All posts by lbean

Bees hit the road – story from Fieldstone Farm

Almond pollination

Fieldstone Farms, Clemons, IA (Eli Kalke & Dale Fields)

We were fascinated by bees, so we attended a beekeeping class at NIACC in Northern Iowa five years ago to learn more, whereupon we ordered 11 hives. Since then we’ve grown our operation to well over 100 hives.

Our apiary is located ½ mile east of Clemons. We sell an array of products using our own honey, such as raw unpasteurized honey, 12 varieties of creamed honey, cut comb, chunk honey, honey straws, beeswax candles, lip balm and lotions. We are also both active with the Iowa Honey Producers Association; Eli is the Vice President and Dale is on the Educational Committee.

When dropping off our products a few cycles ago, we got to talking with the volunteers about something that is a bit unusual about our apiary, which is that we send our bees out to California in the winter to help pollinate their almond crop. They suggested we write up something for IFC members.

Here’s how it works. After we harvested our honey crop last summer, we fed our bees with a sugary liquid feed and protein patty substitute to ensure they had sufficient nutrition and food stored in their hive in preparation for their journey to California for almond pollination. To help orientate the bees, we paint the boxes different colors; this helps them identify which one is “home”.

End of November our hives were loaded on a truck and later transferred to a semi, which had around 400 hives on it bound for California; roughly a four day drive. About 1.6 million colonies are needed for the almond population. 500,000 of these come from California and the rest (1.1 million) are trucked in from all across North America.

Their food supplies were checked mid-January and didn’t require feeding, as they still had an abundance of honey in the hive. Depending on the weather, almond blossom typically begins around Valentine’s Day and ends about a month later, which is when our bees go to work.

The hives will be brought back on a semi-truck the second half of March and will likely be in need of a lot of feeding, as they will have very little food reserves left in the hive. This will keep the bees alive and healthy prior to the arrival of spring flowers, like dandelions, which are very high in protein and essential for rearing their young

Zaza’s Pasta

Dine with Zest with Zaza’s Pastas, by Rita Pray

If you are looking for an elegant yet easy dinner, stock up on some of Zaza’s homemade Ravioli.  It’s about as easy as it gets, and with some simple accompaniments, you can have a delicious, amazing meal on the table in about 10 minutes.  The first ravioli I  tried was the Butternut Squash-Parmigiano Ravioli, which I embellished with a quick and easy creamy pesto sauce.  It was rich and creamy and filling.  Just recently, I served the Beet Ravioli with Gorgonzola cheese and Caramelized Leek filling.   I followed the recommendation of the Zaza folks and served it with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  Accompanied by fresh greens from the Berry Patch and a glass of red wine, we had a lovely meal, simply made and exquisitely delicious.

Zaza’s Pastas originate in North Liberty, made by a producer who learned to cook from her Italian grandmother.  Zaza’s offers a variety of focaccia breads, breadsticks, biscotti, homemade pasta sauces, and about a dozen or more varieties of dried pasta and several types of frozen ravioli.  The dried pastas are colorful (beet, semolina, seppia, butternut squash, saffron, herbed) and shapely (fettuccine, lasagna, farfalle.)  The ravioli boast filling ingredients from local creameries and vegetable gardens when possible.   All of the pastas are flavorful and nicely textured, and make a simple pasta sauce shine.   But for the easiest dinner ever, the ravioli wins, hands down.  Simply boil a salted pot of water, drop in the frozen ravioli and let them simmer for 3-5 minutes, drain and drizzle with olive oil or sage butter.

I have tried one of Zaza’s dessert offerings, by accident when I was given another member’s order of Pizelle—which are the light and crispy waffle-style Italian cookies.  I served them with fresh blackberries, a drizzle of chocolate, and whipped cream, feeling only a little guilty about the unexpected windfall in our distribution.   I’m guessing the tiramisu would be fabulous, based on the other Zaza’s treasures I have discovered.  Buon Appetito!


Mom’s Crazy Open Tacos

Mom’s Crazy Open Tacos – from busy mother of three Stacy Hancock

Not much time to throw something together for dinner? Open Tacos are a great way to get a variety of good stuff in while also being family-friendly. Adjust to whatever you have on hand.

Tortilla Chips

Pinto Beans(can or cooked from dry)

1 lb ground beef from Nova Vitae

Greens of choice, chopped(spinach, baby kale, chard, etc)

Tomatoes of choice, chopped

Shredded Cheese- we used Frisian Farms gouda



7 Pines salsa

7 Pines sweet jalapenos


Taco seasoning


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Fry up the beef in the homemade taco seasoning. Drain grease if needed. Add can of drained/rinsed pinto beans when meat is cooked, mix together and set aside.

3. Layer tortilla chips on bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet or a pyrex casserole dish. Top chips with meat/bean mixture and shredded cheese. Bake in oven until cheese is melted and chips look toasty.

4. Top with greens, tomatoes. Serve salsa, sweet jalapenos and cilantro on the side. Goes great with clementines! Follow up with popcorn and a movie, be crowned the Best Mom Ever!


Holdeman’s Capon Recipe of the Month

Courtesy of Matt Holdeman, Holdeman ABF Poultry –

Here is our recipe of the month using boneless skinless breasts that are on sale this month for $5.39 per lb.Take advantage of this great sale. Thanks and have fun shopping. Matt.

Creamy Italian Chicken
  • 3 lbs boneless skinless capon breast cut into large pieces
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 package Good Seasons Zesty Italian dressing mix


Combine above ingredients in crock pot and cook on low heat for approximately 6 hours Add 1 can Cream of Chicken soup and 4 to 8 ounces cubed cream cheese. Heat until cream cheese is melted. Optional (add one can of mushrooms). Serve over rice.



In Praise of the Capon

By Rita Pray

At the annual IFC meeting and potluck last fall, I cornered the Holdeman family of Holdeman ABF Poultry farm and peppered them with questions about Capons.  Not having grown up on a farm, I didn’t know what this new breed of feathered friend could be.   The IFC website description of capons being “an old tradition” did not fully satisfy my curiosity, so I interrogated the Producers in person.  Being generous and good natured, the Holdemans shared some great information and persuaded me to try some of their product.

According to the Holdemans, a Capon is a neutered rooster.  A rooster naturally grows larger than a hen, so the average size of a capon runs greater (5-6 pounds)  than the average roasting or boiling chicken (3-4 pounds).  The neutering process keeps the meat from becoming tough and strong tasting.   They assured me that I could use capon interchangeably with chicken, but that I should expect a more tender and moist result.

Sold!  I ordered a variety of capon products and am here to tell you that everything I was told in praise of capons is true.   I roasted a whole bird (about 6 pounds) which I stuffed with onion and lemon and some herbs and rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper.   The meat was moist, tender and delicious.  There was plenty of meat left over to take off the bone and freeze for future use.  I used the carcass for a batch of stock, which will add flavor and depth to soups and casseroles.

I used a pound of ground capon in my usual chili recipe and it was fantastic.   You have to get over the lighter color of the meat, but with the tomatoes and dark chili beans, it was kind of pretty.  It was very lean, so I added a little olive oil to enhance the browning process.  I felt virtuous using it as a beef substitute to serve to my dad, who limits his red meat intake on doctor’s orders after a recent heart attack.

I have some capon breast waiting in the freezer, which I anticipate will also yield an excellent meal.

So branch out a bit and try this old but new product.  You just might have a little explaining to do when you serve your next “chicken” dish.