Friday, August 31, 2007

Sink of Tomatoes

Last year, the tomatoes succumbed to late blight before we got much of a harvest. This year has been very dry, so we've had other challenges, but the harvest has been quite satisfactory as far as I'm concerned.

We grew paste tomatoes this year. When I get ready to process tomatoes, I place them into one sink, and wash them and put the clean tomatoes into the other sink. From there I blanch, skin, core, and process.

My sink has happily had a lot of tomatoes go through it this summer.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Canning Squash

I haven't blogged in ages. It's canning season and my days are FILLED with washing, peeling, trimming, slicing, cooking, stirring, and canning.

Most people don't can summer squash. It's not recommended because the squash turns so soft and mushy. I can it, though, because I use it in my Grandmama's Delicious Squash Casserole (TM). I'm going to mash it for the casserole, so it doesn't matter that it's soft and mushy. In fact, that makes casserole making easier! The recipe calls for 2 cups mashed, but I just drain and mash what's in the quart jar and call it good.

To can summer squash, pick it young and trim the ends. Slice it into 1/2" slices (I sliced mine a lot thicker, but did a hot pack so it was well heated before canning).

Raw pack (1" head space) or hot pack (1/2" head space).
Add 1/2 tsp. salt (pints) or 1 tsp. salt (quarts) if desired.
Process pints for 30 minutes, or quarts for 40 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure.

Squash Casserole
2 cups cooked, drained, and mashed squash
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. minced dried onion or 1/4 cup chopped fresh
1/4 cup (1 stick) melted margarine

Mix and put in greased 2 quart casserole.
Bake at 350F about 40 minutes until lightly browned.


This recipe freezes well, too. I've made a few double and triple recipes this summer and frozen them in quart ziplock freezer bags. If you do this, measure four cups of casserole "mix" per bag.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Many Legged Carrot

What can I say?
Nature has a way of always being able to surprise and amaze.

I've been crazy busy. I tried to cut my thumb off when butchering a rabbit but that's mostly better now.

I've put up marinara, pickles, some other stuff... working on barbecue sauce now.

The garden is buried under weeds. At least it used to be.


Thursday, August 02, 2007


A little over a week ago I was poking around in the bee hives. The weak hive had two "supercedure" cells on it.

There are two types of queen cells, swarm cells and supercedure cells. The egg that goes into queen cells is like any worker bee egg, but it is fed differently and has a larger space to grow in. The space and diet is what makes it a queen instead of a worker.

Swarm cells hang on the bottom of the frames and are created when the hive becomes overcrowded. Eggs are laid in the swarm cells and new queens hatch out of them. They swarm away with part of the bee colony and that relieves the stress due to overcrowding.

Supercedure cells are built hanging off the comb, as in the photograph. They are built by expanding normal worker cells.

I don't know why my bees have found their old queen unsuitable. I do know this hive has been dramatically weaker than the other hive since I first installed my bees. Even after "stealing" a couple of small frames of honey and brood from the strong hive and placing it in the weak hive, the weak hive is still way behind.

Maybe the old queen is aging and not as productive as she should be. Maybe she is physically inferior in some way. Whatever the reason, the new queens have probably hatched by now. The first one to hatch will kill the second one, and then it will kill the old queen.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the hive is doing. I'll probably take a good look this weekend.

I don't know if worker bees will build swarm cells when a hive is not already crowded; I think they are programmed not to. Even if they did, I don't know if the current queen would lay in those cells. She is probably programmed to not lay eggs in queen cells if the hive is not crowded. I'm just guessing, but I suspect that is why supercedure cells are built the way they are. The unsuspecting current queen lays normal worker eggs and then a couple of them are made into queens on the sly. Nature sure is tricksy sometimes.


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