This will be our fourth winter as beekeepers, and every year we’ve changed up our winterizing process, trying to find the perfect tactic for our area.
The first year, we wrapped our sole hive with a “Vinyl Coated Hive Wrap” from Better Bee. They survived the winter, so the next year, we did something similar, sliding a piece of foam insulation between the hives to create a common wall for better insulation, and wrapping them together. (You can see the foam insulation, reused this year, in the above photo.)
They survived again, so we repeated the process in 2019. This time, however, we had a nuc from a successful split we were trying to overwinter.
To accomodate them, The Engineer built the “Pink Palace,” basically a smaller version of the foam structure above.
All three hives perished, though the Pink Palace survived the longest. Our Bee Inspector said it was likely due to the effects of Varroa, but we treat for the mites regularly, so I’m not sure I agree (although he certainly is a more experienced beekeeper, so maybe I just don’t want to admit we didn’t protect them enough).
Still, we rallied and began again in spring with an Ohio-bred nucleus hive and an over-wintered queen, as well as a package of Saskatraz bees shipped from California.
Both hives thrived, which meant splitting them to prevent swarming. One split (the one from Buzzers’ Roost II, the Ohio hive) “took,” creating their own queen, but the other never managed to make new royalty. We ended up combining them with NewBees (the split from Buzzers’).
So going into winter, we have three full-size hives.
Just before COVID became an issue, we attended the Ohio State Beekeepers’ conference (where once again we learned how little we know about beekeeping) and bought a quilt box.
This is basically a wood box (and there are many many designs available to build or buy), which is then filled with some kind of moisture-absorbing material. Wood shavings are a favorite, but I’ve also heard of people using crumpled newspaper.
Here’s a picture of our quilt box (taken from the side), which we’ve put on Buzzers’ Roost (II). Note the holes covered with screen to allow for ventilation.
Here’s a peek inside.
The Engineer repurposed the original Pink Palace to fit California Girls, so they have no outer cover, instead being surrounded by an igloo of insulating foam.
The NewBees setup is similar to past years, with a wrap, the inner cover, and foam insulation cut to size between the inner and outer covers.
Buzzers’ doesn’t need the foam because they have the quilt box.
We’ve done away with the Hacienda this year, though Buzzers’ and NewBees each have newly shaped metal overhangs (courtesy of The Engineer and his workshop) to help keep rain or snow melt from forming puddles on their front porch.
And here they are, all set for winter.
The forecast is for 8″-12″ of snow over the next 36 hours, which actually means the bees are probably better prepared than we are. 🙂
Addendum: One day later, the words “nick” and “time” come to mind.
This one’s a short installment, even though I love to make (and eat!) soup in the winter.
To make up for the brief post, I’ll share what I believe is the secret to great cream of mushroom soup.
Ready? It’s paprika (which I think has its basis in Hungarian cooking). I have several recipes for cream of mushroom soup that I sort of combine when I make it, but if you need one, here’s a nice basic one. It doesn’t mention paprika, but trust me. It makes all the difference.
Baked Potato Soup Click through for a recipe from the Carnation Evaporated Milk folks — probably the easiest and one of the most delicious potato soups I’ve ever made.
Bush’s Easy White Chicken Chile Another link, another easy recipe from Bush’s Beans. Obviously you can sub leftover chicken of any kind for the rotisserie-style suggested in the recipe.
Chili Con Carne (#3) Servings: 500 (4 oz.) 7-1/2 lbs chopped onions 75 lbs ground beef 10 (No. 10) cans tomatoes 10 lbs spaghetti 4 cups chili powder 5 gal stock or broth 15 (No. 10) cans kidney beans Sauté onions and beef to make brown sauce. Add tomatoes and simmer. Boil spaghetti in salted water until tender. Add chili powder and stock and beans. Cook together slowly one hour. Added note at the bottom of this recipe card: “‘Good Luck’ — Uncle Bob Elsen, Louisiana Dietetic Association” I’ve never actually cooked this recipe from my bridal shower mainly because I don’t think I know five hundred people! The directions are courtesy of my Uncle Bob — the other half of Elsen’s Restaurant. As you can tell, he had a great sense of humor.
Chipotle Hummus Dressing Click through for a super easy delicious salad dressing — low in sugar, high in vitamin C, it’s even got a little Vitamin A, protein and fiber.
