Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Pages

I've added a new gadget, you can see it to the right along with the beer I'm brewing, the honey I'm selling and how many times I've been stung (10 so far, ouch!).

I decided to expand the blog.  Hopefully the pages to the right will give you something to read when the time between posts grows long.

Without further ado... Introducing "Honey Jar"!

Friday, July 11, 2014

More Honey!

Frames formerly full of 25 lbs of honey.  After extracting,
I leave them in front of the hive for the bees to get back a little of what I've stollen from them.
Plus the sticky mess is all gone!

I've now harvested and extracted honey three times.  And I'm planning on harvesting more in about a week when the kids return from Costa Rica.  I didn't expect to be getting this much honey out of my two hives.  So far its been about 30 lbs the first extraction, 40 the second, and 25 the third.  That's a total of almost 100 lbs of honey!

In order to make that much honey, my bees

visited about two hundred million flowers!

and flew a collective 5 million miles!
wow.

Unfortunately, the honey frames attract wasps as well.
I'm constantly having to shoo them away when I'm pouring honey outside.
Once, one drowned itself by falling into the jar.  One less wasp to worry about.

After all the giving away and selling I still about 22lbs left (see the upper right of the blog for how much honey I currently have).  Let me know if you want any.

I've thoroughly enjoyed giving away and selling the honey I've harvested.  It's allowed me to share one of the things I'm really enjoying doing in The Garden. In a way, I've made The Garden my classroom, and all my visitors are my students.  It reminds me that I enjoy teaching, especially when there is no expectations or students to worry about after I've gone to bed!  

And I've seen old friends whom I hadn't seen for years, I've met many wonderful neighbors, some of whom I've arranged trades for their own craft hobby. I've already gotten a bottle of mead and some jam from Curt (thank you) and will hopefully get some bacon from Eric and Lopa in exchange for their next order of honey.  Home smoked bacon, can't wait!  I've gotten lemons from three different neighbors that we used to make honey lemonade for Lena's bat mitzvah party.  Delicious, I was told.  Bummer for me, it was all gone by the time I was ready to try any.  Plus, I've been able to recoup some of the costs of this very expensive hobby.

If you ever want honey, or just want to stop by to check out the hives, please, do let me know!

Stay Sweet!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Brew bees and bread







When I brew beer I'm usually left with a big pot of wet crushed barley.  4 - 5 lbs dry - probably twice that weight wet.  It's a lot to just throw away.  Thankfully, in San Francisco, I can dump it in the compost bin where it gets trucked off somewhere and mixed with all of our cities, chicken bones, moldy left-overs and yard clippings and turned into rich soil.  But better than that, I can feed it to our chickens!  It's not the best food for chickens so I give them just a handful each day for a few days.  Unfortunately, the spent grain starts to go bad after a couple of weeks in the fridge in which time I've gone through less than half of it.  

That's what I was doing for the first few months of brewing until I discovered spent grain bread!




It uses only a cup and a half of spent grain so most of the grain is still ending up as compost, but it feels so environmentally friendly to be eating something, even if just a small amount, that would otherwise end up in the garbage.  And it tastes great! The kids enjoy helping me make it and we all love fresh baked bread.  Who doesn't?  

This is a modification of a recipe I got from the Michigan Beer Blog (http://www.michiganbeerblog.net):

First you make a sponge. That's like a yeast starter similar to what you do for a sour dough, but this you don't let sour.  Mine looks like this when it's done:

Sponge:
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water 
3/4 cup spent grain
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

After you've mixed it and let it rest overnight mix it with the rest of the ingredients (salt only for the last three minutes of kneading or mixer - don't ask me why)

Dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 cup warm water 
2 tbsp honey (mine, of course!)
1 tbsp of orange juice
2 tsp salt

1. Knead it or use your mixer for 12 minutes - then add the salt and knead for another 3 minutes.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover. Let it rise about two to four hours, until it has roughly tripled in size.


3. Grease three 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface. Press or roll it into a rectangle, and divide it into three equally sized pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a tight 9-inch cylinder and pinch the ends closed. Place the loaves, seam side down, in the loaf pans. Cover loosely with a cloth or greased piece of aluminum foil, and let the dough rise until it almost doubles in size, about 1 hour.


4. Put a metal pan or cast-iron skillet on the lowest shelf of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Heat two cups of water. This is for creating steam in the oven.

5. Cut two slashes on the top of each loaf using a sharp serrated knife.  Put the loaves in the oven. This is the fun part: Pour two cups of hot water into your pre-heated pan or skillet, to create steam. A lot of steam! and it's hot so watch out!

6. Bake for 15 minutes, then, rotate each loaf 180 degrees. Bake for another 5-10 minutes (or until tops of loaves turn dark brown).

Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool for a few minutes in the pan.  Then let cool for another 10 minutes or more on a cooling rack. Tastes great toasted with butter or with a little of my honey!




Isn't she beautiful?!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Honey!

In January, I became impatient waiting for an extraction day at the San Francisco Beekeepers Association I belong to.  The club holds 5 extraction days a year when members can bring their frames full of honey, put them in an extractor and using the power of centrifugal force, spin out all the honey kept within the perfect hexagonal cells.  The first extraction day this year is June 22.  In January, I decided I couldn't wait any longer so I removed two frames full of honey and used the sit and drain method of removing the honey from the cells.  It was messy, took days, damaged the wax cells, and, in the end, much of the honey stubbornly clung to the frames.  I decided I wouldn't ever get honey from bees that way again! But I did manage to get over a pound of honey, more than enough to share with everyone here in The Garden!

Well, a couple of weeks ago I grew impatient again; June 22, though just about a month away, still was too long of a wait.  So I ordered my very own extractor! The extractor, in a great big box, came in just a few days. I put 9 frames of honey, 3 by 3, in the extractor, and Lena and I spun out over 26 lbs of honey! Check out the video of Lena and I at work with our bee friendly shirts on.


What do you do with 26 lbs of honey? 
We filled our beautiful little wax honey pot that Sara and Ryan gave us with about 6 oz.  Of course we gave some more honey to our Garden family, they've been great tolerating, enjoying even, the bees.  That was about a pound total. We gave our neighbor, Dave, a half-pound jar of honey.  The bees came from his garbage can, if you remember. We've bottled up 15 lbs in 96 little jars to give away at a later date.  Some of the honey, only about a quarter pound, will go into my next batch of beer (an easy drinking summer blonde ale). Soon I will attempt my first batch of mead with about 3 lbs of honey. That leaves me with a bucket of about 8 lbs of honey. That's still a lot of honey!  So I was thinking I'd give away 3 oz, or so, to anyone who comes by with a small jar this Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning!

This Thursday (June 5th) from 4:30 to 6:00 and Saturday from 10:00 to 11:30 I'll be doing some gardening.  The gate will be open.  Come by with your jar, maybe have a little beer, check out the bee hives, and leave with a little honey. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spring has sprung, and is almost gone!



I'm Back!

It's been a long time since I've posted anything to the blog.  Once school got into full swing it became harder and harder to find the time to post anything.  As many of you know, once you get out of a routine, it's very hard to get back into it, but I'm going to try!  I may not have been spending time posting, but I'm still brewing beer and still keeping an eye on my bees.  Yes, indeed, the bees and I have been quite busy.

Since my last post in November I've:

 brewed 5 batches (25 gallons!) of beer, 







baked several loaves of spent grain bread,





tended the hive many times, 













made some lip balm and hand lotion out of wax from my hive,




got a new package of bees (a queen and 10,000 bees) to replace the hive I lost last fall,

and harvested over 25 pounds of honey!

I want to tell you about each of these, and more, in greater detail.  I'm not sure I'll be able to catch up on all the stories I have to tell because every week something else with the bees or a batch of brew is interesting enough to talk about. But that's good, right?  Never a dull moment in The Garden.  I'll try to keep the posts coming and to keep it interesting enough that you come back for more!

Of all these things, I'm going to start with the newest: harvesting 25 pounds of honey just a couple of days ago.  But not in this post, the next one, in just a couple of days.  I promise.  Until then, be friendly!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Settling in the Bees for the Winter

Since the Easter Hive passed, I've been more anxious about Dave's Bees (If you've been reading, then you may remember that my two hives got their names from the circumstances of their capture one being captured on Easter and the other caught after coming to rest on our neighbor Dave's garbage can). Thankfully, Dave's Bees continue to do well and appear to be thriving.  However, as the weather turned colder I began to worry about the state of their hive.  One of their hive boxes has a whole in it and a large gap between the boxes that I'm sure makes it difficult for the bees to maintain the toasty 94 degrees that their larvae need for proper development.  I should say, the hive had such a box.  A couple of days ago I replaced it with a more intact box.  I think the bees are happier now, but at first they were not happy to loose these openings.  For whatever reason the hive pretty early on made the extra openings their primary entrance to the hive.  The first couple of days with their new box there were many frustrated bees buzzing around the hive looking for a way in.  Now they happily go in and out of the entrance they're suppose to use. Safe and sound. Phew!

This video is just me being busy at work.  If you're thinking about beekeeping yourself, definitely take a look.


When I changed the boxes, I saw lots of honey, so I know they'll have plenty of food for the winter.  That's a relief.  I collected just a couple of spoonfuls that I shared with all my housemates (those that were around).  It's weet and mild.  Carter tasted a hint of blackberry.  I look forward to the spring when, I believe, I will finally be able to harvest a few pounds of honey.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Update on the Amber Ale

I promised to give you an update on how the Amber Ale turned out.  Well it started out with tons of promise.  I was very excited about this batch.  At two weeks, when Tala and I tried it (see post on 8/25), I really like the hop balance and it had just the right amount of malty sweetness.  But when I tried it a week later, it had really dried out!  Most of the sweetness had disappeared leaving only a harsher alcohol feel and a slight bitterness typical of malt beverages.  Sounds terrible, but it actually is still  quite good.  Just not as good as I had hoped.  So, what happened?  I wish I knew.  If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.

In the primary fermenter I'm trying out my first beer that has something other than just hops, grains, and  yeast.  I roasted two cans of pumpkin, that's nearly 4 pounds of pumpkin puree, and boiled it along with the hops in the wort.  In a couple of days I'll transfer it to the glass carboy where I'll add some pumpkin pie spices.  It should be ready mid October, plenty of time for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  I can hardly wait to get my first taste!  Even if it turns out tasting like broccoli, I've enjoyed the experimentation, as with all my batches.  Below is a rough outline of the recipe I used.  It's more of a list of ingredients than a full recipe.  Any brewers out there?  I'm happy to go into more detail if you're interested.


Grains/Sugars
2-row
30L
Cara-pils
Chocolate Malt
Liquid Malt Extract
Brown Sugar
Molases

Hops
Northern Brewer
Hersbrucker

Yeast
SafAle, S -04

And some pumpkin pie spices!

Should go perfect with a slice of pumpkin pie!  You know, after every brew day I've got ton's of spent grain.  At first I just put them into the compost.  The grain served me well, but it still felt like a waste.  So what do you do with 5 lbs of spent grain?  That's a story for next time.