One Swelled Headed Chicken and Me!

 

043   044  “Well Swif………..we finally made it to the big leagues.  Remember  back in late winter when I wrote the articleGround Your Flighty Flock’ and you volunteered to have your flight feathers trimmed for the occasion.  Well……..You and I are now the July/August FEATURE in Chickens Magazine. I’m pretty darn proud and I can tell that you are really stoked by the way you’re struttin’ around the backyard. I told you that  the “trim” would be worth it. 

What’s that??????????………..Hold all your calls?????? You want to schedule a pedicure at two after a light lunch with a couple of friends????????????   And…. you want more cracked corn before bedtime????????? Read the contract Swif.  Read the contract!  Now……get your butt back to work.  The egg count has been a little light these days in the hen-house”.

Chickens Magazine is a great read and I urge you to pick up the latest issue if you haven’t already.  It is chock-full or useful information for the backyard chicken enthusiast. You can find Chickens at your local checkout or via subscription.

http://www.hobbyfarms.com/chickens-magazine/

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Honey Street

 

034 - CopyWell…….as the picture shows…..the honey bees are here and I am stoked!  Stoked like the memories of my childhood on Christmas morning when we waited for our parents to finally say we could come down stairs to see what Santa brought.  It’s nice to feel that kind of excitement again.

I picked up my 2 colonies last weekend from a beekeeper I met a few years back.    With nuc boxes secured and thousands of passengers in tow, we all headed down a country road to begin a new chapter in life.  As we worked our way home, with windows down and a great “chill” cd on play; my mind drifted back to a favorite Van Morrison song titled  Pagan Streams “….and we could dream, and keep bees and live on Honey Street”.  I remember first hearing that song all the way back in 1991 and thinking that keeping honey bees would be really cool.  I’m glad that day has arrived.

One Big Brother and a whole lot of sisters.

One Big Brother and a whole lot of sisters.

 

Drunken Cherries In Vodka

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Washington cherries are now in your favorite grocery store and a sure sign that summer is on the way.  Why not think about putting a few of these jars away for the Christmas and New Years celebrations.  It will be here before you know it!    CLICK HERE for an easy and great tasting recipe.

Enjoy responsibly!

Regards,

CB

An Apology To Swiffer

006“Ok Swiffer……..I’m gonna’ do the right thing,…….take the higher road………and say……………I’m sorry!  I’m sorry for all the times I cursed your name, for all the times that I  labeled you as the trouble making hen in my small flock of three……………but most of all……..I’m sorry for making fun of those  Ping -Pong ball size eggs that you laid for almost 3 years. 

But…come on….you got to cut me a bit of slack……..It’s not like you were the picture of innocence.  Wasn’t it you who would start squawking the ‘egg-song’ at 5am on those summer mornings?   Wasn’t it you who splattered that soft shell egg all over endearing daughter’s leg as we drove back from the cottage in a van packed to the gills? 

Damn straight it was you!  And……as for those Ping-Pong size eggs that looked more like they came from a quail than a chicken……………. I say…………. THANK YOU!  As it stands, you’re my only girl who continues to lay after 3 years of age.  I don’t even care that you now take some pretty long breaks between your streaks.  It’s just nice to go into the coop from time to time and find one of those Ping-Pong size eggs sitting all by itself in the nest box.  Way to go girl.  You’ve now been given the role as the designated hitter at City Boy Hens………..Congratulations!

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Pickled Asparagus

 

019Canning season officially starts at City Boy Hens with pickled asparagus. Around here, it is included in our antipasto, the “topper” to “special events” salads, a great addition to any sandwich or just as a pickled treat with dinner. Chickens2 003

Step 1: Sterilize your jars, lids and rings.

