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Gardens, Bananas and Other Stuff

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The bees and some consulting work have occupied my time, keeping me from blogging about my sparse gardening activities. I am still getting dirt on my hands, planting a little for the fall winter garden as well as prepping the bees for winter.

The garden activities have also included photographing and marveling at the growth of my banana clusters. Three clusters of the Manzano and two of the Burro(chunky banana), both Mexican varieties. I suspect the weather will cooperate and allow them to mature before the threat of a freeze heads our way. They do tolerate some cold weather but the freeze this past January was both long enough and cold enough to damage the plants.

A project on my loooooooong hunny do list is/was to clean/organize my garage, a three car garage that does house a single vehicle. Lots of bicycles, hive bodies, beer making equipment, tools(multiples of the same type), camping gear and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff left behind when our children moved out. Why am I telling you this in a gardening blog? Well, I started the cleaning process and I am easily distracted, “Look a butterfly”,…..I found some dried bean pods gathered from several seasons back and rather than toss them I wandered out to the garden and planted them. Three days later they are sprouting! A check with google on the time to maturity for the Blue Lake pole bean variety, 60 days or so, and I might get lucky and have fresh green beans by Thanksgiving….

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Wow, in just three days this bean is leaping up. Looking around the base of the tepee towers, I see several others peeking through the leaf and compost mulch.

More gardening, I have several late summer plantings, a volunteer Matt’s Wild Cherry, a volunteer English cucumber in a pot(producing nicely and an heirloom Brandywine growing nicely. Beets and Swiss Chard are also in the ground hoping to get a good start before it does get cold. The asparagus ferns are starting to die back allowing me time to clear them off and add compost before next spring.

Our neighborhood is having its annual yard sale this coming weekend. I have been drafted to help! Yes Dear! I will help…..and have a table set up to sell my honey and jams. I have 40+ pounds of honey and about 40 jars of jams, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry, taking up shelf space. I will report out soon!

TTFN

Bishop

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Hurricane Harvey

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Hurricane Harvey sneaked up on me. My wife and I left the Houston area 7 days prior to Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas coast. We were celebrating our daughter’s wedding up in gorgeous Aspen Colorado. We decided to stay a little longer and returned on August 25th……coinciding with the arrival of Harvey. United pilot flew in through the storm bands circulating with Harvey and touched down whisper smooth!

On August 19th, the day after we left for Colorado, the National Hurricane Center indicated that Harvey’s circulation was disintegrating. No worries, huh? Once the storm crossed the Yucatan Peninsula and passed into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico the energy and circulation increased. Well, my bees, in a couple of locations, were at risk from potential winds.

My biggest worry was my top bar hive in Splendora. Less of a worry were my 3 hives located up off Russel Palmer at the western edge of Kingwood. My protege, Max, took it upon himself to ratchet strap the boxes and top bar to prevent wind damage on Thursday, the day before the winds and rain began to kick up here. I had to thank him from a distance.

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The top bar in the background and a triple deep Langstroth in the foreground. At the right, is an 8 frame garden hive that I had placed a strap on several weeks prior to leaving.

Now…..to Splendora. My two Langstroth hive tops were weighted down – one with a large disc brake rotor and the other with a old rusty hydraulic jack. The top bar hive was MY BIG worry. I had a couple of mechanic’s wire tie downs for the top but…….after repeated use they had broken off too short…I hadn’t yet got a “round to it” given to me to fix them …….so, Friday, the day of the Hurricane as we were driving down out of the Rocky Mountain National Park, my Goo friend John and I discussed having him repair the wire tie downs…..He was my “round to it”.

John is an over achiever and wound up putting straps on all three hives….Thanks John!

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In addition to a strap on the top bar in the background he added some bricks….well done lad!

Now, to wait out this storm and hope the bees tolerate the rain! I hope my curiosity can be held in check …….. I want to visit my bees! Almost 5 inches of rain in the last 24 hours and much, much more is expected.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Compost Pile Moving Day

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Well, it just turned out to be one half of the move. Several soaked T-shirts later, I decided to spread the move out into the next day or two or three. It is 93 degrees F and feels like 106 degrees with the lovely Houston humidity…..keeps my skin from ever drying out and fills in the wrinkles….LOL. (34 C feels like 41 C) Lovely temperatures regardless of the scale!(July 25, 2017)

First part of the move was to finish emptying the left bin and spreading the compost/mulch where needed. I love to smother the weeds in layer upon layer of mulching materials and then let the worms takeover working it into the soil. I am essentially a “no till” guy now.  Besides, the thick layers make any successful weed long and leggy and very easy to pull.