Cream of Pumpkin Soup (Spicy) 1 tbsp olive oil 1 small onion, chopped fine 2 minced garlic cloves 1 tbsp curry powder 1 tsp cumin 3 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth 1 – 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) 1 – 12 oz can evaporated milk (can use fat-free) Freshly ground black pepper to taste. Heat oil over medium heat, add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add spices and cook 1 min. Add broth and pumpkin. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 min. Add milk and cook two more minutes. Blend with immersion blender or transfer to blender and blend until smooth. You could even add pepitas so it looks like the picture below! The Engineer and I were fortunate enough to take a long trip to Australia for our honeymoon, and it was there I first had pumpkin soup. As an American, I surprised to have pumpkin in anything but pie, but that soup was amazing, and so is this one. However, if you’re not fond of cumin and curry, this recipe is probably not for you. If you like those flavors, you’re in for a treat! Delicious with crusty bread such as “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (Bread recipes will be in an upcoming installment).
Pennsylvania Eight Bean Soup 1 cup each: pinto, navy, kidney, large lima, small lima, black-eye peas, split peas, lentils, barley 2 tbsp salt Ham bone or ham hock or pork loin 1 large onion, chopped 1 large can tomatoes 1/2-1 tsp chili powder 1 tsp lemon juice 1 tsp sugar 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper Wash beans and barley. Place in large kettle and cover with water to 2” above beans. Add 2 tbsp salt. Soak overnight and drain in morning. Add 2 qts water and ham bone or hock. Bring to boil and simmer slowly 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove ham bone or hock. Cut off meat, chop and return to soup. Add onion, tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer slowly 1 or more hours. Serve with tossed salad and corn bread or crusty French Bread. ENJOY! This recipe came from my mom who got it from a friend or relative. I’ve never made it because I don’t like bean soup. From what I can recall, Mom liked it so much, she asked the recipe, so I’m sure if you do like bean soup, you’ll find it delicious.
Potato Leek Soup Click through for detailed instructions (with pictures!) and recipe for one of my favorite soup recipes. Easy, delicious, and perfect for freezing. Double the recipe, freeze half, and have a great meal now and one for another cold winter night! A kind of funny story about this soup: When I met The Engineer, he owned a timeshare in Portugal, where we visited several times. The little restaurant just up the hill from where we stayed offered a Prix Fixe meal including soup, crusty bread, fresh fish or Peri Peri Chicken with vegetables/potatoes and a half-bottle of wine for some ridiculous price (I seem to remember it being the equivalent of $5 American). The chicken and fish were good, but what we really loved was the soup and bread. (Later we visited with Darling Daughter as a toddler, and her favorite was the kittens that would race around, slipping and sliding on the dining area’s stone tiles.) Anyway, I tried for years to replicate that soup. It was potato based and had a green vegetable in it, so I tried potatoes and green beans, potatoes and peas … you name it. I never figured it out. Fast forward about ten years, when I received leeks in our CSA share and discovered this recipe as a way to use them. EUREKA! It was the Portuguese soup! When served with the basic bread from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” it’s almost as good as going back to Portugal. I lie. It’s not really as good as going back to Portugal. But it is a very good soup, especially for winter!
Beth’s Mom’s Spinach Salad 3/4 cup oil 1/4 cup vinegar 1/2 cup sugar 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 1/2 cup ketchup Whisk above items for dressing. 1-1/2 lb spinach 4 hard-boiled eggs 8 strips bacon, fried crisp and crumbled (can leave out for a vegetarian version) Small onion, grated. Optional: water chestnuts, mushrooms, canned orange segments If I’m being honest, I have to admit I like this salad (from my college roommate’s mom) mainly for the dressing. Sweet and tangy!
Beth’s Mom’s Warehouse Salad Dressing 1 med onion 1 tsp mustard 1 tsp salt 1 tsp celery seed (not ground) 1 cup salad oil 1/3 cup white vinegar 2/3 cup sugar Mix all in blender. Store in sealed jar in refrigerator. Shake well before serving. Yields one pint. Beth’s mom was a great cook, and so was Beth (and still is, I’m sure, though I’ve not seen her in many years).
Since the COVID pandemic started, I’ve found myself hankering for recipes I used to make that have fallen by the wayside. Locating these favorites took effort, and I decided to put them into a collection where they would be readily available. In doing so, I was spurred on by the idea of sharing not only my favorites, but other recipes that have been given to me through the years by people I loved.
This became “Comfort Cooking,” which I share with you in the hope that you might find a new (or old) recipe that will add joy — or at least some deliciousness — to this challenging time.I plan to email this collection to my friends and family as a holiday gift and decided to also share it as a series here.
Eventually things will get better.
P.S. Although I did re-read these recipes, I did not go back and double-check against the originals. If in doubt about ingredients or instructions, feel free to email me and I’ll check.
