Friday, 21 June 2013

Top Bar Hive

Three years ago Max made a top bar hive. We wanted to compare the two different ways of beekeeping. We left the TBH outside in an enticing position and waited...and waited. Absolutely nothing! We had swarms from our hives but we wanted these back. For the TBH we were hoping for a wild swarm or a swarm from a callout. But for two years we had no calls for swarms and the TBH found its way to the back of the wood barn where it waited some more.

Then on Monday we were driving home when I suddenly saw a swarm sitting in a tree trunk just a few miles from home. Max returned half an hour later with the only equipment we currently have available - a small step and a sheet - and bought them home. Meanwhile I had managed to extract the TBH from under a pile of wood.

It took a while. These bees were obviously looking for a different des res but luck and the weather were on our side. It started to rain and didn't stop for 24 hours. It's not often I welcome 24 hours of rain, especially during the tennis season, but this time I was delighted. The bees realise that a TBH that was waterproof was the best offer they were getting and filed in. We checked yesterday and they are slowly building comb. We are devising a feeding system for them as the weather is still not great.

I will try and keep you up to date on this hive. I love the idea if a more natural way of beekeeping although I have no plans to get rid of my trusty Dadant hives.


The garden in late June

A wet June but it hasn't all been bad. The pears are amazing; for once I thinned then and it seems to have paid dividends as the fruit is developing nicely and we should have a good crop.

The artichokes always look beautiful and add structure.

Stargazer lilies and decorative poppies outside the kitchen door add colour and the courgettes are delicious - we've just eaten some!


Lily Beetle

There is only one good thing about the lily beetle : you can see them easily. Once the lilies start coming through I check on them several times a day. Almost without fail I find one or more of these beasts. They are very nifty at dropping off the leaf at the first sign of danger (ie me) but I have developed some equally nifty techniques at catching them.

I usually have a small container of some sort so that I can just knock them in. They fall on their back and I can then pick them out and kill them between two stones.

If I don't have a container I try to arrange things in such a way that they fall into my hand. Then again the trick with the stones.

Be warned, these beasties can fly away. However, if they are on their back you usually have the upper hand.

Why are they so horrible? They lay their eggs on the underside of the lily leaf and the larvae hatch in what appears to be poo. The larvae then eat voraciously, weakening the plant to such an extent that the flowers are severely stunted.

I am always open to suggestions of a positive nature. If anyone wants to give me just one good reason not to squash these red pests, I will listen carefully.


Yippee, courgettes

Not many and not huge, but delicious. If the weather picks up maybe we'll get some more.


Strawberry Coulis

This year we have had another bumper strawberry crop. 2.5kilos every two days for between two and three weeks. We eat most of them of course, but just occasionally even we find our limit.

My solution to the extra is to make and freeze strawberry coulis. It takes approximately 10 minutes from start to freezer. I store them in foil ramekins and use them throughout the year as an accompaniment to yoghurt, ice cream, etc.

I am sure there are other recipes but this is the one I use.

500gms strawberries, hulled
100gms castor sugar
100mls water

Put the strawberries in a liquidiser.
Bring the sugar and the water to a gentle simmer for about five minutes, making sure the sugar is dissolved.
Pour the syrup over the strawberries and liquidise.
Pour into ramekins and freeze.


Saturday, 15 June 2013


Never mind Ascot or Wimbledon, we have strawberries galore!

My favourite way to eat them is of course straight off the plant. However, I also love strawberry sandwiches. It has to be on plain white bread - I use the traditional French baguette. Squiggle down the strawberry and eat. Somehow the flavor blends into the bread and explodes in the mouth. You don't believe me? Well, try it for yourself.


Monday, 3 June 2013

The garden in June