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The Last of the Strawberries

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I used up the last of the 2014 strawberry harvest today. I made a low sugar recipe resulting in 2-12 oz. jars, 4- 8 oz. jars and 1-4 oz. jar of wonderful Strawberry Jam. This was a banner year for my strawberry harvest. I am not sure if my bees will make much difference next year as strawberries are largely self pollinated, but, they can’t hurt!

I do love my morning toast with a healthy dollop of backyard jam, whether it be my strawberry jam or my blackberry jam….wild or domestic! No domestic blackberries this year as they met with a breakdown in communication with my hired help. The sprinkler installation guy, my son Ben, was a little too rough with the existing plants, they all died….next year or the year after may be a good year.

So, what does lite jam mean? Standard recipe calls for 5 cups of strawberry mush and 7 cups of sugar…..so danged good. The lite recipe is also 5 cups of mush but only 4 cups of sugar. I really like the lite recipe as I think more of the fruit flavor comes through. I will admit that the last batch of Dewberry Jam, a wild blackberry, was made as a full sugar recipe….wow…very good!

An 8 ounce jar of my very good Strawberry Jam.

An 8 ounce jar of my very good Strawberry Jam.

Now…clean the kitchen and bottle my Russian Imperial Stout! – Tomorrow, I just sampled a couple of Kona IPA beers and they were awesome. That should be detailed in my beer blog in a day or so.

http://bishopsbeerblog.com/

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

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Bees – Lessons Learned

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If you are going to be a bee keeper you are going to get stung! I am still using a Boardman feeder holding a quart sized jar of sugar water. The hive is healthy and growing. They will consume a quart in about 10 hours!

Therefore, I, or my daughter Lisa, have to refill it daily. We don’t put our gear on or use the smoker. We just calmly approach the hive, remove the jar, shoo away the few that hang on and refill the jar. Once topped off calmly replace the jar.

A few days ago I was apparently too abrupt on my approach. As I removed the empty jar, four or five bees came at me. Most were just bumping me, trying to discourage my presence. Apparently one Lone Ranger bee saw me as a bigger threat and popped a stinger through my shirt on my left pec. Fortunately I don’t react to stings, just itched a bit for a day or two. Lesson learned, be gentle and the bees will respond in kind!

Lisa and I added a super and the queen excluder over the past weekend. We were appropriately attired in our beekeeping gear. The bees are busy making honey and more workers! I hope to have my first harvest/extraction by the end of summer.

I will leave them alone for the next three weeks or so before doing a more thorough inspection of the hive and the queen. Who knows, I may get lucky and be able to split a hive! I do have an empty NUC hive box. Maybe I should try and capture a swarm. I do have some extra full sized frames! Waste not, want not.

TTFN
Bishop

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Boardman feeder similar to the one I use.

Playing in the Rain and in the Garden

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I do believe that I am a 6 year old trapped in the body of a 63 year old man. We have had a couple of good downpours today – I wish I could send some to my California friends – mixed with gentle sprinkles. During one of the misty lulls I went out to the garden inspect and snack….

Inspecting how the bees were doing, I am happy to report that they are doing very well. Here is where the curiosities of a 6 year old kick in. I stand off to the side of the take off and landing pattern. I marvel at the roles visible at the entrance….some bees just hang out there as guard bees preventing “robbers” from getting in and fanning at the entrance to help maintain proper hive temperature. The others that were zooming in and out are the foragers, the last period of a worker bee’s life. They are on a mission! When they arrive at the entrance from a foraging flight, it is all business and they disappear inside immediately. The foragers departing don’t display quite the same sense of urgency…. some wander around for a few moments…possibly checking out the proposed flight plan and then off they go. Others, the hesitation is very brief and then off they go. I feel such a sense of wonder, almost mesmerized, as I watch the choreographed activity!

If you haven’t had the opportunity, follow a 3-6 year old child as they wander around outside. Watch to see what they find fascinating and attempt to see it through there eyes….some amazing things are taken for granted in this natural world around us….never lose the ability to see and appreciate the simple wonders around you.

Post rain - the bees are slowly beginning to forage and defend the entrance.

Post rain – the bees are slowly beginning to forage and defend the entrance.

Snacks…My Juliet tomatoes are such a sweet snack. I picked a large number of the little cherry tomatoes and have about a dozen or more of the Juliets ready to be picked for the kitchen. Post rain they are so picturesque! Beads of rainwater still clinging to their skins and begging to be picked and consumed. Who am I to argue! Several found their way into my mouth!

Small, probably 2 ounces, but prolific and tolerant of the Houston heat and humidity.

Small, probably 2 ounces, but prolific and tolerant of the Houston heat and humidity.

