Thursday, 30 June 2011

Still fruity

DH picked 8 pounds of cherries today and decided to make some Cherry Wine.   I don't have high hopes, as home made wine usually tastes like home made wine. However, we opened some  (last year's? the year before?) plum wine recently, and that tasted very good.  Like a good sherry. Or Madeira (I love Madeira).  So, we'll see. At least I think it was plum. It might have been damson. Bother.  I'm usually good at record keeping, but I've slipped up here by assuming that No Home Made Wine is G|oing to Be Worth Recording.

I picked yet more cherries, and bottled them.  The Girls love it when we're out picking cherries because we toss any overripe or otherwise unsuitable ones into their pen.

The pasteuriser is on now, with lots of 1/4 litre Weck flasks in.  Really pretty.    I'm thinking that 1/4 l is a good size for some bottle cherries (each bottle holds about 50 stoned cherries),  or cherry compote, or whatever else is in there.   There are still quite a lot of cherries on the tree,  so we'll have to see what else to do.

Thank goodness for my cherry stoner.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Feeling fruity

More lolly moulds arrived in the post today.  I needed quite a few, and I couldn't justify paying the price of the lovely ones at Lakeland, so I found somewhere that did the same sort of moulds but for much less money.

I started by making cherry lollies.    I got my cherry stoner out to help, and I decided that I might as well make good use of it. So,  i went on to prepare a load of cherry compote, which is now sitting in a jar waiting to be pasteurised.   And as I am going to have to get the pasteuriser out(having read that pressure canning isn't recommended for soft fruit), I thought I might as well make up some other bottles of stuff to make good use of it.    Next up,  a bottle of stoned cherries in syrup.  And then a bottle of tayberries in syrup.

By this time I was fed up of cherries,  sugar syrups,  cherry stones,   sugar, general stickiness,  my mouli, and preserving jars.  The Girls were lined up by the cherry tree, as I had been casually tossing them the less-than-perfect cherries.

I'm waiting for the lollies to freeze so I can try one.  And then I'll have another round of cherry bashing tomorrow.

Monday, 27 June 2011


I seem to be on a roll.

I've just started a batch of Limoncello.  It'll be a while before it's ready,  and it has another step in the process in a week's time,  but I'm sure it will be lovely.

The original recipe was for 1l of Vodka.  I used a 70cl bottle, and adjusted the quantities accordingly.

Step 1
3.5 ripe lemons, pared very thinly. I used a potato peeler to try and avoid white pith.
70cl bottle plain vodka (1L for 1L recipe)

Step 2, 1 week later
525g Sugar (750g if 1 litre)
500ml boiling water (700ml if 1 Litre)

Step 3, 1 week later still
1 lemon to decorate.

Step 1
Pare the rind, avoiding the pith.  Put into a large (1.5L) Le Parfait/Kilner jar.  If using 1 litre of vodka, you could use 2x1litre jars and divide things between the two.

Pour on the vodka, shake gently.  Leave for a week, shaking from time to time
Step 2 - 1 week later
Put the sugar in a bowl, pour on the boiling water, stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the vodka and lemon mix, stir well.   Recipe says cover and leave for a week,  I would put it into a clean Kilner jar.
Step 3 - Another week later
Strain the liquid and divide into bottles or jars for long term storage/gifts etc.  Add a few strips of fresh lemon rind to each jar.

Recipe says this keeps for years, and has some fab ideas on what to do with it, including - making an adult lemon drizzle cake;  serving it chilled in chilled shot glasses as a digestif (after dinner drink).

I'm rather liking this "How to Make Your Own Drinks" book by Susy Atkins.   I've come across a number of similar recipes before (my previous must-have book on turning our home produce into delicious alcoholic beverages was "cordials from your kitchen". In the US, "cordial" doesn't mean a non-alcoholic squash!


Cherry Brandy

Our cherry tree is bursting with fruit at the moment. After several years of careful pruning, we now have fruit at a level we can reach.  Usually the birds get them before they are ripe enough for us to use - they are sour cherries, so not great for eating raw, but I can't help myself.

