Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gone fishing. Again.

Bubba and I are heading out again to the backwaters of Arkansas to see about some trout.

So, I won't be here filling your eyes with swears or false promises about beehive videos or updates on the sweater I'm knitting or flash freak outs about NaNoWriMo which HOLY SHIT, PEOPLE totally starts in five days.

Which means that on my flight home from Arkansas, I'll be tap-tap-tapping away on my laptop like an annoying douche and probably aggravating the crap out of everyone around me.

But, to that I say - SUCK IT - because they're always annoying me by refusing to honor the Rules of Air Travel by snaking the arm rests away from the middle person (which I always am) or by crying continually and loudly because they haven't learned how to chew gum or clear their ears yet or by kicking my chair, smelling like they've tucked an onion sandwich under their arms, using my chair back as leverage as they launch their big butts toward the bathroom for the fiftieth time or a hundred other tired complaints about air travel.

Shit annoys me, is what I'm saying.

But - it's worth it. Because in 24 hours I will be casting into a slow moving river surrounded by lovely fall scenery alongside some of my very favorite people in the whole wide world.

And then we will drink homebrews from the keg, eat homemade KC BBQ and catch up on miscellaneous bullshit while we try not to split our sides laughing at one another's tired and delightful jokes.

Then we will catch some fucking fish.

Hallelujah for that. See you in a week.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Other people's honey [NOW UPDATED WITH PHOTOS AND BULLSHITTERY 10/25/11]

I alluded briefly to a honey harvest a few weeks ago and you can all thank Thimbleanna for keeping me honest with my report.

However, I must preface my report by saying that the honey I harvested was not mine. I mean, it was OK for me to harvest it - I didn't STEAL it - but it wasn't from my own home hive.

No. Those ladies are still in their inaugural year, during which time they get to keep all the honey they collect and I get none.


So! Good thing I had my four other hives at work to harvest. Because, yes, we keep bees at work. And then, when we harvest the honey - me and the other half dozen beekeepers at work - we get to keep a bit for ourselves and then the rest goes to our cafes. And that's about all I'm going to say about work.

But - to stay true to my word, I will say that we had an excellent harvest, it was and is delicious, the local news videotaped me speaking incoherently on the subject and now we're all cracked out from ingesting so much honey.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch that is my suburban house that looks nothing like a ranch, I've taken off the honey super (the box on top where the bees would normally store honey but in this case just went to get away for the weekend when they were feeling stressed), added the entrance reducer back on at its widest setting and am watching the drones get carried out by their ears as the rest of the hive gets ready to hole up for winter.

Took this picture in the spring, but this is basically what it looks like again. Except without the inner cover stuck in the middle there. Just go with me on this.

I'd share a video of the closing up ceremonies, but I forgot to take one when I went out there in a frenzy last week to get it done before dark.

I apologize for being negligent in my video taking, but if Bubba would stop being so damned allergic to the bees, maybe he could take some fucking pictures while I work this hive.

He's so selfish, that guy.

Also, the GoPro camera is totally fighting me and going dead at the worst times (like, say, when I'm holding a frame of bees over my head), so I just don't trust its ass anymore.

Anyway - the girls are building comb out just the way they're supposed to - with babies (brood) in the middle of the frames and honey on the outside of the frames (for food), so I don't feel too horrible about the way they're going into winter.

Needless to say - it does not look like THIS anymore.

And, HOLY, are those brood boxes heavy (nearly tore out my shoulder trying to lift the second one off so I could get down to the bottom), so I know there is a good amount of honey capped off and ready to feed them during the cold harsh winter we're certain to have here in NorCal.

And that is sarcasm so please don't send me your comments about what a puss I am for thinking we have cold harsh winters here in NorCal. SARCASM, look it up.

Anyway, now that I've spent this whole post describing what's going on in the hive, I see that I really just need some pictures because this is retarded. I'll endeavor to take some when I'm out there this week sugaring them for mites.

What? You've not heard of beekeepers sugaring their bees?

Alright, I'll take a picture of that, too. Though I will have to take all these photos with my little point and shoot camera because my big girl camera isn't getting anywhere near all that mess.

Bee sugaring and photos of said event - coming soon-ish.