Amaretto Clone 6 Cups sugar 4 cups water 1/2 gal vodka 1 fifth apricot brandy 3 oz almond extract Bring sugar and water to boil and boil for one minute. Add remaining ingredients. Cool and bottle.
Doris Taylor’s Brandy 1 lb fruit 1 lb sugar 1 fifth vodka Use a wide mouth jar. Place fruit in jar. Sprinkle sugar over fruit. Dribble vodka over mixture. Cover and let stand three months. DO NOT STIR OR SHAKE!
Kahlua Clone 4 cups sugar 2 cups water 6 tsp freeze-dried coffee 1/2 vanilla bean 1 qt cheap vodka Heat sugar, coffee, vanilla bean and water until sugar is dissolved. Mix in vodka. Store in the dark for two weeks. (Keep bean in.) Makes 1/2 gallon.
Irish Cream 1 can Eagle Brand milk (sweetened condensed) 2 cups whiskey 2 cups heavy cream or half and half 1 tsp. instant coffee 2 oz Kahlua Mix ingredients and refrigerate. Note on recipe: “Phyllis doubles this.”These drink recipes came from Phyllis Memmer, my mother’s long-time (over fifty years) friend and friend of our family. So many things to do with vodka!
Black Bean and Corn Salsa 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained 1 can whole kernel corn, drained 6 tbsp fresh lime juice (I use bottled because I never have limes.) 6 tbsp vegetable oil (I use olive.) 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (You can use a mix of the two and can also use dried. Fresh is better.) 1/4 cup minced red onion 1/4 cup minced green onion (I frequently don’t have green or even red onion and end up using 1/2 cup of whatever kind I have.) 1-1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 chopped tomatoes Mix beans and corn. Whisk lime juice and oil. Pour over vegetables and add remaining ingredients. Mix, season with salt and pepper, chill, and serve with tortilla chips.My friend Cathy’s recipe, this also appeared in “Cook’s Choice” fundraiser cookbook Darling Daughter and I created to raise funds for her People to People trip.
Chile Bean Dip 2 cans chile bean soup (specifies Campbell’s Chunky or Manhandlers, which tells you how old the recipe is — just buy what sounds close) 4-8 oz taco sauce (to taste) 1 lg onion, chopped 1/2 of a 6-1/2 oz can of chopped black olives 2 cups shredded cheddar Layer in shallow dish: soup, onion, olives, sauce, then cheese. Bake until cheese melts and is bubbly. Serve immediately with corn chips or tortilla chips. From my mom, Helen Byrd Deuring
Cucumber Piquant In a pint jar with lid: 2 tbsp sugar, dash pepper, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp celery seed, 2 tbsp parsley, 1/4 cup thin sliced onions Mix, then add: 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp lemon juice Shake well, then add: Thin sliced cucumbers, if tender, don’t peel. Place in refrigerator for several hours, turn and shake. There will be plenty of liquid. From Aunt Eleanor Elsen — This was one of the recipe cards given to me at my bridal shower. Aunt Eleanor and her husband owned and ran Elsen’s Restaurant in Akron for many years.
Daryle’s Cheese Ball 2 – 8 oz. packages of cream cheese 3 tbsp. finely chopped onion* 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 1 container of dried parsley (10 oz) or can use fresh Leave cream cheese to soften a little before you mix it. I put the cream and cheddar cheeses in a large bowl with the onions, then use a butter knife to mix it. When all mixed, form a ball, put on a plate and sprinkle with parsley flakes enough to cover the ball. It takes about 1/2 the container of parsley. Place parsley-covered ball in ziplock and refrigerate overnight. Serve with sturdy crackers. *One copy of the recipe says 1/2 cup onion. Daryle says: “I don’t usually measure the onions. I cut up a small one, so it may be a little more or less. This is a favorite holiday recipe.”
Dill Dip 2/3 cup sour cream 1/3 cup mayo 1 tsp seasoned salt 1 tbsp dill weed 1 tbsp onion flakes 1 tbsp parsley Mix all ingredients. Chill for several hours. Serve with raw veg (celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli).Another recipe card from my shower, this one from my cousin Karen.
Orange Julius Clone 1 – 6 oz can frozen OJ 1 cup water 1 cup milk 1/3 cup sugar 1 tsp vanilla 7-8 ice cubes 5-6 shots vodka (again with the vodka, though here it’s optional) Combine in blender and blend for 30 seconds. If you use regular OJ, use 1-3/4 cup and omit the water. This one came from the kitchen of Vivian, a family friend who went to our church. It’s meant to be similar to a drink served at a chain called Orange Julius.
