Strange winter we’re having here

Honestly, compared to the last couple of winters this is a weird one. I do remember my husband and brother paying golf together one Christmas Eve several years ago, but this year my bulbs are coming up! My honeysuckle is flowering! Everything is confused.

Wishing these guys some luck as they emerge prematurely. Oh well.

The picture below shows new flower buds but the plant has already been flowering. I call it “The Beast”  because you can cut this down to the ground every year and it grows at least 15′ each summer. Yes, 15 FEET and that’s a conservative number. The flowers are so beautiful.

This is Lonicera sempervirens, a native honeysuckle and thus NOT fragrant. It's the invasive Japanese honeysuckle that is heavily fragranced. But the hummingbirds love my plant just the same.

The bees were out in force today and I can imagine yesterday as well (it hit 60 degrees), today it was 62 degrees! I had set out a jar of sugar syrup for them last week when it was also quite mild, but it does not appear that they have used any, the jar just drips very slowly onto the ground and the bees fly right past it. I peeked in at them several times and they look fine; when it’s cold they are not at the top of the hive so they must still have enough to eat. When it’s nice though, they are all over the inside.

I made bee candy last week to use up my failed fondant and put one of the resultant candy boards on Melissa, the orange hive. It was very hard at room temperature and I assumed it would NOT drip down the frames once it softened. I checked it today and though the outer portion of the candy has softened, it is still intact and NOT dripping, thank heavens. It was quite warm in the hive…and it smells so yummy 🙂

To make the bee candy, I took the failed fondant and put it into a pot, melted it down and added an unknown but very large amount of sugar. I was going for a super hard candy. I let it reach the hard ball stage and then ladled the syrup into dinner plates lined with foil. The syrup was clear and golden, it was not caramel. I used my homemade Honey Bee Healthy to “grease” the foil and help with release. The syrup was VERY sticky and the foil that was not coated well with the “grease” stuck to the candy. In terms of ease of manufacture and storage, I would definitely do this again. Way easier than fondant.

Here are some pictures:

You can see it's not white, but clear and golden. I lined the plates with aluminum foil. The syrup is HOT.

I sandwiched the candy between sheets of natural wax paper and slid it into a ziploc bag and into the freezer. Very easy.

This is one that stuck to the foil, not enough "grease"!

I’ve been baking like a fiend it seems. I made a ridiculous amount of cookies between Thanksgiving and Christmas to give out at the hospital. Last week I made baguettes. I have pictures of the bread and it came out quite well:

This is the bread during it's final rise in the couche. The couche is a floured, smoothly -knit towel or fabric.

Bread after being slashed by the lame.

Close up. You are supposed to slash it quite deeply to ensure the bread will expand enough in the oven.

You want the bread to be a nice dark brown, that caramelization gives great flavor.

My favorite part of baking bread is the crackling of the bread as it cools. Yum.

I am still battling the fungus gnats on the citrus tree. I’ve killed lots of adults but there are always more. I did some searching and found a very porous mix on gardenweb that should take care of the problem. I’ll repot my tree in the next couple of weeks and hopefully eliminate the gnats. The tree is putting out even more leaves and flowers, it seems to have forgiven me for freezing it 🙂 Maybe I’ll get to harvest a few lemons after all (cross fingers).

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