Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Honey update

The honey from 2009 was excellent. To our astonishment we have sold nearly all of it via the local market and are keeping the last few pots for ourselves. I hope that we have made enough money to upgrade at least two of our hives. I would prefer them all to be 10 frame Dadant and at the moment we have 3 which are 12 frame. This simply means that the supers from one size don't fit the other and it was very frustrating last year finding we'd taken the wrong ones out to the apiary. Also, realistically, a 10 frame is just a bit lighter than a 12 frame so easier on the back.

I took advantage of the brief blast of sunshine last week to look at the hives and heft them - lifting the hive to see how heavy it is gives you an idea of how much honey is left inside for the bees. This time of year is critical as the bees are just beginning to enjoy slightly finer weather but there isn't any food for them so if the hive is low on stores they starve to death. I put a block of candy on the feeder boards of each hive and this hopefully sees them through to the appearance of the first food in the spring. The feeder board is placed between the main body of the hive and the lid and the candy sits on a hole so that the bees can get at it from underneath.

Of course the wild hive presents all sorts of problems. There is no feeder board with a convenient hole so the candy is placed pretty much amongst the bees. Needless to say getting it there upsets them (although I like to think they appreciate it when they realise what it is I've given them!) and they were getting just a touch irritated with me. I was only wearing the veil (not the trousers) because usually bees are quite sleepy at this time of year. Famous last words - there was nothing sleepy about these bees! Still, the job was done and hopefully the candy will help the bees through the rest of the winter.

Freezing potatoes, tomatoes and onions

Well, it's been a while. I went to London in September and when I got back I just lost the oomph for blogging. This was partly because there was just so much in the garden - 2009 was a mega year for fruit and vegetables. We ate most of the fruit as it came off the bush/tree, but the vegetables were so plentiful, preservation was required.

For once I didn't make any chutney. In our house this goes down as unforgiveable! I just never got around to it, partly I suppose because I actually had some work during the chutney making period so that took priority.

So, how to preserve vegetables? The great thing about the garden nowadays is that if you have a question you just tap it into a search engine and up comes the answer, or 110,000 of them, in an instant.

I have frozen potatoes successfully in the past, both as par-boiled (for roasting) and mashed (for re-heating and serving) and I did the same this year. However, I did store about 20 sacks (each containing 5-10 kilos) of potatoes in the barn and we are still eating these. Despite being stored in the cold and total dark, they have all started sprouting but not turning green. They still roast, boil and mash well so until they go green or rotten we'll eat those and keep the frozen potatoes for that period between none left and first earlies.

Tomatoes also freeze successfully and this year I just froze them whole. They are wonderful for pasta sauces - I just take them out of the freezer, run them under the tap (which makes their skins slip off easy as pie), chop them roughly and throw them in the pan. Easy.

Onions - well this was a new one on me. We had a fantastic crop of onions and shallots and as well as plaiting some I discovered that I could freeze onions - just chop them up and put them in a plastic bag. Use them straight from the freezer. I added a bag to the pasta sauce (and the faithful tomatoes) last night. It was excellent. However, remember that onions have a high water content so when they defreeze they are not quite the same consistency.