Spinach Dip 1 – 10 oz. package chopped frozen spinach 1 cup mayo 1 cup sour cream 1/3 cup minced green onion 1 tbsp dry dill weed 1/2 tsp salt 1 round loaf of pumpernickel bread. Thaw spinach and press out all water. Chop fine in blender or food processor. Stir remaining ingredients and spinach together. Chill several hours. Hollow out bread. Serve dip inside surrounded by bread pieces for dipping. From Mom — This remains a popular party dip. And for a change from vodka-based drinks, when life gives you lemons, make …
Whiskey Slushes 1 – 12 oz. can frozen lemonade 1 – 12 oz. can frozen OJ 6 tea bags – 2 cups H2O 1-1/2 – 2 cups whiskey 2 cups sugar 6 cans H2O Freeze. Pour 7Up over. I think I must have had one (or three) of these before I copied my college roommate Beth’s recipe because the directions are vague, as is the memory of drinking them. Of course, it was about forty years ago.
I’m not very good at handicrafts. And I have the test scores to prove it. (I also have photos, shared below. I have no pride.)
You see, when I was fourteen, we took an aptitude test at school. This test rated a person’s aptitude for a variety of work-related abilities and assigned a score from 1-10 for each.
I recently stumbled across my results. Readers, I scored under five on motor coordination, manual dexterity, and a measly 2 on finger dexterity.
So, I have an excuse.
However, my grandmother was very good at crochet, and she taught my mother who taught me.
Because of them, I can manage basic patterns and might even be able to do more complex work if I wanted to concentrate.
But that’s not why I crochet.
I crochet while The Engineer and I watch movies. It helps me relax.
Complicated patterns would defeat the purpose and almost certainly involve a lot of swearing.
Instead I use two basic patterns — a giant granny square and one where you do a single crochet in the back loop of the previous rows stitches. Or a double crochet. Or a half double. (I can do these stitches as long as no one asks me which stitch it is I’m doing. For that I need a book.)
No bad language. Very relaxing.
In this bumbling manner I’ve managed to make more afghans than we could ever possibly need, one for practically every member of my family and many of my friends, and have long since moved on to making them for people I don’t know.
First, they went to our library’s Warm Up America program. Then, I donated to our local hospice. When it closed, the afghans piled up in the spare room until I found a fabric store accepting such donations.
However, I recently had a brain wave and thought to check with my mom’s long-term care facility to see if they had residents who might like such donations.
They were thrilled! I was thrilled because there were six on one of our living room chairs.
These afghans are scrappy because they’re made primarily from thrift store yarn. I’m not rich, after all.
Thrift store yarn is usually single skeins of single colors and ends of skeins left over from someone else’s project.
As a result, my afghans are a bit like the crazy quilts of our ancestors made from old dresses, flour sacks, and any bits of fabric they had saved.
This appeals to me because I love randomly mixing colors and textures, though I must admit some turn out better than others.
They’re all cheap and cheerful, as the Brits would say, which is great because I like cheap, and I like cheerful.
There have been a misshappen few I kept, unwilling to foist them on others (though they are lovely and soft).
See below for illustration of just how far off course I have wandered.
To make it even more obvious.
Generally, however, they turn out well. This is my latest endeavor, and another I’m not quite sure about. That rust colored yarn … hmm.
Too bad I didn’t take photos of the ones I just donated. They were more — how do I put this? — normal in their color combinations. Still, that rust-colored yarn is very soft, and I hope it will feel comforting to whoever ends up with the afghan.
Recently, I found a pattern for these super-simple crochet stars. They’ve become a small addiction because I can whip one up in about fifteen minutes. At least, I can now I’ve reviewed how to do a double and treble stitch.
I’ve made quite a pile and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I’m going to give them to everyone! On packages, on cards, to co-workers, strung for the tree and/or our mantle.
The best part is I’m using up all sorts of little scraps (more scrappiness!) of yarn that I didn’t even remember I had.
My third scrappy project is using some of our beeswax (mostly from cappings cut off during the extracting process) to make candles. So far, I’ve made just the one. I wanted to see how it worked out.
Beeswax smells so good when it’s burning.
In summary, I guess you could say I may not be handy, but I’m definitely the scrappy type!
This morning I saw a gathering of crows by the side of the highway.
What drew my eyes to the birds is the fact that they were pecking at a bag of trash some motorist had helpfully tossed out the window. The bag was plastic, so the crows were almost certainly injesting plastic microparticles.
A group of crows really is called a “murder,” ironic considering that’s what we, not them, are doing to our world.
In some ways, it’s an easy read. His writing is succinct and clear. It’s the message that’s hard to take, though it’s certainly not news.
Our way of life, with all its careless wastefulness, is destroying our world.
The generations who came before us had ignorance as an excuse. They were simply trying to make their hard lives a little easier.
We have no such excuses. We know what we are doing, and if anything, our lives are a little too easy, a fact readily discernible simply by looking at the waistlines of most people who live in first-world countries.
So, what do we do about it?
The so-called leader of our country has walked back many of the regulations meant to protect our world and done so with the full support of many U.S. citizens.
And it’s become common to throw out items simply because we fancy something new.
That’s needlessly wasteful.
An example: When we lived in the city, on the nights before trash pick-up, we’d ride bikes around the neighborhood to garbage pick.
Yes, I know it sounds tacky. But you wouldn’t believe what people set out on their tree lawns. Full-sized Little Tikes kitchens and slides, bicycles, chairs, and hundreds of other still-useful objects.
Darling Daughter learned to ride on a bike picked off a tree lawn.
It was brand-new. No, really, it was. Someone had mis-threaded one of the pedals, and instead of fixing it or taking it to a bike shop, they put it out on the lawn.
She rode that bike until it was too small for her. I can’t remember what we did with it then, but it certainly didn’t go on the lawn. It was either donated or given to another kid.
Most of the things people toss are plastic, which I find especially heinous because plastic never goes away.
Searching for the future among the things we’re throwing away Swimming through the ocean of junk we produce every day You have to admit it’s clever Maybe the pinnacle of human endeavor When things are made to throw away but never made to disappear
The way we eat and travel affects the earth too, filling our world with carbon and methane, contributing to global warming.
According to NBC News, about 1/4 of climate change is caused by agriculture and industrial farming.
We can do something about this, choosing to buy local when possible from smaller farms (which also cuts down on the fuel used to get our foods to us) and eating more plant-based meals by choosing to not have meat for every breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Yes, it can be more expensive to buy from local farmers. But if you buy items in season and freeze them for later, it can actually cost less than items purchased from a store. And protein from beans and legumes is not nearly as costly as meat.
After reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, The Engineer and I made a commitment to eat meat only once a day. Sometimes it’s sausage with breakfast, but mostly we eat animal protein at dinner.
This is not a huge sacrifice, though it’s not quite what Safran Foer is encouraging. His goal is no animal products before dinner, and we still eat a lot of eggs and cheese.
A quick note on eggs: We’re fortunate to live in a county where there are still people who raise chickens, so we buy our eggs locally. In the summer, we get them with our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, and in the winter, I keep an eye out for roadside signs, occasionally driving to a small roadside stand nearby. They cost anywhere from $3-$5 per dozen, which is substantially more than the ones at Aldi.
However, buying eggs this way means we know they come from birds that are not factory farmed.
Do this for me: Look at a standard sheet of paper. That’s 94 square inches.
Ultimately, we pay a high price for cheap eggs (and meat).
Also, local eggs just taste better. The yolks are creamier, bright orange instead of anemic yellow.
The same can be said for meat. It tastes more like, well, meat.
It also smells like meat. The first time I opened a package of local chicken, I was a bit put off. Until I recognized what was happening, I thought something was wrong. Then a sensory memory surfaced, and I realized what I was smelling was chicken. I’d become accustomed to opening packs of chicken that had no smell (probably because the parts had been chlorinated).
These are choices we have made about food, ones we are fortunate to have the option and means to make. And we have made other decisions regarding the amount of plastic and disposable items we use.
My point in writing this post is not to say, “I do this, and you should too.” It would be unethical to try to impose my beliefs on others, and the choices we have made wouldn’t work for everyone.
Nor do I hold myself blameless in what we are doing to our world. I have many wasteful habits (long hot showers and baths being two of them) and could certainly live more lightly on the earth.
All I ask is for each of us to consider the effects our daily decisions have on the world, and to factor those effects into the choices we make.
If we don’t (and honestly, maybe even if we do), we will destroy the only environment in which we can survive. Earth will continue turning, but we’ll no longer be here to enjoy the ride. The saddest part is we’ll be taking many other species with us, species that did nothing to deserve the mass extinction that lurks ahead.
The best analogy I can find is the earth is like a horse carrying a rider, until it finally grows tired of the weight and bucks that rider to the ground. The horse runs on, free from encumbrance. The rider is left behind in the dust.