Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Roaring Of The Bees

Have you ever heard a bee roar? Did you even know they could? Granted, one bee roaring would not be very intimidating. But thousands of them going off all at once? They can get your attention. Yesterday Kristine came over and helped me do a hive check. The bees were behaving more defensively than usual. We wanted to see what they were up to. The weather was up close to the 80's so we figured it was a good day to dismantle the hive and peek into all the boxes. No chance the brood would be chilled when it's hot like an oven outside. The very top box is mostly filled with honey (they are getting their winter pantry stocked) but there was also a small amount of brood up there. We removed that box (box 5) and set it on the lawn. The next box was heavy with bees, brood, and food. When I had to lift it, to set it on the lawn, I was very thankful I decided to go with 8 frame medium boxes. You'd be surprised how heavy a box of bees can be. Box 3 was where we ran into problems. We found 5 queen cups along the bottom of a middle frame. This meant, at some point, the bees were preparing to swarm. Why? Who knows? They've always had plenty of expansion room. Perhaps we were a bit tardy (to their thinking) with adding a new box? Or maybe they were unhappy that I had the entrance reducer on for so long? In any event, Queen cups were not what we wanted to see. We scraped them off and are hoping that the bees have since changed their minds. Up until this point the bees hadn't been any crankier than normal, it seemed. But once we removed that 3rd box it was as if someone had turned their volume control WAY up. They were roaring mad. Someone was not only rearranging their furniture...but dismantling their whole house. We quickly checked into the remaining 2 boxes. Then reassembled the hive, replacing the boxes in the order they were removed. We placed my 6th (and final) box on top and closed the hive back up. I am hoping that will be all the room they require. As it is, I will need a small ladder or step stool in order to climb up and look into that top box. My hive is pretty tall. I cannot believe how that original 3 pound box of bees has turned into this huge colony. That queen is truly a baby making machine.

I thought that was that. At least for a few weeks. So yesterday evening my husband decides we are going to Home Depot to get the lumber to make the last 2 dummy frames for the hive. He had only made 4, which means those last 2 boxes have gaps on the east side. Once at the lumber store we get to talking about the requirements and it becomes clear he did not make notes when he built the first 4. "But you have an extra box I can take measurements from, right?" Um, no. (I had just placed the last box on). Dang.

You know what's coming, don't you?

Today I once again donned the bee suit, removed the top 2 boxes, retrieved a dummy board, shook off the bees, took it over to the husbeast to measure, placed it back into the hive box & reassembled the hive. I'm sure the bees were thrilled to see me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Need A Bigger Kitchen

I am glad I realized this while still in the planning stages of moving to another property. A large kitchen is a definite necessity. Cooking from scratch generates a huge pile of dirty dishes each day. And I think I have enough small appliances to rival a commercial kitchen. At present I have a coffee roaster (more on this later), sausage grinder/stuffer, KitchenAid mixer (with ALL the attachments), rice cooker, food processor, dehydrator, food saver sealer, kombucha brewer, coffee maker, toaster, mandoline, 3 crock pots, blender and microwave. These are all things I use on a regular or semi-regular basis and I need to have them handy. Some of them are forced to live in various cabinets and it is a PITA to have to dig them out to use. A large kitchen has moved the the front of the "requirements" list for our retirement property.

Speaking of appliances that take up space, meet my new Behmor coffee roaster. I haven't had a chance to use it yet. I admit to being intimidated. This is a big step up from my popcorn popper/roaster.

I purchased it through Roastmasters. They have this unit for $299 (which seems to be standard). But the 2 big benefits of ordering through them are the free shipping (this thing weighs 25#) and the 8# of free coffee, 1# each of eight varieties. The coffee alone is worth  $40 to $50. What a great deal!

No time to play with new toys right now. The summer has so many seasonal obligations to keep up with. Or try to. I am way behind on my gardening duties. The weeds are threatening to take over. And I need to get a move on as far as wine making goes. But I did manage to start on the raspberry processing. I made these 4 jars of jam yesterday. Now to work on the frozen berries. This jam was from the berries picked the same day it was made.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Still More Kombucha

I'm almost done obsessing. I promise. Humor me with one last Kombucha post (at least for a while). Today I'll bottle my third batch. This one is a blend of black tea, green tea, and Celestial Seasonings Safari Spice (rooibos with cinnamon and other flavorings). The color of this booch is gorgeous. And there is just a hint of the spices. This will definitely be a keeper. It will be bottled, as is, with a bit of sugar.

And here is my continuous brewer, all set up in my kitchen.

Thank you, Kombucha Mamma, for the tip on how to make fruit fly traps. I save my fruit and veggie scraps to give to my red worms. The compost container is in my kitchen, and is covered,  but still attracts fruit flies if I don't empty and wash it daily. I had 4 fruit flies in the house when I started brewing kombucha. And, trust me, even one fruit fly is annoying as hell. Do you see that little ceramic jar under the brewer? That holds a small amount of kombucha with a drop of dish liquid added. It also holds 4 fruit fly carcasses. They fall in and can't escape. Their love of booch is their undoing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kombucha Is Sooooooo Good

And here I've been missing out all this time. Who knew? I've never had store bought booch but this stuff I'm making is fabulous. I sampled 3 more flavors today. First was black tea with strawberry rhubarb jam. It was really good (and super fizzy). I learned the importance of opening the bottles in the sink, with a towel over them. It was trying to get out of the bottle before I had a glass ready. The second sampling was of my green tea batch which was ready for bottling today. Green tea booch tastes very different from the black tea variety. It is much more subtle. It reminded me of sparking cider. The husbeast liked it the best and I think it might have a broader appeal. I bottled 5 different kinds: green tea with sugar, without sugar, with fresh strawberry & sugar, with strawberry/rhubarb jam, and one with raspberry jam. They'll be ready to sample in 2 days. The third sampling of the day came about when I opened the next to the last bottle from my first batch. This one is black tea with raspberry jam and is my favorite so far.  Which is great because I'll be making a lot of raspberry jam very soon.

I also got the continuous brew set up and on its way. I used all black tea, as this was before I sampled the green tea batch. After 7 days I will drain off 1/3 of the brew and top it off with sweetened green tea. I may eventually switch it all the way over to green tea, or some combination of the two. We'll see.

I hope the 2.5 gallon continuous brew and the 3 individual gallon jars will be enough? I seem to be drinking it as fast as I make it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Right Under My Nose

Sometimes what you are searching for is right there all along. Ever since I got those first SCOBYs I have been keeping a lookout for a proper crock to use for continuous brewing. Kombucha Mamma Sells a basic kit for $99.88 (with free(?) shipping). Granted hers ARE made in the USA but I can't pay that. Other places want various prices for "made in China" water crocks aka kombucha brewers. Some offer good prices on the brewers but make you pay shipping (and these things aren't light). Others charge around $60 for the crock and stand but give free shipping. I did find two sellers on Ebay who had crock/base combos for $49.99 & $45.95. That was getting better but I only had $40 budgeted for this item. One of the auctions listed a make and model, Pioneer 900114. I did a Google search for that item to see if I could find any reviews. I ended up at the distributor's web site, Primo Water. And look at that. They sell the crock and base for $39.99 with FREE shipping. Now we're talkin'. And what does it say right under the blurb about free shipping? "Or, for nearest in-store availability, please use our store locator." What could it hurt? I typed in my zip code and low and behold, those water crocks are carried at the local K-Mart and Wal-Mart. The web site wisely advised, "It is recommended to call ahead to verify inventory. Product may be sold out in some retail locations." They conveniently provided the addresses and phone numbers and I called the K-Mart close by on 72nd. Yes, they had one (and only one) in stock. And the price? $34.99 (plus tax) which brought it to just under my budgeted $40. I rushed right over and here it is!

And this is how I plan to secure the cloth on top,
using the provided plastic ring.

So it all worked out. I got my brand new brewer (with an oak stand) for a great price and didn't have to wait for it to be delivered. It's even in the color combo I wanted, which matches my kitchen. And it was right here in Tacoma all along. Right under my nose. I have a big batch of sweet tea cooling and plan to start my continuous brew tomorrow morning. I'm going to need LOTS of booch hooch because the husband likes it, too.

Hilarious Videos (Kombucha References)

How about a light hearted chuckle or two for your Sunday? Be sure and watch both, in order. We don't have a Whole Foods in Tacoma, but we do have something very similar, Metropolitan Market. Located in swanky North Tacoma. Good luck find a parking space at Met Mart. I'll never forget a few years back, I was searching for an illusive fruit cake for my husbeast. He adores fruit cake and you really can't easily find them nowadays. I did finally find one at Met Mart. Baked by Trappist Monks. I paid $25 for a small one. And those damned monks didn't even use real vanilla. Vanillin? Yuck! Now I bake my own. So here's a tribute to all those trendy, hipster grocery stores. And I love the kombucha references in both.

