Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Flight of the Humble Bee

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and
the winds long to play with your hair.
-Khalil Gibran

For the last two weeks it has been honey bee central around here.  Over the winter we put our names on a local swarm list and all of a sudden the phone has been ringing non-stop.  We got six calls to retrieve swarms in a little over a week and with only a couple of empty hives ready for the bees that meant a lot of last minute woodworking.  Fortunately that is a strong point and an enjoyable father son activity for our family.  We had already been planning to change our hive design after reading the book, Beekeeping for All, by Emile Warré, a french monk living in the late 1800's-mid 1900's who kept bees.  Warré developed what he called the People’s Hive after experimenting with over 350 hives of various designs and types. It was his goal to find a hive system that was simple, natural, economical, and bee-friendly.  Not to mention sustainable, right up our alley!  So after catching all those swarms our order of 3 hives came in from up north....more bees. 

one of three packaged hives we picked up this weekend

placing a small piece of foundation wax on each top bar for the bees to build on

up in the wee hours of the night assembling the top bars into place

Here are our three new Warre hives after painting and before the bees moved in.  Not quite sure about the colors but it's all about recycling all the old paint in the garage.  

Creativity in the Garden

One of the ways we love to brighten up our planted areas is with hand painted signs.  They are easy, fun, and make the garden way more child friendly (for the little ones you love or for the kids at heart).  Just use your old wood scraps and some nails long enough to hold the signs together, recycle those used gallons of house paint in the garage, or use acrylic paint for more color!

our son's garden where he grows a variety of vegis and herbs

yarrow blooming in the medicine wheel

newly planted squash patch

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thinking Things Through

The whole process of mental, spiritual, and material riches
     may be summed up in one word - gratitude.

Being new farmers our level of enthusiasm is quite fervent.  Almost everyday has been filled with working on projects around the garden, animals, soil and compost, etc.  We have been acquiring new plants and trees I  guess animals too), not to mention the huge supply of building materials.  Lately however we are slowing down and beginning to be more thoughtful of the "bigger picture", the plan for our farm.   Not that we weren't thoughtful before, but I think we are realizing that there is wisdom in starting small, getting organized, settling in, and observing all that is around us, including the seasonal changes and the elements.  Creating a vision takes time, just as much time as manifesting the dream.  So as we dream and plan, our roots grow downward and begin to take hold.  This little piece of land is starting to feel like home.

Pictures of Spring

tulip bulb in the garden

lettuce seedling

potato patch

pumpkin seedlings

wooden seed flats

daffodils in the garden

sheet mulched spinach bed

banana tree

artichokes forming their heads

vibrant mint

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Learning Something New

"Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose.  There are no mistakes and no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from."
-Elisabeth Kubler Ross

Experimenting with fermentation has become a regular pastime around here, both for the beneficial bacteria and for the sake of knowing how to preserve our own food.  Recently my neighbor came over and taught me how to make miso from scratch.  It was very simple and fun.  Here's how we did it. 
We followed the recipe for red miso from Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Red Miso
-ceramic crock or food grade plastic bucket, at least 1 gallon
-lid that fits snugly inside crock (plate or hardwood disc)
-heavy weight
-cloth or plastic

4 cups dried beans (we used organic soy)
1 cup sea salt and more for the crock
2 tbls. unpasteurized mature miso
5 cups koji

1.  Soak beans overnight and cook until soft. 
Take care not to burn the beans, soybeans take a long time.  

2.  Drain beans and save cooking liquid

soybean broth
3.  Dissolve 1 cup of sea salt in 2 cups of cooking liquid to make a strong brine, stir until salt is completely dissolved.

4.  Mash beans to desired smoothness, we blended them in the blender with a little liquid. 

Mashing the beans

5.  Once the brine is room temperature take one cup of it and mash in the mature miso.

Mature red miso

Then return the miso mash to the brine and add the koji. 

Koji is grain, most often rice, inoculated with spores of Aspergillus oryzae, a mold that starts the miso fermentation.
 If you can't find it at your local health food store, try G.E.M cultures or South River Miso Company online.

Finally add this mixture to the mashed beans and mix until the texture is uniform.  If it seems thicker than miso you've had, add some more liquid to desired consistency. 

5.  Salt the bottom and sides of your fermenting vessel with wet fingers dipped in sea salt. 

6.  Pack the miso tightly into the crock avoiding air pockets. 

7.  Smooth the top and add a generous layer of salt over it. 

8. Cover with a lid.  A hardwood lid cut to fit exactly over the top is ideal.  Rest a heavy weight on the lid.  Lastly place an outer cover over the whole thing, like a plastic sack.  Tie or tape the cover over the crock.

9.  Tuck your miso away for about 6 months and try a little then.  You can take layers of the miso out, re-salt the top and let it ferment for years this way, taking a little as you need it.  The miso will get more mellow over time.