Berry season is upon us. Berries are wonderful eaten fresh with their juice flowing down your chin. You can make preserves, add them to just about anything for breakfast or create a wonderful dessert. But the season is over quickly so why not freeze some for later when berries are a mere memory of a season past.
Freezing strawberries is super simple. (As well are many caneberries, such as Raspberries, Marionberries, Boysenberries etc.) Start with freshly picked berries. Ripe strawberries (or caneberries) from your yard or garden are perfect. Or find a local u-pick farm, farm stand or farmers market. Organically grown is best as commercially grown strawberries (and caneberries) are heavily sprayed with a variety of chemicals. Their seasons are short so don’t delay.
No need for any fancy equipment. I bet you have most everything you need right in your home. Freshly picked berries; a clean sink with cold water (for strawberries, not delicate caneberries); a colander of some sort to drain the berries; an old bath towel to absorb the last droplets or remove any debris; a teaspoon for removing any stray caps; a cookie sheet for freezing the berries on; zip-loc freezer bags or containers & a freezer.
Pick the berries. With or without caps is fine.
Carefully rinse a few boxes at a time in a sink of cold water. Swish about gently. (I only rinse strawberries as they sometimes come in contact with the soil. Caneberries are usually clean straight from the canes.)
Place clean berries in a colander to drain excess water. (Strawberries only)
Gently pour berries out onto a clean old bath towel. For strawberries this is to blot off the last droplets of water. For caneberries this step will allow any stems, leaves or stray bugs to be removed.
Remove any stray caps & place berries on a heavy cookie sheet.
When the sheet is filled place in the freezer for several hours to freeze hard.
Remove berries from the cookie sheet and place in freezer bags or containers.
Back in the freezer they go and you are done.
No mess, no fuss, no juicy smashed berries!
6 pint boxes of strawberries or caneberries will make approximately 1 gallon bag of frozen whole berries.
Today was the first dry day in a month or more here in Oregon. A beautiful, cold, frosty & sunny late December day. It was our first opportunity to apply candy boards to the beehives since settling the bees in for winter back in October.
We use Candy Boards as an emergency food source for the overwintering honey bees. Not as a main source of nutrition but just in case they run out of the honey stores that we left on their hives in the Fall. With the unpredictable seasonal weather we have been experiencing in the past few years, where honey bees may consume their honey stores more quickly, it is an insurance policy against starvation before the nectar flow begins in Spring. Sometimes they bees consume very little of the candy board before Spring, other times they may eat most of it. As an example- in the Spring of 2015 the weather here warmed & stayed warm in March bringing the bees out and about into a world without any nectar available. The candy boards were their food source until the blooms began.
Building a candy board is relatively simple. Check the photos below to follow the process.
We constructed a wood frame out of scrap 1 X 2 lumber set on edge. Cut these pieces to the dimensions to fit your hive boxes. Once the frame was built we covered one side with 1/2” hardware cloth to hold the sugar candy. The 1/2” squares allow the bees easy access to the candy while supporting it above the frames of the top hive box. Cut the hardware cloth 2” greater in height & width of your frame. To form a shallow box to fit inside the frame cut a 1” square (4 boxes) from each corner of the hardware cloth. Then bend 1” (2 boxes wide) of each of the 4 sides up at a 90 degree angle to form a box. Place the hardware cloth inside of the frame so it is even with the bottom edge. Secure in place. Done…
Making Sugar Candy- a simple no cook recipe. This recipe makes 1 candy board.
7 1/2 #’s of White Cane Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Water
1/2 Tablespoon White Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Mineral Salt (I use loose cattle minerals)
1/2 Tablespoon Honey-B-Healthy or Pro Health
Place the sugar in a large pot or bowl.
To the water add the vinegar and optional ingredients, if using.
Add the water mixture to the dry sugar & stir to combine.
Mix well. (I use my hands, it is easier)
Place the candy board, hardware cloth side down, on plastic, on a firm surface.
Place a can/glass or other object at one edge to form an access hole for the bees to the top side of the candy.
Scoop the sugar mixture onto the hardware cloth. Spread out evenly & Press down firmly. Remove the can/glass to open up the access hole.
Let air dry 24 – 48 hours to form a hard, dry candy slab.
Place in your hive on top of the top hive box so the bees can access the candy.
Replace your inner cover or quilt and then the hive top or roof.
Wishing you the thrill of overwintering healthy vibrant bee colonies!
The summer of 2015 was long & hot & dry. It was a demanding season to be a farmer in the Pacific Northwest. We were challenged at every turn by the relentless weather and the cavalcade of effects it had on the farm and it’s farmers. We also welcomed a major change into our lives in the form of my husbands retirement from a lifelong career. But in the end we simply rejoiced everyday in the beauty of this place.
Life at its finest- Change… Adapt… Rejoice
It has been hot, hot, hot here in the Pacific Northwest this year. Lately, day after day of temperatures near or over 100 degrees. Summer weather came 3 weeks early and hasn’t let up. With the hot came the dry. Now the first of August, mornings feel and smell like fall, days bring more hot & more dry. Nothing on the farm has been really normal this year. Pasture in early April, gone by end of July. Spring crop failures. Blossom drops on summer crops. Nectar dirth for the bees. Wilted crops, wilted animals, wilted people. Challenging. Humbling.
