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My adventures with Beekeeping 101

Took a beekeeping class yesterday with The Institute For Urban Homesteading. We want to get bees for the roof at Forage Kitchen, and although I hadn’t planned on taking care of them myself, I wanted to learn a little something about how they work.

Really interesting class! Learned a ton (which was easy considering I knew nothing). I was really struck by a few things. One is just the insane organization of the honey bee colony. At the risk of getting a bit airy, it really does seem magical the way they work. The second they’re born they know everything they need to do (the female worker bees first task is to turn around and clean her own hatching cell, HOW DOES SHE KNOW?!. Alternately the lazy male bees first task is to get fed…).

One bee on its own, while not stupid, doesn’t know how the whole functions functions, but they are born knowing exactly what their purpose is, really fascinating.  A queen bee doesn’t rule, but is just a larger bee fed differently. To make a queen the larvae is simply fed royal jelly for its entire incubation period, and put in a larger cell to grow. That’s the only difference, and somehow by being fed differently it knows that the second it’s born its supposed to kill all competing queens, fly out to mate, then lay thousands of eggs for the rest of her life.

It really does bring to mind the idea of the colony as a superorganism; something I’ve become really interested in lately, and that we discussed in the class. A bee is more like a cell in the body than an individual. A white blood cell doesn’t have a brain, and is never taught what to do, it just does it. It is created with all the information it will ever need, and immediately goes to task.  A thought doesn’t live in a neuron, but billions of neurons together create the experience of being human. The part creates the whole, without the need for individual agency. This is one of those things that if we didn’t see it happening in nature, we would say it was impossible.  Amazing.

The other thing I was really struck by was how little tending bees can live with. This was an alternative hive class, so instead of the standard hive (when you think of a commercial beehive, you’re thinking of a standard hive), we looked at several alternatives. The one that I was most enamored with is the Top Bar Hive. At it’s most basic; it’s a box with a series of 1.25 inch removable slats on top, with a .5 inch vertical piece of wood in each slat. Rather than needing to give the bees a frame to build their combs, they naturally create them on each vertical slat. Some for brood (where the babies are born), which are brown, and some for honey storage.

I originally went to the class really just to have a better understanding of what we were getting into at Forage Kitchen, but now I want my own! If anyone has any tips on where to find some healthy bees send ‘em my way!

forageSF

Spearfishing in Mendo with our chef Ty.

Just went on my first spearfishing trip with Ty, our new chef, in Albion, on the Mendocino coast. It was a family affair. I showed up to the campground and was greeted by his brother, his dad, a crew of friends, and burgers smoking on the BBQ.  Freediving is definitely one of my favorite things, and I try to get out whenever I can. There is something incredibly meditative about being underwater without a tank. Nothing mediating the experience except your goggles. Its amazing to get down to the bottom and just pause, resting with the sway of the ocean, quietly drifting with the kelp. Nothing is better. 

Since abalone ("abs" to the veteran), season is closed, we went up to a spot for some straight spearfishing, but I have never seen so many abs before in my life! Amazing abundance. Since I dont have my own boat I usually shore dive (basically just swim off the shore with a float to carry my catch), but taking the boats out this time really opened my eyes to how abundant the seas just beyond a few hundreds yards out can be. The one good size fish I caught, a 24 inch ling cod, was more than enough for a meal for me and my girlfriend. I wanted to treat it lightly, so I sauteed and roasted the filets, and wrapped the head in tinfoil with garlic and roasted that in a 400 degree oven. Delicious ling cod cheeks! Some other divers got scallops, which you'll see me holding in the pic below, but I couldn't manage to get any myself. We had some fresh raw scallop on the beach when we got back, amazing flavor. Fresh, briny, I think much better than cooked. 

Forgot the GoPro this time around, so unfortunately no sea shots, but here's a couple pics of us getting in, taking a superman pose in our suits, and what we caught. Wasn't the best day for fish, but as always any day in the water is a great day.

Iso 

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a holiday musing on the high church of food...

I hope you’re all having a great holiday. I’m up in northern CA at my dad’s, sitting by a tree cut from the nearby woods. I actually went to church last night for one of the first times (I’m a non-practicing Jew), and was reflecting on how nice it must be to be religious. The foundation that it must give to your life, the calm and reassurance it gives every decision. 

The idea that someone is there looking out for you, but also the way the rituals frame your life that non-religious people search for. What to do and not to do in certain situations. How to treat people and how to solve the problems that come up in every life. I think this is one of the reasons I focus on food. Food, like religion, is a way for people to come together around a common set of ideals; a way to join a community of like-minded individuals that live their lives with common purpose and focus. 

Food has become so much more than just what we put in our bodies. It has become a lens through which we feel we can view and influence every part of our lives, as well as the world. The environment, the economy, health, society, government policy, we can touch all these through the decisions we make with the food we eat. That’s why I’m excited about opening Forage Kitchen. Yes, it will be a place where people can work, but more than that, it will be a place for people with shared ideas can come together. A place to learn, grow, and nurture, not just discrete businesses, but a community of people who share the same ideals about how the world should be. 

Some may say I’m being a bit over the top, but to me food is so much more than what you eat. It’s a daily statement of the direction you want the world to move, and a tangible thing you can hold that expresses what you believe in. 

Forage Kitchen is coming: we’re getting the permits signed, the plans through the planning, and the designs on the paper. I’ll see you all there soon. Hope you’re having a great holiday, and ideally eating far more than you should.

Thanks

Iso