Saturday, December 27, 2014

What is Happening in the Garden (and beyond) This Week?

Last two days have been obscenely warm and sunny for December.  And I admit, it was heaven to get a break from gray skies and shivers.  I did get the bee candy I was mentioning in the last post on the hives today.  But what else is happening in the garden and beyond this week?

Salad Turnips at Garden Dreams
Rowcover protects turnips and daikon at Garden Dreams
Cat in the Box
Leftover Christmas Eve Ham Sammie.  Mustard Please!
Christmas Day walk in Frick Park
Proof of the woodcut Jason is working on for a friend

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bee Check

It was a sunny and beautiful day today so I took the opportunity to do a quick check of my beehives.  I plan to do this around Christmas each year, if weather permits.  It can be very cold (below freezing) and still be ok to open the top briefly and look in, to see if the cluster of bees is at the top of the hive, meaning they have eaten through the honey stores they could reach and need supplemental food.

I am pleased with what I found.  I knew all the hives were likely still alive because I saw activity at each hive on warm days.  So what did I find in each hive?  

Hive A) Large cluster of bees in the top box of hive.  Will add a sugar brick tomorrow for supplemental feed.

Hive B) Cluster in the second box, full box and a half of honey above them.  No need for supplemental feed.

Hive C) Large cluster in the top box.  I have an extra box of honey from home hive I will put on top of this hive.  Mold on the inner cover.  I'll replace this with a fresh inner cover so I can wash off the mold.  I'm not worried about it...pretty sure it is from before I propped open the outer cover for extra ventilation since I noticed mold then.  The hives are shaded much of the day and mold can be a problem without adequate ventilation.  

Split) Assuming they are in the bottom or second box, since they shot out the front of the hive as soon as I took off this cover.  This hive has an attitude.  I closed them back up and wished them the best.  Will consider re-queening next year and need to do some research on "testy" hives since I haven't had one until now.  Whenever I opened this hive earlier in the year it seemed to piss them off, or at least make them grumpy and necessary to smoke them pretty good.

Home Hive) Cluster in the second box, with a box and a half of honey overhead.  I'll remove the top box that has about 6 or 7 full frames of honey in it to feed to hive C.  No mold as this hive gets great sun.  

Garden Dreams Hives
Bee drinking water from a cork raft
Sunny and 45 degrees - bees were flying.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Goldenseal Eye Wash for Canine Eye Boogies

Does your dog ever get minor eye infections, otherwise known as Eye Boogies (or also know by the highly refined term Green Eye Goobies)?  Our dog gets them occasionally and this seems to clear them up.  This concoction is one of many in Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide To Natural Health for Dogs & Cats which I use for medical care for minor canine and feline health problems.

Goldenseal/Sea Salt Eye Wash
  • Warm purified water on the stove.  Measure out 1 cup and dump in 1/4 teaspoon goldenseal powder and stir well.  
  • Let steep 15 min, then strain out the goldenseal. (It has usually settled to the bottom, so at this point, I just pour off all the liquid and leave behind the goldenseal sludge).  
  • Mix in 1/4 teaspoon pure salt until dissolved (sea salt works).  
  • Use to flush the eye by squeezing from a cotton ball as you gently hold the dog's eye (s) open.  Use 2-3 times daily and store in a covered jar.  The mix is good for 2 days, then you need to make fresh.  

Goldenseal was used historically both internally and externally for skin and digestive problems, and eye infections, to name just a few.  Alkaloid compounds in the herb called hydrastine and berberine have been studied in recent times and are found to have astringent, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory healing properties.

In any case, this seemed to work.  It caused the eye boogies to get much better almost instantly, and then finally cleared them up completely after about a (half ass) 2 week treatment.  Being "on it" twice daily may have cleared it up even quicker!  

Goldenseal and salt water

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Flame Thrower" Habanero Hot Sauce (and chickens)

In the fall, I like to use up the last of my hot peppers and make a hot sauce to give as gifts.  This year our chocolate habanero plant was extremely prolific and since that fruity, hot, hot pepper is one of my favorites, habanero hot sauce was on the menu.  Hot peppers will stay fresh for awhile if you keep them bagged in the fridge.  I didn't exactly follow a recipe for this batch, but I did pH test it, and it is vinegar based with a pH of around 3.7 so it should keep well in the fridge for quite awhile. My previous vinegar sauces were fine for over a year.  I ordered the bottles from Fillmore can be found here.

