I attempted to make a video of how to unload a busting swarm trap into a new colony. Unfortunately, the phone overheated and cut off midway through (before I got the second deep on). It still had enough good info to achieve the intention. This trap had combs built off the bottoms of each frame that had to be cut and rubber-banded into additional frames. Overall it yielded about 6 to 7 frames of brood and eggs. It’s a colony in a great position to build right now (during a great nectar flow here in SE Indiana). I’m happy to answer any questions I may have left anyone hanging with.
We took a hike around the Auxier Ridge and Courthouse Rock trail at Red River Gorge April 6, 2019. I posted a video of Auxier Ridge and it’s surrounding features on YouTube. Auxier Ridge Trail to Courthouse Rock is a 4.4 mile moderate, well-known out and back trail. It features an awesome forest setting and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also welcomed to use the trail, just keep them leashed if they are exuberant explorers.
It’s easy to see several nearby features such as Haystack Rock, Raven’s Rock, Courthouse Rock, Bolt Rock
and Double Arch. There’s tons of breathtaking views. I think Auxier Ridge is one of the more scenic trails at the gorge.
Climbing Courthouse Rock is totally possible and allowed. The casual hiker may not be ready for it. I’d recommend ropes and basic safety gear. If you are looking to get vertical, it’s a great trail but safety should be paramount. You can kill yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.
As always, and most important to me… be sure to “leave no trace!” Take your garbage out with you and pay attention to the roped off reclamation areas. These are roped off for a purpose… to allow nature to recover from humans. Keep the gorge beautiful, obey the rules, be safe and treat other hikers on the trail courteously.
We had to choose a few electives out of the scout handbook to do with our boys at home. One that stuck out was making a radio. There are a few different ways to build a radio, but the one they say dads used to make with their sons back in the 70’s were the crystal radios. The it hit me… my dad never built one with me. He and I built a lot of cool things together, but a radio wasn’t one of them. Then I thought, well, I haven’t built one with my son yet… so what the heck. The challenge was on.
I think the crystal radio is probably the most basic radio concept. It can capture AM radio waves within a 20-25 mile radius and using a resistor, a diode and a capacitor, you direct the radio wave in to something you can hear. Disclaimer: I’m a complete noob to radio, and that was half the attraction for me. That, and for some reason, I feel like I should expose my son at least once to capacitors, diodes and resistors. It turns we out we learned a lot about these components. Resistors have various colored stripes on them to identify the type and value of the resistor. There are ceramic and electrolytic capacitors, and all different types of diodes for your specific application. Resistors, limit the passage of electricity, diodes allow electric current to flow only one way, and capacitors store current, and condition it… providing a steady flow of current at a certain value. Pretty cool stuff right there! Apparently, the radio waves are that current… as this radio has no battery! It harnesses the radio waves, and by limiting and controlling the passage of current, we pound the signal something we can hear. I found a lot of resources on the internet and came across the bottle radio. This looked like a fun one to do. We even had to wrap the bottle with the magnet wire to make our tuning coil. Here’s the link to the bottle radio we made from lifehacker.com. They also tell you all the things you need, as well as how to build it. Going through the exercise is how you learn. Pay special attention to how they illustrate the germanium diode affecting the radio wave. It was really well done.
They said you can get almost all the things you need at Radio Shack, but alas, the location near me is nothing like the Radio Shack I remember growing up. There was one cabinet of drawers in the back that had the resistor I needed… but I had to order the germanium diode and the ceramic capacitor online. Still, cheap stuff and worth the fun with your kid.
We took the concept a step further and instead of hooking up the crystal earphone to hear the radio, we routed the signal into an electronics learning lab kit (that we did get at Radio Shack) and played it over a small speaker. This learning lab is pretty cool. You can build 200 different circuits from the book until you understand things enough to invent a few circuits on your own. For our radio, we built a 2-transistor amplifier on the bread board to amplify the radio signal. See a few pics below along with a video of the finished work below.
Be able to say you built a radio with your son, and have some quality time doing it. Here’s a video.
I “cut the cheese” today. Did you ever wonder where that saying came from? Thing is, I love the smell of cheese when it’s being made, so yeah… I cut it. I found myself drinking the whey too. And why hasn’t anyone eaten curds and whey since Little Miss Muffet? Did she know something we all didn’t?
I made two wheels of cheese around 2008. One was a parmesan and the other, farmhouse cheddar (an abridged cheddar recipe.) Everything seemed to have went well during the process. I had a cheese mold, but didn’t have a press at the time. I used weight to balance on top of the cheese follower and just did the best I could. In the end, I had two nice-looking wheels of cheese in my “cheese cave” aging. Being the patient guy that I am, I thought I’d let the cheese age as long as it needed, flipping every now and then until I located a “cheese trier” (a little tool that allows you to pierce the rind of the cheese and pull a plug out to try it.) Well, I never got around to that… and still being a juvenile when it came to cheese-making, I thought I’d just let it go. After all aged cheese is always better right? I had it stored in the proper temperature and humidity, so I let it do it’s thing until I could get back around to it.
Well, it *may* have went better had I coated the cheese with wax. Wax holds some needed moisture in and because I neglected to coat it, by the time I went to cut into it (which was just last week, so… 6 years later) it was hard as a rock–both of them. Check out some pics below. The parmesan didn’t look too well, but the cheddar looked delicious! Alas, it too was hard and ruined. Of course, I had to gnaw up some rocks to see how it tasted. A little gritty, maybe dusty… but sharp. I could tell, at one time, it may have been some good cheese! I consider it a lesson learned. However, such a blow makes a man want to right the wrong. It was time to try it again. This time, I have the cheese press built and ready to go.
