The last month for which I calculated our Riot was August 2010. That was month 22, so the calculation here will include the last two months of our Second Year of Rioting. Our first year’s averages were calculated here, our second year’s averages can be found here.

Gasoline. I haven’t been able to calculate in our trip to India (wish the Riot Calculator  was back online!). Without that trip, we used:

10.78 gallons per person pp. per month

25 % of the US National Average

(First year’s yearly average: 24.8%)

Electricity. The calculator reckons per household, not per person. We did well, got our usage down more. We have  made some serious solar PV plans and have calculated that with this kind of usage we could get all of our electricity from the sun. 

398 KWH (all wind) per month

12 % of the US National Average

(First year’s early average: 18.2%)

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This is warm water and back-up heat during the night and when we’re not home to build the fire in the wood stove and keep it going. This too is calculated for the entire household, not per person. (I didn’t figure in the cord of wood, because I don’t have enough data to calculate what that does to our percentage of the national average).

Considering (or wishfully thinking) that the coldest months are over, we did well.

48 gallons of oil per month

80% of the US National Average

(keep in mind that is is for what I hope are the coldest months)

(First year’s yearly average: 77% / Second year’s yearly average: 42%, see here)

Trash. After recycling and composting this usually comes down to mainly food wrappers.

10 lbs. pp per month

7% of the US National Average

(First year’s yearly average: 7.3%)

Water. We did quite well here too, bringing our usage down by another percent or so. If we could rig up a plumbing system that would pipe the bath and sink water into the toilet tank…

458 gallons of water pp.  per month

15 % of the US National Average

(First year’s yearly average: 16.5%)

The last month for which I calculated our Riot was August 2010 (month 22). In the meantime the Riot site has been taken down and bought by a link farm. That means the calculator is gone too. The Riot Yahoo-group has looked into restarting it, or at least putting the calculator up, but it hasn’t happened yet. While I was waiting I failed to record the numbers at the end of Year Two, so for the last two months of Year Two (September and October 2010) I have to hypothesize. Our first year’s averages were calculated here.

This is the outcome for Year Two:

Compared with Year One (red):

1 = gasoline / 2 = electricity / 3 = hearing oil / 4 = water

We used a lot more gasoline in Year Two mainly because of Amie’s and my trip to Europe, which brought that month’s percentage up to a whopping 302%! Not calculating that trip, we did better than Year One.

The biggie is heating oil. In Year One, when we had our super efficient, new oil burner, but no woodstove yet, we scored 77% of the US national average, which comes down to about 50 gallons per month. In Year Two, our average went down to 26.6 gallons, or 42%. So with the help of the stove we almost halved our reliance on heating oil! What  a pleasant surprise this was. If we get to add a solar hot water system to our roof, our third year would see this number lowered even more.

In electricity we’re doing better by a little. This is one of the hardest category to tackle, I find. We’re mulling the installation of solar PV on our roof – a 5 KWH system that, with this usage, would produce all our electricity. Stay tuned!

As for water, Year Two saw the expansion of the garden plus a relatively much drier year than Year One (when blight struck because of the swampiness). Our rain barrels were frequently empty so we had to look to the tap.

What about trash? I now always calculate our trash production to be at 10 lbs per person per month, or 7% of the US national average. I just don’t weigh it anymore. That’s about the same as Year One.

It’s snowing again, a driving powdery snow that has already accumulated to 2-3 inches. Inside the fire roars, Shubert delights, as does the smell of ginger.

I was surprised by how cheap this fresh ginger root was ($1.99 a pound), but then when I started peeling and cutting it, it all made sense.  This ginger was harvested too late (thick skin, very fibrous) and not fresh (not firm, yellow and juicy enough). That’ll show me to shop at any old grocery store along the way. Also, I am now more determined to try growing my own ginger.

So I dropped my plans to make ginger tincture, for which I want to use only the best root. I just made a big batch of candied ginger, some strong ginger tea (a by-product of the latter), more ginger bug, and a ginger body scrub (from the peels).