You can use the dishwasher on the high temperature setting, your canner (big pot) for 15 minutes at a “rolling boil” or your oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to sterilize your jars. Whatever way you choose, remember to keep the jars warm after the required length of time and do not sterilize the lids in any of these ways. The rubber seal may become compromised do to the extended length of heat and may prevent a good seal for your canned goods. For me, the oven is my method of choice.004

For the seals and bands, I find it easiest to put these in a small pot of water and keep them just below a boil. Make sure that you separate all of the lids. They can easily become stuck together and appear as one. The last thing you are going to want is to go through the entire process below and find that you are short one lid because you put two on one jar without knowing!005

Step 2: Fill your canner up with water.

I know it sounds like an easy step, but it is worth mentioning that you need to find the right volume of water. Too much and the water will overflow when you add your jars that are heavy with their contents. Too little and the jars will not be completely submerged which will not allow for proper sterilization of contents. I fill my canner to around 2/3 full in order to accommodate 6 large canning jars. Note: Use hot water to fill the canner. This will help to speed up the process of bringing the water to a boil. Even with doing this, it will still take some time to get this water to a boil so start now!

Step 3: Wash and cut your asparagus.

Asparagus spears are quite long and a good portion of the vegetable must be cut off in order for it to properly fit into your canning jar. I have found that the easiest way to do this is to cut one piece to its designated length and then position each bunch beside your one piece and “chop”. Follow up with a good wash for the asparagus in the sink. Note: Don’t discard the remaining stem of the asparagus. Bend each piece until it snaps and keep the tender end. This can be canned, cooked for the next few meals or made into soup!008

Step 4: Make your brine.

6 cups of pickling vinegar (5% acetic acid)

9 cups of water

9 tbsp. of pickling salt. Iodized salt will leave your brine cloudy.

Bring this to a boil.

Step 5: Pack your jars.

Before I begin packing my canning jars with asparagus, I add 1 clove of garlic (cut into 3 pcs.), 1/2 tsp. of chili peppers and 1 slice of lemon. Feel free to omit any of these ingredients though I highly recommend them all. Now it’s time to pack your jars. I find that it is easiest to lay the jar on its side when it is time to pack the asparagus into the jars. You may be surprised at how many spears you will be able to pack into each jar. I averaged around 35 per jar. This number will vary on the thickness of the asparagus stalks. It is important to pack your jars as tight as you can without breaking off the tips of the asparagus. I find that a table knife works well to help move the asparagus from side to side in order to make room for a few more spears.012

Step 6: Add the brine and seal your jars.

Now it’s time to add the brine to your jars. A large ladle and a canning funnel makes easy work of this step. Make sure not to fill the brine up to the top of the jar. Leave around 1/4″of “head space”. Once this is done, take one of your sterilized seals out of your pot with a pair of tongs and place it on the lip of the jar. Note: make sure to wipe the lip of your jar before placing the seal on the jar. This will ensure that nothing is trapped on the lip which could prevent a tight seal and spoil your asparagus as it sits in your cantina (cellar) for up to 1 year. Once this is done, tightly screw the canning ring onto the jar.015

Step 7: Water bath.

The water bath is debatable and many people omit this step. Some rationalize the omittance by claiming that the boiling brine is enough to kill any bacteria that may be left on the asparagus. I also recognize that this step is a pain in the butt and can be quite dangerous because you are transferring a relatively heavy jar into and out of boiling water. With that said, I feel better eliminating my family’s chance at botulism and using a canning tongs to work the jars into and out of the boiling water. This process should be done for 15 minutes.016

Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and place the hot jars on a rack to cool. After a while, you will hear the great sound of “SNAP”. That means your jars have sealed. Let your jars completely cool (over night) and then put them in your cantina or cupboard until it is time to enjoy the taste of pickled asparagus.019

How To Build A 5 Frame Nuc Beehive

 

 

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Building a nuc box is really no different from building  the boxes for a standard Langstroth hive.  It’s really just a smaller version.  It’s also not a complicated project and is fairly easy for the DIY guy or gal.  I chose to make my own nuc boxes for the following reasons:  First,  I didn’t want to buy a cardboard nuc box from my bee supplier and end up tossing it into the recycle box.  Second, I’ve built everything else for my hives, so why stop at this.  Third, I’m planning on either using these boxes for future swarm traps or creating additional colonies by “splitting” my original colonies in the future.

So…..lets get started.  But first, lets talk about safety.  Make sure that you read and understand how to SAFELY operate your power equipment.  In  some of the pictures below, the safety guard has been removed so that you can get a better understanding of the photo.  NEVER operate your equipment without a guard in place!

Nuc Box

In order to begin, you are going to need some 1×12 lumber or some glued up  1×6.  I choose the second option because it was what I had available in the shop.

Begin by cutting the pieces of the box to the required length and width.005

The front & back are 3/4″ x 7- 1/2″ x 11″.

The sides are 3/4″ x  19- 7/8″ x 11″ .

The bottom is 3/4″ x 7- 1/2″ x 18- 3/8″.

Using a 3/8″ countersink bit, drill the holes for the screw locations on each piece to a depth of 3/8″.

Using a 7/8″ forstner bit, drill the hole for the entrance.  The center point for this hole should be 1-1/4″ from the bottom of the front.

Now, cut the rabbet joint on the inside of the front & back.  This joint will support the frames..  This joint can be made in two passes on the table saw.  First, set the rip fence to 3/8″ and the blade height to 3/4″.  Use a feather board clamped to the table saw top in order to help stabilize the stock as it passes over the blade.

 

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Next, lower the blade to 3/8″ and adjust the rip fence so that there is 3/4″ from the left side of the blade to the fence.

 

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Now assemble the box using 1- 1/2″ galvanized screws and glue.

Fill the screw holes with wooden plugs, trim to flush and sand the box.

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If you would like to make handles for your nuc box, CLICK HERE to see how I made them for my standard hives.

Top

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Material List:

Plywood – 3/4″ x 9-1/2″x 20-1/2″.

Front & back strips –  3/4″ x 2″ x 9-1/2″.

Side strips –  3/4″ x 2″ x 22″.

Metal covering – 14-1/2″ x 25-1/2″.

Begin by cutting these pieces to the required width & length and countersinking screw locations in the front, back & side strips.

Just like the nuc box, glue, screw, plug and sand the assemble top.

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Next,  paint the top before securing the metal “roof”.

Once the paint is dry, evenly position the and trace the circumference of the roof on the metal sheet.  These pencil lines will become the 90 degree edges that must be bent for the top.  Using metal shears, cut a 45 degree angle from each edge of the metal sheet to the outline edge of the top.001

Using a 90 degree edge (like the end of your table saw) begin bending the metal along the two sides.  Take your time and only exert a bit of pressure as you move down the line.  Continue repeating this process until you have a nice crisp edge.

Now screw those edges to the sides of the top with #6 x 1/2″ pan head metal screws.

Next, fold the 45 degree edge (from the side) on to the front/back and begin bending the edge for the front/back. 004Fold the 45 degree edge (from the front/back) to the side and secure these areas with screws.005

Inner Cover

Material List:

Plywood – 1/4″ x 7-1/4″ x 18-1/8″

Front & Back Strips – 3/4″ x 1 – 1/4″ x 9″

Side Strips- 3/4″ x 1-1/4″ x 19-7/8″

Using a 7/8″Forstner bit, drill two holes in the center of the plywood so that the distance is 3 – 3/4″ in length from the outside of each circle.  Cut out the rest of the shape using a scroll saw, jig saw or coping saw.

