August 2011 Archives

Keep your heads up, guys!

(p.s. Still no word from Newton Farm. Will be rallying folks to go help with clean up in West Kill soon...stay tuned.)

Victorious Critters

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I'm happy to report that the bees made it through the storm. I had my doubts about the level of stability of the hives on my roof, but they toughed it out without toppling and the bees are out flying in this gorgeous weather as I type. I noticed many of the returning foragers are coming in with pollen baskets loaded with what appears to be Knapweed pollen.

It's a sight that truly makes my heart swell with pride. Here are some pictures from this am:

posthurricanebees2.JPG

posthurricanbees3.JPG(Go, you sassy bitches, go!)

posthurricanebees.jpg(My janky "bee yard"--Fortunately, the bees don't care what it looks like!)

TIP: One of the things I encourage when preparing for a storm is to NOT OPEN the hive for an inspection before it hits. The bees propolize the supers together, making them more stable. If you break the seal on a hive, you weaken it. If you know bad weather is coming, hold off on inspections until after it passes.

Still no word from Newton Farm. That area (Catskills) has been subject to very destructive flooding and power and phone lines seem to be down in most places in Greene County. Worried about my friends, chickens and bees. Ghost, Salad and Hazel are up there too. Fingers crossed that all of the critters great and small have triumphed over this scary weather.

Back in BK, the chickens ended up staying indoors until the wind mellowed out. The coop was tarped and weighed down but we weren't sure what to expect so we brought the little ladies in and let them cozy up in a dog kennel. They have been out and about all morning eating worms and botched noodles and stretching their wings. One of them even got so excited to be free that she laid an egg right there on the ground.

plop

While out there with the hens, I cleaned up the debris (not a single plant lost) and dumped in our compost pile. Now it's nice and full of green leaves and chicken-turd-covered straw. YUM!

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At least the worms will like it!

That's pretty much all that is going on here. I hope you all experienced very little damage from the storm. Please spread the word on the folks in the Catskills, Hudson Valley and CT. They are having a pretty rough time of it right now and need support.

Hurricane Irene Checklist

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hurricane.jpg
(photo via Telegraph UK/REUTERS/NOAA/NASA GOES Project)

I'm going to feel like a massive idiot if none of these precautions end up being necessary, but I can't risk losing any critters over the need to thumb my nose at hysterical people.

So, today I've got a fair amount of simple prepping to do. No "end of days" type stuff coming from me. Just the basics.

-Pack coop with clean dry straw and cover and secure vulnerable areas with tarp to keep the ladies dry.
-Set up crate indoors in case they need to be brought in.
-Fill up growlers with water to last a couple of days
-Tie up plants and bring in anything that might get blown away in the back yard.
-Set up cooler and buy a couple bags of ice in case we lose electricity.
-Matches & candles & flashlights
-Full tank of gas if we need to head up to the farm (evacuations are a long shot, but we are in a flood zone so you never know)
-Beer
-Snacks
-Planned reading
-Charge everything!
-Secure hives with cinder blocks and straps.
-Remove water source for bees from roof
-Make sure all my bee yards away from home are doing the same.

Here's to hoping everyone in the media is just being hyper-sensitive after our little random earthquake and everyone is kept safe. Good luck, everyone!

This behind the scenes video on Outside Magazine's website is KILLING me. Check out Buddy perching on dude-bro's shoulder. They had so much fun pooping and eating greens on the rooftop. They'd talk about it all the time....you know, if chickens could talk.

When I'm here I don't know how anyone can live any other way. Nearly everything is provided for you if you are willing to try and find it.

foragingwalk.jpg (Just another country walk. No big deal.)

harvestingelder.jpg (Picking Elderberries. For your health!)

wildthyme.jpg (Can you believe this stuff grows EVERYWHERE up here? Wild thyme is a miracle.)

bunbun.jpg (Rabbits have now turned the farm into a petting zoo!)

firewood.jpg (Laura getting her chop on. Getting some exercise and preparing for the cold winter ahead)

breakfastnook.jpg (The Newton Farm answer to a breakfast nook.)

I've got some serious soul searching ahead of me.

chippies1.jpg This fall I've decided to open up my home to New Yorkers interested in the possibilities of backyard food production and self reliance. I'm offering an intensive, all day course on "backyard homesteading" on Sunday, September 25th from 9 a.m.-5.p.m.

Some of the topics that will be covered are:

-Raised Bed Gardening (building beds, planning and maintenance)
-Foraging and Wild Edibles
-Composting
-Raising Chickens
-Beekeeping
-Pickling, Canning and other forms of food preservation
-DIY Cleaning and Body Products with Liz Neves of Raganella
-Homebrewing with Jerry Madden of Tipsy Parson

and we will touch on other topics such as rainwater collection, rooftop gardening, root cellaring, vermicomposting and making your own household cleaning and body products.

I'll be serving coffee and homemade donuts in the am and I'll provide lunch and beers/Cheerwine cocktails in the afternoon. Students will get to leave with some great books from my publisher, packets of seeds, a couple bottles of homebrew and preserved items to enjoy. The cost of materials is included in the Eventbrite ticket price.

