Thursday, May 31, 2012

Liquors ~ project finished

Finished Product
I used coffee filters and screwed the metal band over it to hold it in place

Before straining out the lemon zest
 The pomegranate went through the filter very slowly since it had more fruit pulp. I wet the filters and tried again and it went through much faster with the lemon but not much difference with the pomegranate so I gave up with that one and used cheesecloth.
The zest looked so pretty I froze it to use later for another recipe

Finished off the liquors I was making. These are exceptionally easy to make. You really could use any fruit, flowers, herbs or what have you. I used vodka. they suggest Everclear if it is legal to buy in your state. It is not legal in Virginia. The idea is to use something that is absolutely tasteless. Vodka does have a distinct flavor but not so strong as to overpower the flavor you are trying to effect. The limoncello is a traditional Italian aperitif which is usually enjoyed cold. I used Meyer lemons for this which are now my favorite lemons and unlike any I've had before. If you haven't tried them you should. They are in season from November through March. The pomegranate liquor is one of my favorites and the brand I most enjoy is somewhat pricey so I thought I'd try making my own. These are simply made by infusing the fruit or rinds in the vodka and then after some weeks, straining them and adding simple syrup. These turned out nicely although I think the flavor could be tweaked a little. You can add more or less simple syrup depending how sweet you like it and the flavor should be better after the simple syrup has been added and it's been allowed another week or so before drinking. I got the recipes off the Internet and there are many.  Now...who wants a glass? Come on over!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Garden Stuff

I'm growing these in my garden this year. I'm hoping they do well and I plan to make them into my favorite sweet and hot crock pickles. They're made with fresh horseradish root. very easy to do. Everything gets tossed into a crock and stays there until they're gone. No canning necessary. Now where did I put that recipe? Oh, well, I have some time yet. I'm going to try to save all my own seed this year. Who wants to do a seed exchange?

Antique Bed ~ Finished!

What do you think? I'm quite happy with the outcome. I can just imagine a cozy little room with a large opening window in the top of the barn, spotless white sheets, big fluffy pillows and a soft handmade quilt. I already have my eye on some other piece. Hurry up Mark and finish the barn.......

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Beauty of Pollination
The Beauty of Pollination ~ Check this out, it is stunning....

Antique Bed ~ Project Update

Pictures of the antique iron bed being sandblasted by Giles Signs. . Joe was nice enough to take pics with his phone and email them to me. Sorry about the size. If I make them any bigger they are blurry. The sandblasting ended up being $112; add that to the $115 I paid for the bed and the cost is up to $227. Add to that the cost of power coating which was $125 and you get a grand total of $352. I picked up the bed from the painters and I'll be posting pics of the finished project tomorrow. I turned out great! The rails have the initials, G.P. embossed on them, which I'm sure is the foundry where the bed or at least the rails were made. I've been trying to research it but haven't been able to find it. Any Ideas? I can't wait to do another one......

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden Treasures

Virginia Dare Rose

I bought this little rose plant 2 years ago while on our yearly vacation to the outer banks at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island. It was tiny then and I waited so long to plant it that I really didn't expect it to survive. But, it hunkered down under the heaving boughs of my Rosemary plant in one of the herb beds and was evidently cozy enough with the mild winter to thrive and quadruple it's size. It's an indigenous species which is probably why it survived. FYI: Virginia Dare was the first English child born on American shores. Check out the website: it's quite beautiful and will just make you feel good.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Good For a sore throat

Honey Ginger Lemon Tea

Makes 12 ounces, about 2 servings
2 inches fresh ginger, sliced into thin coins
12 ounces boiling water
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1. Put the fresh ginger in a glass jar or pitcher. Pour the boiling water over it and let it steep for 5 minutes.
2. While the ginger is steeping, divide the lemon juice and honey between two mugs.
3. Strain the ginger tea into the mugs and stir to dissolve the honey. Taste and add more honey if desired.

A Nice Little Suprise

I was looking into our woods trying to spot the horses and I saw a lot of white and had no clue what it could be. On investigation, I found it to be masses of wild rhododendrons! I guess they've been there but never bloomed from lack of sufficient sunlight until we had the woods thinned. Just a nice little surprise. One of Virginia's many beauties......

It Was The Best Of Weekends, It Was The Worst Of Weekends

Poor Baby!

