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Christmas Eve in the Garden

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It was “77 degrees F” yesterday and I actually worked up a sweat raking leaves to add to the compost bin. It wasn’t too bad….just barely a one T-shirt job. Summer jobs in Houston are typically 3 or more T-shirt changes.

I gathered up the ripening, the dropped and the green Juliet tomatoes. Even covered, the last freeze hit the plant hard.

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Well the last freeze has made the Juliet tomato plant look pretty sad. I grabbed this handful, green ones included, as the last of the harvest. Yummy Christmas cookies in the background….my secret recipe. Ask for it…

The freeze didn’t bother the strawberries. They handle it well. If I see temperatures in the teens I will definitely cover them. I added another 100 plants last fall……need to treat my babies well!

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December 24th and the strawberries are making their appearance.

The colder weather of last week finally started killing off the asparagus ferns. I will find a nice day next week to cut them back and top dress the asparagus bed.

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A tangled mess. I didn’t get to it but I will cut back the asparagus ferns next week and dream of spring spears.

I will make some Meyer Lemon Honey Jam in a week or two and maybe a small batch of lemon curd….so rich and so yummy.

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My sad transplanted dwarf Meyer Lemon. I moved it from it’s wine barrel home of 4 years to my garden last spring….hope for better results this next year.

My experimenting will continue into 2017. Mike and Annette, who host one of my hives, have two volunteer papaya trees that bear fruit. Fruit tossed into their compost bin several years ago took off and bear very nice papayas. I saved some of their seeds and put them in a small pot. They are doing well. I will repot and protect the young ones for spring.

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Papaya….I have a hive in a yard here in Kingwood that has two papaya trees. I dropped a handful of seeds into this pot and have been rewarded. Now to transplant them.

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Merry Christmas

TTFN

Bishop

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Jammin’

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Although I have been quiet with my blogging I have been staying busy with the garden, the bees, the beer sampling and trying to make sense of the crazy politics. I promise that I will not bring politics into the mix…

I started picking my first strawberries in late December…not really enough to call a harvest but those that survived the trip from garden to kitchen were cleaned up and placed in a freezer bag. I tend to snack on the goodies when out in the garden, berries, snap peas and now the asparagus spears that are poking through. Thanks to a Valentines gift from my wife several years ago I have a little sink with running water in my garden. A quick rinse and I have a garden fresh snack.

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I don’t believe this one survived the trip into the kitchen. March has been a better month for strawberries and based on blossom count April should be awesome. I celebrated the first day of spring yesterday by whipping up a batch of strawberry jam. Results, 6 –  1/2 pint jars, 2 – 1/4 pint jars, 1 – 12 oz. jar and a miscellaneous sized cute jar found in amongst my canning supplies. FYI, I use the “SureJell” low sugar pectin and recipe as it allows, in my opinion, more of the fruit flavor to come through.

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Yum! I decided to label my jars with the label being used for my honey. The design for “Bishop’s Bees and Honey” is under revision….I hope to have a new logo and label design before first honey harvest around May 1st! By the end of April I should be managing 12-13 hives. I still have swarm traps out so that number could grow. I am more excited about those numbers than my wife is, but, she does do an amazing job selling my honey. My “honey” really knows how to move my honey!

Another brief note on berries…….the trails around our area are covered up with Dewberry blossoms. Dewberries are a small but tasty blackberry that grows wild here. This is the most amazing display of blossoms in the 12 years we have lived in Kingwood. I am looking forward to the harvest time….should be a good one.

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Just a sampling of what is to come.

TTFN

Bishop

Backyard Blackberry Honey Pepper Sauce

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This is a sauce that has four ingredients and  75% can be sourced from your backyard. 1. Blackberries, yes I do have blackberry vines in my backyard. 2. L Honey, well I had a hive in my backyard but a neighbor complained and I moved it to a yard nearby. 3. Peppers, I used a poblano pepper from my yard. 4. The tablespoon of sugar – well, it is store bought.

Simple, 16 ounces of blackberries but raspberries would work too. If frozen thaw before cooking.

1/4 to 1/3 cup of local raw honey. I used a 1/4 cup.

Pepper. I used a medium poblano that was from my garden. You can used black pepper, 1 tbsp, or any other peppers depending on your taste and desire for heat.

1 tbsp of sugar

Medium heat and stir often. To speed up the fruit breakdown I use a potato masher.

Run through a strainer once the consistency you want is reached. I am using mine for a pork loin glaze so I will let it thicken. Should also  be good on Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream!

Recipe lifted from;

https://thewisercook.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/blackberry-honey-pepper-sauce/

Simmering on the stove

Simmering on the stove

Added a bit of the pulp and seed back into the sauce for texture. I put it back onto the stove to simmer until it thickened to my liking. The taste and aroma are amazing. I think the pork loin will be a real treat.

TTFN

Bishop

Thanksgiving Day Strawberries

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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! 

TTFN

Bishop

Spring Must Be Near

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I haven’t been faithfully keeping up with the posting here but I would like to offer up several excuses. I will give you the option to decide which one or, if you choose, you can pick several.

