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Amount Fermentable Use
6.0 lb English Two Row Mash
2.0 lb Caramel Malt 40L Mash
2.0 lb Corn, Flaked Mash
1.0 lb Honey Malt Mash
0.5 lb Candi Sugar, Clear Boil
0.12 lb American Chocolate Mash

Amount Hop Time Use
0.75 oz Golding (UK) 90 min Boil
0.75 oz Fuggle (US) 15 min Boil

Name Lab/Product
Roeselare Ale Blend Wyeast 3763


Amount Name Time Use
0.2 tsp Servomyces Yeast Nutrient 10.0 min Boil
1.0 tsp Irish Moss 15.0 min Boil
0.25 oz American Oak Chips 7.0 days Secondary
8.0 oz Candy Sugar, Clear 15.0 min Boil
Mash steps

Step Heat Source Target Temp Time
Saccharification Rest Infusion 152.0 °F 90 min
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You'll want to use a supply of non-filtered water that still contains minerals to help your grains function and proper;y metabolize the sugars you feed them. Making water kefir is not an exact science and it's best to experiment to see what works best for you and your grains. water kefir functions best with a combination of white sugar and dried fruits, or a combination of white sugar and less-refined (whole cane, brown, molasses. Three parts refined sugar to one part unrefined suagr is a good ratio to start with. When using dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins, make sure they are unsulphured. A small handful per quart is all you need.

Never use tap water because it contains chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride which will harm your grains over time. Most water filters will not effectively remove fluoride or other ipurities. It's best to avoid contact with metals as prolonged exposure will harm them. Use glass, plastic or wooden utensils when handling the grains.

Basic water kefir formula:
∙1 pint mineral rich water
∙ 4 Tablespoons sugar (3 refined, 1 unrefined)
∙ 4 Tablespoons water kefir grains

Combine the water and sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Pour the sugar solution into a quart sized jar or container. Gently place the grains into the sugar solution. Add any fruit now. Cover with a non-airtight lid and allow to brew between 65º - 82ºF for 24 to 72 hours. Place the container out of the way of direct sunlight. If using distilled water minerals will need to be added; a small pinch of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt will help. A small pinch of (1/8 tsp) of baking soda will help promote growth. To get your final water kefir carbonated, bottle in a airtight container and condition for 2-5 days at room temperature.

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It's beyond me why anyone would want to collect something that they never intend for a practical use, but also contains good information about damage to cast iron and markings (for deciding whether to rehabilitate a piece to cook with, or to sell to one of these collector assholes.)

The above is the site that got me off the fence and into the hunt for cast iron. Provides the basics for stripping and re-seasoning, and most importantly, what to look for in "antique" or flea market cast iron. (Griswold fan)

My definitive source for seasoning cast iron, even though this information is refuted slightly by the cast iron collectibles site; I'm using these methods to rehab four skillets of various sizes (definitely not Griswolds) with wonderful results.
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The basic ideas for the recipe are from “Radical Brewing” –Randy Mosher, and from “Brew Like a Monk” –Stan Hieronymus. I spent some time working on a procedure that seems to work really well. The procedures came from various books on candy making and internet resources. Both recipes are temperature sensitive and absolutely dependent on the use of a candy or deep fry thermometer. Do not turn the temperature up past medium. This will result in bitterness and a burnt flavor.

These recipes make ~1 quart.

Sugar #4
This is a simple caramel that can be made into syrups with different colors and flavor characteristics. I made and took notes on six different terminal temperatures from 250F – 300F.

The procedure for making the syrups starts with 2 lbs of sugar, a varied amount of Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP Yeast Nutrient), and 1 cup of water. You bring these three ingredients to a boil over medium heat. You do not want to stir, the gentle convections will do all the mixing that is necessary. Using a thermometer, stop the boil at the desired terminal temperature by adding a varied amount of water while gently stirring the solution. This is the dangerous part, a fair amount of spitting and sputtering might occur. After adding the water you will need to dissolve the syrup by stirring gently until the solution reaches the stage called soft ball (240F). This is when the syrup is done. Stop the cooking by submerging the pan in cool water or by transferring the syrup to a preheated mason jar.

