Splendour Solis

Lots going on at Seven Trees lately. Somehow vacation never means relaxing….unless you’re Magnus, who always manages to get plenty of rest.

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!

Yet another wonderful homemade pizza…

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:


9 thoughts on “Splendour Solis”

  1. Ugh. I left a comment on the wrong post. Joanna – it is my understanding that if you heat galvanized metal above a certain temperature that it gives off a poision gas. Please be careful if you are going to use a galvanized garbage can as a smoker.

  2. Looks like the metal would have to be heated over 900F to cause problems. And also no food should be in contact with the metal either. I can’t believe how many strange homemade smokers are out there! Even some made out of 4-drawer filing cabinets….

  3. Joanna,
    The oddest one I’ve seen involved an old refrigerator – the kind with the big silver lever on the door from the 50’s or 60’s. All metal interior, well insulated, air tight if need be – in short the perfect smoker. A hibachi style bbq was set on the bottom of the fridge on some fire brick. It was used to cold smoke fish so the temps were kept very low. A vent was installed near/thru the top and near the bottom. By controlling the airflow you can easily control the heat of the coals that are being used to create the smoke with the chunks of wood. Good luck and have fun.

    PS My mom talks about my late aunt and when we would visit her. She’d send my dad under the front porch (big brick house with standing room under the porch) to get a summer ham. I don’t have any memory of this but apparently it was ham that was cured in a salt/sugar brine and then wrapped in cheese cloth to be hung in the -relatively cooler – room under the porch. Supposedly these summer hams lasted several months prepared this way. This was in a fairly rural part of Tennessee.

  4. I’d love to try some of the old-fashioned style hams, but winters here are so unpredictable….
    Luckily we plan to raise more pigs, so we can keep practicing the art of charcuterie 🙂

    And feel free to comment at will! It’s fun to dig deeper into a topic and hear from other folks, especially via Nova’s blog…

  5. My father had just such a fridge smoker he’d made back in the late 1960’s when I was just a kid in Montana.

    He smoked a lot of salmon in that thing, which they then canned up for the year.

  6. I like the Brinkmann Smoker, may not be big enough for you guys, but we have done turkey breast, and lots of salmon on it. Slight modification was raising the bottom rack, otherwise at the price a very worthwhile investment. Hardware chains often carry it – and cannot beat the price at under $50 including tax. Probably comes close to the price of a garbage can.


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