Monday, October 19, 2009

More Pumpkin Love

I was thrilled to be able to take my mom and dad out to UBC Farm for the first time on Thanksgiving weekend. We bought some cookies, fall flowers, beets, salad greens, and a nice big Cinderella pumpkin to make into two pies.

Mom helped me gather a few more seeds for my teaching gig. I am making seed balls with grades one through seven, so we're going through a lot of seeds. I have resorted to buying flax, buckwheat and fennel seeds to supplement my collection. That way we can also make single source seed-balls to know exactly what we're planting.

The squash curing in these green house were so beautiful dad and I had to take a few photos. Let's be thankful for the bees who pollinated all these lovely cucurbits!

Here I am, choosing our pumpkin. I cut it up and baked it that evening. Since it was quite watery, I ended up draining the pulp quite a bit before making the pie the next day. I like to use chai spices in my pumpkin pie with lots of cardamom and some freshly grated ginger. I also use yogurt in my recipe.

Tonight I made a pumpkin lasagne too, with layers of the pumpkin seasoned with salt and pepper, some ricotta cheese mixed with yogurt and grated chevrette cheese on top. We make our lasagne in a little loaf pan for just the two of us because my son won't eat things that are layered with cheese.

Our bees are much happier since they have been combined (see below). They were still out bringing in pollen today, since things have dried out a bit again after our bout of heavy rain. I hope they get a bit more sunshine to get all those last bits of pollen into storage.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Combining Hives

I wanted to post a few photos here of our Two Block Diet beehive. I am a member of a wonderful neighborhood group that has pooled resources to make urban agriculture happen in our backyards, front yards, and sometimes on the street itself. We had one hive which split into two when it swarmed in the spring. The hives never became strong enough on their own two survive the winter so we had to combine them. Beekeeping has been very rewarding, but equally as stressful. I really worry about our bees. (Too much empathy, I know!) I recommend that you spend at least one full season with a mentor before you try beekeeping at home. I am also wondering about the amount of sustainable bee forage in Vancouver. Have we maxed it out already? Will this stress out the native bees? I have so many questions. We needed to put a piece of paper between the two hive, so Jean chose one with a photo of the Dalai Lama for good karma! We slash the paper with an exacto knife and place it on the hive before putting the top back on. One of our mentors told us never to have two beehives open at the same time. Once the bees chew through the paper they will be used to the smell of the other bees and will accept them as part of the same hive.

Look at this lovely bright yellow comb! Now we consolidated the hive so that there were not too many empty frames to help the bees stay warm when we close them up for the winter, which will be soon. We left this frame out for the bees to rob because it didn't fit in the consolidated hive.

We tried in vain to find the queen in the weaker hive so we could "humanely" kill her. Jean thinks she may have already died since we could not find uncapped brood. In any case, we had to combine the hives and let the bees duke it out.

We put the weaker hive on top of the strong hive and put in plenty of sugar water to help them deal with the stress.

In the right of this photo you can see the spray bottle full of sugar water Jean used to calm the bees instead of smoking them. Cleaning the sugar water from their bodies keeps them occupied, and it is a much less invasive tactic than smoking them. We also dusted them a bit with powdered sugar in case they had any residual varroa mites. I was a bit concerned about the amount of bee excrement I was seeing in the yard on the lawn furniture. This could be a sign of Nosema, but I think it was just because of the cooler weather and the stress we were putting them under. I really hope they survive the winter. They are very productive today so as long as we have another couple weeks of good weather I think the kids will be all right.

Wait Until I Come

It's October and we are well into the nippy fall weather under a plump harvest moon. This morning I harvested more of my yellow pear tomatoes and the pinkish ones with low acidity which Jean thinks are an Amish variety. My sunflowers have been decimated by a squirrel. My son and I watched it sitting on the high fence chowing down on the seeds and she was so fat it looked liked she had swallowed a small bowling ball. She knocked down some of my taller Earthwalker plants so I cut off the heads and saved them for teaching projects. I'm leaving the remaining beans to get nice and plump for drying and seed-saving. I also cut down some of the fennel umbrels that have matured to dry in the back porch. Our beehives which split in a swarm earlier in the year have now been combined and today they were very active in the mid-morning sun. There are Jerusalem artichokes blooming in our neighbourhood and a few fall flowers here and there, but we are feeding the bees sugar water as well (as a last resort) because they need more stored food for the winter.

Yesterday I went to UBC Farm for the market and to gather more seeds. One of the ag profs was lecturing near the flower patch so I got to hear a few of his anecdotes, which was fun. He was good at answering the student's questions with something like "Well that depends on which context you're working in, and what your purpose is..." He talked about seed-saving as something you do by marking each plant carefully and noting which seeds were gathered from specific plants, or gather open-pollenated seeds willy-nilly as I was. The field pumpkins were as orange as orange can be, and I bought some chai-spice honey from Jane's Bees, which I'm really excited about. I also bought some Mayan beans to make pots of steaming Halloween chilli.

I suppose we will have frost by the end of the month and the wild geese and ducks will have flown over my mom and dad's house in Saskatchewan to warmer climes. (If they haven't been shot down by hunters in camo for Thanksgiving Day tables.) It's interesting that the Mohawk, which is a woodland culture, refer to this as the Poverty Moon when the agricultural first nations moon names refer to putting the harvest away in caches, storing it for the winter. I'm a bit baffled by the Assiniboine terms: Joins Both Sides Moon and Striped Gopher Looks Back Moon. The terms of October seem cloaked in a deep mystery, holding the earth's secrets a little bit closer as darkness falls on the land. Perhaps the most haunting is the Kiowa October moon: Wait Until I Come, suggesting a reunion after a long hunting or fishing trip. I am comforted by the Dakota tasks of October under a moon when quilling and beading is done. I look forward to hibernating and drawing and stitching my way through this winter with mugs of hot chai. In Medieval English, this is the month of The Blood Moon, when the spirit world draws itself close to ours and whispers to our semi-conscious minds as we struggle to wake ourselves in the dark mornings. How will you prepare your body for winter?

Northern Arapaho, Abenaki (northeast, Maine): Leaf Falling Moon

Anishnaabe, Algonquin (Northeast to the Great Lakes): white frost on the grass and the ground

Apache (southern plains): time when the corn is taken in

Assiniboine (northern plains): Joins Both Sides Moon or Striped Gopher looks Back Moon

Cherokee (East Coast, Carolinas): Harvest Moon

Cheyenne (Great Plains): Moon when the Water Begins to Freeze on the Edge of the Streams

Cree (Northern Plains, Canada): The Moon the Birds Fly South

Dakota (Plains): Moon When Quilling and Beading is Done

Haidi (Alaska): Bears hibernate

Hopi (Southwest, Arizona): Month of Long Hair and Month of Harvesting

Kalapuya (Pacific Northwest, Oregon): Atchalankuaik - start getting sagittair roots

Kiowa: Early October--Ten Colds Moon; Late October: Wait Until I Come

Mohawk (Eastern Woodlands): Poverty

Ponca (Southern Plains): Moon when they store food in Caches

Potawatomi (Great Lakes): Month of the First Frost

Shawnee (Midwest, Ohio, Pennsylvania): Wilted Moon

Sioux (Great Plains, Dakotas, Nebraska): Changing Seasons

I am indebted to this web site from the Western Washington University Planetarium for helping me with placing the tribes referred to here.

ETA: This resource was actually created  by Phil Konstantin who allowed the Plantarium to use it with his permission: