Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My First Honey Harvest & A Look Back at My First Year of Beekeeping

It was the end of May when my friend Billie & I installed my first two packages of bees. I remember being nervous about handling that many bees and hoping to just get it all right. Little did I know that it really wasn't that many bees in those boxes and by the end of the season we'd be working with a whole lot more!
I quickly had to learn how to re-queen one of my hives & this hive then became known as my "weak" hive. Man did this hive give me fits. or teach me alot of beekeeping lessons; whichever way you want to look at it.
I was lucky enough to watch another local beekeeper catch a swarm.
And thanks to many leads via friends on facebook (thank you!) Billie & I went on a few attempts to catch wild swarms ourselves. One where we literally got to see it fly away as we unloaded our equiptment. Man was that an amazing site! At one point I even got enough guts to catch a swarm on my own!
Only to have it to fly away the next day. Hopefully they at least found a good home in our timber some where and will be great genetics for my future bees.
Then there were the "log bees". What a cool experience that was! Our bee mentor & amazingly talented friend Bill came with me on this one. We retrieved a beautiful hive of bees from an old log.
These bees are currently in my "weak hive" and are doing great!
Speaking of the amazing "Bee Bill"; as my kids like to call him. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your willingness to share your knowledge with Billie & I. And for coming over on a whim when one of us is freaking out over a bee situation. Hopefully you don't regret the night we starting asking you questions at the Bee Club meeting. LOL! Seriously though; Thank you!!!
It's been so amazing to watch the bees work and learn so much about their importance in our lives.
Yesterday both Billie & Bill came over to help me do my Fall inspection. My larger hive is in great shape so we felt it would be alright to take a frame of honey to extract. The rest the bees get to keep!
It's so beautiful!
I brought the frame inside and last night before bed began the extracting process.
First, the wax cappings get scrapped off, using a warmed up kitchen knife.
The cappings and the honey are put into a sieve to filter out the wax pieces.
I let all of this rest overnight to slowly drain into the bowl. 
This morning I filtered it one more time and put it into the glass jars. I was able to get just under a quart of honey from one frame. That to me is pretty amazing stuff!
Ella and I put the frame out on the fence line this morning so the bees could finish up the last little bits. 
I'm so happy I made the decision to get into beekeeping and even more thankful to my "bee buddies" Billie & Bill. Hee! Now, let's have a drink to celebrate! 
Oh! And for the record : I only got stung once! 

Friday, September 4, 2015

:: Apples . Beautiful Apples ::

Today started with a beautiful sunrise.
 That really has nothing to do with this post; I just thought it needed to be shared. I stood on my back deck sipping my coffee and took it all in ... right up until the moment Ella ripped open the sliding glass door screaming "I can't find my booty shorts!". Awe... Let the day begin. 

This time of year is just busy; with to do lists a mile long. I have goals of getting SO much canning done every year and while I manage to accomplish a fair amount, I always feel like I should have done more. 
And this my friends, is the reality of my kitchen on "canning" days. 
Our kitchen is defiantly nothing fancy and man do I dream of something bigger, but you know what; it works. And it might be a mess most of the time, but we still gather together around the dinner table & enjoy what was cooked here.

We've got great neighbors who are willing to share the apples from their gorgeous apple tree in the pasture. 

So, yesterday I spent the day trying out a few Apple recipes I had pinned on Pinterest.
Starting with my favorite Applesauce recipe. I've made this one many times!
Basic Chunky Applesauce
  • 8-12 lbs apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup apple cider, apple juice or water (plus or minus to help prevent burning on the bottom)
Wash, peel & core apples. I use an old apple peeler like THIS one which makes the whole process go so quickly. Place in a pot with the lemon juice and liquid as you prepare them.
Boil the apples until tender and completely soft for about 30-45 minutes. Once the apples are thoroughly softened process through a food mill, seive or food processor for smooth sauce. We prefer chunky applesauce so I use the Mix & Chop from Pampered Chef to mash the apples as they are cooking down. Keep sauce simmering as you place it into sterile mason jars.
Fill your jars leaving 1/4″ head space, wipe rim clean and close them up. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes if your using 1 quart jars, 10 minutes for smaller jars. Allow them to rest un touched for 24 hours. 
Typically I skip the whole canning part and freeze ours in freezer bags but since I'm working on a few gifts I wanted them to look nicer so I canned them instead. They really do look so much more beautiful!
Recipe Credit : Neo - Homesteading

Then this bread! Oh my gosh & it's so good guys! I highly recommend trying this!
Country Apple Fritter Bread
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk or almond milk
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped (any kind), mixed with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1-3 tablespoons of milk or cream- (depending on thickness of glaze wanted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9x5-inch loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray or line with foil and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.
  2. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  5. Combine & whisk flour and baking powder together in another bowl and add into creamed butter mixture and stir until blended.
  6. Mix milk into batter until smooth.
  7. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  8. Lightly pat apple mixture into batter.
  9. Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  10. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using knife or spoon.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes.
  12. To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed.
  13. Let cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.
Recipe Credit : The Baking Chocolatess

 I also attempted to make jelly from my apple scraps following THIS recipe. 
It made my house smell amazing! However it was a definite Pinterest fail for me. It cooked for hours; I mean hours and never did jell up. Now that's not to say the recipe is a fail cause I could have done something wrong. I'm not sure. I will be finding a different recipe and trying it again. 

Do you have a favorite apple jelly recipe you use?