Yes, kombucha is like a low maintenance pet that makes you a delicious, healthful beverage. But this guy takes it too far.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kombucha Krazy

After waiting patiently all week I finally got my reward. I bottled (and sampled) my first batch of booch.

I got 4 large bottles full plus the glass for me to drink. The flavors are as follows, starting from the left: plain black tea, black tea with fresh peach slices, black tea with strawberry rhubarb jam, and black tea with raspberry jam. What does kombucha taste like? Imagine apple cider, apple cider vinegar & ice tea all mixed together. Then add some fizz. It's pretty darn good. In a few days I can start sampling the flavored mixes. And on Monday I'll bottle my second batch which is brewed with green tea.

My new scoby from this batch.

I have scoby available if anyone in my local area is interested. I am scrupulously clean and careful when I brew so you can be assured of getting a quality scoby that was handled with care.

Garage Sale Treasures 7-22-11

I've been unusually quiet this week. My dog-boy, Reggie, had to go in for some dental work this past Tuesday. While he was sedated the vet discovered he had infections in both ears caused by the groomer not cleaning them properly. And to top it off, even though they used a small cat trach tube on him, it was still too large and caused him to experience terrible throat irritation. Poor little guy has been rather rough around the edges since then but he is all better now. He hates the oral antibiotic but doesn't seem to mind the ear wash or ear ointment.

Yes, it's been a bit of a stressful week. Time for one of my favorite destressers...garage sales! I was short on time (and money, after the vet took most of it) but managed to hit 5 sales and found useful items at 4 of them.

A meat grinder. This one is good quality and has all
the blades and sausage tubes included. It will come in
handy during the apocalypse for make zombie sausage.

A large clay plant pot. I have a house
plant in desperate need of a larger home.

Four jam jars for canning. I have
a freezer full of raspberries to process.
$1 for all

A cotton throw rug that looks brand new.

A large hamper style basket with lid.

And my favorite find of the day,
a hippie style top. So cute! And it fits.

All that for a grand total of $8.75. If purchased at regular retail prices it would be well over $100 (plus tax).

ETA: I knew I was forgetting something. I also got this ceramic dog dish to hold water. Singha drinks from this shared bowl and he can't have plastic due to an allergy. The bowl was free. I love free. Especially when these same bowls are selling for $8 at Petco.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beginning To Brew Kombucha

I was able to score some kombucha scoby today. I've been wanting to try brewing my own kombucha for quite a while, but didn't want to mail order a scoby. I now have 3. But only one jar large enough to brew in. I'll get one started and put the other 2 into the fridge until I scrounge up some more gallon glass jars.

Here they are, waiting in a little mason jar.

And here are my assembled ingredients for
starting my kombucha tea enterprise.

This first batch will be made with black tea. You can also use green or white tea. Different recipes call for anywhere from 4 to 8 tea bags. I split the difference and am using 6. Again, some say use 1 cup sugar, others say 1 1/2 cups. I like sweeter tea so went with the second amount. I can always adjust it next batch if it seems too much. I began by boiling a gallon of water in a stainless steel pot. I am using tap water and boiled the water for a full 5 minutes. Then I removed it from the heat, stirred in the sugar until dissolved, and threw in the teabags. I let them steep for 15 minutes. Then squeezed and discarded them. I am letting the tea water cool in the pot overnight, with a dish towel over it so that any remaining chlorine can dissipate. Chlorine is bad for your kombachu. You could always use distilled or filtered water and you wouldn't have to worry about it. In the morning I'll pour the tea into my one gallon glass jar, wash my hands well, and gently place one of the scoby onto the tea, with the rougher side facing down. I would then add 1/2 to 1 cup of kombachu tea to the new batch, but I don't have enough tea to do that, especially since I'll be making 3 batches at once. I'll be adding 4 TBS. of distilled cider vinegar, instead. The tea needs to have enough acidity to retard mold growth. Once I get everything in the jar I'll place a paper towel (I could also use a piece of cotton cloth but I don't have one I can spare right now) over the open jar and secure it with a rubber band. This will keep fruit flies and other foreign matter out, but still allow the culture to breathe. I'll then place the jar into the fermenting closet and leave it alone for 7 days. I'll let you know how this little experiment turns out. In the meantime, feast your eyes on the Belgiun Style Saison we bottled today. We have 37 bottles of this stuff and it's going to be fabulous. This is also my first experience bottling in the grolsch bottles. Love 'em.

