Why now is the perfect time to start beekeeping

This week’s blog is a guest blog written by Dave Lenweaver from Clean Slate Farm. Grab a cold drink before you visit Dave and Joanne’s website. There’s so much interesting information there you’ll want to stay a while.

Why now is the perfect time to start beekeeping

beekeeping, honey beeOkay, that’s a little misleading but very good advice. With all the news about honey bees dying and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) it seems everyone wants to start beekeeping. But before you jump in here’s some advice from a second year beekeeper.

Take your time and learn as much as you can before getting bees. Being surrounded by thousands of apparently angry, buzzing bees while checking the hive is not the time you want to learn the basics.

beekeeping, honey beeStart with reading everything you can get your hands on about beekeeping. Some good books to begin with are:

Beekeeping for Dummies, The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum, The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush, and my favorite, Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad.

Beekeeping is a hobby of constant learning, and the most important thing you will learn is patience. Which is why you should start reading at least a year in advance of beginning your journey into beekeeping. Any of the above books will give you ample advice and you’ll will find much of it consistent.

There are also many excellent Facebook and Google+ groups dedicated to beekeeping. The moderators of these groups, and many of the participants, are knowledgeable and willing to offer advice on starting up your apiary. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and expect many different opinions. As is so often said in beekeeping circles, ask ten beekeepers a question and you’ll get twenty opinions.

Youtube is an excellent resource as well. You will see many interesting, insightful, and strange practices. Watching Youtube videos is one of the best ways to see what beekeeping is all about and how it is done. Do a search for any aspect of beekeeping and you’ll be informed on how to perform that task. You’ll also find many amusing videos of what not to do.

What you’ll learn from all this reading

All of this information may seem confusing but it’s helping you determine what kind of beekeeper you want to be and will be. In this period of time you’ll learn what makes sense to you and more importantly, what doesn’t.

However, there are some basics no one can dispute. You need at least one beehive and some bees to put in it. A hive is the equipment which houses the bees, a colony is the bees that inhabit the hive. A hive consists of the following:

  •  bottom board
  •  brood chamber
  •  honey super
  •  inner cover
  •  telescoping outer cover

In addition you’ll need:

  • a bee jacket or suit
  • bee gloves, which you may stop using at some time
  • hive tool
  • smoker

Let’s discuss the hive parts in more detail, but not too much. That’s why you’re going to be reading a lot!

The bottom board comes in two configurations; solid and screened. Most hobbyist beekeepers use screened bottom boards for two reasons. The first is for pest management of the varroa destructor mite. A screened board allows you to see any mites which have fallen off the bees and land on a panel below the board. If you see a lot of mites on the panel it may indicate treatment is necessary. This type of board also allows for ventilation of the hive.

The brood chamber and the honey super are the same thing. A wooden box, or body, full of wax foundation where the bees live and make more bees. What it’s called depends on what is happening inside. If the queen is inside laying eggs, it’s the brood chamber; if the bees are building comb and filling it with nectar its the honey super.

These boxes come in three different depths; deep (9 9/16” tall), medium (6 5/8”), and shallow (5 3/4” tall). Some beekeepers use all deep bodies, some all medium bodies, and some use a combination of all sizes. Northern beekeepers may use all deeps to assist in overwintering the colonies. Some beekeepers use all mediums due to weight. A medium body full of honey weighs less and is easier on the back. Then again some beekeepers use deeps for brood and mediums or shallows for honey.

As if to confuse the issue further, bodies can accommodate 10 frames or 8 frames. The choice is up to the beekeeper. Again, this is primarily a weight consideration. A 10 frame deep can weigh 90 pounds when full while a 10 frame medium will weigh in at about 60 pounds.

An inner cover is placed on top of the last super. It may seem like an extraneous piece of equipment but it does serve a purpose. Bees like to seal off cracks and crevices with propolis, a sticky, gummy substance. They do this to seal out light and drafts. Without an inner cover the bees would seal the telescoping outer cover. Propolis is indeed sticky and If the outer cover were to be sealed to the hive it would be difficult at best to remove it without disturbing the bees.

Should I get a nuc or a package of bees?