Rose (250F)
-Clear, slightly rosy color. This syrup is sweet and sugary with very little to no character flavors.
2 Lbs Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/2 tsp DAP
1/2 Cup Water

Light (260F)
-Apricot colored with mild flavors reminiscent of peaches and white grape juice. Some very mild warm flavors like soft rounded vanilla.
2 Lbs Sugar
1 Cup Water
1 tsp DAP
3/4 Cup Water

Light Amber (270F)
-Apricot to light amber in color with some red tones developing. Mild caramel flavors with some soft sweet fruit characters developing. Mellow flat vanilla flavor with some warm cardamom tones. Maybe plums and dried apricots in the distant background.
2 Lbs Sugar
1 Cup Water
1 – 1/2 tsp DAP
1 Cup Water

Medium Amber (280F)
-Amber colored. Strong caramels and intensifying cardamom and plum flavors. Some roasted flavor developing but not bitter.
2 Lbs Sugar
1 Cup Water
2 tsp DAP
1 – 1/4 Cup Water

Deep Amber (290F)
-Deep amber with full red colors. Raisins and plums are the dominant flavors with a hint of toast and coffee. Some rummy and mildly woody flavors. Strong complex caramels are present. It is a sophisticated sweetness with a robust, full characteristic. This is my favorite.
2 Lbs Sugar
1 Cup Water
2 – 1/2 tsp DAP
1 – 1/2 Cup Water

Mahogany (300F)
-Mahogany, more brown than red in color. Raisins and figs with some mild bitterness developing. There is a tart sweetness, and a loss of complex caramel flavors. The caramels are replaced by bittersweet toast and burnt sugar characters. It is rich and decadent but not as complex as 290F.
2 Lbs Sugar
1 Cup Water
3 tsp DAP
1 – 3/4 Cup Water

Sugar #5

This is a double cooked sugar that further increases the flavors of 290F without compromising the complex caramels. Think of this sugar as an extension of the 290F recipe. Everything about it is intensified. The procedure is a bit more complicated and it takes nearly an hour to complete, but it is worth the time and effort.
Over medium heat bring to a boil
2 Lbs Sugar
1 Cup Water
3 tsp DAP
Raise this to the terminal temperature of 290F. At 290F begin stirring and add in:
1 Cup Water
Continue stirring until the sugars are dissolved. Again, bring the solution up to 290F over medium heat. At 290F begin stirring and add in:
1 Cup of Water
Stir this until the sugars are dissolved and the temperature starts to rise a couple degrees. This Should be right at or just above soft ball (240F). This is when the syrup is done. Stop the cooking by submerging the pan in cool water or by transferring the syrup to a preheated mason jar.

Happy sugar making and good brewing.
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On a mild afternoon in early January I realized that Lada was being robbed by her sisters from Brigid. Where Brigid's bees were bringing in pollen (even in January, wtf?) the bees coming and going from Lada were doing so with barren pollen baskets and acting nervous at the entrance like robbers do. My suspicion was confirmed after watching a couple forages fly directly back to their own nest just a few feet away and I decided then to tear her down to minimize exposure of my last remaining colony to any possible residual pesticide or pests that might still inhabit the "ghost hive" that was Lada.

I removed her roof and quilt divided the hive bodies into manageable pairs and, as I expected the upper most pair was heavy with stores while the bottom pair was considerably lighter. What was unusual was that I failed to find the cluster of dead bees starved or frozen in an upper corner of the comb as I was accustomed to finding in the dead-outs of previous seasons. The entire colony had abandoned their summer stores and absconded completely. The separated sections of the hive bodies each fit into large trash bags to the keep the moths and ants out and were sealed closed with tape and stored on the porch out in the cold until I could gather the meager materials and make time to extract the honey.

