(Oh no, it’s another series!)

Amie and Mama and their first honey harvest

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I’m so sore from my workout yesterday. I was shredding leaves for two hours and also moved the contents of one (full) outside  Earth machine to the Earth Machine inside the hoop house. Going by last year’s experience, this compost won’t freeze  and will keep going if I turn it once in a while. It’ll absorb, retain  and even create heat inside the hoop house, and make compost, of course. The moving had to happen with buckets, because the wheelbarrow doesn’t fit through the hoop house door, and so I’m sore, and so today is a day of book learning.

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I’ve been benefiting tremendously from honey – nipped two colds in the bud with it so far – and am on the lookout for a good book that tells me all about honey, pollen, propolis and other so called “products” of the hive. Everything, that is, about how the bees use and make it, what it consists of, how to harvest it, how to cure it if it needs curing, extract it if it can be extracted, and how those foods and medicinals work. I haven’t found that book yet, but I did find some pieces of the puzzle in this little book by C. Leigh Broadhurst (Basic Health Publications, 2005). Each of  its 85 small pages is packed with nutritional and medicinal information. (Warning: If you are upset by animal testing, expect this text to refer to some horrendous scientific tests on animals.)

I’ve gathered and digested some interesting data from this  book and Wikipedia for you. Let’s begin with honey.

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  • Honey and phytochemicals

Honey, when capped by the bees, is ready for consumption by the bees and by us, containing only 15-21% water (by weight). Uncapped honey as yet contains more water – the bees haven’t cured it enough – and will ferment if extracted. Besides water it consists almost entirely of carbohydrates: mostly simple sugars like glucose and fructose, and some sucrose, maltose and other sugars.

A small percentage of honey consists of phytochemicals. These comes from the  nectar source plants. These phytochemicals give (raw, unprocessed) honeys their distinct taste and aroma. They also confer medicinal benefits, because the plants made them to protect themselves from the bad effects of excess free radicals. These phytochemicals survive in raw honey and are passed on to us when we eat it. And what works for plants, works for us, because we too can suffer from excess ROM.

  • Reactive Oxygen Metabolites or Free Radicals

Reactive Oxygen Metabolites (ROM) – a type of “free radical” – are  naturally created as byproducts of metabolism. The cells in plant and animal bodies are composed of many different types of molecules, which in turn consist of one or more atoms of one or more elements joined by chemical bonds. When cells metabolize (convert of food into energy), there occurs a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. This reshuffling of electrons often results in ROM, oxygen molecules with an unpaired electron.

ROM are unstable and highly chemically reactive, attacking the nearest stable molecules and stealing an electron from them to gain stability. The attacked molecule then becomes a free radical itself.

  • Out-of-Control Immune Response

Sometimes this process is  a desired one, actively created by the immune system, for ROM will also attack harmful bacteria and viruses and other pathogens. They also prompt enzymes that sterilize wounds by inflaming, heating the damaged tissue (making it swell) and thus flushing tissues of toxic substances.

However, the chain reaction of radicals creating radicals can get out of control, cascading into excess ROM. This inflames when inflammation is no longer necessary, causing chronic inflammatory conditions, like asthma, arthritis, tendonitis and ulcers.

An out-of-control ROM chain-reaction destroys cell membranes, reprograms DNA, forms mutant cells, causing  cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, stroke, diabetes, even schizophrenia.  And the older we get, the more our cells suffer from such “oxidative stress”.

  • Anti-oxidants

Now plant and human bodies can generally prevent this with chemical compounds called anti-oxidants. These terminate the chain of oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves without in turn becoming free radicals. So, Broadhurst writes, they “act like chemical sacrificial lambs,” neutralizing ROM before they can irritate our cells. (p.9)

Human bodies make their own  antioxidant compounds, like bilirubin, uric acid, superoxide dismutases, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, etc.  But luckily, many of the antioxidant compounds in plants, especially fruits, vegetables and herbs also work for us. We can ingest their carotenoids, tocopherols, ascorbate, bioflavonoids, etc. directly, or indirectly by eating honey.

It is no wonder, then, that certain substances are the opposite of these beneficial foods. Polluted air and water, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides come with free radicals. So do refined foods, like hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, most other heated oils, table sugar (sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup) and white flours. None of these contain antioxidants, so the disastrous chain reaction is unchecked in them. When we ingest these, we  basically flood our bodies with ROM.

  • Antioxidants in Honey: Phenolics

Water tupelo, Hawaiian Christmas Berry, and sunflower honey have a high antioxidant content, but they are well outmatched by buckwheat honey.  Buckwheat honey has a dark brown color  and a distinctive taste and aroma, imparted to it by a type of antioxidant called phenolics. All flavenoids, for instance, are phenolics. So, the darker a honey, the more phenolics it contains.

Other antioxidant compounds in honey are vitamin C (ascorbic acid), malic, gluconic and cinnamic.

All these antioxidants also give honey its incredibly long shelf life and make it an excellent preservative for other foods.

Broadhurst warns that honey should not be thought of as a substitute for fruits and vegetables. It is a “processed product,” processed by the bees, and thus contains fewer antioxidants than fruits and vegetables (as well as much more sugar).

Heating and processing honey will destroy the vitamin C and the other antioxidant contents of honey. So eat honey raw and unheated.

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That’s not all that honey does for us, but you’ve guessed it… TBC!

I shredded a leaf pile today, the one in the back. Here I am dropping leaves into the shredder (best Freecycle ever!), which you can’t even see for the pile.  There are more piles, some even larger, on the property, and of course still lots of leaves not in piles (yet?). As you can see from my previous post, we have lots of trees, a mix of pine, beach and oak. Plus I let my neighbors dump their leaves on part of the front garden. I think I’ll let that pile compress on its own.

done!

