Sunday, October 31, 2010

First Honey Harvest!

This weekend, we harvested our first batch of honey from the hives we got last spring.  It was the culmination of months of caring for the bees and making sure they survived the summer heat with very little in the way of flowers available to them.  Finally, in September, with cooler weather, they got busy adding honey to the higher supers (the boxes which contain the frames where the bees build their hive)


Don starts the smoker, the first step any time he touches the bee hive is to distract the bees with smoke.


While they rushed to save honey from what they thought was a burning hive, we robbed them of two or three supers worth of honey.


The kids watched...


The lid came off, and the bee separator worked well.  There were few bees left in the supers above it.


Don brushed off the few that were there. 

 Then put the supers and frames in a cart with a sheet to cover them.


We had a portable honey house set up with this screened tent, so the bees wouldn't bother us as we extracted the honey. As soon as the effect of the smoke was gone, we could see them from inside trying to poke through the screen.


Once inside the honey house, it was time to get the frames ready for extraction.  Don scraped the wax off the honey cells, opening them and exposing the honey.


Into the extractor...


Spinning the frames makes it easy to remove the honey.  Then it was filtered into a food grade buckets for storage.

The kids watched with anticipation for the first sight of honey...

We extracted seven gallons of honey.  It was a good day to harvest, the weather cooperated nicely, and everyone had a good time.

I am linking with Harvest Monday, where you'll find what others around the world are growing and harvesting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October Florida Wildflowers

No idea what this is, living in the back by the banana tree...
Blanket Flower
Morning Glory

Today, I am linking with Wordless Wednesday, Outdoor WednesdayWildflower Wednesday, and Fertilizer Friday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jesse Crows!

I've posted before about Jesse, our Dark Brahma.  He has lived up to the reputation of his breed.  He is a big roo and very gentle.  He has also been a late bloomer, another one of the breed's attributes.  I've never grown attached to any of our roosters before.  In fact, I've only had degrees of dislike towards them.  They all grew up to be rather mean and rough on the hens.  Jesse, on the other hand, is gentle. Crowing isn't the first sign of his completed masculinity...  He has been seen carousing around the females, doing the "Jesse dance," and even... mounting them!

This morning, we finally heard him.  I went back to the coops to make sure it was him... it sure was. With camera in hand, I shot a video.  The kids loved it.  He's a favorite. 

Monday, October 25, 2010



About a year ago, we went to an Amish restaurant in Sarasota and had some of their goulash.  I've been trying to come up with their recipe ever since.  I think this one is very similar.


A few months ago, Sam's Club was selling Spice Island's smoked paprika in large containers.  I took advantage of the lower price and have been using smoked paprika in many dishes.  It goes very well with fish, especially blackened... and I love the depth of flavor the smoked paprika gave to this dish.


Makes 8 servings
3 lbs. ground beef (preferably grass fed beef!)
1/4 cup smoked paprika
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 onions , minced
6 cloves garlic , minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 red bell peppers , stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
2 lbs. cooked elbow macaroni

Season meat with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of the paprika. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the meat and cook until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the browned meat to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the empty pot and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, peppers, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 3 tablespoons paprika. Cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the browned beef along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer for 30 mintues.

Remove the pot from heat. Whisk 1/2 cup of the stewing liquid into the sour cream and add the sour cream mixture to the stew. Stir in pasta and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. 

I am linking with Hearth and Soul Hop, go visit and see what others are cooking from their hearths; Also Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday too. 

Harvest Monday - 10/25/10


Just when I was thinking the garden was not going to give me anything this week, I was happily surprised to find I was wrong.  Jericho Lettuce, hot red peppers, purple and dragon's tongue beans, bok choy, parsley, and plenty of eggplant will make for a nice dinner tonight.  Do you see our first ripe Barbados cherries?


I may have waited too long to thin the bok choy...  I'm hoping that what is left will have room to grow and the roots weren't damaged.

The Barbados cherry I wrote about last week is now giving us sweet red cherries.  I wish I could plant it in the ground but it is a tropical tree and just can't take cold weather at all. 


We still have a few okra on a couple of plants.  I'm leaving them to grow for seed keeping.  Once the pods mature, they must be harvested and left to dry before the seeds can be saved.
Clean harvest drying in the sink...

I forgot to mention watercress.  Do you see it on the left?  It is back and growing like a weed. Both parsley and watercress volunteered from last year's crops which were left to go to flower for the bees.  When I first planted watercress, I thought it wouldn't grow in Florida.  I always associated it with nice tea sandwiches served at fancy tea houses, something they grow in England.  During our colder months, it grows happily alongside many other vegetables common in more temperate climates.

If you go to Daphne's Harvest Monday post and Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party, you can see gardens and vegetables others are growing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fertilizer Friday - Fruits & Berries

xholly3Several things caught my eye today as I walked around outside with my camera.  One was our holly tree which is covered with red berries.  This tree has been in our yard since we moved here eight years ago, but it has never had anything comparable to the amount of berries it has now.  I look forward to decorating our mantle during the holidays with some of its branches because it has added color and nice texture there.  I guess this is why I noticed the big difference.  The reason, I am sure, is the bee hives we now have in the back.  Last spring, I saw hundreds or thousands of bees pollinating the little flowers this tree produces.  The result is really noticeable - so much fruit!  Talk about fertilizer...  

In a couple of weeks, we'll be harvesting honey from those hives and eating some of the nectar and pollen from this holly tree.   


I've been observing the pokeberry bushes that grow in one of the planting areas near the house. 

They spring up every year and grow beautiful flowers and berries that change colors from fuchsia to green, then deep purple.  I think it is a fascinating weed.

I know they spread their seeds around and can be invasive... but I like pokeberries.  The birds love them too.  It's beautiful.  I know some parts of the pokeweed are poisonous, but some are edible.  I don't think I'm brave enough to actually eat them... yet; but I did see a video about how to harvest this weed, yes I did. I'm posting it at the bottom of this post, in case you are curious.  Pokeberries have been used to make a dye and even ink.  It is said that the Declaration of Independence was written in fermented pokeberry ink.  I'll have to try making some one of these days.


I have been looking forward to this...

Barbados Cherry
Our Barbados Cherry bush is loaded with flowers and fruit.  We bought this bush at the USF Botanical Garden fall sale last year.  We've kept it in a large plastic container, which we had to move into the shed several times last winter when we had our hard freezes.  It is a tropical plant and doesn't like temperatures bellow 30 degrees.  But when I tried the fruit at the botanical garden sale, I loved it.  Not only are they delicious, but they're loaded with Vitamin C.

Here's that video about pokeweeds and how to harvest them...

I am linking with Fertilizer Friday and Nature Notes, where you can go see what others around the world are growing in their gardens.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

English Muffins (GF)

I've been feeling deprived of baked goods lately since going a gluten-free diet for the last couple of weeks.  I found this recipe and my mouth watered at the thought of some fresh-out-of-the-oven English muffins!  The recipe calls for regular flour, and I'm sure they would be delicious with it.  But I had to give it a try with my gluten-free flour mix.  Wow, they are fabulous.

English Muffins
Adapted from  Ordinary Time's recipe
Makes about 20 muffins

4 1/2 Tbsp. yeast - this recipe really does call for all that yeast.
3/4 c. very warm water
1 TBSP sugar
1/3 c. butter
2 1/2  c. milk
3 tsp salt
9 c. flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water.  Melt butter in milk, add salt when lukewarm and add to yeast.  Add 9 c. flour.  Beat batter well.  Cover and let rise to double the size.  Punch down. Roll out 1/2 inch think.  Cut into rounds.  Dust both sides with cornmeal.  Let rise until double.  Heat griddle or skillet, grease slightly.  Brown on both sides.

Gluten Free Flour

• 1 1/2 cups great northern bean flour
• 1 cup potato starch
• 2 cups white rice flour
• 1 cup tapioca flour
• ½ cup oat flour (from organic groats)

For cakes, add ¼-1/2 tsp Xantham Gum per cup, for breads ½ tsp per cup.

The reason I made my own flour mix was to cut down on the price, as gluten-free flour is really expensive.  We own a mill, so grinding the ingredients wasn't complicated.  We found a much cheaper source of tapioca flour at the Indian market.

Next time, I will cook some partially, then freeze them for later use.

I am linking with Fight Back Friday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cayo Costa

Views of Cayo Costa, Florida

We are back from a fantastic time at Cayo Costa...  We spent four days at the nicest island, beach, and nature preserve we've seen in Florida.  The weather was perfect, and there were no bugs!  We didn't have one single mishap.  The sunsets were fabulous... we had perfect hiking weather in the mornings, nice and cool. The guys had fun fishing. By afternoon, the beach was warm, just right for swimming.  The kids spent most of the time in the water!

Linking with Mosaic Monday

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's time for a break!

We are leaving tomorrow for the beach. Read more about it here! Monday will be picture day - that is, if Old Henry doesn't get us... Have a great weekend!

Wordless Wednesday - Animals About Us

Swallowtail?  found resting on a hibiscus by the back porch
Black Swallowtail caterpillar feasting on parsley
Honeybee working on elderberry flowers by the side of the house
Honeybees busy making honey in the back yard
Bronze turkey in the back pen
Ace - summer guest
Green Anole - garden friend
Oldest daughter - the chicken whisperer

I am linking with Wordless Wednesday and Outdoor Wednesday.

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