Welcome to the homestead monthly, a collection of all the major events that happen on our homestead every month!
Unfortunate Surprise Honey Harvest
You may remember that I reported (just last month!) our meager honey harvest, and that all three of our colonies were full of plenty of honey and looking great going into winter. Well boy was I wrong…
There has been a lot of robbing activity in the past month- that means that other honey bees and especially yellow jackets are trying to get into our hives in order to steal the goods. Our bees have to spend the lovely warm fall days fending off evil intruders. We have done everything we can to help them, but it’s like a war zone out there.
One day we noticed that yellow jackets seemed to be coming and going as they pleased and the honey bees that were hanging around weren’t putting up any fight. Not good. We opened up the hive to find just a few live bees, a pile of dead ones on the bottom, and NOT A SINGLE DROP OF HONEY. Just a couple weeks prior there was close to 80 pounds in there! 80 pounds!! If you’re keeping track, that’s nearly $500 worth of honey. Gone in a matter of a few days. We were completely dumbfounded.
Our honey bees probably left because of the pressure of the robbing bees, although it’s likely more complicated than that. Wherever they went, they have no resources and won’t survive the winter.
A little over a week later we noticed the same scenario at a second hive- yellow jackets coming and going willy nilly with no one putting up a fight. We opened up the hive to find all the bees gone. It must have happened in the last day or two because there was still quite a bit of honey left. We gathered up the frames of honey and brought them in the house for safe keeping.
This is our third year with honey bees, and we’ve never seen robbing activity like we have this year, from yellow jackets especially. Next year we will be prepared with yellow jacket traps, as much as I hate to do that… it seems like it might be necessary.
We were able to save an extra 40-pounds of honey from the hive that left. Of course we wish it were under better circumstances, but we appreciate it that much more. Our total honey harvest for the year was about 75 pounds.
There will be a lot of Salted Honey Caramels this holiday season!
We try a lot of different things on the homestead- it seems like we’re always learning about something new and giving it a whirl. Sometimes things don’t work out as expected, and sometimes they do, which has been the case with growing mushrooms!
In May we inoculated what seemed like an entire forrest’s worth of logs with Shiitake mushroom spawn. It was quite anticlimactic, because after we inoculated them we put them in a pile in the woods and covered them with straw… where they would sit for an entire year before popping out delicious fungus.
We were told that they may throw out a couple mushrooms this fall, so I had been doing weekly checks just in case. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the mushroom yard and discovered a couple baby shiitakes had come to life!
In total we got five mushrooms, and they were delicious! My Beef & Kale Stroganoff (with lots of mushrooms in it!) was never more delicious!
We can’t wait until spring when we (hopefully) have more mushrooms than we know what to do with. The fact that they are already producing is a great sign!
In our town is a defunct orchard, who has given us permission to pick apples for the past two years (while we wait for our own trees to grow up… oh the waiting!). We really appreciate their generosity, and love that we can put the apples to good use instead of seeing them rot all over the ground.
We still had a lot of apple sauce, apple juice, and dried apples from the previous year, so I thought I would try canning spiced apple slices for the first time. I used a very light honey syrup with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla bean. It turned out to be one of the best things I think I’ve ever canned, just like apple pie in a jar- so good! I posted the recipe —> here!
Rare Apple Paradise
Speaking of apples… we did something pretty cool. We took an impromptu trip a few hours away to Seed Savers Exchange to visit their heritage orchard, where we had the orchard to ourselves for a couple hours, and permission to sample as many apples as we wanted. I was elated! Karl too actually… we were like two kids at Disney World, with no lines for any of the rides and all you can eat ice cream buffet.
Our mission: to find rare apples we want to help preserve and add to our own antique apple orchard. We came home with 60 varieties to taste! It was actually pretty slim pickings there, as this was the very end of the later-fruiting varieties, so we only got a mere fraction of the 1200+ antique and heirloom varieties they keep. Still an impressive haul!
I am so thankful and encouraged that places like this even still exist! We will definitely be going back during high apple time in the future. We’ve already found a couple antique varieties we’ve fallen in love with!
I can’t believe we’ve never grown garlic before. Well… that changed this year, big time!
We went from never growing garlic, to planting 150+ cloves of about 30 different varieties. Which is about right… because when we do things, we tend to go big and get ourselves in way over our heads. Case in point: garlic planting.
I have a new friend who is a garlic-aficionado, and she generously shared her incredible collection with me. There was quite a bit left over from planting, so we’ve been eating the different varieties and taking notes about them- so fun!
I have a feeling that this is the start of a brand new obsession!
Thanks for being here with us!
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