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An Early Spring – Maybe

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February 6th was yesterday, bees were hauling in pollen and maybe even nectar. We had a bit of discussion at the Liberty County Beekeeper’s meeting two nights ago concerning pollen and nectar. The discussion; Can you tell if a Bee is hauling in nectar just by how the bee looks? It is very easy to tell if they are bringing pollen but nectar…..that is a different story. Most comments mentioned nectar hauling bees will be coming in “heavy” and rather clumsy and maybe a bit chubbier. That aligns with my observations! Watch the video below and look for chubby clumsy vs. those hauling pollen. This video is from one of my hives shot a few days ago.

I have left a feeder jar on this hive but haven’t used it. This hive had good stores and was heavy so I have just been monitoring. I suspect that there is a nectar source nearby. I hope that the bees don’t build up thinking it is spring and then get hammered by a freeze. Did you see any chubbiness or clumsiness in the slo-mo portion?

A front blew in today so it went from 82 yesterday, to mid forties this afternoon. Certainly puts a pause on Bee activities! So, I prepped a couple of swarm traps today and tackled a task that I had procrastinated on for too long! I have been out of my lip balm for more than a month……..today was the day!

Tube tray loaded and ready to fill. This is my Burt’s Bees clone recipe

First of two batches. 46 tubes filled and then another 38 with 3 tins.

A bowl full of creamy smooth lip balm. If you are Santa’s nice list you may score some!

I managed to squeeze in some beer brewing activity to help fill in the day. Ten days ago I brewed a SMaSH IPA. (Single malt – Marris Otter malt and single hop – Mosaic). The beer should roll in at 5.8% ABV. I racked it over into the secondary fermenter and will dry hop it with a couple ounces of Mosaic. It will be delicious. I may get frisky this weekend and bottle the 4+ gallons of wild Mustang grape wine that is now finished.

Beets, turnips, carrots and strawberries are looking good. I will plant sugar snap peas in a day or two along with some radishes and more carrots. I will pick-up a few buckets of rabbit manure this weekend and scrape out some chicken manure, will let it cool before using it on my lemon tree. That’s how my garden grows.

TTFN

Bishop

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Fire Cider

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With the New Year comes opportunities to focus on change! Unfortunately the commitments tend to erode rapidly. I began my workout routine commitment two weeks post my arthroscopic knee surgery in early December. I am trying to get a jump start on the hordes that arrive the first week of January every year. I will resist erosion!

Now the commitment to the(my) midsection and general overall health. I intend to drop at least 15% of my body weight by summer……. of 2019! Yes, this year! I see the doctor for my annual wellness check in a couple of weeks and I know he will talk to me about the above mentioned 15% goal! He will probably suggest a little more, LOL.

I have been taking a tablespoonful of organic vinegar and my raw honey on a regular basis. One of our regular honey buyers was picking her order and mentioned “Fire Coder” as a healthy elixir. She swears by it so, I decided to make my own. Read a little below for anticipated health benefits.

https://scdlifestyle.com/2016/03/the-science-of-fire-cider-and-oxymels-for-health-improvement/

I found a good looking recipe that had the components of the elixir she takes. A quick search and I found a recipe that looked perfect.

https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/

My batch…….sadly, it will be 4 weeks in the making so I won’t be able to critique it, but, I ordered a bottle from Mountain Rose Herbs to get started with the regimen prior to mine being ready.

Recipe;

1/2 cup grated ginger root

1/2 cup grated horseradish root

1 medium onion chopped

10 cloves of garlic crushed or minced

2 jalapeños chopped

Zest of one lemon plus the juice

2 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp turmeric- I used 3 tbsp of fresh ground turmeric root

1/4 tsp cayenne

Apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raw honey- added after filtering the mixture at the end of 4 weeks to desired sweetness- may take more than 1/4 cup.

I added the ingredients to a wide mouth quart jar, used the canning jar funnel to reduce my mess, filled the jar with Braggs organic apple cider vinegar leaving enough room to be able to shake and mix the stuff up. I used parchment paper as suggested under the lid. It will prevent the vinegar from attacking the metal jar lid, I will probably buy some plastic lids for mason jars in the future.

Shake daily, store in a dark place, my pantry closet works well. At the end of 4 weeks strain through cheese cloth and wring out the damp clump. Mountain Rose suggests using the squeezed out ingredients in a stir fry.

Take a shot per day and more of sniffles are coming on. I will start a second batch in two weeks to keep the cycle going. Sorry Mountain Rose, but I will be on my own after the store bought bottles used,

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All ingredients except for the organic apple cider vinegar are in the quart jar.

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The canning funnel makes it easier to load the ingredients as well as topping off with the vinegar.

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Showing the head space needed to provide room for the daily shake and agitation.

 

FYI, I haven’t abandoned my garden nor my bees, but the right knee has been killing me so it was cleaned out in early December. I have beets, carrots, radishes and turnips planted. A few Meyer lemons are on the tree and I am abandoning my attempts to grow bananas.

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

Oh Honey

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Cutting the cap off a beautiful honey laden frame releases a burst of honey and floral aromas. Mmmmm finger licking good!!

Includes screen shots from the uncapping video.

That pure and clean capping wax is used in the Rosemary/Peppermint lip balm that I make in my spare time! FYI – I don’t make it very often!

