Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

Le Temps Des Conserves (My preservation calendar)

I am fairly serious about preserving food. In fact a few years ago, there was an article about me in the local newspaper.  Kay Beatty wrote it and took the pictures. There is a rhythm to it, throughout the year. One does not built a […]

It snows in March

It snows in March

We are all tired of the grayness and wetness that has been our unusual lot in the Virginia northern Piedmont over the last year. Our winter has not been particularly cold, the temperatures dipped below 10F ( -12C) only a few times, and briefly at […]

Chilled Sorrel Soup

Chilled Sorrel Soup

French (or garden) sorrel is a super hardy perennial potherb with a bright pleasant tartness. It grows in my unheated hoop house even in the harshest  winters providing refreshingly tart leaves for our winter salads. It is one of the first vegetables I harvest outside: it sends bright green leaves up in mid to late March, dislikes summer heat (unless provided with shade), and comes back in the cooler fall. I have written about how to grow sorrel here.

Sorrel’s acidity livens up green salads,omelets, and potato salads. When the clumps really fatten in March or April with lots of big leaves (and really as long as the leaves are healthy often through June), I make this creamy leek and potato soup. Sorrel is added at the last minute (use as much as you like) to produce a soup the color of a Granny Smith apple. Reheated or cooked, it will turn a darker green similar to a spinach soup—still good, but not as surprising to the eye.

Chilled Sorrel Soup

SERVES 4 TO 6 AS A LIGHT MAIN DISH

  • 1 pound leeks, roots and very dark green parts trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 pound potatoes, scrubbed clean of dirt and trimmed (peeling optional)
  • 1 ½ to 2 quarts good-quality chicken broth
  • 2 to 4 cups shredded green sorrel (hard center stem removed, if any)
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • baby herbs and edible flowers for garnishes (such as chives, violas, cilantro, kale, primroses, redbuds, bachelor’s button, borage…)

Slice and wash the leeks well by swashing them around in a bowl of water. Lift them out of the water (so any grits remain in the water) and drain.

Heat a Dutch oven on medium heat, add the butter, add the leeks, lower the heat, and cook them slowly, stirring occasionally to make t hem “sweat.” They should not color at all, just become limp. If they start to color, lower the heat more, stir and add a little butter or water. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice potatoes. Then add them to the softened leeks. Add one quart broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, and lower the heat. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Purée the soup using an immersion blender, or transfer soup to a blender in small batches to avoid hot overspills, and process until smooth. Use additional broth as necessary to purée and thin to your desired consistency. Chill.

Pour soup back in blender. Add the shredded sorrel, a cup at a time,  and puree until smooth. Taste until you have reached a pleasantly tart taste and a nice bright green color. (I like a ratio of 1 cup of packed shredded sorrel to 2 cups of soup).

Salt & peppers to taste. Pour into bowls and garnish withe the herbs and flowers.

2018  Honey Harvest

2018 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia. [by Keith Rowand] Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts and a Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches 2017 might have been a special year for honey; our harvest was about 900 pounds for 30 colonies. In 2018, […]

Honeybee Colony Record Keeping

The one tool I carry whenever I go to the bee yard is a Sharpie permanent marker. As a “sideliner” beekeeper, I’m responsible for about 25 colonies. There is no way I can remember all the details and needs of each colony, so recordkeeping and […]

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Wrapping in Northern Virginia

Wrapping colonies for winter is a THING. Some beekeepers wrap, some don’t. Catalogs and magazines have advertisements for wrapping products and even heaters. Before wrapping, the number one question a beekeeper has to address ‘WHAT IS WINTER LIKE HERE?’ Winter in Georgia is different from winter in North Dakota. I’m writing for Northern Virginia, USDA zones 6 & 7.

To start, my hives are elevated for ease of work and ventilation.  During fall when raking leaves, I partially fill strong black plastic trashbags with leaves and wedge them underneath my colonies.  (Bottom boards should have been placed in late September, entrance reducers in November.)  The trash bags wedged under the colonies reduce wind and provide bottom insulation. An added benefit is that on sunny days, the black plastic captures solar radiation and provides a little warmth.  Moving solar radiation to heat to the the colony is my theme for wrapping.

Bottom insulation from bagged leaves
Stuffing black plastic bags of leaves happens during October, or whenever I’m raking leaves. This colony has a plastic bottom board where the landing area has broken off – maintenance item but the bees make do.

 

Stuffing black plastic bags of leaves happens during October, or whenever I’m raking leaves.  Actual wrapping comes later in December when the weather has definitely turned to cold.  This area is prone to warm spells well into December, and with no forage available, I don’t want to stimulate into wasteful flight activity.

The wrap I use is very simple – heavy black plastic with maybe some bubblewrap on the north face of the colony.   Other than the bubble wrap on the north face there is no insulating material.  What I’ve found with styrofoam or full bubble wrap is that come spring I’m keeping the cold IN.  I don’t want to turn the hive into an insulated cooler.  The black plastic provides 2 main benefits.  The first is to block wind which can get into the cracks the bees haven’t filled with propolis.  The second is to catch the heat of the sun.

The wrap is heavy black plastic with enough bubble wrap to protect the north face of the colony.
The wrap is heavy black plastic with enough bubble wrap to protect the north face of the colony.

The top edge of the black plastic is folded down about 2 inches, which provides a better grip for stapling.  Bottom corners are folded up such that the south face is not fully covered.  Folds are held in place with either tape or office staples.

Black plastic is 6 mil, cut to 32 inches by 6 feet 8 inches.
Black plastic is 6 mil, cut to 32 inches by 6 feet 8 inches.

I cut, fold, and tape the wraps in my workshop before heading out to wrap.  At the end of winter I remove and store the wraps.  Some of the wraps I have in use are seeing their 4th winter.

This is a weak colony I wrapped in November.  As it is light on bees and stores (only 2 mediums), it got early protection and prolonged access to 2:1 feed.
This is a weak colony I wrapped in November. As it is light on bees and stores (only 2 mediums), it got early protection and prolonged access to 2:1 feed.

You can see how the folded up bottoms of the plastic leave the south face relatively exposed. I don’t want to overheat the colony and I also want to allow the bees to cue in on the color of their home when returning from forage or cleansing flights.

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Feeding

During early spring, beekeepers feed 1:1 sugar-water solution to stimulate reproduction. In late summer 1:1 again is fed to stimulate reproduction to increase winter populations. In autumn, 2:1 can be fed if honey stores are light as winter approaches. Keeping with simple ratios, I provide […]

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Ventilation and Insulation

Two things kill honeybees in winter – moisture and starvation, not cold. Cold compounds the effects of moisture and starvation, but by itself, cold doesn’t kill honeybees. For example, coming out of winter this past year, I had one colony lagging behind the others. The […]

2017 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.

 

Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.
Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

[by Keith Rowand]

Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts

Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches

Inside a hive, bees store honey in frames that contain about 4 pounds of honey each.  When I remove the frames from the hives, I store the frames separated by hive location and date.  Once I remove enough full frames, I start extracting the honey into buckets and jars, all the while keeping the batches as separate as possible.

Flowering plants blossom at different times throughout the year, tempting bees and other pollinators with nectar of different characteristics (color, smell, taste, viscosity).  Those floral nectar differences are reflected in the resulting honey; as flowers change the honey changes. In the past couple of years the honey has been dark in the early spring (autumn olive and tulip poplar in April/May),  then became lighter in color as the bees moved  to wild berries and brambles (May/June),  and lighter yet as they finish with basswood, linden, and clover in June/early July.   2017 has been different – for the first time in several years black locust has bloomed in glorious quantity.

Black locust honey is among the sweetest of honeys and very light in color.  I won’t say that I sell black locust honey, because so many other things blossom at the same time and the bees gather whatever they can. What I can say is that the early 2017 honey is lighter and sweeter for which I credit black locust.  Early autumn olive did not make it into honey frames, while tulip poplar was stretched out over several weeks.  Linden, basswood, berries, and clover will be in later honey batches.

For these notes, color is taken from the Pfund color chart, a standard honey measurement.  Grade A honey must have no more than 18.6% water content (above 20% fermentation can occur)

Batches

Batch “A”
Black locust, tulip poplar, early wildflowers.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.6%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, Washington, near Goat Hill Farm, harvested June 24.

Batch “B”
High black locust content, with tulip poplar and wildflowers.  Thicker with beeswax scent.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Tiger Valley Rd (June 24) and Jericho Rd (June 8).

Batch “C”
Predominately black locust; very sweet with butterscotch and vanilla tastes.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.2%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, June 24 of selected frames.

Batch “D”
Some autumn olive, with black locust and some tulip polar; creamy with caramel.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.5%
Origin: Jericho Rd, Huntly, June 8.

Batch “E”
Color: Light Amber
Although I manage over 25 colonies, not all colonies produce equally.  Jericho #2 was one of my top 3 producers contributing over 80 pounds.
Moisture Content: 17.2%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, June 24

Batch “F”
One of the first batches harvested from the rock star Jericho #2.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.9%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, May 27

Batch “G”
This Laughing Duck home colony was a surprise and promises good production in the future!  A captured swarm, such colonies get a late start and a harvest is not expected.  The girls of LD #L4 didn’t get the memo and contributed a full harvest of about 35 pounds.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Harris Hollow Rd, Colony #LL4 August 1

Batch “H”
This was the last batch of the second extraction run, each batch has 9 frames and these were the leftover frames at the end of the day!  Its like a capping tank batch, but more cohesive as I tried to identify frames of a like color.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Jericho, Tiger Valley, and Harris Hollow areas, August 7.

Batch “I”
This is another batch of 21.9 pounds from Jericho #2.  The nectar was collected over 4 weeks with contributions from many different plants including tulip poplar, basswood, and clover.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Colony Jericho #2 Honey Super, July 16, Jericho Road, near Flint Hill

Batch “J”
This is was the last batch of the year, taken from colonies at our home. The light color reflects clover with basswood (American linden), the basswood providing a fruity, leitchi-like aroma.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “K”
Capping tank batches represent a mix of all the individual colonies and flowers collected during June and early July. The color is a little darker with pollen from many different sources.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: July capping tank
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “L”
Tiger Valley Colony #1 was a captured swarm that wasn’t expected to produce a harvest. My eye will be on this colony to propagation the strong work they did in a short time. I expect the colony found a stand of basswood (American linden) and harvest a large amount of honey is a short time.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #1, July 8.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “M”
Tiger Valley #4 was an established colony which swarmed at an inopportune moment. The harvest took a long time building, as a result having a darker color with a wide variety of pollen.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #4, July 8.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

Batch “N”
The final batch from the rock-star colony #2 at Jericho Road. The timing and very light color suggest a strong clover component with basswood (American linden).
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Jericho Road Colony #2, July 16.
Moisture Content: 17.6%

Batch “O”
Batches are built of up to 9 frames of honey taken from a colony. In the case of this batch from my home beeyard, I had several isolated frames and not enough to build a batch from one or two colonies. Given the frames on hand, I selected those of lighter color to make up this batch. Its companion batch of darker frames will make up Batch P. This batch has a higher clover and basswood component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected light frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “P”
This is the companion to Batch O. This batch has a higher tulip poplar and bramble component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected dark frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.3%

Batch “Q”
This was the last batch of the year, taken on August 26.  Very light and sweet. White clover with thistle and basswood.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, various colonies.
Moisture Content: 18.6%

Batch “R”
This is a blend of the August batches as taking from the capping tank.
Color: Amber
Origin: Harris Hollow, Jericho Road, and Tiger Valley beeyards.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

(This post will be updated as more batches make it to market.)

Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet

 

Locust Blossoms: Bottle Spring!

The black locusts enchanting blossoms are melting away in the rain as I write.  As everything else this year, they were 10 days to 2 weeks earlier than usual – I generally count on the 2nd week of May to be peak time for the […]