The grid, serving as an array of top bars, is fixed over the upper-most hive body with propolis. Just as I expected, the bees began drawing comb here and raised their first batches of brood as a fledgling (artificial) swarm. After the young bees vacated their cells they were cleaned out and back-filled with nectar. Large folds of honey filled comb can be seen through the bars. (click through for larger views, and here for a close-up)

A view of the drawn comb in the bottom most hive body. Comb acts as a baffle for the currents of air entering the hive from the bottom entrance giving natural comb this beautiful undulating pattern. At this point the boxes are still firmly connected to each other by the internal attachment of comb which extends uninterrupted through the space created by stacked boxes. The boxes are easily separated with length of cheese wire. Much like the honey badger, honey bees don't give a shit, either!

Using the longest serrated knives I could find at the local thrift I separated the combs from the inside surface of the hive body to which they are secured. The spale, the length of oak rod that extends diagonally, is put in place before the swarm was introduced to provide support for fragile comb.

Once all the attachments along sides of the box are severed the spale can be cut free and combs are removed individually. These are brood combs from third hive body from the top. This comb is newer than the comb from the top two boxes and bore a cycle of brood but was never filled with nectar having been drawn after the flow. A closeup of the abandoned brood comb reveals a few cells of capped brood and might contain residual evidence of what destroyed this colony, although the sparse, patchy brood pattern suggests to me that the (packaged)queen was probably failing. In hindsight I should've encouraged them to swarm by keeping the size of the hive at four medium boxes for the first season rather than encouraging them to move into framed boxes underneath.

After all the combs are inspected all the salvageable honey is collected in a capping tank were it's crushed by hand and allowed to drain through a double sieve to strain out the majority of the solid bits. The conservation hive is designed around the concept of honeybee as a superorganism where the hive itself acts as the exoskeleton. Contrary to conventional woodenware, its smaller capacity maximizes nest heat and scent retention which bolsters natural colony immunity to pathogens but at the expense of large honey harvests. This hive yielded about 14 lbs. of raw honey that will serve to make a couple small batches of mead.

Bittersweet. . .
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A piece on hunting the morel mushroom!

. . .and here's one about not reinventing the wheel (or, in this case, a hive lift)

That is all for now!
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If it's going to be cold it might as well be snowing. And for the last couple days and for the coming week, until groundhog day that sounds like exactly what we can expect. Sounds nice, but even I am excited to get on with the bee season this year.

new bees

Jan. 22nd, 2011 06:32 pm
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It's pretty apparent that the Italians I got from Dane last year and are hived in a Lang in Annandale are all dead now (although, I'm completely open for surprises) much like the swarm of Italians that I started out with back in 2009 - dead before Christmas. The Russians hived here at Front Royal in an identical Lang made their latest appearance around New Year's day, possibly later, but that was the last I'd seen of them flying about pooping and bringing out their dead. I'm guardedly hopeful that they will pull though winter, but you never know until April, or so. I ordered two packaged swarms of Russians from Walter T. Kelley yesterday, to the tune of $208 which concludes my foray into buying packaged bees for a while. April 9th the new bees ship so I'm looking at a delivery date of April 11th or 12th that I will hive in the top bar arrangement that Chuck and I spent our weekends last winter building.

What I've learned from my winter bee-search so far is that the varroa and nosema, that kill so many bees, aren't so much the enemy as perhaps they are the messengers from Mother Nature regarding our own colony mismanagement, and it seems to stem from the ease of tearing into their hives - the frame - that might actually be the culprit behind colony collapse. More on this later, as I fabricate and utilize some frameless, Warre-type hives.
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Lye Preparation
The preparation of lye is simple and acceptable to all beekeepers. The lye is prepared from ash of fresh firewood. It is better to use the ash of birch firewood.

The ash is sifted through a fine grid. Then it is mixed with cold water and left to draw no less than three days, periodically stirring it. Usually beekeepers use one part of sifted ash to 10 parts of water. After brewing it is necessary to remove the ash foam and to siphon the lye through a small pipe into glass crockery. The closed container of lye should be stored in a dark, cool place. The storage time of lye is unlimited. Ash itself loses its alkaline qualities in 6 months or so.

