Happy Bees!

My two new hives of Buckfast bees had a rocky start.

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They hated the plastic foundation I was using and built comb almost everywhere else.  From the ceiling of the Hive cover mostly…

The bees are happy even if I'm not...

The bees are happy even if I’m not…

I replaced the plastic foundation with wax and they were a bit happier.  Not a pretty sight from the inside however.

Now Hive Number Two seems to have slipped a bit from its moorings. This will be fixed ASAP.

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The good news is that both hives are happy and healthy and prospering!  I couldn’t ask for anything more!!

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Cooking With Honey – “Crack” Dip

crack dip

My next door neighbor introduced me to this recipe. It’s so good it’s addictive!

In this dip honey is used as a flavor enhancer rather than a sweetener. It’s a scientific fact that the gluconic acid in honey makes every recipe taste better!

Yield:  about 3 cups of dip

Ingredients:

1 cup finely diced Vidalia onion

1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise

1 cup Mexican blend cheese

1 4 ounce can diced chiles, drained but not rinsed

Honey for drizzling on top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first four ingredients together and place into a casserole dish. Drizzle honey on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and top is golden brown. Serve with chips, vegetables or slices of French bread.

The Summer Solstice

Keeping bees makes one more aware of the Wheel of the Year.

bee summer solstice

The 2013 Summer Solstice occurs at 1:04 am EDT on Friday, June 21st.  It’s the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

A solstice is an astronomical event that occurs twice each year as the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere.

The Summer Solstice is also referred to as Midsummer’s Eve. It’s an important holiday in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and was very important to many ancient cultures.

While the cultural symbols associated with the Summer Solstice vary between different cultures, the Solstice has always been a significant day in the Wheel of the Year.

The general themes associated with the Solstice are fertility, fire, celebration, healing, and magic. Many of the celebrations were accompanied by large bonfires (especially on shorelines), feasting, singing, dancing, and the gathering of medicinal/magic plants.

summer-solstice-fire--sommersonnenwendfeuer-franziska-marie-orbach

The Solstice is thought to be the time “when the forces of nature are at their most powerful, and the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds are thinnest.” The term used in modern times — solstice — is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

If you stand inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern Summer Solstice, facing northeast through the entrance towards a rough hewn stone outside the circle – known as the Heel Stone – you will see the sun rise above the Heel Stone, as illustrated in the image below.

Stonehenge_heel_stone

Cooking With Honey – Blueberry Lavender Martinis

Lavender-Martini-300x225

I was in Chicago this past weekend and had dinner at the delightful French Bistro Aquitaine. We began with two of their lovely specialty cocktails — I had the Blueberry Lavender Martini made with honey. It was fabulous!

Here is my recreation…

Yield:  2 martinis

Ingredients:

6 large ice cubes

8 oz vodka

3 oz fresh lemon juice

4 Tbsp honey lavender syrup*

12 fresh blueberries, muddled

Directions:

In a martini shaker add the ice, vodka, lemon juice, honey lavender syrup, and muddled blueberries and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour the drink into the glasses through a strainer, and serve!

*Honey Lavender Syrup:

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup honey

2 Tbsp dried lavender

Heat water until boiling, remove from heat and whisk in honey and lavender, until honey is dissolved. Chill well before using in drinks.

Smoke

Beehive Smoker

Beehive Smoker

I’ve never liked smoking my bees. Smoke calms them down all right, but they aren’t quite themselves for a day or two. I figured a few minutes of bee panic is better than several days of befuddlement.

I’ve never smoked when installing a new package of bees.  It hasn’t seemed necessary. They’ve been more than happy to get out of that dreadful packing box.

Likewise I haven’t smoked when I’ve opened the hive for only a few seconds to feed or stick in a frame or two.

Smoking a Hive

Smoking a Hive

Today I pushed the envelope. Big mistake!

I wanted to switch out frames in a new hive from one deep box to another. Not for a good reason, mind you, but because I liked the paint color of the second box better. It wasn’t going to take very long.

It turns out that from the bees’ perspective it isn’t so much how long the disruption is but how distressing. Moving a frame with the Queen on it is apparently very distressing!

My gentle hive stung me five times through my bee suit and then went after the landscapers working next door. Thank goodness the landscapers did not get stung!

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I quickly closed up the hive and ran inside, followed by a few angry girls. My dog, the Noble Bayard, ate them with gusto. All is quiet now.

I’m going back out shortly to finish the job. Needless to say, I’m going to smoke from now on. It’s better for all of us!!

Cooking With Honey – Honey Berry Clafoutis

clafoutis

With berry season upon us, an easy and delicious dessert to make is clafoutis. All you need to do is mix and bake to have a fresh and scrumptious French custardy treat!

Yield:   One 8-inch custard

Ingredients

¾ cups whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

⅓ cup honey

1 tsp orange zest

3 eggs

1 Tbs vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

½ cup flour

2 cups fresh berries of your choice

2 Tbs granulated sugar, plus additional for pan

Powdered sugar for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8-inch pie plate or round cake pan and sprinkle with a little granulated sugar.

Blend together all ingredients except 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and berries. Pour a ¼-inch layer of batter into pie plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, just until a skin forms. Toss berries with sugar while first layer sets.

Once skin forms, remove plate from oven and add berries plus remaining custard batter. Bake until top is golden brown and custard is set (moves as one when jiggled, toothpick comes out clean), about an hour.

Can serve warm, but cool completely before removing whole clafoutis from pan. Store chilled.