Monday, October 11, 2010

Bee Barn

About two months ago a tornado swept through this heart-shaped state and decided to make a giant mess. An even bigger mess than a normal tornado, because this one hit a barn holding several 50 gallon drums of honey: the Wooster Honey Bee Barn.

image facebook snatched from the bee lab

That's what it looked like at first, you can see more pics of the mess and the resulting clean up here.

But I like to look on the bright side of things: Dr. Drone was a key player in the aftermath and he has a keen eye for salvage. A new/ancient smoker is coming my way!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jenna and her Barn Heart

Jenna over at Cold Antler Farm is hosting a book and wool giveaway.

She's got it all- a farm, a truck, sheep, dogs, and yes, bees. I'm so jealous.
Her blog features gorgeous pictures and the day to day struggles of a girl and her farm, and I'm hooked. I suggest enjoying it with a your first strong cup of coffee in the morning.

Pumpkins and My Autumn Heart

My middle name is Autumn. Seriously- my mom was kind of a hippie back in the 80s.

When you are literally named after a season, I think it kind of creeps inside you and takes over your heart. It's my season now, although I'll gladly share it with you. Let's all perfume ourselves in woodsmoke and dry leaves and soak in the ruddy colors. To begin, I'm on pumpkin watch. My favorites so far:

Red pumpkins? What will they think of next?!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Apple Farm

Mr. Holt and I recently took our young niece to the apple farm to pick some fruit and run in fields. I think we all needed to spend some time running in a field. Now I have a giant bowl of apples to work my way through and I've already exhausted my apple cinnamon muffin tolerance. What do you do with a half-bushel of ripe apples?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Little Guys

Some very cold visitors arrive on my stoop this morning.
I think because of the crisp 50 degree air they were moving in slow-motion, barely fluttering their wings and wholly unconcerned at my presence.

Two tiny butterflies, each the size of a quarter. Good Morning!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happ Fall Y'all

Clearly from Cake Wrecks.

I'm so excited about fall, and so busy with fall I haven't been able to enjoy it much yet. I recently read Catch 22 for the first time and I loved it so much I decided to stop using that phrase casually. I just wanted to reference it to make the connection.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I have been a macintosh user since the days when we still called them macintoshes.
We had our first mac desktop in 1987, and I've never owned a pc. I love my iPod and my macBook, and I even love the iPhone commercials.

Naturally I have been drooling (in a polite, non-sticky, lady-like way) over the iPad since they came out. Imagine my delight when my 78 year old grandmother handed one to me! She wants me to "learn" how to "work" it and then show her how to check her email. She handed it over in a hand sewn cover. I love her.

I've had it about a week now, and I am prepared to make a formal review.
The iPad is totally lame.

It's fun to touch and manipulate things on the screen, and for me, it's a very intuitive interface. On that front, I'll give it full marks. It looks pretty. Unlike the iPhone, however, you need to be near wi-fi to do anything cool with the iPad. You can't store or open files independently from iTunes (like a paper from school, or a picture file from my aunt). That means that checking my email on the iPad is pretty much useless. I can't read pdfs, or use any webpages that utilize flash. After a few minutes of watching youtube, my wrists got tired from holding the remarkably solid tablet at a proper viewing angle.

It's probably perfect for someone like my Grandma who will use it to respond to family emails, check the weather on her accuweather app, and read headlines from USA today. But is that worth 500$? Not to me.

Warhol seemed to like it, though. And yes, a cat paw will open your apps.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The spoils of a bridal shower

Carmel peanut chocolate apple favor.
My friend Cindy made these for another friend's shower. I am lucky to be invited to such goings-on.

Kick out the Jams

Last night was an epic Friday at the Holt House.

Getting tomatoes didn't work out; the lady who normally has box upon box of them at her stand down the street is taking a few days off. Pffft.
But I was not to be deterred, so I snatched up some pears and strawberries instead, and came home and raided my crisper drawer, and then I made these:

Strawberry jam, Spiced Pear Chutney, and Clementine Pomegranate Syrup.

Pear chutney, sweet, sour and salty. And pretty.

The book turned out to be really helpful, and just plain pleasant to read. I want to try a few more of the recipes, although I think in general Ashley's tolerance for cloves in her jam might be a little higher than mine. I think they kind of make things taste like ham so I left them out.

Specifically, I'm gunning for the fig compote and the cherry marmalade.
Do you have any figs you want to donate to the cause?
Do you like cloves?

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Decor today, muffins tomorrow...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Reading Wrap up

After Labor Day I generally try to squeeze in a few last novels to tide me over until winter break. I can feel scholarly articles and heavy scientific tomes creeping up on me and I'm diving for one last refreshing deluge of fiction. Oh sweet fiction.

With that in mind, I just finished a really moving, beautiful and too-quickly gone novel called Little Bee by Chris Cleave. It's part of the pact of the book that I can't tell you what it's about, except it did make me briefly rethink my plan to head to Africa next summer. I can also tell you it has nothing to do with honeybees, although that IS why I picked it up. I can also tell you it made me laugh out loud, and cry out loud too. In my opinion you cannot ask more of the written word.
So we have about two weeks left before school starts again. Maybe you have less? Make a little time for this one before Autumn is too far upon us. It's worth it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The beneficiary of other people's tomatoes.

I can't have a proper garden here. It's a constant source of frustration for me from about March until November. It's a long story as to why I cannot even grow a tomato in a pot, but the end amounts to our home having no homegrown tomatoes in August. Clearly, that's an unacceptable situation, and luckily several loving gardeners have seen fit to help me get through this tragedy by gifting me with tomatoes from their own gardens.

I'm like a meth addict for tomatoes too, if someone mentions they have one or more than they're apt to use, I'm sniffing around their windowsills dropping hints about how I can take care of that if they'd like.

So far Cindy and Evan's tomatoes have become a Sunday dinner pasta sauce (and wow was is delish). My Grandfather's tomatoes have been turned into about fifty BLTs (Mr. Holt says thanks, his cholesterol levels do not.) and the Whitaker's tomatoes became salsa, and salad with cucumbers and shallots. (OM NOM NOM.)

And now I'm thinking forward to fall, and I think maybe this year I can't get through the colder months without that sunny, bright deep umami taste of real homegrown tomatoes.
So I got a book:

from Ashley English at Small Measure, and tomorrow I'm getting a giant box of overripe, bruised and split tomatoes from a local garden and I'm going to can my guts out. This could be a big mess.

Have you ever canned your own tomatoes?
Do you have any tips for me?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Topic of Topiaries

Recently Mr. Holt, myself and a friend visited the local Topiary Park. It's a reimagining of Seurat's famous pointalism painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte" in shrubbery.

While the topiaries were not fully grown in this summer, I have to admit I was impressed. The tiny leaves and shoots of the shrubs actually does a good job of bringing the softness of the painting to life.

Photo from the Topiary Park website- my wide shot didn't come out this well.

These guys are my favorites. Plants hugging plants.

And the bustle on this one just kills me. A bushy bustle.

And people think there's nothing to see in the midwest!

There were also ducklings, which worries me. It's nigh on migration time around here, and those little guys seem too small to make a trip to Florida for winter.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mr. Holt Enjoys the Apiary

It was a grand afternoon.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


If you've been on the interweb lately you've probably seen an ad that looks something like this:

the stupid Groupon ad is everywhere I'm interested in. And it haunts me because those delicious, perfect, colorful cookies are macarons, my newest culinary love.

My first macaron was in Honolulu, a lilikoi (passionfruit) flavored delight with a cup of strong kona coffee. I had no idea what to expect from it, taste or texture, but it just looked so alluring there between the cupcakes and pound cakes.

Hello. I can see that we are gonna be friends.

I didn't even know what to call that most incredible cookie I had just consumed, and only much later did my friend Laura identify it as a macaron. I know what you're thinking- macaroons are those coconut lump cookies, occasionally made more edible with chocolate. And that's so. But these my dears, are FRENCH macarons (distinguished by the single o, you see?) and are infinitely superior. Laura just spent a year in France and she should know.

The cookie involved is a sort of almond-meringue, crisp on the outside and chwy on the inside, and can apparently be flavored with any ingredient known to man. Then there is a filling, either a creme or a jelly, thinly spread, to hold the two halves together. The French don't need Oreos. They have macarons and they are a very very happy people. Apparently this is the next big thing here in the states, and macarons are becoming more popular than cupcakes. It only took one to convert me.

Seriously, treat your eyes, google image "macaron" and just flip through the gorgeousness of this cookie! I can further suggest this great how-to with pictures of the process from a london foodie, Tamarind and Thyme. I'm extraordinarily jealous of her, so if anyone wants to get me a trip to London and a macaron cooking class for my birthday, that'd be just fine, thanks.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Wild World of Ginger

My mom is one of those remarkable people who can identify a whole host of plants and flowers casually as she floats through her day. I love that about her, and I love other people who know plants as individuals, as if they were second cousins associated with fond memories.

So I LOVED meeting Sarah, the ex-wwoofer, in Hawaii.
Sarah regards some male seals on a coral beach

She's a botanist for the Waimea Botanical Gardens on the North shore of O'ahu and an amazing person to boot. She took us on a personal tour through "her" gardens, and I discovered that ginger is not just for chinese cooking.

Turns out there is a whole genus of plants called Zingiber, which is not just a great word, but also makes an array of beautiful flowers. Orchid-like in appearance, many of them have strong, spicy-sweet scents as well.

The best smelling was the White Ginger. Imagine caramelized sugar with mango and ginger and that's a tiny percent of how good and complex this flower smells!

Torch Ginger: solitary. lovely. Dramatic.

But hands down the best is the beehive ginger.

Is that a flower within a flower?!!

See how I just brought this whole post back around to bees? Clever, no?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Updated reading list

Here's the list of my completed summer reads as of September 1, along with my brief reviews

Not for me, thanks!
Lucy just plain sucked. Don't bother, despite it's intriguing anthropological/horror set up, it's bad science and bad fiction. Ugh.

The Long Ships
The Long Ships was equally not for me. Reminiscent of Ivanhoe, written in a dry voice, and maybe better suited to middle school boys with a taste for Tolkein?

Anthropology Of An American Girl
The Kingdom Of Ohio
Father brown mysteries
I found all three of these to be a little boring. Meh. Disappointed by the promising titles.

Fabulous! Loved them!
Johannes Cabal: The Detective and Johannes Cabal: the necromancer
Steampunk Sherlock Holmes cum Faust. These were both funny and charming light reads.

64$ tomato and 52 Loaves
Although I vastly preferred 52 Loaves, these were perfect beach reading. Food memoirs are just sitting really well with me lately.

Animal vegetable miracle and the Lacuna
Kingsolver is such a luscious writer. I drank in every word of the fictional Lacuna Mexican setting, and was inspired by the non-fiction AVM. But again, this is my summer of the food memoir.

The Book of Lost Things
CHARMING. If you love Grimm's fairy tales, not the sticky gooey Disney kind, but the ones where women lose fingers to robbers and the villain is forced to eat hot coals as punishment, this is a great grown up fairy tale for you.

I've just started the Forgotten Garden and so far it's a win, but what I really want to devour are... some more food memoirs!!
Suggestions welcome, and solicited!!

If wet noses are a good indication...

then the cows are doing well too.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stop the Presses!!


the back-to-school display at the grocery store has been replaced with Halloween candy.
The apples at the apiary are ripe.
last night I slept with a big blanket.

I don't want to get anyone prematurely excited, but listen up folks. I think it's finally fall!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Titans of Industry

Returned to the apiary to check on the proletariat. They are hard at work cleaning out the supers we left them, the first being nearly half remodeled with tons of honey being stored, and the top one still largely untouched. It may have been a bit optimistic on my part that they would have a chance to get to all 20 frames in my absence, but I'm told there will still be another big pollen push in a few weeks as the ragweed and other flowers open wide for fall allergy season.

My thoughts on status so far- there are a LOT more bees than when we started, and those supers are getting heavy. No stings since the fateful Bad Hair day.

Returning to earth

Ever had an amazing vacation? The kind you have a hard time acknowledging is really and truly over? That was how Hawaii was. I have been in denial since we returned (has it been a month already?) and continued to sleep in, lay in the sun, and drink fruit. That's right- I drink fruit now.

But, all things must come to an end, and today, the last day of what I consider summer, I'm going to post a round up of August in Brood and Swarm land.

I have a few things to say about Hawaii first.

Mainly that it's awesome and absolutely worth the 10 hour flight and the cost of said flight. Next time we're staying longer.

And, because this is nominally a blog about my bees, here is how they store honey in Hawaii.

But to take it home you have to pass agriculture inspections, so we took a pass. It is hard for me to pass of edible cuteness, so you can understand that this was a difficult time in the vacation.

One of the neatest things we saw was a house of a friend, Mig. She owns a few acres just north of the beach on a mountainside, and has built the most amazing farm. Included on her land are chickens, both wild and free-range layers, a good sized vegetable garden, and fruit trees of every possible tropical varieties. There was an avocado tree producing fruit big enough to knock out a grown man, should the ripe fruit fall directly on his head. That's how I want to die by the way- killed by a perfect falling avocado when I'm 99.

The farm is mostly staffed by WWOOFers- traveling farmhand who put in a few hours of labour on an organic farm in exchange for lodging. Lest you think this sounds like taking advantage of migrant workers, they have plenty of time to attend to other jobs or studies, should they so choose. If we ever travel for a few months to another country, I think Mr. Holt and I will try to arrange to be WOOFers ourselves...

I don't know how it is elsewhere, but at Mig's farm, the Woofers have dedicated sleeping houses. Screened in sustainable units with composting toilets and wonderful private landscaping. One, for instance had a fence of bamboo around the back and flowering shrubs in front. There were beautiful, simple, made of recycled materials, and totally made me think of the kind of forts my brother and I built in the woods as kids.

Somehow, I didn't bring my camera that day, but I am on the hunt for pictures from the friend who lived there a whole year. Perhaps I can convince her to guest post about life as a Hawaiian wwoofer?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The addition

This is what the addition of the new supers looks like.



And full full full of bees.
The Holts are officially on vacation until further notice, so they'll just have to get on without us. They always do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

First Failure

I think I may have even said it out loud to my visiting friend, and at the very least I THOUGHT to myself, "wow. We have a lot of bees in here".

They have already filled in the lower new super, although they're still working on fixing up the wax, the addition was sorely needed as the colony has nearly tripled in size from the original box. That's about the last though I had before one, then two, then another and another bee made their way to my hair... and stayed there. One got tangled in, and I got my second bee sting. But mostly it was just unpleasant to know there is an angry bee in your hair. Also, a bee in you hair is very loud to the ear. It is hard to maintain a lady-like composure under these circumstances.

The move I used to get the bees out of my hair was no doubt the stuff of comic gold. Doubled over, shaking my head and trying to puff smoke on myself simultaneously, I think I also managed to squeal at high pitch.

As if that is not embarrassing enough, I realized why I couldn't find those elusive beekeeper meetings: they meet on Thursday nights and they show up at exactly the time when I will be running doubled over puffing smoke on my own head. And they are legion.

Today's score card:
-10 for grace
+30 for fortitude

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer Reading list

I'm on vacation, and that means reading for fun (sadly, not for profit).

Here is my list of summer reads I intend to get through (those already finished are in red).
Am I missing some must haves? What are you reading this July?
What should I take on our anniversary trip to Hawaii?!

The list:

  1. The Long Ships (in progress)
  2. Anthropology Of An American Girl
  3. Welcome To Utopia
  4. 52 Loaves
  5. Alice I Have Been
  6. The Kingdom Of Ohio
  7. The Lacuna
  8. Father brown mysteries
  9. Johannes Cabal: The Detective
  10. Johannes Cabal: the necromancer
  11. Island Beneath the Sea
  12. 64$ tomato
  13. Lucy
  14. Animal vegetable miracle

Sunday, July 11, 2010


A lot of people misuse the term ironic. As I hold a BA in English I am required to be bothered by that, just a little, and because I am also pretty mild-mannered, I don't really get TOO bothered.

BUT today Irony reared her ugly head and I saw her for her true self. How many visits to the bee yard so far? Tens. How many bees at the bee yard? Hundreds of thousands. What do I do there? Stick my unprotected hands INTO their hive. Flick them off of me. Get close to their babies and their food. Number of stings to date: zero.

Today in my urban neighborhood I went for a run. Number of hives: zero. Number of bees? negligible. Number of times a year I go running: once. Maybe.

I think you can probably see where this is going. On my biannual run, minding my own business and running on a concrete sidewalk is where I got a bee sting, on my neck. Bad words were said. It itches. THAT'S irony folks.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Honey Prospects

New, empty comb

So our hive is growing, although we missed the first big clover nectar run. Our bees will have about a month and a half to pretty up the supers, get the comb fixed up before the early fall nectar run of ragweed. The workers will collect the nectar, mix it with spit, and shove it into cells of the comb with an airtight seal to ripen into honey. I'm hoping we'll get a few jars for our labor, but since we plan on leaving them the honey they've already stored in the deeps, there may not be a huge harvest for the humans this fall.

This is fine with me- We're not really in it for the honey this year, I just wanted to get the hive established and see how it all works. So far, on that front, I declare this project successful at the 4 month mark. Still, just a little bit to put in my tea this winter would be really gratifying...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Super Mom

I couldn't figure out the meeting. They are a mysterious bunch, apiarists, and do not post times for their get-togethers. So I made the call- Dr. Drone's mom. She said she'd be right over, and met Mr. Holt and I at the bee yard with two pretty blue supers in less than 24 hours. She's just as excited about bees as her son, and clearly concerned for the welfare of our hive. She even made a call to the head of the bee research lab to ask some logistical questions for us. Put on both supers at the same time? Only one? etc.

Both, it turns out.

Mr. Holt and I were out of pine needles, our usual smoking fuel, and we had stopped by the pet store to get some cedar chips, like pet bedding, recommended as an alternative. At least at our pet store, they only sell those in 10 pound bags for 30$. No thanks. So we bought this dodgy looking fluffy bedding made from "recycled plant cellulose" and crossed out fingers it would burn cool.

It did, eventually, but not before Mr. Holt spent a great deal of energy coaxing it into a smoldering fire. I can't say I favor it for bee smoking, but this bedding will certainly never kill your hampster by fire.

It was SO hot today, high 90s, and the bees were hanging outside the door, fanning their wings to keep the hive cool and hanging on each other like tiny living ropes.

This is not our hive, did I already mention how much my bees see to hate being photographed? The neighbors were more obliging.

We wrangled the two boxes on, making sure to put a queen excluder between the deeps, the lower, bigger boxes meant for babies and over-winter honey, and the supers, shallower boxes on top. The queen excluder is like a cage that the workers can wiggle through, but the Queen with her giant egg swollen abdomen cannot. Thus she lays only in the deeps. Fabulous.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lazy Days of June

I am a lady of leisure. I am taking the summer off, no school no work! And the lack of responsibility has made me totally lazy. I haven’t been out to see the hive in over two weeks. I DID read this book:

Nice pictures, not totally informative. But went well with my coffee this morning.

The book reminded me that my hive will be growing out of their space soon, and I need to add some supers- shorter boxes of frames that will be used only for honey storage. I looked on line and they are more expensive than I realized. Not more than a nice pair of sneakers, but still more than I want to spend if I can help it- I'm not working! Plus, I know there is a big box of empy supers at the bee yard…

Now I have to work up the courage to show up at the Central Ohio Beekeepers Association to ask to use one. Tuesday. It’s a date.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Goodbye Dr. Drone, Hello responsibility.

Well, Dr. Drone is off on his way to Costa Rica until September. He left me with a list of common bee paracites and the phone number for his mom in case of emergency. It’s very comforting to have someone’s mom’s phone number for emergencies.

Now the responsibility of the hive is totally on myself and Mr. Holt. I couldn’t promise not to kill the hive in his absence, but Mr. Holt and I did swear to have an equal biomass waiting upon his return- 2 pounds of bees could be exchanged for 2 pounds of, say, kitten. Or clams. We'll just see how I feel.

Dr. Drone shows off in full regalia by our hive.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A reassuring pile of body parts

Some dry days in a row, seems to have dried out the bee yard and the earwigs are moving on. I shook a few out of the lid, but the pile of earwig heads, bodies, and legs by the front entrance seems to indicate that the bees took care of them pretty easily.

Another minor crisis averted- bees really do take care of themselves. In this particular case, I’m thrilled. Those earwigs were totally gross.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Earwigs are Icky

EARWIGS! The plague of the day.

I hate earwigs. I think they’re one rung above ticks on the entomology ladder to hell. Probably due to the rain, the upper box of the hive, empy save the jar of bee food, has become shelter for TON of earwigs. Well, when I pulled off the lid and they scatted, it seemed like a ton. Hard to tell.

I was just stopping by to check on things. All these serious thunderstorms have knocked down a lot of branches at my house, and I wanted to make sure the hive was intact. I didn’t have my smoker or anything needed to open the hive, so I couldn’t see if the earwigs were ingratiating themselves.

My research (google) says earwigs can cause serious problems in wood and plants. I wonder if they are having an epic battle with the inhabitants of the hive or just eating their home out from beneath them? Either way- gross.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Family Photo

The neighbor colony holds still for pictures, mine does not.

FINALLY got out to the bee yard to check on the brood. All that worry for naught, no more dead babies by the door and the hive seems busy busy busy. It was hot today, and I was in the way of their gathering. They were not impressed with my attempts to take pictures. Dr. Drone tells me that bees don’t like dark colors, and my black camera, shoved close to the door, threateningly and out of place, was not well received. Also, bees move fast and do not seem to like close up portraits. I left without opening the hive.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Prospect of Precipitation

And more rain.
I'm considering building an ark. They have iced tea and the internet on arks these days right?

Dr. Drone checked on the bees and discovered they have been dragging dead brood out the front door. This is worrying, because it's too rainy and cold to get inside and see why they're eliminating eggs. Could be, according to Dr. Drone, nothing serious- just a shortage of pollen and nectar resulting from the decreased foraging in the rain. Or, it could be something called chalky brood. Sounds insidious no?

So we added some bee food (simple sugar syrup) to give them a little help through this extraordinarily stormy season. Hopefully this will let them feed the brood and they'll stop culling the eggs.

I'm going to try to get into the hive as soon as it clears a bit, but it may not be for days, so fingers crossed they're alright in there.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Domestic animals on the lawn

Is there anything sadder than a cat on a leash in a yard in the city?

He doesn't think so.
I did get some reading done though.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Looming responsibility

Dr. Drone contacted me today to let me know he's turning over full hive responsibilities in a few weeks. He'll be heading to Costa Rica for the summer to study some monkeys. Just like a primatologist- always jetting off to the jungle, leaving us human primates to fend for ourselves. He is making me a list of "common bee parasites"...

It had never occurred to me that I may need to protect my bees from anything other than bears. I haven't seen the list, but whatever organism that could take on a hive of busy bees is a tough foe indeed. Let us hope I never need consult the list.

I still haven't received all my equipment from the beekeeping company either. I'm getting a little concerned because I will need my own smoker to soothe those bees once Dr. Drone is away collecting fecal matter and taking notes on whose balls got scratched by whom. I suppose in a pinch, I can call upon Mr. Holt to attend with copious amounts of cigarettes. Chain smoking for the common good is something he might really get behind. We'll probably get those bees so addicted to nicotine smoke they'll get all irritable and start bumming quarters in the yard to get a pack.

Our corner of the bee yard. Isn't my hive the prettiest?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


More rain this week- the bees will not recognize me when I can finally get out to the yard again.
Does it seem like the world is a quieter place when it rains?

And greener?

Everything here is quiet and green. I like it.