One can fill a container again with ash and water, and after brewing, boil the lye. This yields technical lye which could be used to wash hives or other stock, but it is not suitable as a component of bee food.

from the decidedly Russian website:

It's like a goddamn advertisement for Russian Bees, rife with all sorts of opinion errors but I do pay attention to the fanatics; there is a reason they believe the things they believe. I love my Russian bees!
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  • Middleburg: Day Spring Farm, (540) 687-6036, 21338 Steptoe Hil Rd, Middleburg, VA 20117., . Day Spring farm offers cow share opportunities as well grass fed beef and lamb. They also raise pasture poultry both chicken and turkey and sell fresh eggs. They offer naturally dyed yarns from their flock of Romeny sheep. The beef is from a fold of Highland cattle which are known for producing a tasty lean beef. Give them a call or email. They are open by appointment. Bring your family and tour the farm.

  • Middletown/Winchester: Cornerstone Farm, Stan & Shana Evans, (540) 869-6869 or (540) 514-9523. GOAT SHARES AVAILABLE for milk, kefir and cheese. Brown and blue EGGS available from free-range chickens. KEFIR GRAINS also for sale. FRESH PRODUCE available Spring through Fall.

  • The Plains: (one hour west of Washington DC) Over The Grass Farm, a 450 acre diversified farm, (540) 2S53-5228 (office), Raw Milk through a Cow Share program, garden produce, grass-finished beef and lamb, eggs, honey, homemade jams and jellies.
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• 1 bottle of Organic, Raw Kombucha
• 1 glass jar
• 1 kitchen towel
• 1 cup of room temperature sweetened tea

1.You can buy the kombucha at just about any health food store. I get mine from the health food aisle of my local HEB — a large chain grocery store local to my area. If you can’t find it near you, you can buy a bottle of the stuff online. Make sure it’s organic, raw, and unflavored with juice. You just want the plain, original beverage.
2.The sweetened tea can be as simple as a cup of black tea, sweetened with a tablespoon of sugar.

Pour the bottle of kombucha and sweetened tea into a glass jar. Cover it with a towel so it can breathe but be protected from insects and other contaminants. Let it sit.

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Without all of these three aspects to your relationship you're just fuckin'
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Discovered a stash of six ~3 lb. cans of extract (2 amber, 2 light, and 2 wheat) that I'd collected over time and squirreled away in my brewing ingredients cabinet. As well, I was in Derek's the other day picking up some odds and ends I was reminded that late winter was the time he stocks the Wyeast Roselare (#3763) and got the notion to pick up a batch but it was already sold out. He offered a measure of their Trappist Blend (#3789) as a close substitute and I think that's when I remembered that I had taken him up on the offer the last time I was in there for Roselare and still had some languishing in the fridge somewhere. Sure enough, that and some American Ale (#1056) that are damn near a year past their expiration dates.

The batch of beer I made from the first pack of Roselare was fraught with difficulty and facing advsersity at every turn starting with an ill-planned and hastily executed recipe, to a long, slow winter fermentation struggling to keep warm enough, to a significant loss due to corks rupturing all over the basement floor, to finally, and most humbling, having to toss the last few bottles into Passage creek because they were in the car (unopened in the trunk) at the time of may car accident. Cursed! Apparently the big difference between the Trappist Blend and Roselare is that the latter requires upwards of 18 months to fully develop it's flavor profile and I should've planned for it to winter over in the bottle and not in secondary. Duh!

But here again, the perfect storm! Last weekend I have only just emptied my 6 gallon carboy in secondarying the Hoppy Holiday mead and there's still a lot of snow lying around outside begging to cool my last couple of extract homebrew projects before I attempt an all-grain batch, a couple ounces left of my first foray into homegrown hops, which if the preliminary tastings of hoppy holiday mead hold true will be plenty, and I'll have ample time to decide what fruit additions I'll make later on. Let's brew!

