Sunday, December 23, 2012

Honey Sweetened Eggnog

We've been enjoying eggnog around here on a daily basis, which proves that you really don't have to be throwing a Holiday party to partake in this wonderful indulgent drink.  I searched all the eggnog cartons at our local Kroger and could not find one that didn't have corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.  So why not make it ourselves?  We have a plentiful supply of farm fresh eggs, as well as honey, so why not a honey sweetened eggnog?  I found a recipe on pinterest that looked good, and changed the method of cooking the eggs so that I can assure we are safe from Salmonella.  I use a similar method to the one I use when cooking the eggs and milk for homemade ice cream.  Very simple, and great results!  

Here's what you need:

3 cups milk
2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup honey (or more if you like it sweeter!)
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cloves, Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon

Directions:  Whisk together the 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk and the 1 tsp. cornstarch.  In a saucepan, combine 1 and a 1/2 cups of milk with this mixture, heating over medium heat.  Monitor your heat temperature with a thermometer, stirring constantly until it reaches a temp of 160 degrees.  This will destroy any Salmonella bacteria, and will allow the mixture to firmly coat a metal spoon.  

Remove the saucepan from heat and allow to cool, until around 100 degrees.  At this time, add the honey, nutmeg, vanilla extract, and if you would like, add a vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and any other spices you might enjoy.  If you don't have any of those on hand, the nutmeg is really all you need, in my opinion.

Allow the spices to "marry" the rest of the ingredients, then add the rest of the milk (1.5 cups) and your eggnog is ready to enjoy!  It can be enjoyed warm or cold.  We prefer it cold, so I usually place it in the fridge overnight, and the next day it is ready to go.  No alcohol needed for me, but of course you can enjoy it with a bit of rum or bourbon if you like.

Friday, December 21, 2012

DIY: Holiday Ice Lanterns

Making your own Ice Lantern is very easy!  These can be used to hold candles or as a wine bottle cooler for a party.  They make great centerpieces, or lovely adornments for a walkway on a cold winter day.  Here's what you need:

1.  Two containers.  These can be glass containers: one that nests inside the other, or plastic or wax cardboard containers that are left from milk jugs, orange juice cartons, pasta sauce containers, etc.  Just make sure there is at least an inch or more between the two containers as they are nesting.

2.  Greenery or foliage of some sort (boxwoods, fir, or spruce are best), as well as cranberries, mini pinecones, or other bright, decorative materials.

3. Water

4.  Tape, to keep the interior nesting container from floating up and rising.

5.  A freezer

This wine cooler container was made using a milk jug
and a pasta sauce container.  When the glass container
was removed it fit a wine bottle perfectly!

1.  Freeze about an inch of water in the bottom of your exterior container.  This will form the base.
2.  After the base is frozen, place your interior container on top of the ice, and secure it in place with tape.
3.  Add your decorative materials around the sides of the interior container.  Fill the rest of the area between the two containers with water.  Much of the decorative materials will float to the top... this is okay.
4.  Freeze the containers again, usually at least 12 hours until it is set.

Hot water allows the interior container to slide right out.

5.  To remove the interior container after the ice has frozen, remove the tape and fill the interior container with hot water.  This will melt enough of the ice around it to allow it slide out.  I used a glass pasta sauce jar for the wine coolers, and a half pint mason jar for the candle holders.  I also used two pyrex glass baking dishes for a floating candle lantern.  Exterior containers I tried included a square cardboard orange juice container (seen above), a milk jug, and a glass baking dish.  All worked equally well.  

 6.  Remove the exterior container by running hot water over the outside of the dish.  Then find a pretty bowl to set your ice lantern in (so it won't melt all over the place).

Below is the ice lantern I made using the two glass baking dishes.  I can't wait until we have enough snow on the ground to line a walkway with these lanterns.
Using a floating candle ensures the candle will not tip over as the water melts.

