Friday, August 12, 2016

Farm and Garden: Bees update August 2016

Our bees are struggling and it happened rather fast. We have been in the habit of checking on them weekly to make sure that everything was looking okay and everything was developing well, and then the rain started and I got a little worried about checking on angry bees. Understandably, bees don't like cloudy, or rainy weather; it makes them very grumpy. We began to go longer between checking on them and hive beetles had moved in. The bees were doing their best to keep them at bay, but those little buggers are relentless. I did what I could trying to remove/kill what I could but they just kept coming. We have a couple of traps now that are doing really well, but it still needs more work and possibly a beetle board that I saw someone making that keeps the beetles from being able to get in in the first place.

The beetles are a big issue, and I'm not sure what came first, but our next two issues were the most devastating. A swarm of robber bees came(several times apparently because I see them come back almost every day) and took everything that my little hives made. It took me a while to figure out that this was going on at the same time as the population drop in the hives. These robber bees just swooped in and completely cleaned our hives out of all their honey and pollen stores. Then soon after I began noticing that the numbers of bees began dropping. Our strong hive dwindled down to only a few hundred bees and it seemed like the queen was gone. The other hive still seemed to be strong, but the bees hanging out in front seemed to be quite a few less and upon inspection, they seemed to have either lost their queen also or they just decided to abscond. Basically looking at their losses and hive issues the queen took most of the bees and went to find better accommodations.

My neighbor tried to help out with some brood frames from his bees last week. We went through a couple of his hives and took off some of his honey frames. In the process of doing this the robber swarm that has been attacking my bees came after his hive too probably because it was open and they thought vulnerable. My neighbor's hives are really big and strong and were able to fight them off easily, but it made for an interesting inspection with bees flying everywhere...angry, fighting, aggressive bees. I got stung twice because of improper shoes...lesson learned.

This week, in order to try to save the hives, we have combined the two hives and I am in the process of replacing the queen. Hopefully in doing this, building the numbers and having a queen laying again, the hive can strengthen itself and have the ability to make it through the winter. We will then split the hives again and hope that they strengthened enough to make two strong hives for the year.

The robber bees are relentless. Sadly, I am pretty sure that we will be starting over with new bees in the Spring. I think at this point it will take a miracle to keep this hive going. In desperation, we have completely closed up the entrance to the hive in order to discourage the robber bees and keep them out. I have put an empty hive body on top of the inner lid of the hive and set up some sugar water and a bowl of water with rocks so that they have access to water while they are shut in. The outside of the hive is covered with the rogue bees desperately trying to get into the hive. they have pretty much cleaned out the hive for several weeks now and the bees that I have left have been completely wiped out of any possible honey and pollen stores for the winter.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Desserts: Chia Seed Pudding with Mangos

My family "needs" dessert...almost every night. A habit that I started and has kind of stuck. I try to stick to baking something about 3 days a week(that may or may not carry over to another day), but I try not to have to fix something every night. Lately, I've been slacking and dessert has been happening a lot less but it seems to be sneaking in a bit more. The other day I picked up some mangos for a really great price without a plan for them...but it's mango and I love mango(so do the kids). I can't seem to peel them fast enough. So I had these mangos and wanted something different, not ice cream, and not baked. Google threw this little gem at me and I had to try it. Chia Seed Pudding and mangos. The recipe calls for Coconut Milk, Chia Seeds, Maple Syrup, and Mango cut into chunks. Very easy, very cool, very weird, I thought it would be a big hit. I loved it, Matt loved it, Nathan loved it, Noah liked it okay and that's pretty much the end of it. Jacob, Evelyn, and Ben just didn't like it. Nathan, Matt and I got extra dessert after picking the mango out for the younger ones. I think the chia seeds are kind of fun, not everyone likes the texture.

Chia Pudding with Mangos

1 can of coconut milk
1 1/2 cups of whipping cream
2-3 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup
3-4 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
Chopped Mango(or other fruit, or no fruit)

Whip whipping cream until thick but not to whip cream consistency seeds will create thickness. Add the coconut milk and maple syrup and mix together. Add the chia seeds and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Let it refrigerate for a couple of hours to overnight(best thickness). layer the pudding and the fruit in a glass. You can serve it immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whipping Cream can be taken out and all coconut milk can be used if a vegetarian/vegan option is wanted.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Weird Hairy Fruit

Weird Hairy Fruit

Every now and then we will buy something we've never tried before in the grocery store to experiment with it. I don't usually think to write about it until way after we are finished playing. This time I thought about it beforehand. So, while at Kroger earlier intending to pick up a couple of Mangos and Margarita Mix, these weird hairy little fruits were just begging me to take them home. They were practically jumping up and down in their little box saying try me, don't I look like a fun experiment? I grabbed a handful of them and decided they were coming home with me because they looked interesting fun and cute, like little sea urchins.

I looked them up when I got home and found out they are called Rambutans and are supposed to be kind of grape-like, similar to a Lychee fruit(which I've never had either, but have heard of it before). After opening them up and peeling them off of their seeds we tried them and found them interesting to say the least. The texture of it is very similar to a peeled grape with a firmer bite. The flavor was very mild, but different from a grape. Each one(we had six of them) had a slightly different flavor, but mostly they were sweet with a slight tartness, but there was also a vanilla flavor to them. The seed inside the fruit looked very much like an almond and although I was very curious to try it, I decided not to because what I read said that it must be cooked/roasted first or it isn't safe to eat. I didn't feel like roasting six almond size nuts, and the kids wanted to try to plant them. We will try, but it is a tropical tree so I don't hold much of it surviving North Mississippi winter temperatures.

I really enjoyed them and would probably love to have them again in a larger quantity to try and put it into a dessert of some sort. It is recommended that they not be cooked because the subtle flavor can be lost. They are a little more work than a grape and probably would be time consuming depending on what is done with them, but depending on their use I could see them being an enjoyable addition to a dessert.