Tips For Creating A Bee-Friendly Garden

Alys Fowler

Alys Fowler

 

Top tips for creating a bee-friendly garden this spring by TV presenter Alys Fowler

Gardening writer and TV presenter Alys Fowler is offering British gardeners top tips to help our bees, as part of Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign to save vital bees that pollinate our food and make our countryside, parks and gardens thrive.

Gardeners are also being asked to help urge the Government to strengthen its plans to protect Briatain’s bee populations.

More than 20 UK bee species are already extinct and a quarter of those remaining are at risk – due mainly to their food and nesting sites disappearing, with 97% of wildflower meadows gone in the last 60 years.

Alys Fowler said:

Gardens are becoming one of the most important refuges for Britain’s wild and honey bees, providing chemical-free food, clean water and a place to nest.

The Government must strengthen its plan to protect bees and other pollinators – but gardeners have a key role to play too.

Taking steps to make your garden bee-friendly brings in other beneficial insects and wildlife too, helping your garden to find its natural balance. When the balance is right, there is no such thing as a pest problem, meaning less work for you.

In return, bees will pollinate your fruits and vegetables, giving you more strawberries, apples and tomatoes to enjoy.

Alys’ top tips for a bee-friendly garden

  • Planting nectar and pollen rich flowers will help you and the pollinators.  Crimson clover (trifolium incarnatum) will please the bees and increase soil fertility through its nitrogen fixing roots.
  • Lacy phacelia (phacelia tanacetifolia) is a green manure that if left to flower will bring hordes of bees. Once it has finished flowering, but before it goes to seed, you can dig it in to improve the fertility of your soil.
  • Allow edible plants like coriander and rocket to flower, these are attractive to bees and once pollinated you can collect seed to sow for next year.
  • Soft fruit is wonderful for bees and delicious to eat too. Take your pick from blackberries, currants and gooseberries to wineberries, blueberries and raspberries – there’s something for every garden.
  • Provide a clean source of drinking water for bees. All that’s needed is a shallow bowl with a few pebbles in the middle, so the bees can rest and sip water.
  • Wild bees need nesting sites, somewhere dry and warm. Make a ‘bee hotel’ by bundling together some old stems of stuff like Jerusalem artichokes or bamboo canes south west facing out of prevailing winds.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director, Andy Atkins said:

Green-fingered gardeners are usually green-minded too, so we hope they’ll help safeguard crucial pollinators by making their gardens bee-friendly

Avoid peat and pesticides

Friends of the Earth is also urging gardeners to avoid pesticides and peat. There are many excellent peat-free alternatives to avoid the destruction of peat bogs, which are important wildlife sites that absorb carbon pollution and reduce flood risk.

Take action

Gardeners are also being urged to sign a petition calling for the Government’s plan to reverse bee decline – the draft National Pollinator Strategy – to be considerably strengthened to tackle all the threats bees face, especially from intensive farming and pesticides: www.foe.co.uk/beespetition.

Honey Lamb Cake!

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I’ve spent the last 48 hours baking, frosting and decorating three Lamb Cakes for Easter.

Okay, I took a two hour break to hear Carla Hall, my personal favorite Top Chef and co-host of The Chew, speak at our local bookstore, Joseph Beth. I even got to meet her and give her a big hug! She was awesome!

Carla

 

But that’s another story… Back to the Lamb Cakes

I first encountered Easter Lamb cakes when I moved from Louisville to Cincinnati back in the 70’s.  Cincinnati has a large Eastern European population, mostly German. Lamb cakes are wildly popular in the Old Country at Easter Tide, and German immigrants brought them here in the mid 19th century.

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Lamb cakes were traditionally made in heavy cast iron molds manufactured by the Griswold Manufacturing Company of Erie, Pennsylvania. They aren’t manufactured any more, but you can find them on EBay, usually at exorbitant prices.  I was lucky and got mine for cheap. It was worth the hunt!

griswoldlambcake2

Traditionally Easter Lamb cakes were made with honey and ground hazelnuts. Sadly, nowadays hazelnuts are usually omitted and cane sugar is used instead of honey. My recipe leaves out the nuts, but you can always include some almond flour.

I originally planned to only make one cake, but this recipe makes two large and one small cakes. It was fortuitous though because both of my neighbors wanted one!

By the way, I’m starting Culinary School in two weeks.  Wish me luck!!

Cake Ingredients

3  cups sifted cake flour, plus more for mold

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for mold (I used Crisco to grease the pan)

1 1/4 cups sugar

2/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

6 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Place rack in center of oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the mold with butter or Crisco, making sure to cover all areas.

Dust mold with flour, tap out excess, and freeze until ready to use.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda,and salt. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed; drizzle in honey. Beat on high until very pale and fluffy. Add vanilla.

Add flour mixture, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Transfer batter to a large bowl. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites.

Pour batter into the “face” side of the mold.  Place  toothpicks or bamboo skewers in the batter to provide support for the head, ears and neck.  Place the other side of the mold on top.  Place on a baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes and turn the mold over.  Bake for another 20 minutes. Transfer mold to a wire rack.  After 15 minutes remove the top side of the mold.  After another 15 minutes or so, carefully remove the cake from the other side of the mold. Let cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day).

