Friday, June 1, 2012

Home-Grown Dinner

Our growing season here is quite short so eating fresh from the garden is a big deal.  Yesterday was our first chance to actually harvest something from one of our gardens so I decided to try to make a completely home grown meal out of it.

My daughter Emma and I picked spinach, arugula, baby kale and radishes to make a salad.  No tomatoes yet, they are going into the garden this weekend.
I defrosted some elk sirloin from a nice elk harvested off our property last fall. Heated a bit of olive oil in my cast iron skillet and sprinkled a salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides.
Into the skillet they go for a pan sear.
Four minutes on each side, they were cut pretty thin and I wanted them pink inside.
What a great dinner that tasted even better knowing that it came off our place.  With the exception of the ranch dressing!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Peacock Owners for a Day

Yesterday after picking my daughter up at school we drove home to find a peacock resting on our front lawn.  Definitely a first for both of us.  He was very skittish but would come closer when I threw a few handfuls of chicken scratch his way.
He actually got relaxed enough to hop onto our front deck and rest for awhile.
But after a few hours he decided we weren't exciting enough for him and he hit the road heading north.  We checked all the local papers and CraigsList to see if anyone was missing a peacock but there was no one missing their bird. Hope the coyotes don't get him. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm Back!!!

Sorry that I have been silent for awhile but we took a little trip and then when we returned, I promptly came down with a bad cold which I am still fighting.  But I wanted to share with you all the beautiful place we visited here in North Idaho just 30 miles south of the U.S./Canadian border.  It's a jewel of a lake called Priest Lake.
We stayed at a state park campground called Indian Creek Campground.
We had a campfire which we cooked our dinner over.
Of course we had homemade cheddar brats.
The fish weren't biting at all.
But the morels were!
The Selkirks east of the lake still have some snow.
Can you tell which peak is called Chimney Rock?
Emma never got tired of playing in the sand.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The mosquitoes here this year are bad, really bad.  I have been to Alaska a few times and Canada's Arctic during the summer, those were the worst and largest mosquitoes I have ever experienced but this is running a close second for me.

We have a pond and a slow creek on our property that is prime mosquito-raising terrain which is hard for us to control.  The creek is constantly moving and the pond is full of fish.  Also, our bees get water from the pond so I cannot add anything to that except maybe those little barley things that float.

There's nesting boxes for the swallows and a bat house too in our backyard.  I would hate to think what it would be like if we didn't have those.  

I was trying to plant yesterday evening and was eaten alive by mosquitoes.  Later we had some elk show up at our pond and you could tell that they were being pestered by the bloodsuckers, too.  They jumped, bucked and eventually just gave up and took off running.  I felt their pain.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm Breaking Out in Hives!

Beehives that is!  This week I have gone from owning two hives to three.  My two over-wintered hives are boiling with bees and filling with new brood and it's getting mighty crowded.  The only way bees can make room in the hive is by swarming which is good for the bees but not such a happy event for a beekeeper.  Suddenly you lose your mature, egg-laying queen and she takes half the colony with her.
Though it can occur anytime during spring, summer and fall, May is the beginning of swarming season here in North Idaho.  One way to prevent swarming is to remove a three to four frames of brood along with the bees on those frames and replace them with frames that either consist of drawn comb or new foundation.  But incredable thing about removing the frames of brood is that you can place those frames in a new hive and start an additional colony of bees.

The new hive is often called a "split".  You have (hopefully) preempted a swarm from occurring and have a new colony of bees that would cost you anything from $75 to $125 to buy.  

Now you may ask "But where do you get a new queen?"  This is the really cool part:  The new colony will "make" one!  The main ingredient to make a new queen from this split hive are frames of "open" brood.  When the bee larvae are developing in their cells, they are tended by the working bees and are eventually sealed in their chambers to pupate and emerge as worker bees.  

When a colony of bees senses that it is queenless, it can take brood that is young enough and transform it to a larva that will develop into a queen instead of worker.  They feed the larva royal jelly to create a queen.  So when picking out frames from the main colony to create the split it's imperative to select frames that contain freshly laid eggs.  
A new queen will be raised and eventually she will leave the hive on her mating flight.  She will return to the split hive she was raised in and start laying eggs which will grow into workers for the hive.  The new split hive that started three days is the striped one on the right.

