Ginger Honey Simple Syrup

Honey Ginger DrinkThis is a guest post from my brother-in-law Adam. He is a food connoisseur and Vice President of Learning at Lobster Ink:

I wanted to make a refreshing and light summery mass cocktail for my housewarming BBQ in Brooklyn.  I decided on making a spiked ginger honey lemonade using my favorite honey.  On the day before the party I started by making a ginger simple syrup, I also froze three liter bottles of water.  I have a great samovar I got from a hotel sale, and about 20 minutes before my guests arrived i filled it with the lemonade (I usually make my own lemonade, but I was running late so I got a nice, not from concentrate fresh store brand), ginger-ale, Brighton honey ginger syrup and soda water.  You can adjust the soda water to find the sweetness that will work best for your guests.  I gave everything a good mix then added the frozen liter bottles of water to keep everything cool without watering it down. I served the cocktail over ice with a sprig of Rosemary, I had fresh mint and fresh rosemary so people could choose.  I also Left a jar of Brighton honey at the drinks making station so people could add it to any of the cocktails they were making.  It was a huge hit. The ginger and honey really elevated the flavor profile of the drink.

Boil one large knuckle of ginger in two cups of water till reduced by half.  Strain and add one cup honey and a tablespoon lemon juice.  Cover and chill overnight.
Simmer gingerHoney measureHoney Ginger spoonHoney Ginger covered
1 gallon lemonade
1 liter ginger ale
1 liter soda water
1 cup Ginger honey simple syrup
1 bottle vodka (nothing too crazy good but not garbage either, I used Tito’s)
Fresh Rosemary and Mint as garnish options
Serve over ice garnished with fresh mint or rosemary.
Cheers and Enjoy!
Honey Ginger Drink Enjoy

Offsetting unavoidable CO2 emissions: Low Emissions Vehicle

Chevy Volt Rear Logo

With the solar panel installation the next logical step in taking ownership of my contribution to climate change was to invest in a low emissions vehicle. After some research and going over the pros and cons my final choice was the Chevy Volt.  The Volt satisfies two major factors when it comes to usefulness of a electric vehicle; the volt is a pluggable and a hybrid electric i.e. PHEV.  The volt technology has a great electric only range of a little over 50 miles while incorporating the hybrid engine to extend its range and mitigate the anxiety of range or the fear of being stranded by a depleted battery.

The Chevy Volt PHEV is the ultimate melding of the technologies and perhaps currently the most practical and immediate way to offset our unavoidable CO2 emissions.  For the price this car is a fantastic value and has made it a leader in the EV lineup.  There is possibly more technology packed into this car than any other on the road. I am not referring to the obvious visible technology such as autonomous driving technology or a fancy screen.  This technology is hidden under the hood in the 2nd Generation Voltec Drivetrain. Here is a great page with a fantastic video explaining the drivetrain.  If compared to its most visible competitor the Tesla the Volt excels because of range and technology practical usefulness. Granted the Tesla is designed more as a sports car and not a daily commuter. A seemingly simple and the desirable technology of the online line upgrade is missing as a software update requires a visit to the dealer. The Tesla will auto update over a data connection.

With the addition of the Volt to my current power demand I suspect that my current solar power generation may be tapped out.  Luckily upstate NY gets a majority of its power from renewables and nuclear. There is also some satisfaction in that the volt provides a sense of freedom from the pump and ultimately the oil companies’ hold on us.

My previous dino-fueled transportation (VW TDI) and I had a good run, and 214,000 miles later it did prove extremely reliable. I sold it to a local TDI enthusiast so it will be appreciated. At the time the hybrids were new arrivals to the markets and I was apprehensive of early adoption at the time.  Also the boast of 50 mpg was a draw; best I ever achieved was 53 mpg on a trip home to Nyack. The route along old Route 17 has some good downhill stretches.  I vowed not to purchase another car until I could purchase a car with better mileage.  At the moment I am currently averaging 250+ mpg as I have only run on battery since I got it.  Overall the lifetime so far of 78 MPGe is not bad.  The battery range is a bit reduced at the moment with the colder weather and I hope to see those few miles return in the spring.

