Sunday 24 June 2012

Honey and Strawberries

These photos show how the Top Bar Hives are coming along, we installed the bees about 4 weeks ago now in the two hives, both are working well and both are up to bar 8, you can see from the second photo how they have built there comb, this comb like the others is full of capped brood with food stores at the top, when you consider there have built 8 of these in 4 weeks yet the in the national hives all they have to do is draw comb and fill it but it seems to take them longer in the nationals to reach this stage so the national bees are just lazier, we got another swarm the other night and this time we put them in a top bar travelling box rather than on frames, and already they are making progress, so now Martin has to get making another hive, other advantages of the top bars are they are cheap to set up as you don't need any frames or foundation just a long box nothing fancy with some bars along the top, it makes bee keeping affordable for all. Its not a good year so far for the bees what started out promising hasn't become brilliant because of the weather the bees cant get out and forage as much as they should be, there does seem rather a lot of swarms about this year, my theory is they feel there colony is at threat of starvation because of the weather so they are producing more queens and swarming in an effort to help the colony survive, there is more chance of survival with fewer mouths to feed.
Strawberries are doing great this year although a few weeks later than normal, I picked a good 2lb the other evening from our patch and turned them into jam, today we picked about another 2lb so it was strawberries and cream this afternoon a real taste of summer, we also got our first crop of Broad Beans picked only a small bowl, and the peas are fattening up nicely as well, harvested the new potatoes they were lovely with butter, we must get some more in for cropping this winter, we will grow them on in barrels in the tunnel. The sweet potatoes seem to have settled and are starting to romp away, cucumbers are starting to set as are the tomatoes so perhaps summer will arrive after all in the garden.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

All things Sweet

Sweet Potatoes we first tried to grow them about 8 years ago buying in slips and growing them on we had some sort of success with them, that was when we had an allotment, I grew them in a cloche and in the autumn we had a few to harvest not massive ones but it was a success, we then moved house and I have tried various different slips over the years in the garden but no success, this year I didn't buy any slips and put it to the back of my mind and concentrate on vegetables that did grow well in our ground, all that changed on Sunday we went to the local garden centre and they had Sweet Potato plants, first time ever I have seen then them on sale as plants, they are grown on from Sutton's and cost £2.99 a plant they looked strong healthy and vigorous so I purchased 3 and have planted them according to the instructions an a ridge and they are in the tunnel, so it will be interesting to see how they develop this time.
On the subject of sweet things, sugar or its substitute has always been in the my thoughts, I like sugar and have it in my tea, of course if you are going to be self sufficient you want to try and provide a s much as possible for yourself, well in my world I do, sugar from sugar beet is very lengthy and complex and costly, yes we have honey and it can be used for most things, but I want sugar, Stevia is an option I am considering, Stevia is a herb that is a natural sweetener and zero calories, it is already available as a sweetener in major supermarkets and is 3 times sweeter than sugar, I done a bit of reading up about it and gather if you dry the leaves out you then grind them up to a fine powder and there you have a natural sweetener, so I am going to order some seeds and give it a try, whatch this space for my Stevia experiment and results.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Back from Wales

Martin and Steve discussing the right way to fish

Dog Fish supper

Razor Clam Supper

We have spent the past week in Pembrokeshire, getting to know some of the areas in a bid to see what part we would like to move to, the weather didn't really play ball but we had some sunny spells, we met up with Steve and Rebbeca from Downsizer who took the time out to show us the basics of beach fishing, Steve managed to catch us a Dog Fish that we had for dinner that evening, we spent some time beach foraging as well for Cockles, Razor Clams, Mussels and Winkles so that was another dinner, we visited Wool mills and a Flour mill so all in all had a good week, we have decided we don't like the Tenby area too touristy for us, while we were away a fox visited our chickens and we lost Rocky our golden cockerel, it could have been far worse, right I must get on as I have a lot to do. will pop back later in the week with some more updates.