Monthly Archives: September 2010

domestic wildlife

bees on a frame

A few years ago something about honeybees sparked my interest. I can’t pinpoint exactly the event or moment that started my passionate research, but here I am: entering my second winter season as a beekeeper. I just put the bee escapes on my hives yesterday – you can read about it here – in order to clear the bees out of the honey supers so I can come back to collect this year’s honey.

The honey was probably what started it all: DIY honey. How sweet is that? Mmmm. Very sweet, as it turns out – but I had to wait two summers to get it! My honeybee blog is an adventure story: a record of my good and worse moments, my learning moments, and all the help I’ve had along the way.

Before I bought my bees, I spent a good year researching and learning hands-on. I wanted to be sure that I really wanted to do it. Turns out, bees are incredibly fascinating. It’s beyond honey now. I like bees for bees. And honey. But bees are cool too. Only 5% of bees make honey. The rest still pollinate and are very important to the well-being of humankind on the planet; without bees we would only have about 1/3 of our food choices left to us.

Not everyone needs to be a beekeeper in order to help the bees; plant some flowers, or veggies that are actually fruits – like squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers – and you will be providing a food source for wild bees. They will pollinate your crops and you will have food to eat. Some of the nectar and pollen they collect will be used to grow the next generation of bees, and the cycle continues.

If you plant flowers and fruity veggies, thank you!!

kombucha

kombucha tea

This morning I spent some time taking care of my SCOBYs – short for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. They are used to make Kombucha Tea, which is a mildly alcoholic beverage with a bit of a fizzy tingle. It tastes vaguely like tea, but you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on that if I didn’t tell you. It has a sort of yeasty smell like beer, but also has a hard apple cider sort of taste too. The taste really depends on how it’s made.

Here’s a picture of the SCOBYs:

SCOBY

They are rubbery-feeling, slimy disks that grow on the top surface of the tea as it is being brewed over the course of a week or two or three. The colder the temperature, the longer it takes. I taste mine every once in awhile, and stop the fermentation when it’s the right taste for me.

Today it was long past due, or so I thought, to be taking care of my tea. I think it’s been about 2 1/2 weeks, maybe a bit longer. I thought for sure it would taste like vinegar – if it goes too long it’s very strong! First thing I did was taste the old batch. Very tingly, but tasty. So I decided to bottle it up. That’s the top picture in this post. The floaty bits are pieces of ginger, which I decided might make a nice addition to the flavour. I’m going to let it sit out for 24 hours with the ginger in before I put it in the fridge. Previous batches went straight to the fridge with no extra flavourings, so I’m excited to see how this turns out! It’s such a fizzy batch I’m really hoping for a ginger ale/ginger beer drink after it sits for awhile.

Right now I have the fermenting jar sitting on my counter with 4 tea bags and boiling hot water in it:

tea for kombucha

In the back and to the left you can see 2 smaller jars – these contain SCOBYs for friends, plus some starter kombucha from the old batch. Every time you make a batch of Kombucha you end up with another SCOBY to give away (or expand your kombucha-making operation). Here’s what I’ll be doing in the next little while:

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Kombucha Tea Instructions

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Important Tips:

– don’t use any plastic or metal containers.

– use water that has no chlorine. I prefer distilled.

– don’t use soap to wash the jar, or if you do, rinse like you are OC.

– wash your hands before handling the SCOBY, but don’t use soap.

– use regular tea only. Not decaf, not green tea, not herbal tea.

– don’t add anything else until after the fermentation is complete.

– use cane sugar only. Any other kind won’t work, especially honey.

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1. Boil a kettleful of distilled water.

2. Pour over 4 tea bags in a glass gallon jar.

3. Add 1 cup cane sugar and mix in with a wooden spoon.

4. Let sit until cooled to room temperature.

5. Add SCOBY and starter kombucha.

6. Add more distilled water until the jar is full.

7. Cover with a clean cloth and secure with a rubber band.

8. Set the jar in a place where it won’t be disturbed for awhile.

9. After about 10 days, give it a taste and see what you think. You should be able to see a new colony growing on the surface.

10. Let it sit longer for stronger flavour (taste every day or two), or bottle it and put it in the fridge to stop the fermentation. You can use mason jars for bottling if you don’t have those glass IKEA bottles like in the first picture. It can sit in the fridge for a long time.

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Enjoy!!

garlic

garlic

I want to grow garlic next year. Garlic that actually forms big bulbs, that I can cure and store in the basement hanging in braids. So I went to Ontario Seed Company in Waterloo and purchased some ‘seed garlic’. Now is the time to buy it – it gets planted October/November, when it’s so cold you don’t really want to be outside with your hands in the dirt. At least that’s what I’m getting from other people who’ve done it before.

In the pic above is the garlic I bought – it’s a hard-neck variety, the best for braiding because the stems will hold. Soft-neck garlic (usually the stuff in the grocery store from China, but not always) won’t really hold up for braiding. But I think I might head over to the grocery store and buy some to plant anyway, just for comparison. You can tell hard-neck vs. soft-neck fairly easily – see the hard stems coming out the top of the garlic in the pic? Yep. Hard-neck. Soft-neck garlic usually looks like it’s falling apart, with no sturdy stem in the middle. Maybe a little tuft that used to be a stem, but definitely not the woody stick that the hard-neck has.

These will sit on my desk as vampire repellents and conversation pieces until I plant them in the colder weather.

grades 3 and 1 – and a greenhouse

Wow time flies – my girls are not babies anymore! Today I walked both of them to school, and they’re both staying there all day. Well, until 315 anyway. What a great opportunity for me to get working on my new business. After I play with the cat, wander aimlessly around the house, throw in a load of laundry, make myself a snack, and tidy the office.

I thought I should update cyberspace: we have a greenhouse in our backyard now!!! Huge thanks to family members who came to help – we could not have done it without you.

We had to remove some shrubs and a small tree:

walnut tree

Dig a trench and pack down dirt and gravel for a foundation:

foundation

Build a base and fill it with gravel for a floor:

greenhouse floor

Then open the greenhouse boxes:

greenhouse parts

Sort parts:

sorting parts

Maybe read some instructions:

reading instructions

And after lots of pushing and pulling and shoving and clicks and head-scratching, here it is without a door:

doorless greenhouse

The vents are wide open today – must be hot in there! They open automatically – the automatic openers were added, for free, to my order of the greenhouse. Greenwall Solutions Inc – great company to buy a greenhouse kit from if you’re in the market!

So that’s what’s been keeping me so busy that I haven’t had time to weed my garden, can peaches, or update my blog. Well, that plus children and the house and the new cat….