Cheese making doesn’t require a lot of things, but it does require some special ingredients. Jump on the net, or grab a book. Once you have things in hand, all you need is a little time. By that, I mean set aside an entire day. The process is easy, but the waiting in between steps takes the time… and requires a thermometer, and a timer. I used a cheddar recipe from Home Cheese Making Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses. Depending on the cheese you will make, the process has variations., but here are the basic steps.
- Warming the milk (usually to around 86 F)
- Combining additives (optional, sage, caraway, pepper, etc.)
- Adding the starter culture (mesophilic for hard cheeses, thermophilic for soft cheeses)
- Adding the rennet (vegetable or animal rennet)
- Letting it set until you achieve a “clean break”
- Cutting the curds
- Cooking down the curds
- Draining and milling the curds
- Salting the curds
- Adding to a mold
- Pressing the cheese (for hard cheeses only)
- Air drying
- Waxing the cheese (for hard cheeses only)
- Aging the cheese
Again, there are subtle variants based on the style of cheese you are making. Eventually, you’ll begin to develop your own styles. Another critical thing to consider is how you will control your temperature throughout the process. I’ve tried stove-top, the griddle method using the steam table pan… and the sink (using hot water to warm the water back up). All of it is a hassle. For cheesemaking, I now use the Anova immersion circulator and I don’t know what I’d do without it. You can really control the temperature, including holding the same temperature for as long as you need, and also manage the ramping of temperatures needed in most cheesemaking. If you’re really a techie, here’s the Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker w WI-FI and Bluetooth, the same unit, but has Wifi.
During the process, you will be pouring whey off the curds (usually straining through a colander). Never throw this away. It’s incredibly healthy and you can make stuff with it. I make ricotta cheese with it immediately and use it for the next meal. You can get really fancy if you want… but I simply add another quart of whole milk tot he whey… heat it to 200 F. Then, cut the heat and while stirring, pour in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. You’ll be amazed as tiny white curds float to the top. The yield is pretty impressive. Strain again through a colander or cheesecloth to drain and catch the ricotta. there’s a multitude of other ingredients to make different whey ricotta’s. recipes abound on the internet. It’s pretty darned good eaten immediately while it’s warm… along with salt, thyme, and dill. Or, put it in the fridge for use over the next week.
If you go through the pics below, I detail the steps more via the photo captions
The video below just provides a few steps in the process I employed today for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy my kids in the background 🙂 What is not covered here with pictures and commentary is the end of the process, so here it is. This info is fresh off the “press” since I just did this today! After removing the cheese from the third pressing, I’ll dry the wheel on a rack at room temperature for 3 days to let it start the rind. Then, I’ll do the ever-important step that I didn’t do on my last cheese. That is, dip it in wax so that it can hold in some moisture. I’ll put it on a cheese mat and into my cheese cave (50-60F) to age. I’ll flip the cheese several times a week for the first month or so. The reason for flipping is because the whey still in the cheese will want to settle on the bottom. Flipping lets it flow back to the other side to keep the inside of the cheese aging evenly. During the aging process, the cheese develops it’s character and flavor. I may cut my wheel in half before dipping in wax just so I can let one wheel age longer than the other.
I’ll post pics and updates back here… stop stop back again soon.
See the video below for three video cuts.
- Cutting the curds after achieving a clean break.
- Stirring the strained whey to make ricotta cheese.
- Pouring the whey through cheese cloth to catch the ricotta cheese.
It was another rough season for many of us at SIBA with regards to keeping varroa mite populations knocked down to a safe number. Some in the club who have never treated before resorted to trying ApiVar for the first time. Others, such as myself are rolling the dice again seeing if our season’s management is going to pay off.
The last mite counts on my hives revealed that half my hives were in the green zone, but half are questionable. Since all these hives were started this year, I decided to let things go, winterize and see what the spring will bring me. I’ve told a few people in our club that if I suffer heavy losses again, that I may resort to chemicals myself. Afterall, we can’t be beekeepers with dead bees. That’s a tough thing to swallow. My reputation at the farmer’s market is “chemical-free” beekeeping and pure, raw honey. It’s even on all my signage, cards, and banners. It’s definitely what makes the honey sell and I don’t want to let my customers down. Equally, it’s just as important to me.
A breath of fresh air came when we listened to Michael Bush speak at Clifty Falls. I’ve spent a good deal of time on Michael’s site and even set up a couple 8-frame medium hives when I got into beekeeping around 2009. But what I failed to do was go foundationless. This is a key point that Michael Bush points to as part of his success. Michael makes the case that adding anything un-natural into the hive knocks other things off-balance. When we add chemicals, we not only kill mites and bad bacteria, but we also kill necessary good bacteria, and introduce other things that cause unforeseen problems later. He even shows through his state apiarist hive inspection reports that varroa mites are the least of his problems. He makes a compelling case. Regressing hives down to natural cell takes some time and patience, but the payoff could be grand.
For me personally, it adds some excitement by presenting another challenge I plan to meet next season. During the winter workshops, I plan to alter the frames I have to go foundationless, at least for a couple hives. For me, beekeeping is a personal journey that requires me to test everything and see for myself what works. The notes I keep seem to be disparate and make-shift at best. But it’s beginning to form a basis on my personal style of beekeeping that has yet to come. When we hear our peers like Michael Bush, Randy Oliver and Mel Disselkoen talk about the processes they employ, we wonder sometimes if they’ve found the magic bullet–the answer to all our beekeeping problems. In reality, it is ourselves who have to take these ideas and test them… put them in to practice and ideally, create a process that works for us, in our area, with our own bees. This is what holds my attention, and keeps me excited about the next season.
This series of videos is posted in the same spirit Michael has about beekeeping–they are free and accessible to all to do what they want with. I hope they charge you up as they have me. Enjoy.