Anyway,  I thought i'd have a go at making Cherry Brandy.   

1 litre kilner type jar
350g cherries, washed, dried, pricked. Discard any with bruised skin.
70 cl bottle brandy
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Cinnamon stick

Sterilise the jar.  Put in the pricked cherries. Sprinkle sugar.  Add brandy, a 70cl bottle should just about fit.  Add cinnamon stick.  Seal, and shake gently.  Store in a cool dark place for about 8 weeks, shaking every so often.  

Strain off the cherries, and decant liquid into bottles. You can (allegedly) use the
soaked cherries, I'll let you know in a couple of months how that works out.

Bee inspection, Hive 1

it's been 2 weeks since we divided the hive, and we decided to do an inspection today.  Based on the date we think the queen cell was sealed, we weren't expecting to see eggs yet. (We think she was sealed on 11 June ish,  meaning she would have emerged on 19th June-ish, and won't be ready for mating yet).   

The inspection went well. The bees were really calm.  They haven't done anything in the Super yet,  and we found that they had packed the brood box with stores. There were a number of demolished queen cells.        There were plenty of bees, but not as many as we had been expecting.  That could be because
(a) we divided the hive
(b) lots of the bees were out foraging
(c) maybe we had an extra queen cell or we hadn't lost the original queen after all, and  so perhaps we've had a swarm go 

If it's C, then that's actually good news as they wouldn't have swarmed if there was no queen to leave behind.

We'll do another inspection in a week or so.   And we'll inspect HIve 2 later this week.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

This year I will mostly be making

frozen fruity lollies.

For the last few years I've mostly made flavoured vodka. I had planned to do the same again this year, possibly extending the repetoire to include cherry brandy etc.   The weather has been a bit strange, and the fruit harvest has been early and sporadic.  So far I just haven't been in the mood.

The tayberries were getting overripe, and I needed to do something in a hurry.  I glanced through my various preserving and drinks books, and I came across a recipe for "righteous raspberry lollies" in my Acton & Sandler "Preserved" books.   I made it. I tried a spoon or two of the liquid before I froze it, and I wasn't overly impressed.   I've just eaten one of the lollies, and they are divine.
So much so that I've made another batch,  and I think I'll be making more.

Here's the recipe (with my adaptations)

300g Raspberries (I used Tayberries. I also used more fruit which resulted in a softer set which tasted delicious but only worked in stick-less lolly moulds)
200g Clear honey
Juice of 1 medium lemon

I used various lolly moulds. I've accumulated various sorts over the years.  The most successful were these and these  

I originally tried these  but the mixture froze a bit soft for these to work properly.

Heat the raspberries in a saucepan with the honey and lemon juice until the mixture comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher (I used a wooden spoon)

Pass the mixture through a vegetable mill or conical sieve (I used a mouli thing) to get rid of the pips.  (Don't forget to scrape in the pulp that is passed through the sieve part).

Leva it to cool, then put in lolly moulds and freeze.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


We make all our own bread.    Most of the time, we use a breadmaker (yeah, yeah, that's not really making it myself, heard it all before, don't agree).  If I'm using something that needs a starter (like Sourdough, Pain de Campagne,  or Ciabatta) or if I'm making unleavened bread (Naan, chapatis, piadines etc). then I do it by hand.  Every so often I get enthused enough to try something from my Linda Collister book, and these I do by hand as well.

When it comes to the breadmaker,  I love white bread.  My Panny does a really good quick white bread, and I made this so often that I ended up easuring out the ingredients into a stack of tubs, so I didn't need to weigh and measure the four every time.  I just opened a tub and it had th right amount of flour in.  until recently,  "rapid white loaf" was my default loaf.

I don't really like brown bread.  Brown bread (imho) is just about edible when it is fresh,  but it makes pathetic toast.    DH prefers brown bread.      We compromise by mixing flours (I love adding a small amount of Rye flour, as that really helps the toastability), adding things (seeds, grains),  trying to get something which satsifies both of us.  

We try weird breads as well (courgettes,  beer,  tomato),  and we use a book  especially written for  breadmakers by Jennie Shapter.  If you have a breadmaker, I would recommend her books. Actually, I have 2 of her books but all (bar 1) of her recipes I use come from a book called "Bread Machines & Beyond".      

There is one recipe from her earlier book that DH recently tried,  and it's become our default recipe. I now make this instead of rapid white. I'm amazed at myself.  It's called "Polenta and Wholemeal Loaf"

This recipe is for a loaf using the middle size setting on the breadmaker.  We've found a large loaf doesn't last any longer (it's the same number of slices after all, just bigger slices), and this works for us.

  • 1.5 teasp easyblend yeast
  • 400g wholemeal bread flour (although whenever possible we use something like Shipton Mill's Malthouse flour,  or Wessex Mills Cobber flour)
  • 50g polenta (we use fine cornmeal, andt we've used coarse cornmeal if we haven't had fine. And we've used semolina if we haven't had any cornmeal or polenta)
  • 50g strong white flour
  • 1.5 teasp salt
  • 25g butter
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 300ml water
Put the ingredients in the breadmaker according to your machines normal order. For our Panny, we put the yeast in first, then the flours/polenta.  We put the salt in one corner, the honey in another, the butter in another.  We then put the water on top 
Set the machine to the wholemeal setting (medium crust if your machine lets you choose crust colour).  Our wholemeal setting takes 5 hours,  so I often use the timer so we can have this fresh for breakfast.

The cornmeal/polenta really adds a delicious texture.  The honey adds a lovely richness.

Giving back to the bees

It's been just over a week since we divided our Bees into two colonies.   The original hive has seemed quite active, the new one less so.    We will need to take a look inside them both next week, to see if we can see any evidence that the new Queens have emerged safely. 

In the meantime, we wanted to give them back the three frames we'd extracted honey from and also the wax cappings.   We decided to do this yesterday evening. It needs to be in the evening, when Bees have gone to bed.  If you do it during the day,  scouting bees from other colonies might sniff out the free and easy honey, and be attracted to rob our hives.

So, last night, we took two shallow boxes to use as "ekes".   Suited up -   even though we weren't actually going into the hives , I'm not taking any risks with stings until all evidence of my previous adventure has gone - we carried the two boxes, plus an enormous plastic catering tub containing the frames and cappings, and the smoker, over to the bees.

DH lifted the roof off hive 2, and looked through the clear crown board.   Hmmm. Not many bees in the Super.  We'll look into this in a week or so and see what's happening.  Slipped off the crown board, put the eke box on, put it back together.  Job jobbed.

Hive 1. Lots of bees in the Supers.   Hmm. Might need to add another Super.  Will do a proper Inspection on Monday next week (weather permitting), and will take a new Super down just in case.   Put the eke on, put it back together, job jobbed.

Spent some time cuddling baby chickens, and checking them over.   Would have spent time cuddling the Breeding birds, but most of them had gone to bed.     THe three Little Laydees were all piled on top of each other in a nest box in one house,  with Roo asleep in the main roosting area.    Ruby was (still) broody in a nest box in the other house,  and Mrs Roo and Rose were still wandering about and didn't want to be cuddled, thank you very much.

Itchy and Scratchy update

Well, the reaction to the stings got worse all through Saturday, and by Sunday a lot of them had joined up into huge red weals.  Everything was very swollen, and I had tried hydrocortisone cream, and antihistamine cream.  The heat was intolerable, i sat with a freezer pack (usually used for my recurring neck problem) on my lap.     DH thought I was having a delayed reaction to the stings;  I wondered if it was because I'd eaten honey;  we considered whether the washng machine hadn't got the stings out of the trousers (but then I realised that I hadn't worn those trousers since I'd been stung, so it couldn't be that).

