Beautiful Beehives Of The Day

Hives at Kew Gardens in London

Hives at Kew Gardens in London

Kew Gardens has an educational bee habitat as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the need for a more bee-friendly planet.

Beautiful Beehives Of The Day

Clarence House beehives

Prince Charles’s beehives at Clarence House. Appropriately gorgeous!

What a wonderful setting for hives…

Should Beekeeping Be An Olympic Sport?

I’ll admit it.

I’m glued to my tv watching the Summer Olympics in London. Apparently, I’ll watch just about any event.

Which gave me an idea.

Beekeeping has all the makings of an Olympic sport!  Kind of a Pentathlon of beekeeping activities!!

The events could be:

1. Wearing a full bee suit and wellies in 100° weather the longest without passing out.

2. Lifting and  carrying a full deep the farthest.

3. Lighting a smoker and keeping it lit the longest.

4. Dealing with a bee in one’s suit without flailing and screaming like a maniac.

5. Being the first to spot the Queen among  80,000 or so other bees.

Hey, I think it would be a lot more fun to watch than synchronized swimming!!  But then I’m biased…

Boadicea – The First Queen Of England

The first woman to hold the title of Queen in England was Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni tribe in the first century A.D.

Boadicea (also spelled Boudicca or Boudica) was born into a royal family around 26 A.D. She married Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, a tribe located in what is now Norfolk, England. Prasutagus ruled under the auspices of the occupying Romans, who had probably put him on the throne in return for his assistance when they invaded England in 43 A. D.

Upon Prasutagus’s death around the year 59, the kingdom passed into the hands of the Romans. The king had hoped the Romans would allow his two teenage daughters to keep half of his property, but instead the Romans took over completely. When Boadicea complained, she was publicly flogged and forced to watch as her daughters were raped.

Infuriated, Queen Boadicea — described by one Roman historian as a tall, terrifying-looking woman with fierce eyes, a harsh voice, and very long red hair — became the leader of a violent uprising against Roman rule.

Leading a swarming army of angry tribes folk she swept into London, torched its buildings, and slaughtered in the region of 70,000 Romano-Londoners.

To this day, about 18 feet below the current street level there is a level of red ash, known to archaeologists as the Boadicea layer.

The Romans brutally put down the rebellion with their superior numbers and weapons  in a ferocious battle (the exact site of which is uncertain). According to one account, Boadicea then killed herself with poison so she would not fall into Roman hands. Boadicea’s name means “victorious,” or Victoria, and in Victorian times she came to be viewed as a heroic symbol of Britain.

Boadicea’s rebellion was a crucial moment in early British history. Her confederacy of Briton tribes had taken the placid Roman occupiers by surprise; they had assumed that the Celtic “barbarians” were far too disorganized to mount any insurrection. As a result, the Roman officials lessened some of the onerous demands of their colonial rule, including a fairer system of taxation.

Long live Queen Boadicea!

British Week – Shepherds’ Pie

This is one of my very favorite English entrees, second only to fish and chips.

My elementary school lunchroom would serve it once a week. It’s perfect comfort food!

For the potatoes:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon each, kosher salt and honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt, and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the honey, tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

British Week – Sorry, George, The Milk Goes In First

Thanks to Katiepede for this!!

How to make a perfect cuppa: put milk in first

Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 25 June 2003 03.34 EDT

Half the population of Britain will take this as a declaration of war.

After months of research the Royal Society of Chemistry has announced the answer to a question that for generations has shattered households, sundered friendships, splintered relationships: the milk should go in first.

It is all to do with denaturing milk proteins, according to Dr Andrew Stapley, a chemical engineer from Loughborough University.There are other contentious points at issue: microwaves come into the perfect cup of tea, and the recommendation that the tea itself should be loose Assam will certainly be taken as blatant provocation by the Darjeeling and Lapsang Souchong factions.

Above all, the society could be seen as spitting on the grave of George Orwell, having commissioned the research to celebrate today’s centenary of his birth – and concluded that he was quite wrong in his own recipe, published as A Nice Cup of Tea in the Evening Standard in 1946.

The chemists and the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four are in agreement on Indian tea, and a china or earthenware teapot. There is a minor divergence over warming the pot: Orwell recommended placing the pot on a hob, Dr Stapley defends a microwave as a 21st century equivalent. But on the issue of milk the gap is unbridgeable.

Orwell wrote: “By putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk, wheras one is likely to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.”

