October 2011 Archives

And why should you care?

Well, it's uses in raising the livestock that you eventually eat is one good reason to understand the difference. It's one of the fundamentals of farming that very few non-farmers understand. If you are a gardener or have a backyard flock of chickens or rabbits, you also may want to use one or the other for mulching, bedding or feed...so watch this short video and become all the wiser!

Last night I had a small group of lovely lady beekeepers over to talk out beekeeping and some related projects in the works. We drank wine, ate rabbit sausages, broiled escarole and homegrown potatoes and caper berries. We talked about how our bees were doing, plans to have babies and what we planned to do for the winter. We talked at length about bees, of course. The conversation eventually turned to a commonality in the room--that we had all come to see beekeeping as something that has helped us to cope with hardship in our lives and has given us a sense of empowerment and connection to the world. Beekeeping had inadvertently become our religion...the open hive being the church in which we pray. If that makes us heathens...well, I guess we'll see some of you in Hell because we're not changing. At least we won't be alone.

bBEELADY3_COLOR3.jpeg (Amazing bee imagery from the website of Q. Cassetti)

I think about beekeepers relationship with their bees all the time. I specifically take note of the differences between male and female beekeepers. There's something different about each gender's approach. Men often radiate a sense of mastery over some perceived danger ("Watch in amazement while I stick my head in this lion's mouth!") and an interest in processing information within the hive (which has merit, absolutely), where women are far more intuitive, sensitive and often approach and work within the hive as if they were going to visit a temperamental friend. There's perhaps more sentimentality with women, but I think with bees a little bit of preciousness goes a long way. The bees don't seem to mind it.

Sometimes there is an in-between, as demonstrated by Yvon Achard in Queen of the Sun.

As for me, I started beekeeping during the darkest time in my life. I had just had my heart broken and felt anxious, unsure and fragmented. My family life was in turmoil and I was adjusting to a lifestyle in a new city that I was certain was not for me. I felt very alone. Then the bees came and they quieted me, opened me up. I felt plugged into the world again. I think most beekeepers will understand what I mean. To non-beekeepers I can only say, in more specific terms that beekeeping is meditative and the act of inspecting a hive, for most beekeepers, clears one's head and calms the random thoughts whirling around in the mind. I've heard similar things out of other mouths, so I know it's not just me.

blendedbeelady2green.jpeg (Artwork by Q. Cassetti)

But there's more to it than that. Beekeeping, to me, offers something to the human heart that I cannot easily articulate. It just needs to be experienced. As a beekeeper, you get to witness the a miniaturized human experience on a small scale; life-growth-community-creation-death. It's amazing that a creature as small as a bee can teach you such a tremendous amount if you are open. They unknowingly give so much to us. I regret that I can't explain it better. I'm just not there yet. I'm only just beginning to understand my relationship to these things.

So, enough rambling from me. Beekeepers---tell me about your experience with your bees. Man or woman, it doesn't matter. What do your bees mean to you? Have they changed you or your perspective in any way?

The number of home brewing posts on this blog (or lack thereof) is shameful. But I have a confession to make--I haven't brewed beer in a while. And when I did, I was a dabbler. I went to homebrewer's association meetings and events but you wouldn't find me posting on the Beer Advocate about all-grain clones or how to make a kegerator but I've made a few batches of easy Ales and that was it as far as my experience went.

I moved to Brooklyn and realized that I wouldn't have the space for storing carboys so I just let the hobby fall to the wayside. It never advanced beyond that. When I think of all of the beer I've consumed that someone else made, I feel the sting of failure quite clearly.

Recently, things have changed. I've got friends who love brewing and have all of the gear for it and a boyfriend with an encouraging desire to learn. I'm back on the home brew train again. Only this time, I'm rolling with some serious beer nerds so I'll be forced to expand my very basic working knowledge of the craft. I'm really looking forward to it.

First, we've got Jerry, who the folks that attended my Backyard Farming Bootcamp got to brew a batch of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter with in between lessons in lotion making and chicken handling. He's been brewing for some time and has a very relaxed approach to it. He's like one of those people who throws a bunch of stuff in a pot without measuring and it comes out delicious. He knows the rules and so he can break 'em with some level of comfort.

jerryracking.JPG (Jerry bottling some home brewed porter)

Then there is Tom (insert Tom & Jerry jokes here) who is probably more enthusiastic about beer than anyone I know. He's a more regimented and organized brew dude. He also has strong opinions, which is a quality I value.

Neil, the loving and loyal boyfriend, has a nice big sponge-like brain and is good at babysitting bubbling carboys, wiping the explosions off of the ceiling (he's tall). He's going to be the sanitation expert, I can already tell. He can often be found vigorously scrubbing all of the gear in the bathtub after a day long session.

