Monthly Archives: August 2011

For the Love of Bees

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When my mom got remarried my stepdad used to tell us how he had kept bees and I honestly thought he was crazy. He talked about how he’d been stung a few times and how the bees would just walk around on him. Crazy, right?! I had no idea why anyone would want to do that.

Like most people, I used to be pretty cautious of bees. I can’t say I was ever scared (spiders are a whole other story though) but I didn’t like them anywhere near me if I could help it.

That changed last year when I went raspberry picking. The bees were all over those bushes but I was determined to pick several quarts of berries so I just stuck with it. I had to gently reach in around them and let them keep working. Being that close to them for such an extended period of time made me realize they don’t want to sting, they just want to do the job they were born to do.

When I’m in my garden I see the big fat bumble bees floating from flower to flower. Everything in my garden is pretty close together so as I’ve been harvesting they often end up pretty close to my face. I always try to excuse myself and work around them. I say silent “thank yous” in my mind to them.

I just found out that a farmer friend of mine is going to let me keep bees on his land in the spring. I’m elated. I need to do a lot of research and prep in these next few months but I can’t wait until next year when I’ll have my own honey.

Wow, my own honey! It seems insane to even type that. I absolutely can’t wait to bottle it next year.


Preserving the Season

In my last post you saw my new shelves and on the 3rd row are all of my preserves.

I wanted to provide links with my alterations in case anyone wants to try these. Some (depending on where you live) may need to wait for next year due to the fruit in them.

The first two were from my Ball Canning book. This book is AWESOME! I know there are a lot of nifty, trendy canning books out now, but you can’t hate on a classic. It’s a classic for a reason. Sure, I don’t want to try everything in it, but it has a lot of great recipes and tips.

I used some Roma tomatoes and made Bruschetta in a Jar. I followed this one to the letter. I used one jar already as a pizza topping and it was good, but be warned…it’s very acidic. There’s wine and white wine vinegar in the recipe and it is necessary for the canning process but also gives it a more complex flavor. If you don’t want to deviate from a standard bruschetta topping, I would suggest just making it fresh each time while tomatoes are in season. Now I just need to make more mozz to enjoy another jar.

Second, was their recipe for Jalapeno Jelly. I love, love, love spicy jellies. For this I only used about 2.5 cups of sugar instead of 6 and omitted the green food coloring. I’m pretty sure that because I used less than half of the sugar that I got fewer jars out of this than the recipe stated. I’m ok with that though, I’d rather have less sugar.

Next up I made a Blueberry Jam with Cherry Balsamic Vinegar and some black pepper. I was inspired by this recipe from Coconut & Lime. I got some Cherry Balsamic from Saratoga Olive Oil Co. and thought that would be great in place of the regular balsamic. Again, I about halved the sugar, but kept the pectin the same. It actually got a little too gelled for my liking, so next time I’d use less pectic, but that’s just a personal preference. This is a jelly that goes awesome with brie and crackers.

After we went peach picking I wanted to make a peach jam but something a little different than just regular jam. I found this recipe which uses habaneros and basil. I have serranos in my garden so I used those and was going to use Thai basil from my garden but it was late when I was making this and I honestly didn’t feel like foraging with a flashlight. I added a couple leftover jalapenos to the mix as well, and also reduced the sugar. It’s a mostly sweet jam with a nice hint of spice.

Lastly, I made tomato paste. I used Pick Your Own’s recipe and honestly it only made a pint’s worth. For all that work, I don’t think I’ll bother again in the future since organic tomato paste is easy to get. I’m glad I did it, because it was interesting to learn and if it made more I’d definitely do it again, but I was really bummed with how little tomato was left when all the juice is squeezed out.

So there you have it! I’m not sure what other things I’ll do before the season is over. Probably just salsa mostly and maybe some hot sauce with my serranos. If I get a chance to get some raspberries I may do something with them as well.

~as of late~

Finally sitting in my car after finishing the Warrior Dash.

The Victoria Pool at Saratoga State Park. Our friends just got married there, it was so beautiful.