And of course I couldn't let this post get by without a shameless plug for some of the floating candles we have for sale in our Etsy shop:

Rustic Floating Star (as seen above)
Set of 12 Small Floating Stars
Floating Flowers with Bee

Have a wonderful Holiday Season!  Merry Christmas from everyone at Honeyrun Farm!
-posted by Jayne

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CCD, Catching Swarms, Russian Bees, and White Boxes: More Beekeeping Questions Answered

  1. -Posted by Isaac
    Our Candle Pouring Station
    I like to start these dark December days pouring candle wax and listening to the alternative station. Yesterday I heard an awesome song that stuck in my head the rest of the morning.  Some of the lyrics went like this:
    It's better to feel pain   --  than nothing at all...
    The opposite of love   --  is indifference...
    Do you know the one? Well you might. Much to my chagrin I came to find out that my little discovery, a song I planned to learn and try singing for Jayne or whoever, has already gone mainstream. I heard it again last night watching football with Dad. It was background music in a commercial selling baseball gloves or something. Funny how your perspective can change. Maybe I won't learn it now. Oh well, I still I got a day of nostalgia out of that song. 
    We'll try to keep our beekeeping practices from mainstreaming. Size and efficiency in modern beekeeping, as with all modern agriculture, has no doubt brought higher production. But higher production is only a silver lining. There are also big black clouds concerning food production. I'm sure many of our blog readers are well aware of this. Julie Scordato touched on this in her question:

    "Can you give us an update on colony collapse disorder? Is it still bad? Are changing practices helping? Should we still be worried? What have you seen locally regarding this?"
    Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has not been in the headlines as much as it was in 2007 and 2008 but it's still a problem and research into the multitude of various causes has yet to come up with a definitive answer. Some bigger migratory beekeepers claim that keeping their bees away from row crop agriculture (corn, soybeans...) has helped colony health. On our small operation, we do lose bees (15% last winter) we've not seen anything like the CCD symptoms. Mites continue to be our nemesis. And I think this holds for other local beekeepers (those whom I have confidence in, anyway.) There are a few large beekeepers in northern Ohio and I haven't heard much in the way of CCD complaints from them either.

    Andrew Scordato writes:

    "There were lots of swarms this year that Isaac was able to collect. With beekeeping full time, do you have a goal number of hives you want, or is the sky the limit?"

    One of our "swarm catcher" boxes we use in the Spring
  2. I think about this all the time, Andrew. The market for local honey at present seems endless, so we continue to grow with hives and equipment. I'm building enough woodenware to reach a goal of 300 hives this year. We'll decide from there. There's a point where your practices are compromised as well as time with family and other obligations. Right now, I tend to babysit the hives more then I probably need to. We can definitely increase from our present 230. How many more... who knows?
    Little Molly Scordato writes:  "Will you ever consider hybridizing with Russian honeybees for hardiness to weather and parasites? Aren't the russian bees notorious for sussing out and destroying certain hive parasites that the Italian bees tend to tolerate at their own peril?"

    I bought 30 Russian queens a couple years ago and noticed a few things good and bad:

    -The bees don't accept the queen as readily.
    -They don't seem to make as much honey.
    -They seem to weather the winter better, but not at a significantly higher survival rate then the Italians.
    -They don't eat as much honey in the winter, but seem to build up very slow in the spring.

    I need to try a new batch this year. For me, the jury is still out on the Russians, but thanks for the reminder.
  3. Our bees are a healthy mix of Italians, Carniolan, and Russians.
    See the little queen cage in the center?  The bees will eat the candy plug,
    releasing their royal highness. 

    Marci writes, 
    "Why are most bee boxes white?"
    I've wondered this myself. Maybe white reflects light best in the Summer, thus keeping a hive cool. I suspect it has more to do with the cheap and plentiful supply of white paint.
  4. Honeyrun Farm Boxes - a little bit of white, purple, green, gray, and
    whatever color of exterior paint we find on sale at the hardware store.
    Leah asks,
    "How many times can you harvest honey from one hive in a year? I know you have Spring, Summer and Fall honey. But maybe you keep some hives for Spring harvest, some for Fall etc."
    This all depends on weather and location. Of our 21 bee yard locations, only six are close enough to groves of Black Locust trees that we can harvest Spring honey and confidently call it Black Locust honey. If it's a year like 2010 where God smiles down on bees, you can pull honey from a single hive in all three seasons. There was just an abundance of nectar and sunshine. A rainy, cold year like 2011 means you're lucky to have any honey at all. For the most part, you can depend on almost all hives producing a Summer crop with the Spring and Fall honey being kind of hit or miss and having a lot to do with the abundance of nectar producing plants in the vicinity of the yard.

    Spring, Summer, and Fall Honey
  5. Katie asked a question that really got me thinking:
    "What about beekeeping is most rewarding?"

    Happiest after a big honey harvest
    The short answer is pulling honey-- seeing my labor come to fruition, and knowing I don't have to go looking for a "real job" to put food on the table. The deeper answer is my general fascination with bees and their place and our own place in the world. Sounds cliche, huh? If you end up keeping bees you'll notice that you're more in tune with what's going on outside, what's growing, what's blooming, the temperature, the sun, the rain, the wind etc... You'll notice what the farmers are doing, where certain crops are, where tree lines, fence rows, woods, streams and set-aside areas are... what's being sprayed and planted, what's being plowed under, what's being built...
    In general, you become more aware. I like this.
    She also asks,
    "What advice would you offer someone interested in getting started?"
    Prepare yourself for broadening horizons, great high peaks of joy and mystery and reward. Brace yourself for deep valleys of death, depression and worry.
    And join a bee club.  Scioto Valley Beekeepers, our local club, is offering a beekeeping class this coming April, if you feel so inclined.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

More Questions - Beekeeping

-Posted by Isaac

Well, I had said my next post was going to be about the wax rendering process, but this, Jayne's genius idea of making some blog posts by answering questions, takes precedent. No, I'm serious... it really is genius.   It gives some future ideas for posts, plus it lets us have a little dialog with you guys. Please don't hesitate to ask more or comment. Though I'm not, I love feeling like an "expert."

So here are three questions we had concerning bees:
Stacey Shehin asks,

"Is it OK to leave 3 supers on top of the bottom two brood boxes over the winter (i.e., 5 supers total)? Is that too many to have on a hive over the winter?"
Hives should weigh over 60 lbs going into winter
It's perfectly fine to leave on as many supers as you want over the winter. That's just more food for the bees. Typically I take everything off, leaving just the two brood boxes if I feel that there is enough honey in there to support the bees through the cold months. If they're light in September (below 40 lbs), I'll feed sugar syrup and protein patties. If they're light in October, I'll leave supers on as you're doing. It's healthier to let the bees eat their own honey rather then syrup. Plenty of honey left on in the Fall, usually results in a strong colony in April and a super Spring honey crop in June.

Kim Benson had kind of a tough question:

"This is our first season with a bee hive. We looked at them 10 days ago and noticed several dead brood with a tiny hole in the cap. What could cause this? We saw a few mites and a few hive beetles, which we are taking care of. Any thoughts would be appreciated." 

It's hard to really make a definitive call on this without seeing the hive. If your population is good and over 90% of the brood looks healthy I'd say you're ok. Truthfully, my first thought was that you've got an American Foulbrood problem, but with this, you would have noticed a putrid smell. The tiny holes in dead, sunken brood cells are a symptom of this. Mites and hive beetles are in most all hives, and it's a numbers game with these guys as to your level of concern.
American foulbrood
Mites- The real scurge of beekeeping           
It's tough your first year because you haven't seen a whole lot of cases of this or that... you're still gaining experience (as am I!). At any rate, in December it's too late to do much or to worry much. Take a look on a warm day in February and see what you've got. Dead or alive, you've learned something... start from there. Hope springs eternal in beekeeping.

Ericka Hill asked an interesting question:

Have you discovered whether individual bees have personalities? That is, can you have a relationship with them or are they sort of....anonymous?
I laughed upon first reading this question, but the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me. It's really a great question, Ericka, and there are many levels to it. In short, yes, I have noticed that individual bees have personalities. I notice it any time I've got one old prickly worker bee buzzing loud and hitting my veil for an extended time. You'll be working a hive and she's at it. Ten minutes later, two hives down the line, the same old girl is still at it, and everybody else is just going about their business quietly buzzing in and out. I'd say this really is a personality. And if I grow tired of the nuisance, our relationship is pretty short-lived.
A bee's "personality" varies with age and genetics. A young nurse bee, less then two weeks old is going to be very docile, almost sweet. As she ages and becomes an older forager, she grows wise to the ways of the world and becomes a bit meaner, more protective.
A "young'un"
Keep in mind that the personalities of all these bees stem from a single mother - the queen. If a certain hive has an angry old bitty for a queen, all the daughters are going to be somewhat angry and bittyish. Thus making this hive aggressive and not fun to work with. It's amazing how requeening can improve a hive's demeanor.
Mean or sweet, it's a joy to work in the hives. I'll keep your question in mind the next time I'm in the bees. I'll try to actually observe some other personality traits aside from the few individual bees heckling me.