Me, well...I think I'll probably spend most of the time documenting the affair, asking questions and sampling. Maybe participating in the brainstorming and providing ingredients like honey and flavoring elements. I most recently provided some Newton Farm heirloom squash for a batch of Amber Ale with Kabocha and Buttercup and honey for bottling the EF Porter.

It'll be a group effort which always makes it more fun. We've got two batches in this month, and I'm hoping to get two batches started each month through the chilly months.

So, bear with me folks. The home brewing posts are coming. It's getting cold out and my cozy kitchen is perfect for brewing and hanging so I have a feeling you all are going to be in for some drunken beer posts all winter long.

During the summertime, using the oven is a major bummer. Our apartment turns into an unintentional sweat lodge. We usually stick to grilling and making salads. Now that Fall is here and the temperature outside has finally dropped, I'm ready to get back into the baking game.

To shake off the cobwebs, I figured cookies would be the easiest and most forgiving sweet to make. My favorite cookies happen to be the ones that have lots of flavor and textural elements. Oatmeal cookie dough makes a great base for the addition of dried fruit and nuts of your choice. My advice with oatmeal cookies: Go balls out. Throw all of the dregs of your pantry in the bowl (measured out, of course)and you'll end up with a surprisingly tasty end result.

Meg's Pantry Cleanin' Oatmeal Cookies

(Adapted from a recipe found on Food.com)
Makes about 2 dozen.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup of millet, rye flakes, wheat germ or any other coarse grain that you've got leftover in the pantry
1/2 a cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or shredded coconut
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 fresh eggs
1/2 cup dried blueberries or other fruit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the softened butter, mixing in the rest of the liquid ingredients (vanilla, eggs, maple syrup) until incorporated. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and fold in until all dry ingredients are incorporated. I use my hands sometimes, as the batter is very thick.

intheoven.JPG

On a parchment lined baking sheet, scoop the batter (I use a TBSP to measure out the portions) and place with about 2-3 inches in between. The batter spreads quite a bit. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a baking rack and then eat the hell out of those cookies!

mmmcookie.JPG

On a cold autumn day, pop a batch of these in the oven and your apartment will smell wonderful and feel so cozy and warm that you'll forget all about those sweltering summer days!

Whispers and Sideways Looks

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There have been whispers of late at Jewel Street Paradise. Questions mostly, perhaps head shaking but certainly what seems to me like a quiet disdain. Maybe it was the rabbits, perhaps the worm bin and bales of hay in the basement. Perhaps it was the round of questioning from me regarding the homemade detergent that I thought had disappeared (it was only moved, my fault)... whatever it was, it seems that I've finally reached a point where the people I share a house with no longer completely understand my motivation to live a certain way. Beekeeping, raising livestock, gardening and self-sufficiency are usually done in roomy locales for good reason. I've done the best job I can to be conscientious, cleaning up the bits of straw that find their way to everywhere and tidying the yard on a daily basis, but what I see as perfection is seen as a blight by others. But the road goes both ways. I see grotesqueness where others see beauty, too.

students-riding-tractor-at-the-victory-garden-1943.jpeg

And you know what-- that's ok. I've never wanted any of this to be a situation where people are expected bend to my ideologies or adapt to my lifestyle. Of course you sort of hope that it inspires people and they want to be part of it, but the truth is, not everyone's head is in the same place as mine. Some people just want things simple, uncomplicated. Everything in it's correct place so it needn't be worried about. When many people share that place, you've got to contend with the fact that little annoyances will mount up and become big problems in our minds, disrupting the flow of normal day-to-day thought. I've been on the other side of things, getting miffed over people making noise or not composting "right" or fussing with my laundry. None of them being particularly serious issues, but I let them get to me and they taint my experience of home. That's on me. I can't let resentment take me. None of us should allow it. It's a big challenge but simply, it's part of the deal when you live here. You just have to adjust to being around people, with all of their greatness and foibles, constantly.

Five years into living in Brooklyn and I am just starting to truly understand what that means. You are never really alone. Not everyone wants beer bottles and brewing equipment taking up living space. Not everyone finds the smell of a smoldering smoker romantic. Not everyone wants to wake to the sound of a chicken celebrating their daily egg. A few of us revel in it. But many do not. You've got to think about these things constantly if you want to get along.

But I won't complain, I've been very fortunate. I butt heads with the people I live with seldomly, and never to any extreme. They are all very accommodating and for their part they seem to enjoy some aspects of our little urban homestead. If they are put off by something, I am usually pretty good about reading between the lines and trying to improve the situation. I do the best I can. I want everyone to be happy. I want to be happy. It is our home. Sometimes I think it's all we've got.

I should thank my neighbors more often. I think that if they knew that I appreciated them for what they do and don't do perhaps they would simply say to themselves "Oh, that crazy Meg!" (I don't think of myself as crazy) when I bring home donated bus tubs of insect larvae for the chickens or a leaking bag of spent grains instead of possibly silently resenting it. After all, it's in part because of them that all of it is what it is.