Tonight I made a starter with my Trappist blend and 1½ lbs. of brown sugar in a ½ gallon of water. If all goes well that will be good and frothy by the weekend. From there I'll whip up a wort of 6.6 lbs of wheat extract, 3.3 lbs of amber extract, an ounce each of Cascade and Northern Brewers hops and have roughly 6½ gallons of wort open fermenting for a week, or so. Then move 5½ of that into the glass carboy and stop fast with and air lock. Then I'll take a nice leisurely look around to see what's available in the way of fresh, frozen, or syruped raspberries, cherries, or maybe apricots (something peachy) to take up the rest of the space in there as the temperatures start to come up in the spring. The actual recipe will follow based on the results of the starter culture. I really need to stop being so laissez-faire about keeping notes - even if they spend a few weeks on the back of an envelope. But that's what my_magic_bottle is about - less of the social distractions an more of the exacting documentation!
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herbed yogurt marinated lamb: (enough for 8 large skewers of lamb)

  • 2 pound boneless leg of lamb, well-trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 5 ounces Oikos organic plain Greek yogurt, or unflavored yogurt of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Several grates of black pepper
  • Either metal BBQ skewers, or wooden ones thoroughly soaked
  • Optional: I add pieces of cut and oiled 1 medium red onion to the skewers because they grill up in just the same time as the lamb and are a great flavor addition.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for lamb and stir well. Add the chunks of lamb, coat evenly with the yogurt mixture. Either cover and place in the refrigerator overnight, stirring once or twice during that time, or place everything into a plastic storage bag and refrigerate overnight. Even if you marinate these for just a few hours they will be more tender and flavorful than they would be without the marinade, but at least 12 hours is ideal for the leg meat.

Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving any remaining as a baste and skewer four or five pieces through their center. If you have smaller trim pieces, you can fold them up best you can and add to the skewer. Alternate with pieces of red onion, if using.

Preheat grill to 350 degrees, and place the skewers on the rack. After about three minutes, the meat should release from the grill rack easily (if they are sticking, wait a bit longer). Turn the skewers every three minutes or so, closing the lid partially as needed to maintain an overall 250 degrees. It will take about 20 minutes to cook the lamb to medium-rare, but as with all grilling, equipment and temperature variations will dictate exact time. If you don’t have a grill thermometer, just turn the meat as it is cooking to brown on all sides. Baste a couple of times after the first turn with any reserved marinade.


Oct. 14th, 2009 11:21 am
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If we try to control and hold onto our children, we lose them. When we let them go, they have the option to return to us more fully
~Anne Wilson Schaef

Few of us have a Ph.D. in parenting. If we did we would probably be worse than we are now. How much energy we put into trying to mold and control our children, not for their sakes, but so they will reflect better on us.

We are unable to see them as separate and important beings who are here to share a time with us so that we can learn from each other. We think we need them to validate our lives and our choices in life. When we do that, we use them as objects, which is totally disrespectful of them and ourselves.

To love our children is to see them, respect them, share life with them. . . and always to let go.
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"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather which wolf would win.

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
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I’ve always thought of health as a three-legged stool, a balancing act between:

Diet, exercise, and rest. If one of those legs should weaken and break the whole caboodle falls apart!

1. Diet: look into an ayurvedic diet. Not a one-size-fits-all, ayurvedic medicine is based on one’s age, the season of the year and, most importantly, one of three body types (called “Doshas”) Everyone is a mix of all three body types, with one being somewhat dominant. I’m still learning and doing research on this but I’m convinced it’s the way to eat!

2. Exercise: low-impact exercise - yoga, Tai Chi, and all that. Swimming (although, I don’t enjoy it personally), bicycling, and brisk walks. Anything that precludes injuring yourself is best. Think “eustress”, not distress!

3. Rest: I’d sleep 20 hours a day if I could but, ultimately, that would interrupt my nap time ;)

The mental aspect:
Relax, nothing is permanent and it's later than we think. Become a life-long learner. Stay inquisitive, read everything you can get your hands on! Take up new hobbies and travel regularly (although I don’t travel too often) Keeping an open mind and sense of humor is the best stuff on earth! Every experience in life is a lesson, in fact, all there is in life are lessons.

