Welcome to the Delights Microfarm & Honey Blog

UPDATE - 2015/04/11 - VT's "Big Event" helpers, plus Feral Bee update

Today, four helpers from the VT "Big Event" (see: http://vtbigevent.org/) program came by to help with some garden chores. They arrived on time, worked hard, were very courteous, enthusiastic about the (vegetable) garden & chickens, and interested enough in my "feral" bee hives (which ALL survived the winter, BTW) to stand by fearlessly, without "protection"**, and even take some pictures as I reorganized the hive bodies a bit. No worries, these "feral" bees are really gentle and, as it was sunny, 70F, with an early honey flow just starting, I might not have even needed to smoke them.

While they were stuffing the raspberry & blackberry prunings into the burn-barrel, installing "weed cloth" on the upper garden's raised beds & it covering with a thick mulch of aged wood chips, I was cleaning up the lower garden (pulling up tomato stakes, cutting/removing plant debris, and harvesting a bunch of plump asparagus.

The VT "Big Event" seemed to be better organized this year, and the weather cooperated more than some years in the past. I was very happy to have their help, and impressed with the quality of their work. If you have not availed yourself of this great resource before, be sure to check it out for next spring!

** As a common-sense precaution, I had advised the "Big Event" organizers that I had some bee hives, and whoever was assigned to work here should NOT be allergic to bee stings!

UPDATE - 2015/03/09 = "Spring has sprung, da grass has riz, I wonda where da boidies is."

Seems like "daylight savings time" triggered an end to the series cold snaps. Right now it's 64 degrees, "da boidies" are all over the place, and the bees are out looking for nectar and pollen: Of course flowers are few and far between now, so I've given them some 1:1 sugar syrup and pollen patties to help stimulate an early build-up.

UPDATE - 2014/10/01

The Bakery part of Delights is closed, and the baker (me) has officially "retired" ... again. We still sell eggs and raw local honey, subject to availability, and encourage you give us a call (see the Contact Us page).

FWIW, I just extracted some more of the lemonade-color (locust & apple blossom) spring honey, and some medium color summer honey.

UPDATE - 2014/07/13 - Airtight Storage Containers

A few beekeeping supplies need to be stored in fireproof and critter-proof containers, lest they become dangerous or be destroyed. For a small-scale operation like mine, a few military surplus ammo cans (available online and at many gun shows) fill the bill.

airtight smoker box To prevent fire, and to conserve unburned smoker fuel, a lit smoker (std 4" x 7") can be stored safely in an airtight military surplus .50 Caliber ammo can (12" x 7" x 8.5", at left). The rolled up corrugated cardboard is my preferred smoker fuel. After closing the cover on a lit smoker, the combustion will consume the oxygen in the can, extinguishing the fire and creating a vacuum which will make the can hard to open, at least for a while.

30mm ammo box w/foundation Beeswax foundation and pollen patties are expensive, and easily destroyed by mice & insects, unless stored properly. Quite by coincidence, military surplus 30mm ammo cans are exactly the right size (17.5" x 9" x 14") to hold standard/Langstroth beeswax foundation! On the right I've stored 50 sheets of deep foundation and 100 sheets of shallow foundation. A small plastic bag of moth crystals (PDB/paradichlorobenzene) placed on top of the foundation before closing will protect against wax moths, etc. Beeswax does not absorb harmful amounts of PDB.

WARNING: DO NOT use the lit votive candle method (described below for pollen patties) to protect foundation from insects! Beeswax and the tissue paper between the sheets is very flammable! 30mm ammo box w/patties

On the left, about 20 lbs of pollen patties partially fill a 30mm ammo can, which would likely hold 100 lbs or more. Protect pollen patties (typically pollen mixed with honey) from insects by placing a jelly glass containing a lit votive candle on top of the patties just before sealing the can. As with the lit smoker, the flame will consume the oxygen and create a vacuum. The vacuum and lack of oxygen will kill any insects & larvae, and extinguish the flame. Insect larvae that emerge (from eggs in the patties?) after the can is sealed will perish due to the lack of oxygen and abundance of carbon dioxide, even if the vacuum doesn't hold forever.

WARNING: DO NOT USE moth crystals to protect pollen patties, as the absorbed PDB would be harmful to the bees.

UPDATE - 2014/07/05 - Is this starting to look like a "blog"?

third big swarm On July 3rd, when I checked on the swarm that moved in on June 29th, they covered the six frames and were hanging from the inner cover in the open space. third big swarm I filled the open space with three frames of new foundation to discourage them from building new comb down from the inner cover.

This morning, at 5 AM, I cut some tall grass, covered the entrance, stapled a piece of 1/8" hardware cloth to hold the grass in place and moved the box into the apiary. At the right, you can see the first few bees venturing out in the new location.

Berries - 2014 Our thornless blackberries are starting to ripen and I expect to have some to sell at the July 15th Pulaski Marketplace, along with some potted tip-roots & suckers for folks who'd like to grow their own.

UPDATE - 2014/07/01 - Summer Amusements

These spring chickens are a bit feistier than the last couple batches: A couple like to swing on the watering hose... most are laying pullet eggs, but a few have advanced to "large".

