Harvesting Honey and Making Jam

Last week my bee friend, Lorraine, came over to help me with my hives.  We looked into the ‘nuc’ or baby hive and she went holy moly.  I guess those blighters had been working like mad and were already getting crowded and in need of a new home.

Fortunately I’d bought a whole new hive at Buckerfields earlier, so we took all of the frames from the small hive and moved them into a new home.  We then went over to the old hive, and Lorraine said “I can hear them buzzing from here” as we came toward it.

Here was another bunch of hard-working bees, and Lorraine just went berserk when she saw the amount of capped honey in the frames in the top hive box.  She said that’s about the amount of honey she used to get after a whole season, and this is just July, and I removed four frames of honey in early June.

But I didn’t have any more blank frames, and Lorraine said I had remove the ones filled with honey ASAP as the bees could swarm if it gets too full in there.  So today I did that, and man were those bees ever angry.  The kid at Buckerfields, the bee expert, said they just get madder as each week goes by into fall.

So now I have five heavy frames of honey to spin, and that’s a heart-sinking thought: The mess of the hot honeycomb knife, the wax on the counter, the physical hell of the spinning, and the mess of getting the honey out of the extractor.

When I say things like that to Lorraine she says brightly you have to think of it as a labour of love.  And I reply I feel more and more like accepting my mom’s offer of $10 to go and buy myself a jar of honey.

And then as these bee excursions always end, I got stung right on the bottom of my chin.  It was so hot with the bee suit on I had sweat blinding me, I was desperate for a moment of air and took off the hood when I thought I was far enough away from the bees.  I wasn’t, as one vindictive maniac decided to follow me and finish me off.

After Lorraine and I looked at the hives, I went to Osoyoos and came home with about 40 pounds of ripe apricots.  Mom loves apricot jam and eats at least 60 jars of it a year, so I have to make an awful lot, which is fine.

But if anyone reading this has tried to make apricot jam, you know it’s got to be one of the trickiest jams in the world to set.  I’ve eaten some jam that would best be called apricot soup, and that’s really nasty.  At least when mine fails, it’s been boiled like hell, so I call it apricot syrup.

And apricot syrup is great for yogurt, on pancakes or waffles, or poured on a roast ham, but mom doesn’t want apricot syrup, the woman wants apricot jam.  She wants it to remain on her piece of bread until she’s eaten it, not dripping over the sides.

So imagine my annoyance at just having made about eight jars of syrup.  Now I have to re-boil these with more pectin, and then surely to God this is going to gel.  Between honey extraction and jam making I’m likely going to have a nervous breakdown.

Baking to Reduce Stress

You know what they say, when the going gets tough, the tough start baking.  This morning I noticed black billowing smoke in the distance and figured this is it, another fire.  That’s what happens when there’s a province-wide emergency and you’ve been evacuated before for fire.  Your nerves go.

But it turns out a condominium burned down, and that’s what caused that huge plume of black smoke.  I feel bad for the poor people who had to be evacuated and lost all their stuff.  But in the meantime, I just had to start baking to calm my nerves.

Alice, my pal from the Liberal executive, gave me two huge zucchinis, so I made two loaves, one the normal variety with spices and the other with chocolate.  They’re currently in the oven filling the kitchen with that lovely smell of home baked goods.

And for the past while I’ve been immersing myself in Friends, starting with episode 1, and so every night I get to sing the theme song four or five times.  The dog just loves it as it really does put one in a relaxed and happy mood.

And why not, as the show began in 1994 when life was good.  Clinton and Chretien were in power, and the economy was roaring.  I got Arnie in 1995.  I have a lot of nostalgia for the 90’s.  Even the idea of a summer filled with forest fire haze was unthinkable then.

Today Nicky came by with their adorable mutt, Fuji, and he upset Louie as usual, just by his mere presence.  Louie just cannot stand that young dog, and the dog worships Louie so it’s one of those unfortunate relationships.  The little dog crouches, wagging, inches from Lou’s face, and Lou just gets up and walks away.

Nicky, Haruka and Fuji are coming for dinner tomorrow so Louie will be upset once again.  Then we’re off to the Buddhist temple for a Japanese festival and I’ll get to watch Haruka performing in her drumming group.

For more stress reduction, I have plans to make a proper Black Forest cake for my birthday party next week.  I bought Kirsch which is de rigueur, and it requires one uses ripe cherries and not the ghastly pie cherries used in some places.  That isn’t a proper Black Forest cake.

I also found a divine recipe for chicken liver pate, which I’ll make and freeze so that I can give it to mom.  She had her mouth set on it the last time I visited, and when I arrived she said where’s the pate?  I said to her she’d told me she had plenty of food in the place so I didn’t bother making it.  That was a mistake, obviously, as one always has room for pate.

Last week I made a cherry fool which is just pitted cherries cut in half and mixed with whipping cream, which I gave to Haruka to take home to Nick.  She was here with the hound from hell and I babysat him as she shopped.  God knows neither Lou nor Fuji can be left unattended as they’re too precious.

And the final stress reliever is a tablespoon or two of my very own honey, which is laden with honeycomb and supposedly very healthy.  I should be as calm as a cuke.

Visited the Kangaroo Farm

Luke’s wife Jan and I went to the Kangaroo Creek Farm in Winfield.  It’s about 12 acres of wallabies, emus, capybaras, goats and exotic foul.  The ducks are from Indonesia and have adorable punk rocker-style tufts of feathers on the tops of their heads.  A beautiful chicken with a crest on its head had two fluffy chicks, one day old, racing about.

Jan loves animals as much as I do so we petted as many of them as we could.  We snuck up to some albino wallabies snoozing in the shade of a wagon and scratched their little backs.  All of the animals are just too full to accept any treats so you’re just lucky if one deigns to come over and lets you pet it.

On the way home I gave Jan a tour of the development around Quail’s Gate golf course, and then ran around UBCO as well.  A trip wouldn’t be complete without stops at Asian Market and Super Store.

It was a brief respite from the to do lists that always await.  I’ve gotten a fair bit of things done, but my God, have they ever cost a lot of money.  I had the entire yard pruned and I nearly choked when handed a bill for $1453.  However they arrived at 8:00 and worked non-stop until 3:00 so perhaps that’s just how much it costs.

And notice how I said “I’ve gotten things done” which should be interpreted as “I phoned people and made them do things.”  But then the bill comes and one weeps a bit.  But I have enough to do to finish shovelling out a yard of pebbles onto my xeriscape garden’s pathway.

Lorraine my beekeeper friend came to help me and she was thrilled to see my new hive.  She said my original hive already needed the queen excluder and honey super put on top, so I should soon have 40 pounds of honey from that hive.

And Lorraine’s so funny because as we were fooling around with the bees and putting the hive back together she asked, “Are you happy with that table, then?”  I had no idea what she was alluding to, so replied happily “well, I was, but shouldn’t I be?”

It’s one of those metal café tables, but once all three hive boxes are full, that would be 40 pounds times 3, or 120 pounds on the table by fall.  I said I hadn’t even thought of that, and so now I need to look for a sturdy bottom.

Lorraine said why not get a pallet, and I said but that’s ghastly, as then you have to bend right down to the ground.  The way I have this set up I’m eye-level with the top and so can easily work without a backache.  But whatever, as she said you really don’t want to come out one morning with the whole hive smashed, do you?

No, Lorraine, I do not.  So will add that to my list, as I always enjoy a shopping mission.  I’m quite happy to be assigned something to shop for as then I come home with surprises.

Bees and Booze

Can you believe, but I already collected four frames of honey from my hive?  The queen is just fantastic, and I’m extremely proud of her.  I’ll have to keep harvesting on a regular basis because otherwise if the frames are all full of honey, the queen has no place to lay eggs.  So I’ll remove honey-filled frames, then replace with blank ones.

And can you imagine my shock and excitement over the recent realization liquor no longer means migraine?  Over the past many years, I’ve learned even one drink can spike a terrible migraine, and so I’ve been kind of afraid of booze.

However mid-February I went on this incredible nutrient-rich food and supplement intake and 12 weeks later my body had changed.  No more migraines, and a very nice propensity towards being able to hold fairly decent amounts of liquor again.  Woo Hoo!!

Of course it’s a time commitment to shovel all of that down one’s gullet, but it appears to be well worth it.  I’ve lost maybe 5 pounds in the process, so that’s been a bit of encouragement as well.

On Friday my mom and I, and my school friends Phyllis and Maryjoy, attended a memorial for our old high school teacher, and mom’s friend, David Holmes-Smith.  He was my English Literature teacher and therefore very inspirational.