All fixed up, happily eating hay
We, you know what they say; you have to take the bad with the good. We had plenty of projects planned for the weekend but things just didn't work out. When I got up Saturday morning, my husband, Mark, came in to let me know Isa had a cut on her leg. Optimistic me grabbed clean water, towel and peroxided and trotted out to the paddock to clean it up and assess the damage. Well, I took one look and it and knew we were in for a nice big vet bill. (I was right.....file it under how to blow through $650  quick, fast and in a hurry, as my friend Renee likes to say....) So, quick call to my friend Renee to get number for vet, said vet called and said friend Renee rushing over to help. An hour or so later and Isa was all fixed up. The vet ended up putting her to sleep for the sutures. It's a disturbing thing to see an animal that large just fall to the ground with a huge thud. Poor thing; she had a hard time waking up and was pretty wobbly for a while. (I know just how she felt) Meanwhile, Dijon, the palomino, who is tricky as hell, was once again crawling under the paddock fence. So obviously we have a serious issue now with the electric fence which is not the situation you would like to have. So, after much puttering and several trips to the farm store, that situation got fixed. On top of that, about 10 minutes after the vet left, Isa's dressing slid down, exposing her wound so we had to do an entire leg wrap all over again. Grrrrrr..........Okay, putting that behind us....the rest of the day was spent feeding and medicating horses, figuring out people food and a little bit of socializing with visiting friends during which time, my three year old grandson decided to run up and grab the electric fence with not so fun results. Can this day be over please? On to Sunday. Another trip to farm store (getting to be an expensive habit), groceries and whatnot and back home to start on that chicken coop when my son informs us it is time to go to my daughter's house for Mothers Day cook out which was very pleasant. Okay, things are looking up! Right up until we drag exhausted grandchildren home so their mother to give them  a bath after which same three year old grandson, in a sleepy stupor, falls into the coffee table and splits his lip open. Lets hope for better luck on Monday. No and boy are both doing fine. Hope Mother's Day was enjoyed by all.....

Friday, May 11, 2012

This is a picture my daughter Ivy took of me in the garden. It had been so hot that I bought a simple pull over dress and that's what I've been wearing a lot, even to work outside in. I remember how everyone's grandmothers wore a light dress in the summer to do everything in and we thought is was so old fashioned. Well......they were smart. It's so much cooler. Just don't bend over too far when anyone's around. I remember seeing the tops of many a rolled down stocking.........

Horse'n Around

The Horses
Woke up this morning to chat with my husband, Mark, before he left for work. No sooner did he walk out the door he was coming back to tell me that one of the horses was out. Dijon, the mustard colored horse as my dear friend Renne calls him. He's the pretty palomino furthest to the left in the picture. I went out on the porch and there he was, calmly working his way around the yard eating green grass which is probably his favorite thing to do. I had surgery on my foot so my son had to get up and wrangle him back into the paddock which wasn't much of a feat; all he had to do was get their morning grain. Dijon was right over to the horse trailer where we are keeping it, poking his nose in the door. When we checked the electric fence, it was off. Hmmmmm, don't know how that happened. When the grain was down, Dijon couldn't wait to get back into the paddock. He's a favorite horse who is getting old and we've been a little sad wondering how much longer we were going to able to keep riding him.....ahem.....I guess if he can still jump a four foot fence without a problem we don't need to worry about that for a while. Horses are funny. They are a lot of work but a joy to be around. They have distinct personalities and can be fiercely loyal......or not. The other two horses we have here are Isa (in the middle) who is an American Cream Draft / Paint cross and Boo Boo (Fleeting Spirit) a grey thoroughbred. The ACD is mine, the other two are my friend Renne's. She's evented them and fox hunted them many times in the past so it doesn't surprise me when one of them jumps the fence; it's a wonder we keep them in at all!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Project updates

The newly hived bees are doing really well for the most part. We did lose one hive.. they were just packaged too long. But the good news is, we have 15 strong new hives and no sign of a bear yet. Good friends are hosting 5 of the new hives which we are really happy about. The honey will taste different from area to area depending on what's around for them to forage so it's nice to get a variety. The antique bed has gone from the sand blasters to the powder coaters.  The cost of the sand blasting was $112. It should be finished early next week. Can't wait to see it. Will have pics soon. If it turns out to be fairly reasonable to redo this bed, I may do more of them. Things are growing like crazy in the garden including the weeds. Need to get out there with the hoe. I read that spraying the weeds with a vinegar/water mix will kill the weeds. I'm going to try that and I'll let you know how it works. The chicken coop building has been held up do to weather. I found a supplier that sells the pvc pipe in 20 foot lengths so I went and picked some up today. Some of the parts in the plan call for pieces up to 19 feet and all we were able to get anywhere else were 10 feet. To simplify construction I decided to try to find the longer pieces instead of trying to figure out where we wanted to glue the shorter pieces together. It will add quite a bit of expense since the 10 foot pieces are less than $3 each but the 20 foot pieces are over $12 each. But it can still be built for around $100. If you want to glue the shorter pieces, I think it could be done for not too much more than $50. If you wanted a green house (which is what the plan is really for), I don't think you could get much cheaper than that. Hope to start putting it together tomorrow barring anymore drama with my foot.....stitches come out tomorrow.....can't wait (being cynical here)