The front & back strips of the inner cover are connected together by creating a lap joint.  It’s a fairly easy joint to make and consists of removing half of the thickness of stock on the opposing face of each piece.  In order to make this joint, set the table saw blade to 3/8″ and remove 1-1/4″ from the opposite ends of each strip.  This will be done in several passes if a dado blade is not used.  Never cross-cut stock with a miter gauge when it is butted up to the rip fence.  This could potentially bind the stock and cause kick-back.  Instead, use an auxiliary fence for this procedure.006 007

Using the table saw, cut the 1/4″ slot in the front, back & side strips which will receive the plywood.  Set the table saw blade to 3/8″ for height and the fence to 3/8″ from the left side of the blade.  Using a feather board for additional support, rip this slot in the above mentioned pieces.  Adjust the rip fence (depending on the thickness of your blade) to make a second pass in order to complete the 1/4″ slot.  Don’t forget to alternate your strips for this step!

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Next, cut the entrance in the inner cover.  I made mine 3/8″ x 3/4″.016

Finally, glue the pieces together and sand after the glue has completely cured.

If you would like to learn how to build your own 10 frame Langstroth hive CLICK HERE.

Best of success.

Regards,

CB

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Crescia: The Easter Bread From Le Marche Italy

Crescia Bread

Crescia Bread

With the celebration of Easter just around the corner, it’s time to make Crescia.  If you love cheesy egg-rich bread, I urge you to give this traditional bread a try. If you grew up eating this bread at Easter, I’m certain that the aroma of it baking will bring you back to those memories of your youth!

CLICK HERE for my easy to follow recipe.

Happy Easter

Buona Pasqua

CB

A Quarter MILLION Views and Counting!

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Wow!  250,000 + views since I started this blog a few years back.  I am happy to see that I am working towards the goal that I had hoped for in this blog’s beginning.

A few years back, I wanted to chronicle some of the “stuff” that I do in my spare time.  At first, I wanted this to be a “record” for my kids, but then I thought that other folks may also find it useful.  It turns out that there are some folks our there in “Cyber World” who think that some of this “stuff” is of interest.  It always makes me happy to receive a comment from someone who has informed me that my post helped them discover a new interest/hobby. It is great to share information, techniques and insight into many of the “things” which we choose to do in order to satisfy the cravings of our creative side.

So….with that said, I want to say thanks and share the top 5 posts that “Cyber World” continues to click on City Boy Hens.

Best Regards,

CB

1)  How To Make Salami

2)  How To Make A Beehive

3)  How To Make Italian Sausage

4) How To Make Drunken Cherries In Vodka

5)  Making A Dust Bath For Your Chickens

 

How To Make A Screened Bottom Board For Your Beehive

 

010A screened bottom board is a great addition to any beehive.  It not only provides great ventilation for the hive, but can also be used in your IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices to help determine the number of Varroa mites that are in your colony.  The premise of this theory works like this:  Count the number of mites that have fallen off the hive and have adhered to the “sticky board” over a 24 hour period.  Compare this number to the “threshold numbers” that are recommended by your local beekeeping agency.  For example: where I live, the governing agency recommends that a treatment be considered  when 9 mites are found on the sticky board in a 24 hour “drop” during the month of May.

Initially, I thought that this would be a great way to determine if I would have a future mite problem (levels above a particular threshold).  But then I came across a different theory which argued that the number of mites found on the sticky board may not be an accurate way to determine if your hive is infested with  mites.  The rational for this was that hygienic bees may be better at removing mites from each other and, therefore, you may not have an infestation, but rather, bees that are very good at removing these beasties from the hive.  GGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRR!  Beekeeping………….Nobody ever seems to be on the same page!

Anyways, the screened bottom board is still a great addition to the hive because:

A)  The mites that do drop off will fall through the mesh and (from what I’ve read) not be able to crawl back up into the hive.

B)  The sticky board will allow you to monitor how many mites will drop in a 24 hour period.

C)  The screened bottom board ( without the sticky board is place) provides great ventilation for the hive.  This will be extremely useful through the entire year to help rid the hive of excess moisture.  This is just as important in the Winter as the Summer.

So…I decided to make a screened bottom board that would have a sticky board that could easily slide within the bottom board.  The entire “unit” will be made up of 2 sections that, when combined will become the final bottom board.