Emotional stuff:
Avoid addiction at all costs! Attachment is the sole source of mankind's unhappiness. Everything’s good in moderation. Forgiveness goes a long way, too, especially directed toward one's self. Let go of anger and resentment whenever you notice it weighing on your mind. That’s right! Set it down and walk away as often as you notice it even if it’s a thousand times a day! Pain in life is inevitable, suffering is optional. Don’t waste your energy regretting the past, as there’s nothing you can do to change it now. Don’t waste energy worrying about the future and what it holds. If there’s anything to be done about future calamity the only time to take action is now. The moment is all the time we ever have. Someone wise once said “The gateway to eternity is a very narrow passage”. I think they were referring to time and being present. If you stop to think about it the moment at hand contains everything we need. “Uncleared” emotions are distress and settle into the physical tissues of the body where they become disease. Faith in a higher power never hurt anyone (and they don't ask much of us) but don’t feel the need to "believe" anything. Just as the body doesn't need the mind to exist neither does the soul require an attachment to some abstract truth to carry on. Reality is not stranger than we imagine, its stranger than we can imagine.

If I think of anything else, I'll email but I’m having this incredible conversation now with a few people and it seems to go on forever!
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Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

~Kahlil Gibran


Aug. 22nd, 2009 12:41 pm
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Small hive beetles

Since last week I've been discovering small hive beetles in my top feeder. First one, now three. What next? These eat brood, wax and honey, in addition to shitting in honey causing it ferment an ooze out of the cells. How do they get in to a hive? A small hive beetle trap should keep populations of these things in check but an infestation may require medication with coumaphos, sold under the band CheckMite+. They seem to be more prevalent in southern states. Yay! The South.

Tracheal Mites

Here's a recipe for grease sugar patties that inhibit the growth of tracheal mites:

• 1½ lbs of solid vegetable shortening (such as Crisco™)
• 4 lbs granulated sugar
• ½ lb honey
• Optional: add ⅓ cup of mineral salt sold at Southern States or farm supply store.
• Also a 1½ oz shot of wintergreen oil may be added for patties that are not to be used while honey supers in use.

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and form into a dozen or so hamburger-size patties. Keep frozen until ready for use.

Varroa Mites
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The hour and ½ commute from Front Royal to the new office in Merrifield permits the opportunity to observe the green growing things in the median of Rt 66 and gives me an idea of what my honey bees might be foraging on at any given point in the season. These days it seems that wild carrot (aka Queen Anne's Lace) and the chickory are the predominant forage, although I noticed wild carrot blooming in front of the house 2 weeks ago. I'm not sure if the bees really dig that sort of thing. White and blue respectively, I would think that the chicory blue would at least attract their attention.

There are also plenty of some kind of yellow daisy along the highways that are beautiful and prevalent, but I'm not sure how rich a source of nectar or pollen they might be. Nor do I believe that these are native, but rather a planted "wildflower" as part of beautification by the Virginia Highway Commission. There's also a lot of vetch still around as well as a yet unidentified sage with tiny purple flowers that have been strong for at least the last two or three weeks. Here again, I don't know if they get anything from this sort of skerbage. Chuck does weird things like stopping on the edge of a highway when he sees a large meadow filled with a particular kind of forage to observe whether or not there are any honey bees foraging there - nutty kinda shit that only beekeepers would do. Whereas vetch is a wonderful cover crop with underground nodes that bind nitrogen to the soil they don't seem to attract the bees so well, or so Chuck reports.

I think it's safe to say that sometime in the beggining of July is the start of the nectar dearth in the Shenandoah Valley and I suspect will probably continue throughout August; but then speculation like that is the point of this post. I gave the girls a gallon of sugar syrup this morning and this November, after some research, I'll plant one of the varieties of clover that are offered at the Southern States.


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The exquisite itch

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