Carson and Bees takes the CalFresh Challenge

When I’m not helping Carson run the “family business,” I work as the Community Outreach Coordinator at North Coast Opportunities in Ukiah. This week Carson and I are tackling the CalFresh Challenge, in which participants must eat for only $5 per person, per day, for five days. Follow along with us via a daily journal about the experience, which you can find here: Calfresh Challenge Journal.

Thanks for the support!

~Elizabeth

market bounty
What $30 at the farmers market gets you.

General Mills and the “Bee Friendlier” campaign

Cascadian Farms is the organic branch of General Mills, which represents 3% of the company’s total sales. Although as a major food producer General Mills uses a lot of pesticide – which has been directly linked to declining pollinator populations – a new campaign started by the Cascadian Farm branch called “Bee Friendlier” is an encouraging step in the right direction.

Although the #1 thing you can do to help pollinators is plant flowers, they have to be organic! These days most everything is treated – often at the seed level – with pesticide. The pollen the bees gather is poisoned by the pesticide the plant’s seed was rolled in (or sprayed in the large warehouse nursery where it was born). The only surefire way to help and not further hinder pollinators is to plant seeds whose packaging clearly states that zero treatment has been applied.

It’s easy to demonize companies like General Mills for being huge food conglomerates that use pesticides, pay low wages, and destroy the land. But GM and companies like it are products of society, and they directly reflect consumer’s demands: Americans want abundant and cheap food, so the current food system is built accordingly. Now, however, we’re taking a collective pause to reexamine the implications of valuing cost over everything else, and there’s a slow but steady sea change happening.

This “bee friendlier” campaign is a part of that sea change. And so are we! Each of us decides what the system looks like based on where we spend our money. In Ukiah we’re blessed with a year-round farmers’ market, a socially conscious co-op, and a Friedman’s that carries organic seeds. If you could spend 10% of your food budget on local producers, plus a few dollars a year to plant organic flower seeds, you’ll make a bigger impact than you realize on the food system AND the health of your friendly backyard pollinators.

Farewell, Farmers Market

Today was the last day of the Redwood Valley Farmers Market. It was an excellent season that saw the market grow in spades (thanks in large part to our enthusiastic market manager Steph) and helped us connect with the community. We made great friends with other food producers (I’m looking at you, Black Dog Farm!) and found a new customer base that is just as enthusiastic about local, raw honey as we are (special shout out to Ronnie, who bought something from us every single week).

We’re already looking forward to next year’s market, which will start in June. Until then you can still get Carson and Bees honey from us directly, or at a few local spots (including Pizza Etc in Redwood Valley and Westside Renaissance Market in Ukiah).

Thanks for a fun summer, Redwood Valley!

first RV market

Tell Syngenta to simmer down

Dear fellow bee lovers,

It’s no secret that bees are in trouble. All around the world, people are mobilizing to try to do something about it: hundreds of studies and thousands of people are focusing on how to help alleviate the stresses that are causing native and commercial bees alike to die off in alarming numbers. Europe has taken an important step in banning neonicotinoid pesticides, but here in the U.S. we aren’t doing as well. To wit:

Pesticide giant Syngenta just asked the EPA to raise the “acceptable” level for neonic residues by 40,000%. Say what??

Syngenta is  arguing that they need the increase so they can spray it rather than coat the seed in it, which might actually be good for bees – seed treatments affect the entire plant, whereas sprays “should” stick to the leaf. The big caveat here is that, for this to actually work for bees, it couldn’t be administered when the crop was flowering, nor while any other plant was flowering nearby. I personally have zero confidence in that scenario playing out – what does a Big Ag farmer care about some weeds flowering in his ditches? (Not to mention these crops are often sprayed while flowering anyway, despite very clear labels prohibiting it.)

So, what can we do? Three things.

1) Submit a public comment to the EPA. Go here: http://www.regulations.gov, and in the search field enter the docket number EPA–HQ–OPP–2014–0008. Several seemingly identical search results are returned; click “comment now” on the uppermost one. The comment period closes on October 6.

2) Donate to Sum Of Us, which is doing tremendous work on our pollinators’ behalf.

3) Buy organic seeds and plants. These days, even plants marked “bee friendly” are likely to have been treated with a pesticide, which creates toxic pollen. The only surefire way to provide SAFE forage is to buy organic.

Thanks for everything you do to help our pollinators!

