Home

Snow? It Snowed In Houston

3 Comments

Crazy as it sounds, a big blast of Canadian icy air made it as far south as Houston. For Houstonians it was brutally cold this morning, 16 degrees according to my backyard thermometer. It looks like it won’t warm much for a few days. Obviously my vegetable garden will nor fare well. I covered a new bed of carrots with fingers crossed that they will make it. I covered my strawberries with a couple of inches of leaves and I suspect they will survive. The Romaine lettuce had already started to bolt, so no loss there. My biggest concern was for my Meyer Lemon tree. I have it tented and a small light bulb included under the tent to keep it, hopefully, warm enough.

Lettuce is biting the dust. Upper left is a section of carrots that are covered and fingers crossed they survive. Top right is my topbar bee hive and I believe the colony is strong enough to survive.
I have put a bar in front of the opening to the hive and completely closed off the similar opening on the back side of the box.
There were a couple of bees slowly moving around near the entrance so I do have faith that most are clustered up tightly and keeping the central portion warm.
Swiss Chard standing defiantly against the freezing weather…..at least for today.

Roads are icy and I don’t have any place to go so, sit tight and hope the power stays on! A couple of my pineapple plants are in the garage and hopefully warm enough. If we do lose power at least my home brewed beer will stay cold…..always a silver lining. I was proactive enough to pull a good portion of my beets yesterday and ready to be roasted today!

TTFN

Bishop

Catching Up…..Spring is on the Way

2 Comments

The quiet time of winter is over here in my backyard just north of Houston. I have been eating beets from the garden as well as some carrots. In fact, last night I grilled a spatchcock chicken along with a handful of freshly pulled carrots…….FYI, I should have pulled up a few more carrots!

I love this water color app called Waterlogue…..orange and a couple of yellow carrots freshly pulled.
Obviously not enough carrots. Olive oil, a little sea salt and rosemary. 8-10 minutes over direct heat and about 15 minutes over indirect heat with the foil sealed shut. FYI, this is a good size of carrot to cook through and not be crunchy in the center.

I have both red and gold variety beets growing along with Romaine lettuce, about 50 new Chandler strawberries. The radishes are done and I could probably plant more but I’m the only one that eats them! Sugar snap peas have been planted, along with some turnips and another round of beets.

Bees are doing well and the early spring bodes well if the weather stays wet enough for the early spring nectar flowers. For you folks in Texas here is a very good list, link attached. Late winter does include my Meyer Lemon tree as a good nectar source….. looks like it will bloom very soon. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/travis/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAGF-2017-Central-Texas-Bee-Friendly-plants.pdf

My backyard topbar hive. Bees are storing honey…..this comb is a little wonky so I will pull it and maybe two other misshapen bars to crush and squeeze in a few weeks once I see more nectar flowers blooming.
Suited up but not for the backyard bees….my backyard bees are pretty sweet, no gloves or suit needed but I do always wear my veil. I was suited up here because I was cutting weeds and brush around some of my friskier bees!
Bonus image from our recent trip up to North Dakota. These two whitetail boys were sparring a bit, not real energetically but grunting a little.

More spring stuff in the works.

TTFN

Bishop

Armenian Cucumber

Leave a comment

“The Armenian cucumber has a bit of an identity crisis.

Botanically, it’s considered a melon, with seeds and a mushy center that resembles a cantaloupe and a raw aftertaste akin to watermelon rind. Gardening enthusiasts like to compare it to zucchini. But if it’s picked at the proper time, it has the crispiness and flavor profile of a garden fresh conventional cucumber, so that won out in the naming convention.” https://www.mysanantonio.com/food/recipes-cooking/article/Armenian-cucumbers-stand-out-for-size-and-11949986.php

This one is a midsized fruit, 14 inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide.
Ready to be seasoned after coating in olive oil.

I thought that I had allowed the fruit to zoom past right size for picking but apparently that is not true. Up to about 18 inches long they mimic an English cuke in flavor. The really big ones apparently become sweeter and more melon like in flavor. I suspect the larger and sweeter ones may caramelize while grilling adding even more flavors. I will have to report back with results in the near future.

Unfortunately I composted this one before educating myself!