I used roughly:

big bag of carrots
1 quart of canned whole tomatoes
onions, a lot (I cant remember how many!  Maybe 10 or so?)
50 habaneros
3 c vinegar
1 c lime juice
1.5 c water
salt to taste

Chop onions and carrots and cook in oil until tender. Add tomatoes and simmer.  Make a paste with habaneros in food processor with some liquid.  Combine everything except lime juice.  Blend well with immersion blender.  Heat through and barely simmer for 20 minutes.  Add lime juice, put through a food mill, and bottle.  

Habanero Hot Sauce
Fancy "taped on" label

In other news the chickens are getting into the holiday spirit by kicking around some evergreen bough trimmings we picked up from a christmas tree seller.  These are woody and will not be breaking down anytime soon but they are a nice bulky, airy bottom to this giant compost pile I'm building for chicken winter entertainment and soil conservation.

Compost Beginnings
Getting into the Holiday Spirit with some evergreen boughs

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chickens Make Compost

Chickens love to scratch.  Therefore chickens are the perfect source of easy compost because they can take organic matter and veggie scraps and shred and turn them and poop on them until they are compost.  When I first read about this idea of putting egg-laying chickens to work for the garden in Harvey Ussery's The Small Scale Poultry Flock, a lightbulb went off.  Wow!  This is great!  Chickens can turn large amounts of coarse dead matter from the garden into compost.  But the benefits don't stop there!  The chickens are kept interested digging, their run space is covered with shredded organic matter so it doesn't get muddy or eroded, and the gardener gets out of compost-turning-duty.  PERFECT!

While figuring out exactly where to place the compost piles in the chickens' habitat is a work in process...I must say I am very impressed with their work over the past 2 years.  And it really does keep them entertained.  A chicken that cannot scratch is a bored and sad chicken.  And as compost starts to get going and worms and bugs start hanging out in it....they just have a field day shredding and turning that compost, in search of an elusive earthworm.  

Many folks have figured out a system that works for them, and many more seem in the experimental phase like me.  Here's a fun gravity based composting run .....  Milkwood Gravity Run.  The key of all of them seems pretty simple...add organic matter and let them go to town!

Scritch Scritch, Scratch Scratch
"C'mon it!  Move those legs!"
1 season's worth of organic matter turned to compost
Chickens can handle even tough stalk vegetable plants like brussle sprouts and tomato vines.  The compost pictured above once included over 200 tomato vines!  When the compost looks done, I let it age by building a new pile somewhere else.  The chickens ignore the old finished compost for the newer stuff, especially if there are some veggie scraps thrown in.  They seem partial to kale but I know they miss the summer tomatoes.  We would throw them all the cracked fruit and little mini chicken riots would break out, chasing whoever had the tomato in her mouth.  

Compost dug out and ready for bed application

Deep leaf chicken bedding composting's warm!
If you need to keep things tidier than just piling up dead plants in your yard, there are ways of keeping the compost process contained with a simple bin in the chicken yard...made out of pallets or straw bales perhaps.  Just as long as the chickens can access it, they are good to go to work for you.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Salty Honey Pie....Just make it.

I first had salty honey pie around this time last year.  Don't ask questions, just make it.  You won't regret it.  Find the recipe here:  Salty Honey Pie.  I did shed a few tears when I thought I ruined the crust, since baking is not my claim to fame, BUT, it turned out great somehow, despite a slightly slumped crust.

Salty Honey Pie, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie
We picked up this bird from a farm near Jason's hometown in Massachusetts..Stillman's At The Turkey Farm. This ain't no heritage turkey, folks, it's a broad-breasted white, but raised well and very tasty.  We brined the bird for about 12 hours before cooking.

The Bird

And while we were in Mass hanging out with family, we got about 9" of wet, heavy, beautiful, tree-bending snow.