Today, after our dinner of Sag Aloo and chapatis, we've had a fascinating time looking at the beehives with our resident bee-expert Peter Dykes.
We looked at how the workers have 'drawn-out' the foundation in both the supers and the brood sections of the hive. The brood is where the queen lay the eggs and the new workers and drones develop. It only takes 10 days for the eggs to hatch out into adult workers. In the supers section, the queen is excluded by a 'queen-excluder' mesh. This means that any honey in this section is free of eggs and available for us to eat.
We learned how the hive consists of worker bees, drones (males) and just one queen. If there happens to be more than one then it's likely that one of the queens will lead a swarm away from the hive to set up a new one.
We used a smoker device to help subdue the bees; this tricks the bees into behaving as if the hive is on fire. Their natural reaction is to gorge themselves on honey in order to remove this from the hive to safety. This means they become docile and much less inclined to sting. But we still wear the traditional protective suits and gloves just in case!
Here's what we'll be serving-up tomorrow for our regular fortnightly outdoor cooking event. Come and help us prepare this popular and tasty Indian dish using our very own spinach and potatoes!
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp chopped ginger
500g potatoes, cut
into 2cm, ¾in chunks
1 large red chilli,
halved, deseeded and
½ tsp each black
mustard seeds, cumin
250g spinach leaves
1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic and ginger, and fry for about 3 mins. Stir in the potatoes, chilli, spices and half a tsp salt and continue cooking and stirring for 5 mins more. Add a splash of water, cover, and cook for 8-10 mins.
2. Check the potatoes are ready by spearing with the point of a knife, and if they are, add the spinach and let it wilt into the pan. Take off the heat and serve.
We've had another great day at Grozone today with over 40 volunteers and visitors in total. We had a challenging list of jobs at the start of the day but everyone has pulled together and made some brilliant progress... Here's the list we started with and some pics of what we've done:
Ground preparation and building the bean support structure
Controlling thistles, docks and brambles
Sorting out the accessible raised beds...weeding and re-planting
Lunch in our wildflower meadow picnic area
Nice work everyone!
This Tuesday we made a traditional Nepalese soup called Thenthuk with handmade noodles over the open fire
We made a good team peeling and chopping the veg and mixing the dough for the noodles. We decided to make the noodles using a gluten free plain flour mix so that Fiona could join in with the tasting however the flour was a lot more crumbly than standard flour so rather than hand pulling the dough as the recipe suggests we rolled the dough into a large sausage shape and then thinly sliced individual rounds, placing them into the soup one at a time to prevent them sticking together!
We used our very own Grozone spinach fresh from the raised bed, next time we can use more of our crops including carrots, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes all of which we're growing.
Here's the finished result, we topped the soup with fresh coriander and chopped red chilli for those brave enough!
We got the recipe from a cookery course from Momo Cooking based at Claremont Farm on the Wirral.
In the last month we've had lots of new volunteers along to Grozone and had fun trying out all our new themed activities. We've also been working hard at making the site look the best we can. There's always plenty to do, so come and help out if you have an hour or two to spare... The events section of our website now features the programme for June 2014 and we will be posting up lots of photos on our facebook page.
The most regular theme for our volunteering sessions is Food growing and composing with usually two or more sessions each week. Highlights of the veg growing are runner beans and potatoes. We’ve sown peas, broad beans, carrots, parsnips, leeks, cabbage (much to the delight of our local slugs!) and planted out a number of tomato plants in the greenhouse and in the pizza bed. The accessible raised beds have been really productive with potatoes, lettuce, onions, spring onions and garlic.
The next most regular theme has been Conservation and Construction, with lots of work being carried out by conservation volunteers from Vale Royal and Crewe to re-construct our compost bins and fruit cage. We are also grateful to the group of apprentices from Cheshire West and Chester Council who not only completed a new accessible raised bed, but also raised over £150 to donate to Grozone through a sale of cakes they had made! Conservation work has included a some tree pruning and hedge trimming as well as maintenance of the picnic area wildflower meadow. We've also built a new kindling storage shelter using pallets donated by Duerrs Jam.
We’ve done a number of Wildlife gardening themed sessions including planting of wildflower seeds into what has started to become known as the ‘zone of tranquility’ planting foxgloves and forget-me-nots transferred from other parts of the site. Our beehives have seen a lot of exciting activity with at least three swarms, showing just how busy our bees are...very soon we’ll have some honey to show for their efforts! In the meantime we have been sowing bee-friendly flowers in the greenhouse ready to plant out into our nectar garden, including wild poppies and blue cornflowers.
Our Outdoor cooking with fresh seasonal produce events have been going down exceedingly well...we are just keen to make sure everyone involved arrives in time to help prepare the food, not just in time to help eat it!! At our most recent fortnightly sessions we have made a fresh vegetable soup using leek and garlic from the garden, a thai bean stir-fry wrapped in lettuce from our garden, served with yoghurt and freshly picked mint. Also on the menu has been lettuce, pea and mint soup and a leek and potato soup - all of these were cooked over our fire pit in dutch ovens.
Art and traditional craft workshops have revealed artistic flair amongst our volunteers we could never have previously imagined! Willow weaving and sculptures have included a stripy willow hurdle in the zone of tranquility, a woven willow bird feeding station, and some inventive living willow structures in pots. And you really should come and see the recent artwork on the wall of our ‘office’ shed which was printed using carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes, garlic, and a variety of leaves. We even used a paintbrush...once at least!
We have had a lot of fun with our first couple of Music workshops! The first session started off finding things around the garden that just made an interesting noise...including a very loud watering can trumpet! We then moved on to playing some drums that other people had made! We inspired some of the volunteers who were digging nearby to start dancing and performing air guitar with spades! The next session involved some guitars and we were very impressed with Dan Walker’s ability to play two guitars at the same time! He was kind to his fans and obliged us with several encores - seems he had quite a blister on his finger afterwards!
The remaining two regular themes are Tools and site maintenance and Woodfuel processing and recycling both of which are really all about looking after the place, making sure we have what we need when we need it and maybe learning a few new skills in the process.
We have worked hard to transform how we store materials and deal with waste at Grozone and made a huge impression on the area next to our brew shelter. Having once been where everything we weren’t sure what to do with got dumped, this area is now the site of our new fire pit and picnic bench which we are using for cooking and music workshops as well as everyday lunch breaks!
The other area which has been transformed is the ‘Zone of Tranquility’: BJ, Mike, Gary, Morgan, Tom, Amy, Robert and many more have worked really hard to improve this important area of the garden between the Bog Garden and Mt. Fuji beyond all expectations. We now have a new pathway, willow arch, picnic bench and lots of planting and wildflower seeding in an area which was previously a little neglected and inaccessible. Massive thanks to all.