Beekeepers Win Ban on Monsanto's GMOs in Poland

Monsanto's Mon810 corn, genetically engineered to produce a mutant version of the insecticide Bt, has been banned in Poland following protests by beekeepers who showed the corn was killing honeybees.
Poland is the first country to formally acknowledge the link between Monsanto's genetically engineered corn and the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that's been devastating bees around the world. Many analysts believe that Monsanto has known the danger their GMOs posed to bees all along. The biotech giant recently purchased a CCD research firm, Beeologics, that government agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture, have been relying on for help unraveling the mystery behind the disappearance of the bees.
Now that it's owned by Monsanto, it's very unlikely that Beeologics will investigate the links, but genetically engineered crops have been implicated in CCD for years now.
Take action!
We only feed our bees sugar water that we make ourselves from pure cane sugar. With all the recent controversy over corn syrup, I feel good about that. However, for beekeepers that have a large number of hives, that just isn't practical.

Scary Stuff

GroundTruth Blog

GE corn & sick honey bees - what's the link?

Heather Pilatic's picture
Heather Pilatic
Share this Bee on corn tassel - GE cornNo farmer in his or her right mind wants to poison pollinators. When I spoke with one Iowa corn farmer in January and told him about the upcoming release of a Purdue study confirming corn as a major neonicotinoid exposure route for bees, his face dropped with worn exasperation. He looked down for a moment, sighed and said, “You know, I held out for years on buying them GE seeds, but now I can’t get conventional seeds anymore. They just don’t carry ‘em."
This leaves us with two questions: 1) What do GE seeds have to do with neonicotinoids and bees? and 2) How can an Iowa corn farmer find himself feeling unable to farm without poisoning pollinators? In other words, where did U.S. corn cultivation go wrong?
The short answer to both questions starts with a slow motion train wreck that began in the mid-1990s: corn integrated pest management (IPM) fell apart at the seams. Rather, it was intentionally unraveled by Bayer and Monsanto.

Honey bees caught in the cross-fire

Corn is far from the only crop treated by neonicotinoids, but it is the largest use of arable land in North America, and honey bees rely on corn as a major protein source. At least 94% of the 92 million acres of corn planted across the U.S. this year will have been treated with either clothianidin or thiamethoxam (another neonicotinoid).
As we head into peak corn planting season throughout the U.S. Midwest, bees will once again “get it from all sides” as they:
  • fly through clothianidin-contaminated planter dust;
  • gather clothianidin-laced corn pollen, which will then be fed to emerging larva;
  • gather water from acutely toxic, pesticide-laced guttation droplets; and/or
  • gather pollen and nectar from nearby fields where forage sources such as dandelions have taken up these persistent chemicals from soil that’s been contaminated year on year since clothianidin’s widespread introduction into corn cultivation in 2003.
GE corn & neonicotinoid seed treatments go hand-in-hand.

Over the last 15 years, U.S. corn cultivation has gone from a crop requiring little-to-no insecticides and negligible amounts of fungicides, to a crop where the average acre is grown from seeds treated or genetically engineered to express three different insecticides (as well as a fungicide or two) before being sprayed prophylactically with RoundUp (an herbicide) and a new class of fungicides that farmers didn’t know they “needed” before the mid-2000s.
A series of marketing ploys by the pesticide industry undergird this story. It’s about time to start telling it, if for no other reason than to give lie to the oft-repeated notion that there is no alternative to farming corn in a way that poisons pollinators. We were once — not so long ago — on a very different path.