Add-ons

JuiceBox 220v Pro Level 2 40A EV Home Charging Station Wi-Fi

EV JuiceNet App Summary Screen

EV JuiceNet App Charging Info

 

 

 

Over the past weekend I installed the 220v charging station. The JuiceBox Pro has a nifty app that allows you to monitor charging and power. The new OnStar app now called the MyChevrolet App also has charging and vehicle stats.  At some point I will research pulling stats for the car’s power consumption and the hope is to one day combine data into a single graph to provide a visual of my overall power distribution/consumption.

 

With the new purchase I get 1 year free of basic OnStar which includes free Wi-Fi hotspot.  The current IP seems to be a sub allocation from MCI Communications Services, Inc. d/b/a Verizon Business.  The app is a bit out of sync as it does not seem to match the actual car tire pressure.

MyCheverolet App Summary Screen

MyCheverolet App Vehicle Status

OnStar Volt Wi-Fi Speed Test

OnStar Speed Test Source IP

 

 

 

 

 

 

The speed test upload was not so impressive at least from my garage. I may make an appointment with the dealer as it’s under warrantee and check for software updates etc. Chevy has previously tweaked the software to improve battery efficiency.

Brief Review

The one new item that is a disrupter to the driving experience is the keyless entry. It is super handy however the nostalgic technology of a physical key is not missed however ritualistically seems missing.  The Jetta was a manual so I was keenly aware of rolling resistance and the Volt’s rolling resistance seems extremely low and I suspect this is part of the design efficiencies. If I shift into neutral on the slightest incline the car will roll. I am suspect of the nudge of the classic automatic in that the car has the constant light push or “nudge” of the electric propulsion when in drive at a full stop. I’m sure this was added on purpose to prevent peddle transfer roll back. My sense is that there is currently no way to tell if this is disabled completely when applying the break however I am suspect and perhaps a mitigated energy waste.  Personally I would be eager to know what variables are available for modifications and I would back off the nudge a bit and if possible take into account the incline if possible. If a GM developer happens to stumble on this I would be a willing and eager beta-tester.

Chevy Volt Info Console Display

Chevy Volt Rear Dashboard Display

The center stack or digital display is really lacking and could use a good facelift. The main center gauge display is also missing the wow factor. I suspect GM is sticking to the basic software and interface to save money.  The car interior seems to be overwhelmingly plastic and in an overall comparison of price in other models the interior is lacking. I suspect the price/quality differential is the monumental cost of the batteries.  The front styling of the car is very acceptable however the rear hatchback is a bit boxy and the center triangular molding of the rear bumper cover seems out of place and distracting.  The hatchback is provides a large opening for cargo and was an attraction for me.  All in all GM never impressed me with their interiors and the Volt’s interior is lacking with comparatively priced vehicles (BMW 3 series, etc.).  The car could also use an increase in sound dampening as road and engine noise seems high.  I would suspect GM would have put a bit more into their flagship PHEV to entice potential customers.  My overall view is that we are still in the infancy of PHEV evolution and Chevy is a generic mid-market brand.  In general this is an entry level utility vehicle for me so some of the obvious lower end details can be overlooked in lieu of the Volt’s PHEV technology.

I see our future with EV/PHEV and smart grid technology paring with micro-grids and micro-storage. The storage capacity of EVs could provide for major efficiencies of power distribution.  However this is a fantastic topic and perhaps is another post.

Holiday Rum Balls Recipe with Honey

Holiday Honey Rum Balls

The holiday season is never complete without rum balls. This year we decided to modify the classic recipe with honey. The balls need to set a bit but an early sample seems successful!

Here is the recipe we used.

1 box finely crushed Vanilla wafers (11 oz box)
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans or about 4 oz (toasted)
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup rum
¼ cup honey

Use food processor to finely crush wafer and pecans. Crush pecans and wafers separately to visually control the crushing process in order to get a uniform product. Combine and mix well wafers, pecans, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and then add honey and rum. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll some in each of or your favorite of granulated sugar, cocoa powder, powdered sugar. Refrigerate in tightly covered container for several days to set.

Monitoring Solar Output via MRTG

Brighton Honey Solar Array

I was successful in porting the solar inverter data to MRTG! This is accomplished with program called RRDTool developed by the author of the original MRTG. A script was needed to import the raw solar data into a database using a handy language called python. RRDTool uses a database called Round Robin Database thus the RRD.

The solar inverter has the ability to “push” a file via FTP to a host at a selective time interval. Currently I have it pushing every minute to a server. A cron job calls a script every 5 mins which then imports the data to the round robin database. The graphs are generated on the fly with a CGI script which calls to RRDTool to generate the graphs.

Since MRTG was developed to read data network interface statistics I had to work with different options to accurately represent the data. The solar data is an absolute number meaning that it is an actual reading a that moment in time and not cumulative such as a continuous counter. The script fist looks for the database file and if it does not exist it will create an empty file with the proper layout for the data.   In this case the actual generation in real-time in watts.  If the file exists it looks for the raw data files and creates a list for import. The first file in the list is opened the time stamp found, reformatted then saved to a variable.  Next I get the actual data into a variable then format the RRDTool command and push it off to the DB.  Finally I save the raw data file to a backup directory.

There is some data missing as I was not logging for a while and I have a gap in the data as I lost some while developing the script. For a little extra fun I enabled mod_proxy in Apache so the graphs, database and logging are on another server of mine “hidden” behind this one. This was a learning experiment for me to integrate feature/function also.
Let me know if you have any questions!

*This page will auto-refresh every 5 mins to update to the latest graphs

Live Solar Power Generation

Updated:Mon Dec 10 16:01:00 2018

System:Solar Inverter at Brighton Honey
Description:Live Solar Power Generation
Max Output:5.100 kW
Peak Output today:0.654 kW @ 13:06:02
Generation today:2.41 kWh
Generation best:31.558 kWh @ 2018-04-30
Generation YTD:4096.973 kWh
Generation Total:7240.123kWh

‘Daily’ graph

Brighton Honey Solar daily-graph

‘Weekly’ graph (30 Minute Average)

Brighton Honey Solar weekly-graph

‘Monthly’ graph (2 Hour Average)

Brighton Honey Solar monthly-graph

‘Yearly’ graph (1 Day Average)

Brighton Honey Solar yearly-graph

Brighton Honey Adds Solar

Brighton Honey Solar Array

Brighton Honey Solar Array

In an attempt to be more eco-friendly we have added solar!  Our garage roof is of ideal size and orientation for our consumption. There are now 15 solar panels on the roof. It was chilly overcast spring morning when we started.  I wanted to get them installed as early in spring as possible to get a full season of sunlight.  The next day the sky had cleared and the sun was shining bright on a crisp blue background.  I threw the switch on the inverter and powered up the system and the capacitors started to hum.  The digital readout jumped immediately to 4.5+ kW I ran to the meter and it was spinning backwards and at a relatively decent pace.



The solar array will supply 99+ percent of our yearly power consumption. The summer months the array will over produce and excess will be fed back to the grid and during the winter months we will need to pull from the grid.  This net-meter method will hopefully result in a zero sum or better to provide enough power yearly.

Geotherm is a Honeoye Falls, NY based company managed the installation of the system. The installation began April 17 and was completed April 18.  The 5kW array will produce enough energy to power my home and, most importantly, reduce the carbon footprint of beekeeping and ultimately honey.  I was lucky enough to be able to work closely with the Geotherm folks and assist a bit with the install.