This is also a subject that causes a lot of debate in beekeeping circles. A nuc, short for nucleus hive and pronounced nuke, is a box of bees with 5 frames of comb, a mated queen, brood in chambers, with workers and foragers all ready to go.

A package of bees contains about 10,000 bees in a screened in box with no frames of comb ready for the bees to begin collection of pollen and nectar.

With nuc your bees are off to a head start and won’t be wasting time getting up to speed by having to build comb. A package of bees has to start from scratch and it will take from two to three weeks for them to build comb for the queen to lay eggs and for workers to begin foraging.

Nucs are generally local bees of one breed or another while package bees can be ordered in different breeds. In the northern part of the country a nuc may be your better choice because of the head start they have on the nectar flow.

Russian, Carniolan, Italian, oh my!

You’ll soon learn that all bees are not created equal. There are Russian, Italian, Carniolan (car-nee-oh-lahn) and other breeds each with their own temperament and production characteristics. The choice is up to you as the beekeeper, mostly. Sometimes your choice is dictated by what is available. As you read you’ll learn more about each breed to help you make your decision.

Sprouting Wheat Berries

Sprouting Wheat Berries

Thanks to Ida Walker from The Enabling Cook for guest blogging with us this week! Ida is sprouting wheat berries and leads us through the process, step by step.

For many of us who bake our own breads, the next logical step is to grind our wheat into flour. And once we start grinding our own, it’s on to sprouting. Many of us sprout pea shoots, mung beans, radish greens and the like, but we may not have thought about sprouting wheat berries for our flour. Though I have to confess my motivation for trying many things do not revolve around health benefits. But if I can get some benefits, why not? Nutrients, like vitamin C, are added when wheat berries are sprouted. Some people who have difficulty with wheat find products made with sprouted grains more tolerable. According to some experts, whole wheat or partial whole wheat bread is fluffier when made with sprouted grains than all regular, whole wheat flour.

whole wheat berries, sprouting wheat berries

Turkey Hard Red Winter wheat berries in their overnight soak

sprouting wheat berries

You’ll want hard red or white wheat for bread.

sprouter, sprouting wheat berries

Our four tray sprouter is economical and handy.

Rinse the berries well, and put them in your sprouting container of choice. No metal, please. You can buy special equipment called sprouters. Since I’m a canner, I always have wide-mouth jars on hand. So I bought a sprouting lid that fits most such jars. You don’t need a special lid, though. You can always cover the opening with a clean piece of nylon stocking or cheesecloth. Add the jar ring, and you’re set. If you don’t have canning jars, you can put the seeds in a colander set in a bowl. Be sure to cover it with a clean towel or cheesecloth. sprouting wheat berries

Once you have your container, add the wheat berries. Make sure to leave space for expansion. I filled the quart jar about 1/3 of the way. Then cover with filtered or spring water. The next day, drain your berries and fill the jar with clean water, to the shoulders of the jar (if using). Because the water will be draining, you don’t need to use filtered water. Unless your tap water is suspect, it’ll do just fine. sprouting wheat berries

Drain the berries and rinse. If you’re using a colander, cover the berries and set over the bowl. If you’re using a jar, pour enough water into the jar to cover the berries by about 2 inches. Put on a lid and slosh (technical term) back and forth a couple of times. Set up the jar so it’s at an angle, which will let the water drain. I usually set mine in the sink, but since it was otherwise occupied, I put it in a large bowl. You’ll need to shake the jar a bit so more of the berries are exposed. Make sure they don’t block lid. Drain and refill 3 or 4 times each day; if you’re using a colander, you may need to do so more often. Your goal is to prevent the berries from drying out and to expose as much surface area as possible. sprouting wheat berries

sprouting, wheat berries

Sprouting complete

So when are they ready? They’re ready when the tails are still short, about 1/8 of an inch. If you’re using them for salads, etc., they can be longer. But if you’re planning on using the seeds for flour, keep them short. You’ll get more flour if you do not let the tails grow longer. How long does it take? It depends. This time it only took a couple days. In the winter, it takes longer, but then I have a really cold kitchen. sprouting wheat berries

If you’re going to use these sprouted berries for flour, the next step is drying. This can be done in a 150-degree oven or in a dehydrator. I used the latter at 95 degrees. It took about 2 hours at that temp, and I had the trays full of berries. sprouting wheat berries

sprouting, wheat berries, sprout flour

Sprouting wheat berries, then making flour!

