In a Pickle

IMG_3984Literally and metaphorically: We harvested the first crop of bush beans and pickled them, along with some summer squash and the last of the cauliflower; incorporating our own garlic and shallots too. We’ve really enjoyed the pickles we put up last year and we’ll try and make lots again this year. It’s really the best way to preserve much of the goodness of beans, beets, and many other veg. Freezing is good too – but beans come out very limp and we only have limited freezer space. Pressure canning did not turn out to be such a great way of preserving vegetables: you have to cook the hell out of them which doesn’t do much for the taste or the nutrient content; besides requiring a lot of energy.

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As for that other pickle we got into …. our big hive of bees swarmed this weekend. It was an impressive spectacle with half the colony swirling around in a big whirlwind of bees before settling down in the top of a nearby tree. The whole thing didn’t last more than 5 or 10 minutes – fortunately I happened to be near by, otherwise I might not have noticed anything until I looked into the hive the next time.

We were doubly fortunate in that the cluster was within reach of our tall ladder. Retrieval was remarkably smooth: a smart shake of the branch and most of them dropped into a cardboard box placed beneath. Back in our garden we tipped them into a spare hive to which we added a frame of honey and brood comb to make their new home as attractive as possible. So far, they seem to be accepting the new hive and appear busy drawing comb to establish a new colony.

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Only last week we’d contemplated splitting that hive to prevent swarming; but we decided not to since we found only a couple of queen cells. Typically, a hive will build dozens of swarm cells in advance of swarming. In the end, it’s all for the good: we got the split and in the most natural way. A swarm is primed to quickly establish a new hive; and the old hive presumably has new queens ready to hatch. We’ll keep a close eye on things, but at this time it’s really best to be hands off and let the bees do their thing.

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