Honey Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey plus 2 TBSP
4-5 cups powdered sugar
milk as  needed for thinning out frosting

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the honey for 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar .
Start on low speed on the mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.
Use milk to thin out frosting to reach desired consistency.

Tips for Success

1. Grease your lamb pan.  Then grease it some more.

2. Flouring your pan is MUST!

3. Fill your lamb on the “face” side of the mold.

4. Add structural support (e.g. toothpicks and/or bamboo skewers) to your lamb cake before it is baked.

5. Tie your lamb cake mold shut with baker’s twine.

6. Bake cake for the maximum amount of time called for in the recipe.

7. Cool cake properly before removing from mold.

8. Loosen edges on the face side completely before trying to de-pan your lamb.

9. Let your lamb cool completely before trying to frost it.

10. Give your lamb a good base (frosting on plate) to sit on.

Happy Easter To All!!

The Archbishop Of Canterbury Talked To Bees

Reprinted courtesy of  The Telegraph

Archbishop of Canterbury: I talked to the bees about my day at school and pretty girls

The Most Rev Justin Welby has disclosed how he would talk to the bees about his innermost secrets growing up, as the bees “were reasonably confidential”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in the gardens at Lambeth Palace Photo: HEATHCLIFF O’MALLEY FOR THE TELEGRAPH

In the case of the Most Rev Justin Welby, though, it was not flowers and shrubs, but bees in whom he would confide his innermost secrets.

The cleric has told how he became interested in beekeeping as a child through his grandmother, and would use the time when he was tending to their hives to talk to them.

He added that he started off by telling them about his day at school, but that as he grew older, he moved on to more mature preoccupations – the birds and the bees.

Interviewed as part of a new BBC programme, The Wonder of Bees, he said he used to talk about the “pretty girls” he had encountered, adding: “The bees knew more than anyone else.”

The Archbishop said his grandmother had introduced him to Rudyard Kipling’s encouragement to “tell bees the news”, from his poem, The Bee-Boy’s Song, and had embraced it.

“I assume they were reasonably confidential,” he added.

The Archbishop will appear in the second of four programmes presented by Martha Kearney as part of her new series beginning tomorrow . In it, the broadcaster will explore the science and history of beekeeping.

At one point, she will visit Lambeth Palace, which is currently home to six beehives, to the “delight” of its incumbent. In the programme, due to be broadcast on BBC Four on April 21, the Archbishop said: “My grandmother took to keeping bees and grew up with the information from the beekeepers that you must always tell the bees all the news.

“It’s in Kipling. So we had to tell them, she took me down and I’d say how school had been and what I was doing.

“And then as I grew up and, ‘I got a boat’, and ‘there’s this pretty girl here’ and that sort of stuff.”

When asked by Kearney whether the bees knew “all his secrets first”, he added: “The bees knew more than anybody else. I assume they were reasonably confidential.”

He also discussed the significance of bees in Christian thinking, where hives are used in religious art to symbolise people living harmoniously together in a monastery.

“Clearly the people who picked up on those had never lived in a monastery,” he said.

“Religious community life was, and to this day remains, not always that easy but then I suppose hives aren’t always as harmonious as we like to imagine.”

Reflecting on the symbolic use of bees in religion, he went on: “The ancient legend was that they were the only creature to escape untainted from the Garden of Eden so they were particularly innocent.

“The great preachers in the era of the eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople, would be referred to as ’honey tongued preachers’ and it was a sense of smooth and sweet and with words that carried real conviction and power and life changing impact.”

The remainder of the Wonder of Bees series will see Kearney working on her own beehives, in the hopes of producing honey to sell.

Programmes will also see her try to combat disease in the hive, visit scientists putting bees in tiny ’straitjackets’ to demonstrate the damaging effect of chemicals and filming the “waggle dance” that helps the insects communicate.

The Wonder of Bees is part of BBC Four’s spring season, intended to explore the nation’s “deep relationship with nature and our inimitable love of gardens”.

My Bees Are Flying!

Thanks to the Polar Vortex it’s been abnormally arctic in Southwestern Ohio this year.  We aren’t used to this kind of heavy snow, ice and below zero temperatures.

Local beekeepers are understandably anxious. Are their hives still alive? Will the bees make it until the dandelions start blooming? Should they have winterized more?  Or in my case, winterized at all?

I went into December with two healthy hives. I started the season with four.

One of my hives never really got going, and the other was robbed by its next door neighbor. Needless to say, I’ll be moving those hives farther apart this year!

Over the past few days we’ve finally gotten some blessedly warm weather. Last Friday it hit 59 degrees, and with great trepidation, I ventured out to my backyard (aka Mt. Everest) to survey the bee situation. I was delighted to discover that both hives appear to be thriving!

I didn’t harvest any honey last Fall, so I’m pretty sure the bees have enough food for now.  Nonetheless I’m planning to open the hives up for few minutes today to do a quick check and and slip in some fondant.

It was too sunny to get good pictures, but if you look closely you can see my happy girls flying. Happy Bee Season!!

My "Beautiful Beehives" are in need of a new paint job!

My “Beautiful Beehives” are in need of a paint job!

Buzzing Away!

Buzzing Away!

The hive on the right is thriving. The hive on the left not so much...

The hive on the right is thriving. The hive on the left not so much…

Happy girls!

Happy girls!

Cat visits her bees!

Cat visits her bees!