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Strawberries?

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It is November 24th in the Northern Hemisphere and I have strawberry blossoms and…….. A few berries forming. If I was in New Zealand about now I wouldn’t find it so interesting. Side note; did anyone watch the All Blacks dismantle the U.S. Eagles by a score of 74-6. Honestly, the play of the All Blacks was a thing of beauty!

Back to the garden – strawberries! If this is a harbinger of things to come – a bumper crop in very early spring.
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Blossoms and;

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A berry in the making! Hopefully many more!

My dwarf Meyer Lemon tree is loaded! Maybe I should have thinned it a little more. My plans, Limoncello and Lemon Curd. Better alternatives for when life gives you lemons. Making lemonade is a bit too tame for my likes!

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The rest of the garden is working away. Carrots are up and seeds for a second planting scattered a couple of days ago- I like scattering as opposed to neat little rows. It fits nicely with my nonlinear way of thinking! Beets are showing but I was late getting the seeds in the ground! Dang it! Sugar snap peas are still creeping and climbing.

The asparagus ferns are starting to die back and I can get that bed ready for spring harvest. I have a lead on some very well aged horse manure that will grace the top of the beds.

The bee hive has regained strength and every warm day they are out gathering. I am feeding sugar water but their appetite has slowed. A quart now lasts a couple of days vs. less than a day at the end of summer.

TTFN
Bishop

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Getting My Hands Dirty – Real Dirty

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It has been a long “dry spell”- if you will, a drought for my Gardening Blog. I haven’t stopped gardening but have found/made little time to write about getting my hands dirty in the garden. My beer blog….I seem to find more time to write about my favorite beverages!!!! http://bishopsbeerblog.com/

The garden has slowed down at the end of a long hot summer. All of the tomato plants have been pulled save one. It looks like I may be able to squeeze out a couple more “maters”. The asparagus patch is over head high with ferns and if I peek under the foliage I can still find a few spears to snap off and eat as I work. I shared one with a visitor last week and she couldn’t believe how sweet the spears were! I have carrots coming up, beets have sprouted, the sugar snap peas are climbing, strawberry beds are looking good and my two banana trees have started to dominate their locations……not sure if they will become permanent members because of their size. One of then is a bit unique, a manzano (apple) banana. I have also heard it referred to as a manzanillo….Regardless of the name, I am told that they are very sweet.

Strawberries….I added 50 Chandler plugs and 50 Sweet Charlie plugs on the day before Halloween. I like the ease of planting the plugs I order form Ison’s Nursery. http://www.isons.com/

I used my wood lathe to turn a dibble; From Wikpedia - “A dibber or dibble is a pointed wooden stick for making holes in the ground so that seeds, seedlings or small bulbs can be planted. Dibbers come in a variety of designs including the straight dibber, T-handled dibber, trowel dibber, and L-shaped dibber. ” I found some images on my internet  search and I must say….some people can turn some very nice ones….Mine was a quick utilitarian effort….it works and was sized to match the plugs! The strawberry towers are filled and I can’ wait for the February/Spring crop!

Strawberry plugs in the tray from Isaon's

Strawberry plugs in the tray from Ison’s

My home made dibble sized for the strawberry plugs.

My home made dibble sized for the strawberry plugs.

My beehive is humming along…..sorry about the pun! The mouse guard is in place for the winter and has obviously kept the fat toad out of the hive. My daughter had seen him hanging out near the entrance but I actually found him nestled inside with his head poking out through the entrance….wonder how many he ate! I shooed him away and installed the barrier.

Back to bananas for a moment – The Mexican family that that gave me the corms, also gave me a family tradition for making tamales. They use the banana leaves! They hold the leaf over a gas burner moving it back and forth until it becomes pliable. They then use the banana leaf like you would the corn husk. Here is a pork tamale recipe. I think I will give it a try. Marcelino  tells me that they are much more moist than the traditional method. http://www.food.com/recipe/pork-tamales-in-banana-leaves-tamales-con-puerco-381926

PS – while out to dinner last night at the restaurant my wife looked at my hands and shook her head. I know what she was thinking….”you have nice gardening gloves yet you choose to just let your hands get dirty!!!!!!!” I tried, I really did try to scrub everything clean. The problem –  I have a fingernail on my right hand that was crushed many years ago and it grows goofy looking creating a dirt trap. So, as she was looking and shaking her head my mind quietly said, “yes dear!!!!!!!”

