Saturday, December 4, 2010

For Great Gifts, Buy Local

"Buy Local" is a phrase heard a lot these days, and the holidays are a great time to find all kinds of treats to share with friends and loved ones.

Today at a local arts & crafts festival, some friends of mine were selling gourmet delights under their label "Not Your Granny's Goodies."

I love to bake, but to be honest, festively wrapped, pretty bite-sized treats are not my specialty. So I picked up adorable peanut butter cookie mice as a hostess gift for a dinner party tonight, and a box of turtle mini cheesecakes to give to the people who share their office space with us. I could have slaved for a few hours, spent a bunch of time and money on making something myself, but this allowed me time for other activities, and supported my friends too. Win-win!

Okay, so I bought a homemade marshmallow with salty caramel pretzel goo on the bottom for myself. If you've never had a homemade marshmallow, I highly recommend it. I brought home a couple of treats for Mark, but I may eat them before he does. Win-win-win!

If you live in the Golden Triangle and need some help with your holiday baking, check out Not Your Granny's Goodies. In addition to traditional holiday fare such as fudge and mini pumpkin cheesecake bites, they're available for catering both sweets and savories, including cheddar biscuits. With notice, they can create your heirloom family favorite recipes if you have something you need that's not included in their current list of treats.

If you don't live here, look for local gifts at your farmer's market, holiday bazaars, and shops. You'll be helping people in your community by supporting their business. And if you can't think of the perfect gift for that "hard to buy for" person, buy local honey. Beekeepers need you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Types of Honey from Two Different States

Today I present three lovely souvenirs. There would be four, but the very-dark-brown-almost-molasses-wild-pecan honey from Arizona stayed in Arizona with my brother-in-law. (Hi Malcolm!) Honey varies in color based on the time of year it was made (spring honey is lighter, fall honey is darker) and the nectar source for the bees.

First, we have a bottle of mesquite honey from Arizona. Mark picked this up when Robert took him to a fruit stand/farmer's market on Black Friday. ($5.69) I like how the label design reflects the geographical location and producer's name. This honey would be a tasty addition to barbecue sauce or grilling adventures.

Next, the bear is full of desert wildflower honey. When I tasted it at the shop in Pine, it was light in flavor -- just right for me. Generally, I prefer my honey *with* something else, such as butter or peanut butter. Putting a label on a bear is tough (which is why there's a dilemma about packaging -- will the allure of the bear's shape and the squeezable bottle be more popular than a jar?) They use a no-nonsense address-style label on the back.

Finally, I found the comb honey from Oklahoma mentioned in this post. ($8.75) The trouble with comb honey is the time and effort it takes to cut it, not crush it, and get it into the jar. Most of the time, comb honey is noticeably more expensive, so my question is: is it worth the extra time to charge the extra money? In this case, however, the weight of the honey is more than the other jars, so in reality, the Oklahoma comb honey was a real bargain! I like their relatively straight-forward design with the old-fashioned skeps. Yellow and black labels are very common, and some are more memorable than others.
Can you tell I'm thinking about our labels and containers? I hope to have something to share soon. There are so many choices, so I'd love to hear from some of you on your preferences, especially for containers! Glass or plastic? Squeeze or spoon? Check out some options at Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Stormy Night

The tornado siren went off four times last night.

The wind roared.

The hail skittered on our metal roof.

I worried about the bees being blown over, or their lids blown off.

Mark checked them today while I was at work and says they're okay.

The temperatures never got above the low 50s today, so they couldn't fly.

I hope they're doing what they do, a pulsating cluster of heat, cozy and warm inside the hives.

What exactly is it that they do? The gather in a ball around the queen and pulsate their muscles to generate heat. As the bees on the exterior get cold, they move inward, and warmer bees move to the outer edges. The challenge is making sure they have enough food close by enough to sustain them through the winter. If it's too cold, they'll stay over the brood to keep it alive rather than move upward to get the honey that's available.

I'm eager to go ahead and try Linda's recipe for bee tea and supply it to the bees in Hive 4 to see if it will help them survive the winter. What I really wish for is a warm enough temperatures to do an inspection and see how much honey they really have, now that I've learned a strong colony needs 40-50 pounds of honey to see them through the winter.

On the upside, it's unlikely our hives will ever look like this photo, from the photo gallery at Good luck to our beekeeping friends in much colder places!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Travel Stop

Now that we're keeping bees, we stop somewhere to buy honey whenever we travel.

When we were in Nebraska, Mark spotted a sign advertising honey and apples. We drove a couple miles down a gravel road, and arrived at a place with an "open" sign but no one around.

No one except Harley, that is. Harley is a Newfoundland and one of the largest dogs *ever*. He met us, allowed us to pet him, and if he could have worked the cash register, would have sold us some honey and apples. Sadly for him, humans arrived to take care of business and advised him to stop slobbering on us. Though they aren't beekeepers, they have a plaque on their barn that indicates the farm has been in their family over one hundred years. They stock local honey, which was very thick compared to MS honey. The label reads: Boellstorff's Bees, RR1 Box 32, Johnson, NE 68378.

I had a picture of the jar of honey, but both the photo and the honey have disappeared. ;-) Who wants to see a picture of an empty bottle of honey? We also stopped at a co-op in Oklahoma (to use the restroom) and they had jars of local honey on the counter. Mark bought a jar of chunk honey and a bag of peanuts while I refrained from buying toys for Duke.

When Sarah can access her pictures of our recent trip to Arizona, I'll share our stop at a honey shop in Pine, AZ.