Thanksgiving Day Strawberries


It is November 27th in the northern hemisphere and I am picking strawberries. Not many but they taste yummy. 



 Normally I don’t have strawberries until late February or early March here in Houston. I am not complaining – I love ripe strawberries from my garden any time! Fingers crossed that my early spring crop will be abundant! 

I took my sons dog for a run today at the soccer fields nearby. The eastern edge backs up to the woods and has been home to a prolific dewberry patch – wild blackberries. A few days ago while letting the dog run I noticed that the grounds keeper had severely cut back the eastern perimeter and nearly wiped out the blackberries. So, today I carried a bucket, trowel and clippers to the fields. I rescued a dozen root cuttings for my garden. Fingers crossed that they will thrive in a “managed” garden. 

I do love my berries! Jams, preserves and eating them fresh. Next trip to see my mom in Los Osos, CA, I will abscond with some root cuttings from the wild blackberries near her house. They tend to be a bit larger and a bit sweeter than our Texas dewberries. Hmmmm, I really think I need more land! Let’s see what 2016 brings me! 



Sunrise – Good for the Soul

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Spent the early morning down on the dock near  our house….Stunning sunrise. This morning was my good for the soul effort! I do feel better. Took my camera and  decided  to use one of the photos to grace the header on my blog.  Hope you enjoy the images.

Small resized image of  a stitched together image of  several photos.

Small resized image of a stitched together image of several photos.

Another shot a little earlier as the sun was coming up.

Another shot a little earlier as the sun was coming up.

I love mornings like these!

I love mornings like these!



“Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”

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What do you do when 8 or 10 of your homegrown bananas ripen all at once? everyone knows that it is Banana Bread time. My wife dug out the recipe for “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread” for me to use…..problem is, it is not my sister Toni’s recipe, it is our sister Denise’s recipe….how did it get named for Toni…..That is a bit of a story.

July 19th, 2012 was my sister Denise’s 60th birthday. Toni….the other sister, requested that friends and family send Denise birthday wishes along with a favorite recipe….Denise is an awesome cook so the recipes would  be well received. The flyer and recipe that Toni sent out explains the “misnamed” recipe.

Toni’s recipe sent to Denise read;

” This is a recipe of a food gift that Denise and I have made for years to give to family and friends. A few years ago Denise’s son Sean asked me for my banana bread recipe and he has continued the tradition.  Recently he was telling Denise about my “Excellent Banana Bread Recipe”. She wanted to set the record straight that the recipe came from her. We had a good laugh, because the recipe named had changed to “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”.

“Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”

3-4 ripe bananas

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup  chopped nuts – optional

Mash bananas and add sugar. Stir in the other ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake one hour in a preheated oven at 325 F. Cool on  a rack then cover with plastic wrap…….f it survives that long! Makes one large loaf or two small loaves.

Ripe  bananas ready to mash. In the center, the seed area of the endocarp, the flesh has a bit of a golden color.

Ripe bananas ready to mash. In the center, the seed area of the endocarp, the flesh has a bit of a golden color.

Mixing with the sugar after mashing. The golden center flesh is still  visible.

Mixing with the sugar after mashing. The golden center flesh is still visible.

Ready to pour into the greased loaf pan.

Ready to pour into the greased loaf pan.

Final product....this variety of banana is very creamy  -it still is evident in the finished bread....Yum

Final product….this variety of banana is very creamy -it still is evident in the finished bread….Yum

After I made the bread I contacted both sisters so we could laugh again…




Beekeeping Lesson 11

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I rescued a bee colony from a tree that broke off during a storm. The tree snapped at a large knot hole, splitting the colony into two sections. When I arrived the bees were calm and well behaved in the section that was on the ground. To get a better look into the cavity holding the bees, I pulled some of the vines from the trunk section. Here is part A of the lesson; try to identify the vine species prior to handling it, especially if you are highly susceptible to poison ivy or poison oak!!!!!! I am highly susceptible and I am now paying the price.

Lesson 11 – it has several elements. Part A above.

Helpful tips;

B. Thoroughly wash with hot soapy water, any skin surface that may have come into contact with the vines. Touching body parts with hands coated with the plants oils leads to a spreading of the rash. Trust me – sensitive skin parts should never be touched! Nuff said.

C. Contaminated clothes, like my bee suit, should be washed in hot water. Sometimes it may require several washings. I am putting my bee suit back int to wash for a second go…… Yes, I am dealing with a second round of rash breakout.

D. Aveeno works well on the rash. I have also found, at least for me, a very hot shower, as hot as you can physically stand, blunts the itching for 4-5 hours.

Unfortunately, I seem to discover lessons the hard way! I will keep you posted on my future adventures that become lessons for others.