Going vertical….Cucumbers and yes, even watermelons. My pickling cucumbers succumbed to the nasty white flies….the Lady Bug beetles were working hard but not enough to keep them in check. I still have Straight Eight and Armenian type growing and beginning to develop fruit.

An Armenian Cuke developing.

An Armenian Cuke developing.

I am growing a variety of small watermelons. A refrigerator  type and growing them vertically. As the fruit develops I will have to hang a sling to keep them up off of the ground…..I can’t wait. In the background is a banana plant that should bear fruit next year. I met a Mexican worker on a pipeline job that I am supporting that gave me the corms. He grows many varieties of bananas in his yard south of Houston. It is an apple banana, Manzano Banana tree! Looking forward to harvesting!

A developing melon. Full sized will be just a bit smaller than a volleyball.

A developing melon. Full sized will be just a bit smaller than a volleyball.

The vertical climbing vines with the banana tree in the background.

The vertical climbing vines with the banana tree in the background.

I finally got a “round to it” handed to me concerning my worm farm. We have all used that phrase I am sure….”Yeah, I’ll get a round to it.” – But we never do…..I had a coworker who had a bunch made up – they look like wooden nickels and he hands them out to procrastinators…..I received one…what does that tell you about me? Yes, I fit the description! I harvested at least 10 pounds of wet worm poop and made several gallons of diluted worm poop tea! After spreading the gathered goodies I heard some “oohs” and “ahs” as the garden absorbed the delicious feeding!

TTFN

Bishop

Still Overwhelmed With Tomatoes!’

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Today a I dealt with an overload of tomatoes and made some Pico de Gallo. 93% of the ingredients from my little backyard farm.

4 – large, ripe and meaty tomatoes- “Mater Sandwich” variety
1 cup of finely chopped yellow and red onions – so sweet !
3 – Serrano peppers, seeded and also finely chopped
1 – Jalapeño pepper also seeded and finely chopped.
2 tablespoons of store bought crushed garlic – the 7% component
Cilantro- none – feedback on the home-front indicates we can live without it.

Let it sit overnight to marry the flavors.

Tomorrow- how about Gazpacho? Hopefully the neighbors and friends will enjoy the respite from the knocks on their doors with bags of tomatoes hanging on the knob as we slink away!

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Yummy Pico de Gallo…. Beak of the Rooster!

TTFN
Bishop

Overwhelmed With Tomatoes

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One Juliet plant, one Matt’s Wildcherry, two “Mater Sandwich” plant and an Arkansas Traveler plant have produced like gangbusters. The weather has shifted to a flatline of 90 plus degrees every day so they may slow down…… Friends and neighbors will probably thank me!

The strawberries are struggling! Gotta keep them hydrated, especially the ones in the towers. The Houston heat and humidity create a special set of gardening challenges!

I pulled the top on the hive yesterday and added a medium “super”. The hive is healthy and buzzing with energy. I am looking forward to some wonderful honey by summer’s end!

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TTFN
Bishop

Wild Blackberries

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I went out for a morning walk in San Luis Obispo this morning. I discovered a patch of wild blackberries that I snacked on. I am scheming right trying to find a way to establish some of theses plants back in Houston. Farthing seeds will be easiest, a couple of cuttings would be best! They are much bigger and sweeter than the local wild dewberries!

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Blossoms and wild blackberries along the trails walked this morning.

Hope to find a couple of Farmers Markets for a sampling of local fare! Need to find some local flowers to take over to Mom’s house in Los Osos, she is celebrating her 85th Birthday today!
TTFN
Bishop

Bees – A Sad Story

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Something just didn’t quite look right when I installed the bees into my hive. The NUC box, four frames and a feeder, was littered with dead bees, probably 100+! I faithfully followed procedures and waited 8 days to let them settle in to their new home! When I opened the hive all of the bee activity was in the lower corner of three of the fames. What was disturbing were the large number of small white larva all over those three frames. Not bee larvae but something else….The floor of the hive was covered almost two deep with dead bees. Houston we have a problem!

I put everything back together and pulled out my bee book and Googled for answers….It was pretty obvious that I had a Wax Moth infestation. It looked bad! I got on touch with my supplier and learned that 5 other colonies picked up when picked mine up had problems. The owner said the hive got too hot….Not sure if that is the full answer but that is the answer I got…..I suspect that the NUC was infected before I picked it up. It will be replaced but I still have an hour and a half drive each way. My instructions were to pull the frames, wrap them in plastic and freeze them.

On my return to the hive to pull the frames, I found it nearly abandoned. I was prepared to have to brush the bees off of the frames but found very few. Apparently they decide they had had enough and decided to relocate. My wife is paranoid, thinking that they will take up residence in the attic….probably not.

See the little bad guys....This was not the worst of the bunch!

See the little bad guys….This was not the worst frame of the bunch!

One more time!

TTFN

Bishop

 

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