I also realised that hydrocortisone cream had, upon reflection, not been a good idea.  I have a touch of Rosacea on my face, and hydrocortisone cream on Rosacea makes it worse;  I reasoned that the maybe the Rosacea in my body and the hydrocortisone cream had perhaps had a bit of a reaction, and made the swellings and itchiness worse.

On Monday morning, I had had enough.  I phoned the Doctor to make an appointment and, amazingly, there was a 9.00 appointment available.  As I got ready to go, I noticed a weal on my left foot, and I didn't remember there being a bee sting there.   I realised that I had probably been bitten by something and my body's reaction had also aggravated the dormant bee stings.

I couldn't bear the touch of anything against my skin,  so I ended up wearing baggy trousers, no socks,  and my slippers (leather moccassins, fortunately).

I explained to the Doc that I wasn't there to talk about my Rosacea - although we might as well now I am here, yes it's improved but not as much as we had expected - but actually I had been stung quite badly.  I explained that I kept bees, had got stung,  it had been fine after a couple of days and then it suddenly all flared up.   I showed him, and pointed to the newly-appeared thing and asked if this might have triggered a re-reaction.  I also mentioned the hydrocortisone cream, and the antihistamine cream and asked if that had made things worse.  

Because the reaction wws quite severe and it was likely to be due to the ankle bite,  he prescribed antibiotics.    More antibiotics, in addition to the ones for the Rosacea.  And take an antihistimine tablet daily.   Calamine lotion for the swelling and heat.

My poor stomach.   I had already been drinking smoothies made with Kefir and natural live yogurt (nly), or eating nly in large quantities, in an attempt to replenish the good bacteria that the Rosacea antibiotics were destroying.  I like nly.  I don't mind Kefir as long as it's mixed with something else (preferably a banana and some nly),  and Kevin the Kefir (who has been with me for about 7 years now) was probably pleased to be in such demand for a change. 

Still. The additional course if antibbiotics is only for a week.  And by Wednesday morning there was already significant improvement.   Today (Thursday) my legs aren't particularly swollen,  and the sting areas are just pink rather than red and angry.   

The calamine lotion has been fantastic at keeping them cool. I had forgotten all about such an "old fashioned" and traditional remedy. From now on, Calamine lotion has a permanent place in my medicine drawer.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Itchy and Scratchy

For some reason, last Monday's stings have really flared up today.  They are huge and red, and they itch like mad!  I've taken some antihistamine, and I've covered them in Lanasil. It took a lot of Lanasil, as I have a lot of stings.  It's surprisingly hard to keep my fingers distracted.

DH said the same thing happened to him when he got badly stung.  The stings died down, and then a week after the Event, they suddenly flared up again.

Is there a word to describe the desperate sensation that an unscratched itch brings?

All I can think of is "Ow!". Which isn't quite right.
must not scratch must not scratch must not scratch    must not scratch must not scratch  must not scratch   must not scratch must not scratch  must not scratch     must not scratch must not scratch   must not scratch must not scratch   must not scratch must not scratch...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Bright sides

Milly has been broody for some time now.

It's a nuisance.  She has managed to crush a couple of thin shelled eggs, and yesterday I had to baby-wipe egg and shell off her featherless chest. She is such a grumpy chicken at the best of times, and she's always picking on the others. Chasing Tilda, because she can. Pecking Florence, because she can. 

She avoids being picked up.  She's extremely pretty, but not the most rewarding of chickens to own.  She does lay beautiful blue eggs though.

Milly's broodiness has some advantages.   I can get close enough to stroke her.  I can ruffle her feathers. I can even pick her up and carry her around the garden.   When I hoik her out of the nest box (if she is missing a treat for example) she sits happily - yes happily on my arm. She even let me tickle her feet today, right up to the point where she gave me an almighty peck on the hand. I deserved it for pushing my luck.

Whenever I take treats out for the Girls, I always open the nest box door and put some of whatever is on offer next to her.   Milly shows her gratitude by fluffing up her hackle feathers and shrieking at me at full volume and at the highest pitch her vocal chords can manage.   She continues shrieking whilst she stuffs her little beak, long after the egg port door is closed again.   I know she's stuffing her beak because each she can't maintain the shriek and eat at the same time,  the resulting sound is quite funny.

