Then I stacked up my burners to get the pan as far from the heat as I could and put the pieces back into the pot sans water to let those melt again.  This part is the super tricky, really really don’t leave the kitchen at all part.  Once it had all re-melted, I poured it through another piece of old stocking and a funnel into molds and got the most gorgeous, pure gold beeswax bars.  It was quite the transformation from start to finish.

IMG_5693

 

I’m excited to have it, but don’t really have a need for it right now.  If I do, though…..it’s ready to go!

 

Winter Project – DIY Hard Cider Making

12 Feb

I’ve wanted to make hard cider for a long time – it’s my favorite drink and it seems super easy to make. A few weeks ago, L and I got some jugs of apple juice from wholefoods and ordered some cider yeast, airlocks, and stoppers. Our homebrewing package arrived last week and tonight we made the time to sit down and start the process.

IMG_5195

We decided to try two different juices – the wholefoods brand apple juice and a Knudsen cider with some spices in it. My current favorite cider is the JK Scrumpy Winter blend and I’m hoping that the Knudsen cider will more closely replicate that.

IMG_5196

While things were sterilizing, we decided to have a little sip of some apple pie flavored moonshine we picked up around midnight last night from a park & ride in Virginia from the cousin of a friend….because that’s how we do, apparently. Tasty!

We also decided to do a “before” tasting of our juices. I actually like the wholefoods juice better right now, it’s pretty plain but really apple-y. The Knudsen has a sort of “fake” taste to it, but it doesn’t have any weird ingredients….so maybe I’m just reading that in from the cinnamon and nutmeg. L thought the WF juice was pretty spicy all on its own and she was “delighted” by the sweetness and thought the knudsen cider tasted pretty similar…. We obviously have different palates. 🙂

IMG_5197

This is the yeast I picked up – I’d actually been hoping for a mead yeast just to leave as much residual sweetness in the cider as possible (what can I say, I have a sweet tooth!) but it was back ordered and the owner of Adventures in Homebrewing swears by this one, so in it went! I may have shaken it up too much because it was fizzing all over and I’m a little worried that I didn’t get enough into the second jug (the Knudsen).

IMG_5198

Adding to the jank factor on the knudsen, the size 10 stopper, which I’d measured and was pretty sure would fit the jug didn’t – so the WF brand bottle has the proper bung and airlock combo but the knudsen has a rubber glove with holes pricked in the fingers rubber banded over it…we’ll see!

So what we have going on now:
Bottle A:
Whole Foods 365 brand apple juice, 1 cup of white sugar, a tablespoon of local (though not my) honey, and a bunch of yeast – S airlock.

Bottle B:
Knudsen Cider & Spice, no additives on our end, a little yeast, a rubber glove with holes in it. I’ve got fingers crossed that this doesn’t fail – but if it doesn’t start bubbling, I can always add more yeast.

All told, so far it’s taken about 10 minutes. Pretty cool! They’re sitting in my kitchen for tonight, but tomorrow will go in the basement until further notice! I’ll be checking on them about every 3 days to see when the bubbles stop and then we’ll rack and bottle…or something. Adventure, as always.

—-a little update—-

They’re both bubbling this morning, A more than B and obviously with the airlock on A it’s a lot more obvious. I set up my indoor/outdoor weather station with a monitor in the basement (my original plan had been to monitor my hive with it, but that’s moot currently) and found out that it’s just a touch too cold down there for proper fermentation, so I set them up in the corner of my living room with a heavy towel wrapped all around them and the sensor for my weather station tucked between the bottles. Right now it’s about 66 degrees in the house and the sensor with the bottles is reading just a touch colder than that. As long as it stays above 65, the yeasts will be happy yeasts!

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!

The Vermont Sail Freight Project

A Sailing Cargo Initiative Connecting the Farms and Forests of Vermont with the Lower Hudson Valley

Borrowed Stilts

Let's not fail everything, shall we?

Sweet Honey in the Rox

Home in the City, Heart in Vermont - trying to find a wild medium.

mistress beek

Urban beekeeping

The Curious Quilter

Curiosity breeds creativity. What are you curious about?

EverydayOrdinary

Afterthoughts...