Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ruminations on a Fall Day

I took advantage of a beautiful break in the weather to put the bees to bed. As it was such a long dry fall with little nectar available, we decided in September to give them some feed so they had enough stores to last through winter.

Our feed consists of 2:1 sugar water that is poured into top feeders where the bees can access it as they desire.Three hives took everything we gave them and two left quite a bit.

Today putting them to bed meant I removed the last of the top feeders and took a quick look at the girls. I didn't open the hive as it was a cool day and I didn't want to let too much heat out.We shall see in the spring if they all had enough to survive the cold.

Neat Fact: Bees will maintain an internal hive temperature of 34 degrees Celsius (that's 94 degrees Farenheit!) no matter if it is 40 above or 40 below). Needless to say, keeping the hive that warm in winter requires a lot of caloric burn.

It was a truly glorious fall day and while I was removing the feeders a few bees flew around me checking me out. They quickly circled my head then went back inside. Too cold out to stay long. Bees really only like coming out of the hive if it is above about 12-15 degrees Celsius so at 11 degrees they were pushing it. The picture above is from earlier in the year and the dark orange "leg warmers" the bees seem to be wearing is plant pollen that has stuck to the bees while they were gorging on nectar.

Getting back home, I was also cooled by the northern push of the air. Perfect kind of day for a long slow roasting meal so I decided on braised lamb shanks

Improvising with what I had, here is the recipe I used (the amounts are guesstimates so use your good judgement):

2 Lamb shanks
1/4c flour
2 tsp paprika powder (grown and dried by my good friend Marilyn -- from whom I also got the lamb!!)
freshly ground pepper
1 onion sliced
2tbsp minced garlic (about 2-3 toes -- I like garlic!)
1tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
tbsp italian seasoning
splash or two of Maggi
1/2c good red wine (I used a 2006 Manoustakis Nostos from Greece that my son, who works for a wine merchant, gave us-- I figured the Greeks have masterful lamb cuisine so greek wine should help me )
1c dried mushrooms (mine were a combination of white button and chanterelle that I had previously dried -- but you can also use fresh)
1c boiling water (poured over the mushrooms and saved)

Mix the flour, pepper, paprika in a dish. Coat the lamb shank with the flour mix. Using a heavy enamel-coated dutch oven, heat the olive oil and then brown the shanks in it. I did mine one at a time to make sure I got them each nice and brown. Remove the shanks and add the butter to the dutch oven. Add onions and stir til translucent then add garlic. This mixture should pick up all the brown bits created by lamb shanks.

Put lamb shanks back into pot. Pour in red wine, mushrooms and the water used to soak them, spice, Maggi and the salt. Another nice addition to this dish would have been tomato sauce -- which I had fully intended on putting in but forgot.

With the heavy lid on, put the dutch oven into a 300degree oven and leave for 2.5-3 hours. Serve with barley risotto, or rice, or boiled potatoes -- whatever strikes your fancy and some roasted root vegetables.  Will warm you up on any Fall day.