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The left side was full at the end of the Fall leaf season and was slowly pulled out, layered between grass clippings on the right and spread throughout the spring and early summer as mulch. The right side has been gathering all my grass clippings, banana stems & stalks, coffee grounds and whatever else my composting worms don’t get.

I spread several trash “barrelfuls” of the good stuff around my sad looking lime tree, I thought it succumbed to hard freeze in January, and the recovering dwarf Meyer Lemon. The lime tree sent several new limbs up from above the graft post freeze so, I selected a stout one to someday become the trunk of the little tree.

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In my last post I talked about planting more beans, pole beans to add some detail. The previously planted beans were not pole beans…..I guess I should have read the package a little more closely. I try to minimize bending over to pick stuff….strawberries are an exception, oh, and carrots and beets get a pass too. I grow mostly stuff that I can pick in a mostly upright position.

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Bees, bananas and some clutter in the background. I smothered most of the existing bush beans, watered in the compost readying the ground for the pole beans. I grow them tepee style.

I also do a “minimal labor” style of managing my composting. The bin of the right will be “moved”, probably over the course of several hot, humid, yucky, disgustingly sticky days. No hurry, I just need it emptied before the fall. The last 18 inches or so will be some well aged compost begging to be spread, hopefully around the mounds of potato plants soon to emerge. The title is just a bit misleading….

Update, as of July 27th, 2/3 of the right been has been moved to the left bin. The bottom third is looking a lot like finished compost….Yee Haw!

TTFN

Bishop

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

Cutting Squares – Cut Honeycomb

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My topbar hive was becoming loaded, so heavy, that my poorly constructed hive support legs  were breaking. I needed to both harvest and stabilize the hive. Stabilizing was quick and easy but- we nearly tipped the hive over as one of the existing legs nearly failed completely as I lifted it to supports in place.  Now on to the harvest. 

I built a set of racks, half sheet wire cake racks, to keep the slabs from breaking up into less than desirable pieces that wont make “pretty” squares. The set-up will hold 4 slabs, stacked and spaced so the slabs hold their shape…… in theory! My Goo friend John helped me out. 

It was more or less successful, albeit, a little awkward! I will need to prevent the slabs from sliding around on the parchment paper I placed under each slab to minimze damage to the slabs, i. e., wire rack embedding in the soft wax. 


A nice full slab, beautifully capped, thick and very yummy. 

I filled 14 boxes of 3.25 X 3.25 inch squares of honeycomb. The slab pictured above was thicker than some of the others. The old shaped pieces were squeezed for the honey. 


I was able to get 5 nice squares out of the beautiful slab above! Almost perfect! 


I dropped 3 odd shaped chunks of comb into a pint jar. About 1.5 pounds of honey and honeycomb goodness! 

Looks like I have about $ 150.00 of product at my retail prices. I may be able to pull a little more from this hive but I won’t get too greedy! This hive is so strong and full,  I will more than likely split it again this year. 

TTFN

Bishop

4th of July Blackberry Cobbler — Bishop’s Beer Blog

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I have a freezer still full of blackberries, a pantry full of blackberry preserves and wife that says, “No more Jam!” What’s a guy to do? Ok Hun, it is your birthday on the third of July, how about some blackberry cobbler and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream? I will share a recipe that has […]

via 4th of July Blackberry Cobbler — Bishop’s Beer Blog

BCT Sandwich

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So, no lettuce in my summer garden so I had to sub for it! English cucumbers made a nice and flavorful replacement. For the tomato portion of the sandwich I sliced up a ripe Brandywine heirloom variety. Yummy so far. I also have a bit of homemade involved with the bacon. 

The bacon is lamb bacon, cured and smoked in my backyard/kitchen. 

I had just finished slicing it up, making it ready for packaging. I have another whole one in the freezer waiting for Fall recipes. Each lamb breast used for the bacon recipe is about 3.5 pounds.  The flavor is just amazing! 


Posing with the cucumber and lamb bacon is another variety of tomato that handles the Houston summers pretty well, Celebrity. 

The bees are also keeping me busy this summer. I am off to Navasota to pick-up five new queens. The queen’s in my two captured swarms are not laying well and will need to be replaced. I have, what should have been a new queen this spring, that is not laying well, so, down the road she goes. The last two will replace two older queens. 

It will be hotter than Hades tomorrow, requiring a beer or two to cope with the heat. I have some of my Honey Blonde Ale on tap to stave off my thirst. Bee season will slow down a bit later on then,  time to brew more beer. No rest for the wicked! 

TTFN

Bishop

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