Love wins.

May 19, 2014 · 11 comments

honeybee on crimson clover // Wayward Spark

I don’t really know how to say this, but I’ve been feeling happy and proud and thankful and generally pretty sappy all afternoon because same-sex marriage finally became legal in the state of Oregon today. There was a part of me that wanted to go down to the county courthouse and wave an American flag or join in one of the big weddings/parties in Portland or Eugene, but instead I sanded down a pile of cutting boards, went on a long run, hugged my kids, and ate dinner with my family with a big smile on my face.

I don’t often bring my personal politics to this space. That’s partly because I want to welcome folks of all opinions and partly because there are very few contentious social or political issues on which I stand squarely and unwaveringly on one side or the other (Vaccines: PRO, Death Penalty: ANTI). Marriage equality, however, is too close to me and too obviously the right policy for society for me to ignore or keep my mouth shut on the subject. I am one of those older millennials with tons of friends and family members in the LGBT community (L, G, B, and T), and the only thing I’ve been confused about for years is why my queer people are treated any differently than all my straight friends and family members.

Today is a great day to be an Oregonian, but for those of you living in states without marriage equality (yet), know that your day is coming soon. The tide has turned, and if we all keep fighting the good fight and sharing the good news, it can’t be long before all loving partnerships and families can be legally recognized. Here’s to hoping the next generation of Americans can grow up with all this discrimination in the past.

In related news, my friend Chris Becerra, a seasoned wedding photographer (Oregon Bride’s “Best Wedding Photographer” in 2010 etc.), really wants to add a big ol’ gay wedding to his portfolio, so if you or someone you know is looking for a professional to shoot a same-sex wedding in Oregon, you should definitely get in touch with Chris. (He might even give you a discount for a non-Saturday wedding.)

Hooray for love!

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beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

For the last four years, Henry has been adding to and selecting from his pool of honeybee genetics all originating from feral, Pacific Northwest-adapted colonies. In order to propagate those genetics as well as maintain and increase his hive numbers, he started grafting his own queens last year. Grafting queens takes a lot of time, effort, skill, and bees, so it’s not really an activity for hobby beekeepers.  There are many other methods of creating new hives that work well on a smaller scale.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

To begin grafting, Henry starts his truck and lets it idle with the doors shut and the heat on full blast. When the interior air is preheated to about 90°, he selects a frame of brood with less-than-a-day-old larvae occupying the cells from a hive with preferred genetics. He gently sweeps off the adhering bees, and quickly moves the frame into the hot cab of his truck wrapped in a warm, moist towel if it’s particularly windy or cold. The larvae won’t make viable queens if they get chilled or dried out even for a brief time.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

In the hot truck with the doors closed and dripping with sweat, Henry uses a Chinese grafting tool to select tiny larvae from the cells.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Good lighting is essential for this task because the larvae are tiny and translucent.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

He gently but quickly scoops one up along with a bit of royal jelly that’s been left in the cell to feed the new larva.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

For grafting, he uses JZ-BZ queen cups and a cell bars available here.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Then he inserts the larvae into a queen cup and quickly covers it with a warm, damp towel.

Once each queen cup contains a young larva, he attaches two full cell bars to a special frame. He then inserts the frame into middle of the top box of the prepared queenless hive. Each cell builder colony receives two frames of queen cups for a total of 60 potential grafted queen cells.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

To configure a cell builder hive, Henry selects a colony that’s swarm prepping by building lots of queen cells. These hives will accept more queen cells and provide them with ample royal jelly, which is critical to raising good queens.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Henry goes through the hive and pulls out all the capped brood frames with adhering bees to put in the cell builder box. The cell builder hive needs an abundance of emerging bees at all times because newly hatched workers act as nurse bees. These nurse bees (less than three days old) are the only ones capable of producing a secretion called royal jelly. All larvae are fed a tiny bit of royal jelly early on, but queen cells must be packed with the stuff while the cups are being drawn out so that the queen larvae are literally floating in royal jelly. The consumption of lots of royal jelly is what physiologically differentiates queens from worker bees.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

While going through the frames, Henry is also looking for the queen in the hive, and he will destroy any queen cells he finds on the comb.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkbeekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

When he finds the queen, he puts her in a queen cage and sets her aside to be added to another hive later.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

The cell builder box with many frames of capped brood and lots of adhering bees but no queen is placed on a bottom board. Because the hive is so cramped, the bees will feel an intense biological urge to reproduce, so they will readily accept a large number of queen cells and care for them well.

Each cell builder hive is fed so that there’s an excess of food resources available at all times.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

About a week after placing the queen cells in the cell builder, Henry goes through the hive and eliminates any emergency queen cells the workers may have built on the comb. You can see a little Instagram video of this here (but please excuse a brief bit of foul language as I get stung in the face).

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Exactly 10 days after grafting, the capped queen cells are ready to be removed and placed in waiting mating nucs (small, queenless hives). The queen cells must be removed before any queens hatch or else the first virgin to emerge will destroy the other queen cells and/or fight with other hatching queens.

After pulling out a queen cell frame, he gently brushes some of the adhering bees off the queen cells.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

One at a time, he plucks the queen cells off the bar.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkbeekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkgrafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

These queen cells still have an excess of unconsumed royal jelly in the top, which means the queens have been provided with an abundant quantity of food while developing.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkgrafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Raising queens in Oregon, even with really good spring weather, is iffy. Henry has had grafts where 100% of the queen cells fully developed, but the average is more like 60%.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Before removing the queen cells, he’s already prepared queenless mating nucs to receive the queen cells. He pulls off the lids to ready them for the unhatched queen.

grafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkgrafting honeybee queens with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward SparkHe plugs the queen cell in between two frames.

The queen should hatch within a few days and then proceed on her mating flight within the next two weeks when weather allows.

Henry will check the hives that receive new queens 30 days later to ensure that they are queenright with a healthy brood pattern. For a number of reasons, some grafts will fail or the queens will fail to mate and therefore be unable to lay eggs for new worker brood. Currently, about 70% of queen cells that are placed go on to be fully functioning, mated queens. Success rates go up for queens grafted during warmer weather.

If you would like to order an Old Blue queen particularly adapted to the environs of the Pacific Northwest, email Henry at oldblueseedco@gmail.com. He has a limited quantity available for local pickup starting next week through the end of August.

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{this moment}

May 16, 2014 · 6 comments

honeybee swarm in a tangle of poison-oak // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

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kale family photo // Wayward Spark

My kids aren’t perfect eaters. Levi isn’t into carrots or oranges (except satsuma mandarins). Charlotte doesn’t like eggs or most kinds of beans. Neither one would touch a salad. But when it comes to kale, raw kale straight off the plant, they can’t get enough of it.

They have this thing called dinosaur kale eaters, which is pretty much what it sounds like. They pretend they’re dinosaurs, and they attack their prey with lots of rabid, growly noises. It’s kinda awesome.

kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark kale-eating dinosaur child // Wayward Spark flowering kale // Wayward Spark

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{this moment}

May 2, 2014 · 2 comments

front porch clawfoot tup // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 2 comments }

honeybee brood comb // Wayward Spark

American foulbrood is a bacterial disease that has plagued domestic and feral honeybees around the world for centuries. Infected larvae die off and then begin to rot in the capped cells, and the disease spreads quickly within the hive and then to surrounding hives. Many beekeepers preemptively treat their bees with antibiotics and other chemicals to suppress American foulbrood, but those treatments can also have negative health effects on bees by messing with their digestive systems and making them more susceptible to other diseases. Treatments never completely cure American foulbrood, and bacteria can persist in the hives for a very long time. If beekeepers ever stop treating infected hives, the disease will roar back with devastating consequences for the whole apiary.

Some honeybee colonies can fight off American foulbrood infections on their own. In such cases, the disease will kill off some larvae, but workers will move in quickly to clean out the cells and cannibalize the dead larvae, reducing or eliminating the hive’s exposure to the disease. In that manner, the super organism can survive. This is called “hygienic” behavior and is a desirable trait for domestic honeybees.

Henry’s bees have been exposed to American foulbrood (as are any honeybees that join the massive effort to pollinate California’s almond crop), but he has never observed an outbreak in his hives. He is not currently treating his bees with any American foulbrood-fighting pharmaceuticals (or any other chemicals). It is pretty much inevitable, however, that one day sooner or later some of his hives will be infected. To prepare for that day, he has been selecting for hygienic traits so that his bees will hopefully be able to beat the disease before it takes hold.