Another factor that will insure the success of the new hive is plenty of young bees.  Older, foraging bees that know what it's like to be outside of the hive will return to their original hive since they consider it home.  But all the young bees that were moved to the split hive do not know what their hive looks like from the outside yet.  When they become old enough to start foraging in the outside world they will consider this hive their home.
In the next few days, I'm going to make a split off the other over-wintered hive and it's going into this ugly hive.  Each hive in my bee yard has a different paint job to help the bees recognize and imprint on their home.  If I had all plain hives so close together there is a possibility of what's known as "drift" where bees move between hives thinking they are returning to their regular hive.  This can result in hives that are stronger than others for no other reason than bees are going to the wrong hive.

I'm hoping my next split goes well.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another Walk in the Woods

Went for another walk in the woods yesterday.  We saw one turkey that was running away but I did get some pictures of things more willing to sit still for their picture.
 There's water everywhere and frogs in every puddle.
This beautiful teal was patient enough for me to get his close up.
In this muddy spot there was a multitude of tracks from deer, elk and moose.
Here's my big size 10 boot next to one of the moose tracks.
This little green fellow was sitting on top of the lay of much, too light to make an impression upon it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Favorite Split Pea Soup

Remember my Easter Ham?  I held on to the bone that remained from that home and decided to make some Split Pea Soup with it.  It might be warm in other parts of the country but it has remained cool enough here for a bowl of soup to be a treat.  Here is what you will need to make some, too:

  • a ham bone or ham hock
  • 1 pound bag of split peas
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large celery stalked, diced
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 pepper
Place all the ingredients in a large pot or dutch oven with the exception of the ham bone.  
Add the 2 quarts of water and start to heat over medium, high heat.
When it starts to boil, add the ham bone and back off the heat to low and cover.

You want the soup to simmer on low until the peas completely dissolve and soup is thick and creamy.  On my cooktop, this took about 3 hours.  Just check your soup every half hour or so to see when it's reached that point.
When the soup has reached its desired consistancy, remover the ham bone from the soup.
Once the ham bone is cool enough to handle, strip off the meat into little chunks and return it too the soup.
Now it ready to enjoy.  I served my soup wtih these rolls using a recipe from the Pioneer Woman show on the Food Network.  Definitely a keeper and super easy, too.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Everything But the Turkeys

My dad and I went turkey hunting in the woods surrounding our home yesterday.  We didn't see any turkeys only turkey poop.  Fortunately I did bring my camera and take some nice pictures.  I think these flowers are some kind of wild clematis but I am not certain.
I do know this is shooting star.
We spied a bald eagle's nest which was really exciting for me since I had never seen one before.
I panned out on this shot and marked the nest with a circle.  You can see one of the eagles, too.
 Also, we saw 6 elk but they wouldn't stop to get their picture taken.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Creamy Morel Mushroom Soup

Spring time is morel mushroom hunting time, more specifically the month of May in North Idaho.  But when we are having a cool Spring and the wily morel is taking its own sweet time to come out in droves, I get out some of my dried morels from last season and make this soup.  I LOVE this soup and I think you will, too.  And dried morel mushrooms are available at many grocery stores so even if you aren't an avid mushroom hunter you can make it, too.

Here is what you will need:
Oops, I forgot to get the cream and flour in the picture!
  • 1/2 oz of dried morel mushrooms
  • 3 1/2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup minced onion (I used a sweet onion)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp of white flour mixed with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 4 Tbsp white wine
  • 1/4 cup cream 
  • parsley or chives for garnish
Soak the dried morel mushrooms in / cup of the chicken broth for 20 minutes.
Remove the morels from the chicken broth and squeeze the excess moisture back into the remaining stock.
Run the morel-infused chicken broth through a coffee filter to remove any dirt or insects that may have been in the dried morels.  I know it may sound gross but sometimes tiny little gnat-like insects remain inside of the morels as they dry and you do not want them floating in your soup.
Chop up your rehydrated morel mushrooms.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
Add the dried thyme, diced celery and the minced onions to the heated butter and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the morel mushrooms and saute for 5 more minutes.
Now sprinkle the flour, salt and pepper mixture over the sauted vegetables.  Continue to cook over medium heat for 5 more minutes but do not brown.
Add the remaining the 4 tablespoons of white wine, 3 cups of chicken broth and the morel infused broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer this for 10 minutes, uncovered.
After simmering, stir in the 1/4 cup of cream to the soup. 
Remove from heat and serve.  Garnish with parsley or chives and enjoy.