We have honey

Last week we split our hive into two.  We knew it meant we were unlikely to get an end-of-seasonhoney crop as a result, but you have to do what is right for the Bees.

We did take off three frames of stores, leaving the best and fullest frames for the Bees.  We extracted and strained the honey, and it's been sitting in a pot covered with clingfilm settling.  There is less than 2 litres, and it weighs about 5 pounds.  

I bought some honey pots from Laura Lee Designs in Cornwall. I was looking for something a little unusual, and I had really been struggling.  Ebay had a range of honey pots, but none of them really grabbed me.   I came across the Laura Lee website by accident, and I could have spent a small fortune on there.    I intended to buy only one honey pot (why on earth would you need more than one?), but I ended up with 3.  On the plus side, I had 6 in my basket at one point (she has so many really lovely designs to choose from), so from that point of view, 3 is reasonable! That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

We're using the middle one at the moment, as it is the only one which has a hole big enough for my lovely honey dibber, which I have owned for many years but never actually used -    I don't normally eat runny honey, I  like mine set. It hadn't occurred to me that my lovely honey dibber might not fit.

DH, who is a bit of a whizz on the lathe and is always looking for opportunites to make Something Useful is going to make me some smaller (as in shorter and thinner) dibbers.   Once he's got the size and shape right,  he'll play with different woods.

Before going on last Saturday's bee course, I had no idea that honey could be problematical.   Sometimes honey ferments.  Sometimes it is made with pollen which gives the honey an unusual and acquired taste.     Sometimes it sets rock hard and isn't pleasant.    We have no idea what ours is likely to do!

We also don't know if it's likely to set or not. I do hope so.

Anyway. We're going to decant some honey into a couple of jars and watch what happens. The rest will sbe put in an air tight container, until (a) we want to eat it, or (b) we're sure that the honey is OK and we can give a couple of (small) jars to our allotment neighbours.   


Thursday, 16 June 2011

Oh Pooh

Some weeks ago my lovely "Auntie J" brought her grandaughter (my first-cousin- once-removed, so the genealogy websites inform me) to meet the Girls. And the Babies.

T (my fc1r) is very shy. I had never met her before, so I wasn't really surprised.  She's also not had a huge amount of contact with animals before (loves the idea in theory, seems less attractive in practice), so meeting my uber-friendly cat Washburn, and my voraciously greedy chooks was interesting.    She really seemed to like the chicks, who were all at the cute-n-fluffy stage at her first visit.   I'd made cake as well, on the basis that most small people like that sort of thing.   

She is a real poppet.  Auntie J and I had trouble keeping a straight face at some points.  Trying to get her to say please when she asked for something,  I asked her "What's the magic word?".   She thought about it for  a moment and then replied "abracadabra".
Turns out that T really really liked the chickens.  She's been pestering Auntie J to bring her over again;  Auntie J explained that the chicks were not chicks anymore,  but T was adamant that she wanted to come and see them anyway.  Yesterday was The Day.    I baked a banana cake (just in case there was disappointment over the chicks now being small chickens).

On the bus on the way over,  Auntie J and T practiced saying "Hello".  The moment I opened the front door,  T rushed behind J.     However, the shyness started to wear off when she spotted the banana cake cooling in the kitchen, and she recovered enough to present me with a beautiful drawing she'd done of my chickens, and some strawberries from her garden. Yum!

She was very keen to get on with the business of seeing the Girls and checking for eggs.  Being boring old grown-ups,  Auntie J and I decided that coffee (apple juice for T) was the first order of business after a long bus journey.  An impatient T kept spotting Girls in the garden, and in the end she took herself outside to see them through the safety of the netting.