I recall when we read Hamlet I got hold of nearly every copy in the room, crossing out the word Ham and writing in Pig.  I changed Hamlet to Piglet and thought I was extremely witty.  He on the other hand, being Oxford educated, found me and my Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In style musings not very funny.

Tomorrow at 8:00 AM I’m to be at the Okanagan Bee Farm to pick up my ‘nuc’ hive.  That’s a new hive of baby bees with a queen.  Hopefully they’ll make it over the winter as well, and then I should have two, and maybe even three hives by next spring.

My friend Lorraine who’s a seasoned beekeeper’s coming in two weeks to check if there are any ‘queen’ cells.  If so, we can put that frame elsewhere and perhaps start a hive that way.  Soon the property’ll be littered with hives.

In preparation I got another set of hive boxes, screened bottom board, hive cover and 20 frames.  The cost was about $250 so I said to the kid at Buckerfields, “Honey’s still running at about $200 a jar.”  So hopefully in a year or two it’ll get cheaper.

And then joy of joy, you should see my drink options.  I can make Manhattans, tequila sunrises, cosmopolitans, Margaritas, pina coladas, and many more.  It’s quite heady, really and an awful lot more fun than just pouring a glass of wine, as I used to do.

However there are two liquors I simply cannot stand, and those are gin and Scotch.  To me, the former tastes of perfume and the latter of medicine, so not sure how people find those palatable.

My fig tree has 13 figs on it, so I hope they ripen and it makes more.  My dahlias are planted, and so now all I have to do is enjoy.

Dog Meets Dog

You know how I like to hang on to friends for decades, and last week Sherrie, who I’ve known since grade 1, came over for lunch.  Can you imagine visiting with someone you’ve known for 56 years?  Her husband Art came too as she doesn’t drive, but we shooed him away so we could reminisce properly.

Since I go to Osoyoos often to help mom I get to see the old haunts, not that there are a lot of them in that little berg.  Sherrie and I still refer to Happy Hollow as Happy Hollow, which any newcomers wouldn’t even know.  That’s the area behind the RCMP station and the school and is indeed, a steepish hill leading to a flat area.

I never run into anyone I know in that little town as I guess most have moved away.  When I grew up in Osoyoos the population was 1500 but now it’s 5000.  It’s still fabulously easy to get anything within a few minutes.  I can hit the health food, drugs, grocery and liquor stores easily under an hour.

And this is sadly no longer the case in Kelowna where everyone and their dog now wants to live.  Why?  We’ve had a horrible winter and no spring to date.  If you’re reading this and are contemplating moving here, please don’t.

I sold our Richter street house myself within two months of listing it, so there’s no way this market is showing any signs of cooling down.  I keep hearing about how exorbitant rents have become.  In other words, do not move to Kelowna unless you have buckets of money.  Kind of like Vancouver.

Nicky and Haruka adopted a ten week old King Charles cavalier spaniel and named him Fuji.  Nicky brought him over the day Sherrie was here and we were all going berserk over how cute he is.  Naturally this didn’t sit well with Louie at all, as he immediately snapped at the puppy and hated him.

Louie loves people and on our walk his happiest moments are when we run into someone who’ll give him a little petting.  The mail people are fantastic as Louie starts to run when he sees the mail truck and so they have to stop and get out no matter what else they may be trying to do.

So I just assumed a dog that loved all people would at least like a puppy but no.  He doesn’t really like other dogs, though he doesn’t act mean to them.  He’s a people dog, not a dog dog, and certainly puppies are anathema to him.

Because of this dreck weather I’m horribly behind, but there’s some hope on the horizon.  When the nice sprinkler company came to turn on my system, I mentioned my pruning dilemma to them and they said they had someone who prunes.  I was so thrilled as I don’t give a damn what it costs, I won’t have to kill myself with these tall cedars.

It’s amazing how quickly hedges and trees can get out of control.  So I want these people to just cut the hell out of all of it, and that should be good again for a while.  Even though I enjoy the image of being Sleeping Beauty in her overgrown castle, it gets to be a bit much when there’s no longer any house visible at all.

 

Retirement

Today I delivered my first batch of 120 cookies to the Gospel Mission downtown.  As you know, I love to bake, and without the fruitcake business I was yearning for consumers of some of my baked-goods.  I contacted the Gospel Mission and they said sure, bring them on over!

So with any luck, they’ll receive those weekly.  However lately I can’t commit to much given poor old mom’s in terrible shape from osteoarthritis.  She’s currently largely bedridden, and so I spend a bit of time at the house helping out.  Louie enjoys it there tremendously which is lucky.

We’re hoping she’ll bounce back once again, as she’s done it before.  She’s in very good mental shape for 92, but the body’s starting to balk.  Luke spent the night at Easter and said he gave mom a good pep talk about the importance of trying to walk.  And today mom said she was walking up and down her hallway, so maybe that’s progress.

Like this cold spring, I’m also about three weeks behind schedule.  I just can’t understand how I used to work and find time for anything else, as now that I’m completely retired I don’t seem to have any time at all.  What happens to time when you retire?

But I guess between dog walking, yard work, helping mom and baking cookies time just gets away from a person.  Certainly blog and newsletter writing has been sluggish as well.  I need an inspiration or a new direction.

The other day Luke suggested we should start an E Bay account and then my job would be to browse thrift stores for stuff to sell.  He said he’d go to Pick ‘n Pull and try to find obscure small car parts to flog.  To date nothing’s happened.

One thing I’ve been busy doing is re-decorating the basement suite.  Nicky and Haruka took the bulk of the furniture when they moved, so I had to replace it.  I got a fantastic wood table and set of 4 chairs for $100, and a couch for $150 from a downtown office.

I went through the bookshelves and culled vast numbers of books which I’ll drop at the Salvation Army. Now I basically need adorable things like throw cushions and a mirror, plus perhaps a standing lamp or two.

If it would turn nice, I have to re-pot my fig tree, and also get my dahlias into pots and into the greenhouse to get them started.  I’m still pruning down old growth in my xeriscape garden, and need to weed like mad.  The garden still looks terrible from winter.

And here’s the kicker about the health regime I’ve been on: no weight’s come off this carcass whatsoever.  I used to binge on Revels and other bad stuff, now eat like a lowland gorilla and haven’t shed any bulk.  Why?

I guess I should just give in to obesity and dress for it.  You know how Trump has 4 foot long ties so that his stomach looks normal size?  I’ll have to find some female dress equivalents so that I can fool the public as well.

Louie Got Traumatized

Mango the cat is going to turn 13 at the beginning of April, and one of his favourite snacks is poisoned ants.  Because this house seems to be a refuge for huge colonies, there are times when an army of ants can be seen marching into it along the walls.  I attack with Raid foam and also put those little cans of poison around.

Whichever it is that actually kills them, I don’t know, but there are times when their dead bodies are belched all over a small area.  Soon Mango’s over there, eating all the corpses, then meticulously cleaning himself afterward, as though he hasn’t just chemically altered his whole body.

And speaking of birthdays, little Louie’s going to turn four on April 1st.  It was sad but the other day he was soundly beaten up by a skittish black lab on our daily walk in the neighbourhood.

I saw the youngish woman and the dog on a leash approaching and Louie did too and he started to get excited to rush forward to greet them.  Being a Lover and not a Fighter, he was pretty shocked by what happened over the next few moments.

Just as the woman was saying she didn’t like it when her dog started stalking the way she was, at the same moment Louie started growling at the dog and also lunging for it, and suddenly the melee was on.  Dog fight on Hall Road!

As this dog was three times Louie’s height, she had him off the ground in her mouth and he was being shaken out like a dirty mop.  He was screaming and I was yelling Help Help, while the woman fought to get her dog to release Lou.

I inspected my dog, and didn’t see anything on him so told her he was okay.  She apologized and left admonishing the dog as they walked away.  Louie ran all the way home, and wasn’t himself for the rest of the day.

A few hours later I noticed he was holding his head to the side, and then I saw one ear flap had an incision from a bite mark.  I put Polysporin on it, and otherwise the dog was fine.  The next day he went on his walk as though nothing traumatic had occurred the day prior.

And here’s some happy news.  The bees survived the winter!  I went down on the first sunny and warm day in March and took off the insulation.  I put my ear to the hive and couldn’t hear a thing so I thought they’d probably bought the farm.

But then I pried open the lid, and there they were, crawling around the top of the frames.  I had a pollen patty ready for them which I slapped on top of the bees and frames and put the lid on top of that.  With that food they’ll easily make it until the dandelions bloom.

I’ve researched chickens, but I haven’t done one single thing about ordering any. First I need a handyman to convert the kids’ old playhouse into a coop.  Then I need fencing around, and actually over top due to the raccoons.  Otherwise, no chickens.

In a month or so I’ll be picking up a second hive, so will concentrate on the bees for now.