Once the berries are dry, there are 2 options. You can put them in an airtight container and freeze them for later grinding. Or, if you’re like me and figure you’ve waited long enough, grind away! Use your grinding implement of choice. If you’re using an electric mill or blender, the berries will get heated in the process. Many, including me, put the berries in the freezer for a while before grinding.

How much flour will you get from your berries? The amount of flour your berries will provide depends on how finely you grind them. From 606 grams of berries, I got 600 grams of flour. Not a bad return! Store any newly milled flour in a bag or airtight container in the freezer. I use a vacuum sealer. sprouting wheat berries

This process was fun. Seriously. The hardest part was waiting for the seeds to sprout. It’s worth the wait, however, as I have organic sprouted flour for my bread.

Thank you again, Ida! Please be sure to visit Ida at The Enabling Cook. You’ll love her website, recipes and tips.

Sparkling Freebie This Week!

Sparkling Freebie This Week!

The next freebie starts tomorrow, Monday, June 29th and runs through Sunday, July 5th at midnight. Get 5% off site wide with the coupon code  SPARKLE at the checkout.  Let’s have a sparking sale to celebrate 4th of July holiday.

coupon code

Summer Money Saving Tips

Summer Money Saving Tips

I’ve been thinking about my plans for the homestead a lot lately. It’s been more than a year since we moved to Tennessee to homestead and operate Homesteader’s Supply. With such a long list of things to do, money has to be part of the plan. What can we do on the homestead without spending a ton of money this summer? Plenty! We shared Money Saving Tips for Homesteaders last winter, and a second part, More Money Saving Tips for Homesteaders. And now, more ideas! Summer money saving tips.

Summer Money Saving Tips

  1. Eat what you have and avoid the grocery store. Seasonal eating is your chance to gorge on what’s ripe now. I’m a little tired of rhubarb but now that the strawberries are starting to ripen and show up at farmers market, I can add a little variety. The garden is doing well. We’ll probably all be tired of eating the same things often before the next fruit or vegetable is ripe, but we can change it up. Try new recipes. Put up what you can for winter.
  2. Buy seconds from local farmers. You might save a few more dollars if you can pick the fruit or vegetable, or at least pick it up at the farm. Summer money saving tips.
  3. Build inexpensively, but build it well. When you put your building skills to use you should build sturdy and attractive things. In the long run it will last and you’ll be happy with your work.
  4. Co-own. If you need a piece of expensive equipment too often to rent but not often enough to own yourself, consider co-owning. I tried to rent a rototiller three times before I actually got one. I don’t need a rototiller often but when I do, it’s time sensitive. My friend and next door neighbor chipped in and together we bought a tiller. I thought about doing this with a snow blower now that I live in an area with some snow but that’s a little too time dependent.
  5. Wild harvesting is always going to be one of my most favorite money savers. I can pick gallons of berries each summer on a wildlife refuge for the price of a gallon of gas to get there and back. They’re $4 a pint in the grocery store. Summer money saving tips.
    summer money saving
  6. My current favorite money saving tip for homesteaders covers entertaining. We are having a blast. A group of friends take turns hosting potluck. The host supplies the drinks. I didn’t want to buy plastic silverware and tablecloths and paper plats each time it was my turn to host. We sometimes have 30 people at a meal. That’s a lot of settings to buy and throw away. Here’s what I’ve done: Summer money saving tips.
    • Buy inexpensive silverware and tablecloths. Check yard sales!
    • Buy inexpensive plates, serving bowls and glasses. They don’t have to match.
    • Until you’ve built up your inexpensive but nice tableware, BYOS. Bring Your Own Setting.
    • BYOS, Part II. Bring Your Own Seat.
  7. Progressive meals are a lot of fun. Start with appetizers and move from homestead to homestead through the courses. The food doesn’t have to be fancy, just good.
  8. Dessert night. After a long day of chores it’s really nice to get together with friends over dessert. Who needs dinner when you’ve got homemade dessert? Tarts with fresh fruit, cheesecake with fresh cream cheese, cakes, pies, ice cream…

Enjoy the summer! Summer money saving tips.