Please spread the word! It's going to be so much fun!

xo,
Meg

A New Friend from Far Away

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If you end up coming to any of the beekeeping get-togethers and events this summer and fall, you might get the chance to meet this fellow! Michael Leung, a beekeeper in Hong Kong and founder of HK Honey will be spending time in our fair city, exploring and palling around with our European honeybees and the beekeepers that oversee them.

I was fortunate enough to meet and hang out with him last night after the Union Square Greenmarket event thanks to my good buddy Chase from Brooklyn Grange. I'm really excited to compare urban beekeeping notes with this guy! He'll be at our Backwards Beekeeping meeting tonight so come on by!

Check out this beautiful video featuring Michael and his lovely Asiatic honeybees.

Nokia - HK Honey from The Silentlights on Vimeo.

Bun1.jpg

Meet "Hazel"! She was named by reader Stephanie Klose! Stephanie, email me to claim your prize!

Bun2.jpg

Also, meet "Salad"! Named by Liz Neves bee-eff Eric! I'm a sucker for quirky food names so you got me with that one! Get in touch to claim your rooftop honey!

Thanks to everyone that participated in the contest! Looking forward to lots of learning with Ghost, Hazel and Salad and sharing my experiences with you all!

<3 M

BBNYC.jpg

The time has arrived! The first meeting of the NYC chapter of the Backwards Beekeepers is here!

Brooklyn Grange will be hosting on their vast rooftop farm, Sam Comfort will be there waxing philosophical about treatment-free beekeeping...growing strong bees, resisting the urge to rely on chemical crutches to keep your bees alve, catching wild bees, swarming, all of the things that make a beekeeper "backwards".

We hope that many of you can make it. We encourage folks to bring a small jar of the honey they harvested this season so that we can all . We'll have some fresh baked bread from Roberta's on hand to serve along side of it while we marvel at the genius of bees and the hazy Manhattan skyline.

While you are at it, we hope you will "like" our Facebook fan page too! We'll post updates frequently and share pictures of our beekeeping adventures as well as dates for upcoming classes and workshops led by some of our members, like Tim O'Neal, Sam and myself!

Hope to see many of you urban beeks there!

p.s. Big, big, BIG UPS to Renee Garner for designing our logo. It's freaking awesome and we're so lucky to have such talented people willing to help us out! You're amazing, Renee!

Help Name the Buns!

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I just got back from a Rabbits 101 workshop at Cold Antler Farm and, of course, I bought the breeding set that Jenna had waiting at the farm for attendees to buy. A recommended number of rabbits for the backyard breeder to start with is usually a buck (male), and two does (female) so that's precisely what I got!

Ghost.jpg

I've named the buck "Ghost" for obvious reasons, but the two little ladies still need names. So, without further ado, here's the rest of the gang!

Bun1.jpg

Bun2.jpg

I've got a jar of rooftop honey for each of the best names for 'em.

Annnnnd....GO!

A Quick and Dirty Update

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Hey-o, readers!

I'm on serious crunch time, cranking out the beekeeping book that Chronicle Books was so awesome as to get behind! It's got me slacking on the blog, but I'm trying!

I recently harvested some honey for my CSA members...Going to try and accomodate as many people as I can who want to buy but truthfully, selling honey has sunken to the bottom of my list of priorities, especially considering that when it was my priority last season, I ended up with no honey in my pantry that winter. That can't happen again.

honey.jpg (Sweet, sweet honey...thanks for not stinging me when I stole it, bees!)

I recently made a big batch of pickled scapes and ended up with extra brine, which I refrigerated for future use. Today I sliced up some heirloom beets and turnips from Newton Farm, packed 'em in a clean, dry jar and covered them with the brine for a quick pickle.

The recipe for the brine was pretty easy. 1:1 ratio apple cider vinegar to h2o, some salt (about 1/2 tbsp for every quart of brine) and a couple generous pinches of pickling spice. If you don't like 'em so tangy you can add a little sugar or honey. Boil and pour over raw veggies of your choice. Put an lid on those S.O.B.'s and refrigerate for a week or so. After that, you can eat at your leisure. Veggies can usually last a few months this way.

pickledbeets.jpg (Pickle fast, you! I'm hungry!)

I went to Ellenville, NY with some friends this week to visit Andrew Faust and his family. If you don't know who this fellow is and you are interested in Permaculture in NY, get with the program! Check out his website and attend his workshops, you will have your mind blown.

One of the things I saw at his farm that I thought was really smart was a little patch of tomatoes set up by his partner Adriana. The house they purchased had a black asphalt driveway so they used it to grow solanaceous plants in burlap sacks. The burlap allows the roots to penetrate the container and dry out, effectively air pruning them and preventing root binding. In addition, the black of the asphalt helps to keep the soil at a nice toasty temperature that the tomatoes and peppers love. I thought this was a very practical approach and could be a perfect way for city-dwellers to grow their own if they don't have access to a patch of clean soil.

fausttomatoes.jpg (I'm SO doing this on the roof next season)

Speaking of tomatoes, I've been harvesting some from my garden (when the squirrels don't get them first) and boy, let me tell you! They taste great with chopped purslane, cucumbers and basil oil! Give that combination a try if you feel inclined.

maters.jpg (I don't even know what sort of tomatoes these are. They just started growing on their own!)

So, that's about it for now. Neil and I are headed up to Cold Antler Farm for a rabbit workshop this weekend. Looking forward to sharing the experience with you when I get back!

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