The Queen Is???

So, I am almost embarrassed to write this. I apologize for being like a bad soap opera. At the last hive inspection, I could not locate the queen and my bees were acting “depressed” and overly docile. They weren’t flying much even though it was the first warm day (I was in short sleeves and I get cold easily). There was no brood or eggs that I could find. Although there was a population bump after I moved them to a dry hive which means there was recently a queen, I do not think she is there anymore. My brother has suggested that since it has been a cold spring and there may not be enough worker bees to keep brood warm, the queen has stopped laying for a while. And while that is a great theory, I think I would have seen the queen. I scoured the hive. I went over each frame like 3 times and there are not a whole lotta bees in there for her to hide behind. The only good sign I saw was that there are no dead bees in the hive, which means they are doing their housecleaning. So…queenless? You can take bets now. I’m thinking of combining this hive with my brother’s hive that could use a boost of worker bees.  I can place a queen excluder between boxes on the outside chance that there is still a queen in my hive, but I’ll bet you five dollars there isn’t. I have the feeling that unless I am lucky and catch a swarm later in the spring, or some kind beekeeper gifts me with a split, I am out of the bee business this season. Fingers Crossed.

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Hot Sauce, Casserole, and Soup

From this pile of dishes and utensils…messaftercooking

…emerged these meals:

Veg-CVFPorkSausage-Cassarole vegsoup-hotsauce

On top, is a vegetable and pork sausage casserole. The sausage is from our Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm meat share; most of the veggies are from my garden and include potatoes, tomatoes, yellow sweet peppers, runner beans, tomato sauce, eggplant, garlic, chives, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Things not from the garden include a generous helping of mozzerella cheese, broccoli, tomato paste, celery salt, organic no salt seasoning, a bit of agave syrup instead of suger and paprika. It is VERY tasty, kind of like a cross between a shepherd’s pie and eggplant parmesean.

On the bottom right is a jalepeno hot sauce with jalepenos, tomatoes, tomatillos and garlic from the garden along with a little dash of dill vinegar and organic honey (not from my hive yet though). So good with tortilla chips!

On the bottom left is a vegetable stock made from whatever I needed to use up from the garden. I’ve been freezing the excess for the past 6 weeks and wanted to use it up before it developed off flavors, as I didn’t blanch anything prior to freezing. In addition to the bountiful tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers, this includes a LOT of dark leafy greens, including kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli leaves. My broccoli never flowered, but I discovered the leaves, minus the tough inner veins, taste just like the flower and are great for juicing, shredding and other uses. To make this stock I put all of the frozen, pureed vegetables in one pot, added Bragg’s and Costco organic no salt seasoning, plus maybe a dash of celery salt, and after about 40 minutes I had stock. To make a quick, delicious creamy soup I added some drinkable yougurt. Yum!

I must admit that my new Vitamix indespensible for making juices, salsas, or anything requiring blending. I bought my first one 20 years ago, and finally wore it out. It is an amazing appliance…I won’t do the full commercial but I will say this: it is my favorite appliance, and it actually does work as advertised. I spent a lot of money years ago and it became and integral part of how I operate in the kitchen. When it started to die I was dismayed. I couldn’t afford to buy one new this time, but a co-worker with a knack for bargain hunting tipped me off to a lady who was selling hers, less than a year old, for half the price! It seems I should have retired my old one years ago. I didn’t realize how poorly it performed in the last few years until I powered up the new one. So now I am back in business.

Return of the Honeybees!

Last summer, my garden was absolutely buzzing with honeybees. So much so that my husband and I got really interested in beekeeping and tried to figure out a good spot in our yard to house a beehive and collect our own honey. Our yard is not that big and the only spots that seemed ideal were either right where our son plays, or a bit too close to where the neighbor’s kids play. The wild bees were plenty, though; they must have been living in our other neighbor’s garage. I worked in my garden amidst the bees all summer while my son ate raspberries off of the bushes where they were buzzing.  We watched them (and the bumblebees, mason bees, and other pollinators) up close and personal, and no one ever got stung or even threatened. But still, the idea of putting a hive on purpose right in a high traffic area didn’t seem like such a great idea. At least we had our wild honeybees.Well, this spring they disappeared. From April through mid June, I think I saw six honeybees. Last year on a fine May day you’d see six on one plant! I figured that either the neighbors had the hive exterminated, or that the bees woke up during the unseasonably warm days in March, only to succumb to late frosts.

This past week, though, I’ve finally seen some honeybees! Here’s one of the many I saw, working some flowers in the garden:

honeybee in my garden june 2012

This little guy was working a Salvia plant in my garden.

