Death to the Horse Flies!

030A decree has been sent out from the Lord Of The Cottage Manor.  He has grown tired of the horse flies inflicting pain on his loyal subjects and himself as they frolic around the rejuvenating waters of the cottage lake.008  “From now on….. the Horse Flies will no longer be allowed to feast on the King and his loyal (well…mostly loyal) subjects. 039  There will be NO MORE free lunches while the family and I are out frolicking in and around the cottage waters.  No more swatting, shooshing, or pleading for your departure.  From this day forward, ALL horse flies who are caught feasting on the King or his subjects will meet their demise via………………………………..041

DEATH-DEALING,……………….BLOOD-THIRSTY…………..

FEROCIOUS……………………………….CHICKENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

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Whew…..I feel better already.  Now just another 5, 653, 241 more to go in order to rid the kingdom of these pests!

 

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Cherries in Vodka

009Ontario cherries are now  at farmer’s markets.  They are great to eat fresh and even better to jar for the winter in some vodka.  I’ve been making these flavored cherries for a few years and they are always a great companion to dessert on  special occasions.  We always wait until Christmas Eve to  open the first jar from the previous summer and share it amongst the adults at our table.  You are going to be AMAZED at the sweetness in the vodka.  In fact it tastes like a sweet cherry juice with a hint of vodka, minus the harsher alcohol taste of vodka “straight up”.    Just be carfeull………it may be hard to stop wanting more and NO……This DOESN’T count towards a serving of fruit!

First, wash and remove the stems from your cherries.  Discard any bruised or blemished fruit.012

Using a canning funnel (just because it’s easier), drop your cherries into a clean mason jar.014

Firmy pack as many cherries as you can into the jar without smashing up the fruit.016

Fill the jar with vodka, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  Seal up the jar.  Note:  There is no need to sterilize the jar because the vodka will act as a preservative for the fruit.019

Now, put it aside in your cantina or cold cellar and WAIT!  You have to give those babies at least 4 months to flavor the vodka.  You will know that the cherries are ready when the vodka turns a deep dark red.020

Serve 3-4 cherries in a liqueur glass with a toothpick.  Your family & friends are going to love them!  Enjoy responsibly!004

City Boy Honey Update

“Ladies and Gentlemen………I give you…THE QUEEN!”…………068“Alright….Who said where?????”.  Okay…once more from the top.  “Ladies and Gentlemen….it is with great pleasure that I give you….THE QUEEN!”069“Okay….. you win.  There…I circled her!  She’s the one that is much larger, darker and has the shortest wings. She’s a looker ain’t she!   Now…let’s  get on with the post.”069

It’s been a while since I wrote about City Boy Honey.  In my last honey post (click here), my hive was built and I was just waiting for Dan (my bee mentor) to order my Queen.  For those of you who are familiar with bee keeping, you are definitely thinking that we are really late in the season to introduce a queen.  In fact, we are now in the midst of the Honey Flow as many wildflowers are  in bloom in Northern Ontario.  This is the time when the bees are really bringing in the honey. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not too interested in giving up her arsenal of frost and cold temperatures in May and many professional beekeepers beat us to the Queen supply due to their devastating hive losses this past Winter.  As a result, local Queens were hard to come by this Spring.

With that said, the Queen arrived last week and she was placed into my hive body (bottom box) along with 100s of bees and 9 frames that were taken from one of Dan’s really strong hives. 058 These frames are made up of a combination of comb that is already made and filled with nectar or brood (baby bees).  This will really help to give the hive a jump-start because a lot of work has already been done from the bees in Dan’s strong hive.

Drawn out comb filled with nectar or brood.

Drawn out comb filled with nectar (red circles) or brood (yellow circles).

Is it wrong to take from Dan’s strong hive?  The answer is no.  In fact it is good because Dan’s strong hive could potentially swarm because it was running out of room.

So…today we put a second hive body on my hive which contained 9 frames.  7 of those already have built up comb.  The built up comb will really help the bees because they will be able to concentrate on bringing in honey and tending to the brood rather than also having to make the honey comb.  The second hive body will also give the Queen more room to lay her eggs which will continue to increase the population of the hive.

In two weeks, I’ll get back to you on the bees.  The hope is that the bees have filled the frames in the second hive body with honey and brood.  The tell-tale sign for this will be to open the hive and see if the bees are “working” on all the frames just as they are doing in the first hive body.063  If all goes well,  a medium super (smaller box) will then be put on top of the hive body which will be strictly used for the bees to deposit  CITY BOY HONEY! In the mean time……we’ll just wait it out…….. sipping some honey cream ale from a local Northern brewery and trying to beat the heat!070Queen Honey Bee Trivia:

Did you know that one Queen can lay between 1000-2000 eggs per day?

I thought of telling my wife this when she speaks about the delivery of our kids.   On second thought, maybe I’ll keep this one between you & me!