Added at 9:42pm: Husbeast assures me that after being boiled for
5 minutes all the chlorine is gone from the water, so I have gone
ahead and put the first little scoby into its new home.

A view from the top. Ain't it cute!?!!!

It is now covered up and tucked safely into the fermenting closet. See you in 7 days, little scoby baby.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Looking For HairToyZ?

I have some extra toys in case any of my local long hairs are interested. I have 2 sets of these Japanese Neko Cat hair sticks ($5 per pair). They are a sturdy plastic with a design printed on in blue, red, black & gold. There is also gold Japanese writing. Cute and comfortable. The design is reversible. Big cats on one side, smaller cats on the other.

And I have a few rosewood hair forks available.
(All forks are sold. Thank you!)
And I have hair flowers available ($2 each).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Plan To Get My Groove Back

Since closing the yarn shop I've been on a hiatus from knitting and all things fiber related. I used to be passionate about spinning and knitting but once you turn that L-O-V-E into another four letter word, W-O-R-K, it can suck the desire right out of you. Instead of creating something because you WANT to, you do it because you HAVE to. It's not the same. But how to get that passion back? I know...I'll make something from the ground up. I have a garage full of fleeces. I can scour and spin those and knit a sweater. Something I've always wanted to knit, a Cowichan style sweater. I have a pattern (somewhere) for one with a Thunderbird design. One of my favorite cars is the T-Bird. I use to have a '64 Bird but sold it to finance my yarn shop. That and my '54 Hudson Metropolitan. Ugh. I miss my classic cars. But anyway, back to my project. I went to the garage and grabbed the first black plastic garbage bag of fleece. I had no idea what was inside. This is one of the fleeces that a fellow gave me. That's right, FREE fleece. I opened the bag to discover a lovely silver gray fleece. There was a piece of paper in the bag with a name written on it. Rosie. That was the sheep's name. Obviously a ewe. And what a big girl she was. This fleece is huge. It looks to be a cross of maybe Romney and Lincoln. I adore gray fleece. So many possibilities. You can leave it natural, lighten or darken it by blending with another natural colored fleece, or over dye it. Gray fleeces dye up so pretty. Here is Rosie's fleece which will become part of my new sweater. It wasn't skirted but I couldn't be bothered. I wanted to scour this fleece, and I wanted to do so NOW. I picked off the good bits and scoured up about 1/4 of the fleece. Here it is drying.

And after being picked open, by hand.
This loosens up the fibers,
preparing them for carding.

Since I want to totally immerse myself in this project I am going to do everything "old school". I do possess a couple of drum carders, which would speed up the process but I am going to use hand cards, instead. Here I am carding the wool, which straightens and aligns the fibers so they can be spun.

Once the fibers are carded they are rolled up into rolags.

And here is my basket full of prepared rolags, all ready to be spun into yarn. And the remainder of the scoured fleece that is yet to be carded. Now to get some time to spin. Maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Garden For My Hair

When the temperatures go does my hair. The problem is I don't look very spiffy with my hair up. More like a school marm than a sexy thing. To make myself look less mannish and severe I like to add a pretty hair toy. This summer I have been leaning heavily towards hair flowers. They are so feminine, cheerful and fun. Here are some I made yesterday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Home Made Leave-In Conditioner

After doing some research I discovered that my damaged ends don't just need oil. They need some type of emollient. The oil wasn't soaking in. And although my ends are feeling better, they are still wanting to tangle, like velcro, because the scales on that part of the hair shaft aren't laying flat as they should. I read about shea butter and decided to pick some up. I found it at Marlene's but WOW is it ever expensive. Almost $17 for 4.2 ounces of unrefined shea butter. I was looking for a way to make the shea butter go a bit further than just using it alone. Then I found a recipe called Foxe's Shea Butter Conditioning cream:

2 parts unrefined shea butter
1 part coconut oil

2 parts conditioner

I don't want to use coconut oil so I'll replace that with Proclaim Natural 7 Oil. For conditioner I am Using Suave Naturals Juicy Green Apple, because it smells nice. I will also add 2 drops of apple fragrance oil from Zenith Supplies.

