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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.

Haruka’s First Christmas in Canada

As you know, Haruka arrived at the end of November, so she was here for all the preparations and said she was looking forward to her first Canadian Christmas.  It all went well, and I think everyone enjoyed it.  I did, that’s for sure, as both kids, their wives and my mom were here, then Denis came over on Christmas Day.

In preparation for the Christmas weekend, mom and I had a luncheon at her house for my pals Phyllis and Penny, and Penny’s mom, also named Phyllis, who’s also 91 like mom.  Initially we’d planned to meet at a restaurant, but due to mom’s bad back it seemed so much easier to do it at her house.

They all just loved it, as the meal began with a salad made with avocados, blanched snap peas and green beans, lettuce, cukes and a home made green goddess dressing.  I also crumbled feta cheese and pecans roasted in maple syrup over the top before serving individual plates to the women.

Once that was eaten we had the seafood chowder which I believe was in one of my latest newsletters.  It’s a really delicious soup and so easy to make.  They went nuts over it, as it has fennel fronds in it which taste so exotic.

For dessert we had the rum mousse which I had in the December newsletter, and accompanied that with my cookies such as the Spitzbueble.  All in all, a well-received lunch by these nice women, so I was pleased.

Warmed up by that, I was able to produce a roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, gravy and veggies on Christmas Eve, and the standard stuffed turkey, potatoes, gravy, and so on for Christmas Day.

As usual there were way too many gifts, and some were too large anyway, to fit under the tree, so they were set about.  I said to Haruka we usually get so exhausted halfway through opening stuff we eat, then return to open more.

Not that each gift is expensive, but it’s just fun things we all take turns watching the other person open.  Luke gave me two adorable Japanese-themed mugs that I just love, and Haruka gave me a dachshund-themed dog bed which Louie adores.

On Christmas Day the kids expect eggs Benedict, but Luke didn’t come until afternoon so I made them for Nicky and Haruka.  Mom doesn’t like them as it’s always murder to get everything as scalding hot as she likes in that kind of a dish.  And she only likes food the temperature of Venus so she refuses to eat anything cooler than that.

Mom far prefers to eat a slice of a German Stollen, which is a kind of a dense raisin loaf with a stripe of marzipan that runs down the middle.  She looks forward to that the way the offspring look forward to their eggs Benny.  Luke got his individually made for him on Boxing Day, to prepare him for the drive to Osoyoos to drop mom.

We neglected to play poker or roulette on Christmas Day and at dinner when I asked the assembled why we hadn’t they blamed it on lack of planning and Margaret’s absence.  They said if Margaret was here, we would’ve been more organized.  Next year, for sure.