Candied ginger

Peel the ginger if necessary, otherwise wash the roots thoroughly. Slice them to your preference, but not sliver thin. Put in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 -40 minutes. It is ready when the ginger is no longer raw and a little translucent – this is again to your preference.

Drain the ginger, capturing the ginger tea – which will need some diluting if it is to be had as tea.

Weigh the ginger and put it, along with an equal amount in weight of sugar, into the pot. Add 1/4 cup of the ginger tea, and bring to a boil on high heat. Simmer on medium high, stirring frequently, more frequently as the sugar syrup gets thicker, so as not to scorch it.

After about 20 minutes the sugar will become dry and crystallize. This effect is unmistakable and comes on very quickly, so stir, stir and be ready to lift that pan off the heat and scoop the mass of crystallized sugar and ginger onto waxed paper. There break it up – it cools very quickly – and let dry.

Amie finds the ginger too spicy but enjoys the sugar (which is still quite potent). I am planning to carry this around with me when I go for drives, to combat my motion sickness. I don’t know how well it will work, since it’s been boiled for so long, but it will have to do until my first batch of ginger tincture is ready.

Ginger Body Scrub

I was left with a lot of ginger peels. I rinsed these in cold water, then boiled them for 25 minutes to make a ginger peel tea. I wouldn’t drink it, as I hadn’t scrubbed the peel before removing it from the root. But I will use it as an invigorating and warming body scrub for sore muscles after coming in from hours of shoveling snow.

You can use this as a facial rinse, against acne, for instance, but beware when you have sensitive skin: it can warm the skin too much and cause burning – again depending on how strong the rinse is.

Ginger is a powerful antimicrobial, which is why it is used medicinally for colds and flues, along with garlic, and as a cleanser in cases of acne or cuts. As the main ingredient in ginger soda it not only imparts its flavor, but also its food-preserving qualities. Normally, when fermenting foods, salt is used to keep the bad bacteria at bay, so the good yeasts can do their work, while the food doesn’t spoil. In soda, thank goodness, no salt is used. It is the ginger that acts as the antimicrobial.

It’s time again! I turned on the heat mat below and the shop lights above, inserted four flats with an assortment of seeds, and two days later had tiny collards and lettuce. Can you spot them?

Germinating at present: lettuces of all kinds, collards, kale, spinach, scallions, onions, chives, mizuna, mache, claytonia, chard, celery, celeriac, brussels sprouts, broccoli.

I’m maxed out on the heat mat, for the moment, but soon there will be room for more…

We’ve seen fluffy snow, the kind you can shovel for hours without feeling (too) put out. The sticky snow that clings to snowballs and snowmen. The piled on snow, foot upon foot, with a layer of ice on top, that you sink through but your daughter doesn’t. And  the kind of snow that has dwindled in the recent thaw, a mess of slushiness and compacted hardness.

I had to trudge through that kind of snow today to the apiary. After my last inspection I forgot to put the big rock on top of the hive, and we’ve been having gusts up to 40 mph. So out I went, on the snow. A  couple of steps slip on the rock hard ice. Your next step shaves a foot of your height as you suddenly punch through. Not having suspected that, you are already moving to take another step, and your shin hits the sudden wall of ice, your ankle twists in the hole.


Pulling back you lose your balance and start windmilling your arms and cry out.  Down you go, on your backside, s’il vous plait. This creates a tight-fitting bucket chair, from which you can only extricate yourself by rolling over onto your side and getting up on your knees.

Luckily only DH witnessed the shenanigans. I forgive him his chuckle.

This is my least favorite snow.

Incredibly, it almost hit 60 today. After lunch I went out to the hive – appropriately dressed, this time – to check the bees’ stored honey and the pollen patty and sugar fondant I put in last time. There was no wind and the sun appeared sporadically. I took 10 minutes – my feet were frozen by the end of it, having sunk into over a foot of melting snow. I know, those boots, those boots…

I got a better chance at taking a closer look and pictures as they were less aggressive than last time. There was that nice sized cluster of active, healthy-looking bees.