~Elizabeth

“Let the Fur Fly” Humane Society fundraiser on 9/14

If you don’t have any plans next Sunday, September 14, consider checking out a fundraiser for the Humane Society of Redwood Valley. It’s called “Let the Fur Fly,” and it’s a luncheon/fashion show being held at Barra of Mendocino Winery from 1-4 pm. Tickets are $25. In addition to lunch and a fun fashion show, you can also bid on a quart of Carson and Bees honey in the silent auction! We love giving to causes that are dear to our hearts, and we’re big animal lovers: our mascot Bee is a pound puppy herself. Rescued animals make the absolute best pets!

Bee up close

Brandied pears in honey vanilla syrup

This is one of Carson’s all-time favorite canned goods. Last year we didn’t make nearly enough, so this year Carson picked tons of pears and then left for weeks on a fire, ensuring that I’d become responsible for them. Have you ever noticed that pears don’t ripen politely? One day they’re hard and green and the next day, BANG, you better use them or lose them.

pearsThis recipe is really easy, as canning goes (which is always a worthy but time-consuming process). I’ve given basic instructions here, but if you’ve never canned before you should read up on it first. It’s not hard but there are a lot of steps!

The syrup is 1 cup honey for every 3 cups water. For 10 quarts of pears, I used 12 cups of water/4 cups of honey. Heat this on low in a big pot on the stove.

Meanwhile, pour 1/3 C brandy in each clean jar (make sure you’re using new lids!), plus 1/4 of a fresh, split vanilla bean. I add a few black peppercorns to about half the jars, just for variety.

Peel the pears- this is the worst part. I cut the very top off, peel to the bottom, cut the bottom, cut it in half, and do a little funky side cut to get the tiny core out. You’ll find the way that works best for you.

As you work on the pears, put the cut pieces into a large bowl of water with some lemon juice or citric acid (1 tsp is plenty). This will keep them from turning brown.

Once you have all your pears done, dump them into the jars and smoosh them down a bit. If you don’t, you’ll end up with tons of room in the jar, like the one on the right:

honey pears

Pour the hot syrup over them, leaving 1/2 inch head space; wipe the rims of the jars, add the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

These are perfect straight from the jar or over vanilla ice cream. Added bonus: use the syrup to make a fun cocktail!

~Elizabeth

Honey sticks are here!

At long last and by popular demand, Carson and Bees is excited to finally offer HONEY STICKS! For now they’re available by special order and at the Redwood Valley Farmers’ Market (Sundays in Lion’s Park from 9-12). The price is 25 cents each, or five for a dollar.

like copper A five-gallon bucket of early harvest honey was hand-delivered (special thanks to our friend Matt for pulling that off on a road trip) to the honey stick-making facility in Oregon a few weeks ago, and yesterday we got three boxes in the mail containing 4,400 gorgeous golden wands.

As I was trying to figure out how best to photograph them, I realized they were already sitting in the middle of a perfect summer still life: sunflowers from Black Dog Farm, peaches from Elmer’s Orchards, and honey from us right here at Carson and Bees. (You can find all three of us at the market on Sunday, incidentally.)

honey sticks

 

Reflections on 4-H and the fair

Carson grew up in 4-H and, among other activities, raised pigs. Attending the Redwood Empire fair in Ukiah this past weekend made us here at Carson and Bees reflect on the importance of 4-H, FFA, and other programs for children and young adults. It also brought home how critical a community is for instilling values and a good work ethic among those kids.

This blog post could have been written about our local fair, which makes my heart swell with pride and my eyes fill with tears (being the resident sap). It’s worth a read if, like us, you value these programs and the community’s support for them: “On Sunday my son sold his pig.”

~Elizabeth

Ukiah Kids’ Farmers Market

We’d like to share a little-known-event with you: the kids’ farmers market, held every Tuesday in front of the Ukiah library on Perkins and Main from 12:00-1:30.

Last week, Carson and Bees bought homemade soap, freshly canned plum jam, a banana muffin, cherry tomatoes, and beeswax lip balm… all for $10! If we had more in our wallet we probably would have also picked up a charming owl necklace made by a particularly enterprising young woman. Also up for grabs: zucchini and other types of summer squash, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, and many other types of jam.

We’re particularly proud of two young men from the 4-F bee project. Carson couldn’t ask for a better group to lead! (Also, Elizabeth’s lips are loving the balm.)

4-H farmers market beeswax balm