Posted by: Kate | February 20, 2010

Do yourself a favor and make some muffins and then slather somoe honey butter on them.

Posted by: Kate | February 15, 2010

sigh…

This article give a good perspective on the difficulties of the beekeeping profession. It profiles some massive beekeeping operations (thousands of hives) and outlines their struggles to survive. When I read the article, I couldn’t help but marvel at Keith’s ability to keep us and our little 200 hive operation afloat.

Keith just took our bees over to the almonds last week. He doesn’t have the luxury of a forklift to aid him in loading his hives onto the trucks. He lifts each hive by hand. He doesn’t even have employees to help! That needs to change if we are to continue growing. When he arrived at the orchards later in the  week to check on the bees and feed them, he realized that the areas where the hives had been placed were too muddy to drive the truck into. He ended up having to walk miles and miles through the mud with heavy boxes of sugar syrup jars to each hive.

As small producers, we have an advantage because we are doing everything ourselves with care and attentiveness. This means that our colonies are well cared for and are more likely to survive the winter months. We also live close to the almonds, which minimizes travel stress on the bees. We can move the hives in the dark and have them placed by the time the hive is active and awake in the daylight.

As we work on growing our business responsibly, the issues plaguing beekeepers weigh heavy on our minds. This is one reason we began to raise hogs: to have something to fall back on in case all of our bees die one year. Such is the nature of farming. It is a scary undertaking when so much of our fate is wrapped up in weather conditions and the health of livestock. We wouldn’t have it any other way, however. It feels so good to sell nourishing products that we are proud of. We are very blessed.

Posted by: Kate | February 10, 2010

None of your

Beeswax. We get lots of calls for beeswax, and sell out of it as soon as we render it. It’s popular and labor intensive to make. Since I now work for the farm, rendering beeswax has become one of my duties. When we harvest honey, we scrape the wax capping off each frame with a hot knife, and spin it in a centrifuge to separate the honey from the wax. The cappings then get stored in five gallon buckets until we get a chance to render the wax. We usually render wax in winter when we have more time. To render wax, we take the capping out of the buckets (a very scientific method of hacking at the hard cappings that are squished in the bucket with crystallized honey drips) and melt them down in a large pot. Once it is melted, we let it cool. The wax rises to the top of the pot and the honey/dead bees/other impurities stay on the bottom. We lift the block of wax out of the top, and let the bees harvest the sludge from the bottom of the pot by leaving it outside for them to play with. This yields a round disc of wax that is still dirty. We melt that disc down again and then pour it through some lovely ladies pantyhose into a cleaned out empty milk carton. Yes, my job is this glamorous.

A few weeks ago, I got a call inquiring about beeswax for sale. I made arrangements for the customer to come the following day, forgetting that I had also made arrangements for the priest from my church to visit at the same time. Five minutes before they both showed up, Linnea’s pants exploded. I started cleaning her up, and was about to get her dressed when there was a knock on my door. A farmer holds her naked baby as she opens the front door to a priest and an artist. There’s a joke in there somewhere.

I did the logical thing. I left the naked baby with the priest. He was unfazed: Father Lawrence has three kids of his own (and he’s about to become a grandfather!) and I am sure he’s comfortable with a naked baby grabbing her feet and babbling on her lambskin. He stayed in the house and chatted with Linnea and read a beekeeping magazine while I went downstairs to sell some wax to Diza.

Diza is a very interesting person, and I wish I had more time to chat with her. She uses our wax to create some very beautiful art. You can see it here. I emailed her about her work recently, and this is what she had to say about it, “…all of the pieces there are encaustic except for the large paintings of birds were done at a hotel in Manhattan.  Encaustic is an ancient form of painting, second oldest behind tempera, it was developed in Egypt. About 4-6 pounds of wax to 1 lb. damar crystals (a resin from a pine tree) are melted together and mixed with pigments.  Very exciting medium because of the transparent layers that can be achieved, fairly durable, obviously not great for areas of extreme heat, melting point is about 114 degrees Fahrenheit.”

She displays her art at Blue Sky Gallery in Willits, for all you locals out there. I really want to go check it out!

Posted by: Kate | February 2, 2010

Should we start training Wilbur to do this?

Posted by: Kate | January 28, 2010

I just sat down and realized it’s been a week since I’ve written anything here. Keith left for Santa Cruz, where he will be playing in the opening act for a little band called AFI. Ever heard of them? They’re from Ukiah. Apparently he still has got what it takes, even though he hasn’t picked up a set of drumsticks in over 5 years. He must be some kind of genius. I am married to the best drummer/beekeeper/hog farmer/dad ever.