What is "it"? It is home and we share it. It needs protecting too, even if it is from myself. We all look to this place as a sanctuary and it is so needed. I've got to figure out how to keep everyone happy, without having to sacrifice my way of life. If I don't have this, I don't have anything.

BBNYC.jpg (Logo by Renee Garner)

Hey-hey, Y'alls!

Our October Backwards Beekeepers of NYC meeting is on Thursday the 13th for 7-9pm at 61 Local, the fine establishment in Cobble Hill. They've been kind enough to let us use their wonderful event space for the meeting, and then after we will be enjoying beers, refreshments and other tasty treats down in their bar! Come by, get to know your fellow beekeepers. If you aren't a beekeeper yourself but are interested in becoming one, or hosting a hive for a wanna-bee, you should come by and get involved! All are welcome.

During the actual meeting, Tim O'Neal and I will take turns chatting the room up about our bees, the upside to urban beekeeping and methods of managing bees without the use of chemical inputs. There will be ample time for Q&A and we'll discuss what the future of the club holds! This is only our second meeting so there's tons of room for growth and participation!

61 Local is located at 61 Bergen Street off of the F and the G line (Bergen St.)

Please feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions about the meeting, or would like to be added to the email list!

ZZZB.

Hey there, Readers!

I've got a really fun, free talk coming up this Monday at Pete's Candy Store as part of Open City Dialogue. I've been attending these talks for the past year or so and they are really fun and often tremendously interesting (my personal favorite past talks have been on the topics of ghost hunting, rugby, and pigeon racing). I've been asked to come pontificate about the joys and challenges of beekeeping in New York City. Pete's has 2-for-1 happy hour too so you KNOW I'll be having a beerski (or two).

Here's the write up from the OCD website:

"Open City Dialogue (OCD) is a bi-monthly lecture series unraveling on alternating Mondays in the backroom of Pete's. Short (35-40 minute) lectures are woven together from the common thread of people's obsessions, with guests coming from all over Greater New York. Whether academic or crackpot; celebrated or unsung, our lecturers all have something to tell you...
Lectures are on Mondays at 7:30pm

beeinspection.jpg (Photo by Neil Despres)

October 10
QUEEN BEE: Big Apple Apiculture w/Megan Paska

Brooklyn is all abuzz--with the propolis-pounding pitch of bees. On rooftops throughout the borough, humankind's smallest domesticated species is making a profound comeback--in lockstep with a burgeoning rooftop farming movement. The juggernaut has even stung the city last year, forcing the council to reverse a Giuliani-era ban on urban beekeeping. Join Brooklyn's Megan Paska for a brief history and overview of this honeyed tale, complete with an indoor bee-fondling session.

Megan Paska is a Brooklyn transplant by way Baltimore. Her passion for urban gardening and beekeeping finds expression both in an active apiculture profession--she supplies bees to Greenpoint's Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and BK Farmyards, and restaurants such as Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group--and in her urban gardening resource, BROOKLYNHOMESTEADER.COM. She teaches apiculture workshops and more all over the city. Most recently, she was a feature speaker at the first annual NYC Honey Festival. By the way: she's also a damn good mushroomer."

While the "mushroomer" thing is pretty far from the truth (I'm a total novice), this is going to be fun and I hope many of you can make it!

Home_sweet_home.jpg

Regarding a sense of home, Jenna writes in a recent post on my favoritest blog in the whole world, Cold Antler Farm:

"Those of you who have been reading this blog a while know how much I admire and look up to the work of Polyface Farm, a beyond-organic farm in Virginia. While at the Mother Earth News Fair I got to hear the honcho of that operation talk, a charismatic fellow by the name of Joel Salatin. He does many speaking gigs like this all around America, and when I sat down to hear him in Pennsylvania I didn't get what I expected. While there was plenty of talk about agriculture, it was really more about our personal culture, and I took one main thing away from his talk.

Home.

Joel pointed out that one of the largest problems with our culture, health, and community is how our houses (specially our kitchens) have gone from the center of our lives to a boarding house we sleep and eat at. Home has faded into lazy nostalgia, we're remember a place we no longer actually practice. There are people who pay every month to live there, hire someone else to mow and clean it, and unless we are asleep or grabbing a Pop Tart out of the toaster: they aren't there very often. Even weekends are dedicated to hitting the road to shop and go to soccer practice. Some people claim they could not even fathom spending an entire weekend at home: their children would go nuts without activities and events and play dates. Others without kids just find their homes boring, a place that is shut off from the world. They don't want to stay home because, even as I type this, I feel like the words "stay home" are a stick-in-the-mud's anthem..."

To read the rest of the post, click away. She's a really gifted writer who is living the dream, as far as I am concerned.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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