A good season

spring honey 2017

It’s been a good season for Runamuk, all things considered. The weather has been good this year, with a good amount of rain and an equally good amount of sun. There have been a few scorchers and a few chilly nights, but all around it’s just been a decent season and farmers all over Maine have reveled in a year where they can simply farm and grow. A welcome change after last year’s drought.

In the Apiary

Beehives apiary august 2017
The apiary in August!

With adequate rain, the flowers have offered up plenty of nectar this season, and the bees at the apiary in the Hyl-Tun pastures have produced a crop of spring honey. After 2 years without honey to sell I now have available both a fall honey (from the 2016 season) and this new spring honey.  Yaaaaaaay!

spring honey 2017
If you haven’t tried honey on your Saturday morning pancakes, you don’t know what you’re missing!!!

I’ve put out both varieties in sampling at market and at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, so that folks can taste and learn about the different types of honey. Most people have no idea that there’s more than one type of honey, so accustomed to the standard “Clover Honey” found in the mainstream grocery store is the general population.

It all comes down to the flowers the bees are foraging on. Different types of flowers will produce varying flavors─even varying consistencies of honey. Honey will differ from one region to the next, as the floral sources are a little different from landscape to landscape. Here in Maine the spring honey is typically lighter in color, sweeter and thinner; whereas the fall crop will be darker and has a more robust flavor, and tends to crystallize quite a lot fast because it has a lower moisture content.

Having honey has meant a huge boost to Runamuk’s income, and after having none these last couple years due to harsh weather and the fall-out from my divorce in 2015─it feels really good to have been able to make a come back.

In the Garden

squash neighborhood and sunflowers
The squash neighborhood has turned out to be very productive this year!

The sandy patch of soil at 26 Goodine’s Way where Runamuk has parked itself during the interim has produced a respectable amount of food to feed this farmer. It’s a small garden, so I’m not taking many vegetables to the farmers’ market, but I am able to feed my family with it.

Our strategy to house the chickens for the winter on the garden site has paid off. Through the winter and early this spring the chickens worked the soil for us, cleaning up weeds and adding manure. In early May we moved them out of the garden into a movable hoop-coop and have allowed them to free range all summer. The fence that had protected the birds throughout the winter, now kept them out of the garden so we could grow our crops.

Read about the “Hoop-Coop” I built in the face of our impending farm-move to house the Runamuk laying flock!

amaranth 2017
Paul grew a hedgerow of Amaranth, which I had never tried before. Now I am smitten with it!

We’ve had lots of greens, radishes and turnips, beets, fresh onions and potatoes, zucchini and summer squash galore, and I’m just beginning to get cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. My winter squashes have done fabulous, and I even did a crop of dry beans for winter soups and stews. When a couple of wayward pumpkin seeds sprouted in the manure pile left after cleaning out the former hoop-coop, I poked a few more pumpkin seeds into the pile for my Thanksgiving pies and those have grown to sprawl all over too, with several pumpkins getting big and fat under the broad-leafed foliage.

It’s been a new experience for me, dealing with such sandy soil. The stuff is literally classified as “Dune sand”. The kind you want at the beach or in your toddler’s sandbox─NOT in your garden. At the start of the season as I planted my seedlings into the sand I felt despair, feeling it was surely an act of futility to ask anything the grow in that “soil”. This garden has enforced for me the idea that you can absolutely grow your own food just about anywhere with dedication and a lot of hard work.

Check out this post to learn more about my real food challenge!

The key to growing in sand, we’ve found, has been the addition of well-composted manure to the beds─lots and lots of it─and we mulched everything to help retain moisture. Paul set up an irrigation system  for the garden that drew from an unused well here; he’s watered the garden religiously every morning and evening, and then even 2 or 3 or 4 times during the day when the sun burns hot. With a passion for soil-building and growing food, Paul has more or less taken over the garden aspect of the Runamuk venture, freeing me up to focus on the bees, while still allowing me to keep my hands in the dirt.

The Runamuk FarmRaiser

farmraiser launch countdown
The Runamuk FarmRaiser launch countdown on my phone! Gasp!

There are just 11 days left before the Runamuk FarmRaiser campaign launches on September 1st. Preparations for the campaign have consumed my spare time─as if I had any to begin with lol! The whole thing is pretty scary and there have been several mornings I’ve woken up at 3am with my heart pounding and anxiety coursing hotly through my veins.

I remind myself during these moments of panic that it really doesn’t matter how much or how little the gofundme campaign raises, the FSA offers financing on the down-payment as well, but I can’t help feeling that the more I am able to raise the better it’s going to look to the land-owner, or the more doors the down-payment fund might open for Runamuk. It’s a huge deal and I feel as though much of what Runamuk is─or can be─hinges upon the success of this crowdfunding campaign.

balfour farm with maine farmland trust
I attended a dinner at Balfour Farm recently, that was sponsored by the Maine Farmland Trust! Connected with some kindred spirits and made some new connections; what a great group of people!

So what do I do at 3 in the morning when fear prevents me from sleeping? I work! I’ve put together an entire Media Kit containing flyers, press release, full-length article, HD pictures, social media graphics and more. Friends have volunteered to post flyers and help spread the word too, so feel free to check out the resources in this file on my Google Drive. If you’re inspired, go ahead and share my story with your friends, print out some fliers and paper the town!

billys belly bluegrass festival
My friend Sonia Acevedo with her offspring Eden, on stage at Billy’s Belly Bluegrass Festival in Anson.

I’ll be visiting local events over the next few weeks to tell the community about the Runamuk FarmRraiser and to invite folks to the upcoming party on October 1st. It’s been fun getting out there in the broader community to connect with people; I’ve run into old friends, finally met friends whom I’d only ever known online, and made a lot of new friends too. I’ve invited every one of them to my party lol.

The press release went out to local papers last week, and I contacted a few journalists that I have connections with─hoping to increase exposure of the Runamuk FarmRaiser. I also have a long list of organizations I want to reach out to to share my mission for a pollinator conservation farm. Now I just need to make a few videos: an explainer video to go along with my campaign, a teaser video, and a couple of “behind-the-scenes” videos. Stay tuned to see my attempt at video-making coming soon!

As anxious as I am about the gofundme campaign, I’m equally as excited to share the upcoming FarmRaiser party with friends, not just as a fundraiser, but as a celebration of farming and friendship─and bees! My talented and beautiful friend Sonia Acevedo from Hide & Go Peep Farm is going to play for us, and I’m working on recruiting some other musicians but I can’t give out the details on that til it’s nailed down, so check in with me later! Otherwise there will be lots of great food to share (it’s pot-luck!), local brew to imbibe, hay bales to sit upon under barn rafters lit with twinkling white holiday lights, and many many good friends to catch up with. It’s going to be a really fun time and I hope you’ll come spend the evening with us on Sunday October 1st!

Shifting focus

kale beet seedlings
Kale and beet seedlings we sowed for harvesting later this fall and winter.

Summer seems to have passed in the blink of an eye and now back-to-school season and the impending cooler weather of fall are approaching at break-neck speed. Our focus is shifting from growing and producing, to self-preservation for the coming winter: Paul has begun cutting up logs that will become our winter heating, we’re talking about how to protect the laying hens from the minks this winter, and about how we will store the potatoes. Even now that it’s almost late-August we’re still poking seeds in the ground to grow crops that we will harvest later in December and January when there is snow on the ground. I love the seasonality of this farming life of mine; each season brings it’s own ups and downs but it’s always part of the turning wheel of the year.

Thanks so much for following along and stay tuned for more updates coming soon from Runamuk!

January

january-farm-planning

I got up this morning to 45 degrees. Several times when I’ve gotten home from Johnny’s the thermometer we have tacked to a 2×4 in the kitchen has read 42-degrees. When you’re heating exclusively with wood, if you’re away for 12 hours or you make the choice to get a good night’s sleep rather than get up and down all night to tend the fire, sometimes it gets cold. It’s January in Maine, we have 2 feet of snow on the ground, a coat of ice on every walkway, and it’s cold. That’s just the way it is, and that’s no “alternative fact”.

Don’t feel bad for me though. Paul asked me if I wanted him to install the forced hot-air heater that had once been in this old trailer, but I wanted to be able to cut oil out of my life. It feels good to be able to reduce my dependence on the finite resources of oil. To be able to snub the oil industry even the slightest gives me a sense of satisfaction, familiar as I am with that industry’s indifference for the Earth.

This winter Runamuk is heating itself with wood, a renewable resource. Yay!

january-farm-planning
With the help of my 2 boys we cut and moved a cord of wood through the snow during Christmas-vacation.