Grilled Armenian cucumber…….I am happy to report that it turned out well. Next time I will season it a little spicier but one thing I really liked is that it retained it’s crunch after grilling. I like grilled zucchini but it zooms past retaining it’s crunch far too fast while grilling…..mush! “While the grill is heating up, slice the cucumber into 1½ to 2-inch chunks and lightly coat both sides with olive oil and sprinkle each side with Spice Rub to taste. Place the chunks on the side of the grill opposite of the coals, and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on the grill closed, flipping once midway through. Move the chunks over to the area directly above the coals. Sear for 2 minutes per side and transfer to a plate and enjoy.”

Turned out very well. It is a keeper and I will do some experimenting to find a spicier rub mix. All in all, we enjoyed the Armenian Cucumber. My “Goo Friend”, chef last night also grilled the zucchini nicely.

TTFN

Bishop

Goo Friend….. there is story there somewhere in my archives. https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2016/04/

Tomatoes, Sourdough and a Mexican Pilsner

Leave a comment

I may have mentioned it in an earlier post, but my new favorite tomato, just a notch above #2 Brandywine, is Cherokee Purple.. I quizzed my wife today and she agrees with my assessment. It is not truly purple but has been described as “beautiful, deep, dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very-large-sized fruit. … From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Both the color and flavor descriptions are dead on!

From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website.
From my garden next to a very large Brandywine…..the photo can’t quite capture the colors.

This tomato has become my favorite BLT tomato, especially when paired with my sourdough bread. Ok, just to pat myself on the back, no yeast used and allowed to ferment about 20 hours before baking. Of course, I also like to pair the sandwich with a beer, today it was a Pacifico, Mexican Pilsner!

I may try my hand at brewing one…….a bit more time consuming as it needs to be fermented at 50 degrees F and after a rest at room temperature, lagered at 34 degrees F for 6 weeks or so….
Yum!
Last night’s sourdough loaf. Damn I am pretty talented with a few things…..LOL!

Garden news, surprising success with summer squash this year, cucumbers are kicking in, pumpkin vines are going wild and the late summer tomato plants are in the ground. Cleaning out and spreading completed compost out of one bin in the next week or so. Honey harvest is dying down….maybe 300 pounds or so.

TTFN

Bishop

Tomato, Tomato, Bruschetta

1 Comment

This has been a pretty good year for tomatoes in my garden even though facing the nemesis of the Houston heat and humidity. Most varieties tend to fade as the heat sets in.

Successes – Juliet, a smallish bunching type off indeterminate tomato. Like a small Roma shaped tomato, thick skinned, meaty and pretty sweet. Patio tomato– in a pot on the patio – duh, a determinate type. Very productive but slowing down with the heat. Brandywine, an indeterminate and tough to grow in the Houston heat as the blossoms don’t set well. I used buzz pollination, electric toothbrush vibrating the blossoms, and had my best harvest ever. Cherokee Purple, also an indeterminate type, what a great surprise! They have made the best BLT’s ever!

Failures – Celebrity, indeterminate type, usually great in Houston……fungus of some sort. Pulled it out after 10-15 maters but not before the fungus hit the adjacent Sweet Million cherry tomato. The failures may have more to do with my lazy practices…..the tomatoes were all in last year’s tomato bed….poor practice!

Bruschetta- my tomatoes, my basil and my homemade sourdough. I didn’t make baguettes but pleased with the results just the same. I used a mix of tomatoes to make about 3 cups of peeled, chopped and drained tomatoes. Added several thinly sliced garlic cloves along with ribbon sliced basil. Sea salt and some black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Let it chill for a few hours.

The sourdough loaf was quartered and the pieces were manageable.

Next, my sourdough, thinly sliced and toasted on one side in the broiler. Then the toasted side was rubbed thoroughly with a large garlic clove cut in half. The roasted bread seems to grate off the yummy garlic. I used every bit of the garlic halves. The olive oil drizzle was left off until served and then added by the slice as it was consumed.

Love my sourdough bread. I am using a slow proofing schedule that really enhances the flavor.

TTFN

Bishop

Sweet Variations

Leave a comment

It is honey season right now! Let me back up just a little, based on my March hive inspections I was anticipating a stellar season. I had nectar coming in and over the next couple of weeks I added honey supers. Some hives went up to two and several went to three. Mother Nature had different plans. April turned out to a a dry month…..bees were bringing in lots of pollen but upon a late April inspection it was like the taps shut off.

The inspections showed a lot of nectar, boxes were heavy but little, if any frames were being capped. In some cases the additional top supers were untouched. I adjusted to make sure I didn’t give too much room for the bees to defend against the small hive beetles. I put out a posting to my customers who were patiently waiting for their doses of local honey…..I hung my head and asked them to wait a little longer.

The rain began to pickup in early May. By the day of the third week of May I decided to see how much it had helped. Great progress on getting nectar dry and capped in many cases. The top supers were heavy with nectar but mostly uncapped. The local area Tallow tree flow was on and I felt better! I wound up with a pretty good haul from three locations.

Three locations, the darker honey is 12-14 miles from the location of the middle honey. The lightest honey is almost 20 miles from the darker honey and 6 miles due East of the middle location.

I bottle by the postal zip code in which the apiaries are located. I has it’s pluses and also drawbacks. The health benefits are pretty much identical but some folks have been hooked by the “hyper-local” concept. I aim to please and we, my sales manager wife and I, try to do our best to meet expectations. I still have two locations a little further north and east to be harvested in the next day or two……dodging thunderstorms now…..and the bees get a little pissy sometimes when inclement weather coincides with a planned visit.

Rainy days are good for me to make my creamed honeys, plain and with cinnamon……so good. It takes a little time but those that have tried it love it. During the off and on rains I place the extracted frames out in my garden and miles away from my hives for the local population to clean up!

The girls do a great job cleaning up the comb. I freeze it for a couple of days and may cycle some of the frames back into strong hives for a refill. Comb already drawn out accelerates the process.

TTFN

Bishop

Strawberry Fields – Not Quite Forever

Leave a comment

Last fall I planted about 75 Chandler June bearing plants……they began producing at the beginning with a “beauty” on February 14th, scored a few points by giving the first Berry to my bride…….yeah, almost June bearing LOL. Half of the new plantings were in plastic covered raised beds, about a quarter in version #4 of my strawberry tower and the remainder in a strawberry specific pottery vessel. The link included goes back into the history of my efforts with strawberry towers. The three inch diameter towers have been mothballed for a couple of years. Fall of 2019 I snagged a piece of heavy wall 6 inch pipe…..it was challenging to build the pockets.

Not perfect and the thick pipe wall created challenges making the pockets. I will need to write a separate post with details!

https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2014/01/18/strawberry-towers-forever-v-3-1/

Surprisingly this has been my most successful use of the pottery style planter for strawberries. Previous years were sparse.

My raised bed planting under the plastic sheet have been disappointing. The biggest source of my disappointment is with my poor choice of plastic covering. In fact, it was much more than disappointing, it was a bonehead mistake. Yes, in my haste, I grabbed the wrong material, didn’t read the label, installed it and planted all the berry plants before I realized my mistake. I will remedy the error at the end of picking season.

One of my 4’ X 24’ raised beds has been fallow for two years due to my laziness. Lazy no more! By the coming weekend it will be reframed and planted. Most likely candidates will be cucumbers and pole beans. I am growing potatoes in pots again this year and will place them strategically around the beds. The sugar snap peas went in late but I should be able to harvest before the Houston heat lays them low. Carrots and beets also went in late but …….. life goes on.

Bees will be keeping me busier as the summer approaches. It looks like it could be a very bountiful year. I sure wish I hadn’t wrecked my truck. Turns out it is too expensive to repair so I have to jump through the hoops to get the check and shop for another. I think I said it before……. life goes on.

FYI- gardening is a pretty good social distancing tool or activity. Frame building for the beehives also works well.

TTFN

Bishop

Facebook Memes…..Do They Work? Or – Doing it “My Way”

Leave a comment

If you follow Facebook there are multiple memes showing how to grow vegetables from your kitchen scraps. I don’t know about you, but they seem a bit too good to be true. Ok, raise your hand if you have tried…….hmmm, how many hands are up?

Well, I am going to raise my hand now. If you have followed me for a long time you have seen some of my experiments. At the top of that list are my strawberry towers, with reasonably good results, but only for the initial growing season. I do have an update coming, but will hold off for a few more weeks.

Let me start with celery. I didn’t follow the instructions in the meme, surprise, surprise! I did it my way as Frank would have sung. As a side note, I heard that Frank hated singing that song.

From a Wall Street Journal article, June 2nd, 2009.”Frank Sinatra may not have always been the easiest guy in the world to get along with, but he was nothing if not consistent. One attitude that rarely varied was his opinion of “My Way,” a song whose 40th anniversary is being heralded with the reissue of the 1969 album. “My Way” was quite possibly the single most popular number from the final act of Sinatra’s career. And in concert after concert over a 25-year period, he never hesitated to tell audiences exactly what he thought of it:

— “I hate this song — you sing it for eight years, you would hate it too!” (Caesars Palace, 1978)

— “And of course, the time comes now for the torturous moment — not for you, but for me.” (L.A. Amphitheater, 1979)

– “I hate this song. I HATE THIS SONG! I got it up to here [with] this God damned song!” (Atlantic City, 1979)”……………..

Ok, back to the celery, did it my way and just poked the stub into the ground in the garden and walked away. A week later it was showing life. Now, at three weeks, it looks like a young celery plant. See photo below.

I hope it survives the coming warm weather so I can finish the experiment by eating some!

Well that worked pretty well. I next took a couple of cut off ends from some Romaine lettuce, and yes, I did it my way. They too were just poked into the dirt and allowed to fend for themselves.

One of the twin plantings
I poked this one in the ground a couple of days ago and the center is sprouting!

One more little tidbit, I have been a no till gardener for about three years now and it seems to be working. I use layers of leaves, grass clippings and buckets full of compost out of my bins. This has made a very dark and rich looking soil.

Stay tuned for more gardening done “My Way” ……. sorry Frank I just had to do it!

TTFN

Bishop

February Going, Going, Almost Gone.

3 Comments

2020 is a leap year and we only have 3 days remaining in February. I have sugar snap peas up 2-3 inches, one round of carrots planted, two varieties of beets planted (February is considered a marginal time to plant), potatoes planted and strawberries are ripening. I have some Romaine lettuce seeds in trays in the house to germinate as well as some lettuce cutoffs that are growing leaves. My Meyer Lemon tree is loaded with blooms and it should be a good year.

In the bee world things are looking good. It was a mild winter and 15 of my 16 hives have survived but March can still be a tough month. Five hives were overflowing with bees so I added supers last weekend. Probably four more hives are needing supers very soon. I have 4 new swarm traps baited and set and 4 of my older swarm boxes out. Seven more swarm traps awaiting paint and locations to hang them.

An open air colony that seems to be surviving our mild winter pretty well.

I am putting together a plan to rescue this open air colony but ……. it poses a few logistical issues, 15-18 feet high and 10-12 feet away from the trunk. I promise to document the adventure. In the mean time I will hang a swarm trap to entice them, not likely, but worth a try. The rescue…. may require ladders and a long reach chain saw.

One of the new swarm traps on the oak tree in my yard.

A bit of boredom set in today so I thought I would attempt an Instapot sourdough bread recipe. Ideally I needed one with a yogurt setting, mine doesn’t, so I improvised.

After 25 minutes with the top in place.
This is after 8 minutes with the top off. Good texture and close to a real sourdough flavor.

TTFN

Bishop

The Sweetest of Times………….

Leave a comment

Valentines Day is approaching but that’s not what I am referring to!

This is what I am talking about. This my first berry of the season being grown in a 6” diameter, 5 foot tall strawberry tower.

My strawberries are just now setting fruit but nearby area farms have some organic pick-your-own offerings. While out exploring in the Conroe area a couple of weeks ago, I decided to visit a farm boasting ripe berries. I managed to pick about 7 pounds, even though pickings were slim. I was out the day after the MLK holiday and the out of school kids and families had descended on the strawberry patch nearly wiping out the ripe ones.

I arrived home with enough for two batches of jam. I cleaned them up and bagged them for the freezer. Pulled one bag out yesterday, let it defrost and started cooking the jam. I love the smell, or should I say, the aroma of the cooking berries.

Bringing the batch up to a boil. Mmmmmm good!
Ready to skim the foam off before filling the jars. The foam……never wasted…..trust me!

Seven more half pints of “sweetness” for the pantry. I am watching the weather and postings to drag me out on another picking adventure.

TTFN

Bishop

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: