Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

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 […]

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 20:1 [edit was 12:1] sugar blocks “just-in-case” and to give the girls something to do.

These instructions are for use with an empty hive set above a 3/4″ plywood inner cover.  The inner cover has screened holes for ventilation and a hole to accomodate a standard-sized mason jar feeder.  The sugar block created will be fed thru the feeding hole.

Mix sugar and water at a 20 parts sugar to one part water by weight ratio.  This will form a somewhat wet granular paste. Spoon the mixture into insulated drinking cups (16 liquid ounces an ideal size). Add a couple drops of either lemon-grass oil or Honey-B-Healthy to attract the bees. Invert the cup over the feed hole.  Check and replace as necessary.

Sugar-water mix
20 parts sugar mixed with 1 part water.
Sugar blocks ready to feed.
Sugar-water mix packed into hot beverage cups. A couple drops of either lemon grass oil or Honey B Healthy added to attract the bees.
Inner cover feed hole.
Peering through the shredded newspaper insulation, through the inner cover feed hole and down to bees on the colony frames.
Feed_Added
Sugar block cup in place over the feed hole, ready for the insulation to be repacked. Replacing the feed can be done without compromising colony heat or bee cluster.

Not so hard?

If 20:1 is hard to calculate, use 5 pounds sugar to 1/2 cup water.  If you don’t have a simple kitchen scale that measures grams, ask for one for Christmas.

Feeding in winter is something that hopefully isn’t necessary.  In Virginia, where I live and where this advice is most relavant, if a colony has a full medium hive body of honey – 50+ pounds net weight – the colony ought to be in good shape for winter.  But things happen.  Winter 2016 had 70 degree days leading up to Christmas, such that bees were burning calories (and stored food) on foraging flights.

Then there is the question of whether a colony will eat provided food (some won’t), or treat sugar as debris and remove it from the colony (some do). Sometimes bees will store sugar granules in food cells. Another good thing about block sugar feeding, is that come spring, when it is time to start 1:1, the unused portions of sugar blocks can be recycled and won’t go to waste.

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.   [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 […]

Locust Blossoms: Bottle Spring!

locust IMG_2745

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 pearly bunches of fragrant flowers. My nose noticed the first ones on April 28, this year, as I was walking out of the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire & Rescue Hall where I was cooking for a wedding. But unlike many other years, this year was a good season, with showy, abundant and long lasting blossoms – well over 10 days. Despite almost 6 inches of rain last week, they kept blooming. But all things end, and now they are just drooping, brown and limp, rain water pulling them down closer to the ground… (more…)

Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a […]

Beet & Chocolate

Beet & Chocolate

I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot  tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it […]

A Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad

A Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad

Blackberry time is here. The canes in the garden have started to produce, and should all go well, continue to produce for another 4 weeks. Which is good, because blackberries (and eggplants) are one of the consolations of a typical Virginia summer, especially the kinds we’ve been seeing the last few years: hot, hotter, no rain, and yet muggy. Ouch.

But at least we have blackberries. That means blackberry sorbet, blackberry sourcream sherbet, creme de blackberry, blackberry shrub. But not blackberry gastrique nor blackberry jam, of which we still have plenty. We eat them. We freeze them. Me make juice. We sell them. It’s blackberry time, I tell you.

It’s also hot. So, preparations with minimum applications of heat are ideal. And blackberries, with their sweet-tart flavor, lend themselves well to savory dishes.

Recently, I prepared a smoked duck salad as an appetizer for a 32-guest lunch  (inspired by this recipe from the James Beard Foundation). I simplified the James Beard Foundation recipe by using smoked duck breasts prepared by The Whole Ox Butcher Shop in Marshall, VA (which sliced paper-thin with their meat slicer); changed the sauce a little bit… and reduced the plate to appetizer size.

An easy dish and attractive that’s great for a crowd, as all the components can be prepared ahead and assembled up to 30 minutes before serving (because we are using robust greens that can stand to the sauce).

So there, Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad – Appetizer for 12 (more…)

A Perfectly Pretty Watermelon Salad

  It took me a long time to accept the idea of fruit in my salads. Too gimmicky, if you had asked me! As a properly raised French child, the only acceptable fruit that was not dessert was an appetizer of charentais melon with port […]