[10/25/11 UPDATE: It's "soon-ish"]

So, I had to go out and sugar the bees today, so I thought I'd drop my camera in the powdered sugar, take a few photos and come back here to tell you that getting cracked out on cough medicine before tending to a busy beehive is maybe not the best plan.

You probably could have guessed as much, but still, here we are.

It all happens so fast, my Crazy, that only upon reflection do I see where I've gone awry.

Anyway, for those of you who are interested in just what the hell "sugaring the bees" entails, let me tell you how I do it. And let's all remember that *I* do not represent all beekeepers, expert knowledge or anything related to "years of experience". The way I do things is a combination of bits of gathered knowledge from around the beekeeper circle of friends I keep/the Internets/beekeeping books, time on hand, how I perceive the situation at the hive and tools at my disposal.

Which is how I ended up deciding that I was going to apply the powdered sugar to the bees with my cake sifter.

I'm nothing if not a complete jack off.

See, people, the concept of sugaring bees is pretty well discussed around the web and the other knowledge gathering mechanisms I described. I think we even discussed it in the class I took a few years ago. The concept being that if you cover bees with powdered sugar, they will clean it off themselves and each other and, in the process, also knock off pesky mites.

When done weekly for about three weeks before they are wintered over, your mite problem should be solved without the employ of any gnarly chemicals and also your bees get to pretend that they are a creepy wiggling cake for a few minutes.

What I haven't been able to accurately glean from all my knowledge gathering is exactly *how* to apply the powdered sugar. Because "sugaring the bees" is like every other beekeeping topic in the known world, which is to say that it's frustratingly vague and incomplete and differs 100% from one beekeeper to another.

All instructions and methods for beekeeping, from what I've found, are not so much instructions as they are "guiding concepts".

Which annoys the fuck out of me.

Alas, I still needed to sugar the bees, and since no two beekeepers do it the same way, I decided to introduce yet another new way and employ my own method - the cake sifter. My thinking being that if the goal is to coat as many bees as possible with a nice even layer of powdered sugar, one might use a cake sifter since that is how one would cover a cake with a nice even layer of powered sugar and - hell - cakes and bees are the same, right?

OK, so my thinking didn't extend to join the similarities of honeybees and baked goods under one roof, but I think you get where I was going with the cake sifter's capabilities to cover things with a nice even layer of whatever, right? Just say yes.

So, yeah. I went out to the hive with my cake sifter loaded with powdered sugar and proceeded to smoke them lightly and then rock their world by taking the brood boxes off again.

Rock me, Amadeus. (Come on. You know you were thinking it.)

Unfortunately, I couldn't get the stupid GoPro charged up and working when I was ready to go sugar the bees, so I brought Bubba's camera instead because - hooray - my point and shoot is in Arkansas already getting ready to shoot photos of people catching trout in a few days.

Don't get distracted though! This is about sugaring the bees and me finally taking pictures of said event. So just remember that I apologized for not taking a video that would have better illustrated the wiggling cake phenomenon that occurs when you open a busy hive and then suddenly sift powdered sugar on their heads.

First, they're stunned. They all stop moving and, in my imagination, crouch down like the dog does when I put a toy on her head, as if to say, "SOMETHING'S ON ME. DO.NOT.MOVE." Then they all start wiggling around to clean themselves and their neighbor and they quickly disappear into the hive leaving the stop of the frames mostly empty.

The process takes less than 30 seconds, which is why the top of this box looks so sparsely populated - they'd already headed downward by the time I fished the camera out of the cake sifter WHOOPS.


Dude. Is there something in my hair?

After this, I promptly forgot to install the beetle jail (that'll be next week's fun task) and to remove a frame to show you the nicely built comb these gals have set themselves up with for winter with babies in the middle and honey and pollen on the outsides. It's quite impressive. I should really show you a photo.

Oh, right.

Maybe next time.

For now, I'll leave you with my flip-flopped feet at the hive, which I know amuses Thimbleanna to no end.

I need a pedicure.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Remains of summer [+Adopt a Crop Winner]

I know I'm not the only one who takes a million pictures of shit and then never posts the pictures or talks about them, even if just to say Look at the awesome s'mores that I made in my backyard fireplace.

Good thing I didn't start avoiding sugar until fall.

Because there's definitely some added sugar in these.

Though there may just be more "Added other stuff" since it's more sugar than anything else. You know what I mean.

So, I'm doing a little fall cleaning of the summer photos to show you some of the good shit I shot while it was still warm enough for shorts around the firepit at night and naked butts in the high mountain lakes.

No. I will not be showing you naked butt photos.


This is close though. Go Lake Tahoe Derby Dames!

And here's a high mountain lake.

So, you can pretend I had a naked butt when I took this if you must.

And for those of you who just scrolled down to see who won the Adopt a Crop prize this season - you're in luck - I'm feeling generous and have bolded the winner: Mom Taxi Julie!

Shoot me your mailing address and real name (unless you like mail showing up as Mom Taxi Julie, in which case, right on) to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom and I'll send you some randomness PLUS we get to be seed saving buddies next spring and summer. If you want. I mean, you don't *have* to. But - it'll be cool.

Come oooooooooooooon.

OK, back to the remains of summer.

I took approximately 100 photos of this volunteer sunflower. It was the prettiest. And the volunteeriest.

There were lots of bearding events with the bees and this wasn't even the half of it.

See those dots? Bees. All bees. Like the sky was vibrating. Awesome.

Volunteeriest sunflower some more.

All those wildflowers we saw while hiking in Tahoe. *wolf whistle*

Remember Kauai?

Yeah. Me too.
Oh, how I remember.
And then we had a bunch of BBQs.

Which double as dog parties. Obviously.
I'm sure there are a few photos I'm leaving out, but you get it - summer around here was short, sweet and we are lucky that we don't weigh a metric ton due to the eating frenzy.

So, with that, let's all give Fall a big hello while hoping it doesn't end up in our hair.


Monday, October 17, 2011

My eyes are full

I'm sure there's something I'm supposed to be telling you about right now, but instead I'm going to tell you about fishing.

People - I finally got a solid weekend on the river.



And this wasn't the HALF of it. Fucking beautiful out there.

Now, yes, I did only catch the one beautiful rainbow trout, but that's not important.

That's me. Not catching my fish yet.

What's important is that I tromped up and down the west fork of the Carson river with Bubba and another good fishing buddy to the tune of Lake Tahoe winding down for winter.

Pretty soon we'll be covered with snow.

Folks, it's fall out there and GOD DAMN if it's not the most beautiful heart-swellingly stunning time of year.

I wish I could hug a river.

Which I didn't adequately capture in photos because:
1. I didn't have my big daddy camera
2. We weren't stopping alongside the road for one hot second to capture the really pretty spots because WE WERE GOING FISHING DAMNIT
3. WE WERE FISHING DAMNIT and lord knows I will drop a camera if it's not tied to my vest and since the camera tied to my vest died shortly after arriving on the river, well...there you go.

So I obviously stole Bubba's camera when he leapfrogged me at this spot.

Not a lot of pictures, not a lot of fish, but LOTS of fishing and fabulousness anyway.

Can you feeeeeeeeeeeeeeel the fabulousness? Thought so.

Plus, it was a great warm up for our trip to the White River in Arkansas in a few weeks, wherein I will fish for four days straight and see some more fall color and hopefully catch WAY more fish and also hang out with our other favorite fishing buddies.

This is what every picture of him looks like. The man is ON the fish at all times.

So, yeah. I had a great weekend of fishing the Carson river (caught my one rainbow on a grasshopper indicator with a pheasant tail nymph dropper, if you're interested) and I'm being gently encouraged to take up fly tying, so you know that will soon mean 101 hobbies, 0 free time and YAY MORE BITCHING.

I'm a treat.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Death Clock of free time is at 18 days...

You may never get sleeves.
Friends, shit's been busy.

Which, obviously, otherwise I'd be posting here a lot more often because HELLO I have things to tell you about.

Like the fact that we harvested honey from our work hives last week and that my hive is about to go nigh-nigh for the season and that the garden is about to come down and that I made an awesome potato and kale soup without a recipe but just from my own pea brain and also I nearly snapped off a toe during a drunken descent from my Adirondack chair on Girls Weekend and...

We harvested one million jars of honey. It was glorious.

White Trash Dinner Season is upon us.

I blame the champs for my unscheduled dive off the patio.

Potato Kale Leek Sausage soup. I'll have to give you the recipe sometime. Except that's basically it.

Yeah. But then this pesky thing called work/life/100 hobbies got in the way and so here I am.

I've begun knitting a thing. A thing that, in a few weeks' time, will likely end up sitting unmoving in its lovely WIP bag (as seen above) until December.

Because in a few weeks' time, NaNoWriMo begins. Specifically, 18 days, 16 hours, 36 minutes and ... seconds from now.

That countdown is like the deathclock of any remaining free time.

Yes! That's right! I'm still planning to carve out enough time on a daily basis to write 1600 or so words during November and, in a month's time, 50,000 or more words all pressed together in what is my new NaNoWriMo machine.

Sticker is not enormous - machine is just real small.

I wouldn't say I'm getting *too* serious about the NaNo business, but with Scrivener on Mac only (although I just saw something about it being available on PC soon - oh.) and us traveling back and forth from the mountains regularly and me needing to be able to AT ANY MOMENT write a word, I figured I needed a buddy.

So, a buddy I got. And thank you to a very good and nice friend of mine who loaned me her Apple discount so that this buddy could be 15% less wallet sucking.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say with all this is that even though I've been quiet-ish around here lately, I don't *mean* to be, but in a few weeks - if it gets quiet again - I *do* mean to be. Because I'm using all my words elsewhere.

In a novel that, for once, even has a vague outline and - TEE DAH - some research applied to it.


Also, seed saving. I've been doing that. But won't be. In 18 days, 16 hours, 36 minutes and...

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Saving seeds looks a lot like forgetting to do the dishes

Yeah. That's not appetizing.

The process of saving seeds, particularly those that benefit from fermentation first (tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, tomatillos, generally any fruit with a gel around their seed), is just a bit nast.

I mean, firstly, you let that shit sit on the plant for evAR until it's all bulbousy (that's right, I'm bringing this Finny Original back) and sickly colored and attracting birds to peck at its grody soft spots.

FYI: *NOT* a lemon cucumber. Yeah. Wrong.
Then you bring it and its goopy ripeness into your house even though you pass the composter and it gives you a confused look, like, "Hey, isn't that for me?" and scoop out its grody innards while obviously calling Bubba in to check out the delicious lunch I'm making!

He was not amused. Or appetized.
And then you pour all the seeds and their gloppy grossness into jars and stir them around with tepid water until the seeds start to separate a little from the fruit and resemble vomit.

Not too bad...

Sun Gold, tomatillo and Solly Beiler cucumber vomit, respectively.
Then, while you're setting the jarred tomato, tomatillo and cucumber barf on the bar to ferment in front of your horrified neighbors' faces, you begin to noodle on how you better learn how to harden off seedling starts because all of this vomit-making shouldn't go to waste.

And then you think about you know it's way easier when the seeds start themselves as volunteers in the garden and you don't have to go through the vomit making process in the first place if only they'd just grow where you told them to grow jerks.

Which is when you decide to try another experiment because one's not enough when it comes to trying on a new hobby.

Just go with me on this, seeds.
See, I figured that I'd see about growing some identifiable, self-hardening off, don't need to be shuffled in and out of my house by yours truly pseudo-volunteers who also wouldn't crop up in the middle of next year's tomato hedge and hide from me until WHAT THE HELL IS THAT oh it's last year's tomatillo.

Not that that's ever happened.

And I'd just do it by planting the old fruits in the same soil in small pots and then planting that most of the way into the garden to get them to do what they do naturally except with the super fun benefit of me not having to grow barf in jars on my countertop.

And - hey - I wouldn't have to go through the soul-crushing process of destroying their tender shoots in the spring time trying to get them hardened off in the garden.

Nigh-night old fruits.

So, the seed saving experiment is now two-fold.

1. We save seeds the normal way and then try starting them directly sown into the garden because I suck at hardening them off.
2. We save seeds the abnormal way by just letting them *think* they're volunteers and leave them in the garden in safe little pots to start themselves and then WOO I move them wherever I want them to be in the spring garden as fully formed not-crushed seedlings TAH DAH.

We'll see.

For now, if you're trying the normal way of seed saving (which, probably a good plan given my not-knowing-dick-ness about the abnormal way), and you want to save some of these wet seeds, as they're called (nasty), here's your process:

1. Let the fruit ripen forevAR on the plant - until it's way past its prime.
2. Pick it, scoop out its innards into a jar with a few inches of tepid water and stir it up.
3. Let it sit around until it grows a very not-good looking layer of white mold and/or delightfully grotesque bubbles. (This is so that the germination-inhibiting protective gel will be removed before planting.)