While Keith is away living the rock star life, I will be punching hundreds of holes in Mason jar lids. Glamorous, I know. We just got a shipment of half gallon jars that we will be putting sugar syrup in to feed the bees. The jar gets filled with syrup and placed upside down over a hole in the lid of the hive. The syrup is then sucked out of the tiny holes in the lid of the jar by the bees. This time of year, the bees can starve if they are not fed. They have often used up their honey storage, and the cold and rain make it impossible for them to go out to collect nectar. We want healthy hives that are ready to begin their work in the spring.

In the next month or so, we will be taking the hives over to the Central Valley to pollinate almonds. “Say What?” I thought all your honey was local! Don’t worry. It is.  The bees will make some honey for themselves and use it all up before we start harvesting honey. Almond honey is bitter and inedible anyway.

Posted by: Kate | January 20, 2010

are you an obsessively organized cook?

Then you might like this site. We plan out our meals every week religiously. It saves money and we don’t end up wasting food. I just discovered Meal Outlaw. A site that helps you organize your meals and get ideas from others. You can also link to recipes online and share photos of your meals. Check it out and follow me if you want!

Posted by: Kate | January 19, 2010

Soggy

Well. We asked for rain. And we got some. Nearly four inches over the past three days. We have been scrambling to move beehives to higher ground, clear culverts so that the creek runs smoothly, and keep dry straw in the pigs’ huts. This is very good news for Mendocino County, and for the bees and plants on the farm. It will most likely mean a good honey crop, as hydrated plants make nectar longer. The goats and chickens are not so thrilled. The goats peek out sadly from their stall in the barn. They refuse to come out in any kind of rain. The chickens head out anyway and soon become sodden and heavy. The Silver Polish with the mop of feathers on her head looks like she belongs in a Charlie Brown cartoon: she’s all mopey and bent over with the weight of the water soaking her feathers.

The pigs are having fun, though. They don’t mind getting wet and muddy, and when they feel like it, they dogpile (pigpile) inside their huts on their bed of straw. The ten new piglets stay inside and snuggle up against their mother’s warm body, dozing and playing in the straw. It is adorable to watch two nibbling each others ears while another is sprawled out, twitching in her sleep and a third is attempting to scale his mother’s face. Mama takes it all in stride, sniffing and grunting at her babies.

Posted by: Kate | January 13, 2010

Welcome to Pork Nation

Keith and I recently showed up to a social gathering with a small plate of carefully prepared Tamworth pork ribs. As soon as we arrived, we knew there wouldn’t be enough to go around and everyone else had just finished eating. We did what any sensible people would do. We hid in the kitchen, gnawing at the delicious ribs while everyone else socialized in the living room. Whenever someone wandered into the kitchen, we guiltily offered them a rib. Soon there was a small crowd hovering over the sink, gobbling up the ribs making “mmm” noises. There was even a toddler who got in on that action.

We are trying to think up some slogans for a new advertising campaign.

Lovers Lane Farm Pork: Too Good to Share.

Lovers Lane Farm Pork: Don’t Let Anyone See it in Your Freezer.

Order some now, make this recipe, and then come up with your own slogans!

Posted by: Kate | January 11, 2010

new year

I was trying to come up with some New Year’s Resolutions, and I kept circling back to my diet and the role it plays in my lifestyle. This year, I will be focusing on cutting back on sugar, and making more food from scratch. I will try to bake more and use our land in more creative ways to put food on our table. This post from The Nourished Kitchen sums up what I am striving for pretty well.

We are ready to dig in to the new year. There is always something that needs to be done on this farm! We have some young roosters who are ready for the stew pot, some pregnant goats and sows who need to be pampered, and bees to ready for spring pollination.

I am starting this new year as an official employee of Lovers Lane Farm. After much discussion and consideration, Keith and I decided it was time for me to leave my job as a drug and alcohol counselor for youth, and come work for the farm. In addition to being a mom to Linnea, I will be filling orders, bottling and labeling, and working farmers markets. I am very excited about this new development!

As we look back at 2009, we are so grateful for all it brought us. Our bees were healthy and prosperous. They made lots of honey with the late spring rains. Our goats gave us milk and meat, and our chickens gave us eggs. The sows proved to be excellent mothers, and their piglets grew healthy and strong. We were blessed with a delightful and healthy daughter. We grew as individuals and as a farm. May 2010 bring us more of the same!

Posted by: Kate | January 8, 2010

BACON!!

Who doesn’t love bacon! Even vegetarians love bacon. They try to simulate bacon with soy. No one is fooled by this.Keith’s best-buddy-since-babyhood, Tyler, returned back into the carnivorous fold recently after many years of vegetarianism. The culprit? Bacon! Tyler just couldn’t stand seeing others enjoy the salty crunch anymore and had to have some. Now he substitutes bacon grease for water in his instant mac and cheese. Is Tyler insane? Maybe. Maybe not.

Keith just got back from picking up our bacon from the smoke house. I’ve been preparing for his return by studying Chow‘s bacon cooking tips. Now I have to cajole some eggs out of our hens to complete our feast.

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