I may have a chance to test the old beekeepers' rhyme: "A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, and a swarm in July isn't worth a fly". On June 29th, my one remaining swarm trap attracted what looks like a pretty strong swarm. Now, there's a lot of two-way traffic, and, although it's hard to see in this video, there are several bees fanning at the entrance: Maybe this swarm will tell me whether SW VA bees consider June 28th to be a "silver spoon" date or a "not worth a fly" date ;-)

UPDATE - 2014/06/21 - Summer Solstice

Berries - 2014 Berries - 2014 Red raspberries are starting to ripen, and the thornless blackberries are just starting to get some color. Tomatoes and chard are coming along and a few zucchini are about ready to harvest.

The two new swarms have been really busy with the post-extraction supers I gave them to clean up. There was some capped brood in the center frames, so I gave them each a 2nd deep for them to build up for winter. Solstice Hives - 2014 Solstice Hives - 2014 The workers in "the tall hive" have started to refill the post-extraction super I gave them, so I added another super ... I wish I could clone those genetics!

UPDATE - 2014/06/08

The honey I extracted from Spring Honey - 2014 "the tall hive" on 06/01 is very sweet, fruity flavored, and "extra light amber" - about the color of frozen lemonade concentrate (see pix at right)! My research suggests that it is mostly from "honey locust" trees (aka acacia) and apple blossoms. Pure Locust honey sells for premium prices ($10-$20/lb), if you can find it - all the sites I visited were "sold out"!

Our 2014 Market Schedule

Market Update: We are now presenting our breads and other products at the Pulaski Marketplace , Tuesdays, from 4 PM to 8 PM, starting May 20th, 2014, thru September 16th.
Look for us at our new permanent location, near the entrance.

In addition to the Marketplace, we usually have farm-fresh cage-free eggs, raw local honey, some frozen breads and other goodies for sale, subject to availability, at our 7th Street Radford location.

Although we don't have "regular store hours", we are usually here, so just give us a call at 540-639-2361, if you want to place an order or check availability.

Delights Home Bakery in Radford, VA is our third state-licensed food preparation venture. The first was a home bakery and catering service we started in 1976 to help pay the mortgage on our Connecticut farm (see History). In that, it was quite successful, as we lived there for 20 years!

The Delights Home Bakery Micro-farm is about 1/3 acre of (non-certified) organic, terraced gardens, raised beds, mini-orchard, berry patches, chicken run & apiary, owned and operated by Dave & Denise Knight in Radford, Virginia, a university town located in the New River Valley, nestled between the Southern Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains.

San Francisco Sourdough Our bakery products feature real San Francisco Sourdough bread, "the standard by which all other sourdough breads are judged", made with only five ingredients: unbleached flour, water, raw honey (from our own bees), salt, and true San Francisco Sourdough culture (c. milleri and l. sanfrancisco) originally purchased from Sourdoughs International), and nurtured here since 2005. We make several kinds of SF Sourdough, including: Original (white), Honey Whole Wheat, Deli Rye, Pumpernickel-Raisin, and Cranberry Walnut.

For details about our San Francisco Sourdough, and how we developed our unique (in SW Virginia) process, check out the Sourdough Notes page

We also bake some favorite "artisan bread" recipes developed for our family and customers over the past 40 years, including: Greek Olive (my grandmother's maiden name was Catherine Achilles), Whole Grain Sprouted Wheat, Tomato Cheese, Savory Herb, and Roseanne's Bananadama, our unique version of traditional Anadama bread.

For the Pulaski Marketplace, we always bake our Original San Francisco Sourdough, and a limited selection of our other breads, either fresh or frozen.

Checking pH of a batch of jam Checking pH of a batch of jam To complement our home-made breads, we offer our small batch preserves, made just like (my) grandma used to make them ... well, almost: we have invested in some modern scientific equipment, like digital pH meters and a digital refractometer, to ensure the quality and safety of every batch.

In addition to some traditional family recipes like strawberry-rhubarb jam and tomato marmalade, we produce a number of original recipes like mango-peach marmalade, rhubarb chutney and mixed berry jams. For a special treat, try our slow-cooked fruit butters. They are lower in sugar than jams and bursting with flavors of fruit and spices. We call them Sun Butters because they are made using electricity from our solar electric system - so, even though they look brown, they are really "green" ;-)

A frame of mostly capped honey Some really fresh, cage-free brown eggs From our "micro-farm", we harvest farm-fresh cage-free brown eggs from our small flock of hens, raw honey from our modest apiary, and fresh-picked seasonal produce from our (non-certified) organic raised bed gardens, mini-orchard, and berry patches.

Fresh-baked breads and our other products are available at the Pulaski Marketplace on Tuesdays (4-8 PM) from mid-May thru mid-September After September 16, we will sell only eggs & honey from our VDACS-inspected kitchen in Radford. Cassolet Soup Baked Beans & Bacon

Special orders for baked goods, sides & entrees for Holidays, parties, or just to have home-made "comfort food" in your freezer, are welcome any time.

Although our main foci are: sustainable agriculture, natural food production, and energy efficiency, technical innovation has been key to our success. East & West banks of solar panels

Our 4.2 KW solar electric system, for example, provides all the energy to slow-cook our fruit butters (which we call "Sun Butters"), and to run most other circuits in our home "off-grid".

We use thermal switches and programmable timers extensively to control henhouse and greenhouse lighting & ventilation, and to automate garden irrigation.

Sunset at DHB
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