 

Paused for a week…..computer issues and then one of my many trips to Williston, North Dakota.  Now, about those very dirty hands. I had ignored my composting worms for too long. The drain off the bottom of the bin was plugged up and I knew the bottom tray was probably getting saturated. Oh yes, absolutely full. No problem, I made up a 5 gallon bucket of worm compost tea. I fed the majority of the tea to the newly planted strawberry pugs now thriving in the strawberry towers. My sugar snap peas are starting to climb but appear fragile. I harvested about 4 pounds of worm poop and spot fed the peas as well as giving a good dose to my asparagus ferns. I am very hopeful for a huge asparagus crop next spring.

My wife had the paper shredder fired up taking all of the probable confidential mail to create worm bedding.  The identity thieves will certainly have a tougher time putting the stripss back together. I also use the worms to take the ground up eggshells and make some calcium rich fertilizer. Between the worms and my big outdoor compost bins I send very little to the landfill.

Now wash hands thoroughly and make a sandwich with my homemade sourdough bread. Later on today I need to make the sourdough sponge for tomorrow’s baking day!

 

TTFN

Bishop

Bee Tragedy Averted

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Houston had some huge downpours at the end of this week. I had noticed that my hive had a slightly forward leaning stance but wasn’t too concerned. I should have been! The ground softened and the weight in the upper portion of the hive caused the soft ground to give way and it apparently toppled.

Today is Saturday and based on input from my wife the hive was upright on Wednesday. Because of the rains she had not checked on my little guys. I arrived home Friday night and decided to spend time with my bride rather than in my garden and with the bees! That was a good choice and it paid dividends, but……….

So up and out to see my bees fairly early on Saturday morning and oops, the hive was upside down in the mud! The bees acted lethargic and many dead ones scattered about in the area! I scrambled to get some of my gear on, the smoker was just barely lit but I needed to help my little buddies out! I moved slowly and calmly as I added more support to the pedestal that the hive had previously sat upon.

I slowly restacked the hive, shimmed the hive so it was level and left them alone for a couple of hours. In the meantime I poured a portion of my quart jar of honey into a small a jar for a friend. Rather than rinse, or lick the excess honey from the funnel I decided to give my bees a treat and let them lick it clean. It doesn’t take long for the word to get out. A waggle dance here and a waggle dance there and the feeding frenzy is on! Those dang littl sugar ants find the treat pretty quickly too!

Once one bee has a sip of the good stuff the response is amazing!

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TTFN
Bishop

Harvesting a Little Honey

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While inspecting my hive this past week I was pleased to see that the medium super above the brood box was chock full of capped honey…..all 10 frames. The medium super above it was not showing any signs of activity so I decided to move some things around and in the process, harvest some honey.

I removed the top super and set it off to the side. I then pried loose the bottom super. It was heavy and loaded with honey. I removed two of the full frames and took two untouched frames from the top super and inserted them in the bottom one. I shooed the bees off of the full frames, took them inside and began the extraction process. I used the scrape and squeeze method. I used a fork to uncap and scrape the honey and beeswax into a big pan. I then used a spatula to scrape as much as I could from the frame without disturbing the base layer. I poured the honey and beeswax through a sieve. I then gently squeezed the beeswax sitting in the sieve to get as much honey as I could. My reward, about 4.5 lbs. of tasty and dark  honey.

A quart jar for me and a pint jar for Lisa.

A quart jar for me and a pint jar for Lisa. The extracted frames in the background.

Once the frames were mostly cleaned up and barely dripping I placed the wet frames into the top super as a lure to begin filling the top. I had four and half pounds, that  is ~ 1.5 quarts of honey. My beekeeper daughter gets the pint jar and I have the quart jar. Retail – at about $ 5.00 per pound,  that is $ 22.50 toward paying out my investment…The CFO is curious when that threshold will be met. Hmmmmm, 1.76 year payout Hun!