How corn farming went off the rails

Corn farmingIn the early 1990s, we were really good at growing corn using bio-intensive integrated pest management (bio-IPM). In practice, that meant crop rotations, supporting natural predators, using biocontrol agents like ladybugs and as a last resort, using chemical controls only after pests had been scouted for and found. During this time of peak bio-IPM adoption, today’s common practice of blanketing corn acreage with “insurance” applications of various pesticides without having established the need to do so would have been unthinkable. It’s expensive to use inputs you don’t need, and was once the mark of bad farming.
Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, GE corn and neonicotinoid (imidacloprid) seed treatments both entered the market — the two go hand-in-hand, partly by design and partly by accident. Conditions for the marketing of both products were ripe due to a combination of factors:
  • regulatory pressures and insect resistance had pushed previous insecticide classes off the market, creating an opening for neonicotinoids to rapidly take over global marketshare;
  • patented seeds became legally defensible, and the pesticide industry gobbled up the global seed market; and
  • a variant of the corn rootworm outsmarted soy-corn rotations, driving an uptick in insecticide use around 1995-96.
Then, as if on cue, Monsanto introduced three different strains of patented, GE corn between 1997 and 2003 (RoundUp Ready, and two Bt–expressing variants aimed at controlling the European Corn Borer and corn root worm). Clothianidin entered the U.S. market under conditional registration in 2003, and in 2004 corn seed companies began marketing seeds treated with a 5X level of neonicotinoids (1.25 mg/seed vs. .25).
... and in the space of a decade, U.S. corn acreage undergoes a ten-fold increase in average insecticide use. By 2007, the average acre of corn has more than three systemic insecticides — both Bt traits and a neonicotinoid. Compare this to the early 1990s, when only an estimated 30-35% of all corn acreage were treated with insecticides at all.
Adding fuel to the fire, in 2008 USDA’s Federal Crop Insurance Board of Directors approved reductions in crop insurance premiums for producers who plant certain Bt corn hybrids. By 2009, 40% of corn farmers interviewed said they did not have access to elite (high-yielding) non-Bt corn seed. It is by now common knowledge that conventional corn farmers have a very hard time finding seed that is not genetically engineered and treated with neonicotinoids.

Enter fungicides

In 2007, what’s left of corn IPM was further unraveled with the mass marketing of a new class of fungicides (strobilurins) for use on corn as yield “boosters.” Before this, fungicide use on corn was so uncommon that it didn’t appear in Crop Life’s 2002 National Pesticide Use Database. But in the last five years, the pesticide industry has aggressively and successfully marketed prophylactic applications of fungicides on corn as yield and growth enhancers, and use has grown dramatically as a result. This despite the fact that these fungicides work as marketed less than half the time. According to this meta-analysis of efficacy studies, only “48% of treatments resulted in a yield response greater than the economic break-even value of 6 bu/acre.”
At least 94% of the 92 million U.S. acres planted in corn is treated with pesticides known to harm bees.
Back to the bees. Neonicotinoids are known to synergize with certain fungicides to increase the toxicity of the former to honey bees up to  1,000-fold, and fungicides may be key culprits in undermining beneficial bee microbiota that do things like make beebread nutritious and support immune response against gut pathogens like Nosema. Fungicide use in corn is likewise destroying beneficial fungi in many cropping systems, and driving the emergence of resistant strains.
As with insecticides and herbicides, so too with fungicide use on corn: corn farmers are stuck on a pesticide treadmill on high gear, with a pre-emptively pressed turbo charge button (as “insurance”). Among the many casualties are our honey bees who rely on corn’s abundant pollen supply.
Keeping us all tethered to the pesticide treadmill is expected behavior from the likes of Monsanto. But what boggles the mind is that all of this is being aided and abetted by a USDA that ties cheap crop insurance to planting patented Bt corn, and a Congress that refuses to tie subsidized crop insurance in the Farm Bill to common-sense conservation practices like bio-intensive IPM. Try explaining that with a waggle dance.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

This is a row tunnel that my daughter helped me do over one of my raised beds. Only took about 20 minutes and cost about $10. Very easy to do. We used large pruning shears to cut the short pieces. Bought plastic (which isn't on yet) at Lowes very cheaply. Would like to do more of these. We just cut 12" pieces of the larger diameter and pounded those pieces halfway into the ground and inserted the ends of the smaller diameter pieces into them. Voila!
New Project: Here's the pics you've been waiting for. The iron bed......a good find since it in really fabulous shape except for the finish; it has original rails AND original casters which is fairly rare. So, it has been dropped off for sand blasting and then on to the powder coat people for new finish. Will have pics after sandblasting and then when finished. I can't wait!!
Crazy busy day yesterday. Building equipment to hive bees. My husband and I are both world class procrastinators, but in this case, it was unexpected. He sells bees every year that he gets from Georgia and he had more left over that didn't sell than we expected. Good year for it to happen though because the bee packages are beautiful this year. 4 full pounds of bees in each package! Huge! And our little apiary was down to two lonely hives for one reason or another. So......furiously trying to get equipment built and painted to get these poor little bees out of the cages. I built 200 frames.....I don't recommend doing this in one day.....So, My son, Seth was able to take 5 hives to friends' property last night and hive 5 packages. We'll finish equipment today and then hive the last 10 tomorrow. Then it's building much more equipment for the supers which are the boxes you put on top of the hive bodies that they actually fill with honey. A lot of work but the payoff will be golden......sorry...hopefully!
200 frames after assembly
frames ~ pre-assembley