This work makes you sweaty, tired, dusty and stink of gasoline fumes (which some like but that’s not me). Yet it is also very satisfying to see that huge pile of mostly air reduced to this compressed, moist, lovely smelling mound of biomass.

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Meanwhile, at the bottom of the hill, more pumpkin orphans were being dropped off, bringing the total to 36! I didn’t have the wherewithal to weigh each (any) of them, so I’m not sure of the tonnage, but I am sure of the neighbors’ enthusiasm for this project. I keep saying: Ah, the last pumpkins, but they keep on appearing under my mailbox.

I love it!

Scarf wound ’round, hat down on over ears, zip up coat, grab the harvest basket and run out.

Loot: celery, leeks and pea shoots

Rinse, chop, sweep into the pot, add homegrown chopped onions and carrots, as well as split peas (bulk, dry) that have been soaking overnight, water, pepper and salt and simmer until the house smells divine and the peas are soft. Blend in blender, add more salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with lightly chopped pea shoots – they melt right in. Enjoy with home baked bread.

Daily Bread No. 14 has come and gone and No. 15 will have come and gone soon enough without their pictures being taken. It matters not, because the plan worked. We are now free of store-bought bread!

Next year I want would like:

  1. a second colony, in a homemade top bar hive.
  2. chickens, 3 of them.
  3. the beginning of a dwarf fruit tree orchard.
  4. a guild around the cherry tree.
  5. an earth oven in a straw bale shelter, a strawbale low wall with welcoming arch up front, and  some strawbale benches, shelters and altars all over the property.
  6. a small pond system that takes rain water runoff and – if we can swing it – some gray water, with frogs and other wildlife.
  7. a front garden for Bees and People. I will want to host a lot of events – community gardening, lectures, skillshares, poetry reading (and writing), concerts – in that front garden!
  8. a pottery wheel.

Is that a lot to ask? And is that a silly question to ask because I ask it of myself?

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Oh,  but life is good.

When told that a friend had gone into the hospital to give birth, Amie asked: “And was it a baby?”

And this is DH’s desk:

We finally have a winter hoop house. We moved the thing from its summer to its winter position yesterday and today. It took us, 2 adults and 1 5-year-old, 6 hours, and about 2 hours of that was spent on making new parts. Not bad. Those end walls weigh a TON! Our trusty Radio Flyer helped.

One half in old position, other half in new

End walls and frame in place

Amie loves to be useful. Here she is hammering in the rebars

Ribs over the rebars

Tough to get the plastic taut, but done. (Trusty Radio Flyer in foreground.)

I also got to put the old summer beds (the four beds to the right in front in the picture) under straw. A new friend came and delivered four bales yesterday, right on time.  I’m rather jealous of her pickup truck. We got to have tea and dinner and chat about herbal medicine, gardening and ducks. She also got to play a prolonged game of “pretend” with Amie.

Amie drew her family for school

(DH, Mama, Amie)

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A: Water isn’t heavy. It’s just air that’s blue and wet.

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I found her hiding behind a tiny notebook.  I asked her if hiding her face makes her entirely invisible. Incredibly, she did seem to believe this. Then she thought about it for a second and grinned at the silliness of it.

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A: I’m going to marry Ben.

M: Oh? Why?

A: Because he’s the only boy I like. I know other boys but they’re icky. So I have no choice. But, Mama, can a girl and a girl get married?

M: Yes, they can. (Gives an example)

A: But. Look. Here is me. And here is E (her best friend, a girl). If E and I get together and comfort each other, then there will be four children, two from her and two from me. And then they will make even more babies and our house will break and we’ll need to build a new house and, ugh, it’s too much!

It took me a moment to realize how she came to this. First, I guess that’s what happens when your kid watches only Life of Mammals and other nature shows. She also knows that only women can have babies, so two women in a household will make twice as many babies. Simple math. But “comforting”? I have no idea where she gets that one.

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We are reading a book together – she is loving Frannie K. Stein: she reads a page, I read a page, etc.  I asked what some of the words mean and she had no clue! DH has also observed this, that she is content not to ask what something means, and we’re confused because she seems to understand the stories pretty well. Of course this is how babies and toddlers learn: they don’t actively ask about details but get their meaning from contexts and let the details get filled in by experience.  But now she is five. It had never occurred to us that we would have to give her the tools and the motivation to make the transition into a more active role of questioning and searching. Parenthood is fascinating!

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Amie was yelling at the trees to stop it!

I asked her what the trees were doing that they should stop.

A: They’re blowing away my leaf pile.

Me: You think the trees make the wind?

A: Yes.

Me: But how?

A: By waving about and making the air move, of course!

I joined the a team of parent and teacher volunteers who are working to make the school system in our town greener. We’re working on getting the recycling going. Especially lunch time is a problem, a big black hole that apparently eats only trash.

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I’m still baking, only not as much – a bread every three days. Though in this picture it looks like it was forged in the fires of Mount Doom, Bread No.13 turned out very nicely, with the perfect moisture and crumb.

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The rains let up and I got the chance to plant the hot box, in 54 F weather! I hadn’t until now because the temperature o the soil registered 82F until a week ago. What a long  burn that was! Now it’s at 73F, perfect. In went a Winter Lettuce Mix and some Rainbow Chard. Let’s see how they do. I need to locate the sensor that attaches via a cable to my digital  thermometer. This cable is just long enough to reach from the hot box to the bathroom window.