The only problem with that plan is that with all the chaos of last summer and fall with the #greatfarmmove, we failed to stockpile enough firewood to heat ourselves. In addition, we’re living in an unfinished trailer with 70’s era windows, so the heat is hard to keep.

We’ve got a small stack of firewood that Paul had on hand, and we’ve made several forays into the woods for more, but we’re using it sparingly. Paul monitors the weather reports and some nights, if it’s not going to be super cold, and if my kids are at their fathers’, we may let the fire die and just accept the fact that we’ll have to start a fire when we get up. In the morning you get up and get dressed as quickly as you can, start the coffee brewing and put on a coat til the place warms up. It’s January in Maine. That’s the way it is.

I believe it’s ok to suffer a little. It makes you stronger, and yet humble at the same time; a little suffering in life makes you appreciate the easier times and engenders respect and gratitude. This summer we’ll make sure to get our firewood in line for next winter; right now I’m grateful just to have a roof and a place to keep my critters.

January may be cold, snowy, icy, brutal at times, but January is planning season on farms across the country, and that brings fresh hope. I love the start of the new year, when the months ahead are ripe with possibilities. Sitting at the kitchen table pouring over seed catalogs with a fire crackling in the woodstove while snow cascades from the sky outside is a special sort of magic.

Currently Paul and I are both working to pay down our debts and squirrel some money away so that we might farm full-time this summer. We’ve hashed out a plan that allows us to have 10 hives in honey production this year, brings us up to 30 production hives by the end of next year and 50 in 2019. To meet this goal I’ll raise my own Queens and overwinter them as nucleus colonies. This is the last year I will buy nucs from another beekeeper. I might buy Queens at some point to increase genetic diversity, but I will no longer buy nucs.

I’m really excited about that.

For customers what that means is─so long as the weather cooperates this summer─we will have honey available come August! For beekeepers who follow our story to learn, that means there are bound to be some new articles about raising your own Queens to look forward to.

I’m no stranger to living in a trailer, this is not my first rodeo. If you’ve never had the privilege, imagine long rectangular box set up off the ground, poorly constructed and ill-equipped for Maine living. Even though Paul has gutted this one, rebuilt the structure with solid lumber and reinforced the floor, the cold still emanates up through the floor and through the windows.

I am making the hard choices to live with less, to live a life in defiance of the system. I choose the Earth over money, over social acceptance, even over myself. I’ll live in this unfinished trailer on a ratty scrap of land if it means I can grow my apiary, be close to nature, and live a life true to my principles.

Farmers are a rugged and determined lot; we persevere and we care. More young people are turning to farming because they are inspired to connect with the land and with their communities. There is a revolution underway; people are waking up to the problems plaguing our societies, to the dilemmas our planet faces. The people want change and it’s getting to the point that they’re willing to take action, to take a stand and BE the change.

My feet are cold and so are my fingers as I type these words. Sleet pelts the window next to me as outside the landscape is coated in ice and snow alternately─another winter storm has descended upon us. I pray you don’t worry for me though; for deep inside me burns a fire that warms my spirit and compels me to keep going.

I am the change I want to see in the world, and you can be too.

A new year awaits us, thanks for following along!

9 health benefits of using honey

9 health benefits of honeyI’ll be the first to admit that I’m a honey convert.

I wasn’t raised on it, and to tell the truth–before I got into beekeeping the last jar of honey I bought came from the grocery store (I shudder to think of it now!) and sat in the cupboard largely untouched for years.

I got bees for the pollination of my garden, which was rapidly expanding (and still is!), the honey was just a perk–but once I extracted and tasted my first crop of honey I was instantly converted.  The sweet taste of that liquid liquid gold treacle is like tasting the warm golden sunshine on a spring wildflower meadow–a little taste of heaven right here on Earth.

The more I learn about the goodness of honey and all of the benefits and uses it has to offer, the more I am convinced it really is a gift from nature.

A little history

Honey has long been recognized as one of the most natural of home remedies.  Since pre-ancient times honey has been used to treat wounds and imbalances within the body.

Prescriptions for treating wounds using honey in remedies have been found on the oldest of human scriptures, which date back to about 2000BC.  And in the first compendium of ancient Chinese Medicine that Shen Nang compiled many years BC, and again mentioned in a written form about 500 years AD, it states that honey can be used against many diseases–for example-the healing and cleaning of wounds, and against many different internal and external infections.

