Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So Tempting!

Everyday, on my walk to and from the bus stop, I see this giant mulberry tree down the block from my house.  It is full of berries.
If you look closely, you can see a lot of unripe berries.
And here are some really ripe ones.  The tree sits on the property of own of the neighborhood churches. I don't attend this church, but I am so tempted to ring the bell and ask the pastor if I can pick the berries and make homemade mulberry jam with it.
It doesn't look like anyone picks these berries.  There are lots and lots of berries all over the ground. The whole pavement is stained with purple squashed berries.  I really hate seeing food wasted like this.

I am not proud of this but, I couldn't help myself, I picked a few berries from a branch that was on the street.  And tasted them.  They are so good!   Ok, maybe I will drum up the courage and ask the church if I can pick the berries.  I just feel a little weird asking them since I'm not a patron of the church.  I'll give them some of the jam I make with it. I think that would be a pretty cool barter.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Oh My Ouchie!

These photos were taken during our 5th week of beekeeping.  This being our first year, with every inspection we are learning something new and exciting.  I just love this photo, look at all the bees!
I love seeing full frames of brood! That whole middle section are bee larvae waiting to be born.
Paul looks so happy holding up the frames!  The reason being, this is the first time we've seen honey on the frames! The honey on these frames are for the bees to eat.  Nonetheless, this makes us super happy to see that they are producing honey since so far, all we have seen is brood and pollen.
Is this not a marvelous site? All on the right side is capped honey!! 
Another look from a different angle. On the left is capped honey.
Here again is a closeup! Honey on the top and capped brood on the bottom.  All the holes you see are where baby bees were born and emerged from.
When we pull the frames out to inspect, the bees barely notice us.  They continue on doing what they are doing.  Making wax and honey and feeding the babies.
However, sometimes the bees feel defensive and will protect the hive by stinging. I got stung 4 times during this inspection on my hand. Boy did it hurt.  When you get stung once, there is an attack pheromone that is set off, and more bees go after you.  Thus is why I was stung 4 times in the same area.
Despite getting stung, we moved on to visit our other hive 4 blocks away on the rooftop.  Getting stung is part of beekeeping, you just have to get used to it. In this photo we are removing propolis from the frames. Propolis is a sticky substance that the bees collect, usually made up of tree sap.  The bees use it as a sealant or glue to fill in gaps within the beehive. They put the propolis all along the edges of the frames and box, and we remove it so that it doesn't build up too much.
Checking the frames.
Look at all that capped brood! A lovely sight. We also see signs of honey in these hives too!
Frames are covered with bees.
Simply gorgeous!
This frame is mostly pollen.  All the dark color on the right is pollen.
In this photo, you can see on the left the propolis between the frames edge and the box. It's the dark brown substance. This sticky sap makes it hard to maneuver and take out the frames. This is where our hive tools come in handy, we use the hive tool to pry the frames loose from the propolis.
A welcomed sight! Here we see the Queen. Do you see her?
A better look.  See her now? Everytime we do an inspection, we always look for the Queen to make sure she's still alive.  Without a Queen, the hive will not survive. When we see her on the frames, we breathe a sigh of relief.
The next day, after the hive inspection, my hand got really swollen from the beesting. I mean, really, really swollen.
So swollen that I couldn't bend my fingers.  I saw my doctor and she said that it's likely that I have a mild allergy to bee venom.  She prescribed me a steroid to help with the swelling and in 5 days I was back to normal.  I must say, my body's reaction to beesting venom really scared me.  In all my life, I've never gotten stung this badly before.  My doctor tells me that the more I get stung the more my body will build a resistance to bee venom.  So in a way, I should look forward to getting stung more often.  Too bad it hurts.... a lot.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Forget Sowing, Only Go Winter Sowing!

