Recently in honey
It's been a while. We're in the throes of the most productive time of year at the farm, harvesting tons of heirloom tomatoes and greens (among other things) and preparing for the quickly approaching autumn growing season. We've been hustling to get all of our farm goodies sold and distributed to CSA members but in my scarce free time I've been working on migrating Brooklyn Homesteader over to a new website that is no longer specific to Brooklyn since, well...I no longer live there.
So, as a result I created a page dedicated to the projects I'm working on, including teaching and farm events. The book I have been working on for an eternity will be out soon! Next season, I'll be tackling management of the farm by myself so it should be quite a ride! Please consider adding the new blog (which I've imported most of the content from this site to!) and following me on this crazy journey.
p.s. Big ups to McKenzie over at Oliver and Abraham's for designing my banner and buttons!
This holiday season, give the gift of a badass essential skill! Brooklyn Homesteader is now offering gift certificates for any of our online or farm-based workshops! We've been teaching for nearly 4 years at institutions like The New York Botanical Garden and 3rd Ward. We've taught private workshops during that same time as well!
We're offering classes on beekeeping, sustainable gardening, backyard poultry, and more! We're adding new classes every week! Classes on mushroom foraging and cultivation, raising dairy goats and intro to herbal medicine! Year-long passes ($225/ 12 months) and couples certificates (half off yr partners!) available as well!
All of our classes utilize strong visual presentations, hands-on activities and take-home references for continued study!
So help support the farm and give your friends and family members the gift of living a more sustainable, hands-on life!
My first honey harvest is coming up soon and my CSA members are in for a treat. I'm including a bit of pollen with each pick up and this week I placed pollen traps from Brushy Mountain on the front of my hives.
Here are a couple short videos demonstrating how they work and what they look like once set up. Not the most graceful design but it works pretty well. It's super easy to install and results in little to no damage to the delicate bees.
The end result: fresh pollen to dust on fresh chevre or consume as a supplement. Check out the nutritional benefits of bee pollen HERE.
To those of you at yesterday's Backyard Bootcamp to whom I promised a beer bottling post today, sorry to make you wait. Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew.
But I have a perfectly good excuse... Bees!
I've been contemplating keeping bees for a couple years, and thanks to whatever special blend of tipple and other intoxicants I was enjoying one cold evening this winter, I had decided that this was the season to start and placed an order for three packages.
And then, suddenly, they're here, buzzing anxiously in their little cages, waiting for me to give them homes. Oh boy.
Over the past few weeks I'd been re-reading up, watching clips, and generally prepping myself, but had for various reasons put off probably the most important part: getting and prepping my supplies. I put a hold on some woodenware (gorgeous stuff made in NJ by Evans) and tools at our farm store Hayseed's, and Meg saved my life by assembling frames for me... and also letting me borrow her car to schlep everything around Brooklyn. I love you, Meg.
So last night, I picked up my three packages, plus one unclaimed straggler for the Brooklyn Grange Apiary (which we're currently campaigning for on Kickstarter - please please please donate here!) I sprayed them down with so much syrup I thought they'd harden into one big lollipop, set them in my room on a burlap sack, crossed my fingers, and went to bed. Boy and Girl were intrigued by the buzzing and tried just about everything to break into my room for a flying-insect snack, but luckily failed.
This morning, I installed foundation* on half of my frames and prepped and waxed strips on the others.
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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!
It's regrettable that one often fails to see the impact another person has on their life until it's too late to express gratitude. A slight connection or brief encounter can have the potential to propel you towards opportunities you never thought would be available to you. You never know who will plant the seed in you for great things. It can and often does come from unexpected places. I realize now that it is our duty to see the time and attention others bestow upon us as gifts and to do all we can to avoid squandering them.
This is the way I feel about Chris Hondros, the first photographer to reach out to Neil and I about beekeeping in NYC. He had found a few Polaroids on Flickr that Neil had put up of some hivings in 2009. Chris emailed Neil about coming to photograph us for Getty Images. I didn't know what any of it meant, but I obliged as I thought it would be fun to have my picture taken for "the papers".
A few days later, Chris came to our Greenpoint apartment. I warned him that we'd have to climb a steep ladder onto the roof, a thing that most people find a little daunting. He was unmoved by it. I later found out why. Mr. Hondros had spent significant amounts of time shooting in war torn, poverty stricken countries....Kosovo, the West Bank, Iraq, Liberia, Afghanistan... this was no photojournalism student I was dealing with, he was the real deal. He had seen some intensely emotional things and documented it so that we could experience it too and perhaps feel some empathy for those suffering in those circumstances. I understood why he seemed utterly unafraid of the bees, even though he wore all black, which typically attracts unwanted attention from them. They seemed to take no notice of him, and he took no notice of them beyond the task at hand. He was completely at ease. They must have seemed as harmless as the wind to him. I was still relatively uncomfortable with my bees so I found his confidence admirable. I consider myself very fortunate that such a fearless and skilled eye would want to focus on something so tame and comparatively boring as me and some boxes of bees.
The shoot lasted perhaps a half hour. He was focused, fairly quiet, but polite in manner and in action...he didn't waste any of my time or his own. After he got the shots he needed, we went down the ladder to our apartment, had something to drink and chatted for a bit and then he was gone.
(All photos by Chris Hondros for Getty Images)
Over the course of the following few weeks, the images popped up all over publications online. I received emails from journalists and videographers wanting to give their own interpretations of my beekeeping story. More stories began to pop up with my face and name attached and from that came more opportunities for me to share my experiences and teach others to do the same. This all began because of Chris Hondros's small gift to me and I hope that where ever he is now, he can sense my gratitude to him. My encounter with him was brief, but I question whether I'd be where I am now if it weren't for him.
( Chris Hondros was a Pulitzer-prize nominated photographer who was killed last week while on assignment in Libya. Our deepest condolences goes out to all of his family and friends.
I also encourage all who read this to view his work. His photographs are intensely moving and offer an intimate glance into the lives of those struggling worldwide with hunger, war and injustice. He deserves extreme gratitude for these images, which he ultimately gave his life for. )
I need some contributors! I'm crazy busy for the next couple of months with class prep and paying writing gigs and I would love it if anyone out there would like to contribute any beekeeping, canning, animal husbandry, home brewing, pickling, whatevah-whatevah content. I'll kiss yr butt. Or give you some eggs and honey or something. Please, just do me a solid. I don't want this blog to be just about me. I'm boring.
So, if you are reading this and have got some fun urban-homesteader-y stuff going on and have a basic understanding of the English language and how computers "go" GET AT ME!