Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Adventures with Mason Bees

A mason bee house next to a bluebird house
Recently I became interested in mason orchard bees.  Since we do so much woodenware here, it seems like a natural avenue to explore working with houses for critters like mason bees, bats, butterflies and birds.

After getting several blueprints and working them up, we have come up with several houses we really enjoy. We have a new little offshoot company called Prairie Bees and Bats and will soon be debuting our creations off our main website: www.honeybeesonline.com. 

Mason bees are interesting bugs.  Mason bees can do a mightier work at pollination than honey bees can, but masons are short lived compared to a honey bee.  So while masons would be powerful for orchards and early flowers, it's honey bees that are going to do the work in our vegetable gardens and flower beds. 

Mason bees are named for the way they build their habitats in hollow tubes with mud.  Females pack in bee bread, then lay an egg--which eventually makes a cocoon and then hibernates through the winter.  You can then buy these tubes from companies and on the first series of nice days (50 degrees) you put the tube out in your bee house.
The bigger tube on the right is the cocoons I purchased on the internet
I recently laid out my first and only tube of mason bees this past week when the weather sailed up into the 70's and 80's.  I only waited a day to see the first guys emerge:

Newly hatched mason bees
I have yet to see anyone actually move into this rather cool condo building, but these bees are not at all like the honey bee.  Masons are solitary bees, meaning they can live alone.  Honey bees can be controlled by humans (to an extent),  live in a swarm in a hive with a hierarchical structure of jobs and duties.  So masons can live anywhere, alone, and attracting them to stay is kin to waiting for birds to move into newly constructed bird houses, or waiting for bats to find your new bat house. And of course, you aren't going to get any honey.

But if you are wanting some awesome pollination done, and the faster and early as possible, for as little money as necessary, Mason bees may be a good bet. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Amish Made Beeswax Candles

Bee Floating Tee Light
I want to show you some pretty new candles we are adding to our product line.

David and I recently contracted out a young amish man named Marlin, who also happens to be a beekeeper, to do some work for us and one day he brought us a box of wonderful beeswax candles.  Marlin's wife Jenna Kay does an excellent job making these beautiful beewax candles, and we are proud to make these available to you too.

This cute little bee is a scented floating red-flower candle.  I can see it in my new jacuzzi tub, can't you? Just a few ounces, and about 2 inches across, you could float it in a bowl of water, or put on a candle warmer. Jenna Kay also makes a natural-colored flower floating beeswax candle too.

There's a cute little bear candle too.  When you first see it, you think it's a teddy bear jar of honey, but it's a good beeswax imitation.

Isn't that a cute bear, and makes a great gift too.

And let's don't forget the time honored traditional bee skep. Just a few ounces too, it can be burned in a votive holder or on a candle warmer.

Beeswax is the best kind of wax to burn.  Beeswax burns cleaner and does not produce smoke.  When beeswax is burned, it emits negative ions in the air which help rid  the air of pollen, dust, mold, toxins and other pollutants making it ideal for the allergy sufferer.

All of these items can be ordered soon from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms or email me at sheriburns62@gmail.com if you can't wait for it to come on the website.  Since each will be a custom order, give Jenna Kay a little time to get your order done.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fermenting Vegetables & Fruit Using Honey - Part 3

Silly  boy
 I took this picture of Christian today who rode his tricycle right up to the kitchen door.  It was only barely into the 50's, he has on only his underpants and he topped off that outfit with a pair of boots.  Needless to say, mama got him right in the house, but not before I took this picture.

Immediately after I took him in the house, a chicken came right up to the door too.  I guess she wanted to see what was going on, and how that boy got in the house.

Silly chicken

Anyway, I thought you would enjoy those pictures.

I am going to finish my series on fermenting vegetables and fruits today.  There are several good books on the subject, but by far my favorite is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  She notes in one section of her book that there was a 1999 study published in the Lancet that found that consumption of lacto-fermented vegetables were positively associated with low rates of asthma, skin problems and autoimmune disorders (the study was done with Swedish children attending a Waldorf school). 

Mustard and ketchup are two condiments that were formally fermented but through the process of factory processing have now become more of  liability made with high fructose corn syrup than the health promoting food it once was.  Easy enough to make, try these:

3 c canned tomato paste
1/4 c whey
1 T sea salt
1/2 c raw honey
1/4 t cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 c commercial fish sauce

Mix all together, place in quart jar at least 1 inch below the top.  Leave at room temperature for 2 days, then refrigerate.

1 1/2 c (12 oz) ground mustard
1/2 c filtered water
2 T whey
2 t sea salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 T honey
2 T whole mustard seeds

Mix all together, adding more water if necessary for right consistency. Place in pint jars at least 1 inch below the top. Leave at room temperature for at least 3 days, then refrigerate.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fermenting Vegetables & Fruit Using Honey - Part 2

Hanna Kroeger in Ageless Remedies from Mother's Kitchen says this about whey:
Whey is such a good helper in your kitchen. It has a lot of minerals.  One tablespoon of whey in a little water will held digestion.  It is a remedy that will keep your muscles young.  It will keep your joints movable and ligaments elastic.   When age wants to bend your back, take whey....with stomach ailments, take one tablespoon whey three times daily, this will feed the stomach glands and they will work well again.

In part 1 of Fermenting Vegetables & Fruit with Honey, I told how to make whey.  Whey is used as a starter to help ferment all sorts of things.  Whey beverages is also a folk remedy dating back to 460 B.C. with Hippocrates, all the way up into the 1940's.  If you're game, here's one to try:

Whey Drink
1/2 c whey (see Part 1 on how to make whey)
1/2 c filtered water
juice of 1 lemon

Mix all ingredients together and drink immediately.

