Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The bees at the end of March

Isn't rhubarb gnarly looking when it first pokes up out of the warming spring soil?
I think of aliens, and brains, or maybe alien brains? What I don't think of is pollen.
There isn't any.

 But take a close look at the bees...

You might just about be able to see that some of these little gals are so heavily laden with pollen that they can barely fly.  Look at that little group of three to the right of the sugar feeder.  The two flying above are looking at her stash of the good yellow stuff. 

They aren't finding any pollen in the currant bushes.  The first leaves are very tightly furled up, with no bud or blossom in sight.

If you look on the board behind her, you'll see another gal with some pollen, and another buzzing around in the air just above her.

The aspen trees have little catkins dangling down, but no yellow pollen could be coaxed out by me.  Maybe my little bees know a secret?

The lilacs are definitely bare, but they would be.  Even the tulips around here have a few weeks before they'll bloom.

Cherry?  Same thing!

I know of only one place in this whole town where you can find pollen.  It's about a half mile away, but that's definitely within a healthy bee's territory.  Tomorrow I need to go to the greenhouses in the Bi-Mart parking lot and see if any of my gals are hanging out in there.  I wouldn't blame them, what with the primroses and pansies and poppies in bloom, and the warm plastic sheeting over top to hold in the sun's warmth...

So yeah, I have a good scientific reason to go down there--I'm just scoping out the range of my bees, that's all.  It certainly isn't to imprudently purchase impatiens to plant in the snow forecast for tonight.

Bees. Yup.  That's my story, and I'm sticking with it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Daring Bakers: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

Mandatory blog checking lines:  The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

There's never been a bad Daring Bakers challenge--NEVER--but I'm afraid you guys might get bored if I start off yet another challenge with "this was phenomenal," or "this challenge was so awesome," but the fact is, this challenge was awesome and phenomenal!

And now you're bored, right?

Wake up and smell the coffee caked people!  You're smelling warm, moist, fluffy yeast bread; you're smelling cinnamon  and sugar; you're smelling Sunday morning and flannel sheets, and you're smelling comfort right out of the oven.  Really, it's quite worthwhile to stay awake for.

You're wondering about the meringue, aren't you?  I was, too, when I first read the challenge and began studying the recipe.  Essentially, this is a giant uncut cinnamon roll that uses meringue instead of butter to hold the yummy goodness of cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate into the spiral instead of the more commonly used melted butter. 

How can anything with less butter be better?  Because the meringue all but melts into the bread dough, leaving the goodies suspended in steam, unadulterated and much less heavy than what you're used to in a cinnamon roll.  

Yer just gonna have to trust me on this.

No, wait, yer not gonna have to trust me.  Yer gonna make it yerself and see. 


Here's the link for the recipe.  The only changes I made were doubling the amount of sugar in the dough (oops!) forgetting the egg wash (oops!) and adding glaze (yummy!).

Other DB'ers made savoury versions, too.  Ham and cheese, pepperoni, and I can't remember what all else.  I drooled a lot this month, watching other creations come to life on the DB forums!  Have fun with this, and let me know how yours turns out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting better

Things around here are getting better.  Let's say....about a three out of ten.

This is a far cry from the -4 we were at before, but shows we still have a lot of work to do.

And, my friends, it's been a lot of work.

Luckily, we were able to bring in the professionals, and that's made all the difference in the world.

The only other thing I have to say is that I'm so glad that 13 is an age you reach once, and only once, in your life. 

Like, totally.

In other news, the bees are starting to make brief forays out into the world.  I'm a bit disturbed by the fact that many of the little ladies in front of the door have wax on their legs, as if they were ready to go play house somewhere else.  But, they keep flying back into the hive, so maybe these are pretend run-aways?  I'm really ot sure what to make of it.  We're still getting snow off and on, and no flowers are in bloom ANYWHERE around here, so I've been giving them bit of sugar water here and there.

This past week, on the advice of previously mentioned professionals, we took the family out of the valley and went to the big city far away.  We hit a bookstore, and I splurged.  I've been seeing reference to Ashely's books on a few of my favorite blogs, and when I lay my very own little eyes on them in the store, I couldn't help myself.  Out popped my wallet (rather, out popped Mr. Boom's wallet) and in the flick of the eye I owned Home Dairy and Keeping Bees.  I'd like to blame this on the fact that Chirp-chirp refused to get out of the car, and we were hurrying, so I didn't have time to talk myself out of the purchase.  Let's just go with that, shall we?

Anyway, the hook that got me in the Keeping Bees book was a recipe for fondant for feeding bees when pollen and nectar are scarce (or as the case is here, non-existent). I tried the recipe soon after we came home, but it was a flop.  Does this:

Look like this?

I think not!  I'm not *sure* where it went wrong, but in looking at other fondant for bees recipes I found that the hot sugar mixture is allowed to cool somewhat, then beaten, then allowed to cool down the rest of the way.  The recipe in this book has you pour the molten hot sugar onto a dish, allow it to cool a bit, then pour it into a loaf pan or other similar mold.  Maybe we were supposed to beat it in between the two receptacles? Otherwise, why use two dishes?  It says the final product can be sliced.  Mine is scoopable--not sliceable.  That could be a temperature issue, though, so I'll try it again and cook it hotter.  Anything for my furry little girls and their promise of honey later on!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Very bad to worse

Get your little violins out...
Things have gone from bad, to very bad, to worse.
No cooking, no gardening, only a half-assed attempt to keep the chickens and bees happy.
Lots of snow, and rain, and tears.
We're scrambling to find help, sworn to secrecy, and scared to death that our nightmares surface as truth.
We'll get on top of this--I'm sure of that. I'm not sure how.
We are so low, and so much of this is out of our hands.
I'll be back, I just wonder if you all will be, too?
Please give me time?