Day one was wiring and roof mounts. Glen showed up at 8:30 and we got right to work.  I had cleaned up the garage a bit over the previous few days and had the plywood up ready for mounting.  I started on mounting the inverter as Glen started preparing for the roof mount install.  The inverter has a hinge mounting system which makes mounting incredibly easy and I had it mounted in about 10 minutes.  The most important piece of the inverter install is aligning and leveling the mounting bracket.  The inverter is a Fronius Primo 5.0-1 208-240 and is Wi-Fi ready and includes free on line monitoring. My goal is to have a real-time graph up on the site shortly.

Once the inverter was mounted I started helping Glen with the roof mounts.  We made short work of it as the longest part of the installation was proper alignment.  Glen had the marked up the roof for installation we started on the rails.  We drilled the lower row of guide holes and mounted the L-brackets and then attached the bottom of each rail to the first bracket then worked our way up.  As Glen then did the final alignment and securing of the rails. A new 30 amp breaker was installed in the garage circuit box farthest from the main to dissipate any heat across maximum surface area.  I had the inverter wired into the breaker panel in about 30 mins.

I am now in the market for a PHEV and the installation of solar power is another step in our goal to become more sustainable and by reducing our carbon emissions and hopefully somewhat mitigating our environmental impact. I will continue to look at new innovations that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Beekeeping and a Disrupted Plant-Pollinator Relationship

honeybee on Callaloo watercolor

Honeybee on Callaloo watercolor

I have not posted in awhile however there is a topic looming over me and on the mind of many beekeepers.
Plants and insects have been evolving in unison for millions of years and have benefited from an elegant symbiotic relationship. This relationship has provided plants a willing host to convey pollen in trade for valuable high energy cocktail called nectar. Residual pollen is an added bonus protein source. A new dynamic is disrupting the alignment of this interaction. Climate change is affecting this coordinated inter species relationship by disrupting the flower blooming cycle. Plants have evolved a response to the spring warming cycle that starts the flowering process in most of the northern hemisphere. With the earlier spring and wondering arctic weather poll with a deep cold we call an arctic blast we are witness to the impact of plants and pollinators. Plants that start their spring cycle early may fall victim to a polar blast that will kill off new growth including blossoms. Pollinators in turn will suffer in that a vital food source will be removed. In its simplest description plants will have little or no reproductive ability and pollinators will be faced with a dwindling energy source.
Insects and plants cannot adapt to this rapidly changing environment as they are locked into a unique interwoven relationship with every facet of the world around them. There will be a decline in pollination that in turn will reflect in the reproductive rate of plants echoing through the food chain to other species. This reproductive impact is of utmost concern as it essentially hampers the world’s major carbon sink i.e. plants!
As a beekeeper I witness this first hand suffering population loss from the wide temperature swings along with dwindling honey production.  The bees feel the warm weather become active consuming honey for energy and the queen naturally starts laying eggs as workers are needed to for their age old cycle. If and when the extreme cold returns the bees eat more of their honey reserves to keep themselves and brood warm. If the brood dies it creates other problems in the hive that further impact their winter survival rate beyond starvation. The summers are longer and dryer and again the bees dip into their reserves to bridge the gap to the fall flowering season. The fall season is dependent on summer rains to provide necessary moisture for nectar to flow. A drier season plants sacrifice nectar volume for their own survival. Lower fall honey volume in turn impacts the honeybee’s survival rate. Mix in the list of other difficulties from parasites to pesticides and the outlook is grim.
I am perplexed and dismayed by human politics and its evil twin greed. Climate change is at this point self evident. The answer is very simplistic as any Zen master will tell you. There are 2 choices we can do something and be wrong or do nothing and be wrong.

