Monday, March 28, 2011

Attack of the Wax Moths!

Wax Moths on frames
Spring is an exciting time for a beekeeper.  We have had to keep our hands out of our hives all winter long and we are all chomping at the bit to see what our girls have been up to!  As I noted in a previous post, we lost one hive in early January, and I'm sorry to say that we lost another hive since then, so I'm down to one hive.  I decided to buy a package of bees so I could start the spring with two colonies.  I'll give a full report of installing the package in a future post, but I wanted to use this one to focus on my bee equipment.

Properly storing equipment over the winter is very important.  Frames, foundation, and boxes should be stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place.  One of the main reasons for this is to prevent wax moth damage.  Surprise surprise- wax moths feed on wax and a cool, dark, place with lots of food available is an ideal place for them to spend the winter and raise babies. 
A frame of wax foundation destroyed by wax moths
Cluster of wax moth eggs on a frame (Photo credit: David Wheeler)
Larva sandwiched in between the frames and the flap of a cardboard box
Apparently, I did a bad job of storing my equipment, because when I opened up my equipment this spring, I found some of it covered in wax moths, webbing, feces, and larva.  I have a feeling that this happens to a beekeeper only once.... because it is so incredibly disgusting.
Frame covered in webbing and feces... eww.
We had to throw away some of the foundation and frames because they were so badly damaged and infested.  Also, the wax moth larva attach to the wood and create gouges that will need to be sanded and repainted. 
Damage on a hive box from wax moth larva

As I said, this was so disgusting that I vow to properly store my equipment next year!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chicken Stock

Herbs and vegetables for the stock
This week, Amy roasted a chicken.  It was so delicious that I didn't want to waste any of it, so I decided to try to make chicken stock out of the bones.  I used this recipe from  I can't wait to use this as a base for chicken soup and other yummy soups!

Chicken Stock

6 pounds chicken bones (backs, necks, carcasses, and/or wing tips)
3 quarts water
2 large onions, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 dried bay leaves
8 fresh parsley stems (Italian or curly)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 whole cloves
2 teaspoons black peppercorn
Kosher or sea salt

1. Place the chicken bones in a 6- to 8-quart stockpot, add the cold water, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and skimming the white foam from the top of the stock.  Turn down to a simmer and skim again. It is important to have a clean stock before you add the other ingredients, because the foam is impure and should not be cooked into the stock; if the stock is not clean before you add the herbs and spices, you will wind up skimming them off, altering the flavor of the recipe. However, there is no need to skim the fat; it will flavor the stock during the cooking and can be removed after straining.
Heating the bones and skin
2. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, parsley stems, thyme, cloves, and peppercorns and simmer slowly for 3 hours, gently stirring a few times. Top the stock off with water if the level goes below the bones. Towards the end of the cooking time, season the stock lightly with salt and start tasting it for doneness.
Vegetables and herbs added to the bones and skin
Mixture reducing for 3 hours
3. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve. If you are not going to be using it within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible. You can skim the fat while the stock is still warm, but the easiest way is to wait until the fat solidifies at the top of the chilled stock, then just remove it in one piece. Cover the broth after it has completely cooled and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. 

Straining the stock through a fine-mesh sieve
Finished chicken stock

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hiking in Jim Thorpe

The area around the town of Jim Thorpe has some of the best hiking trails in Pennsylvania and is only about 1.5 hrs from my house.  Craving the outdoors, we ventured out on a warm-ish day and took a little hike in the snow.  We weren't able to go very fast due to the snow cover, but covered about 4 miles.  I can't wait to go back in the spring!
Chilly hikers- Justin and Grace
Gaultheria procumbens showing a nice red winter color

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hexagon Baby Quilt Top

Hexagon Baby Quilt Top
 I finished the quilt top of my hexagon baby quilt!  It came together very quickly after all of the cutting that I wrote about in this post.  Now I just need to figure out how to quilt it.  Any suggestions?

After the strips were sewn together, I used pentagon and diamond shaped templates to cut the blocks
Pentagon and diamond blocks
Three pentagon blocks were pieced together to form one hexagon
Finished top

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Temple's Philly Flower Show Display- Ecolibrium

A few of the students, staff, and faculty who designed, grew, and installed elements of the display- Grace, Kathryn, Diana, Matt, Peter, Kelsey, Cindy, Patrick, Dennis, and Mike

Temple's Flower Show display is finally installed!  I was happy to see the plants leave my greenhouse and go to their intended home in the wonderful display at the Convention Center.  Our display won the prestigious Bulkley Medal from the Garden Club of America.  The Bulkley Medal is awarded to a special exhibit in the fields of horticulture, botany, or conservation and “must be one of exceptional educational merit, which increases the knowledge and awareness of the viewing public,” according to Flower Show organizers.

Students, staff, and faculty have worked nine months planning, building, growing, transporting, and installing the display and those involved couldn't be more pleased with the result.
Kathryn, Grace, and Cindy at the entrance to our display- check out the green roof!
The greenhouse and entrance planters
Specimen plants in the greenhouse
Entrance planters and greenhouse
Sunny Parterre
Woodland Parterre
Water Channel

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Philly Flower Show- Set-up Week

After months of planning and growing, it was finally time to set up our display at the Convention Center.  Not many people get to see what is involved in transporting plants to the show, so here is a behind the scenes look at this small, but critical piece of the puzzle.
Temple students helped to prepare the plants for transport.
The plants were either packaged in flats or individual paper sleeves.  Then they were placed on rolling racks that were wrapped in plastic wrap.  The plants have been growing in a 75 degree F greenhouse, and the wrapping will protect them from freezing temperatures.  The sleeves also protect the leaves from tearing.  Each plant must be in top condition, so care during transport is crucial.
Temple students loading plants onto the climate controlled truck
We use a climate controlled truck to transport the plants.  This is another measure that has to be taken to protect the plants from the cold March temperatures.
Plum trees (Prunus 'Thundercloud') wrapped for transport
Trees are wrapped in paper to protect the flowers from damage and to protect them from the cold.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Philly Craft Brew Fest

I don't think I have expressed my love of beer on this blog yet.  I am undeniably a beer snob.  Taking after my dad, Jim, my favorite beers are the hoppy IPAs, but I also love a good Belgian or a crisp wheat beer.  I quickly turn my nose up at a domestic main stream beers and I proudly support the many craft beers that are coming on the beer scene.  I'm happy that there are so many breweries popping up in the Philadelphia area.  I support buying local, eating local, and now also drinking local!

The Philly Craft Beer Festival is held each year at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  The event has over 100 beers from over 50 brewers and you get to try all of them with 2,000 of your closest friends.  I went with my friend Reid, but also bumped into a few familiar faces along the way.  It was a fantastic day of trying new brews, giving many group cheers, and making new beer loving friends. 

Amy and I making pretzel necklaces in the car on the way to the brew fest
Reid and I giving a cheers to the first beer of the day
Gerard Olson and Daniel Endicott from Forest & Main Brewery & Pub- opening soon in Ambler, PA!
Taking a bite of my pretzel necklace
This T-shirt vendor made his vest out of beer caps secured together with zip ties
My friend Mary Grace is writing her masters thesis on the motivations of people who attend beer events, so she was there passing out surveys.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tomato Garlic Mussels

I am a huge fan of shellfish.  I love the taste and I think it is fun when food is accompanied by an activity such as cracking crab legs or shucking oysters.  I go crazy over mussels, but I have never actually tried to cook them.  Little did I know, they are extremely easy and of course, oh so tasty!  My friend, Justin, had the idea to make mussels and he used a recipe from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook from Mark's Daily Apple.  The mussels were supposed to be an appetizer, but they were so delicious and filling that we couldn't stop eating them and they turned into our meal!

Tomato Garlic Mussels

2 pounds of mussels, well-cleaned (pull off the beard, rinse and rub the shells thoroughly)
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1 hot pepper, sliced
2 large, ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup dry white wine
Pinch of sea salt
Small handful of basil, sliced
Large bunch of parsley, chopped

Melt the butter in a large pot and add the garlic. Sauté until the garlic starts to become golden.  Add the pepper and cook until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook until they have expressed their juices. Add the white wine and simmer rapidly until the sauce is reduced by 1/2. Add the salt and stir. Add the mussels, cover the pot and check periodically until most all the mussels have opened, 3–5 minutes. Toss with the basil and parsley.
Tomatoes, garlic, peppers, and wine- reducing
Mussels steamed for 3-5 minutes
The happy cook, dishing up mussels
Tomato garlic mussels served with roasted asparagus
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