Ancient Greeks considered honey to be good medicine, and believed that if bee honey was taken regularly it could prolong the human life.  While in the old Roman pharmacopoeia, honey was the most useful substance they possessed, and it was used to treat afflictions of the mouth, pneumonia, pleurisy and snake bites.

Even our revered early thinkers–Homer, Pythagoras, Ovid, Democritus, Hippocrates, and Aristotle mentioned that people should eat honey to preserve their health and vigor.

Today knowledge on the healing virtues of bee honey and bee bi-products is known as apitherapy, and modern science is validating these historical claims for the medicinal uses of honey.

Health benefits of honey

So for thousands of years we’ve known that honey is good for you both inside and outside the body, but now we have science to validate it and tell us why honey works so well.  I don’t know about you–but in our house, we abide by concepts grounded in scientific fact, which is yet another reason why I like working with our county’s cooperative extension as a master gardener–but I digress.  😉

 

1. Cholesterol fighter:  Honey is free of cholesterol; what’s more, adding small amounts of honey to your daily diet can help to keep your cholesterol in check.  This is due to the fact that antioxidants in the honey prevent cholesterol from being moved out of the blood and into the lining of the blood vessels.  So daily consumption of honey could raise the levels of protective antioxidant compounds in your body.

honey is good for you
Photo courtesy Flickr.com, Creative Commons License

2. Natural energy booster:  Studies today have shown that honey is far superior at maintaining glycogen levels, and improving recovery time of athletes compared to that of other sweeteners.  Well known for it’s effectiveness in instantly boosting performance, endurance and reducing muscle fatigue, a spoonful of honey can be taken before a workout, or as an alternative to caffeinated energy drinks–even honey spread on toast, or replacing sugar in tea can offer an all natural boost of energy when you are feeling low or lethargic.

3. Immune system builder:  Raw honey contains 5000 live enzymes, along with a full range of vitamins, 22 amino acids and 27 minerals.  Eating honey can stimulate the immune system because it contains powerful antioxidants, antiviral properties, abd contains natural antibiotics.  When combined with apple cider vinegar, honey can help fight respiratory conditions.

4. Anti-cancer:  Scientists have found floral flavinoids in honey–generally known as antioxidants–immediately increase the antioxidant levels within the body’s cells when ingested.  These flavinoids decrease capillary permeability and fragility, scavenging oxidants and inhibiting the destruction of collagen in the body.  Honey is not a cure–but definitely a great preventative not to be overlooked.

5. Humectant:  As a natural humectant, honey pulls moisture from the air and binds it, which makes it a good addition to hand and face creams.

6. Antibacterial and anti-fungal:  All honey is antibacterial because the bees add an enzyme that makes hydrogen peroxide, according to Peter Molan, director of the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.  It is that enzyme that gives honey the antiseptic properties that inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and help to keep external wounds clean and free from infection.  Honey’s antibacterial properties not only prevent infection, but function as an anti-inflammatory agent–reducing swelling and pain, even scarring.

7. Reduces ulcer and gastrointestinal disorders:  Modern science is proving that the antibacterial properties of honey make it incredibly effective against bacteria.  Studies have shown that honey can be used for prevention and treatment of numerous gastrointestinal disorders, including peptic ulcers, gastritis, and gastroenteritis.  Even disorders resulting from more resistant strains of bacteria–such as the bacteria Heliobacter pylori–or H. pylori.  Prescription antibiotics typically prescribed for H. pylori are expensive and have harmful side effects, while the use of honey also inhibits the bacteria while posing no side effects.

8. Reduces coughs and throat irritation:  Research published in the British Medical Journal determined honey to be highly effective in preventing acid reflux.  Because honey is 125.9 time more viscous than distilled water, it forms a better coating on the esophagus and can reduce heart burn.  What’s more, honey has been proven to be just as effective as dextromethorphan (key ingredient in commercial cough syrup) in relieving coughs and allowing children to sleep through the night.

9. Blood sugar regulation:  Though honey contains simple sugars, they are not the same as white sugar or artificial sweeteners.  It’s exact combination of fructose and glucose actually help the body regular blood sugar levels.  Some honeys even have a low hypoglycemic index so they don’t jolt your blood sugar.

For best results

To achieve the full effects of the benefits of honey, be sure to use pure, raw honey.  More than three-quarters of the honey found in our US grocery stores is not actually honey.  The Food and Drug Administration states that any product that no longer contains pollen is not honey; what’s more–the food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and dozens or other organizations around the world have all ruled that without pollen, there is no way to determine whether the honey came from a legitimate and safe source.

