Friday, October 30, 2009

Improved Bee Cookies

Another batch waiting for the oven.

A little practice and they are starting to look better than the first batch. It may be the different recipe along with better techniques for cutting the images out of the dough.
I have a half pint beer glass that is perfect for the round honey bee. The straight edges are harder to pull off, notice the rippled edges on some of them.. Now I am doing them one at a time, roll the dough, sprinkle flour on the mold, press to imprint, cut it out and put on the cooking tray. It is labor intensive but they do look good.

One more recipe to try before shutting down for the season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bees and Christmas Cookies

Tis The Season.

Years ago my Mother used to Springerle cookies a couple month before Christmas. These are anise flavored (most of the time), imprinted with graphics and can be made hard or soft. Mom's were the hard variety. She would hide them away somewhere and by Christmas they rock hard. They would last for months but were wonderful when dunked in coffee.

Last year I was reminded of them and contacted my sister trying to find the Springerle rolling pin Mom used. No luck, it had disappeared over time. I bought a rolling pin and surprised my brothers with a package from Mom for Christmas. (Mom is 95 and lives in a Senior residence).
These were good with a nice flavor but on the soft side. I needed to do better this year.
I could not find the recipe I used last year so I started to look for more on the web.
I have selected three to try and during my search I found The Springerle Baker full of good information including a link to International Trading Co. where I found some Springerle molds.
I selected a few.

A maiden sitting next to a skep.

A fine looking bee on comb

Mushrooms and pine combs visited by a nice little bee.

Two gentleman enjoying a pint. Got nothing to do with bees but maybe that is mead they are drinking.

Springerles take a while, it is a very stiff dough to work. Some recipes need to be chilled before they are rolled out and imprinted. After imprinting all need to sit at least 12 hours so the crust on the top can set up. Cooking is a snap, done in 12 minutes and then they should be stored away for at least a month.

Recipe #1 is from Aliens in This World blog. This was posted a couple years ago with a follow up this year. I used it for the first two batches. Needed a second one because with the first attempt I used the paddle instead of the wire whip for mixing the eggs which did not froth the eggs enough. Then I used jumbo eggs which required a lot more flour. So, #1-A, added 2.5 cups of flour and used bakers ammonia with 4 jumbo eggs.
#1-B, used two large eggs , two jumbo eggs and added a cup of flour with baking powder instead of bakers ammonia (hartshorn or ammonia carbonate).
#1-A is done and stowed.

More recipes to bake and pictures to take.
Here's hoping the imprints get better but we have bees.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bees and Trees and Bee Dancing

Linda's Bee Blog has some items about trees and bees she has been dealing with. These have been interesting reading and then suddenly bees in trees seemed to be everywhere

Friends of mine run on the horse trails/bridal paths in the Palos Verdes area. Once my "bee skills" were revealed they told me about bees in a tree along one trail that were bothering horses, riders and joggers. My services were requested, such as they are

This stump is 4-5 feet tall and about 10 feet off the trail

I did not have my bee suit so I did not get too close to the stump. The bees did not seem interested in me and their flight path did not seem to be over the horse trail. That made me wonder if the problem is nervous people rather than nasty bees.
Then there was the "Private Property No Trespassing" sign close to the stump. There is also a sign saying "Danger Bees" near the trail. Without permission and log cutting tools, this hive will be staying right were it is. Some bees are meant to be free and wild.

The next bee tree had a different story which can be see on the Backwards Beekeepers Blog but that is not the full story. Yesterday was the monthly meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers at Farmlab. The is located near downtown LA in an old industrial area right next to the train tracks and the LA River. The outside area where we meet is mainly under a bridge but there are lots of plants in containers that were recovered from a community garden which had been shut down a few years ago. Farmlab has some experiments going with hydroponic gardening and capturing rain water.
Our meeting space is free and they give us coffee a treats just for showing up. To return the favor Kirk, our bee leader, has installed one of his captured swarms in a hive out among their plants.

Kirk decided they could use a hive of bees in a natural hive so he brought along the bee tree he had picked up the day before.

The bees were well screened but there were always 4-5 of them on the outside of the screen. No telling where they came from. it is hard to believe they have been hanging around the tree as Kirk drove around with the stump in his truck.

I did notice something kind of special. I used my camera for the video so it is not the best presentation. Watch the bees closely. Near the end of the short sequence and you will see the bees apparently doing the bee dance. This is how bees tell each other where the good flowers are. What are they telling each other this time? It does not look like random movement to me.

Kirk taking the bee tree to set up in a far corner.

This was a very cramped space to try and shoot. You can see Kirk's glasses as he is starting to cut the screen loose. At this point things happened fast. "Boy those bees are pissed off" was the first comment. The three or four of us who were close by fled quickly. We retreated thirty yards away back under the bridge but one or two of the annoyed bees came along too and let us know what they thought. The meeting was officially over at this point.
No one got stung and we hope the bees will stay with their home in the new site. Some time later Kirk will show up with a bee hat and smoker to remove the rest of the tape and screen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Twitchy Bees

The non-standard weather continues. We went through some very hot weather, next it was a cooler spell followed by rain and now it has been in the 90's the last two days. It is hard enough for me to decide if it is long pants or short pants each day. I have no clue how the bees are handling things.

I have been doing some feeding with sugar water but with cooler weather I try to keep out of the hive and they are on their own. I have been surprised how much pollen I see them bringing it. It is from other sources because it is whiter, the bright yellow has been missing.

Then there is the heavy activity I have seen lately. A couple times, too early for the orientation flights (usually late afternoon), there has been very heavy activity at the front of the hive. The first time I did not know what it was but robbing came to mind so I added the entrance restriction board and it is still in place. Even with it there yesterday morning the same activity was going on. I had put a baggie with 3 cups sugar 3 water in before the rains came which needed replacing. It was definitely time to look inside.

The hive looked normal and the sugar water was gone. At this point the bees are very calm but as soon as I remove the old baggie and make that noise the twitchy bees show up.

At this point they are buzzing all over the place but I had my smoker out and made good use of it.

The first frame was empty but the next one has nice comb, much of this is very recent.

The third frame in and the first of the original five starter frames.

All of the other original frames looked just like this, covered with bees and brood. I do not recall seeing any drone cells with is probably normal this time of the year.

Two shots of Frame #8 which is progressing nicely

Frame #9, this will be fun to watch grow. #10 was empty.

All the frames back in place and new baggie with 3 cups each sugar & water. I put the cover back on and called it a day.. until later.

The ants have found a path up on the back side. There was some wind with the rain so some bit of debris is supplying them with a bridge. I am letting the bees settle down and then I will go out this afternoon and apply some Tanglefoot to solve that problem.

When I was inside I did look at the bottom board and it was clean. If there had been robbing there should have been some detritus on the floor from robber bees tearing open the cells. I guess it was not robbing. Just had a brain fart, maybe it was the girls chasing out the drones for the winter? I did not see the queen either but there are a lot of bees, she must be there. I can deal with the twitches for now but come Spring I may have to do the smush and see if we get a queen that makes calmer bees. But that will be another post and much later on.

In general the bees will make all the decisions but I am a little jealous of my niece who almost goes out and almost pets her bees with no problem. They came from a grower and mine are definitely feral. I prefer attitude in my terrier dogs, maybe I should develop that for the bees too.