  1. Work – I am a consultant, albeit par-time by my choice, but I sometimes don’t say no often enough….. Yes, dear I do hear but may not always listen.
  2. I get to surfing the web becoming distracted by; seed catalogs, bee keeping supplies & information, fishing spots & advice, Politics…..ugly politics goading me into writing letters to the clueless, Facebook, Trivia Crack, Blog reader…..I think you get the picture.
  3. I am actually spending some time in the garden…..the weeds never take a day, an hour or even a minute of of their evil plan to overtake my garden.
  4. Football – can’t use too much of that now but then there is the Six Nations Rugby starting up this weekend – First round!
  5. Lazy….the fire in the fireplace lulls me into that comfortable kicked back, laid back and mellow mindset.
  6. There is a box with many thousand photographic slides that need to be digitized….I sometimes go through a few when other duties call. Distracted again.
  7. I have a bowl chucked up on my lathe that needs to be finished. I need someone to give me a “Roundtoit”
  8. Wifely pressure to do something more productive, i.e., the tax return, organizing my business files, storing my beer making gear somewhere other than the dining room(we only use that room twice every year – I have till next Thanksgiving don’t I?).
  9. Procrastination – I suppose their is an element in most of the above.

Ok, enough of that. Garden news. The strawberries are beginning to produce. I hope I can harvest quicker than the squrrels and my wife eat them “au naturale”. Hmmmmm…….Hun whatever makes you happy. The strawberry towers seem to be safe, at least for now, from the furry marauders but not from my sweetheart. I added 100 new strawberry plants to the towers this fall. This year’s harvest will be small compared to next year’s.  Once they become established I should/could be overwhelmed.

Some nearly ready and more on the way.

Some nearly ready and more on the way.

Good looking and almost ripe.

Good looking and almost ripe.

My blueberry plants are beginning to bud out now and if the buds are an indication I should a nice little crop this second year growth. I have 4 plants in containers and two in ground plants.  I also inspected my lemon and lime trees…..no evidence yet of budding and blooms….I am a bit concerned. If nothing by March I could be longing for my Meyer Lemon Curd at this time next year.

The bowl that needs to be FINISHED! The rim is undercut and I need to ad some more depth to the undercut before finishing.

The bowl that needs to be FINISHED! The rim is undercut and I need to add some more depth to the undercut before finishing.

My bees seem to be wintering well. I am hoping for 30 lbs. or more of harvestable honey. I have tried to be very good to my bees but apparently I made one mad yesterday evening. The little bugger stung my arm! Oh well – the life of a beekeeper!

More soon.

 

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

 

“Doin’ The Dew”….Wild Dewberry Jam

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In the woods around Kingwood…..my home location – the wild dewberries have been ripening up. We had a good spring…plenty of rain and the crop is massive. There is a good patch of low growing dewberries at East End Park….a nice, well used area with miles of walking and biking gravel trails…. lots of berry pickers! http://www.eastendpark.com/about.html

I will share two locations and keep a few others secret. As I mentioned above, East End Park has a nice low growing patch in the open area to the right as you go through the barriers at the entrance. The other location….and I really like this one because many of the berries grow in an upright manner….helps the “old Man” save his back while picking. This other location is in River Grove Park across the walking bridge to the soccer fields and then a short walk over to the East edge of the fields. Based on what I saw yesterday, next weekend will be an outstanding weekend for berry pickers.

I brought home enough from two separate expeditions to cook up a batch of dewberry  jam today. In fact, I had a little too much for one batch and the freezer holds the start of the next batch. I always make the low sugar version of jams, strawberry, blackberry and dewberry. I use 1/3 less sugar than the regular homemade jams.

I started with 6 ½ cups of mashed up dewberries …. The recipe called for 5 but I used about 5 ½ cups of berries, bagged a cup for the future and went to work. My “go to” pectin is Sure Jell Light. I do try to follow the recipe sheet and measure everything!!!!! I fudge just a little but try to stay within reason with my deviations from the recipe.

The mashed of dewberries coming up to a boil.

The mashed of dewberries coming up to a boil.

Filling the hot sterilized jars with the yummy mix!

Filling the hot sterilized jars with the yummy mix!

Tools of jam making.

Tools of jam making.

The idle food mill - sorry Hun - you will have to live with the extra seeds.

The idle food mill – sorry Hun – you will have to live with the extra seeds.

I am having a banner year for jams and other canning goodies so far. I made a double batch of lemon curd from my homegrown Meyer Lemons. Horribly rich so I just use a little dab when I indulge. I have about 18 half pint jars of my homegrown strawberry jam and now 8 half pint jars of Dewberry Jam. The pantry is looking good!

The Pantry - Lots of Strawberry, Lemon Curd and Dewberry. Also a dab of 2013 leftovers, Pomegranate Jelly, Chipotle Peach jam, a blended jam - Blackberry/Dewberry/Strawberry and some Serrano Pepper Jelly.

The Pantry – Lots of Strawberry, Lemon Curd and Dewberry. Also a dab of 2013 leftovers, Pomegranate Jelly, Chipotle Peach jam, a blended jam – Blackberry/Dewberry/Strawberry and some Serrano Pepper Jelly.

I sometimes debate whether I should run the mashed berries through the food mill to remove a bunch of the seeds….about half….the seeds don’t bother me so I skipped that messy step. As the mix comes to a boil the aroma is so good….once the sugar is added and the color deepens the aroma now becomes a little sweeter.

TTFN

Bishop

 

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