I didn’t want to disturb it, it still being a bit chilly for them, so forget checking on the queen.  They were in the East corner of the hive.

Off to the South side there were many dead bees – all the bees in the above picture are dead, except for the ones on top of the bars. They were the edge of the cluster and possibly froze.

There are two frames full of honey off to the side, which some bees were harvesting. I wanted to move these closer to the cluster and get a better look at those dead bees, but a slight wind started up and by the agitated sound of the colony, I could tell that it was time to close up the hive.  They have access to a large block of fondant, so they should be fine for a week at least.

I’ts tough to estimate how many bees are alive in there without pulling the frames and seeing how deep the cluster extends. But certainly not the 50.000 or so that entered the Winter. It seems like such a waste to lose so many. I am very curious to see how they will build up over the Spring. They must have begun the brood rearing, but in the pictures I can’t spot any very young bees, yet.

Ah, I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much on plants in my life. I just put a couple of orders through.

Berry bushes and vines

  1. 1 Johns Elderberry
  2. 1  Adams Elderberry
  3. 1  Witch Hazel
  4. 50 Honeoye Strawberry
  5. 2 Bluebell Grapes
  6. 3 Island Belle Grapes (Campbell’s Early)
  7. 3 Marechal Foch grapes
  8. 1 Vaccinium vitis-idaea Red Pearl Lingonberry
  9. 1 Vaccinium vitis-idaea Regal Lingonberry
  10. 1 Rosa rugosa Belle Poitevine Rose
  11. 3 Rosa rugosa alba
  12. 1 Jostaberry
  13. 2 Arapaho Thornless Blackberry
  14. 2 Northline Serviceberry  (Amelanchier alnifolia)
  15. 2 Dwarf Siberian Pea Shrubs (Caragana microphylla)

Potted trees

  1. 1 Italian Honey Fig  (Blanche – a.k.a. Lattarula)
  2. 1 Celeste Fig Tree
  3. 1 Eucalyptus Nicholli

Herbs (plants, not seeds) (from Fedco)

  1. 1 Chenopodium bonus-henricus Good King Henry
  2. 2 Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Weed
  3. 1 Lavandula angustifolia Munstead Lavender
  4. 1 Althea officinalis Marshmallow
  5. 2 Arnica chamissonis
  6. 2 Asarum canadense Canadian Wild Ginger
  7. 1 Cimicifuga racemosa Black Cohosh or Black Snakeroot
  8. 1 Echinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower
  9. 1 Inula helenium Elecampane
  10. 1 Valeriana officinalis Valerian

Potatoes and bulbs

  1. 1 lbs Clearwater Sunchokes
  2. 3 lbs Banana
  3. 5 lbs Dark Red Norland
  4. 5 lbs Keuka Gold
  5. 25 Centennial ‘Grow Anywhere Sweet Potatoes slips
  6. 1lb  German Red Garlic

I’ve not yet ordered seeds. Many of my seeds are now two years old – some three – and probably no longer viable. I had poor germination with the spinach and chard, for instance, already in September of last year. Sorting through all that now. Feels bad, throwing seeds away…

I’m putting together a business plan for Robin Hill Gardens. Just a dream-on-as-if-I-suddenly-had-the-money plan. It’s good fun.

Amie walks on top of three feet of snow

Well, my ginger, chamomile and berry soda was a bust. It never fermented. But it did grow hair! Good for the compost, this one.

I got right back on the horse and added the next ginger bug in line (there’s always one brewing)  to a simple wort of ginger, sugar and a few chamomile flowers (couldn’t resist). No honey this time. Instead of immediately locking the combination into a jar  – like my first attempt, which was tasty but not bubbly – I am – as per my rewritten recipe – leaving it open to the air so it can draw in more airborne yeast.

Our weekend was very productive. My novel is out there now and I’ve already received one favorable review. We did the hive inspection, of course, which was my personal highlight. DH hauled in enough wood for two weeks – that was a great relief to me, the lack of wood bothered me. We borrowed our neighbor’s snow rake and pulled quite  snow off our roofs – more as a precaution against ice dams than out of concern for the roof’s load bearing capacity.

