We made a trip down to our local apiary supply shop, the Beez Neez, in Snohomish, to buy frame & super parts for the new hive. The style we bought required learning some new skills – putting together the wooden frames, stringing wire, placing the wax foundation, and finally, heating the wire to embed it into the wax for additional strength. After reading up on it online, we used the trickle-charge setting on the car battery charger, with some leads of house wire attached. A few short taps of current heated the wire enough to settle into the wax, and we added a 2nd story to the new hive.
While inspecting both hives to make sure everyone is happy & healthy, we noticed lots of drone bees coming to & fro. A little bit of research revealed that these guys not only spend their days loafing while the workers & queen take care of business, they also go to “drone congregation areas” to wait for queens to show up for mating. Kind of like heading out to singles bars for fun! The main downside being that once a drone mates, he dies. And if he doesn’t get to mate, he’ll end up getting tossed out of the hive when the cold weather approaches. Ouch!
We’re also working hard to use up last year’s bounty as the 2010 harvest starts coming in; canning beef, making jerky, bean & bacon soup, lamb-feta meatballs, split pea soup, and so on. Patty Pig has grown much faster than we imagined, and his date with Keizer Meats is next week. The formula for estimating a pig’s weight is: Weight (lbs) = (L x G x G) ÷ 400 (inches). We used a piece of string to get the measurements, and you can see how much this distracted Patty from his pan of rice/pasta/cocoa mix/nettle beer/eggs/apple sauce. He’s about 240# which is just right for the freezer.
We’ll definitely be building a permanent smokehouse as soon as possible, but since next week is a bit too soon, we’ve been looking at alternatives for the immediate future.
Alton Brown, on the cooking show Good Eats, demonstrates a smoker made from an electric hot plate and a garbage can. Ideally we’d like to cold smoke our own bacon, which means making a firebox lower and 10 feet or so distant from the trash can. This would make the smoke rise into the meat at a cooler temp, instead of a hot smoke which cooks it as it smokes. More research is needed, and quickly! We’re also getting ready to start making beef jerky from Doug & Buddy, and it would probably be even more tasty smoked as well.
We also brought in this year’s hay. As much as I loved having a milk cow (and hope to again someday) it sure is nice to have only the ponies to feed. They eat so little compared to cows, and we only brought in 30 bales this time. We’ll keep making loose hay as our growing conditions permit too, since the first cutting we did turned out fabulous.
The Skagit Valley Highland Games were this weekend, and we got to join in for the first time as members of the Clan Campbell in the parade of clans. The Washington State commisioner and his lady got married on Sunday and we attended the handfasting. A very welcoming bunch of cousins, and we’re looking forward to being more involved with our Scottish heritage. Here’s a link to the Clan Campbell facebook page for Washington. Next year we hoped to be decked out in more traditional finery.
The “Concord” wine we started back in November 2008 is finally ready for bottling. We had a few sample glasses, and it’s really not bad! Our neighbors (the same ones who gave us the grapes) brought back a load of cherries from eastern WA, and we’re pondering a batch of cherry wine…
Also this week was a long-awaited trip to Birch Bay so the dogs could go swimming. They absolutely love going there, and just mentioning “Birch Bay” or “swimming” gets them in a fit. Fergus needs a little help from his flotation device, but once it’s on he swims like a miniature submarine.
And a video of Patty Pig, enjoying some slop while getting measured: