Bee’s need to drink. They’re not buzzing around to attack you.

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What I love most about being a “Back Yard Bee Keeper” is watching the bees stop at the watering hole we have created for them and watch them drink. I watch their straw like tongues drop down and suck up water. It’s an amazing and beautiful thing. As a child, I always thought the bees were trying to attack me at the swimming pool, but in truth they were just wanting to get a drink. http://www.honeybeesuite.com/water-collection/ shares an excellent article about bees and their quest for obtaining water. We use irrigation water to fill our water baths for our bees. We keep them close to our bee hives. The bees seem to go crazy landing in them all day long for drinks. We hope the irrigation water we use is not full of chlorine or other harmful chemicals. Since we haven’t had it tested, there’s always the question of how many pesticides or nasty stuff may be in the water that we use to grow our “organic” food with? Which begs the question, “Unless you live in an environment that you have complete control over, what really is “safe for consumption” and “organic?” One can always hope to aim for doing the best with what they have.

Our intent is to raise “treatment free” bees. The scientific battle of keeping bees alive, functioning and free of mites should not be taken lightly. Recent articles about bees share information on the many dangers they face. Mites and the abundant use of pesticides is a threat we should all be concerned about. Our backyard bees will fly up to 6 miles to forage. What happens if they go to a house 3 miles away that has all of their  Suburbia landscaping sprayed with chemicals and they go to those flowering plants and freshly sprayed weeds and take all of that poison back to their hive? Is our quest for “Suburbia” perfection one of the reasons bees viability is threatened?

Whoever said a perfect no weed “Suburbia” yard was the best for mankind? Unsprayed pesticide free dandelions are the bomb in the bee’s world.  We have moved into the “permaculture” – very limited grass landscaping technique. What are we doing with our suburbia landscaping? We hand pick out our weeds and we don’t use harmful pesticides to control our weeds. What are we doing to protect the livelihood of our bees? Everything we think we can within the knowledge we have. We all need bees as part of a healthy ecosystem. The pollination of our plants and honey is a essential and beautiful thing.

Pesto made with Garlic Scapes, is almost better than Basil Pesto if you love garlic flavor.

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One of the great joys of growing hard neck garlic is that they form Scapes. The Scapes turn into flowers, but you want the energy of the plant to go into the bulb and not the flower so you need to cut the Scapes off. The Scapes are incredibly tasty and they make a lovely creamy garlic pesto! The Scapes start out very curly and this is when you want to cut them off. Eventually they will stand straight up, and this is when you know your garlic is ready to harvest. So, if you have lots of Scapes you might want to leave one or two so you know when to harvest. Cut them about where they start to grow out of the plant. Use about 12 inches of the top part. When you cut them you will notice that they become harder to cut, and the stalk becomes more woody, you want to use the easier to cut portion of the scape.

There are many versions of Garlic Scape pesto and they’re all pretty similar, but this is how I like to make it.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 10 Garlic Scapes chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 C of chopped Walnuts
  • 1 C of Romano or Asiago cheese or a blend of the two
  • 1 Heaping T of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 C, plus maybe a T of Olive Oil (I use extra virgin)
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Place the garlic Scapes in a food processor and puree until they form a smooth paste, add the lemon juice, walnuts, cheese and olive oil and blend until you have a creamy pesto. Add the salt and pepper and blend a bit more.
  • Pesto freezes well, so make as much as you can while you have Scapes and freeze it for later use or it will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Luicano’s favorite SCD treats….Peanut Butter Caramels

1f569ecb8a3cda105b1cc89df542b9f3These are gluten free and oh, so yummy! I used to make this recipe all the time. These caramels keep well in the fridge, and they’d last until we gobbled them up. It was an easy way for me to provide a healthy and yummy treat for my son. Plus, I love that I knew what the ingredients were and that I could choose them. Luciano told me (as an adult ) that he even tried to recreate the recipe, because he had watched me make it so many times, he knew all the ingredients. We couldn’t find the real recipe though and the other day while looking online I found it! http://www.scdrecipe.com/recipes/print/409

Excited to share it here! I added some extra pointers.

Ingredients

  • 1 C of peanut butter (SCD Legal….It can’t have sugar in the ingredients)
  • 4 T of butter
  • 1 C of honey
  • 4 TSP of Vanilla (has to be pure vanilla)
  • 1/2 TSP of Himalayan Salt

Instructions

  • Bring butter, honey, vanilla and salt to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes while stirring
  • Add the peanut butter and bring back to a simmer for 5 more minutes
  • Butter a 8×8 pan and pour into pan. Put pan in the freezer for an hour to help solidify.
  • Cut them into squares and wrap them in wax paper. Store in the refrigerator.

Why we planted 180 cloves of garlic, hoping for 180 bulbs.

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We both love to eat and cook with garlic. Our fascination with growing garlic started last year. We were on a quest to figure out how to grow, dry and store enough garlic for the two of us to eat for a year.  We prefer to eat organic garlic and organic garlic purchased in the grocery store is expensive. Besides, homegrown is always the best, right? Organic seed garlic is also expensive, but this was the quality we wanted to eat and grow. It’s extremely difficult to become a certified organic garlic farmer. Since we are edible-landscaping-backyard-enthusiasts and have spent endless hours cultivating our soil, and we sure hope it’s safe and full of nutrients. We tell ourselves it’s probably the next best thing to “Certified Organic.” Today, our garlic is happily dancing all over our yard. We dedicated 3 of our raised beds to garlic growing this year and the rest are gracing us with their beauty throughout other garden spots.

Last year we didn’t plant near enough garlic to feed our appetite, desire and taste buds for an entire year. We also lost several heads that were drying in the garage, due to high heat temperatures. The rest of the garlic did well placed in baskets and stored in a closet. Unfortunately we went through last year’s crop by December. We also lost track of the different varieties we planted, because the names eventually wore off our signs through the winter weather (you have to plant garlic in October to harvest in July/Aug).

This year our growing quest continues and includes determining which garlic variety we like best. Our love for planting and growing garlic with the intent to eat a lot of it, has been a trial and error learning experience for us. This year we set out to have a better planting, mapping and labeling system.

Garlic varieties are either hardneck or a softneck. Hardneck garlic cannot be braided and they form wonderful garlic scapes. The curly scapes are the flower stalks of the plant and they emerge about a month after the leaves are up. They need to be cut off to allow the energy of the plant to go into the garlic bulb instead of the flower. These scapes are edible and delicious. Hardneck varieties tend to have bigger blubs. Softneck on the other hand have smaller bulbs. Softnecks can be braided and hung up to dry. It’s often the garlic you see at Farmer’s markets. It is easy to grow, tolerates more climates and is typically milder. Softneck garlic is said to last longer when stored. This year we planted 41 Uzbek Porcelain (Hardneck). According to Field of Goods Farm in Boise, Idaho, “Uzbek Porcelain is brand new to the United States!  It is by far, the most reliable in the garden and easiest to cook with.  As porcelain garlic it is very hardy and robust.  It has satiny white bulb wrappers and large, symmetrical cloves that are easy to peel. It has a milder but flavorful taste.  Uzbek Porcelain was the favorite garlic eaten raw in my taste test.  It would go well in Italian food and held its flavor sautéed.  Be one of the first to grow this wonderful garlic!”  For more information you can go to http://www.fieldgoodsfarm.com/gourmet-garlic.html . We also planted 28 Spanish Rojas (Hardneck), 50 Early Red Italian (Softneck), 44 Inchelium Red (Softneck) and 17 Music (Hardneck) Garlic.

We are excited for our harvest and to write about what we enjoy when we taste and compare each variety. So far, we have a 97% germination rate. We will also be sharing some of our favorite recipes and informing you of the incredible antibacterial and health benefits of garlic. We currently only eat garlic raw in our salads, but once we harvest our garlic in July/Aug we will certainly report on which variety we feel is best to munch on straight out of its jacket. We are very excited to enjoy our 180 bulbs of garlic, share what we learn, cook many incredible garlic dishes and share them with our friends and family. We are passionate about growing our food and eating well.

Urban Gleaning and Breakfast Cereal

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Both my husband and I grew up in homes where we were taught to live by high moral standards, values and integrity.  We have to laugh though, because when we tell his mother that we are going “Urban Gleaning,” we think she goes and prays for us. In her mind she’s thinking, “I have to pray for my son and daughter-in-law, they’re stealing fruit!” In our defense we only glean where we’ve asked to pick the fruit, or on abandoned lots, or in public places where it’s allowed. On many of our hikes we’ve found mulberries, currants, apples and blackberries. Most of our gleaning comes from friends or neighbors, who have fruit trees and simply cannot process and eat all their fruit. Many folks don’t want to take the time to cut the worms out of the apples, so they allow us to pick all we want. If we pick, process and freeze, then we have the fruit we need in our freezer for many breakfasts.  We like Urban Gleaning, it’s an adventure!

We enjoy this recipe so much that I make it often with slight variations depending on what fruit(s) I have. Plus, it can be reheated in a toaster oven and served for a few days.

Option 1: Breakfast Cereal – Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal

Preheat oven to 375. Oil or butter an 8×8 baking dish.

  • 4 Cups Fruit cut into pieces
  • ½ C of Honey or less depending on taste
  • 3 C of Almond Flour
  • ½ C of shredded Almonds
  • ½ C of chopped Walnuts
  • 1 tsp of Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp of Nutmeg
  • ½ Stick of Butter chopped or 2 heaping Tablespoons of Coconut Oil
  • Optional 1 C of Raisins

Put 4 Cups of cut up fruit (fresh or frozen) into dish, add up to ½ C of honey and pour over fruit. In a separate bowl, combine 3 C of almond flour, shredded almonds, chopped walnuts, 1 tsp of cinnamon, ½ tsp of nutmeg and cut up butter or coconut oil and work that into the flour and nuts until it resembles coarse crumbs. Pour that mixture over the fruit and work in with a fork. Bake at 375 for about 40 mins or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Option 2: Breakfast Cereal

Preheat oven to 375. Oil or butter an 8×8 baking dish.

  • 4 Cups Fruit cut into pieces
  • ½ C of Honey or Sugar or less depending on taste
  • 1 C of Almond Flour or Whole Wheat Flour,
  • 2-3 C Oats
  • ½ C of shredded Almonds
  • ½ C of chopped Walnuts
  • ¼ C of Chia Seeds
  • ¼ C ground Flax Seed
  • 1 tsp of Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp of Nutmeg
  • ½ Stick of Butter chopped or 2 heaping Tablespoons of Coconut Oil
  • Optional 1 C of Raisins

Put 4 Cups of cut up fruit (fresh or frozen) into dish, add up to ½ C of honey or sugar and pour over fruit. In a separate bowl, combine flour and oats, shredded almonds, chopped walnuts, chia seeds, flax, 1 tsp of cinnamon, ½ tsp of nutmeg and cut up butter or coconut oil and work that into the flour and nuts until it resembles coarse crumbs. Pour that mixture over the fruit and work in with a fork. Bake at 375 for about 40 mins or until golden brown. Enjoy!

This option can be served warm with milk.

 

Backyard Bee Keeping Adventures Part 1

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I carried an Epi-pen for as long as I can remember, because my mother told me I was deathly allergic to bees. When a bee approached my space, the idea of being calm or staying still only made me freak out and panic. Fortunately, I lived most of my life without getting stung.

The worst thing that ever happened to me regarding a bee happened in my twenty’s. Driving back to college after honeymooning with my first husband a bee flew in our car. Trying to secure the whereabouts of the bee we both looked down and when we looked up we were about to drive off a cliff, so we both overcorrected the steering wheel and driving 55 mph we crashed in to a rock wall that was jetting out. Not a great way to start of a marriage, but our marriage lasted 21 years and produced four beautiful sons. Never did find the bee.

In my thirty’s I was gardening and pulling out some bachelor buttons and a bee stung my hand. I pulled out the stinger and called my doctor. It had been about 20 minutes so I asked, “At what point should I be having an allergic reaction, what would that reaction look like and how long do Epi-pens last?” I was told that I probably wasn’t allergic to whatever stung me and that I should get a new Epi-pen.

Fast forward to my fifty’s, in a new marriage and my husband tells me he wants to be a Bee Keeper.  He knows my story and I can’t help but think, “Is he plotting my early death?”  I suggest going to an allergy doctor just to make sure I’m not deathly allergic to bees. I had to assume if one owns bees that the chances of getting stung are pretty high. After four hours of being tested for the five major stinging insect’s, the results proved that I’m not allergic to any of them. This of course warranted a call to my mother. “Mom, why did you tell me I was deathly allergic to bees? Why have I lived almost 50 years in fear of bees?”  She still confirms that my neck and face swelled up and that I couldn’t breathe and my older sister agrees that this happened (I was too young to remember it). Guess whatever stung me wasn’t one of the five major stinging insects.

My husband is thrilled, because it’s now okay for us to be backyard Bee Keepers. What do they say about fear? False evidence appearing real….so you’d think it’d be really easy to just NOT be afraid of bees anymore, right? We all know life is a journey and stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be very rewarding. I put on my bee jacket with hood, thick jeans and garden gloves and assisted my husband in putting our first package of 10,000 bees into their new home.  At this time he was against using smoke to calm the bees, because they had just traveled here from Tennessee via the USPS and were stressed.  The idea is that you open the package and shake the bees into the hive. The queen is in a separate box in the package to protect her. I videotaped this event where I hear myself saying, “Do you think maybe we should have used smoke?” The bees went everywhere! It was a frenzy of bees. Bees don’t poop in their hive, so after 4 days they had to go! The bees pooped all over us. When I played in the woods as a kid, I always thought the mustard colored drops were bird poop, but now I have confirmation that it was bee poop. How’s that for trivia? We were able to safely remove the cork plug on the box that the queen bee was in and place her in the hive. She would eventually crawl out and her bee attendants would begin to take care of her. The bees did settle in and like bees do, they got right to work. The next time we went in the hive we removed the empty queen box.

We ordered our bees from Tennessee because they were a breed of Russian/Italian bees said to be treatment free, disease resistant and four seasons. We set out on a quest to raise our bee’s treatment free or without any pesticides. We had one hive at our suburbia home (we did ask our neighbors if they had any objections) and two hives at a friend’s house that lived on acreage. We used medium hives that had 8 frames with no forms. That way there was no plastic in the hives and they could build their comb freely. Pulling out a frame of brand new pristine comb was breathtaking. My fascination with these creatures outweighed my fear. My husband went into the hives the few times we had to check on them. I was there taking pictures or video. Be both always wore a veil, but he was usually bare handed, in shorts and sandals. Clearly these were not aggressive bees and they just wanted to be busy doing their work. Unless I was standing right at the hive, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that we had a bee hive at our house. It seemed to me that they flew up and out. When I was in my garden I had no way to determine if the bees I saw were our bees. We had a fantastically productive garden and I’m pretty sure this was due to some happy bees. We purposely planted many plants bees are said to be fond of. We also let some of our vegetables flower for the bees. Carrots produce a beautiful lace-like flower.

In the first year, a new bee hive needs to build up enough honey and comb for the bees to survive the winter. All of our hives were different in the production of honey and comb building. We were told the most difficult part of bee keeping is making sure the mites (little red tick like critters) don’t become too high in number and destroy the colony. The mites have created a need for traditional and commercial bee keepers to use pesticides to control the mite population. The treatment free option is to use prescribed essential oils in their feeding water or to put drops in the hive. Even though our bees arrived in late spring after all the tree pollen had passed we thought they did a good job building comb and putting up honey. We hoped and prayed that they had enough honey to survive the winter. We did not harvest or touch any of their honey.

Unfortunately none of our hives survived the winter. The bees cluster together in a ball shape and flex their wing muscles to keep warm and they eat honey out of the comb. If it’s too cold they can’t move up or down in the hive to get more honey, so if they’ve eaten all the honey that was available to them and they’re too cold to move, it’s a bad day. We think our bees froze and starved to death. We also think the Tennessee bees may not have been hearty enough for Idaho winters.

Our new local bees arrive next week. We are putting two hives in our backyard. Since we have a good amount of honey and comb from our previous bees, we hope this will give our new bees a great head start. On Saturday we will once again be putting our bee packages in their hives. There’s no doubt we will also be saying some prayers and hoping for the best, as we have become increasingly fond our bees. Not only are they amazing to watch they are also so critical to plant pollination and there’s nothing better than tasting honey from your own bees.

Table Sugar verses Honey: What happens in the digestive process.

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Understanding the difference between table sugar (sugar extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets) and honey and how it is digested is beneficial in helping us make educated food choices. Twelve years ago I found Elaine Gottshall’s book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” and put my son on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Not only did my son’s Ulcerative Colitis go into remission, but I learned many valuable lessons. I hope this one about table sugar and honey fascinates you or at least teaches you something you may not know.

First off both table sugar and honey would be defined as “sugars” which are chemical compounds of varying sweetness which include fructose, glucose, and sucrose. The difference between honey and table sugar is that honey is a monosaccharide and table sugar is a disaccharide.

Monosaccharides are single sugars which include fructose and glucose. They’re found in honey and fruits. Fructose and glucose require no further digestion in order to be absorbed in the bloodstream. They are predigested sugars and much easier on the gut for consumption.

Disaccharides are sugars composed of two parts (two molecules) which are chemically linked. Table sugar is sucrose and it is a disaccharide sugar formed by chemically linking one part glucose to one part fructose. Sucrose sugars require digestion before they can be absorbed into the blood stream

According to the theory behind the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, people with digestive disorders have trouble digesting and absorbing the carbohydrates in disaccharide sugars, because they are much harder to digest and absorb into the digestive system. Thus, the need for strict compliance and avoidance of these carbohydrates while on the diet.

Fortunately, honey is wonderful and provided us with a healthy sweetener that we rely on exclusively, to adhere to the SCD diet.  We have also gained a real appreciation for fruit as a dessert choice instead of cupcakes, cookies or other desserts that use sucrose sugars. Continuing on with our food journey, a year ago we became backyard bee keepers and we now enjoy our own honey. Future blogs about the value of honey and the amazingness of bees are soon to be in the works!

In the meantime, I hope I helped you become better educated about the difference between table sugar (disaccharide) and honey (monosaccharide).