Warrior Dash medal, gorgeous centerpiece I got to take home from the wedding, and my donation jar for the garden veg I brought to a recent derby meeting. Made $5.98.

Red Oak Leaf lettuce at the market. The most beautiful lettuce, it looks like a bouquet.

KFF radishes and my cukes.

New shelves for our cookbooks and preserves.


…and we’re back.

Christina took this picture of me the morning of the Dash as I was picking up my CSA share.

This weekend I did the Warrior Dash at a mountain about 2 hours south of here. It felt really good to get beat up like that, especially since I haven’t been to a derby practice in ages.

I went alone and although there were lots of groups who were having great fun together, it was kind of nice to be alone. I was able to stay focused and just push myself mentally.

There were a few obstacles along the way that I was worried I couldn’t do. Had I had someone with me, I could’ve counted on them to encourage me, but since I was alone I had to force myself to just be brave and keep going.

I completed all of them. I swam through chest-deep mud water and had to hoist myself over floating logs. I climbed a two-story high rope wall, crawled through mud under barbed wire, and jumped over fire.

I finished in just under an hour and 10 minutes. It was so much fun, I’m definitely doing it again next year.

This is me after. As dirty as I am here, I had actually just rinsed off a bit at the shower station.


Mama squid carrot with her baby. (This has nothing to do with this post, it's just funny.)

Oddly enough I’ve had trouble writing any new posts. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve been making and doing a crazy amount of stuff lately. But at night I settle in and watch a documentary or knit (and often do work) and just can’t seem to find the motivation.

I’ve been great about exercising lately and also canning and both are physical, sweaty activities that exhaust me, in a good way. I know that’s definitely played a big part in my evening slackerness.

I don’t think a lull is terrible though. Sometimes it’s nice to catch up on my favorite blogs or just zone out a bit. Soon I will be in a posting frenzy and tell you all about:

-U-pick outings

-a surprise trip to a Naval destroyer

-jalapeno jelly, blueberry cherry balsamic black pepper jam, bruschetta in a jar and hot pepper peach jam

-bacon (from the pig I watch die) curing in the fridge

-farm work

-knitted cardigan

-and more!

….now back to Netflix.

Just Another Day on the Farm…Sort Of

A very blurry, rainy picture of Michael with a rifle.

*The following is my experience with the death of a pig. Although I purposely didn’t include graphic detail (as I don’t think it’s completely necessary) it still might be upsetting to some.

Last Friday I was out on the farm, like usual this time of year. Around 3, the time I’d normally be getting ready to pack up and head home, Michael said they would need to go out and slaughter one of the pigs. Joel would be coming back in about an hour to assist.

This pig had a hernia and it had doubled in size overnight. The vet didn’t seem very optimistic. So, that was that.

Right away I asked if I could come. As soon as the words left my mouth I was worried I’d made a big mistake. What if I was super scared, or nauseous, or sad? What if I just started crying right there in front of Michael and Joel?

Then I just told myself that no matter what, I had to do it. If Chris wants to raise pigs for charcuterie I need to be aware of what I’m getting into. I need to know that if need be I could participate and not have a meltdown. I was going to go out into that field and watch the whole thing, eyes open.

In the field it was pouring rain. The pig went down with one shot, thankfully. Everything went how it should, and it was pretty quick. I actually watched the whole thing and I was completely fine. I was actually very surprised by the fact that I was so calm.

They had to move the pig to a different field to gut it. I stayed back so I wouldn’t be in the way, but at one point Michael said I could come closer and look. It just reminded me of high school science class. It was interesting and informative and I was glad I was there.

As someone who didn’t eat meat for a very long time, this was a huge step for me. Ever since I started eating meat again I’ve been very aware of what I’m eating when I’m eating meat. I think about it every single time. I remind myself to be appreciative.

When it was all over I thanked the pig. I’m glad she lived a good life and although it’s unfortunate that she was having health problems, I’m glad she went easily. If you can ever get the chance to get this close to your food source (assuming you eat meat) I suggest it.