Making Blueberry Jam

101As far as I’m concerned, Blueberry Jam is definitely one of the great tastes of summer.  My kids enjoy it on a peanut butter sandwich or as a decadent topping on pancakes.  It’s also a great reminder of those warmer days when we are in the throes of those Winter months.  Like all jams, it’s easy to make and great to share!

Ingredients

8 cups crushed berries

10 cups sugar

4 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 packages of pectin (57 g /2 oz.)

Yields 14 -250 ml (8.4 oz. or half pint) jars of jam

Note:  Make this jam in two separate batches.

Directions for 7 jars of jam

Fill your canner up with hot water to the height of the jars that you will be using for your jam. It will take a while to get this volume to a boil so you better start now.  If you get ahead of the game, you can always turn it down later.

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Fill a medium pot with water and add the seals and screw rings.  Bring this to a gentle bowl.

Sterilize your jars in the oven at 225 degrees fahrenheit  for 10 minutes.  Continue to keep them warm in the oven until they are needed.

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Mash the berries up in a large bowl.  If you like your jam to be more “chunky”, then decrease the amount of mashing.

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Combine mashed berries and pectin in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add all the sugar.  I add 1/3 at a time and stir in order to dissolve all the sugar and not have it stick to the bottom.

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Note:  Make sure you use a LARGE pot to make this jam.  The volume will really INCREASE when the jam begins to boil.  The last thing you will want is to have this sugary mixture bubble over the pot and catch FIRE on your burner.  Been there and done that!

Once the sugar is dissolved, return to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Stir and skim for 5 minutes.  This step is crucial in order to get a foam free jam (skimming part) that doesn’t have the fruit rising to the top of the jar (stirring part).

008Pour jam into warm sterilized jars to 1/4″ from rim.

Wipe the lip of the jar with a wet paper towel in order to ensure that no jam is on the rim of the jar.  This could prevent a good seal from happening.  Cover with sterilized lids and tighten the screw rings.

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Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and cool on a rack over night.  Soon you will hear the sound of success as those lids start popping and ensuring a good seal.

025Congratulations!  Try not to eat it all in the next few months.  Save some for the Winter when you will need a few reminders of summer!

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Don’t You Take Your Chickens On VACATION?

“Ok, lets load ’em up.  Honda And Swiffer….You know the routine.   Help Rosie along and make sure that she doesn’t get the spot beside Stanley.002  OK….everyone , stop fighting over the window seat.  Everyone strapped in?   Okay……lets head NORTH!”

The chickens are coming up to the cottage with us for the first time this season.  For Rosie, it will be a brand new experience because she wasn’t a member of City Boy Hens last summer.  Maybe it’s a brand new experience for the veterans as well.  I’m not sure what level of memory retention can be had when you only have a brain the size of a cashew nut.

So into the van we all went.  Wife, son, son’s friend, daughter, dog, 3 chickens and myself.027

The upside to bringing the chickens to the cottage is that I’ll have something to write about for  the blog and we will continue to enjoy farm fresh eggs at the cottage.  The down side is that 5 people and one dog, crammed into tight quarters with 3 chickens who are known for frequent defecation, may not be the best recipe for a pleasant 3 hour  drive on a humid evening.  It’s not too bad for my wife and myself because the chickens will be positioned behind our seats and our windows will be WIDE OPEN.  For the kids…it’s another matter.

Those rear windows in a mini van are not designed to roll down.  All that you can get in terms of ventilation is a slightly cracked window that only opens up an inch from the side.  I’m sure it’s a safety feature, but the person who designed this van was definitely not thinking of the possibility that MAYBE someone some day might want to transport a few chickens to the cottage in this vehicle!

In order to help with the poop volume, I tried something different this year.  I intentionally withheld feed for 3 hours prior to  our cottage departure.  I read in a post by a chicken vet that it takes 3 hours for food to move from beak to butt in a chicken.  My girls must be Olympic gold medal contenders because, when we  stopped halfway through our journey for refreshments, I was met with numerous demands from the “rear passengers”  to pick out the chicken turds in the bottom of the cage.  Okay…we’re not talking a dozen or so…..just 3-4 turds.   Boy…those city kids!

Are We Almost There?

Are We Almost There?

Are We.......Almost....There.....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Are We…….Almost….There…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Anyways, transportation was successful and the chickens hunkered down in their cottage ark for the night.004

The following morning, I was up bright and early to let the girls out of the Ark into their pen.  There was no way I was letting anyone out for some free ranging until there were 3 eggs in the nest box.  If you’ve followed me before, you may remember  that Swiffer has taken  to sometimes laying her eggs in the backyard.   Here at the cottage, there is almost an acre of land for the chickens to roam and there’s no way that I’m looking over the entire property for an egg!  But, much to my surprise, nestled tightly together,  were 3 warm eggs in the nest box.044  The chickens just looked at me as if to say “Well…..what else did you expect?”. I’m not sure, but I think I heard someone say “Ok…..now can we finally get out and head down to the beach and explore????????????”072

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