Clean-up easy and minimizes or eliminates waste. The honey coated beeswax after the extraction process is placed out near the hive and in less than an hour the message gets sent and the clean up begins. I was tempted to chew all of the beeswax to get most of the honey out, but, I had licked the bowl and spatula enough! Let the bees take it back into the hive!

Bees working on the honey coated beeswax. They were making great progress.

Bees working on the honey coated beeswax. They were making great progress.

I hope I don't gross you out but this is a wad of beeswax that I had chewed on for a bit. Less than two seconds after I set it down the work had begun.

I hope I don’t gross you out but this is a wad of beeswax that I had chewed on for a bit. Less than two seconds after I set it down the work had begun.

iPhone photos….batteries had died on my other cameras and I had not been diligent! They turned out well enough, I think!

TTFN

Bishop

Los Osos Corner Plot

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Los Osos, a little town near Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, is gardener’s paradise. It has that Goldilocks weather, not too hot and not too cold, it is just right. The soil may be a bit on the sandy side but add some compost and it will drain well and produce amazing crops.

I have been wanting stop and look at the corner lot in town near my mother’s place for several years and finally decided to stop and look. It looks a lot like my hair on a windy day, disheveled yet remnants of a part still visible. There is obviously a plan but the owner of the plot, I am sure, never worried about staying in the lines while coloring.

Cool weather crops can pretty much be grown here round and warm weather crops benefit from the warm sun and soil after the morning fog rolls back. By stopping and looking, I noticed his “girls” in the fenced run at the far side of the garden. Looks like 8-10 well feathered hens of various colors and varieties. I am certain that they produce some tasty and beautiful eggs.

Buying a lot in Los Osos to vegetable garden would probably not payout in several lifetimes. Unless, of course, it was inherited from way back when they were begging people to buy lots there in the 60’s and possibly earlier. I have tried to talk my mom into allowing me to put in some edible borders at her place but I haven’t convinced her yet. Yes, the cost of water in this extended drought they have been facing is a real concern, we could use drip irrigation. Whaddya say Mom?

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Looking back toward the street .

Looking back toward the street .

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!

 

TTFN

Bishop

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

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I was tending to both my bees and my garden this morning. My bees just typically go about their business and I go about my business without conflicts. I am still giving the hive sugar water to help as they continue to grow in size. I noticed that the quart jar in the Boardman Feeder was empty so I gently eased down, removed it, shooed the few bees that had clung to the lid and took it into the house for a refill. A few minutes later I returned, slipped the quart jar into place without event. I always do this without any beekeeping gear, so it was shorts and a t-shirt with my camo Crocs on my feet….the ones that my daughter Lisa hates to see on my feet at the coffee shop or for that matter….anywhere in public. Too bad, I like them and they are comfortable.

Bees just continued to do what they do ignoring me. I spread some pine needle mulch and grass clippings around to help suppress the weeds. My son had mowed our neighbor’s lawn and brought the clippings home. I decided to add that “black”, key word, bag of clippings to the compost bin next to the hive. I grabbed it and swung it up onto the bin’s cross bar to untie it….not even thinking about how the bees would react to this big black object swinging through their air space….

So, a big dark black object coming quickly into their space is seen as a threat. Me, being attached to he black bag was also, apparently seen as a threat…..dark red shirt worn by this dummy in addition to the black bag threat made it doubly bad. Well 8-10 bees tried to encourage me to leave and I just tried to ignore them. Trying to untie the knot must have been see as a aggressive act so, one of the protectors gave up their life and stung the hand that also feeds them…..OK, I get the message. I walked away, used my knife to scrap the stinger out and left them alone for about 15 minutes. I put a dab of cortisone cream on my hand and all was fine.

After 15 minutes I went back out and as usual – they ignored me, I untied the bag and slowly dumped it and finished my chores. I believe I learned a lesson…..I just hope CRS doesn’t kick in and I forget the lesson.

Just doing what they do best...... I just need to make sure that I am not an irritant or look like a bear.

Just doing what they do best…… I just need to make sure that I am not an irritant or look like a bear. Photo from earlier in the year when someone else’s bees were pollinating my lemon tree.

TTFN

Bishop

 

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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