To aide in his genetic selection process, Henry uses freeze-brood hygienic testing to evaluate his breeder hives’ hygienic traits. The test mimics American foulbrood by killing a concentrated area of brood, and then a beekeeper can observe how quickly and efficiently the bees clean up the mess. This year, he tested his 20 queen-mother hives, the results of two years of selection and the source of his future apiary’s genetics.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

To do the test, he first pulls a frame of solid, capped brood from the hive.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

He shakes the bees off the frame and sets it aside.

liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Sparkliquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Spark

He pours 10 mL of liquid nitrogen into a styrofoam cup.

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Spark

He presses a piece of PVC pipe into the comb…

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing // Wayward Spark

…and pours in a little liquid nitrogen. He waits until it freezes a seal around the base of the pipe to prevent leakage.

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Then he pours the rest of the liquid nitrogen into the pipe.

using liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkusing liquid nitrogen for honeybee hygienic testing with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

He waits until all the liquid nitrogen sublimates and then waits some more until the comb thaws. He pulls out the PVC pipe, marks the tested frame, and adds it back to the hive.

hygienic testing of honeybees with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Twenty-four hours later, he pull the tested frame back out.

hygienic testing of honeybees with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

The photo above is exactly what he wants to see. The bees have removed 100% of the frozen larvae, cleaned out the cells, and started storing nectar and pollen in the empty cells. Three out of 20 of Henry’s breeder hives performed the task perfectly. Others ranged from 10-80% removal.

Hygienic behavior is only one out of 20 or so traits that he selects for. With beekeeping and queen selection, the vast number of known and unknown variables makes it impossible to successfully abide by hard and fast rules. These test results are just an indicator of hygienic behavior, and under different circumstances, the worst performing hives could do better and the best performing hives could do worse. It’s standard to do this test at least twice for each hive to get a slightly wider sample size. Henry may or may not do another round of testing, but he feels like his observations of other colony traits are more valuable information than this specific test.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

In other news…

The hive as a super organism wants nothing more than to reproduce and pass along its genetics, so as soon as workers begin bringing in natural pollen and nectar in the spring, hives start setting up to reproduce by raising many drones and preparing to swarm.  Most beekeepers consider inevitable drone production to be a waste of energy for the colony because male drones don’t forage, guard the hive, or take care of baby bees like female workers, but Henry manipulates and replicates the honeybees’ natural cycles and allows room for his hives to raise drones. Drones won’t mate with queens from their hive of origin, but each virgin queen will copulate with up to 20 drones on her mating flight (likely the only flight of her life). Encouraging a robust drone population in breeder hives increases the chances that Henry’s drones with selected genetics will mate with Henry’s virgin queens (also with selected genetics) in his isolated mating yards, especially early in the mating season when feral drones aren’t flying yet.

Henry added the frame in the photo above to the hive about four days before this photo was taken except that it was only just a rectangular wood frame with the 1/4″ “starter strip” of wood at the very top. In four days, the bees drew out and started filling the whole sheet of drone comb.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

The black plastic frame above was added to a hive about a week before this photo was taken. The white is freshly drawn comb on small-cell foundation. The bees’ ability to draw comb quickly and evenly is generally a desirable trait in honeybees.

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Unseasonably good spring foraging weather and nectar curing conditions have allowed the bees to produce a significant amount of early bigleaf maple honey.

honeybee on comb // Wayward Spark

Here’s a bee hanging out on some brood comb.

DIY honeybee queen transport container // Wayward Spark

This is one of Henry’s really classy queen transport containers. If you’re interested in buying Henry’s Oregon-adapted queens for your own hive(s), email oldbluedeedco@gmail.com. He’ll have them available in limited quantities starting in mid-May. Local pick-up only.

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rhubarb chutney from Marisa McClellan's Preserving by the Pint // Wayward Spark

So many good things are coming to life this spring. For starters, RHUBARB (!) and the new cookbook, Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan!! The stars must have aligned just right so that I could dive into this recipe collection by starting off with our newly grown stalks of spring rhubarb in Marisa’s mustardy rhubarb chutney.

You’ve heard me refer Wayward Spark readers over to Marisa’s indispensable blog, Food in Jars, about a million times. It’s one of those spaces that has great recipes as well as in-depth discussions of canning techniques, safety concerns, and beginner tips. Marisa is a great teacher as well as a great recipe developer, and she’s been sharing everything she knows for five years on her (critically acclaimed!) blog.