For Comparison, here’s a bumblebee:

And what I believe is an orchard mason bee  (leave a comment below if I’m wrong and you know what this is):

Orchard Mason Bee?

Now, the return of the bees in my garden has me thinking about urban beekeeping all over again. Especially since my younger brother Andy seems to be doing just fine with his new honeybee hive in on a Chicago city lot not that different in size than ours. I’ll be posting some pictures 0f his bees in the not-too-distant future!

But if you can’t wait to find out more about honeybees, especially if you live in the Chicago area, check out the Chicago Honey Co-Op. 

Canon EOS Rebel T3i!

This gallery contains 10 photos.

So I finally, after years of deliberation, I broke down and got a digital SLR camera. I’m in love! It has been SO long since I’ve immersed myself in photography and it feels like I just came home. The camera just fits right in my hands. I have to relearn everything, but I still love […]

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun.

You may wonder why I haven’t been keeping up with my blog in these past few weeks. Well, time just slipped away from me! It seems like yesterday that I hauled several month’s worth of hard work over to What’s Blooming and tried my hand at the art fair thing. Several plastic tubs are still sitting in my office, waiting to be unpacked. The handmade paper artwork has made it safely into my flat files for storage, but my office is a disaster! Life gets busy, my garden needed weeding and planting, laundry and dishes and bills must be paid, relationships tended to, work is work, and before I know it another week has gone by!

Yet the next wave of artwork is bubbling under the surface of my brain, a heady brew of ideas simmering. Rose and I have decided to do another fair in the fall and we are already signed up for the Ravenswood Art Walk on September 29 & 30th. I’ve got ideas for how to better display my artwork and jewelry; I like the idea of making some free-standing partitions for the handmade paper art, drawings and paintings, and I’ve been on the lookout for fabric to dress up the tables.

I’ve also bought some new beads on Etsy, my new favorite place to buy art supplies! I can’t wait to work with the gorgeous beads I bought. Included in the bunch are frosty, green and blue sea glass beads, these sweet Steampunk Lampwork Beads, gorgeous beads made from seeds and bone, as well as more paperbark and cow horn beads from Mzuribeads.While kayaking in Wisconsin found birch bark that I’m going to use in paper making and bead making. Just today I walked by a couple of Kentucky Coffee Bean trees and collected a bunch of seeds…I thought I’d have to wait until the fall to collect more seeds but the tree was full of pods and already dropping them. They make awesome beads! I also just read that if you bake them for 3 hours and grind them up, they can be used as a coffee substitute (they are poisonous prior to baking I guess).

In my overgrown, unruly garden I see many long, thin branches I’d like to weave into my art projects (or at least make my own twig trellises for the garden). In addition to my edible summer veggies I’ve also planted my scarlet runner beans and my canna lilies, both of which will provide seeds I can use in my projects.

But underneath it all I need to build a bit of structure…this next wave of creativity will be a bit better organized with a couple of spreadsheets and maybe a binder.

Now I’m just rambling though. You get the picture. Go check out the links to the Etsy stores though, seriously! There’s some pretty stuff.

What’s Blooming?

What do you get when you cross an art opening at a gallery with a farmer’s market? An art fair! That’s kind of what it feels like to me, anyway. I’ve been in gallery shows, and helped out a farmer’s market booth, and find both activities immensely enjoyable. Tomorrow is my first outdoor art fair and I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of new folks and showing off the fruits of my labor. The weather is supposed to be on the hot side of perfect.

I’m ready!

If you’re in the area and looking for something fun to do, check out What’s Blooming on Harrison. 

I’ll be at booth #78 on the South side of Harrison Street, east of Lombard.

Then after that I’ve got to focus a little bit on What’s Blooming in my garden. The weeds have definitely gotten the upper hand this year, so they need a little talking to! My little dwarf peach tree is leafing out and my fig tree looks awesome. The persimmons, japanese maple and paperbark maple are looking happy too. It occurred to me the other day that I might eventually be able to take the flaky bark from the mature paperbark maple and roll them into beads, kind of like the Ugandan barkcloth beads I bought from Mzuribeads.com. That might work together in a necklace. I also need to plant my canna lilies so I make sure to have lots of the perfect, round, unbreakable seeds that look great as spacer beads. They are a deep chocolate-brown. And of course, over the next week or so I need to plant lots of scarlet runner beans, the magic bean that started my jewelry making frenzy.

I’ll still have plenty of edibles, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, and such are going in the ground too. And then I need to harvest the bumper crop of garlic, carrots and purple peacock broccoli that lived through the winter and completely took over the square foot gardens.

What’s Blooming indeed!