J Roy’s taken the course, and bought the supplies. He’s getting ready for our honeybees, due in March. There’s a lot to prepare, so it’s just as well we’ve got a few months. Last week we bought cast-off paint from Home Depot ($1 is my kind of price point) and gave the hives a pretty blue coat.
I hope the bees like their new homes.
We also went to the Capital Region Beekeepers Association annual potluck and silent auction. There were about 30-40 people in attendance, and they certainly put on a good spread. I was expecting a honey theme to the food, but no such luck. I had considered making something with honey as my contribution, but figured my Costco honey might not cut it. Every person we talked to was in their first year of beekeeping. I’m not sure what that means: either we only talked to the younger people (the old folks tended to keep to themselves), or that beekeeping is really hard and people give up frequently, or that only the newbies are excited to come to the potluck. J Roy was surprised that most people he asked hadn’t taken any courses on beekeeping, which made him feel a little better about his own chance of success.
I expect J Roy will join the association in the new year, and Big Al will probably join too as he is J Roy’s honeybee wingman. What with their association, and Irene’s dahlia club, it got me thinking that I need my own association to join. It seems the farmy thing to do.
The days are getting shorter, and the nights frostier. Irene was getting concerned about our poor little plants shivering in the garden, so she enlisted the help of J Roy and built a little shelter in the garden. It’s cleverly made of pipes from our old water system, joined together with plumbing fittings.
J Roy and I decided we needed to test the efficacy of this little shelter. Irene said she had planted one type of cabbage inside and another one outside. No no, we explained, that won’t tell us anything. Science to the rescue!
I told her about needing the same variety of plant inside and out, and how we needed the same conditions for each, and more than two specimens for each treatment.
“How many do we need to run a t test?” J Roy asked. He was all excited to run a t test, a statistical test to measure the average differences between two groups. As the resident statistician of the family (ha, right), I was expected to have answers.
“At least three per treatment,” I said.
“Three?” J Roy was confused. “At work I use thousands of data points.”
“Well, lucky you,” I replied. “Welcome to biology.”
I bought two packages of elephant garlic on sale, equal to six cloves. It’s a little late to be planting garlic, but it will be a good test for the shelter.
Properly randomised between bags to control for confounding factors!
I planted the garlic according to specifications on the bags, the same for each treatment. Both treatments were planted in the same bed with the same soil, but only one is covered.
Treatment 1: outside in the cold (it’ll be tucked in, I promise).
Treatment 2: inside the toasty shelter.
Updates complete with graphs and stats will be forthcoming. I expect to take plant height measurement as our growth metric, with time to maturation and bulb size also important measurements. Let’s do this RIGHT.
Last year J Roy and I celebrated out fourth wedding anniversary. We’ve been giving each other gifts every year according to the traditional list of anniversary gifts, because it’s fun to get creative with the sometimes obscure requirements. For example, first anniversaries are paper, so J Roy gave me a card-based board game. Last year was fruit or flowers. I bought him three pond plants, and he bought me a Meyer lemon tree. Yes, we can grow lemons in our warm corner of Canada.
My little tree came with one small, green lemon. I was very excited. All summer the plant grew, and blossomed with the most gorgeously scented white flowers. The bees loved them. The tree grew so much I had to repot it. The little green lemon grew bigger. By the time the lemon was actually lemon-sized, no fewer than eleven new little lemons had sprouted all over the tree. Success! One lemon merengue pie coming up!
Irene has been babysitting the tree on her porch, and the last time we visited the farm, I went to go say hi to the lemon tree. I was astounded to see the first lemon had actually turned yellow. I was ridiculously excited.
I decided to make a very small batch of lemon curd to showcase my very first lemon.
It was delicious, in case you were asking.
I now want to buy more trees. Another lemon, maybe a lime… why not?
J Roy and I had our second overnight visitors ever at the farm last week, and our first under three years old. Ella and Davy and Piece visited us, and we had a great time picking pumpkins, visiting big muddy pigs, and cooking hot dogs over a fire. The guys got very excited about the idea of picking pumpkins, but they didn’t know what to expect, and so were a little confused when we arrived at the field.
Davy overwhelmed at the pumpkin choices.
Ella and the guys trying to decide on the best pumpkins.
I found one, Mommy!
Piece was more interested in digging in the dirt with his scoop than emptying the pumpkins of their ‘grossy’ guts.
The pumpkins all carved up with supervisory help from Davy and Piece.
We went for a walk up the hill in the morning, and I introduced the boys to the wonders of mushrooms. Davy even pointed out a few for me. I taught Piece to pull broom and he was very gung-ho, so if anyone else would like to donate their child for a day of child-labour broom-pulling, Kinglet Farm would appreciate it.