In our beekeeping classes, I always try to make foods that are, let's say, a little unusual for some folks.  I use mostly whole wheats, raw honey, free range eggs, our own chickens, and organic foods for the snack items and lunch menu.  I made a coffee cake awhile back and remember the reaction of some trying it for the first time.  I am sure when they cut into it they thought it was going to taste like those ooey gooey sugary cakes from the Casey's or some other gas station, but instead it was a wholesome treat that probably tasted somewhat odd to them.

Fermented vegetables are kind of like that.  I love the taste of them, but if you have finicky kids or husbands, it may be hard to get them to taste them.  Here's a really good recipe, that's also sweet, that may be a good starter. Please remember to use stainless steel and store in glass.

Corn Relish
3 c fresh corn kernels (sweet corn, yum)
1 small tomato
1 small onion
1/2 red and green pepper, seeded and diced
2 T cilantro leaves, chopped
2 T raw honey
1 T sea salt
4 T whey
Corn relish along with fermented radish & cucumber
In large bowl, mix all ingredients,  pound lightly with wooden pounder.  Place in quart mason jar, pressing down so juice is over ingredients and at least 1 inch below top of jar.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature about 3 days before refrigerating. When testing for the first time, remember whether it's sweet enough for you, and adjust honey in the next batch.

In the next part of this series, I'll give you some fermented condiment recipes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fermenting Vegetables & Fruit Using Honey - Part 1

Fermenting Vegetables - yum
I am sure the first question many of you will have is....why? Why do I want to ferment my vegetables when I can eat them raw or cook them?

Good questions. And it may take  several blogs to get through all of this, so hang in there.

Fermenting is a process that has allowed people through the generations to preserve food without canning or freezing, when those options were not available.

But what we know now about fermented vegetables is how good they are for us. Fermenting causes certain chemical reactions producing lactic acid, and thus, the proliferation of lactobacilli. Just as we know there are certain bacteria that is beneficial to us in foods like yogurt, lactobacilli is important to us because it increases vitamin levels in these foods along with beneficial enzymes, antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Easily digestible, this process also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. Certain types of fermented vegetables can also aid as a decongestant, diuretic, and good sources of vitamin C. 

Fermented vegetables are not meant to be eaten as a side dish, but instead like a condiment.  You can take up to 1/4 c of any vegetable and garnish your meat or fish with it, add a small amount to your salad or cottage cheese, or perhaps even a wrap sandwich. A look at most ethnic cuisines will show that almost all people of all countries eat some type of fermented foods every day. While in our Western culture earlier generations probably ate more fermented than we do, in the traditional American diet, we may eat relishes and sauerkrauts the most.

The basic recipe for fermented vegetables begins with vegetables --organic is the best, but barring that, make sure your veggies are clean and dry.  There is probably no known vegetable you can't ferment, although typical ones are carrots, radishes, cabbages, cucumbers, beets, onions, turnips, and peppers. I personally like to mix them up and use cauliflower and carrot, or radish and cucumber. You cut up your veggies, mix with salt and other spices or herbs, and then pound to release the juices.
I have a wooden pounder from Africa that I am using here.
I also add whey to my mix.  There is a simple and easy way to make whey.

Line a strainer with a cloth and place over a bowl.  Pour in a good, commercial yogurt (this would NOT be one of those pink, drinkable things) :-).  What begins to drip is whey. The milk solids that are left is what we know as cream cheese. Continue to let this drip until it stops.  Store the cream cheese for up to a month, and the whey in a jar for up to 6 months. 

In Part 2, I will give you recipes for making fermented vegetables and fruits.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sheri and Karee to be in Country Woman Magazine!

Here's Karee being interviewed for a local station
We are so excited here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms! I got a phone call this week from Ann Kaiser, one of the contributing editors at Country Woman magazine, and she is going to come out and see our queen operation in May! We can't be more excited and happy for her to pay us a visit, so be looking for the magazine sometime in the near future. And if you haven't seen this magazine yet, go to your local store or library and pick up a copy, it's one of my favorites (It's a sister magazine to Country and Taste of Home).  We'll try to let you know when the article will be out. There is so much for us to get done here and we hope and pray the weather will cooperate.

This customer will be getting something eggstra special!

Meanwhile, we are staying busy. During this time, all our us, and  any passing-by strangers, stay busy all day long getting out hive orders.  We were so busy this past week that we didn't even notice a chicken had walked into the packing area, and laid an egg in a box (picture above).  Luckily, someone noticed it before we shipped this out the door! I guess that's a real sign of being an actual honey bee & chicken farm on an actual farm in the actual country.

Christian enjoying the creek on a spring day
There's a few more signs of spring here in Illinois.  The grass is a little greener, and tree buds are swelling.  Precious few bees have been out though cause it's still pretty nippy.

Folks have been anxious for another honey recipe. So I leave you with this delicious honey and fruit salad, so wonderful for spring.

Pear and Honey Salad
6 oz fresh baby spinach
4 medium pears (or 2 pears and 1 orange, peeled and sectioned)
2 T feta cheese
1 T chopped pistachios (or your favorite nut, we prefer sunflower)
3 T olive oil
2 T orange juice
1 T lemon juice
2 t honey
1/2 t grated orange peel
1/4 t salt

Divide all ingredients among four plates. Whisk dressing ingredients, drizzle over salad. Enjoy.....fast! :-)