Friday, August 30, 2013

Raspberry Jam and volunteer squash.

  A bees store trade that was initiated months ago bore fruit this week in the form of 9 half flats of raspberries. I think raspberries are easily my favorite fruit, but they are so very perishable.  As a consequence my plans for the day were changed to include making four batches of raspberry jam. I always do a double batch in spite of the dire warnings found in most jam recipes. It just seems so tedious to make only 4 or 5 pints at a time.   I made one double batch of normal raspberry jam, then I made a second double batch of sugarless raspberry jam.   I hope no one fell off their chair at this confession.  I made the sugarless jam for someone other than myself. My mother and my sister each suffer from varying degrees of diabetes. Mom can control her diabetes through diet and keeping her weight down. My sister uses both diet and medications to control her diabetes. Since we had some "no sugar needed" pectin on hand it seemed like a good use of our raspberry glut.

     I gave a few half flats of raspberries to friends but that still left me with three boxes of raspberries. I froze one flat and finally found homes for the other two. I was unsure exactly how much space we had in our freezer, but nothing trumps raspberries so I knew I would find room. It's just a matter of deciding what would have to be tossed or used to make room for the higher priority raspberries.  So the raspberry crisis was solved, but I still need to deal with beets and beans that need pickling as well as the pending flood of tomatoes.

    I picked my first "Jack Be Little" pumpkin the other day.  I didn't plant them.  It was a volunteer squash plant that I decided to leave alone.  It just happened to grow in a place where it didn't interfere with anything else.  It mainly grew on the edge of the little high spot in the front yard where our large cedar tree used to be. As it began to form fruit it looked like it would be some kind of pumpkin.  I didn't figure out exactly what it was until I noticed that the fruit weren't getting any bigger. I was a little disappointed at first as I thought they were just decorative. Linda was happy as she likes to put them on top of the cedar fenceposts as Halloween decorations.  I looked on the internet to learn a little more about them and was pleased to learn that they are actually edible. One website declared them to be gourds while another claimed they were in the pepo family of squashes. I believe that the various summer squashes are all in the Pepo family.

    In addition to the "Jack Be Little" I have three other volunteer squash plants in my front yard.  They all started from my homegrown compost that I had used where I planted the pole beans. While I didn't have a lot of weeds growing out of the compost I did have a lot of tomato and tomatillo plants in addition to the squashes. Most of them I weeded out. One of the volunteer squash plants is some sort of yellow Hubbard squash.  The other two plants have elongated fruit that look like spaghetti squash, but longer. I'm glad I left the volunteer squash plants alone as I'm pleased to have the Hubbard squash and Linda is happy with the "Jack Be Little" pumpkins.

Propolis Pig

    I worked as a volunteer at the Honey and Beeswax exhibit at the Evergreen State Fair on Thursday night.  The fair was poorly attended on Thursday,  due in large part to the rainy weather. It made for a quiet evening. I brought a lump of propolis with me that I had scraped from frames when I harvested honey last week. Propolis, for those who don't know, is a substance bees gather from the buds and new growth of various plants. It is very sticky when warm and very brittle when cold. In the middle, in a very narrow temperature range, it has the consistency of modeling clay.  Propolis has both antimicrobial and fungicidal properties. The East Europeans rave about its medicinal properties and dissolve it in alcohol to make a tincture. It was the secret ingredient in the varnish in Stradivarius violins. The bees use it as a secondary building material, sort of like weather stripping. I spent about a half hour shaping my lump of propolis into a model of a pig. I think it turned out well except for the fact that my pig should have a bit longer body relative to the size of its head. There isn't enough bacon as there should be. Propolis has some limitations as a modeling compound. Namely, it has to be kept cool or the object may melt into a little pile of goo. It also changes color as the exterior is exposed to oxygen. I modeled a little alligator several weeks ago. It started out the same color as the pig in the photo but now has turned red.

     I had also brought my ukulele as I had been warned that it might be pretty quiet toward the end of the shift.  I spent the last hour of my shift playing my ukulele, serenading the bees in the observation hive in a fairly deserted display hall.

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