Yet the FDA does not check the honey being sold in America to see if it contains pollen.

The process of ultra-filtering is a technique refined by the Chinese (who have been illegally dumping tons of their honey on the US market for years–some of which contain illegal antibiotics).  It is a high-tech process which heats the honey, sometimes watering it down and then forcing it at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove the pollen.

Once honey has been heated and filtered in this manner it has lost most of it’s healthful benefits, which is why it is so important to buy raw honey from a local source you can trust.  Traditional filtering still catches the bee parts, wax, and debris from the hives that might be in the honey, but leaves the pollen–along with all of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes in place.

A note of caution:  Please do not feed honey to infants less than 1 year, as spored of Clostridium botulinum have been found in a small percentage of the honeys in North America.  While these spores are not dangerous to adults and older children, they can pose a serious threat to infants.

Also–keep in mind that darker honeys have stronger concentrations of antioxidants and so is much more powerful medicine–as I pointed out in this previous article about the Power of Dark Honey.

I am converted

benefits of honeyNow that I have had the privilege of tasting and using my own all-natural, raw honey, there’s no going back.  I cook with it, I use it in my soaps, I make herbal salves with my honey, drink it in my tea, eat it on pancakes and drizzle it on vanilla ice cream.  Occasionally I’ll even take a spoonful and eat it straight from the jar, marveling in the taste and wonder of this sticky sweet nectar that my own bees have produced.

I aspire to travel the world some day, a round-the-world journey that will take me to apiaries all over the world–learning the different methods and techniques that beekeepers have adapted, and of course–sampling the myriad of different honeys as a wine connoisseur might do with various wines.  What a thrill that would be!

So what about you–are you using honey on a regular basis?  Do you have a health reason for using honey?  And what’s your favorite way to eat it?  Feel free to share below!

 References:

Why honey is effective as medicine; the scientific explanation of its effects – from the University of Waikato, research commons

Health Benefits of Honey

Effects of dietary honey on intstinal microflora and toxicity of mycotoxins in mice – from Biomed Central

6 Health Benefits of Honey – Health Central

Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey – from Food Safety News

Baking to stretch the food budget

baking to stretch the food budget

Now that we’re all settled in at the new Runamuk homestead, I’ve finally been able to unpack my kitchen and cook-wares and get back to my regular baking routines.  With a new mortgage, maintaining our budget is more imperative than ever before, so I spend time each month to plan out meals ahead of time, then on Sundays I make it a point to spend the day baking my breads, rolls, tortilla shells, muffins, etc. in preparation for the week ahead.  What is made and baked is dictated by the menu, and then what is not needed within the next day or two is put into the freezer to maintain it’s freshness.

baking to stretch the food budget
Amish White Bread–as a rule, white bread is not something I make often, but on occasion–this is a very delicious bread.

Why bother to bake?

It may sound like a lot of work, and I confess that baking–like other household tasks–is not my most favorite thing to do–that would, of course, be beekeeping and gardening, and practically any other chore out of doors! lol  But the benefits are worth the time and effort; once you’ve learned the skills you’ll be surprised how quickly you can whip up a batch of muffins, or make a pizza dough–even baking bread takes less time once you gain the experience and know how!

Tastes better

Homemade breads and baked goods simply taste better; you can make them to suit the taste preferences of you and your family, use fresher ingredients, include more grains and increase nutrition, and significantly reduce or even eliminate preservatives altogether.  By making your own, you can be sure–if you so choose–that you’re avoiding high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs, and using only the best organic ingredients.

Save money

Baking your own breads definitely saves money.  I’m not going to go and do the math, but I know that when you consider that a half decent loaf of bread at the grocery store is currently running $5 a loaf (and that’s not organic or gmo-free for sure!), and if you’re going through at least 2-3 loaves a week like we do–you’re bound to save money by doing it yourself.  Then when you figure in some of the other breads and baked goods you use in a week–such as bagels, english muffins, burger or hot dog rolls, tortilla shells, cookies and crackers–that list and expense really begins to add up.

