from the window. A May Sky.

Not a breath of air stirred over the free and open prairie;
the clouds were like light piles of cotton; and where the blue sky was visible,
it wore a hazy and languid aspect.

Francis Parkman
. . .

It is just another one of those stories that unfolds on our farm. We love getting to discover each of these along the way. And so thankful that we have remembered to look out and look up.

(Enjoy your weekend.)

how to grow. Lush.

Even in the middle of all the rains hitting Indiana, our farm soaks it all up and throws down amazing greens. The ferns around the house create a lush barrier, geraniums make friends with an old stump, little visitors slither and our village continues to work the ground, prepping for the goodness to come.  Maybe we find ourselves tiring of the chill and dampness, but we can still stop and recognize that it is all part of mama nature's little plan. 

Early Spring Beekeeping

With longer days, warming temperatures and thawing grounds, spring has most definitely sprung. And for beekeepers all over the Midwest, where winters have been long and cold, this is one of the most exciting times of year. A few days ago, a 70 degree day allowed us to venture out to the apiary, open up our beehives and see what winter had left us. 

This year was the first year The Juniper Spoon kept honeybees, and it has been an adventure and learning experience. In early Spring of last year, we had two beehives made by Amish beekeepers in Greencastle, and purchased two colonies from Hunter's Honey Farm in Martinsville. All summer we watched our bee populations grow, making sure to monitor queen activity, honey supply and pest presence. What a fascinating project it has been! We loved working alongside the bees in the garden. Them buzzing from blossom to blossom, rolling around in the dusty pollen which they dutifully transported to the next flower. Us managing weeds, planting seeds and reaping the fruits from trees and vines that would be bare without the work of pollinators like honeybees. 

We were happy to discover that one of our hives was roaringly active! A throng of bees covered the front of the hive, displaying hive orientation behavior as foraging workers came and went. Sitting right beside that vivacious, buzzing box was our other hive, quiet and grimly still save for the foreign foragers intent on securing what was left of the hive's winter stores. We were lucky that one of our hives made it through the frigid months, but to see the pile of dead bees at the bottom of the other was downright heartbreaking. It did, however, allow us a peek into a portion of the life of the northern honey bee not normally visible to the beekeeper. During the coldest months of the year, bees huddle in a cluster at the center of the hive, vibrating their wing muscles to keep warm.  They move throughout the hive in this cluster, eating down their honey stores. Since we can't open the hive in the winter, we rarely get to observe this activity, so as we took out the frames one by one, it was fascinating to see the bees huddled together in their circular pattern. 

 
 

After performing a hive autopsy (yes,  that's right... a hive autopsy), the cause of death is believed to be death of the queen and subsequent dwindling of the colony population. It is also possible that the bees simply starved, unable to move quickly enough to the one remaining frame of honey. Regardless, we're sad to see one hive go, but are looking forward to another year with the other. In fact, we are planning to potentially split our hive, moving half to the now empty box. More on that later in the season.

As the deceased hive left one frame of capped honey untouched, we were able to put off feeding our other hive sugar syrup by inserting the comb right into the live hive box. But not before taking just a little cut for ourselves! 

 
 

Since we use foundationless frames, that is, frames of wax that are constructed 100% by the bees themselves, without inserting a prefabricated wax foundation, our wax is quite fragile. As you can see in the picture, the wax broke after just enough pushing and pulling as a square of comb was cut from the frame. For  that reason, we use a crush and strain method of honey extraction rather than placing frames in a centrifugal honey extractor. It's a cheap and easy method requiring no heavy equipment; only a strainer, cheesecloth and container to catch the honey.

 
 

One thing is for sure, honey straight from your own hive tastes better than any you have ever tasted before! Honey is a complex sweetener, with flavor that varies as different trees and plants bloom throughout the season. This batch tastes malty and bright when compared with another local honey we have in stock in The Juniper Spoon kitchen right now. 

Have you ever considered keeping bees? What has kept you from making the move? Post your comments and thoughts, we would love to start a conversation with you! If you're already keeping bees, how have your bees fared this season?

A New Blog and The Indiana Small Farms Conference

Welcome to our brand new blog! Not only have we recently amped up our website to reflect what we're all about (namely local food catering, sustainable farming practices, delicious culinary delights, and everything Montgomery County and Central Indiana) but we've added a blog so that our friends and followers can keep track of what's going on and where we're headed next! We'll keep you updated on noteworthy catering events, exciting local things to do, cooking advice and what's going on at our farm. We'll jump right in and fill you in on how our winter is going.

While the winter has been long and cold, the kitchen was abuzz last week with preparation for one of the most exciting events of the year. The Indiana Small Farms Conference takes place annually at the Hendricks County fairgrounds in Danville.  At the event attendees enjoy interactive talks held by specialists on topics that range from livestock management to small farm solar energy, and beekeeping and so many more interesting subjects.

For the 3rd year in a row, The Juniper Spoon catered the event, representing our local farmers by using their produce and products in our cooking. This event embodies so much that we love about where we live and what we do: sustainable agriculture, local community, enthusiasm for locally grown food, and plain old down to earth people doing what they love and believe in. 

A few highlights from the weekend menus were the flatbread pizzas made with locally grown and milled wheat flour, and a make-your-own taco bar with a colorful spread of ingredients. We believe with all our hearts that farmers who grow good food should eat good food too! 

A big thank you to all of our Indiana farmers for growing and producing beautiful food for us to eat all year round. We enjoyed cooking with your products and interacting with you last weekend! Keep an eye open for next year's Small Farm's Conference! Follow @SmallFarmPurdue on twitter, and sign up for the conference at: https://ag.purdue.edu/extension/smallfarms/Pages/default.aspx

Here is a list of the farms that provided us with produce this year:

Farming Engineers: eggs  for cakes and cookies

Fields of Agape, PS Produce, Langeland Farms and Carsage Mill LLC: flour and cornmeal for cakes, cookies and pizza

Silverthorn Farm: Carrots, spinach, potatoes, microgreens

Moody Meats: Chicken, beef

Becker Farms: Pork, bacon, ham 

RJ Honey: local honey

Tuttle Orchards: Apples

Howard Orchard: Apples

Harvestland Farm:  herbs, root vegetables

Amelia's bakery: Bread

Husk: Green beans

Trader's Point Creamery: Yogurt

Fair Oaks Farm Dairy: Cheese

Perkin's Good Earth Farm: Spinach

Christopher Farm: Garlic

Hole Family Farm: Corn, butternut squash

And, of course, plenty from our own garden that we froze at peak ripeness: grilled eggplant, grilled poblano peppers, tomatillos, zucchini, basil pesto and tons of salsa!

Now that winter is coming to a close and temperatures are rising, the growing season has already begun! Here at The Juniper Spoon, the alliums are seeded and sprouting in the greenhouse, and our overwintered garlic is poking through the heavy layer of mulch we applied last season. Check back regularly to see what we're growing, cooking and planning. Leave your comments and questions as we love to interact with our friends and guests!