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The Garden Is Still There

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For whatever reason, I can come up with too many to list, I just haven’t written much about the garden in the past year or so. It does not mean that I am not active in the garden, in fact, up until a week ago I was buried with cucumbers! Then, the heat and white flies took their toll! The banana plants are growing like crazy but no hint of fruit……yet. They need 14-15 frost free months…..oops….fingers crossed for a mild winter. Looking at March of 2018……..

Tomatoes have finally bit the dust but a couple are hanging around……Yanked most of the vines out last week. Spread mulch and soon…..finished compost from my bins. I just planted some fall Irish Potatoes……only need 110 days or so….should be no trouble.

My Scarlet beans are still climbing skyward, soon to be replaced with Blue Lake….my favorite. Half of my strawberry plants are kicking butt, but, the half that was heavily shaded by the voraciously growing cucumbers look a little pathetic. Gotta give them some love!

I potted up 5 pineapple plants so I can shield them from potential freezes…..I didn’t do so well with those left in the ground last year. I really, really, really want to eat a homegrown pineapple! At the same time I potted up 3 Manazano banana plants…..it is a chore to stay ahead of the new growth that pulls nutrients away from the main stalks. The trimmed banana leave do make excellent mulch…….and they cover a lot of surface area….weed killer deluxe.

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Five pineapple plants, two are over a year old the other three are from early summer.

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One fat stalk and two smaller Manzano banana plants.

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Ok, not easy to see, but I have 6 potholes dug with cut pieces of potato buried……just waiting for some shoots to emerge.

Bees, yes I still have them – down to 12 hives……one became weak and I combined it with a stronger hive and wow, it is booming. I have work to do this week, three hives are overflowing with bees and I need to put a plan together……splits?, NUC’s?, or? The summer dearth is here so I am feeding the bees until the Fall flow…..Goldenrod is the mainstay but will have to see what else adds to the Fall nectar flow.

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This is the swarm I trapped in my backyard over the May weekend when my son Ben was married. I replaced the queen a several weeks ago and added a second brood box today… the new queen is really doing well.

Ok, enough for now…..more garden clean-up, sweat soaked shirts and bee business for the remainder of the week.

TTFN

Bishop

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Musings – Something I do too Often

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My wandering mind, always a bit out of control.

Yesterday I was trying to cram too many activities into my day…..The guy at the mower shop called for the third time about my leaf vacuum and chipper that had been in the shop, ready for over two weeks….I had bees to feed, beers to drink, weeds to pull, strawberries to pick and the list went on.

My fat tired garden wagon was strapped to the rack on the back of my Suburban. I released the ratchet strap and placed the strap inside the vehicle…..got distracted…….maybe the bee swarm trap was attracting attention, another cup of coffee, my 5th, and…..oh yes go get the leaf Vac. Fired up the Suburban and headed off. Arrived at the shop, grabbed a strap to tie down the leaf vac and wandered to the back of the Suburban……..and i luckily made it the 8 miles to the shop with the garden wagon still resting on the rack…..Surprise, surprise. FYI, this is garden wagon number two……..I lost one a year and half ago….it was “strapped” down, but obviously not well. Fifteen miles of freeway driving followed the 6 miles from my house down Kingwood Drive to the freeway. I retraced the route, hoping for the best but, I was worried about a catastrophic event. It became obvious that I was lucky and I suspect someone else got lucky and picked up and $ 80.00 wagon…….maybe a little scraped and dented!

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The infamous rack and a peek inside my two “seater” Suburban. the wagon wheels are visible on the left side. I may need to invest in a truck soon!

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A closer look. My “Goo” friend John built me a box to organize my tools….again…my scattered brain always hunting for where the needed tools are. The box will also double a a swarm box if I encounter one…..Love it!

What else…..Oh yes the swarm. It is drawing “lookie lu’s”…..today looks promising. I have some old comb in the trap and that is generating lots of visitors into the open house. Fingers crossed.

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Swarm box with “lookie lu’s”. I hope they like the decor and invite the rest of the group.

Tomatoes

March 28 and I have lot’s of green tomatoes, Celebrity and Juliet are producing. I have been using my electric toothbrush to buzz pollinate the tomato blossoms….apparently successfully. Check out the old link to my article.

 

Blogging Hiatus

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Oh, I hope it is over! I am long overdue. I have an excuse for the hiatus….actually multiple excuses. It has been a bit of slow times in the garden, Holidays, travel and building/prepping bee equipment that I will claim for my excuses. Let me add the distraction of my Christmas gift, Kitchen Aid mixer for making bread and creamed honey for your consideration! I have more if you want to ask!

January 2nd, my wife and I embarked on an epic 4,125 mile road trip. We got as far north as Billings,MT. Why Billings…… it had something to do with beer, snow and stubbornness! Torrington, WY to see my great grandsons….. and granddaughter. Four days in Breckinridge, CO for a family gathering – skiing, tubing and snowshoeing and family bonding. Albuquerque, NM  to visit with my cousin. All in all an interesting trip.
Upon return we witnessed the remnants of the Houston freeze that decimated my bananas and plants, destryed the 14 papaya plants, killed my young lime tree and ruined 3 dozen or so of my Meyer lemons!On  the positive side, lots of dead foliage for mulch and compost!

Bees- building more boxes, painting more boxes and experimenting with new semi-transparent stains. My wife gets involved putting her touch, stenciling and stamping bees and other images on the boxes. Teamwork, I do the mindless hammering, painting and staining and she does the creative elements. Works for me!

The blue stain looks gray, the green stain looks very nice and the natural stain always looks good. I am purging white painted boxes and making them yellow! Not quite so boring!

Green medium boxes with the first coat in place.

Kathy has stamped some bee images on the medium boxes now with a second coat.


A mix of natural stain and yellow boxes. You can see some more intricate stenciling from last year’s efforts. Time consuming and probably overkill.


The “blue” gray stained boxes. The black bees show up nicely. Thanks Hun! And yes dear, when I stack the boxes on the hives I will make sure the bee images alternate and not line up, one over the other!

Can’t wait for Spring……and it looks like it might “bee” early!

TTFN

Bishop

“Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread” – Revisited

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I want to update this post….A little over a year ago I posted the post(redundant but I don’t care), below along with the recipe. I had an abundance of bananas this year so I wound up freezing several dozen. They work great in smoothies but during this time of year I get a hankering for “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”. See story below…the recipe is not my sister Toni’s! LOL

The difference with this loaf is that I used the Manzano bananas rather than the thick and creamy Burro bananas. The flavor may be a bit more sweet/tart due to the influence of the Manzano flavors.

The bread – Note on the recipe…..test by inserting a knife until it comes out clean….this loaf took about 85 minutes.

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Kathy hollered from the kitchen, “Can I cut a piece?” “No”, I replied. “But I like it warm”, she whined. I repeated, “No”. She doesn’t listen very well! She also told me that I need to chop the walnuts into smaller pieces! – “Yes Dear

The previous post……

“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 –  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…….if 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…”

TTFN

Bishop

“Maters” and Bees

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The garden is pretty quiet right now. I have a potted Juliet tomato that just keeps on producing, a few pole beans from a volunteer Kentucky Blue wonder variety and now the carrots and beets are popping up. Oh yes, and a large bunch of Burro bananas – hopefully it will be another mild winter and they will fully mature.

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About every other day I pick a handful just like this….picked these on November 22nd! The plant is still loaded.

Now for the bees. I visited my remaining topbar hive yesterday. Nice sunny day and warm enough to open it up. This hive is the remnant of the colony I rescued over a year ago from a downed tree near downtown Houston. They split themselves several times, I split out a queen cell and a few frames into another topbar, robbed a queen cell for a queenless Langstroth  hive and harvested about 4 bars of honey from the original. They have been gentle and prolific.

I last opened this hive in early October and they had pulled comb back to about the 18th bar. I had intended to move the divider up and shrink the hive for winter but was then distracted and didn’t return. Now, on November 22nd I open it up and they have pulled comb back to about bar 24. Nothing put away at the back end but nice looking comb. I brought six empty bars and intended to remove any empty comb as I slid the divider forward. In hindsight I could have pulled 10 bars of drawn comb…..next time.

I worked my way up into the front third before finding brood. Some pretty good honey stores but lighter than I want so I am still giving them a little heavy syrup until it becomes too cold.

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Nice looking bar….

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A little closer look. About what I would expect for this time of the year.

 

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Son Joe getting a lesson on lighting the smoker.

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Joe, keeping his distance as I start the inspection.

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Ashleigh doing the selfie thing with Joe and myself geared up and ready to go.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Fall Tomatoes and Other Notes

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The Juliet tomato is a prolific tomato in the Houston growing environment. Here it is, November 6, 2016, and I still have ripening tomatoes on the plant as well as blossoms! The tomato is sweet but does have a bit of a tough skin. Doesn’t bother me but some may notice. They look like a miniature Roma and make great sauce. The plants are indeterminate and again, to repeat myself, prolific. Two plants can overwhelm a family.

Stovetop Juliet Tomato Sauce

By Analiese Paik

Ingredients: (double or triple as necessary)

  • 1 pound of Juliet tomatoes, preferably organic.
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • fresh basil, oregano or parsley (optional)

Method:

  1. Rinse tomatoes and set aside. Chop garlic while heating a pot large enough to fit the tomatoes on the stove. Add olive oil to the pot and when it shimmers, add the garlic and stir until fragrant over medium heat, a minute or 2.
  2. Add tomatoes to the pot along with 1/4 cup of water so the garlic doesn’t burn. The tomatoes will take at least 5-10 minutes to soften up and begin releasing their juices. I like to put a lid on the pot to speed this up.
  3. Once the tomatoes begin to release their juices and the skins start to burst, remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes have all lost their skins or are quite soft
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce right in the pot. Add salt to taste and a chopped herb if you’d like. The flavor of the sauce, with the garlic alone, is rich and complex.
  5. Strain the sauce through a large strainer or food mill heavy enough to hold the seeds and skins. Be sure to push down on the solids to release all the sauce. Cool the sauce and store in the refrigerator in glass containers. When making large quantities, be sure to chill in the refrigerator before freezing.

http://fairfieldgreenfoodguide.com/2013/09/11/juliet-tomato-sauce/

 

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Bright Red Juliet tomato and more ripening

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More and more and hint at how they grow in clusters.

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A good number of the 100 Chandler strawberries in the ground planted through a weed barrier. Hope to keep the berries cleaner.

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The banana flowers begin to turn upward as they mature. The flower hangs down and the bunch develops and points skyward now.

Other Notes

The Burro banana plant has put on a nice bunch going into, what Houston calls , winter. As I have noted before, last winter I had a bunch survive and ripen even though the plant lost all of the leaves. I left the bunch on and I was rewarded with 40 plus Burro bananas. Fingers crossed I have the same luck.

The Burro and Manzano plants are trying to get ahead of me by sending up shoots. I dug up and potted one of each for a member of the Facebook page, “Texas Small Farming and Homesteading” group. Kim and Jeff live nearby and I delivered the potted plants to them yesterday. Surprise, surprise….they are also beekeepers! Smaller world than we’ll ever know. I guaranteed more if these two died.

I recently put Chandler Strawberry plants out into the garden. I am looking forward to spring and hopefully an epic strawberry jam making explosion. Today will be another round of adding beet, turnip and lettuce seeds. I soaked some snap peas and hopefully they will take off. The previous planting went into the ground without presoaking and sure enough….nothing germinated. I have some accidental pole beans growing from volunteers. Enough for a couple of handfuls for dinner.

Bee stuff……during the next two weeks I should finish prepping all the hives for winter and then make plans for 2017. Hopefully my strongest hives will be ready to split in the spring. I will also build a few more swarm traps…..no luck with the three I set out this year. I made about 8 pounds of “creamed cinnamon honey” this past week. Inventories are getting low…..can’t wait for spring!

Bonus; I am passing along my recipe for cinnamon creamed honey. Not sure I should do this but…..if you really wanted to make it you could do a search and find it just the same….

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~reute001/htm-files/Creamed%20honey%20recipe.html

 

Ok…..enough for today.

TTFN

Bishop

Fall Bananas

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I just returned from a week long trip only to discover that my Burro(chunky banana) plant has opened up and has about 5 hands of bananas exposed with more to be  uncovered. The bees are diving in and enjoying the banana nectar. This planting also produced in mid November last year. I babied the bunches through the cold weather and was rewarded with some nice fat bananas in the spring.

I am overwhelmed this year as I have dozens of bananas frozen for banana bread, smoothies and maybe some more banana jam.

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Bees looking for more banana blossom nectar.

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I wonder if the bees from my nearby neighborhood hives are part of the crew supping upon the sweet nectar?

TTFN

Bishop

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