Seriously, I don't know why I ever waste my time trying to start seeds indoors, when they rarely turn out as healthy as the plants that are winter sowed.  These tomato plants did so well in their mini-greenhouses.
I sowed these seeds back in January. Not only did they germinate, they are so big and healthy!
I'm only going to winter sow from now on!  It's so easy not to.  You just sow the seed in the winter outdoors, and forget about it until spring.  Totally easy and totally awesome.  The best part... you don't even have to harden off the seedlings because they have already been exposed to the outdoors.  Awesome!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Adventures in Beekeeping: 3rd Inspection

Its been 2 months since I started my beekeeping adventure with my 3 friends from class. However, I have been behind with blogging about it. Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging, I wish I had more time to update this blog more frequently.  Our hives are located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and despite it's urban location, the neighborhood is full of flora. The residents in this neighborhood are pretty serious about their gardening.
For example, this gorgeous rose bush is just a block from the hives. Stunning, right?
There has been so much activity at the hives. Here's a post about our 3rd bee inspection that happened on May 6th. These are photos of my beekeeping partners, Victoria in the white dome veil and Paul in the black veil.  In these photos, they are smoking the hive to get it ready for the frame inspection. In the last photo is Paul looking at the frame to check for healthy signs of wax, brood and pollen. 
The worker bees have been extremely busy with building brood wax comb for the frames. Brood are bee egg embryos. The Queen lays one egg per honeycomb cell. Within the frames, we are seeing lots of pollen and brood. The Queen has been extremely active with laying her eggs. A very good sign that the hive is healthy.
As I mentioned in previous posts, we maintain two beehives.  One in a backyard and one on  a rooftop.  Here is the one on the rooftop. In this photo, we saw that there were lots of bees returning to the hive after foraging for pollen. I love watching the bees flying back to the hive.  I can watch this for hours.
We took the cover off the hive and saw lots of bees on top of the frames.  Some were eating the pollen patty of food.  The pollen patty is full of nutrients for this young hive to feed on.
Here is a closeup of the top of the hive.
Paul pulling a frame out to inspect.
A closeup of the frame.  Here you can really see the capped brood.  And the pollen!
I love this photo. It really shows how many bees are flying all around us.
When we open the hive and inspect the frames, many of the bees fly out.  Then they all try to come back into the hive, here they are all bearded in front of the entrance.
And a closeup of the bearding!
After we were done with the inspection, we closed the cover. Then all of the sudden, Paul says, "Victoria, DO NOT MOVE!"
A bunch of bees had landed on her bottom.  Wowsers!  We took the bee brush and brushed the bees off! Thank goodness she did not sit down before we saw the bees on her!
After we left the beehives, this gorgeous flowering bush stopped me in my tracks. This is down the street from the hives.  How gorgeous is this plant?  I don't know the name of it.  But would love to find out.  Do you know what type of flower this is?  It's lovely!  I'm so happy that the bees have flowers like this to forage on!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I (heart) Back to the Roots

Last month, I wrote about how I bought a Back to the Roots mushroom kit.  I followed the instructions exactly.  At first I opened the front of the box and made slits into the plastic bag and misted it with the enclosed water sprayer 3 times a day.  I did this for a few weeks and nothing happened.  Therefore, I decided to dunk the entire bag of the oyster mushroom spore into water for 24 hours as the instructions read, and literally 5 days later.... Voila!  The beginning of baby mushrooms!  I think I actually jumped for joy.  Haha
Then it was Memorial day weekend and I was away for 2 days and when I returned, holy cow. Look what formed in 2 days time!  Wowsers!
Here is a side by side so you can see how incredible this is. A before and after.
I had to take pictures from every angle just so you can see how amazing this product is!
Doesn't this look just amazing?   I have to say, the mushrooms don't look exactly like the photos shown on the Back to the Roots website.  These are totally giant!!
Like, Oh My God, just wow!  I can't get over it.  I've always wanted to grow mushrooms and this is way too much fun!  (Man, that didn't sound as nerdy in my head.)
On the Back to the Roots website they say, you can potentially get 3 harvests from the same box.  Awesome!
I couldn't resist, I had to cut the big oyster mushroom off and cook this bad boy.  I love love mushrooms, so this is surely a treat!  To give you a sense of scale, here is the large mushroom in my hand.  Ginormous, right?
I sliced it up with a leek from the garden.
And sauteed it with some olive oil.  Then scrambled an egg into it.
And ate the whole thing between two slices of toasted multigrain bread.  Sooooooo yummy!
I can't wait to try growing another harvest of these shrooms.  Yes, please!
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