Tuesday, December 16, 2014

KBB Post: DIY Dipped Beeswax Candles

Learn how to make beautiful beeswax candles in my latest Keeping Backyard Bees post DIY Dipped Beeswax Candles

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

KBB Post: How Build a Swarm Box

Check out my latest Keeping Backyard Bees post to learn step by step instructions on How to Build a Swarm Box to catch wild bees!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Oliver Training Update

We've been working with Oliver every night that the weather permits in his duck retrieving training. Lately, it's been cold, but a warm spell last week melted all our snow so the field is pretty easy to walk.

We gave him an early Christmas present to aid with his training. It's a very lifelike duck decoy meant for training retrievers. We found it at Cabella's along with a whole array of dog training items, how-to videos and scent aids.

There are many different species of waterfowl dummies available including a true-to-weight Canada Goose. I would be very interested to see how any dog would handle a bird that large. Which reiterates what I already know...dogs are amazing!

We chose the Mallard variety which was quite a bit heavier and larger in circumference than the denim dummy we've been using with his training.

We also purchased a waterfowl scent stick which looks like a stick of deodorant and smells like...like...I don't even know what! Let's just say...it's strong and sort of animal like. As the directions say you are supposed to rub it on the training dummy and it's supposed to be saliva and water resistant.

Oliver was thoroughly curious about this new smell, and buried his nose in the dummy for about 10 minutes.

He took to the new decoy very well, though the added weight took a little adjustment to carry it just right in his mouth. I love watching him problem solve, and he has such a gentle way about him.

I think the scent stick is really helping him locate the dummy on the field. Sometimes he falls about 5 feet short of where the duck landed. I noticed this time he would slow at that 5 foot mark, then put is nose to the ground and finish locating it that way.

According to the training manuals, the next step is for him to get used to the sensation of feathers being in his mouth, while suppressing the urge to chew and tear them off.

I honestly don't see this as a problem for Oliver. When he gets on the field, he's so focused on the retrieval that he doesn't really take the time to analyze the dummy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Antiques

As you all know, Zach and I love antiques. This past weekend, we went to Holly, Michigan which is a lovely, quaint little town filled with antique stores. One of our favorite shops, Battle Alley Arcade Antiques resides next to the famous Holly Hotel, which serves delicious one-of-a-kind food and is said to be haunted.

When you enter the antique shop, you feel as though you've stepped into something out of a Sherlock Holmes novel. The walkways are paved in crooked cobblestone and meander this way and that through the old 1890's building.

We can never seem to leave this shop without taking something home with us. Zach, more often than I, finds an old tool that he can't live without, but this time it was my turn.

I fell in love with one vendor's collection of antique Thanksgiving items.

The first is this beautiful cotton feed sack, doting a lovely blue and red turkey. The sack is in incredible condition, no stains and only a tiny tear on the back. I love the way it looks hanging on the wall.

My second find is this collection of Pilgrim and Turkey candles.

Most likely make by the company Gurley.

My Grandmother had a collection of chorus angels that she would put out at Christmas that remind me of these. I loved those candles and was thrilled to see that there was a Thanksgiving version.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maple Sugar Candies

Even though maple syrup is made in the spring, for some reason, the flavor and essence of MAPLE reminds me of the fall. Maybe it's the golden caramel hue, or the deep rich flavor? I picture a steaming pile of pancakes on a cold winter morning drizzled with the earthy syrup.

We had a generous maple harvest season-before-last and I still have jars of syrup from 2013. They've deepened in color and flavor, and I prefer them to this year's harvest.

I decided to make these maple syrup candies for the Thanksgiving table this year. I thought they would look adorable as a sweet decoration on top of slices of pumpkin or pecan pie. They would also be beautiful nestled in a dollop of whip cream on top of a warm fall drink. Spiced Apple Cider, Hazelnut Latte, or a Hot Buttered Rum to name a few. They work well as a natural sweetener dropped into a cup of herbal tea.

To make these candies you need 1 ingredient.

Real Maple Syrup

You don't really even need candy molds, you can pour the candy into a 9x9 baking dish and cut into rustic cubes. 

I found the instructions and temperatures for this project at Allrecipes.com 

And the process couldn't be easier.

Add two cups of real maple syrup to a small sauce pan.

Using a candy thermometer, heat the syrup to 235 degrees.

It will bubble and froth, stir this down and remove from heat from time to time to control the boil.

Once it reaches temperature, remove from heat and let the temperature drop to 175 degrees.

Once cooled, stir until it becomes lighter in color and moving quickly,

pour into molds.

Before the candy cools too much, I sliced the backs even with a knife. Let cool and pop out of the mold gently. If you've never had maple syrup candies, they are intensely sweet and maple flavored. They are an interesting texture of firm candy that melts instantly into a creamy treat. Give them a try!