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The main difference between TV chefs and Airman 1st Class Ryan Scott is that, although they are all chefs, Airman Scott serves 3 meals a day to several thousand people per day.

Stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.,  Airman Scott is also responsible for cleaning and maintaining one of the best dining facilities in the Air Force and still manages preparing for the next days meals, including menu planning, and supports the ”Fit to Fight” program in the form of nutritionally balanced food options.  According to Master Sgt. Jeffrey Fricke, the Sustainment Services Flight superintendent, they ensure that junior enlisted Airmen and deployed Airmen receive nutritious meals that keep them fit, allowing them to do their jobs well and accomplish their mission.  One of the main reasons that the Air Force has military cooks is to provide nutritional meals to troops in harsh/remote locations when they are deployed. It helps to keep morale up as opposed to rations. Food service training is desired, not required. Military chefs are trained by some of the best culinary experts in the world.  The dining facility at Shaw received the Hennessy Award, which is awarded to personnel who provide quality service and who take pride  in their jobs.


At Osan Air Base in South Korea on Dec.25, 2009, Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, met with Chef Airman Casey Hutcheson to help serve Christmas dinner with turkey, ham and all the trimmings.  Secretary Donley helped serve and met the 51st Fighter Wing, 8th Fighter Wing, 7th Air Force, and South Korean Airmen. Airman Hutcheson is with the 51st Force Support Squadron at Osan Air Base.

Veterinarian Lt. Col. Douglas D. Riley teaches local herders in Mongolia about sustainable farming. The large herds in Mongolia could easally become the “protein basket” of Asia in one of the poorest sections of the world, frought with malnutrition, if they would learn to practice sustainable farming and produce healthier stock. They do this to help poorer countries to build a better economy and make it more difficult to be infiltrated by terrorists.

Airman 1st Class Alexandra Ayub, prepares meal orders placed by the airmen working at a missile alert facility in Nebraska. s a missile chef, Ayub provides meals to all the Airmen working at the MAF, including the missileers the launch control centers beneath the MAF, during a four-day deployment. The Airmen order from a menu which includes special items that Ayub prepares each day.

To look at the pictures, you’d think that they were in a maximum security prison, but upon closer inspection they are actually in a nuclear missile silo. Yes, we still have them, still use them.

But for  Airman 1st Class Alexandra Ayub, a missile chef headquartered at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, and 4 other airmen, 30 ft. below the ground.  For 4 days a week, 16 days per month it’s home. Airman Ayub is not only the chef, she is also the Missile Chief. She is in full charge of the everyday operations including meal planning, shopping, menu, and cooking.  Those who can’t leave their post, she hand delivers their meals to them and picks up the empties.  Being the Chief, she is also in charge of the day to day running of the missile silo making sure everyone fulfills his or her  duties.

Many airmen deploy to missile bases all over the world to keep our homeland safe.

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Edible Mushrooms in Florida

For years I’ve wanted to learn to identify foods that I could forage from the wild, but was always too afraid that I would pick a poisonous plant or mushroom that would make me so sick that I wished I was dead, or might actually kill me. So, unless it came from a store, a seed packet, or a labeled plant from a nursery, I didn’t eat it.  The only exception to this was berries and fruits and nuts that my grandmother and parents taught me about. However, after researching for this article, I’m beginning to feel a little more confident to try mushrooms. At,the moment we are in a drought and all I saw out there were dried up and dead. What you need to understand is that for every edible wild mushroom, there is at least one copycat inedible mushroom. The way to avoid getting sick, or worse, is to make sure you research and always have reference photos available when foraging, until you know every characteristic of each type of edible and copycat to tell the difference.

There are several characteristics that you should look at to determine whether your mushrooms are edible or inedible.  I’ll list those here, but each variety is very specific to the type of characteristics, so make sure you research them before eating any wild mushrooms and compare lots of photos of each kind.

Body Shape-Whether it looks like a flower, round ball, etc.

Cap-or hat shape, size, and color

Underside of Cap-whether it has spores, spines, or gill-like ridges. Note any spacing, coloring, or pattern and check for a sheer membrane or veil covering gills.

Stem-Check for color, striations, rings, stripes, or bulbous protrusions. Substrate-Check what the mushroom is growing on such as leaves, old logs, wood chips,soil, etc

Season-Even mushrooms have a season, depending on where you are located, and will help determine whether it’s safe to eat or not.

