Friday, April 18, 2014

{this moment}

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{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Beet Velvet Cupcakes

I have been wanting to give Red Velvet Cupcakes a shot for a while. The Red #40 has usually deterred me, but I had these two beets lying around from the winter CSA share... so we gave it a whirl. The wise 'net told me to keep the batter pretty acidic so as to preserve the red hue of the beets. My smart middle child remarked that we knew that from our own experiment this past winter :-) Hence the buttermilk, no baking soda, and added lemon juice. I have read reports that natural cocoa is better than dutch processed but I have no idea what kind I used, it was a bulk purchase a while ago. The web said not to overdo the cocoa, so we kept it to 2 Tbsp but a tad more might not have hurt. Here we go for the specifics:


1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (don't use more)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cocoa
1 1/4 cups sugar (don't cut this below 1 cup at most)

1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup butter milk
1 1/3 cup pureed cooked beets
2 eggs
2/3 stick butter, soft
1 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 375 (365 if using convection). Stir the first group of ingredients together. I actually only used 1 cup of sugar (the recipes I had looked at used 1 1/2), but I think 1 1/4 would be optimal.

Blend the second group of ingredients with the stick blender (that was dirty from pureeing the beets anyway). Then stir both together and fill into mini cupcake molds. We tried mini and standard sizes and there was a significant difference, the mini really comes out better!

Bake for, ahem, as long as seems right. I actually forgot to set a timer. They baked longer than I thought a regular cupcake would. In fact, I sort of forgot them in the oven and feared the worst, but they were just right. Maybe 20 or even 25 minutes, and another 20 minutes for standard size on top of that. I suppose it's all that moisture from the beets that makes them so slow.


We didn't frost them. I'm sure if you did, it would only add to the awesome. There is some beet flavor, but all my beet-hating kids ate them, so clearly it wasn't too bad! I plan to keep this recipe around!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's that day!

Oh happy day! Pictures say more than words, because really, we're all just squealing and awww-ing anyway.

Barred Rock Pullet. See the egg-breaking horn on the tip of the beak!

It wasn't this crowded for long - friends came to pick up their share

The brooder set-up

The babee is beyond happy.

So happy I'm allowed to photograph her!

We're exhausted! We need a nap!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A hard working weekend

This weekend had us officially opening the gardening season. I started reading up on pruning, at the recommendation of friends, following this book. Oh dear, I'm afraid I have turned into a monster. Or maybe I'm a shear-wielding superhero (Yeah. Right. Only in my own head). One way or the other, and hopefully for better, not worse, a lot of trees and shrubs have gotten hair cuts, including my indoor lemon tree and rubber trees.

Then we went to Home Depot and came across the perfect landscape timber - 5x5" cedar logs. I had been asking for a "children's garden" in the front yard, where the neighborhood kids wait for the bus and play. So here's the progress on that! I'm excited, to say the least.

I am planning on having a tunnel trellis between the beds 

Because I always find it hard to figure out how to fill these things (how can you ever tell where your fill really comes from?) for not a lot of money, I ended up using a modified sort of lasagna method again, as last year. I took a lot of the leaf mulching off the rest of my garden beds and saw that the earth worms really liked those... I piled all those leaves into the frames, added a bunch of also very wormy* half-finished compost (to inocculate it a bit), and water the whole thing really well.

Now top it off with 3 layers of newspaper, and then I will use bagged organic garden soil (I know. The bags don't excite me either, but I won't need quite as much, at least) for a top layer to plan my seeds and starts in.

The idea here is that as the lower layer composts in place, the earth worms will till it, and the old sod underneath it, and the roots of the new plants will go through the newspaper as it disintegrates and feed on brand new compost. Since it worked well for me last year, I'm sticking with this plan. The added beauty of not having to turn the old topsoil and take off the sod has nothing to do with this lazy gardener's preferences, ahem. Nothing at all.

* A while back I tried vermicomposting. It wasn't for me so I dumped the whole bin onto my compost pile. At the time I didn't even really turn my compost much, I think. Those worms are still there three winters later, and multiplying like crazy. I can only recommend buying a bag of worms and putting them in the compost!

Friday, April 11, 2014

{this moment}

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{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Queen or Bust?

The other day when I put top feeders on the hives and took the winter insulation off, I checked very briefly for eggs in both hives and didn't find any. This worried me, because I remembered not seeing queen activity in fall either, so I wondered if the queens had made it through winter. 
Winter bees live a few months, much longer than summer bees, but even they will eventually expire and the only way to replenish the population is with a queen who is a diligent egg layer. So finding evidence of queens today was a matter of survival and if I didn't see eggs today, I would have had to buy commercial queens ASAP. So the babee and I ventured into the first hive inspection of the year:

Assistant beekeeper suiting up

 The inside of a well kept top feeder. There is a dowel in the feeding well that keeps the bees from drowning. There should not be a lot of dead bees in the syrup. (The one time I had massive amounts of dead bees in the feed was an indication of robbing.)

The population level at first sight was not exactly awe inspiring.  Let's hope that most bees were busy finding pollen...

Oh sweetest sight: White slimy wormely bee larvae! Babees! "So cute!" says the assistant beekeeper. Gotta love that kid for loving something so homely.

Flat capped brood! What that means is that the queen is mated and producing worker bees for offspring. Based on the date of my last quick check and the fact that these bees seemed to already be hatching, I must have done a crummy job of inspecting. There were several frames of this classic pattern: A center of capped brood, surrounded by younger brood, surrounded by eggs, and then on the outside of the frame, some honeycomb. To this beekeeper, this is the perfect rainbow. 

I was not able to see queens in either hive, but I know the queens aren't marked, and they may not have been on the frames I pulled, or even in the lower boxes, which I didn't inspect. (In a few weeks, I will reverse top and bottom boxes as the brood nest expands.) For now, I will be content knowing that the populations of my hives are growing and all is well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What's growing?

My first 'what's growing' post of the year! And look: 

Cherry tree needs pruning

Garlic sprouts!

Winter sowed kale is sprouting!
Seedlings under the grow lights doing well.

More seedlings.

Mint! Always first to come back in the herb garden.

2 kinds of chives and the reliable lemon balm coming back
 Only the beginnings, and only the beginnings of busy season. We're raking the leaves off the beds that were used as a winter mulch. We're turning the compost, hoping willing it to be ready in a few weeks to get the beds ready for planting. We're getting ready for baby chick season. Eeeek! Fluffballs! Coming up! 

I'll close with pictures from my first trail run of the year:

My pace crew. Faster and prettier than me. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Some good words

This week has been very busy with some good stuff and some not exactly amazing stuff (overflowing septic, anyone? At least I got a new tool out of that one...).

In the middle of all of that, I came across these two quotes, which somehow hit a nerve after a week full of intense debate among friends and fellow activists about population growth, environmental impact, corporate dominance, and the gloomy report from the IPCC, and burn-out.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader among the Dakota, Lakota, Nakota people:  
“Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of mankind.  Do you think that the creator would create unnecessary people in a time of danger? Know that you are essential to this world. The biggest cancer spreading upon Mother Earth is the tar sands.”

Chief Reuben George, Tsleil-Waututh: 
“One thing I can say right off the bat is that we are winning. When we come together like this, we become stronger. There is no price for our water and lands.  The lessons we receive from Mother Earth is to become better human beings.  We give back to the earth and the land.  The pipelines do not do that.  We are going to win!”

Reject and Protect Image 2 copy logod-01

Find out more about the reject and protect actions, put together by a group named Cowboy and Indian Alliance. (Is that the best name ever, or what?), and consider making a donation if you're able.

Friday, April 4, 2014

{this moment}

. . . . . . . . .

{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

See the bee!