Here are my assembled ingredients. The empty white jar used to hold vitamin E cream. I saved it to reuse. It will come in handy for this. The first thing I did was to fill a coffee mug with water and microwave it on high for 2 minutes. This heated up the mug. Then I dumped the water out and dried the mug. While the mug was still hot I added the shea butter so it could melt.

Then I stirred in the Natural 7 oil.
Once those were blended I stirred in the conditioner.

Then I placed my concoction into the clean white jar.
As it cooled it set up into a creamy consistency.

This is my new leave in conditioner. I'll apply a pea sized amount of this to my ends every day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My First Trip To Sally Beauty Supply

Since joining the Long Hair Community I've been looking forward to visiting Sally Beauty Supply in Central Tacoma.

Today was the day and I had my shopping list ready. First on that list was a Tangle Teezer ($9.99). All the rage for safely detangling long hair.

I also needed a wooden comb and found this one made of rosewood and maple ($5.99),

And I needed some good quality hair oil. I wanted something with a mix of oils with no mineral or coconut oils. And I wanted some argan oil. I found the perfect thing, Proclaim Natural 7 Oil (8 oz. for $6.99).

It contains sunflower, castor, grape seed, sesame, olive, jojoba & argan oils. What a wonderful concoction. A little goes a long way so this bottle should last me at least 6 months if not longer. I also picked up some hair toys. I didn't have any combs in my collection ($4.99).

And lastly I picked up a big box of hair clips. 100 of them for $3.99.

Why do I need a bunch of hair clips?
To make hair flowers, of course.

I found some pretty silk flowers at Dollar Tree. I also found a satin sleep cap there. It really keeps your hair neat  and protected while you sleep. And it doubles as a man repellent (coupled with my flannel jammies) to ensure a restful night's sleep.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Second Box From Full Circle Farm

As promised, here are pictures of this week's offerings of organic produce from Full Circle Farm. $37 delivered fresh to my door.

The sturdy box arrives on your porch overnight.

The first look inside.

What's inside the silver packaging? A quart of milk.

This week's bounty includes:
Avocados, Organic - 1 eac
Nantes Carrots, Organic - 1 bunch
Roma Tomatoes, Organic - 1 pound
Walla Walla Sweet Onions, Organic - 2 each
Bi-Color Sweet Corn, Organic - 2 each
Cremini Mushrooms, Organic - 0.4 pound
Red Leaf Lettuce, Organic - 1 bunch
Salad Mix (Cut Greens), Organic - 0.33 pound
Peaches, Organic - 3 each
Yellow Flesh Nectarines, Organic - 4 each
Black Plums, Organic - 4 each

I also receive a quart of organic whole milk each week as a bonus for switching from bi-weekly to weekly delivery. I intend to make yogurt with that. The husbeast and I are very happy with this service. The produce is top notch. Fresh and flavorful. We get a good variety but not so much of each that any goes to waste. I think I had 3 green onions left from the last box and am still using those in salads. This produce is so fresh that it actually doesn't go bad quickly like the junk you get at the grocery store. The mixed salad greens stayed fresh all week. I used them in numerous salads as well as on sandwiches. I give Full Circle Farm 2 enthusiastic thumbs up. If any of my readers decide to give them a try please list me as referring you. You have to give them my full name, Roxanna Willoughby, and I will get a small credit towards my next box. I think it's wonderful and I think you will enjoy it, too. Oh, and they have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Laverne Is Back In Action!

My friend, Kristine, said she had never seen a chicken recover from being egg bound. Well, now she has. It took Laverne 2 full months to get well. During half of that time she was very ill. I thought I would lose her. The first couple of weeks she pushed out 2 very soft shelled eggs (one actually had no shell, just a sac). Then she went another month before pushing out 2 more very soft shelled eggs. After which she molted. But her tail has been up of late and she has been vigorous. Still no eggs, though. So yesterday I gave her a stern talking to and told her she needed to stop being so lazy or she would get a one way ticket to freezer camp. I should've threatened her earlier because today I was surprised to find 3 perfect eggs in the nest. Since I only have 3 hens I know they are all now laying. I am so happy that Lovely Laverne is back to her old self. Laverne's egg is that darker brown one at the top.

Yesterday I harvested this year's lavender crop. This is from my Munstead plants. Smells wonderful. It has been tied into bundles and is hanging in my closet to dry.

I have a new hair bun style to show you. This is called a Chinese Bun. I thought it appropriate to form it around a chopstick. You can get a pair of those chopsticks at the Tacoma Cost Plus World Market for $1.99.