What a lovely morning spent in the garden with six 1st graders! They happily gathered eggs from the chicken coop and the duck house and were delighted to find that the chickens laid colored eggs. We talked about how we didn’t really need to dye them but we could decorate them… They loved the idea! I cut up some paper egg carton into four-egg sections with the tops off. Each child got their own egg carton and ran to the garden to fill them with grass. When they returned I laid out bowls of frozen blueberries with which to draw and paint on their eggs. They each got one pink and one blue egg to decorate. The eggs all looked darling in their little grass-filled cartons but they needed a little something…. hats! We ran out to the front yard to find the perfect flowers for this purpose. I had mixed up some flour paste the night before and set it out for them to use with with craft sticks. A dab of that on top of each egg and the ‘hats’ stayed on just fine. Each child created their own variation of this idea. I am ALWAYS astounded at the beauty created by children when they really SEE what surrounds them in the natural world.
We got to show the kids how we harvest honey and steward the backyard hive. We found LOTS of honey which was exciting but we did not find lots of brood (egg cells and developing bees). Each time we pulled out frames full of honey the kids would clap with excitement. More importantly, each time we did find brood cells they would cheer, “Go queen! Go queen! (clap clap) Go queen! Go queen! (clap, clap)”. They get it. No brood=no future bees.
Cross your fingers for the our bees. We’ll pamper them over the Winter and report back to you in the Spring.
Over the holidays the kids made handcrafted gift baskets. We included Carob Nut Balls in wax paper bags tied with twine. Our homemade calendula soap, a plant-dyed dish towel, our homemade lotion and a decorated gourd were all combined in a paper grocery bag made into a gift basket. They were quite happy with their work!
Our recipe is based on the one I found at FRAN’S HOUSE OF AYURVEDA. Thank you Fran!
“3/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup carob powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup raw honey, brown rice syrup or agave nectar (up to 1/2 cup if you like them sweeter)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup puffed cereal*
1/2 cup chopped nuts*
cocoa or carob powder combined with a dash of cinnamon
Thoroughly combine the almond butter, carob powder, cinnamon, honey and vanilla. The dough will be quite stiff. Knead in the nuts and cereal. With wet hands, form into walnut-sized balls. Make sure the surface is glisteningly damp. Choose which coating you’d like to use and roll balls in either coconut, carob ganache, or cocoa/carob powder. Personally, I tried them all, just to see how pretty each variation can be. I found the coconut coating to be the nicest, and easy to coat by shaking the balls in a ziploc bag with the coconut.
Refrigerate until firm, or freeze in an air-tight container to store for a week or more.
*If you have the option, choose a tiny puffed grain like quinoa or millet. Otherwise, crisp rice will work great, or a flake cereal crushed into smaller bits. If using sweetened cereal, use smaller amount of honey.
*Use any seeds or chopped nuts you like, or according to your dosha. I used lightly toasted pecan pieces.”
For those of you unsure about Carob here is some information that might be helpful:
-Carob has it’s own natural sugars similar to what you find in honey and fruits.
-Unlike chocolate, you don’t have to add a lot of sweetener to make it taste good.
-It’s an alkaline food
-Contains 3 times as much calcium as chocolate.
-High in fiber and protein
-Full of antioxidants and polyphenols
-Low in fat (contains about 1% fat compared to 24% fat in cocoa)
-High in vitamins and minerals (contains iron, vitamin B, phosphorus, and magnesium)
-Doesn’t contain any harmful stimulants such as caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline
-Safe enough for dogs to eat unlike chocolate which can seriously injure or kill them
I remember living in San Diego and walking around my neighborhood picking up carob pods off the sidewalk. It was planted as a landscape tree. I’d break a pod open and want to eat it on the spot. They smelled delicious!
In her course at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Michelle Vesser makes “Ojas Balls”. “Ojas- the essence of the body, which literally means ‘to invigorate'”. The same basic recipe as above but she included powdered immunity-building herbs such as Ashwangandha, Codonopsis, Astragalus, and Siberian Ginseng. You can also add demulcent/moisturizing herbs such as Marshmallow Root, flax seeds and Licorice Root. Or, warming/activating herbs such as Cardamom and the Cinnamon already in the recipe. Yum!
Michelle teaches a two day course called REMEMBERING OUR WAY at OAEC. www.oaec.org Check it out.
Many folks have been asking about our bees lately. We and many, many other beekeepers in Sonoma County and elsewhere sadly lost our bees this Winter. Their population dwindled by the time it was warm enough for them to forage again. They had plenty of food in the hive for the Winter but they still didn’t make it. We will try again. We’ve ordered new bees from a local beekeeper and we’re hoping for another swarm. We’ve put a swarm attracting pheromone in a nice, new, cozy hive box in the garden. So far, no takers. Our new bees arrive at the end of April. It was bittersweet to open up the hive last month. No bees. A gallon of honey. We filled many a jar with the gift the bees left behind.
With an uncapping knife we sliced open the top layer of each frame. It was very difficult to keep one’s fingers out of the honey-soaked cappings! We put the frames in a centrifugal spinner and cranked away. The honey was then poured from the spinner into jars and then poured again through a sieve to filter out the bits of wax, propolis, and pollen. The result was golden glowing jars of homestead honey!
With the help of a friend we went into the hive today to check on its health and prep it for winter. I thought we better get this done while we still had a few warm days. We moved a honey frame down next to the brood and took out some of the outer frames to allow for better ventilation. I had ten frames in the boxes, but there are some who have only nine or eight to allow for more space between the frames and/or better ventilation. In our case I brought it down to eight frames with blocker boards (blank boards that fill the space of a frame) on the ends. This should improve ventilation – very important in the wet season. We also cleaned out all traces of the little start of a wax moth infestation I noticed recently. What this all really means is that some of those frames we took out had honey in them. Bless you bees for all your work pollinating our world and for your incredible gifts you give us with so little complaint. It was an electric urban homestead moment in the garden surrounded by ducks and plants and friends and wet earth taking a bite of sun-warmed honey-filled comb. As I write, warmed honey is pouring through a strainer into our first jar of homegrown honey-goodness.