Thanks for visiting, Ella!
Little purple beets, trying their hardest.
My little seedlings are now in the ground. They are so fragile. Their white stalks, translucent in their paleness, feebly hold up two baby leaves. Some leaves are so fresh from the seed that the shell still clasps the two in a tight hug. Their roots are singular; each root long and grasping, unsure but striving. They’re just learning how to drink water, gather sunlight, absorb nutrients, as the energy provided by the seed runs out and they stand on their own. Standing is still figurative, in some cases, and unusual after a good watering session. They are unprotected from birds, rabbits, sun, rain, unprotected from everything, really. There’s not much I can do except watch, and wait, and water, and hope.
The zucchinis are finally done. Their incredible extravagance has run its course. While the madness was still upon us, however, I made it my mission to find the best zucchini soup recipe possible. Soup is such an easy way to use up a lot of vegetable volume, and I certainly had the volume. J Roy’s favourite was a Mexican-style soup full of fresh, crisp flavours. Mine had cheese in it, of course. The hunt for great recipes is still on… there’s more zucchini on the counter and in the freezer.
J Roy’s favourite: Fresh corn Mexican-style zucchini soup
J Roy likes the fresh, summertime feel of this recipe. It’s got fresh corn off the cob (plentiful this time of year), and even though it’s milky, it still retains its summer-time feel.
Lightly sauté one chopped onion in a saucepan, then add 2 cups stock, 2 cups diced zucchini, 2 cobs worth of corn (sliced off cob), one diced jalapeno pepper, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add in 1 cup milk, heat until warm, and serve with cheese and chopped cilantro.
My favourite: Zucchini with CHEESE soup
This is a super simple recipe, but the cheese adds the unexpected depth of flavour. It’s a thick, creamy wintertime warmer of a soup, so I think I will try some again when the weather cools off with my frozen zucchini. Since it’s a pureed soup, the soft texture of the frozen zucchini won’t matter.
Lightly sauté one chopped onion in a saucepan, then add approximately 2 lbs or 4 cups of chopped zucchini. Peel the zucchini if it’s a big sucker. Briefly sauté, then add about 2 cups of stock (I used chicken stock), salt and pepper, and a pinch of cumin. The stock won’t cover the vegetables. Simmer the soup until the zucchini is tender. The speed will depend on how small you chopped your zucchini, but approximately 15 minutes. Add in some Boursin or other soft cheese (like herbed cream cheese), and whizz with an immersion blender.
Autumn is the season for spiders. When the leaves change, and a certain crispness underpins every breeze, no matter how sunny, spiders realise that winter is coming. Driven by a primeval fear or an instinctual understanding of their impending death, they try to stave off the inevitable, that slow march toward their doom that all living things must face. Who can blame them for trying to eke what little bit of life they have left before they freeze to death?
Here’s a friendly picture of a little lizard basking on the front step. No spider photos, I promise.
We can. J Roy and I have no problem blaming them for sneaking into our house and lurking in the corners. We can blame them for being monstrously huge, something raised by Hagrid, better found in the Forbidden Forest than behind our chesterfield. We can blame them for coming in bunches of four a night.
‘I miss the apartment,’ J Roy said as I approached the latest culprit, my favourite spider-killing shoe raised in one hand. The shoe has just the right amount of heft for proper spider-crushing, but also a reasonable flexibility for optimal wind-up. ‘Spiders rarely climb up nine flights of stairs.’
I’m generally a catch-and-release spider dealer. I run to get the container and paper, while J Roy stands guard in case of sneakiness. I’ve been voted the spider person in the family (as voted by J Roy and no one else), because I’m the biologist, apparently. I’m fine with it, but I’ve made J Roy promise to deal with any rodents, should we ever get them in the future. I’d rather deal with one hundred spiders over one rat.
But catch and release wasn’t cutting it this time. The first night we found spiders in the house, I caught three, and threw them out into the front yard with a rather vicious flick of my cup. I almost let one get away when the paper slipped and the spider went flying through the air toward me. There was plenty of shrieking that night.
The next night, there were four.
‘Maybe we could mark them with a little paint, and see if they are repeat offenders,’ J Roy suggested as we gazed in horror at the new recruits.
‘And I suppose you’re volunteering for marking duty? I think not.’ I rolled up my pants to mid-thigh to reduce spider jumpings. ‘Where’s my shoe?’
Our job this weekend is to get zealous with the weather-stripping. Our doors are going to be so air-tight, spiders will have to ring the doorbell if they want in. And spiders are never invited in.