I  own and love Marisa’s first book, Food in Jars, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of her second book, Preserving by the Pint, to see what else she had up her sleeve. Now that I have it in my hands, I will tell you why you should buy this book:

  • It’s super pretty–nice design, nice photos, easy-to-use layout.
  • The seasonally-organized recipes show amazing creativity, but they’re not fussy or complicated or full of expensive/hard-to-find ingredients. 
  • There are tons of resources for folks who have never done any canning before, but there’s also plenty to learn for folks who have done a lot of canning in the past. 
  • Marisa is a self-employed writer and preservation educator who has been offering up hundreds of recipes and tons of general information FOR FREE on her blog. The only way this model is sustainable in the long run is for us, the content consumers, to occasionally buck up and support content producers with actual dollars. Buying Marisa’s book is one way you can show your appreciation for all she does and to plant the seed for her future endeavors. I know people don’t talk about this a lot, but I think it’s pretty darn important in today’s media landscape.

Marisa is also touring all over the country with book-signing events as well as cooking classes. You can see her full schedule here. She’ll be in Oregon, her old stompin’ grounds, in June, and I am definitely planning on attending one of her events. I gotta say that I am stoked to finally be able to meet her face to face!

rhubarb // Wayward Spark

There are four rhubarb-centric recipes in the cookbook: Rosemary-Rhubarb Jelly, Rhubarb and Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Oven-Roasted Rhubarb Compote, and Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney. It was not easy to decide which one to try out first, but the chutney sounded unusual but approachable, so I went for it.

If you gave me a spoonful of this stuff with no backstory or other information, I don’t think I’d guess the main ingredient was rhubarb (so if you’re looking for something quintessentially rhubarb-y, I would try one of Marisa’s other recipes first). It is, however, delicious. Sweet, dark, tangy, and spicy with plenty of plumped up mustard seeds for some pleasant crunching. I’d put it in a loose category alongside barbecue sauce. Actually it’s a bit reminiscent of Marisa’s tomato jam. Marisa recommends pairing it with goat cheese and crackers, but I’m dying to try it out on a burger (meat or veggie). We also had dollops of it with rice, dal, cilantro, and corn relish the other night, a combo I really enjoyed.

Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney

from Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan

yeild: 4-5 half pints

1 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 small onion, minced
3/4 cup dried currants
1 1/2 cup packed, dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (I had a hard time finding the Aleppo pepper in the original recipe, so I subbed in hot red pepper flakes with great results)

 

Combine all the ingredients in a wide, nonreactive pot, place it over high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it bubbles, lower the heat to medium, and simmer gently, stirring regularly until slightly thickened.

As the chutney gets closer to done, make sure to stir it every minute or so to prevent scorching. You’ll know the chutney is finished cooking when you can pull your spoon through the liquid, and the space you’ve created doesn’t fill in immediately.

At this point, you can store the chutney in the refrigerator or can it to make it shelf stable for future use.

To can the chutney, funnel it into prepared, sterilized jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

fresh rhubarb // Wayward Spark

The Giveaway!

The good folks at Running Press have offered up a copy of Preserving by the Pint for one of you lovely readers. To enter, leave a comment with one of your favorite things to preserve or something new that you’d like to try preserving with a link to the recipe if you have one. You are welcome (encouraged!) to spread the word about this giveaway, but only one entry per person, please. US residents only. Entries are open until Friday, May 2 at 11:59 pm. A winner will be picked at random and announced next Saturday.

The giveaway is now closed. The randomly chosen winner is Brittany, a plum chutney fan.

My personal copy and the giveaway copy of Preserving by the Pint were provided by Running Press, but as always, the opinions and endorsements stated here are my own. 

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{this moment}

April 25, 2014 · 2 comments

beekeeping // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 2 comments }

Red Onion Woodworks

 Well, I FINALLY finished a pile of new cutting and serving boards for my shop. It’s been way too long since I added anything new, but apparently the winter/early spring just passed by in a haze of barbecue baking, kindergartener schlepping, half-marathon training, and Friday Night Lights binge watching. Or something like that.

But here they are, and let me tell you, they are pretty! I unearthed a secret stash of extra thick, super burly boards, the kind that everyone is always asking me about. I still have a few more burly ones to finish up, but this stock is extremely limited. Otherwise it’s kind of a random assortment as usual. There are more in the pipeline, so stay tuned if you don’t see what you want just yet.

Click the photos to see the boards for sale, and use the coupon code “SPRING10″ for 10% off your order through April 27. Happy spring!

Red Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion WoodworksRed Onion Woodworks

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{this moment}

April 18, 2014 · 0 comments

Oregon country road in spring // Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

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