Sunday, May 18, 2014

Baking Sourdough Buns

I finally had time to use my sourdough starter monster to make some bread. I call it a monster because if you don't use the starter, it multiplies and multiplies. I wrote about it here, my one starter turned into 4 jars of starter! It was getting bad, you open my fridge and all you see are these mason jars of starter! So I looked for an easy recipe that I could try and found this one on King Arthur's website. The recipe was for buttery sourdough buns. The best part, you could use unfed starter for this recipe. So the prep time was minimal. Just the kind of breadmaking I like! I followed the instructions and made the dough. Then I set it aside to let the dough rise.
An hour later, it doubled in size! Awesome, it was time to roll it out and make buns!
I cut the dough into two halves and rolled out each half.
Then you roll it and cut it into 2 inch rolls. You put it in a buttered pan and put a little more melted butter on top.
Here's how it looks right out of the oven. It was so good straight from the oven. Slightly crunchy crust, and soft doughy in the middle. The only thing I would do differently next time, I would add an egg wash over the dough so that it gets more color. The buns didn't get much color so I cooked it for longer so that it would turn a little browner.
Here is one single bun. As you can see, it made a perfect dinner roll. I ate this up. And 2 more at once. Y U M.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Raising Another Queen

This week I ordered new front feeders for the beehives because our bees seemed to not care for the top feeder. The ones I ordered are just plastic cap holders that you screw on top of mason jars. At $3 a pop, this will work just fine. I like to use Mason jars as feeders because you can clean them easily and get all the gunk out that builds up when the jars are in the sun.
The main goal for this hive inspection was to look for Queen cups or evidence of a new Queen. At the start of this season, this hive was Queenless. Then we raised a virgin Queen which died. So we moved fresh brood over to attempt to raise another Queen. Since it's still early enough in the season, and we have another hive that is very strong, we decided to take the risk of raising another Queen instead of buying a mated Queen.
When we looked closer, the hive was brimming with activity, so this is definitely a good sign.
The first frame I pulled from the middle of the top box had a Queen cup. Woohoo! And all that spotty brood are drone cells. That means there is a laying working somewhere in the hive as well.
Here's a closer look at the frame. At this capped stage, the Queen should emerge in 7 days, and then hopefully a week after that takes her mating flight. I saw around 4 Queen cells in the hive so the first one to hatch will kill the other Queens.

Here's a look at the new blue hive. It's just waiting for my new Nuc to arrive. I spoke to the Beehive Barn and they said with the cold weather we were having this spring, they are about a week late with the Nucs being ready. I am hoping that we can pick up the Nucs the last week of May. I'm eager to get the Nuc installed so that I can get this hive up and running.
Since the day was a bit overcast, the bees were super aggressive when I inspected. I suspect that most of the bees were close to home because they sensed it was going to rain. I actually got stung 3 times! Twice on my legs, (one sting on each leg).
AND... I also got stung on my neck. Somehow, a bee got into my veil and stung me square in the neck. Oh man, did that one hurt! It got pretty swollen and my neck pretty much "disappeared". I get a really bad reaction to beesting. My doctor says I have a mild allergy to bee venom so I carry around a prescription bottle of Cetirizine, which is an anti-histamine that my doctor prescribed for me for times like this when I really need a strong dose to calm the swelling.
After getting stung 3 times, I went straight home to take a relaxing shower. I found a bee stuck on my clothing. She must have been one of the bees that stung me. Poor bee. If you ask me, she got it worse than I did.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Guerilla Gardening in My Dad's Backyard

I was home last month visiting my parents and I saw at Home Depot they were selling blueberry bushes for an amazing price! 3 bushes for $12.00! Wow. $4 for a 6 inch pot. Can't beat that price since it was originally $9! That's more than half off. Although... I was imagining who would have the space for 3 bushes of blueberries! Wouldn't that be nice!
On a whim, I decided to buy the bush for my parent's backyard. I didn't even ask them for permission to plant it. A little guerilla gardening at home! Hahahahaha. I bought it and decided just to find a place to plant it and then tell them later. I've done this before, where I just plant things. It's not new to them. I picked out this healthy looking plant. It had no leaves, but there were lots of buds. So hopefully it will just take off.
I found a sunny spot near the fence. I dug a hole and plopped it in with fresh potting soil.
The soil in my parent's backyard is very hard and has lots of clay. So I added a good dose of potting soil. After I planted it I told my parents and they said, "hope the squirrels don't eat all the berries!"
Last week, I went home again to see my mom for Mother's Day. I went to the backyard to see how well the blueberry bush was doing. It looked great! It grew lots of leaves and started blooming with flowers! We just might get blueberries this season afterall!
Here is another view of the bush. It has grown a lot in one month! I'm so excited! I can't wait to see how it grows in the seasons to come!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sourdough Starter Monster