We also set up our mudroom for finishing. It “just” needs painting, the frames, floor trims, ceiling trims  and door trims to be added, and a cabinet of our own design.

But first things first, tomorrow: the seedling area in the basement. I need to get those first seeds in!

I also want to design and build a recycling station for Amie’s school. Something colorful and fun and unambiguous for the little kids. Any ideas?

Don’t forget to scroll down to see my adventure of today!

I waited impatiently for that “warm” day when I can go out to the hive and do a quick inspection. 40-45 F is the minimum advised temperature at which you can open the cover, have a very quick look, deposit any food on top of the bars, and close it up. No more.

In preparation I read up on what I could possibly find in there (it is, after all, my first Winter as a beekeeper) and what to do under which circumstances. I made a sugar fondant that I poured into molds, defrosted a pollen substitute patty, and made a spacer rim which will keep the cover from squishing the food.

Sugar Fondant Recipe

First, make a 2:1 syrup (white granulated sugar:water, by weight) (don’t let it boil but make sure all the sugar is dissolved)

Then, make sugar fondant, which is 4 parts 2:1 syrup, 4 parts white sugar, 3 parts water, by volume. First see how many cups of sugar syrup you have, take it from there.

  1. boil the water
  2. gradually add the sugar and the syrup until dissolved (not difficult).
  3. let the temp go up to 238 F. This takes a while if your lid doesn’t fit the pot well and it keeps releasing heat, which it will if your thermometer sticks out. I wrap a towel around the lid and thermometer to keep as much heat in as possible.  Keep an eye on it: let it go higher and you’ll have caramelized sugar which will give your bees dysentery. When it reaches 238F, immediately take off lid, remove put from off heat, and stir to cool it down again.
  4. let cool down without disturbing it until it’s warm to the touch
  5. then mix briskly (it should lighten in color)
  6. I also add Honey-Bee-Heatlhy (1 tsp for 1 quart)
  7. pour into waxed mold – make ’em thin so they fit the rim space.

For a spacer rim you can use an unused landing board like below or you can quickly make one.

Today it registered a whopping 50 F, the hive was in the sun, and there was no wind. DH came along to take pictures and help.

I didn’t know what to expect. I saw some bees flying out a few weeks ago, and there were signs of undertaking (dead bee clean out), but I had no idea of the strength of the colony, its numbers, its food supply. We went out without veils, and without bee gloves. Here is the hive after clearing off the snow, removing the outer cover and the queen excluder I had put on top of the inner cover to keep the mice out.

As soon as I cracked the inner cover open with my hive tool…

Just lovely! What a wonderful surprise!

I kept my cool even though I soon had about a hundred bees flying at my face, stinging my gloves. But what to do? No time to run inside to get a veil. If you get stung it’s no big deal,  but if you leave the hive open for too long, they all die. Forge on!

The nest is up on top, to the front. There were many bees, though I dare not guess how many. They seemed strong. I didn’t have much time to look closely, but I didn’t see any honey in the frames surrounding them, so it was good that I came out with the food. I brushed some of the bees off the top and placed the spacer. In this picture you can see the bees attacking my gloves.

Then I deposited half the fondant and half the pollen patty on top, a little to the side of the nest.

Then I felt this frantic buzzing in my sleeve. I quickly brushed the bees that were still on the inner cover into the hive and replaced it, then added the outer cover. Then I ripped off my jacket. Whew! It must have looked pretty funny to someone observing us.

Soon lots of bees were flying out of the top opening. To keep the nest clean they don’t defecate for weeks at a time. A warm day like this allows them relieve themselves. Our jackets and the snow all around was spotted with that vile stuff. Time for laundry.

There was also a lot of cleaning out dead bees.

My gloves with some bees stuck to it by their stingers.

But here I am, miraculously unstung, and very, very happy.

Hurray for the bees!