 

Material List

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Section #1

Sides: 3/4″ x 1- 3/4″ x  21 -1/4″

Back:  3/4″ x 1 -3/4″ x 16- 1/4″

Front: 3/4″ x 3″ x 14- 3/4″ (This will be the “landing pad”)

Sticky Board Front: 3/4″ x 7/8″ x 14-1/2″

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Section #2

Sides: 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 21-1/4″

Back: 3/4″x 3/4″ x 16-1/4″

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Directions

Cut all pieces to the above measurements.

Using a table saw, rip a 3/16″ wide x 1/4″ deep channel through the inside of the sides, back and the sticky board front.  This channel will allow for the sticky board to be positioned in the bottom board when in use.  I set the table saw fence to 7/16″ and made sure to put the bottom of each board against the fence.

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Next, counter sink the screw locations to put this section together.  (Note: Set the sticky board front aside for now.  It’s not getting assembled with these pieces.)  I used 1-1/2″ deck screws for this job.

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Now screw these pieces together using a good exterior glue.

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I used coroplast for my sticky bottom board.  You can get it at a sign shop or, better still, re-purpose an old real estate or election sign if one is available.  I cut it to 15- 1/8″ wide x 20-7/8″ long and glued the end (using construction adhesive or silicone) to the sticky bottom board piece that you previously put aside.

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Now, fill all screw locations with wooden plugs, flush cut each plug and sand the frame.  Now is a good time to paint all the parts of the bottom board.

Cut a piece of #8 hardware cloth for the size of the bottom board.  Use must use #8 because it is small enough to prevent your bees from going through these holes.  Staple it to your frame.

 

010Next, staple a thin piece of metal or wood to the front of the screen and screw the 3 pieces of wood from section #2 to the frame.  I used a counter-sink bit to ensure that I did not split these pieces.

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And…there you have it.  A home-made screened bottom board.  Your bees will be delighted with all the ventilation for your hive.  As well, you’ll be able to begin monitoring for mite levels as well.

Please CLICK HERE if you would like to view my other posts on making your own beehive.

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Liquefying Granulated Honey

I love honey!  I love it sooooooo much that I can easily consume a couple of pounds each month just in my tea.  I not only love it, but I’ve begun to acquire a taste for different flavors.  Whether it is buckwheat, blueberry blossom, linden, clover or wildflower…….I love them all!  The only trouble is some granulate a lot faster than others. 002 Granulating is no big deal.  In fact, there’s too many folks who think that granulated honey is honey gone bad.  There’s nothing bad about it.  In fact, granulating is a good indication that your honey is pure and minimally filtered because it is those minute bits of propolis, pollen and wax (the good stuff) which act as bonding agents for this crystallization to begin .  It’s this “stuff” that you want in your honey as opposed to the pasteurized honey  which kills a lot of the enzymes with high temperature and takes out so much of the good stuff with over-filtration.

But, if you’re like me, and want your honey to remain in its liquid state then you’ll need to warm it back up to around the same temperature that it was when it was still in the hive.    Believe it or not, the optimum temperature in a beehive is around 95 F (35 C).  The key to properly liquefying honey is a balance between warm and slow.  Too hot or too fast and you’ll kill all the “good stuff” in your unpasteurized honey.  That’s why I am not a fan of using the microwave for this process.

Instead, fill a sauce pan with warm water and place it on your stove burner.  Turn your burner on low and put your jar of crystalized honey into the sauce pan.  Monitor the temperature of the water with a thermometer and adjust accordingly in order to keep the temperature below 100 F. 005 With the honey partially dissolved (15-20 minutes), stir the contents with a knife in order to allow the heat to work its way up to the upper portion of the jar. Before you know it, your honey will be completely liquified and   you’ll be spilling it once again on the table or  counter as you race with that spoon from the honey jar to your mug of tea.KODAK Digital Still Camera Regards, CB