6 weeks ago, my co-worker asked me to take care of his sourdough starter while he was out of town. All I needed to do was to feed the starter every 2 weeks. In the instructions, it said that you take out a half cup of starter and add back a half cup of flour and half cup of water. The half cup of starter that you take out, you can either make something with it like bread, pancakes, waffles etc, or you throw it out.
I haven't had time to bake bread or make pancakes, so I've been taking the starter that is supposed to be used or discarded and feeding that half too. So fast forward 4 weeks, and what was one jar of starter is now 4 jars of starter. I can't bring myself to throwing the extra starters away, so I keep feeding it and they keep multiplying! I have to make pancakes this week with it because this is getting a little out of control! I should start giving some away too! This is not the first time this has happened to me. I once had sourdough starter that multiplied like crazy. I've written about it here.
This week I should also try to make sourdough bread. It's very good right out of the oven. I can't wait!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bringing Seltzer Back

Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty obsessed with recycling. I can pinpoint exactly where this obsession came from. When I was in 7th grade, my friends and I were part of the Environmental club and the club made a school initiative to put out paper recycling bins in every classroom and we would collect the bins after school once a week for recycling. At the end of the year, we had collected thousands of pounds of paper. What would normally be in the dumpster, was now collected by a recycling facility. That club really made me value how important it is for every one of us to do our part as little as it may seem, to help the environment. Because every little bit helps.

One of my other obsessions in life is making the best Egg Cream. If you've never had an egg cream, you must try one. It's like a chocolate milk soda. The name is pretty strange because there are no eggs or cream in the drink at all. Egg creams are made with just 3 ingredients. Chocolate syrup (preferably U-Bet, made in Brooklyn), milk (preferably whole milk), and seltzer. I've discovered however that I had many issues with bottled seltzer that you buy from the supermarket. Like any carbonated drink, once you open the bottle, it starts to lose it's carbonated bubbles. So even though you can make an excellent egg cream the first time you use the seltzer bottle, the next drink you make with the same bottle falls flat. Literally.

For many years, I've had one of these old vintage glass seltzer bottles, so one day we thought, what if we could refill one of these?
That led us to search online for those old time glass seltzer bottles. The ones that keep the carbonation because there is a lever you press to let out just the exact amount of seltzer that you need for your drinks.  Since you don't open the bottle, it never loses it's carbonation.  To our surprise and luck, we found a local family run company that delivers seltzer in those vintage seltzer bottles called the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys. The fact that there is a company that reuses these bottles and puts them back in use, and is right here in Brooklyn, NY is outstanding! On their website, they don't actually call it recycling, they calling it "reusing" because the same bottle gets reused over and over again. Even better than recycling!!
The way it works is that you order by the case. A delivery comes with 10 seltzer bottles and costs only $35. That's just $3.50 for each bottle of seltzer. Which for us, is about the cost of a seltzer from the supermarket here.  Two years ago on this blog, I challenged myself to live a little "greener" and this definitely falls into that category. There is no wasted plastic bottle, and we put these beautiful "antiques" back in use!  I love supporting local environmentally conscious businesses. Total win!
U-bet syrup, cold milk, and this seltzer. BEST EGG CREAM EVER!! Next time, I'll have to buy the milk from Ronnybrook farms, which will make this entire drink all locally sourced ingredients within 100 miles. Pretty sweet!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Brand New Beehives!