Suited up - the end of the section is open to the colony. Bees were buzzing before I secured the end. Suit is in the wash.....again

Suited up – the end of the section is open to the colony. Bees were buzzing before I secured the end. Suit is in the wash…..again




Cool Weather and Bananas 

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The weather has finally cooled enough that I had to cut the stalk. When I inspected the bananas this morning I noticed that the ripening process has sped up. Our friends and neighbors will receive some treats.  


 The bunch includes a cluster that never matured. I hope next year I will manage to get both varieties to produce. 

I hope to finish up the bee rescue today. I have developed a more simple option that could have been completed on the original rescue day. Rookie mistake and hindsight is always 20/20! 

Breaking news- part two of the bee rescue has been postponed until tomorrow. Details following the fishing report. 




My First Hive Rescue

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Out of the blue…. Sorta – Troy, an acquaintance who is hosting one of my empty top bar hives called last night with a lead on some bees. This morning I made connection with Don at a large machine shop off of Highway 59 about 25 minutes from the house. Seems that over the weekend a large trunk sized branch broke off and fell to the ground. The piece in the ground was packed full of bees. The tree snapped at a knot that appears to have been the access hole to the hollow tree, an obvious weak spot. 

The piece on the ground housed the upper portion of the hive colony. The bees were calm and thickly packed into the cavity and comb in that half. The photo below is after three days on the ground and may have been cleaned up some during that time. 

While waiting for the chain saw Don fired up the man lift and we were able to get a better view of the top stub of the cavity…. not a real good look but not bad. On Thursday I will go back and we will hang a hive body with some drawn comb near the opening. We will have better access on Thursday so I can look into the cavity directly. Based on my limited knowledge it looks like the tree snapped off below the main portion of the cavity. My fingers are crossed that we have the queen and some brood. 

I made an uneducated guess and cut the trunk about 30 inches above the break….. looks like I guessed good. There was a small opening but the cut was above the cavity. I loaded the cut segment on my carry rack, wrapped it in plastic and headed off to Kingwood. The chainsaw cut end came unwrapped in the drive. At every stop I could see a few more bees escape. Oh well. 

I arrived at Troy’s house to unload and the bees were humming – a good sound, the sound of a buzzing hive…. makes me more confident that I have the queen and attendants. 

I stopped by my house to rewrap the log before heading off. 

  We created a necked down outlet pointing directly to an opening in my top bar hive. We sprinkled a dash of lemon grass oil at the entrance to entice the little buggers over. My top bar has three bars of drawn comb to help the transition. Fingers crossed! I will install a feeder as additional enticement. 
My wife commented that it looks like Christmas came early……. I was like the little kid that couldn’t wait……. Yes, I was excited! 

An interesting note, Don at the machine shop was anxious to find someone to rescue the bees, not kill them.  He is aware of the plight of bees and has noticed fewer and fewer on his 2 acres of land. One of the workers at the shop, Rick, has 7 acres up near Clevland, 25 minutes north of my home and had the same concerns. I was concerned when I pulled into the machine shop as a Pest Control truck pulled up when I did. My heart sank. Turns out he wasn’t  there for the bees but wanted my contact info for future opportunities to rescue bees. My faith in mankind is elevated. These good old boys deeply care about the environment. I love it. 


Culinary Experiment – Making a Vinegar

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Phase 1 of my learnings is a vinegar from one of my beers.  My ultimate goal is to use my backyard local honey to make a Honey Wine Vinegar after making a mead using my honey. If you are familiar with my blog here you may have seen references to my Beer Log at;


This is a crossover blog, phase 1 uses my Oak and Bourbon aged Imperial Stout. After much searching I found that home brewers also have experimented converting beer to vinegar. I drink my Imperial Stout’s slowly so I figured I could afford to experiment. 

The start, a bottle of Bragg Organic Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar – the key ingredient – this vinegar contains the “Mother”. The Mother is the source of the bacteria that converts the alcohol to vinegar. 

I am using a half gallon jar for phase 1. 16 ounces of vinegar and several bottles of my stout. Dang it, I had just a little too much beer so I had to sit back and enjoy it while waiting for Monday Night Football. 

The half gallon jar in the background and my sample in the foreground. This may produce a tasty and inky dark vinegar…. Fingers crossed. 

Next steps – shake it to aerate the mix, cover with cheesecloth, as it needs oxygen to complete the process, hide in a dark and 70-80 degree location for a couple of months and then sample.

Side note; the Slide Ridge Honey Wine vinegar I bought is wonderful. I have some toasted bourbon soaked chunks sitting in the bottle to see if it becomes more than wonderful. I will give it a few months. 

From the garden today? A handful of green beans that went into today’s chicken vegetable soup. Houston has almost cooled off enough for soup. I have another 15+ bananas hanging, the sugar snap peas are climbing and some confused strawberries are blossoming and producing. 

These are in one of my strawberry towers. They look like they will be yummy. 



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