Rosey the Riveter

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bread and Butter Pickles

I came home from last night's produce auction with two bushels of corn and a half bushel of cukes for $25.  They were the only box of smaller sized cukes, so I was thrilled to get them.

That meant first thing this morning, I was slicing them up for pickles.  Aunt Audrey's Bread and Butter recipe is my favorite, so after a quick trip for vinegar (how could I be out of vinegar in the middle of canning season?) we were in Business.
 I had enough for a triple batch.  In each bowl, there are 4 quarts of sliced cukes, a sliced onion, a sliced green pepper, sliced red pepper (not really, I was short on red bells!), 3 cloves of garlic, and 1/3 cup of salt... along with ice.  Lots of ice mixed in.  Let them hang out for 3 hours.  This process draws the water out of the veggies so they won't turn into soggy pickles.
 Then, combine 3 cups vinegar, 5 cups sugar, 1 1/2 tsp tumeric, 1 1/2 tsp celery seeds, and 2 TBL mustard seeds.  Pour over cucumber mixture in a large pot and heat to boiling.  Transfer to jars, add 1/4 tsp of pickle crisp, and BWB for 10 minutes.
Yummy goodness.  The 1/2 bushel yielded 7 quarts and 6 pints. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Virginia State Beekeepers Association Spring Meeting

Our local club, The Beekeepers Guild of Southeastern Virginia, hosted the state spring meeting this weekend here in Chesapeake.  It was a great opportunity to learn from some amazing beekeepers, including Wyatt Mangum and Dennis van Engelsdorp (UMD).

One of my favorite workshops was entitled "Why Treat for Varroa" by Buddy Marterre.  I had already pretty much decided I wasn't interested in treating... There's no hard evidence that the confectioner-sugar method works, and you need to do it four times each fall... and everything else involves chemicals that I sure don't want in the hives.  But I went in to the workshop open to hearing what Dr. Marterre had to say.  For the first half, he discussed the pros and cons of different treatments.  And then he presented us with results from his own hives, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he'd stopped treating years ago.  This is right in line with Dr. Fell from Virginia Tech, who says he doesn't treat his own hives, either.  I realized, then, that the title of the talk should have been "Why Treat for Varroa?"  Amazing how much difference a question mark makes!  Click on the link above to read through the presentation if you're interested.
Yesterday afternoon we got to take a Mead-Making workshop which was very interesting.  I didn't realize how easy it was.  There's Donna Rae with her mead-in-the-making!

I am now really excited to attend the Eastern Apicultural Society Conference in August.  Donna Rae and I are planning to go to PA together and between the workshops and the company, it guarantees to be a blast.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Goings On

We finally got around to getting in the bees yesterday.  The first Nuc we made is ready for its new home!  All the frames are drawn out and queenie is laying well.  We were also pleased to discover eggs in the second Nuc, which hopefully means we've got a good queen in there, too.  We'll check back in a few weeks to see if we can find her for marking/clipping.  We didn't really get into the two hives... took off the honey supers and verified we had eggs and closed them back up!
Wednesday's Produce Auction haul included a $4 case of zucchini, $15 for 30 lbs of tomatoes, an $8 box of sweet potatoes... new red potatoes, onions, and a cantaloupe.  I also stopped and got the first peaches of the season at the orchard right down the road.

So, yesterday after I got back from the bees, I spent the whole day working on those boxes.  I made my Basil Simmer Sauce... and only ended up with about 10 pints after it all cooked down.  Not very time or cost effective, considering the same amount of Ragu would have cost about half that... but I love how it tastes.  Ragu is actually one of the few 'processed' foods that I still buy... it has 5 ingredients that are 'real' food and there's no way I could make enough sauce for our family.  This batch will be used judiciously for special occasions!
Since I knew I wouldn't be giving any of the sauce away, I decided to give my reusable Tattler lids a try (I bought a case of the regular and a case of the wide mouth last year when they were on sale.)  I've read over and over again online that there's a learning curve and I expected to have some that didn't seal... but I got 100% on my first try!
I still have shredded zucchini in the freezer from last year (it took up so much room!), but I recently read about dehydrating it, instead.  In this quart jar is twelve cups of shredded zucchini that will be reconstituted for use in breads and our beloved lunchbox squares... talk about saving freezer space!  I can also grind it up and sneak it into sauces for some additional veggie-boosting goodness.  1/2 cup of the dried stuff is equal to 2 cups fresh (needed to put this in here in case I forget!)

I will be spending this afternoon and all day tomorrow at the Spring meeting of the Virginia State Beekeepers Association.  I'm looking forward to learning all sorts of new things, and especially tomorrow/s session on Top-Bar Beekeeping by Wyatt Mangum.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zucchini Casserole

Last Wednesday was the first produce auction of the year, and Saturday marked the beginning of the Chesapeake Farmers Market.  This year, we have two locations about equi-distant from us, conveniently located in the two areas where I run errands, so I'm thrilled about that.

I came home from the first auction with a basketful of green beans, and promptly pressure canned 16 pints.  I had to freeze 3 quart bags, too.

I came home from the first Farmers Market with some summer squash and zucchini, and decided I would make Aunt Audrey's Zucchini Casserole inspite of the fact I was the only one who would eat it.  This is one of those dishes where one bite instantly takes you back to childhood summers.  Back in New England, we had to wait longer for the first squashes to be harvested.

First, slice your zucchini and summer squash.  Use young and tender ones and don't bother peeling.  You want about 4 cups.  Saute them in a little bit of water with 1 cup of thickly chopped onion.
 When they are cooked, drain the water.  In another pan, melt 2 TBL butter and mix in 2 TBL flour.  When combined, add in 1c milk and salt and pepper to taste, making a white sauce.  Cook until thickened.
 Add the white sauce to the veggies.
 Top with 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
 Mix 1/2 cup melted butter with 3/4 c homemade bread crumbs (don't even bother with store bought!) and sprinkle over the top.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, I never snapped a picture of the finished product!  It turns out that Joanna decided she liked it, so I had to share the left-overs.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Three Layers... Finally!

There is no denying it!  We finally have a third layer.  Rosie has been 'squatting' for about a week, so I knew she was getting close to laying.  Abby was thrilled this afternoon when she came back with two brown eggs, one a little smaller than the other.  The farmer we got the hens from said Rosie and Clara Belle had hatched some time in November.  That means Rosie is about 7 months old... I knew Orps were slow layers, but I never imagined it would take this long!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Spring Larder Swap

What was I thinking, scheduling the Larder Swap the weekend before school gets out?  Oh, I know... it was the only time the room at the Library was available!  We tried something new at this one and invited the kids to come and have their own swap.  It was so neat seeing the next generation of homesteaders and their creations!

My friend Donna Rae snapped this picture of my girls.  Joanna made cinnamon raisin bagels (so good, by the way) and Abby made homemade nutella.

Speaking of Donna Rae, here she is with her daughter Trista.  I'm sure she was as thrilled about unloading swapping her borage as I was about getting rid of swapping my monarda punctata and chocolate mint!
 Here is my beautiful neighbor Cathy and her amazing infused oils and butters.
 Nancy's husband Wes holds down the fort. 
 Peg brought some Vanilla syrup and Dulce de Lece and homemade cocoa mix.
 Here with have Jackie's amazing breads and Cat's collection of canned goods.
 Cat and Nancy
 Nancy and I
This is the haul we came home with!  Lots of neat stuff to eat (and plant... I got some Lemon Grass from Donna Rae!)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ode to Clara Belle

When we got our hens, one of the younger ones was a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte we named Clara Belle (CB, or Seabee, for short).

She and Rosie, the Lavender Orp, were best of friends.
Clara Belle spent all day with her sisters, foraging and dust-bathing.

After about a month, she seemed to double in size.  But I knew Wyandottes were large hens, so I didn't give it a second thought. But no eggs.  Which wasn't a big deal because Rosie wasn't laying, either.

Then last week I noticed that her waddles were getting really big and red and saddle feathers were coming in.
 And then the day before yesterday, Stephen was up before dawn (as always), and heard crowing. 

How could it take so long for a rooster to mature?  How could this be?  CB spent last night in our bathroom in a cat carrier so I could hear it myself (and not upset the neighbors.)  And there was more crowing.  I hoped beyond hope that she was becoming one of the dominant hens that I'd read about that would crow in the absence of a rooster... it was only in the morning, never during the day.

But I also knew that I couldn't postpone the inevitable.

So tonight I dropped CB off at a friend's 'funny farm'.  As soon as I got her out of the carrier, the other rooster started going at her, and she gave it right back.  They tussled, and worked it out.  The rooster crowed.  And then CB crowed.  Loud.

CB was a rooster after all.

It was difficult to explain to the kids that I was taking CB away.  And it was absolutely the wrong time of the month for me to be thinking rationally.  CB had a good life here.  He got to eat bugs and green grass and drink clean water, and his new home is even better, with more land and lots of hens and sheeps and goats.  No matter his fate, which I'd rather not know, it has to be enough that we did right by this sweet boy.

I also learned a couple of important things.
#1.  My soul longs to be on acreage where I can keep a sweet rooster if I want to.  I love our life here in VA, and goodness knows I love my neighbors, but I do not belong in the suburbs. 
#2.  Three hens is not enough.  Five might be too many.  But we're going to need to get another one.
#3.  I need to toughen up.

Normally, Rosie is the first one in the coop at night.  Tonight, she was last.

She circled the lawn, confused, looking for CB, then I lost it.  Yet again. 
And then there were three...