4. Spoon the floaters off the top (these are the bummer seeds that won't germinate) along with the mold and other garbage and pour the seeds that settled on the bottom (winners!) into a fine sieve.

5. Rinse the seeds in the sieve until they're all clean and not gross and then lay them out on a paper towel or plate to dry for a few days.

6. When they're nice and dry (larger seeds, like cucumbers, should snap in half when you bend them), tuck them into a jar, tin, paper envelope or whathaveyou and set them in a cool, dry, dark-type place until spring.

Bonus: If you use a jar, like I have, you want to make sure that condensation and moisture don't develop and mold your seeds because that would completely fuck them up, so, if you insist on doing this because you have these super cute jars that are super extra perfect for this project and otherwise would be sitting around just begging to be used in a similarly perfect cute way, leave them somewhere that will let you keep an eye on them.

I have them on my craft bookshelf in the office so that every time I pass it to go lay down a beating on the printer or get some yarn to knit a thing, I will be able to check the seeds' status and crack the jar if anything suspect is going on.

Because putting them in paper envelopes is less cute. I know. I realize I'm ridiculous. Just go with me on this, people.

Then we just wait until spring and watch to see if any of the experimental pseudo-volunteers grow into viable seedlings and whether any of these seeds will direct sow into something viable.

And in case there's all around disaster, we also sit down with the Baker Creek catalog sometime in December and order up reinforcements.

Yay for seed saving.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Adopt a Crop Update: Team Cuke Officially Effed. Rematch in 2012.

It's officially over, Adopt a Croppers - Team Melons has won out by a pitiful pathetic margin over the pitiful and pathetic cucumbers.

These two crops this year - they wicked sucked. Though the melons only marginally less so than the cucumbers.

I'm cute, but we didn't measure for cuteness.

Final tally:
Cucumbers - 3.97 lbs
Melons - Something vaguely over 4.84 lbs
Total - 8.81

Yeah, this year was not a good one for the cucurbit family in NorCal.

Unless you like to cuddle tiny melons. In which case, this was your year.

How not good, you ask? Well, run your eyes over last year's totals:
Cucumbers -  17.8 lbs
Melons - 68.63 lbs
Total - 86.43 lbs

Wow - a 77.62 lb difference. Yikes and LAME.

Though, the melons are still technically in the ground with one softball sized fruit lingering on its withering vines, so who knows, the melons may crest the big five pound hurdle before all's told. Hooray.

A watermelon the size of a tomato. Yeah - well done, watermelons. Pfft.

So, with Adopt a Crop done and the garden coming down in stages, there's only one thing left to do - send a random garden-type prize unrelated to the mostly failed Adopted Crop to some random and marginally lucky commenter. That could be you!

You could be marginally lucky and the recipient of some random things!

Hooray? Yeah - hooray - because this year the randomness is also accompanied by Be My Seed Saving Buddyness.

What thuh?

Yeah, because I've decided that this year's finally the year in which I save seeds from the garden to plant next year so I can be all full circle-y, the Adopt a Crop winner will receive a sampling of seeds saved from this year's garden via the methods I've shared/will be sharing in my quest to undertake my 100th hobby: seed saving.

Also, probably some jam, pickles, relish, salsa, tomatoes or other preserved item from my garden and pillagings and probably some other random shit, too. It might even be garden related. Though it won't be anything derived from this year's watermelon or cucumber crops. Sorry.

Because we've eaten them all. Because there were only, like, three.

Sound good? Great.  

Leave a comment here by 10/15/11 and I'll announce the winner shortly thereafter and then send out the prize. 

FYI to you potential winners: If I announce you as the winner and you don't claim your shit, I'm giving it to someone else. And that person might not be randomly chosen. They may just be someone I like a lot or someone who posts a picture of a cute dog or my neighbor who's never even seen the blog.

Oh I am just drunk with the power of If You Don't Like It, Then Suck It right now. Phew!

But on a less bitchy note - I have a post coming very soon detailing these seed saving exploits, including how I'm going to set up the Cucumber VS Watermelons rematch in 2012.

Look forward to iiiiiiiiit.