Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bridger T. Mountain Man

-Posted by Isaac

Two years ago today, my birthday, Jayne gave me the most amazing and precious gift.

 Bridger Thomas Barnes, nicknamed "Bridger T." by my dad then re-nicknamed "Bridger T. Mountain Man" by Maizy who was trying to connect the dots between mountain man Jim Bridger and the name given her new baby brother.
I've got a phone full of Bridger pictures so this being our special day, I thought I'd give the bee talk a rest and highlight our little mountain man in action. He's really becoming accomplished at a variety of trades.

Wrangler- Leader of men, tamer of the wild:

General Contractor- Hauling rocks, mowing rocks, shop work with Daddy:


Archer- Training for a future Hunger Games

Scholar and teacher- (when big brother needs help)

Commercial Pollinator:

(and official pollen taste tester)

Proficient Garden Walker:


Life Guard:

And of course, Mountain Man: leader of midwesterners through the alpine wilds.

I have little doubt, he'll someday carry me up those rugged slopes.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Let Us Give Thanks For Good Food

-Posted by Isaac

We all need rich, wholesome and diverse diets.
The chickens:

The goats:

The birdies:

The babies:

 The piggies:

And of course, the bees:
This was an interesting Montana bee yard. The hives had feeders on in the middle of the summer. My only guess is that this beekeeper is ignoring the income (and work) of any potential honey crop and simply prepping the hives for the big pollination money that comes with California almonds.

We're not set up for almond pollination, so we've got to buckle down for another long Ohio winter:

Any well populated hive weighing under 60 pounds or so will need supplemental food.
This constitutes maybe a quarter of them.
It's time to start winter feeding our girls. The patty in the above photo is a sugary blend of fondant, Honey Bee Healthy, lemon juice and cinnamon.
I like to experiment. The cinnamon idea came from Jim Doan, the commercial beekeeper who was interviewed in the Time Magazine article about CCD. He puts a "healthy dose" of protein and cinnamon in all of his hives. Claims the cinnamon is good for the bees' digestion.

Of course in November it's too early to be thinking protein. That will have to wait until March when the bees are brooding up. My hope is that the bees lugged in a heavy dose of ragweed, goldenrod and aster pollen. And so much more to add to the mix... the rich, wholesome diverse diet I started talking about.
The bees know what they're doing.

Incoming ragweed pollen
This is good stuff. Bridger can attest:

Just like humans, bees don't always forage on the right thing. (Who doesn't like Pepsi, Doritos, ice cream, etc...?)
Here I caught them on some field corn in July:

Corn pollen has a low protein content and is basically nutritionally devoid.
Why are the bees on it? Well, that's what's available. As I alluded to in the Big Ag post, sometimes corn pollen is about the only thing out there.
Not good.
 And even worse...
I know at least four commercial beekeepers who blame seed treated crops (such as corn) as the root cause of colony collapse. The seed treatment, a systemic pesticide, ends up in the pollen of the plant... the bees carry the pollen back and at some point in the next year it gets fed to the brood.
Is this really to blame for CCD?
I sure don't know, but it gives me something to worry about. As I said in that previous post, a corn field may as well be a parking lot if you're a bee. My fear (as Jim Doan points out) is that we're now talking about pesticide laced parking lots.

Diversity is the key; variety in the diet for bees, humans and about everything else. Randy Oliver (commercial beekeeper and fantastic educator) talks a bit on the subject in this video:

Now that just made me hungry.

Happy eating, everyone! Make sure you keep some color on the plate...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Etsy Craft Series - A Collaboration with Whole Foods, Upper Arlington

-posted by Jayne 

This week on Wednesday I participated in "Create" - a craft series offered by Whole Foods in Columbus, featuring local Etsy artisans teaching a variety of craft classes.  I taught a class on making infused honey and beeswax lip balms.  It was a lot of fun, and of course Whole Foods made the whole experience inviting and casual.... great snacks and a welcoming atmosphere.  

As you can see there are two more classes open
for registration.

We used a very simple recipe from the book I co-authored, Honey Crafting.

Basic Lip Balm Recipe:
.75 oz beeswax
1.5 oz apricot kernel oil (you can use other oils such as almond, coconut, sunflower, or grapeseed oil)
.10 oz essential oil or flavor oil

I changed the method from the book just a bit, since I wanted each participant to make and pour their own batch.  Instead of warming the beeswax and oil together in a double boiler, we just warmed the beeswax in a double boiler, combined it with the oil in pyrex measuring cups, and then re-warmed it just enough to melt them completely in the microwave. Each participant added their own choice of essential oils, poured it into lip balm tubes, and they were ready to go!  

Class participant and fellow Etsy Team Columbus member
 Kellie Gedert and her daughter Cassie work on filling their lip balm tubes.

Carefully pouring hot beeswax in to oils

Half the class worked on creating infused honey
while the other half worked on their lip balm.  

To create the infused honey, we used a variety of fresh and dried herbs, chopped them to bits, combined with any dried spices they desired, and mixed it with honey.  I instructed them to stir the mixture several times over the next few weeks, strain out the herbs, and enjoy!  They simply need to steep until the desired flavor is achieved.  Herbs and spices we worked with included:  Dried Lavender, Dried Lemon Verbena, Fresh Thyme, Fresh Rosemary, Fresh Sage, Spearmint, Cinnamon, Dried Ginger, Cloves, and Nutmeg.

My own honey infusion, with thyme, rosemary, and sage.
I like to use a mixture like this in homemade pizza dough
or as a glaze for chicken or ham.
I also showed the group our Refractometer which measures the moisture level of honey.  It is important when making your own infused honey not to add ingredients that have too much moisture (fresh fruit for example).  When the moisture content of honey goes over 18.5% it can actually ferment.  Storing this type of honey blend in the refrigerator is fine, but it will not be shelf stable like traditional honey.

A refractometer used to determine
 the moisture content of honey

To use the refractometer we drip a bit of honey on the top part underneath the glass.  The bottom part operates similar to a microscope, except you look through the refractometer towards the light, and it shows the moisture content (or the index of refraction... to be scientific).

You don't need a refractometer to make infused honey at home, just be aware that adding too much moisture can cause fermentation of the honey.  Choose your herbs and infusions wisely!  Isaac and I used to make huckleberry honey when we lived in Montana and although it was delicious, it definitely needed to be stored in the refrigerator.

You can catch us at both the North Market and the Worthington Farmer's Market this weekend.  I plan to bring an abundance of fresh rosemary that is growing in our hoop house, so if you'd like to try making your own rosemary infused honey, here is your chance!