Probably the easiest to recognize is the Indigo Milk Cap or Lactarius Indigo.  As the name indicates, this mushroom is blue, and you’ll know if you have the right one by splitting it with a knife from the bottom of the stalk, straight up through the cap.  If it bleeds a deep blue milk, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Chanterelles-In Florida, Chanterelles can be foraged all summer long due to the humidity. They are yellow to orange color and have blunt ridges that fork and run down the stem rather than actual gills.  If you split the stems,they are solid, the flesh is white and they have a fruity aroma.  Another variety of chanterelles, called winteror yellowfoot chanterelles, are very similar in appearance, but have a hollow stem. The

Except for Indigo Milk Caps and Chanterelles which are easy to ID, as a novice I recommend that you don’t forapoison copycats have actual gills, unlike the edible mushrooms with gills.  Most mushrooms with gills have deadly look-alikes. Why run the risk, when there are so many other edible mushrooms.

The King Boletus or Porcini Mushrooms are other easy to identify mushrooms in Florida. They grow in early fall or spring and usually in fir, spruce, and pine forests. They have medium to large sized caps which are brownish-red to tan in color. On the underside of the cap, Boletus are spongy like with small pores that release spores. Younger Boletus have whitish spores that turn a yellow-olive color when mature. Stalks are thick, often with a bulb near the ground tapering towards the top. These mushrooms have a mild, nutty taste .

Morels-One of the easiest to identify, they have pitted and ridged honeycomb likecaps and when split up the middle are completely hollow.  They are a favorite of foragers and pop up in springtime, and commonly are found in recently burned sunny patches on south facing hillsides.

Oyster mushrooms  are one gilled mushroom that I do recommend, but only if they are found growing on logs or dead wood, such as trees or stumps, and in cooler weather.  Do not pick if in wood chips or the ground because they could be poison look alikes. They grow in shelf-like clusters, similar to lichens, and the gills run all the way down the stem. They vary in color from white, beige, yellow, and brown. If you follow the info above, you don’t have to worry about poisonous look-alikes.  

I’m sure that there are many more, but these were the main ones that I could find referenced to Florida. Again, please don’t ever eat a raw foraged mushroom without checking with an expert first and always cook foraged mushrooms before eating as it makes the mushrooms more easily digestible.……

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The BeeHive. Not Just a Hairstyle!

Ask anyone from the 1960‘s era what a beehive is and they will tell you it’s a hairstyle where you coil your hair on top of your head with 3 cans of hairspray to make it stand tall like a basket.  If your hair was too short to coil, then you just pile it up there as high as possible by teasing it till it breaks, give it a nice rounded top, and once you get it shaped like an upside down basket with a rounded bottom, spray the entire 3 cans to hold it. However, that’s not the beehive I want to explore with you.  I want to discuss the honeybee hive.

Going way back to early Egypt honey was used as a food source and a medicine.  It is by far the oldest shelf safe food known to man. When the Egyptian Tombs were opened, archeologists found jars of honey that still retained its natural properties and compared to new jars, there was no change.  It was amazing.  

With the first discovery of honeybees, it was clear that these were magnificent creatures.  They were not only engineers, but could construct a nest almost anywhere in the wild, they created honey, beeswax, and propolis ( bee glue) and are great housekeepers, in their own homes, of course.

Of course, finding something that tastes so good, you’re gonna want to have it closer by.  And so, early man constructed a coiled basket called a skep.   Before long, a swarm of bees moved in and put down roots.  As soon as the basket was full of honey, it was destroyed sending the bees swarming in all directions, destroying the colony.

Early Beehive or “Skep
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Merry Mushrooms

Well, here it is spring and time to spruce up the yard and push away the gloom of winter. I don’t really have a garden, but I do have flowers in the yard that could benefit from a few bright colors amongst them, especially, when that hot yellow ball in the sky is trying to burn up everything outside. In Florida, that’s when its best to just sit on the porch, or among the plants, with a tall glass of iced cold sweet tea or lemonade, and a fan blowing on high unless you have really good A/C inside. That’s usually where I am. However, It would be nice to have color in the yard to invite guests. Hence, I chose to make some colorful mushrooms to nestle under a huge oak tree, among the Lantana and Oak Leaf Hydrangia. The Hydrangia has already bloomed and withered, a victim of the hot sun and lack of humidity.

3 varying sizes of mushrooms made from painted clay pot and oversized bases, which can also be used to hold your glass of sweet tea.

So, to get started, I’m going to find 3 clay flower pots in different sizes and heights, and 3 oversized clay bases for them to sit in. Once they are chosen, I pick out some bright colored paint to decorate the tops with, and a contrasting color for the stems and spots on my mushroom caps. First I paint the pots to look like stems. While they are drying, I can draw my circles on the bottom of the bases (you can use any design or shape that you would enjoy looking at). Once you have your design layout, you can start painting the bases. You can either paint around your design with your darker color, then your contrasting pattern or paint the design first. It really doesn’t matter as long as you allow the paint to dry on one, before putting another color on, so they won’t bleed together. When done, turn the pot upside down on the ground and place the painted base upside down on top of it. You could even paint a fairy door on the stem with either a fairy or frog. I made mine rather large to use as a small table to set my sweet tea or lemonade on.

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Bee My Honey

Beginning way back into Egyptian times, there’s been a strong history of the use of honey.  It’s one of the oldest foods known to man and will store longer, safely, than any other food known.

It has medicinal properties aside from nourishing the body.  But where does this superfood come from? We all know it’s made by honeybees.  But did you know that there are 20,000 different races and species of honeybees.  If you ever wanted to become a beekeeper and raise your own honey, you need to do a lot of research before investing in bees for honey.

Selection of bees is the most important decision you’ll have to make.  There are many races and species with many different traits and characteristics.  I have listed here the most popular bees for beekeeping for honey production. Keep in mind that almost any bees that you will find today are more than likely going to be hybrids or combinations of race and species bred for the best of traits and characteristics used to improve the stock.  Whether for disease resistance, lack of aggression , production of honey, etc. The problem is that sometimes less desirable traits are also passed on. The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is by artificial insemination, where genes that cause the less desirable traits can be separated.  Talk with others who keep bees in your area and find out what kinds are better suited for your climate and level of expertise.

Let’s begin with the 3 types of bees in a working hive.  The most important bee in each hive is, the queen.  She will be larger than the others and usually in the middle.   Her job is strictly to reproduce or lay eggs, which is initiated in early spring when the flowers begin to bloom or pollen is brought to the hive.  Egg production continues until no more pollen is brought to the hive. The queen can lay as many as 2000 eggs per day and can live as long as 5 years.  She is usually replaced after 3 years, however, as a younger queen will lay more eggs. An older queen will usually produce more drones which replace the workers, often without the knowledge of the beekeeper. It’s better to buy a new queen from a reputable source.

The queen also releases what is called, “queen substance”.  This is a mixture of chemicals called  “Pheramones” that is passed bee to bee in the hive as they share food.  The worker will know if the queen dies from the decrease of pheremones, and it will give them a strong urge to rear  an “emergency queen” from the youngest eggs. These pheramones also inhibit workers from developing ovaries. After a period of no pheromones, workers could become laying workers.  If the pheromones are insufficient or of poor quality, the worker may supercede the queen. This is the reason that most beekeepers use paint to mark the thorax of the queen to make sure it is the proper queen, or to see if she’s been replaced.

Another type of bees in the hive is the worker bees.  Worker bees are the smallest and most numerous bees in the castes. Workers have well developed compound eyes, each containing 6500 facets, allowing them to see front, sides,and above and below.  They also see all of the colors that we see, with the exception of red which appears black. They also see UV light as a color and can detect polarization of UV light which aids in navigation on cloudy days.  They also have 3 simple eyes called ocelli, grouped on

.Drones are the male honey bees whose main job is to fertilize the young queen. Drones are visibly stouter than the workers, possess large distinctive eyes on top of their heads, and have antennae that are longer than workers or the queen.  They have smaller mouth parts and don’t tend the brood, produce wax, or collect pollen or nectar. They feed themselves directly from the honey in the hive or will beg food from the workers.  Drones are reared in the spring and summer about 4 weeks before the new queens are produced, ensuring there are ample drones to fertilize the “emergency queen”.  A typical drone’s day consists of sleeping and patrolling mating sites, which are called Drone Congregation Areas. As food quality decreases, drone production declines.  They are driven out of the hive before winter and guarded from returning.

There are around 20,000 races of bees in the superfamily Apoidea, all sharing common traits unique to bees, yet separate from all the other Hymenoptera.  Bees get their nutrition from the pollen and nectar of flowers and are completely herbivorous.  However, when a lack of food presents itself they will attack and consume the bee larvae for the most needed protein. 


There are many species of honey bees, Apis, kept around the world.  There are even some stingless(native) bees kept in Africa, Australia, and America.  There are several species of stingless bees (Meliponines) which belong to the tribe, Meliponini or Meliponinae.  These tribes belong to the race of Apidae.  The word “stingless” is actually somewhat misleading as a great many of the species in the family of Apdrenidae are incapable of stinging, and instead bite to defend.  There are in excess of 500 stingless bees in the world.  Australia is home to native Trigona carbonaria.  These are smaller than the common honey bees; about the size of a common house fly.  This little bee makes its home in hollowed out logs, trees, and rock faces. A simple wooden box with an entry/exit hole will suffice.  Most keepers just remove the hive with that part of the tree. As far as honey production goes, if this is your sole purpose, then these are not the bees you want.  Stingless bees only produce about 1kg of honey per year. The honey is not like common bee honey at all. Instead it is thin like pancake syrup and has an entirely different taste similar to port or fortified wine, and doesn’t have a very long shelf life.  The honey is kept in pots made of resin or gum that are gathered in groups around the corners of the hive or in one bulk area. When harvesting honey, be sure the honey isn’t leaked or dripped into the hive or thru the brood. Just one teaspoon of honey can kill the whole brood.                    

Man Made hives have countersunk holes in the base of the hive to allow leaked honey to drain  These stingless bees are mainly found in tropical and subtropical regions such as Australia, Africa, SE. Asia, Mexico, and Central and South America.


The domesticated honey bees were first introduced to N. America in the 1600’s from the Europeans.  The Spanish brought hives to Florida and English settlers brought honeybees to Virginia. These bees have contributed to the Western Hemisphere’s economy ever since. They are simply called Western honeybees or Apis mellifera mellifera, of which there are at least 20 known races.  Each race is named for their particular geographic region.  Florida is now number three in the nation’s production of honey, with both of the Dakotas in the lead. Florida is also one of the nation’s leading rental agents of hives and an important overwintering destination for colder climate states


One race of bees that is very common and one of the most popular is the Italian honey bee, or Apis mellifera ligustica. These bees originated in ‘The Apennine Peninsula, Italy. These are gentle bees, great honey producers, making them very popular.  In 1859, Italian immigrants carried them to the United States, where they’ve thrived. Their negative traits are that they may swarm and rob and aren’t the best navigators. In the US they replaced the Black or German bees.

The Cordovan bee is a subset of the Italian bee. They do well in warm weather, are a bit gentler, but also a bit wilder and rob more.  They are bright yellow with no stripes.

The Russian bee or Apis mellifera macedonica, is dark brown to black in color, with a pale abdomen.  Originally from the Primorsky Region, they are cold tolerant and overwinter well, mite tolerant, and guard the hive vigilantly.  They are thought to be agressive, but will headbutt pests that get too near. They were imported to the US in 1997 to breed mite tolerance into US bees, but were not released to the public until the year 2000.

The Carniolan bee or Apis mellifera carnica, originated in the Austrian Alps, Yugoslavia, and the Danube Valley Region.  This bee is dark with brown spots or bands on the abdomen. Best ever at wintering, forage in cool wet weather, gentle, disease resistant, and found in Eastern Europe.

The Buckfast bee or Apis mellifera buckfast, originated in Devon, England in the 20th century at the Buckfast Abbey.  They are yellow to brown in color, winter very well and are economic in winter, are mite tolerant, are very gentle, and are great honey producers.  They were imported to the US by way of Canada to breed in building up the hives quickly.

The Caucasion bee or Apis mellifera caucasia, originated in the Central Caucasus Mountain Region, between the Black and Caspian Seas, and are Silver to Gray to Dark Brown in color.  They have a longer tongue than the Carniolan and are high propolis producers and conserve honey. They do not build honeycombs. They forage on cold days (cold tolerant), and overwinter  well.

The Spanish bee or Apis mellifera iberiensis, is a Western honeybee subspecies native to  the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands of Spain.  They are very cold tolerant so they overwinter well. They are dark brown to Jet black in color; the queen is uniform black.  They are prolific and have a high fertility rate which is controlled by environmental conditions. They are breeding sensitive to diseases and only generate one queen to a hive.Their movements are quick and nervous-like.  They exhibit traits such as nervousness, quick defensive reactions, and are apt to swarm. The use lots of propolis (bee glue). They always have a couple sentries guarding the entrance to the hive. If the colony is disturbed, the sentries will raise a persistent alarm and will attack anything threatening them for up to 24 hours.

“What about Africanized bees,” you ask?  Well, let me tell you that story.  In the 1950’s Brazil imported African brown bees to breed with Italian bees to increase their production of honey.  In 1957, 26 swarms escaped quarantine and took over South America. In 1985 they made their way to the southern US. These bees are highly aggressive to the point of chasing a person up to a ¼ mile “if they feel threatened”. The problem is that even the slightest vibration can set them off.  There have been more than 1000 documented cases of death of humans, horses, and other large animals. They begin foraging younger than other honeybees and often times produce more honey. They also reproduce faster than German bees (Apis mellifera mellifera). They actually originated in Northern Eurasia.  They are a difficult race to maintain a healthy colony and are not available in the US, for obvious reasons. There are so many better and safer bees available, why risk it?

Now that you are acquainted with honey bees, if you are still interested in becoming a beekeeper, talk to some other beekeepers about what might work best in your area.  Don’t forget to research hives for your area and even talk to your local ag. extension agent about it. Don’t be afraid to talk to local farmers, they are always happy to help when it comes to sustainable farming, plus it would mean more fertilization for their crops.


Honey Bee Breeds and Their Attributes