The honey bee season started early. Warm early Spring temperatures brought overwintered bees out in force, before the nectar flows. Those who had used their winter honey stores needed sugar syrup feeding to tide them over. Hives built up quickly, lots of bees. We made a split of our booming Yellow hive and created Blueberry hive. We bought & introduced a queen to the split. Blueberry hive grew fast, building up frames of beautiful brood and storing nectar & capping honey, filling an 8 frame super in no time. Blueberry, always polite, always industrious, always neat & tidy. We had noticed for several weeks bearding of bees on the front of Blueberry, day & night. Chalked it up to the oppressive heat (though the other hives weren’t doing this). A little odd.
This Saturday we had a visitor that was very excited to participate in a hive inspection. Blueberry was chosen as they are such a pleasure to work. We removed the roof and then the ventilation/feed station board. The top super looked about the same as 2 weeks ago at the last inspection, several drawn frames, 2 capped frames of honey. Not a lot of bees working that box. We went down to the next super. It was full of capped honey. There were a large number of bees working hard, ignoring us. We went down to the next box, the top brood box. Outside frames were filled with lots of pollen with lots of bees working. As we moved towards the interior frames we found the Surprise! Empty combs, scrubbed clean, no brood, no eggs, no Queen. Two brood boxes. Empty combs, scrubbed clean, no brood, no eggs, no Queen. Lots of bees, beautifully drawn comb, stores of pollen, nectar & capped honey. A hive without a queen is like a rudderless ship, doomed to die. Time for beekeeper intervention!
We had captured a small swarm of honey bees in our raspberries on Fathers Day & had installed them in a homemade make shift Nuc. 10 days after we had given them a new home we checked and there were eggs and larva and a beautiful, dark, glossy, mahogany colored Queen. Surprise! We have been nursing this Baby hive along boosting them with frames of brood & food from the booming Yellow hive hoping they would be strong enough to get their own hive and overwinter. In 6 weeks they have grown to fill an entire 8 frame box & were in need of a 2nd box.
So today the little Baby swarm gets their expanded hive. We prepared the Queenless Blueberry to receive the Baby hive and it’s beautiful Queen by placing a thin paper barrier between the two colonies to allow them time to slowly adjust to the smell of a new Queen & be more likely to accept her. Tonight after dark we will move the Baby hive box & all of it’s inhabitants onto the paper on top of Blueberry hive to start the process of melding them into one colony. In the coming days as the bees chew through the paper they will hopefully accept their new queen.
So the little swarm that could will be melded with the Queenless Blueberry hive to become the little swarm that would rescue Blueberry hive. Surprise!
Addendum #1: 1 week later we did a quick hive inspection to check on the hive. The paper barrier between the swarm box and the Queenless hive has been shredded. The bees from the two colonies have melded and the Queen is actively laying eggs. Surprise!
Addendum #2: After another 2 weeks had passed we did another quick hive inspection to check on the hives progress. The new Queen is laying like mad and has filled frame after frame with beautiful brood! Her court of workers are madly tending the brood, bringing in some nectar and pollen and generally looking like a healthy thriving hive. What a Thrill! Surprise!
We Love beekeeping. Always Full of Surprises!
the blueberry hive split
a homemade nuc hive for a captured swarm
Queenless hive frame packed w/ pollen
Queenless hive frame w/ laying worker drone brood
Queenless hive frame- empty cells, w/ no brood
paper separator to combine nuc w/ Queen onto Queenless hive
Adorable, Curious, Smart, Charming, Inquisitive, Playful, Affectionate, Goofy, Endearing, Cute, Fun & Definitely Not Camera Shy.
Meet FullCircle George! George is a polled, RED, Dexter bull calf. He was born on July 15th, 2015, the 2nd of 2 bull calves born on our farm this year. George is out of our beautiful polled, dun cow FullCircle Eloise and sired by the renowned polled, red Dexter bull Hillview Red Wing. This little man may just be our first future bull prospect!
It has been hot here lately. Well hot for here anyways! Mighty early in the season for this many days of prolonged heat. So dry. It is June not August! Days that heat up quickly, nights that fail to cool, dry. Hard on the plants, hard on the animals, hard on the humans. Then this morning- Gray skies, a breeze, big fat raindrops, thunder in the distance. Time to do a barnyard dance!!! It feels SO good! The plants rejoice, the animals rejoice, the human rejoices. It will not last… the forecast tells us the heat will ramp up another notch in the coming week.
But to celebrate a garden tour was in order. Come join me.
Here the Bumble Bees in the Lavender. Check the egg filled nest hidden in the gooseberries. Listen to the buzz of Honey Bees beginning their workday. Pollinators on flowers, flowers glowing to attract them. Cane berries ripening. An early morning harvest. The first Dahlia bloom. A buck deer bedded down at the edge of the woods. The scent of flowers & rain spattered soil in the air. Beauty surrounds. Beauty abounds.
On this day in 1981 Bob & I were married. 34 years. The beginning of dreams becoming reality. It continues today. 34 years of dreaming & doing. Best Friends. Sharing. Love & laughter, tears & heartache. Working side by side, blisters & backaches. Slowly growing a home, a family, a farm.
Now the kids are grown & gone, pursuing their own lives & dreams. Bob has recently retired from a long career as a firefighter/paramedic and now is a full timer on the farm. Our lives continue to change & evolve. The dreams are the reality. The constant is us.
Here is a snapshot of the last days of Spring 2015 here at FullCircle Farm.