This was a busy week for us. We received our delivery from Mann Lake of our two new beehives. We bought the apiary kit from them, which includes the basics that you need to start a new hive. A bottom board with an entrance reducer, a telescoping cover, an inner cover, and we went with the 4 medium boxes with wooden frames. I prefer medium boxes over deeps as the brood box because I find that it's easier for me to lift when the box is full of wax, brood, and honey. With the addition of these two hives, we now are the proud owners of five hives in total. Two years ago, when I started this beekeeping adventure, I didn't think my passion for raising honeybees would grow to this level. I think any devoted beekeeper would tell you that it's something you can't quite explain until you try it. Maintaining your own hives is an amazing experience. One that I learn from constantly and a hobby I know I will maintain for many years to come.
Emily, one of our beehive hosts wanted the hive to be sky blue. Since neither Paul or I have backyards to keep our hives, we use her backyard as the host location. She picked out the paint and we spent last Saturday afternoon painting the hive. We use an exterior paint to paint the hives to protect the boxes from the elements of being outside. It rains and snows a lot here, so a good exterior paint helps a lot with the inclement weather.
Paul had a great idea to hang the freshly painted boxes on tree limbs in hopes that they would dry faster. I really thought this looked pretty funny. It reminded me of an art installation.
Hanging them on tree limbs allowed the sun and wind to hit every angle of the box. The neighbors must have thought we were weird.
We temporarily assembled the hive on top of cinderblock. This hive will get a bee nucleus which is due to arrive in late May. I really love how the color came out.
And here is a view of all three hives in Emily's backyard. I think it looks pretty awesome!
After we finished painting and installing, next we went over to our other beehive host located a few blocks away. When we arrived, Oscar the kitty was there to greet us right away! Oscar lives here and watches us beekeep every Saturday. If you look closely, you can see his "girlfriend" neighborhood kitty in the background. We don't know who owns the girlfriend but she follows Oscar everywhere! He's not very fond of that.
Here's Oscar inspecting my beesuit.
We installed the new hive temporarily next to the older one. Can you tell it's new? LOL. So shiny! We're calling this new hive Oscar's Honeywell.
I did an inspection to see how well the new Queen is laying. We installed this package this spring, so we are keeping a watchful eye on her.
The Queen in the Carlton Reserve hive is laying perfect brood. She has just about filled this entire frame of brood. This is the pattern you want to see in the hive, because it means she is laying in practically ever cell. Pretty awesome!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

DIY Plant Containers

This past Saturday in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, after I finished beekeeping, I was walking towards the subway when I saw a store in the neighborhood that was displaying these cute succulents in these DIY concrete plant containers. Aren't these adorable? I have seen many examples of this on Pinterest and online, but this is the first time I saw it in person. I love the fact that they do not have "perfect" edges and look "homemade". It gives it character.
I'll have to try to make these one day! I think they are super cute! Have you made these before? Any tips for a newbie?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Springtime Display

One of my favorite things of all time is Springtime in New York City. A few blocks from my apartment building, this gorgeous display of spring flowers was in bloom. Isn't it spectacular? Seeing this pop of color really makes you feel like the grey winter is finally behind us. Ah, Spring! You are definitely my favorite season!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Urban Beekeeping in Brooklyn!

Every Saturday, when I see this bridge, I get excited. Only blocks from this bridge lives our Brooklyn honeybees.
This is one of the locations where our hives are located. How pretty is this? Idyllic if you ask me! The fragrance alone is dreamy!
The magnolia tree was in full bloom last weekend. Just gorgeous! Can you see Oscar, the beekeeping kitty in this photo? He likes to watch us every weekend when we inspect the beehives.
At this location, we installed a new package of bees 2 weeks ago. So our goal was to see how well the new Queen is laying. It's important to make sure she is laying well in order to have a strong hive. We need the numbers of worker bees to increase.
I look forward for the week to go by, just so I can do this. There are so few things in life that make me happier and more calm than when I'm beekeeping.
We had to use all new deep frames in this beehive because we had to throw away all the frames from last year due to mold. The worker bees haven't had enough time to build out new wax comb on the new foundation. Sometimes when there is too much room between new frames, honeybees will build out burr wax comb or "wild wax comb" to fill up the space between the frames. Honeybees will try to fill up as much space as possible, they don't like open spaces in their hive. Check out this beautiful burr comb that they built in one week!

We carefully removed the burr comb. Dave took this picture of us, but he got his finger in the frame. hahahaha
We saw that the Queen was laying pretty well. As fast as the worker bees can draw out wax comb, she is laying on that comb.
Here is a closeup of the capped brood. We can tell she is laying well because she is laying in every cell, one after another. That is a perfect pattern. When you see a Queen laying spotty, all over the frame, that is a sign that there is something wrong with the Queen.
After we finished this hive inspection, we went to our second location which houses 2 hives. They were brimming with activity! I didn't get any photos this time of the inside of the hive.
But I took this quick video of how active the bees are! Pretty amazing! I love watching them returning to the hive. Pretty cool! So far the green hive is doing really well! They are booming in numbers of bees because this hive survived the winter. We are doing so well in fact that we put a Queen excluder on and have put a honey super on top! Woooo! Excited!

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