Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lessons from a beehive

I love sitting on our porch in the late afternoon.  Especially this time of year, when it is warm but not hot and the Fall breezes are starting to shake the tree limbs.  Our yard is often abuzz this time of day.  Late afternoon is a busy time for our bees as they fly in and out of the hive finishing their day's work.

In the late afternoon, the sun hits the backyard at just the right angle so the light reflects off their tiny bodies.  I am at a loss of words as to how to describe what it looks like, and its impossible for me to catch on a camera.  The other day a fellow beekeeper described it as watching glitter flutter through the air.  It's like a miniature air show.  Magnificent.

You can see the bees from the house, like tiny flying GPS units (that's what hubby calls them) finding pollen, nectar, and water and returning to the hive with their goods.  It never ceases to amaze me!  Imagine if we all had the sense of direction honeybees possess!

Our hive is doing well.  We are new at beekeeping, but we have found our groove and hope we can continue to maintain a healthy hive.  Part of maintaining a healthy beehive involves inspecting the hive once a month.  This includes taking the hive apart and pulling out each frame, checking for pests and disease.  We also check that the workers are doing their jobs (i.e. building comb, storing honey, raising brood) and most of all making sure the queen is present and laying eggs.  Since our hive is so young, we have only done this intensive inspection twice, allowing the bees to get established before we worked with them too heavily.

Inspecting a hive is an experience that I have grown to love.  Both hubby and I wear full protective gear.  Although the gear reduces the possibility of a sting, it does not 100% prevent.  I have been lucky to avoid stings up until this point, its inevitable though, like a rite of passage.

 Hubby smoking the hive

I do often think of those days as a child, running barefoot in the yard, stepping on a bee and suffering the consequences of a sting on my foot.  As a child I could not imagine anything more painful.  As an adult, I know there are many things in life that are more painful than a bee sting.  By no means do I assume a bee sting would not be painful, but I often wonder how it compares to the pain experienced over a course of a lifetime.  Loss of a loved one, a broken heart, disease.  Diabetes has been painful for me and has changed my life, yet made me stronger and more aware.  Is diabetes more painful than a bee sting?  If I can manage this disease with it's needles and finger pricks, can't I handle a measly little bee sting?   Maybe a bee sting is small marbles compared to what I manage everyday.  Of course, ask me again after I have been stung and maybe my response will be different!

Bees are working the outside of the hive.  They work tirelessly to keep the cracks sealed.

I find that suiting up and working the bees offers me the opportunity to clear my mind.  There is a sense of calm and slowness when working with the bees.  It's as if the world slows down and nothing else matters but what is at hand.  Moving slowly, talking quietly and working in unison with hubby is an experience like no other.  In fact, I think every couple should inspect a hive together, its like marriage counseling, it will force you to communicate clearly and work as team.  Imagine how many other things we could learn about ourselves from working with bees.  

I managed to shoot some video of our last inspection so I thought I would share with you.  Hubby is doing a good job of narrating the videos (although at some points he was unaware that I was taping!)  Click on the links to see the video!

Bee Inspection Video 1

Bee Inspection Video 2

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nesting Box Giveaway at Life on a Southern Farm

Go to Life on a Southern Farm and check out their handmade nesting boxes!  They are awesome!  She is having a giveaway now until Friday Sept 17th.  Enter to win a nesting box for your flock!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Revenge is best served with eggs....

We found several of these tomato hornworms on our pepper plants today.  These little monsters can eat an entire plant in a matter of days....but it looks like someone got to them first! 

Welcome to the world of parasitism.  

These hornworms are facing the unlucky fate of a slow death.  A female braconid wasp lays her eggs in an unsuspecting hornworm.  The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the hornworm from the inside.  When the larvae are mature, they chew through the hornworm's skin (yes, I said they CHEW THROUGH it's skin...ewww). 

Once the larvae reach the outside, they form these tiny cocoons along the back and sides of the hornworm.  This is what you see here in the pictures.  By this point, the hornworm is extremely weak, still alive, and continues to act as a host to the pupating wasps.  Once the metamorphosis is complete, the wasps will emerge, find mates, and start the process over again with another unsuspecting hornworm. 

Although the hornworm can still do damage to the plants while this process takes place, these wasps can significantly reduce the population of these highly destructive garden pests. Like I said, revenge is best served with eggs! 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Hearts-a'busting

I found this strawberry bush in our woods today...also known around these parts as "Hearts-a-Bustin".  These plants are native and steal the show this time of year when their seed pods are opening! 

These are really bright red, but the lack of light and my tiny point and shoot camera, does not do this justice!

Chicken Hearts a'busting

Monday, September 6, 2010

Welcome Back Pizza!

I have a hard time with pizza, generally it causes very high blood sugar (sometimes for hours after the meal).  That wonderful combination of carbohydrates and fat that make pizza so yummy is what makes many diabetics cringe at the thought of blood sugars after pizza night.  I have only eaten pizza twice in the last 3 years since my diagnosis, each time resulting in hours of high blood sugar.  Lately I have craved pizza...who can blame me?  In light of my cravings for this not-so-good for me food, I decided to experiment with making pizza at home. 

The other night, I made pizza with homemade pesto sauce, homemade mozzeralla, homegrown tomatoes, mushrooms, all natural (preservative free) pepperoni, and a few fresh basil leaves.  What a great success...not only was the pizza amazing, I did not have the same adverse reaction with my blood sugar as the typical restaurant or frozen pizza.  In fact my blood sugar was perfect following this yummy homemade meal!