Hive Extraction and Equipment List with Infrared Photos

 

Infrared photo of exterior active hive

Infrared photo of exterior active hive

Worked another extraction this weekend for a local building management company and every time I am on one I learn to be a bit more efficient and wanted to share my list. If there is the opportunity to make a small hole first when starting and extraction this is ideal. So the trick is to annoy the aggressive bees and get them out a small hole and grab them with the vacuum right away. This time around I broke through the drywall with a small hole and kept banging on the ceiling to annoy them. I then opened a hole about 6 inches square. This really helped as the aggressive bees rushed the opening and right into the vacuum. I did get stung on the finger once but was when lifting out some comb and I pinned the bee between my finger and some comb. This hive was good size and obviously several years old based on the color of the comb. The management company brought along a heat sensor and gave me the pictures. Here is my list. Enjoy!

  • 9 mil Nitrile gloves – Bring the box: that nail tip always seems to be where you can find it with the back of your hand.
  • Baby powder – can quickly dry clean sticky honey hands to get in and out of gloves
  • Cordless drill – who uses screwdrivers…?
  • Dot gloves – I use these for everything and have an extra pare in each car and randomly around the shop. Your hands are the best tools you will ever own keep them protected!
  • Duct tape – tape up your pant legs and wrists keep the bees out. This is essential if taking out a hive in a floor. The bees go right up your legs and sting your ankles.  Also tape up the shop vac for the ride home.
  • Framing hammer – this can be used as another crowbar and always helpful to have a large hammer handy. The longer handle gives great leverage and hammering force.
  • Large bin with well sealable top – carry out the comb. Any good Tupperware bin with a sealable top it is best so bees don’t get out in your trunk on the ride home.
  • Large flat spatula – this is essential to slice and scrape out comb. Also this can be used to lift out large pieces of comb. I have a vintage one with a large stainless steel triangle blade and almost square corners.  The handle is heaver stainless and is riveted to the blade which makes it a bit stronger than today’s bent spatulas
  • Old 5 gallon pail – can be use to stand on and carry tools
  • Reciprocating saw – may have to cut something heaver than just drywall
  • Several extension cords – the outlet is never near where you need it
  • Small flash light – the bees will always be back in the darkest corner
  • Small flat crowbar – pry out the dry wall
  • Utility knife – don’t rely on your good pocket knife that is just a backup
  • Work gloves – These provide some protection then put the nitrile gloves over these. It will actually make the nitrile last a little longer and will feel a bit more comfortable.  The nitrile gloves provide ease of cleanup. I wash my hands with the gloves on if the gloves are in good shape.  I can easily get at least 2 perhaps 3 uses out of a pair of nitrile gloves.
  • Incense – the smoker in someone’s house may be a bit much. I have used incense to calm down the bees a bit and is fairly innocuous to home owners but always ask.
  • Shop vac – I have 2 modified DeWalt shop vacuums. The DC500 is a 2 gallon vac which is light and small and will hold a lot of bees. I have drilled a ¾ inch hole in the drain cover by removing the rubber washer and replacing it with a piece of metal screening.  This works perfectly by reducing the vacuum enough so you don’t kill the bees and you can always put the rubber washer back if you need the higher suction.
  • Power strip – I keep one handy if I am using multiple tools don’t have t waste time swapping cords
  • Queen catcher clip – I rarely see the queen on extractions typically I get her in the vacuum.
  • Water – always seems to be the hottest part of the summer when I get most calls.
  • Bee suit and Jacket with screened hood – I like the screened as they seem a little less claustrophobic to me as I can unzip them quickly
  • Tie wraps and rubber bands to tie in comb to frames. See the link from Staples size #33
  • Ladder – very handy and portable
Exterior Infrared photo looking for beehive

Exterior Infrared photo looking for beehive of inactive hive

Infrared photo of exterior active hive

Infrared photo of exterior active hive

Infrared photo Interior active hive in ceiling

Infrared photo Interior – active hive in ceiling

Infrared photo active hive in building

Infrared photo active hive in building

Opening hive in ceiling

honey bee hive extraction open ceiling

honeybee hive in building cavity

hive in building cavity

A New Beekeeping Season is Upon Us

Alden Frost Graham

Honey Bandit

Even though the north east is under the barrage of a strong winter I am looking forward to a spring gardening and challenge of what the beekeeping season will bring.  Last year many beekeepers were reminded that the weather is a relentless foe and we as beekeepers in the north east need to stay diligent and manage bees for winter survival.  The more organized of us are already getting ready for when and if the Indian summer break in late February or early March to inspect and add bee candy if necessary.  Not only do we need to keep the supply of carbohydrates in the hive but perhaps add feeders to stimulate the queen to fire up the brood chamber and start laying eggs.  A good crop of honey needs a large volume of bees so fooling the queen to thinking that light nectar is coming in stimulates her to start laying eggs.  It is amazing that late March early April on days above 50 the bees are out and bringing back pollen seemingly that the landscape looks baron.

It has been an interesting season.  I was able to capture 7 swarms and rescued 3 established hives.  I also witnessed the birth of my son Alden!  Swarming was a problem this year also as I lost a couple of hives and I think that part of colony collapse is due to African genetics in bees and their tendency to throw off more swarms.  Most all bees are bread in the south and inevitability the African honeybee is a part of the genetic landscape.   I am overwintering 17 hives this year 2 are very late swarms and another was very slow to build up in population and stores.  I think at least 10 have a very high likelihood of making it overwinter.  Five of the hives are a variety that I am guessing or calling “European Blacks” not really like any commercial bee I have seen. They are very dark like Russians but darker some with no yellow at all on their abdomens and are more aggressive.   I have had all the major breeds now, Italians, Carniolans and Russians.  None were a silver bullet for survival in upstate NY and do seem to swarm more frequently and are aggressive, however European Blacks seem to do incredibly well.  They not only survive they are very good and building up honey stores for the winter. They don’t seem to swarm much and they take very well to splitting.  Next year I am going to be more aggressive at splitting up the surviving hives.  My goal is to one day start breeding these survivors so that I can start selling NUCs and queens.

If any new beekeepers would like to reach out I am always open to talk about beekeeping.  TWC did a story on me over the summer just too busy to post.  Take a look below:

Another Swarm Rescue North Greece, NY

I captured another swarm of honey bees Saturday. The parent hive is in a large cotton wood tree about 30+ feet off the ground. Home owner wants me to remove the tree with the parent hive in it also. This will be a challenge to salvage the hive out of the tree. If I can cut apart the tree carefully and take the whole chunk with the hive and lower it on to a trailer I will strap it down and drive it home to the bee yard.

Huge Honey Bee Swarm Rescue Brighton NY

The call came in at 8:16 while I was getting ready for work.  A gentleman by the name of John called me and he had a swarm on his front porch.  The house was about 5 miles away and I was running out of time before needed to be in the office.  I had to hope I could coax the swarm to accept a box and grab them later.  No way I could vacuum or try to curtail them into some container in a short amount of time.  I did have some drawn comb in some old frames but no time to grab any frames with brood or honey.  I found 3 frames and used some new frames added them in every-other frame.  I grabbed a spare 5 foot ladder, stuffed it into the car with the hive body and frame and was on my way.  I had also grabbed an old cardboard box and ripped it up quickly to use in order to scoop a good amount of bees into the hive body.

I placed the hive body with frames under and as close to the house as I could and scooped several clumps down into the box.  Good to see that it looked like the bees were taking to their new home immediately. Then I put the top on leaving the about a 1 inch opening for the bees to enter.  The bees were marching in fairly quickly and so I had to run to get to home change then into the office.

I check on them around 1pm and all the bees were in the box.  Bees were coming and going like they were now 100% established.  I will return at sun set with a smoker, seal them up and get them home to the bee yard.