Saturday, May 31, 2014


I'm simply going to give a pictorial timeline for how yesterday went. I know you're all waiting for the conclusion of what is now a trilogy.....  Picture credit goes to Kaat, who was an amazing team mate on all of this. It was a long day, and almost all about bees. 

Kaat and I got to the DeCordova at 9am and met up with Sam. No change since Thursday. Jarrett had suggested drizzling some honey into the top hole, trying to avoid gluing up the bottom entrance in the process. Anita from Beverly Bees also suggested lemongrass oil, which I had on hand (Of course! It's sun & bug lotion season!), so I filled a drinking straw with honey and a few drops of lemongrass essential oil, and squeezed that into the top hole. 

To add a bit of stick to that offering of carrot, I smoked the bees in the screened installer a bit. It created a stir at the top hole, but no general upwards movement. 

We stayed and watched for a bit...

No dice. Bees are staying put.

So we left for a bit, and Kaat and I took a trip up to Rick's to buy a bunch of bee supplies (I'm looking to create a split off my two hives, you'll hear more about that soon), and we got a chance to pick his brain on the situation. Rick and Jarrett had met a few weeks ago, so Rick was familiar with Jarrett's project and general approach. We all agreed that we needed to somehow do something different, being that the bees showed no inclination to make the first move. We were getting concerned that if for some reason, the bees couldn't or wouldn't move out of the installer, they would run out of fuel and starve. We also ran into some logistical deadlines from the side of the museum. A change of plan was needed!

After checking with Jarrett on the phone, we abandoned a few more drastic ideas and decided to add more honey through the top hole, create a honey trail from the top hole to the installer, and then pry a small plexiglass screen off the top of the installer, hoping that the bees would follow the honey into the hive and make it their permanent home.

I'm only barely tall enough to reach the front entrance of the Haven hive with the squeeze bottle of honey. Luckily it wasn't a very windy day ...

I had a small assortment of razor blade, small screwdrivers, a pocket knife and a letter opener with me, to try and get the screen off. I was happy for my old climbing gear with lots of loops and hooks. After breaking the razor blade, I succeeded with a small screwdriver and opened the top of the installer. I was mentally prepared for the motherload of bees right in my face, see how close I am?

When that didn't happen, my first impression was relief. The bees didn't do anything crazy, like take off and abscond. They stayed surprisingly peaceful after being meddled with so much today. I unhooked myself from the top, climbed down and we took the ladder off.

A trail of bees developed. 

There was a definite trend ...

Sam took this picture later in the day... bees still there, still crawling up the front wall of the Haven hive.


Et voila. Sam snapped this peaceful shot as the dark rain clouds moved in this evening. That is all I needed to call this one a One Good Day. Kicked back with friends, good food, craft beers and great conversation. On Sunday, I will go and take down the installer, and go back to waiting by the phone for the next swarm ...

Friday, May 30, 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 

Thursday, May 29, 2014


I know you're sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for a Haven bee update. All three of you. Well, on Wednesday there was nothing much to report because it was in the fifties here, and very rainy. Predictably, the bees sat tight and did nothing, and we (Jarrett, the artist, Sam from the DeCordova, as well as us four local beekeepers who are helping out) decided to follow their example.

This morning, the air was warming up and the day was sunny and full of promise. I went out there at 9:30 to check, and saw a bit of buzzing in the installer, but no traffic out of the top entrance of the white hive body. After a short run on the gorgeous trails near the DeCordova, I returned to little change and decided to come back later in the day. 

After picking up the two littles, we returned to the sculpture park to have lunch. A picnic at the DeCordova is always a wonderful idea, if you're in the area! At this point, quite a few bees were moving through the hive body and exiting at the top entrance, some came back to enter at the top as well. Alas, until 5pm, there was still a good size cluster in the installer, telling us that Her Majesty, the queen, had not walked into the hive body yet. 


So it's been a day of full time waiting and patience, not exactly my strong suit. We will return in the morning to try a few more beekeepers' tricks to lure the bees into the hive, if they haven't moved in when we show up.  It's a real cliff hanger!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Haven - the immigration

Today, I got a phone call from Jarrett. Funny how when you're waiting for something to happen (in this case, I was waiting on swarm calls.... swarm season hasn't really kicked off yet around here), when it does happen, it's sort of surreal. Jarrett told me that his bee contacts from the North Shore had collected a swarm and would I come help set up the install device at the museum? Of course I was happy to do so!

Packed up some gear and went off to the museum. We installed the ladder and a rope, mostly for my nerves. I did not want the box of precious bees to get dropped by accident! (see me holding the rope in the picture below). It was a cool and windy afternoon, so the pole swayed a bit in the wind.

The swarm, in a 5ga bucket. For a moment, I saw the queen walking on the netting. It's harder to tell when you only see bee bellies, but her size and way of walking gave her away.

Brian, the catcher of the swarm, did the honors of pouring them into the 'installer' and then climbed up to attach the installer to the hive.

The installer is a very cleverly designed piece of bee equipment - it has window screens for walls, so that the bees can't escape but at the same time can still breathe and spread pheromone to their sisters who may have flown off during the initial 'pour'. Further, the screen prevents the bees from liking this enclosure too much. Bees like a dark cavity for a permanent home, something Jarrett has emulated with his HAVEN hive design. The installer has small windows all over, and only one exit, giving the bees no other choice to leave than through what we all hope will be their future home.

My friend and bee mentor Kaat came as soon as she'd heard, too, some of the photos are hers. Here you see me checking for any 'moving in' but the bees were cold and just clustered in the corners of the installer.

Hopefully, that last ingredient listed on the plaque is now in place! It was fun to see quite a few of the museum staff poke their noses out of the buildings and car windows to catch a glimpse of the action. Bees have a way of connecting people! Tomorrow we will be back to see if the moving in has happened overnight or in the morning... stay tuned...

Back to the Basics

Friday, May 23, 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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What's Growing On?

A garden update, mostly in pictures, while I sit by the phone waiting for a swarm call ...

Strawberries flowering under their rhubarb canopy. We already had a rhubarb knotweed cake, using this recipe, but substituting half knotweed for some of the rhubarb.

Baby Malabar Spinach, that was a winner last year, and will grow as the weather warms up more and more.

Some of my tomato starts are sturdier than others this year. Still got room for improvement there!

Garlic is going strong, and the lettuce will grow to surround it.

One of the two baby cherry trees flowered a bit but I doubt will set fruit, having no buddy for pollination :-(

Gooseberries grew a ton, and have more berries than last year, but the real winner are ....

.... the red currants. Going totally gangbuster with all the fruit set, only waiting to swell and redden.

Snap peas on a netting trellis, just about to take off. Other crops in the back include dragon tongue beans, scarlett runner beans, kale, broccoli (purple early), kohlrabi, swiss chards.

We planted a new row of asparagus in last year's 'new garden' this past weekend, and reinforced the fence. We had a lot of small bunny babies sneak through the 2x4 gauge and eat the bottoms out of the pole beans ... grr....

A blueberry bush under attack from the sky ... see that 'green stick'? That's an inchworm, and we're in the two weeks of 'inchworm buffet season' that grace us every year around here...

Some gratuitous perennial flower shots

My tomato tunnel between the two new beds in the front this year. Hopefully I will get my rather sad looking "Matt's Wild" seedlings to take off. The "sungold" I got as a present from a friend is doing best and sending out the first flower buds. Do you like my recycled maple buckets that I found at the dump? I am using them as flower buckets this year, three in the front, 5 in the main garden, after the handy husband drilled a few drainage holes in the bottoms.

I'll close with a picture from yesterday's nature walk: I hope you'll spend at least some of your day lazing in the sun with a fat belly full of delicious food, like this reptile: 

Tuesday Garden Party 03.18.14

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A frugal use for leftover pie crust

Just a little bit of a recipe today that I figured out recently (after we made knotweed pie!). Some of us are having a hard time throwing things away. Especially food! This can take a turn for the grotesque in my family (hi mom!), but most of the time, I just try to avoid waste in the first place.
So when the pie recipe says to cut the top crust to shape and toss the 'clippings', yeah, well. Not gonna happen. So here's what you can do instead:

Combine leftover crust and re-roll. Yeah, I know, not flaky, yadda yadda yadda. IMO, if you haven't overworked the original batch of crust, it's fine to do once.

Peel and core half an apple, and dust all sides with cinnamon sugar. Be generous. A dab of butter stuck in the hole in the middle wouldn't have hurt, either, but I was rushed.

Wrap ends of crust around the apple, and if there aren't gaps, make some slits for venting. Bake with your pie, for about 35 minutes. 

Tastes great with vanilla ice cream, especially to those people who think the crust is the best part of a pie (aka not me)!

Back to the Basics

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Knotweed - not just a weed!

We made strawberry knotweed pie yesterday. Who knew you could eat that stuff? It grows at every street corner around here, a hard-to-beat invasive species that hailed from Asia, and settled here a little too well.

On the upside, it's healthy (even some medicinal benefits) and abundant, so makes for a great foraging prey. I followed the recipe by Russ Cohen, published in his book 'Wild plants I have known and eaten'. He grew up in my town, as it turns out! The knowledge applies locally for sure. Find more fun knotweed info here, but really, read the book. Great resource!

The first task was to harvest, peel and slice the stalks. It is good to pick the younger parts of the stalks, something we had to learn the tough way :-)

I made my favorite pie crust, enough for an 11in pie (why bother with an eensy 9in pie?? I will never understand). Then I stirred together

  • 4 cups of sliced knotweed
  • 3 cups of sliced, frozen strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg 
  • 1 tsp vanilla
in a bowl, and filled that into the crust.

I popped the top layer on, and baked at 375 with speedbake (convection) for 45 minutes.

The verdict: We got some of the woodsy bits of knotweed, maybe we're too far into the season, or maybe we just need to cut the top parts of the stalks instead of the thicker bottom parts. That was the downside. The upside - a wonderfully rounded, more complex than rhubarb, flavor that we really loved! I can't wait to do this again with younger stalks. Served with vanilla ice cream, while still hot (please excuse the picture, we just couldn't wait for the filling to solidify a little more), a huge spring time treat!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wild Eating - Appetizer edition

Today we made dandelion tempura, something I had wanted to do for ages but never got around to, until today. The oldest picked a mess of dandelions and I made a thin tempura batter, like so:

Heat oil in a large, deep pot, maybe 1.5 to 2 inches. I heated mine on the setting one less than 'high'.

Whisk 3/4 cup cold water, 2 Tbsp sake, and 1 egg, until frothy and completely mixed.
Whisk in 1 cup of white flour and a pinch of salt. The batter should be thin and watery, if it isn't, add more water.

Dip the dandelions in the batter, which makes them soggy, and toss in the oil, which makes them 'bloom' again! I think it works better if you pick your dandelions directly before eating, so they don't get a chance to wilt. Ours were slightly wilted and some of them didn't do the 'opening up' effect as much.

Fry with turning/stirring until golden, and then scoop out and put on a paper towel to cool. Crisp on the outside, and fun and sweet on the inside! It was my first time deep-frying anything, and the kids loved the first couple of blossoms, but quickly saturated and said it was very greasy food. I guess they're not used to that, but once in a while, this will continue to stay in our repertoire.

Tomorrow, you can read about knotweed pie, which we had for dessert. What a wild dinner we had!