Fresher ingredients

The breads you find at the mainstream grocery store have been made on an industrial scale and engineered not to grow old while they are shipped and then sit there on shelves waiting to be taken home.  It stands to reason that bread you bake at home is going to be fresher.  But you can also include fresher ingredients like your own fresh eggs if you raise chickens, or farm-fresh eggs from your neighbor or the local farmers’ market if you don’t raise your own chickens.  You also have the opportunity to use locally produced grains, raw milk, lard or butter rather than oil–the possibilities are endless and open to your creative experimentation.

Here are 2 of our favorite bread recipes:

Amish White Bread

  • rolls for dinner
    My mother used to make some delectable breads too–she taught me how to make rolls and I’ve never forgotten!

    2c. warm water

  • 2/3c. sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. yeast
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 vegetable oil (extra virgin olive oil is my go-to vegetable oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c. powdered milk
  • 6c. all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl dissolve the sugar in the warm water and stir in the yeast.  Allow to sit until creamy and foamy.  While you’re waiting, take a separate bowl and put your oil, egg, and powdered milk into it–whisk together til well combined.  Set that aside and measure and sift your flour and salt.  Next–when you’re yeast is ready, add the egg and oil mixture, whisk together to combine.  Now use a wooden spoon to gradually stir in your flour and salt.  When the dough begins to pull together, turn it out onto a well floured surface.  Knead for about 7-8 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  At this point place the dough into an oiled mixing bowl, cover with a cloth or towel and allow to rise until doubled in size.  Punch down the dough and turn it out to knead again to work out any air bubbles before cutting into loaves or forming into rolls.

Note:  The original recipe calls for this to make 2 loaves, but I’ve found that those loaves come out very large.  When cut into slices they do not fit well in a toaster, and since the boys like to have toast for breakfast, I’ve gotten in the habit of cutting the dough into 3 and making slightly smaller loaves–which, if you ask me–are still plenty large.

I bake my breads at 450-degrees for the first 5 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350.  The bread is done if it sounds hollow when you tap on the top of the loaf.

Honey-Wheat Oatmeal Bread

  • 1c. quick or rolled oats (the quick oats give the bread a smoother texture, while the rolled oats at more substance).
  • 2c. boiling water
  • 1/4c. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c. powdered milk
  • 1/2c. honey
  • 1/2c. warm water
  • 1-1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3c. white flour
  • 3c. wheat flour

This is my go-to bread recipe, my sister raves about this bread and always asks for it for her birthday and holidays.  It is nutritious and flavorful, and delicious.

In a large mixing bowl place your oats, and cover with the 2 cups boiling water.  If you choose to use the rolled oats you will want to let them sit for 30 minutes before proceeding.  When the oats are “cooked”, proof your yeast (in a separate, smaller bowl, put the warm water, sugar, and yeast–leave it to sit until frothy.  While you’re waiting add the butter, powdered milk, egg and honey to the oatmeal.  In another mixing bowl sift together your salt, white and wheat flours.  When the yeast is ready, use a whisk to add it to the oatmeal combination.  Then use a wooden spoon to gradually stir in the flour until the dough pulls together.  Then–much as described above–turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Place the dough into an oiled mixing bowl and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in size.  Punch the dough down and turn out to knead and eliminate air bubbles from the dough.  Cut into 2 or 3, depending on how large you prefer your loaves, and form into loaves, place in bread pans or try your hand at artisan bread!

Conclusion

There’s not a single perfect method to baking great bread.  What works for one person may not work for another.  I confess that I still consider myself a novice bread-maker, though I have had some luck–there is still much to learn about bread-making that, given the chance, I would love to discover.  The beauty of bread-making though, is that there is a depth of knowledge and history to the art that we can draw from, since bread-making is an ancient art-form that has sustained mankind for thousands and thousands of years.  Feel free to try new recipes, methods, and learn as you go along–you will find your family willing participants in your experiments!

What about you?  Do you bake?  What is your favorite thing to make for your family?

The Power of Dark Honey

dark fall honey

For many beekeepers–in this part of Maine at least–this year’s season was a bit of a struggle.  A spell of hot sweltering days meant that flowers were not producing adequate nectar supplies, which was then followed by a period of rainy days that kept bees cooped up inside their hives, eating honey stores.  I know several of our local beekeepers were somewhat disappointed in the spring crop, and that’s nothing compared to the struggle the season offered to newly established hives.

But we held out hope for the fall season, which brings a plentiful nectar flow in this part of the region, and our faith was rewarded with a bountiful harvest.  New colonies that had been struggling all season came up to speed, and honey supers were filled to overflowing.

dark fall honeyThe dark color of this year’s fall honey crop was a bit startling at first.  I knew that the goldenrod, the Japanese knotweed, and the buckwheat that my bees had had access to in their respective apiaries, were plants more likely to produce a darker honey than many other floral sources, but this honey is nearly black!

The color of the honey sparked some debate here at Runamuk, and so upon research and further investigation, it was discovered that the darker the honey–the more healthful benefits could be derived from the honey!

Honey is good medicine

Throughout history humanity has prized honey for it’s medicinal and healthful properties, along with it’s irresistible sweetness.  Ancient Egyptians made offerings of honey to their gods, used it as an embalming fluid, and also as a dressing on wounds.

Today people still swarm to honey for it’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.  And recent studies have indicated that the darker the honey the stronger those medicinal powers are going to be.

“Not all nectars are created equal, thus not all honeys are created equal.” says Gene Robinson.

What the bees eat determines the level of antioxidants in the honey they produce.

Scientists at the University of Illinois analyzed 19 different samples of honey from 14 different floral sources, and discovered that honey produced from Illinois buckwheat flowers offers 20-times the antioxidants compared to honey produced by bees eating the nectar and pollen of California sage.

Notably, clover–one of the most common floral sources for bees–scored in the middle of the researcher’s rankings.

Antioxidants inhibit the oxidation of molecules, which can happen when a chemical reaction occurs that transfers electrons or hydrogen into an oxidizing agent.  That event can produce free radicals–starting a chain reaction which may cause damage or death to cells within the body.

In a study funded by the Illinois Value-Added Research Program and the National Honey Board, and published in the Journal of Apicultural Research–it was found that darker honey has less water and more antioxidants than lighter-colored honey.

May Berenbaum, one of the study’s co-authors–who is head of the University of Illinois’ entomology department, and also a researcher for the University of Illinois Functional Foods for Health program–says:

“Not all honeys are the same.  The antioxidant content of buckwheat honey compares favorably, pretty much bite for bite, with the ascorbic acid-related antioxidant content of tomatoes.  Gram for gram, antioxidants in buckwheat honey equal that of fruits and vegetables such as sweet corn or tomatoes.”

Honey and the Common Cold

According to some studies, honey can even relieve symptoms of the common cold.  In Maryland, Dr. Ariane Cometa, MD, uses a buckwheat honey-based syrup, claiming honey calms inflamed membranes and eases a cough.  Scientific studies have proven that honey does a better job suppressing nighttime coughs than some man-made medicines.

In a study that included 139 children, honey beat dextromethorphan–a cough suppressant–and diphenhydramine–an antihistamine–in easing a nighttime cough in children and improving their sleep.

Another study involving 105 children found buckwheat honey beat out dextromethorphan in suppressing nighttime coughs.

*Pediatricians caution against feeding honey to children under the age of 1.

And so….

fall honey on a beehiveHoney varies widely in color, water composition and sugar content, ash, nitrogen and metal content.  No two honeys are alike, but they are all equally delectable.  I aspire to travel the world, tasting and sampling honeys from various countries and regions of the world, much like a wine connoisseur might do.  What a trip that would be!  Meeting beekeepers from all over the world and tasting all sorts of different varieties of honey!

What’s your favorite type of honey?

Resources & References

Dark Honey Has More Illness-Fighting Agents Than Light Honey – from Science Daily

Medicinal Uses of Honey: What the Research Shows – from WebMD

Antioxidants and Your Immune System: Super Foods for Optimal Health – from WebMD

Antioxidant – from Wikipedia

Good news for next years’ honey

runamuk apiary
The apiary at Medicine Hill.

This has been an exciting year for the Runamuk apiary, we were able to expand from two to six hives throughout the summer.  My new-found partnership with Medicine Hill in Starks gave me the chance to increase the number of colonies, and I seized the opportunity with both hands.  And I am pleased to announce that next year we will be able to grow our apiary to at least 18 colonies.  This will enable us to justify the investment in a processor’s license so that our Runamuk honey will be able to be sold at local retail outfits.

I have had two offers already this year to distribute through retail stores, but we did not have the surplus stock of honey that we required to make the leap.  So we sold all of our honey to friends and family, and at roadside.  Next year will be different.  Runamuk honey, along with our line of all-natural beeswax products, will be available to the central Maine area, as well as over the internet.  I’ve got big things planned for Runamuk next year–but more about that later.  😉