We went out. I asked her if she wanted to come in to the Girls' area.  She was in like a flash. I warned her about the chicken poo.   We checked for eggs (fortunately Milly was sitting on one).  We stroked Milly, who was broody and cross.    I picked up Tilda and put her on the arm of the bench in the run;  she was quite content as it meant she could munch a pecka block. T stroked her and compared the feathering to Milly's.   T started to look for things to feed to Tilda, hoiking bits of grit out of the grit pot, and pellets out of the Grubs.   Tilda wasn't interested - I did explain that Tilda was eating the chicken equivalent of sweeties, and that pellets and grit just wouldn't cut it, but it fell on deaf ears.

Then she wanted to see the chicks.  I explained that the chicks lived a drive away now, and we would go and see them on the way home.   T thought about this for a moment before re-declaring that she wanted to see the chicks.    I offered her a choice: we could go and see the chicks right now,    or we could have some cake now and see the chicks later. Cake 1. Chicks 0.

When we got to the Allotment, she was as good as gold.  She wasn't fazed by the chicks running over to greet us;  she stroked them (those that were willing to let her),  she talked to Roo,  she met the Harem.  She even learned how to scatter corn for them.

On the way back to the car, she slipped over a couple of times as we ran around and, to my delight (and relief) there were no tears.   This kind of child, I like. What a credit to her mum and dad.

And then home.  Wiped her feet on Auntie J's doormat, then straight into the carpeted hall..... oops.  Or rather,  poos.

Monday, 13 June 2011


My replacement sourdough starter is orking well.

I baked a couple of sourdough loaves the other day.  They were quite good. As it staled, the bread made fantastic (and fantastically noisy!) toast.

I'm trying to move Stan the Starter to being fed weekly.  Yesterday it had been 4 days since he was last fed, and he was looking a bit sorry for himself. I took him out of the fridge yesterday morning. When he'd had time to wake up, I divided him and fed both halves,  and last night I put one of the halves back in the fridge.  I realised that I probably didn't need to feed the spare half if I was going to use it in bread,  so I ended up with a large amount of sourdough to be used.

So. I made one pain de campagne,  and 2 sourdough loaves.  On a whim, I decided to stick one of the sourdough doughs into the freezer instead of the oven,  so it will be interesting to see whether it still makes good bread. I'll find that out in a few days.

In the meantime I have two rather attractive loaves sitting on the worktop calling me.

Big Decisions

So, our Bee course on Saturday helped us decide what we needed to do next with the Bees,  and today we did it.

Today we divided the hive into two, taking 5 frames of eggs/brood for each hive, adding in a shallow frame into each hive (so that drone brood would be built underneath it, and we could check that for Varroa), 3 or 4 frames of stores, and 1 or 2 empty frames for the bees to draw out.  We then put a Super on top of each hive.  We have 3 frames of honey that we are going to extract today.

We believe that the Queen - who was clipped - was lost last week when the hive tried to swarm,  so we have left one Queen cell in each of the two hives.  One cell was sealed and we expect the Queen to be emerging on Wednesday, and the other had an unsealed Queen larvae in.    We put bees in both hives, making sure we did triple shakes over the new hive to get the nursery bees to drop in. We're hoping that the nursery bees will stay in the new hive to look after the brood that is there, even if the flying bees go back to the original colony.  As advised, we bunged up the entrance with grass and leaves on the new hive.

We now need to leave the hives alone for about 3 weeks (possibly 4 weeks in the case of the hive with the unsealed queen cell).  That will give the new Queens time to emerge, go off and get mated,  and start laying.  When we do go in to inspect we will be looking for eggs - and the Queens if possible - to check that everything is looking OK.

The plan is that two hives will enable us to compare and contrast what is going on.    If something goes wrong with one hive,  we may be able to salvage things with the second hive;  it also gives us the option of uniting the two hives if we need to before winter.

Overall it went quite well today.   We planned in advance what we were going to do,  and we talked it through (several times) in some detail.   I'm sure we could and should have done it better, and we will do if we do it again.     The bees were a bit buzzy when we got there and, in fact, I got stung on my leg almost immediately. This was rather unfortunate becase (a) Ow! and (b) that marked me out as a threat and I was soon inundated with bees who were trying to protect their hive. The more they stung, the stronger the threat marker.

