The bees in the long deep hive have been busy and we expected to take the first honey last week, but found that it was not quite ready. The bees process the honey until the water content is just right, when it will store indefinitely, and then seal it with a wax capping, at which point the beekeeper can raid the hive and steal all of their hard work. With our bees, we leave them a hive full of honey and only take a modest surplus from the supers that they would not use during the winter. It is quite normal practice to take so much honey that the bees then need to be fed with large amounts of sugar syrup or fondant. We do not like to do that, thinking that they do better when they have honey to feed on rather than a substitute. That means, though, that we get a smaller crop than we could get, but we are only hobby beekeepers and there is no need for us to take everything. Continue reading
I love books. All sorts of books. I love the feel of a book, the smell of the paper, and, of course, reading. My perfect holiday involves a nice quiet location with great food and a stack of books. It is no surprise, as a keen gardener, that I have a good collection of gardening books of various sorts and I still look for more. It is hard, now, though, to find something different. So many of the texts on growing fruit and vegetables follow the same formula, and although I have some good books that I would happily recommend, none is quite what I am looking for and some are really quite poor.
Earlier in the year we planted summer cabbages Copenhagen Market and Golden Acre. Both are excellent for coleslaw, which is my favourite use for white cabbage, and the first sowings are now ready to harvest. The most common sort of coleslaw seen here comprises shredded cabbage, onion, and carrot, dressed in a rich mayonnaise. Whilst we enjoy it in this form, I most often prepare a simple continental style of coleslaw, or ‘krautsalat’, typical across Germany and other regions. The dressing in this case is a simple vinaigrette, and the result much lighter and fresher. Continue reading
Our best colony of bees is housed in a long deep hive. We were thinking that the queen would probably need to be replaced this year; she has produced very large colonies for three years in a row. The long deep hive currently has 23 deep frames – about the equivalent of three national brood boxes – all but three of which are full of honey, pollen, and brood, along with a huge number of bees. Despite achieving a large size and being highly productive, in the two previous years this colony has showed no signs of swarming. In fact, there was not a single queen cup – those cells sometimes referred to as play cups, which are often made near the bottom of the comb ready to be developed into queen cells when needed. This is a little strange as, of all our colonies, this is the one that has been in the best position to swarm. Continue reading
The Doyenne d’Ete, or summer doyenne, is an old variety of early summer pear. While we have many weeks yet before the main pear crop begins, this early pear is generally ripe around mid July to the end of August. Like the early apples, these sorts of pear are not the finest in quality nor do they last long. Doyenne d’Ete keeps but a day or two once ripe before the texture and flavour deteriorate. In good condition, though, it is a nice little pear. In modern times, foreign imports have replaced the early varieties of apple and pear, which are now rarely seen. This is a pity, because if one is following seasonal produce, there is much to look forward to in that first locally grown apple or pear of the year. Continue reading