Dr Stapley is adamant. “If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk, and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation – degradation – to occur. This is much less likely to happen if hot water is added to the milk.”

Veteran tea drinker Tony Benn test-drove the perfect cup of tea yesterday, at the London headquarters of the society. He calculates that he has got through 27,375 gallons in 60 years, and is a tea first, milk second man. The milk went in first. The tea was poured in. He sniffed. He sipped. He pondered. “It’s very tasty, I must say,” he said. He sipped again. “Oh, it’s delicious.”

The chemists purred – and then last night the physicists waded in and said all that matters is the water temperature, not the milk. “Trust chemists to make things complicated,” Institute of Physics chief executive Dr Julia King said. “When it boils down to it, the physics is more important than the chemical side of things.”

· Chemists’ recipe

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s definitive recipe for the perfect cup of tea

Ingredients: Loose leaf Assam tea, soft water, fresh chilled milk, white sugar.

Implements: Kettle, ceramic teapot, large ceramic mug, fine mesh tea strainer, tea spoon, microwave oven.

Method: Draw fresh soft water and place in the kettle and boil. While waiting for the water to boil place a tea ot containing a quarter of a cup of water in a microwave oven on full power for one minute.

Place one rounded teaspoon of tea per cup into pot.

Take the pot to the kettle as it is boiling, pour on to the leaves and stir.

Leave to brew for three minutes.

The ideal receptacle is a ceramic mug.

Pour milk into the cup first followed by the tea, aiming to achieve a colour that is rich and attractive.

Add sugar to taste.

Drink at 60-65C, to avoid vulgar slurping which results from trying to drink tea at too high a temperature.

To gain optimum ambience for enjoyment of tea aim to achieve a seated drinking position in a favoured home spot where quietness and calm will elevate the moment.

British Week – A Nice Cup Of Tea

A Nice Cup of Tea

By George Orwell

Evening Standard, 12 January 1946.

If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

  • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
  • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
  • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
  • Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
  • Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
  • Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
  • Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
  • Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
  • Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
  • Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
  • Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

(taken from The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 3, 1943-45, Penguin ISBN, 0-14-00-3153-7)

The Dark Allure of Oxford

I didn’t post as much as I wanted about my visit to Oxford. Possibly because I found it to be so overwhelming.

The Bodelian

As I wrote in the prior post, the purpose of my visit to Oxford was to do research for a novel I’m writing, the main character of  which grew up in the University town. It’s a paranormal mystery, as is most of my fiction writing, and Oxford’s history is rife with tales of practitioners of the occult sciences.

The Bridge Of Sighs – That Tells You Something!

The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, England as vie...

For one thing, it is so very OLD.

We in the US consider the White House to be old.  Buildings in Oxford date back to the 12th century.

The Ashmolean

But there is something else, something more sinister.

I believe that places absorb the energies of activities that have taken place there. Perhaps the centuries of intense mental concentration and inquiry have changed Oxford somehow.  All I know is that I felt drained on my trip back to the City.

Or maybe it was just jet lag.  🙂

Are There Too Many Bees In London? – The Best Interest Of the Bees

There is little question that everyone in this debate sincerely wishes the best for London’s bees.  Here is Angela Woods’ response to the most recent comments on this important issue:

The diversity of opinion is most welcome. One of the problems is that the data is incomplete. The National Bee Unit has data but it does not diseminate or analyse it in a way that gives a clear idea of what might be going on in London. This is why the LBKA, uniquely placed with its 300 members, has agreed to hook up with respected research fellows in this field to survey our members annually so that we can get a clearer picture and help advise on how the welfare of all pollinating insects can be best preserved.

Angela Woods

Are There Too Many Bees In London? – A Call For An Independent Study

More input, this time from my blogging friend and fellow beekeeper, Emily Heath:

Jude has some good points… however looking out of my back window at my neighbours’ gardens I can see a lot of paving, sheds and pebbles. Walking around my local area plenty of my neighbours have turned their front gardens into car parks – are these spaces included in the 22% of land occupied by private gardens figure?! Some private gardens may be full of bee friendly forage, but not all of them. It’s also true that we have a lot of street trees, but many of these are plane trees – no good for bees – which were chosen because they cope well with pollution.

Agree with Jude that we do need more reliable facts, research by an independent body would be good. Without a comprehensive study having been done of the forage available it’s hard to say for sure whether it’s suitable for the amount of bees here.