As we started to take the hive apart, the bees got a bit more agitated (understandably - we weren't just taking a look, we were actually removing frames of brood).   The bees continued to sting my legs, not just in the original place but all down the front.  Each sting attracted lots more bees.  At one point, i did try to wash the stings off, but this didn't quite go as I had hoped. The unforeseen consequence was that, instead of deterring the bees, all it did was get my trousers wet enough to stick to my legs  - meaning that all subsequent bee stings really got through to my skin (instead of being partly deflected by the folds in my trousers).

Towards the end of the process, I was sure I had a bee inside my jacket.  Presumably in my attempt to avoid the bees, one of them had crept up from underneath.   Turned out I was wrong.  I had three bees inside my suit, all around my face.  Fortunately I managed to not panic for long enough to squash them.  The stings outside my suit were uncomfortable (painful in the spot where I'd been sting over and over again),  but I wasn't particularly frightened.    

Having bees inside my suit was a different matter, and only my inner voice (not the one that was shouting Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow) calmly telling me that if I took the hood off then I'd have more than 3 bees to contend with kept me from disrobing to get them out.

In the end, I was stung on my chest by a fourth bee,  and in upper arm by a fifth.   The ones around my face didn't get to sting me.  My legs have quite a lot of stings, but as I was stung through my trousers, the stings didn't get in as far (or cause as much pain) as they might have done.

When we got home, I sprayed myself with Magicool+ (which has antihistamine in), took an antihistamine tablet, and had a shower.   When I was out of the shower, i couldn't find the antihistamine cream anywhere, so I smeared all my stingy areas with Hydrocortisone cream (thank goodness I had the foresight to discuss bee stings with a pharmacist a couple of weeks ago).
We went  back to the bees a couple of hours later, to see if they were settling down.    Our bee jackets, and our trousers,  were in the wash, so I wore a full bee suit - taking no chances!).  They seemed OK.

DH is extracting the honey as I type.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Buttering up

Buttermaking today.   Down to our last scraping of butter for breakfast, so it was just as well that I'd been to the cash and carry on Friday to get cream.

8 litres today.  One carton just wouldn't turn, no matter what I tried,  so I've ended up with a litre of whipped double cream which is currently sitting on the worktop looking rather unloved.

Never mind.  The other 7 litres turned easily enough.  I had plenty of receptacles ready. Some small "individual casserole" lidded dishes,  a couple of actual butter dishes,  a pile of Lock n Lock tubs...     When I ran out of suitable dishes I used the burger press, which worked well.  Chilled all of the filled receptacles in the fridge and later transferred most of them to the freezer.  The freezer was a bit full and I managed to drop and smash one of my individual butter dishes.  Bit of a waste. Still, the lid didn't smash, so I have a spare now.

Will need to think of things to use up some of the buttermilk.

Saturday, 11 June 2011


Went on a bee "course" today, run by Lynda from Woodside Apiary and hosted by A. from Ham Island.   I've met A. before, in a past life when I used to carriage drive.  It was actually seeing A's chickens that inspired me to get chickens as pets,  and I was pleased to see her today to be able to tell her this.

Anyway. Course was excellent.  Some of it consolidated or reconfirmed what we had already learned,  and some of it was a refresher on things we had covered on our formal courses but hadn't really needed to think about. And some of it was stiff we just hadn't needed to think about in detail before - like how do you filter your extracted honey, and how is it best to store it,  and what do you do if you have oil seed rape honey that you haven't taken off, and how do you make creamed honey and and and.

We tasted lots of different types of honey, including honey which had fermented, and honey which was made from ivy.

What was also very helpful was being able to inspect A's hives and compare them and contrast them to ours.   From the things Lynda talked about, we were able to deduce what had actually been going on in our hive in the last week or so ( things I haven't got round to blogging. Later in the day we were able to talk about the situation, and what we now thought we would do as a result of today's learnings,   and we came up with an action plan.

So, Monday will be a busy day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

MIddle Ages

I've reached middle age.

Two days ago, I was trying to read a book in bed and I was having trouble focussing.  Initially I thought maybe my eyes were tired,  I'd been working on the 'puter a lot.   As I struggled to focus,  it dawned on me.

I moved my hands back a bit, so that the book was a tiny bit further away.  The words swam into focus.

It's happened a couple of times since.


Monday, 6 June 2011

The chicks Littlees are having a whale of a time on the allotment.  Lot's of space, lots of grass...  They have grown such a lot.

Sasso x Welsh Black (whichever of the 2 girls is carrying the splash gene)
Sasso x Sasso
Littlees being watched through the netting by Norman, Mrs, Rose or Ruby(Can't tell), Not Norman, and Roo
They're very inquisitive and friendly birds. They don't particularly want to be picked up but, with a couple of exceptions, they don't seem too bothered about it when we do.

A number of them had their rings changed for a larger size yesterday.   I've seen a different type of ring available now, and I've ordered some in various sizes (fro Country Fayre as they had a range of colours and sizes) as I think they might be better for growing birds. Rather than being a clip, or a spiral, these ones are a sort of coil.  I think they might be better for 2 reasons. (a) If they get caught up, they will come off;  (b) they will expand as the chook grows - we obviously won't rely on this, just seems to me that it'll be a bit safer for a growing bird.    We'll see what the quality is like when they arrive.

Saturday, 4 June 2011


Many years ago, DH (who is not known for eating cakes) announced that he really used to like Battenburg cakes.  I took this with a pinch of salt: he'd previously told me that he his favourite steamed pudding was Spotted Dick, but when I cooked it for him he complained that it had sultanas in! Turned out he didn't mean Spotted Dick,  he meant Jam Roly Poly.

Some time after his pronouncement - and still quite some years ago - I came across a Battenburg tin in Lakeland, which I eagerly bought so I could surprise him.    It's never been out of it's packaging.

Teh other evening, Matt Tebbutt made a Battenburg cake on Market Kitchen (Or "Perfect..." as they are calling the current show) and I resolved to get the tin out and make one.  I promptly forgot all about it again, until this morning.

My Battenburg is currently in the oven.  I didn't have enough butter to spare, so I used Stork: the recipe did say "Butter or Margarine". The mix tastes looooovely (and pink cake mix just looks so yummy) so I hope the finished cake is alright.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Training Tilda

I'm missing Lily. A lot.

Fortunately, I have Tilda, who is our Special Needs chicken.  She's a RooxMrs chick, and has problems with her wings and a problem with her legs. When she runs it's a chickeny sort of Miranda gallop,  and she's bottom of the pecking order.  When we had 8 chooks, Tilda kept out of the way of the others in the Run.  She had her own shelf complete with feed station, water, and pecka block,  so she could keep off the floor and out of the way.   I used to help her down from her shelf every morning.

Despite being physically somewhat handicapped, she is incredibly intelligent,  and very happy to be picked up, cuddled, and stroked.     I've always tried to spend time with her - even when Lily was around - and since Lily's death last week I've been spending more time encouraging her.

So,I've tried to spend a few minutes each day, sitting in the run with corn in a home made dispenser.  On the first day, with encouragement, Tilda jumped on my lap so she could have extra corn.   On day 2 and onwards, she needed virtually no encouragement to settle on my lap.   On day 4, Roobarb wanted to get in on the act.

Tilda eats corn and is happy to put up with being stroked while she does it.  Roobarb eats corn, and vocally objects when I stroke her.  

Today, Tilda was doing that up-down-up-down thing with her "knees", getting ready to jump up, when Florence (big Australorp, same hatch as Tilda) pecked her hard on the head.  Poor Tilda ran under my seat, and it was a while before she ventured out.

Surprisingly, Florence (who is actually as sharp as a tack and will be Head Girl when Milly goes) hasn't cottoned on to this lap malarkey.  Or perhaps she has, and she isn't having any of it.