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Winter Composting

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I am visiting my daughter in Denver this week, totally different weather than my Houston clime! Her neighbor loves gardening but laments the fact that she doesn’t seem to be able to compost in the winter. I decided to to investigate cold weather composting tips….and yes, I can learn a little in the process.

I found a nice article from the Empress of Dirt. Granted, she is a little further north but the method should work as well. I think I would consider adding a microbe addition, similar to the type in the included link from Safer Brand. I have used some of their products in the past and really like them.

The winter composting also contains a link to composting basics, 101, that I thought would beneficial to folks new to composting! Because of my warmer climate I don’t utilize closed type bins, I utilize home built open enclosures. The 20 gallon galvanized can recommended in the article appears to be handy for holding scraps, especially in the grips of brrrrr type of cold, before adding to your pile.

Bottom line, COMPOST YOUR WASTES……. adapt to your climate, keep compostables out of the landfills! Landfills create methane….methane is 30 times stronger than CO2 as a green house!

Research from JPL NASA comes this piece of data;

“Emissions data like this can help facility operators identify and correct problems – and in turn, bring California closer to its emissions goals. For example, of the 270 surveyed landfills, only 30 were observed to emit large plumes of methane. However, those 30 were responsible for 40% of the total point-source emissions detected during the survey. This type of data could help these facilities to identify possible leaks or malfunctions in their gas-capture systems.

https://empressofdirt.net/easy-winter-composting/

https://www.saferbrand.com/resources/ringer-compost-plus-compost-starter-3050-6/images/4

I ran across a nice compost image that could be used in most climes and can help deter common pests. My old bins are becoming pretty ragged. I built them with fencing materials that were blown down during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

From ; https://www.backyardboss.net/

Besides being good looking it looks hell for stout!

TTFN

Bishop

Central California Coast – Farmer’s Market

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We are out of Houston and loving the weather, the scenery and the people on the Central California Coast. We, my bride and I have been sampling all kinds of beer over the past day and a half, and probably could have written a good post on my beer blog, https://bishopsbeerblog.com/ , but we had such a good experience at the Los Osos/Baywood Park Farmers Market, I just had to capture the visit.

The morning was spent wandering up the coast to the Sea Elephant rookery before heading back south. Lunch in Cayucos and then south to the Los Osos area. We drove through the area where my my mother lived For 20+ years before she passed away three years ago. It is a bit bittersweet as so many great memories came flooding back. By happenstance, we stumbled onto the Monday Farmer’s Market in Los Osos/Baywood Park…..I think I already mentioned that. It is a small but colorful market.

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My lovely bride striding off into the small but very colorful market.

The variety and freshness of the offerings are pretty amazing.

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I could have bought every loaf and with a lot of butter it would have been a meal. Kathy had a better, at least from a health perspective, choice for our evening meal. I did steer her to to a small brewery in Cambria Pines before arriving back to the motel. Dinner cost…$ 13.50!!!!!

JBD_7688

Number one… We should have bought more strawberries. We only bought one small basket of very sweet and wonderful strawberries…..Main course was a quart of Jack Fruit soup. Oh my, very flavorful and very satisfying. Appetizers were had at the 927 brewery in Cambria, I had a flight of their beers, Toyon Amber Ale – Slab Town Pale Ale – Summerdale IPA – Beer Inoculus IPA and for Kathy an Ollalberry beer with a nice tart finish.

TTFN

Bishop

Bee Rescue – Giving Back

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I am in the midst of a trap out for a woman that can’t afford to pay the usual $400.00 to do a cut out. My wife made the connection with the woman and I was reluctant because I don’t want any part of the work and effort to do a cut out. I hemmed and hawed for a week, then asked for a photo…….good news, the location seemed to lend itself to a simple trap out. My biggest concern is Fall……once out I will need to baby the bees for them to make it through the winter.

The location- in the wall of an out of service cold box with wood clad external sides. Apparently a knot in the wood rotted out and left a very nice 1 inch diameter hole. The flat surface of the cold box simplifies the process. First build the escape cone.

Start with 1/8 inch(#8 hardware cloth), create a cone with an exit hole a little larger than than a pencil thickness. I drilled a 2 5/8 inch hole in a thin piece of plywood, sized so 6 or 7 inches of the cone protruded through. Trimmed the fat end to create wings, covered the wings with duct tape and secured with staples.

The bees were foraging and calm when I installed the cone.

The wire cone and small escape hole is not well seen by the bees complex eyes.after escaping to forage they return and are locked out. They mill around, they smell their hive and scramble trying to find a way back in. Sometimes there are other access holes and they will find a way back in. Fortunately, I got lucky….just a single entry hole.

Now I need to make them comfortable. I have a short topbar box needing bees and it has 4 bars of drawn comb, some old heavily propolized bars and a packet of queen scent. Today was day three and the escapees have found a home. I just hope that the weather holds long enough to starve out the queen. Workers are bringing pollen in and I will add a feeder shortly.

Love watching the girls work and drawing in more recruits. If the weather was warmer I would be tempted to bring this box a bar of eggs and brood. I really need to get the queen to recognize that no resources are coming in and choose to leave. I will give her a little time and may poke another hole to pump some smoke into the cavity to encourage her to leave.

Update….. 8 days later and the bees have found some rotted out wood at the base of the old cold box back around the backside. I have sealed up the area but will have to wait for flying weather after our cold snap to gauge my success. Looking for something north of 50-55 degrees F to check it out.

TTFN

Bishop

Washboarding – Strange Bee Behavior

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May 22nd of this year, 2019, I observed the bees in one of my swarm traps exhibiting this unusual behavior. The experts don’t have a definitive answer for the behavior. Click on the link.

https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=7586

I have seen it 3 or 4 times with my hives over the past 6 years. One common observation on my part is that I see it exclusively in the afternoon on warm days. I really to log the activity to see if there are some commonalities. The washboarding activity really is fascinating to watch. Below is the slomo video I took that afternoon.

Fascinating…..these creatures are so fascinating. I can spend literally hours just watching them come and go.

TTFN

Bishop

Yellow Banana Peppers Galore

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I only put in a single yellow banana pepper plant – and the title fits nicely.

galore

At a party with more cupcakes than anyone could imagine, you’ll hear guests say, “There are cupcakes galore!”  Galore means there’s so much that it’s unbelievable.

The Irish phrase go lear literally translates as “to sufficiency.” If there are sufficient enough bananas to build a house with them, you’d say that there are bananas galore. The word is an example of a postpositive adjective, which means it comes after the word it describes. So when you go to a circus and 700 clowns surround you, don’t say “There are galore clowns,” because the correct way to express your terror is this: “There are clowns galore. Help”.

I increased my knowledge of the English language today. Without knowing why, I had always used the word “galore” as shown in the title. Unbeknownst to me – the word “galore” is a postpositive adjective. Reminds me of a common gringo mistake of placing the adjective before the nouns when attempting to speak Spanish. In English it is “blue sky” , in Spanish it is “sky blue – cielo azul”!

Ok, language lessons over for today. Now let’s deal with my yellow banana peppers galore!

I brought in another handful before I started slicing them up into 1/4 inch thick rings. I did weigh the pile, a little more than two pounds, more than 900 grams. My garden seems to be well suited for growing peppers and such. These are about 6″ or 15 cm long!

I stuffed the pepper rings into 4 pint jars and a single 1/2 pint jar, all jars preheated of course. The pickling mix was 5 cups cider vinegar, 1 1/4 cup water and 5 tsp pickling salt brought to a boil. Prior to stuffing the peppers into the jars I added 1 tbsp mustard seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds into the pint jars and about half that amount into the half pint jar.

The heated pickling mix was poured over the peppers leaving a little less than 1/2 inch of head space. They were processed 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Recommend letting them sit undisturbed for a day or more and then tuck them away for a week or two to allow the flavors to blend.

Ready to process.

The final product with some of my 5 gallon honey buckets in the background.

I also have Poblano peppers galore! I will fire the smoker up this weekend and roast/smoke them with pecan wood. These scrumptious smoked peppers provide the heat and smoky flavor for my smoked Poblano pepper jelly. Amazing as a glaze on pork chops or pork loin and also very nice mixed with soft cream cheese as a chip dip. Yum!

TTFN

Bishop

Wild Mustang Grape Jelly Revisited

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I am sad to report that my “secret spot”for picking the Mustang Grapes was cut back by the City of Houston this spring so I was forced to find another source. I was able to forage a little over 3 gallons of grapes. It is a hot sweaty endeavor to gather up the grapes as they ripen at the beginning of July. It was 95 degrees F and 80+% humidity when I was picking. I was thoroughly soaked when finished.

Many times I can find nice clusters like this but most of the time I’m not so lucky. Photo from the attached article- I can’t take credit for it.

Preparation of the grapes takes some time. I spend the time to de-stem all of the grapes but have discovered that the time consuming effort may be a bit of overkill. I am attaching a link to a recipe that simplifies the process and leaves the stems on. Just a note, I do not wear gloves when I pick and then de-stem the grapes. My hands have experienced a mild but persistent itching sensation for a day plus after handling the grapes. I will use glove next time both while picking and then skip the de-stemming step.

My recipe calls for 5 cups of strained juice….. I don’t force it through the cheesecloth as I like clear jelly. The jelly is a very sweet yet tart jelly with 7 cups of sugar. I use Sure Jell pectin and a tablespoon of butter. I find that I need to boil it at a full rolling boil for almost 6 minutes before it reaches the jelling point I like. The boiling process foams up very high so a deep pot is a necessity. I find that once removed from the heat the foam falls quickly and leaves little if any foam to skim off before ladling into the jars. I process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

The photos don’t quite do it justice. The color of this jelly is amazing! I made 6 sample/gift size jars with this batch. I will make a couple more batches for a total of 30+/- half pint jars. And yes, I will part with a half pint jar for $6.00 or an appropriate barter!

The attached article has a recipe that differs very little from mine but does include a 1/4 cup of lemon juice to aid in the setting of the jelly and a 1/4 cup less grape juice. A word of advice, unless you have large sized equipment, do single batches and always measure everything meticulously. Test your jelly to ensure it has boiled long enough. The attached article as a great explanation and photos illustrating how to check your jelly.

https://jennifercooks.com/how-to-make-wild-mustang-grape-jelly/

TTFN

Bishop

Bee Swarms – A Model of Consensus Building

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First, it may be beneficial to understand why bees swarm. If you consider the colony to be an organism, it like any organism, must reproduce to ensure its survival. If left to their own devices, a beehive/colony will almost certainly swarm. Typically there is a prime swarm, the existing queen and up to 60% of the colony gorge up on honey and leave looking for a suitable nest. Sometimes colonies will divide themselves more than once. This inborn behavior, to swarm and reproduce, is both a bane and a positive event for beekeepers.

The positive;

Beekeepers keep an eye on the colony in early spring looking for signs of an impending swarm. Evidence includes an increase in the number of drones, male bees, being produced. The next piece of evidence is the building of queen cells in preparation of the queen leaving. The colony will need a new queen to replace the departing grand dame. The colony may make a dozen or more queens, only first to emerge will survive and mate. Side note…she may not even survive a mating flight…..she could become a tasty morsel.

The bane;

The bees swarm on there own leaving behind a much smaller population that may not build up quick enough to put away enough honey to harvest.

This reproduction discussion is cursory…..it is a lot more detailed and fascinating than this space provides. What prompted this post was observing bee behavior around my swarm trap boxes. I have three swarm trap boxes in my backyard and if the timing is right I see a lot of what is described in the large paragraph I plucked from Wikipedia. It begins with a few scout bees finding potential nest site.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarming_(honey_bee)#Nest_site_selection

“Nest site selection

The scout bees are the most experienced foragers in the cluster. An individual scout returning to the cluster promotes a location she has found. She uses the waggle dance to indicate direction, distance, and quality to others in the cluster. The more excited she is about her findings the more excitedly she dances. If she can convince other scouts to check out the location she found, they may take off, check out the proposed site, and may choose to promote the site further upon their return. Several different sites may be promoted by different scouts at first. After several hours and sometimes days, slowly a favorite location emerges from this decision making process. In order for a decision to be made in a relatively short amount of time (the swarm can only survive for about three days on the honey on which they gorged themselves before leaving the hive), a decision will often be made when somewhere around 80% of the scouts have agreed upon a single location, and/or when there is a quorum of 20-30 scouts present at a potential nest site. When that happens, the whole cluster takes off and flies to it. A swarm may fly a kilometer or more to the scouted location, with the scouts guiding the rest of the bees by quickly flying overhead in the proper direction. This collective decision making process is remarkably successful in identifying the most suitable new nest site and keeping the swarm intact. A good nest site has to be large enough to accommodate the swarm (minimum 15 liters in volume, preferably ≈40 liters), has to be well protected from the elements, have a small entrance (approximately 12.5 cm squared) located at the bottom of the cavity, receive a certain amount of warmth from the sun and not be infested with ants. In addition to these criteria, nest sites with abandoned honeycombs are preferred, as this allows the bees to better conserve their resources.

Today I witnessed what I suspect were the final two nest sites in the selection process. There were 20 -30 bees running in and out of two of the swarm traps located in my backyard. Being an eternal optimist, I thought I was about to pick up two swarms.

 

This white box is larger in volume than the brown box I will show you next. Both boxes a baited with queen scent and have at least two fully drawn frames of old brood comb.

 

This video was taken a few minutes after I shot the white box, showing a significant increase in action.

An hour or so later I realized that I was not lucky enough to snag two swarms in my backyard. Dang!!!!!

 

They are moving in and claiming the brown box. It is much smaller than the white box but has had the advantage of capturing two previous swarms. That scent left by previous bees is a strong attractant.

I am not giving up on the nice white box, there are still a few “lookie lu’s” checking it out but the consensus? A smaller box with the familiar scent of a home was the swarms choice!

As a bonus, I have a swarm trap in my backyard that will be moved within the next few days. Today, as the new swarm moved in, this box was exhibiting a curious activity called “washboarding”. Lots of theories of why, but it remains a bit of a mystery. I thought I would share the video with all y’all. I shot it in slomo but it starts full speed and ends full speed. It is just fascinating to watch them. FYI, it was very warm and humid!

When the old queen leaves during a primary swarm, she already has a few miles on her. A queens productivity declines steadily, forcing many commercial keepers to replace her every year to maintain peak production. If you are lucky enough to capture a primary swarm, you have a queen on the decline. The queen really does not rule the hive, the workers do! It is very likely that the swarm will create “supercedure ” cells and replace her!

“Supersedure cells are often begun after the eggs are laid. The bees, knowing they need to replace the queen, begin feeding royal jelly to a young larva they have selected. They build a supersedure cell around this larva (or several larvae) and it hangs down from the face of the comb. Swarm cells, however, are built in preparation for swarming and are not intended to replace the queen, but to raise a second queen. This way, there will be a queen for the part that swarms and a queen for the part that stays.”

From; https://honeybeesuite.com/is-it-a-swarm-cell-or-a-supersedure-cell/

 

TTFN

Bishop

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