I made the pizza dough a few weeks ago and froze it for a quick meal on a busy weeknight.  Basil pesto sauce is something I make every summer from the basil we grow in the garden.  The mozzarella I made using the 30-minute mozzarella kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.  If you like mozzarella cheese you should order this kit!  It is so easy and makes great cheese (and it really only takes about 30 minutes)!

Since I had all of the ingredients already prepared, the pizza only took about 20 minutes to assemble and 15 minutes to cook!  I can't tell you how satisfying it is to eat pizza again!  Below are the recipes for the pizza crust and pesto sauce.

I would love to hear your recipes for homemade pizza!
Herbed Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)
3 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tbls plus 1 1/2 teas instant yeast
1 1/2 cups cool water
1 tbls honey
1 tbls olive oil
2 teas salt
1 tbls dried oregano
1 tbls dried basil
1/2 teas cayenne pepper

Measure 2 cups of flour into medium mixing bowl, and stir in the yeast.  Combine the water and honey, add to the flour mixture and stir well to mix.  Cover and let rest for 1 hour. 
Stir in the olive oil, salt, herbs, cayenne and then the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour.  Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise about 1 1/2 hours. 
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Lightly form each half into a loose round, cover and let rest for about 20 minutes. 
Place a baking stone in oven and preheat to 375.  Roll out each half of the dough into a 12-inch round or 10x12-inch rectangular shape.  Place the dough on the baking stone, roll up the edges to make a small rim around each piece.  Prick each piece all over with a fork.  Bake crusts on the stone, one at a time for 10 minutes each. 
Remove crust (let cool and freeze) or heat oven to 425, cover dough with toppings and cheese and then bake until done (about 10-20 minutes).

*I take each piece of dough and cut it in half again to make small personal size pizza crusts.

Basil Pesto
4 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup Parmesan (see note below) *
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Pine Nuts (or Walnuts, or mix of both)
3-6 medium garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, chop nuts, add basil, add garlic, add salt and pepper, pour EVOO slowly into processor while blending.  Pour prepared pesto into ice cube trays, cover and freeze.  When frozen, remove from trays and place in freezer bags or containers and return to the freezer.  The cubes are perfect for making sauce, adding to soups, or any other dishes. 

* If you are freezing the pesto, do not add the cheese until you are ready to use (I usually add cheese while I am heating up the pesto).  If you are making a small batch of pesto and will be storing it in the fridge, then add the cheese when you are blending.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Get to know your fellow blogger!

Thanks to Ali over at Last Splash for tagging me in the "get to know your fellow blogger" blog-o-sphere activity!  You should skate on over to her blog, she is hilarious and heartwarming, and has a wonderful perspective on life and motherhood.  Does being tagged in a blogging activity mean I am famous?  No probably not, but at any rate, I hope you learn something new about me!  So here are the questions I am to answer...

1. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
This one is tough.  I have always loved ice cream, in most any flavor.  Since my Type I diagnosis, I have had to scale back on my ice cream habit, but I have spent lots of time sampling different types of sugar-free ice cream.  My current favorite is Edy's No-sugar added Fudge Tracks...yumm!  Recently I just made some homemade, sugar-free (made with xylitol) vanilla ice cream and it was pretty good!

2.  What is the worst job you have ever had?
I am not sure I would classify any of my jobs as "the worst".  I have actually really enjoyed all of the jobs I have had and feel like I have learned many skills from each opportunity and even gained some life long friends from a few.  As I write this I am thinking about all of my jobs I have had and really, truly cannot think of a job that was worse than any other. 

3.  What is the best vacation you have ever taken?
The best vacation ever....well considering our last few vacations have ended in some kind of catastrophe, I would consider any vacation that actually went as planned would be awesome!  But my very best vacation was a trip to Thailand with my hubby and my dad.  Dad was on a business trip and hubby and I hopped a plane to visit him while he was there.  Hubby and I flew to Thailand, stayed 3 days, did a crash tour of Bangkok, and returned home.  It was the quickest, craziest, and most exciting trip I have ever taken.  The food was awesome and it was amazing experiencing a new culture.

4.  What is your dream job/career?
Honestly, I am doing my dream job.  Teaching agriculture was my dream job until my Type I diagnosis made it a little too difficult.  Now, I am a homemaker and a backyard farmer.  One day I hope to be promoted to "Goat Farmer".  I guess that would be my ultimate dream job....a goat farmer!

5.  Who was your favorite teacher and why?     
My favorite teacher....there are two....my mom and my dad.  Honestly, they have taught me more than many of my school teachers combined.  My parents have taught me to be considerate, friendly, compassionate, polite, and spiritual.  They taught me to follow my dreams and listen to my heart (and my head!).  They taught me how to love and be loved and the value of family. I could even include professionalism, poise, confidence, and public speaking to the list!   Truly, the list goes on and on.  I can think of other folks that have had a major impact on my life, folks who have taught me many things over the years, but none that could compare to my parents.  Mom and Dad have taught me more than even they will ever know.
So, there you go...you know some things about me that maybe you didn't already know!  Now, I guess the idea of these blog-o-sphere activities is to nominate someone else to do the same.  I would like to get to know these folks a little better...

Small Farm Girl  she is hi-lar-ious!  Her farming/homesteading blog is a joy to read and she has a cute lil' dog named Scooter that will melt your heart!

Mem over at My Sky is Blue  This mamma is amazing!  She has a beautiful family and she somehow finds time to blog about their fun adventures! 

Kristin over at Just Call Me Red she just started her blog a few months ago.  Check it out and read about her gardening adventures!