Busy, Busy, Busy

Here are a few bee statistics for you. To make one pound of honey bees must fly 55,000 miles and visit some 2 million individual flowers. When you consider that a medium-producing hive will make about 150 pounds of honey a season, that’s a lot of activity. Eight and a quarter million miles flown and 300 million blooms. For one hive….

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Hmmm…

I got all excited the other day when I heard that we might be having ten people over for dinner instead of six. I thought: well, why not make a really big bee sting cake out of a full recipe of brioche dough? Seemed a little risky but I decided to go for it out of curiosity. I was both alarmed and impressed when it emerged from the oven as a 16-inch-wide, 6-inch-tall behemoth.


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New Mixer Tour

So I went on a shopping trip this weekend (made possible by the contributions of several dozen very generous readers). This was the result: a 7-quart KitchenAid 6500. It’s grey because I generally dig earth tones, in my clothing as well as my appliances. This is one of the largest KitchenAids in production. I’m told they make an 8-quart but I couldn’t find one of those on display anywhere. The distinguishing feature of these larger models is the lever-action bowl raiser. Smaller KitchenAids sport a tilt-head design. You can see the crank over on this side.


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Where There’s Smoke…

Reader Felicia wants to know why beekeepers use smokers when they they work. Does smoke really make bees docile? The answer is no, it’s doesn’t really make them docile, Felicia, in fact it agitates them. However it agitates them in such a way that they’re disinclined to notice a beekeeper messing around in the hive. Smoke obviously makes bees think the hive is on fire. They become alarmed and do what you or I would do if we discovered our house burning: collect as many valuables as we can carry and head for the exit. Fire departments actively discourage that sort of thing of course. Hunting for treasures wastes time that’s better used for leaving. …

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Buttercups Are Up!

Yesterday was a lovely day to wander around some of the parks in Louisville. We’re lucky in that we have several extremely large parks in this town, most of which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who practically invented landscape architecture in America. The Pastry family went on a short hike through Cherokee Park, the closest of the major parks to our house, and were pleased to find all the usual early spring suspects in bloom: violets, Dutchman’s britches, bloody nose, trout lilies, mayapples and field upon field of buttercups. And where you find spring flowers, you find bees. …

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Home Gear, Pro Gear

Some interesting discussion in the comment fields on the subject of “home” mixers versus “pro” mixers. My previous mixer was a Viking and it’s true that people tend to associate that name with professional equipment manufacturing. The company definitely started out doing exclusively that. However a general rule of thumb when it comes to determining whether this-or-that piece of equipment is “home” gear or “pro” gear is this: if you can buy it in a shop it’s home kitchen gear, if you buy it through a commercial dealer or restaurant supply house, it’s professional. …

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Thank You

Last night I put up a post telling everyone that my old Viking mixer died, and requested contributions to the tip jar to help defray the cost of a new one. I woke up this morning to find the jar overflowing. By 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time a new mixer was half paid for, and now at 11:00 I have enough to replace my old Viking or buy a comparable model. I don’t know what to say, my friends, it’s overwhelming. I’m the luckiest blogger in the world. …

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Whipping Cream

This post is the sequel to the number one runaway smash hit: Whipping Egg Whites which appeared in this space a couple of weeks ago. I meant to respond to all the requests earlier but I didn’t have any cream and was too lazy to go get some. Also Mrs. Pastry was put out enough as it was. Ever efficient, she deplores waste in all its forms. Which makes me wonder why she keeps me around at all. But that’s a post for another day. …

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When Bees Fly the, Er…Coop

What do I know about colony collapse disorder (CCD)? Not that much, reader Kelly, but then none of the beekeepers I know have a very good handle on it either. Experts are sharply divided over the causes since a single “smoking gun” has yet to be found. The latest thinking is that colony collapse disorder — in which hive populations simply vanish leaving all their honey and unhatched brood behind — is a result of a combination of causes, possibly pesticides, maybe some natural and/or invasive parasites, maybe changes in habitat. …

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They Call it “Honey Laundering”

Several readers have mentioned the Chinese honey flap from a few years ago, specifically the allegations that Chinese producers ultra-filter their honey to remove any traces of pollen, thus making it easier for them to sneak their ultra-cheap product onto global markets, as there is no longer any micro-evidence of its origin. The process was said to remove anything that’s unique or beneficial in the honey, leaving nothing but the sugars. “Honey that isn’t worthy of the name ‘honey’” was the line you heard a lot in those days, or something close to it. The story was initially spread by an American attorney who owns a website called Food Safety News and who frequently represents plaintiffs in cases against large food interests. …

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