New Product! Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator & Jerky Maker

New Product! Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator & Jerky Maker Kit

Exclusive offer for our customers! The Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator & Jerky Maker Kit

I’m so excited about our new products I wanted to tell you about this one here, not just in the newsletter as usual. I have 100 pounds of pastured beef ordered and am expecting delivery any day now. I’ll be making jerky from some of the ground and at least one roast. I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes along with this new product announcement.

Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator, Jerky MakerThis exclusive package deal includes the Nesco FD-80 Dehydrator. It comes with four trays, and we’re adding another four for a total of eight trays! The kit also includes screens and sheets, a jerky gun, spices, and a how-to book. Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator

This square dehydrator features an innovative design with 700 watts of drying power that generates maximum speed and quality for dehydrating fruits, vegetables, beef jerky, and venison jerky. I’m sure you can make turkey jerky, too! The top mounted fan eliminates liquids dripping into the heating chamber! Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator

FD-80HW includes the following upgrades and additions:

  •     FD-80 Dehydrator with eight trays instead of four
  •     Eight  SQM-2-6  Clean-A- Screens instead of one
  •     Eight SLD-2-6  Fruit Roll Sheets (new part of this offer)
  •     Large Jerky Gun with five spices (new part of this offer)
  •     “How to Dry Foods” book by Deanna De Long (new part of this offer)

Teriyaki Marinade Recipe

I use this marinade on my beef strips. You can use a tougher cut of meat thanks to the tenderizing properties of the pineapple juice.

1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in two quart pan. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. Pour the marinade in a 9 x 13″ pan. Lay 1/4″ strips of beef, deer, moose or other large game in the marinade and allow to sit in the refrigerator at least overnight. Pat the meat dry. Follow the dehydrator’s instructions.

Enjoy!

Asparagus and Eggs!

Asparagus and Eggs

Asparagus and eggs are trying to take over the kitchen. I was out bright and early this morning, before sunrise, to see why the roosters were crowing louder and longer than usual. Whatever it was, it wasn’t in the hen house when I walked in. I picked up the first duck eggs of the day and snapped enough asparagus for a breakfast quiche. I made the quiche and while it baked, called a friend. “Happy Monday! Your breakfast is in the oven. Stop in on the way to work and it will be ready to take with you.”

asparagus and eggs

Asparagus, two duck eggs and a chicken egg

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Asparagus Quiche

1/2 to 3/4 pound asparagus
2 T butter
1/4 cup chives, chopped
6 oz shredded Swiss or Havarti cheese
4 large chicken or 2 large duck eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 pie crust
Snap off the tough ends of asparagus, if necessary. Roast whole asparagus spears on a lightly oiled cookie sheet at 400° for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle. Cut asparagus into 1/4″ pieces.
Turn the oven heat back to 375°. Line a pie plate with the crust and bake for 8 minutes. While the crust bakes, whisk together the chives, cheese, eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Remove the pie crust after 8 minutes. Place the asparagus on the crust and then pour the egg mixture over the asparagus. Bake at 375° for approximately 50 minutes. A butter knife inserted into the center will be clean when removed when the quiche is done.
asparagus and eggs, asparagus recipe, asparagus spears
This is the recipe I’m following for tonight’s dinner. The photo caught my eye last week and I’ve been thinking about it since then. Baked Eggs With Asparagus.
My go-to asparagus and eggs meal is quick and simple. If there’s a cooler day in the week I roast a bunch of asparagus at once and use some of it for this almost-a-non-recipe.

Roasted Asparagus with Fried Eggs

Drizzle olive oil over a single layer of asparagus, sprinkle with sea or Kosher salt and Italian seasoning, and roast at 400° for 10 minutes.
While the asparagus is roasting, get out the eggs and get ready to fry them. I especially like quail or Silkie chicken eggs for this dish because they are small. Two or three small eggs look nicer when plated with the asparagus but all means, if you are fortunate to have extra large goose eggs, go with it! In the last few minutes of roasting, pan fry the eggs until they are slightly under cooked for your taste. Move the hot asparagus to your plates. Top asparagus with a fried egg. The heat of the asparagus will finish cooking the egg. I love this served with a slice of oatmeal sourdough bread.
Asparagus and eggs – a late spring favorite!