TTFN

Bishop

Berries for Sale

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For all y’all in the local area;

Blakelock’s Berries – I picked 17 pounds the morning of June 6th and have them cleaned and in the freezer. I see much Jam and maybe some blackberry flavored honey!

http://blakelocksberries.com

Also find them on FaceBook at Blakelock’s Berries – $ 3.50 perpound of U-pick berries. They take cash and cards. 

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17 pounds of blackberries bagged up and now in the freezer. I also have about 6 plus pounds of luscious blueberries from The Sanctuary Blueberry Farm out near Montgomery, TX. They may be closed this coming Sunday the 10th of June. Check FaceBook or the website before driving out.They charge $4.00 per pound and yes, they do take cards!

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Pioneer Berries

 Phone: 936-537-0446

Email: pioneerberries@gmail.com

 HOURS OF OPERATION

 8AM – 8PM  **Mon – Sat.

**NOTICE: Open days are subject to random closings to give the berries more time to ripen. Please call in advance or check the website for daily availability.

ADDRESS

2512 Pioneer Ln Cleveland, TX 77328

This Years Prices

 You-Pick= $2.85

Pre-Picked= $5.50

All Jams= $5/Jar

 

http://www.pioneerberries.com/

There is always Moorehead’s out on FM 1314 but I don’t care for the parking issues and crowds. Today’s update indicates lot’s of berries available. FYI – they only accept cash or checks. No bank cards.  $ 2.50 per pound

TTFN

Bishop

 

Because She Loves Tomatoes

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She didn’t grow up loving tomatoes! She had only been exposed to those from the supermarket. Here is a little info that may influence where YOU but tomatoes in the future;

I worked at a produce warehouse in Bakersfield California….we received produce by the truckloads and placed them into the appropriate storage room. We would then load trucks for the local stores 5 nights per week with the produce items they had ordered. The tomatoes we received were not any where near red when they arrive but 3 days later they were red and headed to the shelves at the local markets. What was magic about the 3 days?

Answer: A room with controlled temperature, humidity and a big dose of ethylene gas. The tomatoes went into the room hard, firm( the hard and firm part is to help in transit) and with some evidence of a pink at the stem attachment, three days later, very red but still hard and firm tomatoes were sent out to the markets. It is no wonder that she didn’t like them!

Along about 1982 she married me…..lucky for me and I suppose lucky for her too as I introduced her to “worldly” things like vine ripened tomatoes! She couldn’t believe how flavorful they could be. Her first taste of an Heirloom tomato, a Brandywine to be exact, blew her mind. Her comment was that it tasted like a perfect tomato with a dash of salt…..but no salt was added. Unfortunately I struggle to grow Brandywine tomatoes here in Houston but Bakersfield was perfect for them.

On the patio near the house I keep a determinate variety of tomato for her pleasure. She can keep a daily eye on it and removes the ripening tomatoes before her friends, the damn squirrels, can get to them…..I have proposed a solution for the squirrels but she won’t acquiesce.

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The patio plant sans ripe tomatoes….they have been removed before tempting the squirrels.

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One of her favorite combinations – vine ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion(not shown) No ethylene gas room used in the ripening of this tomato…..unharmed in the natural process!

Recipe…..

Whatever ratio of chopped tomatoes and quarter slice cucumbers that you desire. Chopped red onion to flavor and mix with a 50/50 mix of an Italian dressing and Ranch dressing. Let marinate for a bit…..she usually can’t wait, still taste heavenly! I will sometimes add fresh ground black pepper to my bowl.

The Sweet Million cherry tomatoes are kicking in and they can also be used….usually just cut in half.

I have a couple of Roma Tomato plants that are loaded up with green tomatoes and lots of blossoms.

Bee stuff for a moment. I extracted a couple of supers last week and put them out in the garden for the local bees, not my bees, to clean up before returning to their respective hives. They do a great job and helps the local feral bee populations.

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I hope you have access to vine ripened tomatoes….if not try a Farmers market but be picky. If you spot produce boxes behind the tables ask questions about the source!!!!! A gentle squeeze test will also indicate whether the are vine ripened or coerced into turning red…..not ripe but just beautiful red!

For you Hun;

“Don’t tell me it’s not worth trying for
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dying for
You know it’s true
Everything i do, i do it for you”

(“(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” is a song by Canadian singer and songwriter Bryan Adams. Written by Adams, Michael Kamen and Robert John “Mutt” Lange,)

TTFN

Bishop

My Strawberry Jam

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I am about to give away the secret to making my very well received and highly praised, Strawberry Jam. A quote from one of my regular customers, “How can you go back to “Smucker’s” after tasting Bishop’s jam?”

Side Note – I have labeled it preserves in the past but a little research shows that I make jams!

Summary:

1.The differences between jam and preserves are:

2.Jam is made from chopped or crushed fruit.

3.Preserves are made from whole chunks of fruit.

4.Jam contains sugar, pectin, and lemon juice.

5.Preserves are only boiled in sugar.

6.Jam is allowed to jell.

7.Preserves are not jelled in the process of manufacturing.

http://www.differencebetween.net/object/comparisons-of-food-items/difference-between-jam-and-preserves/

It’s not that I do anything out of the ordinary to make my “jams”, other than the fact that every berry in the process is/was hand selected by me! In fact, 75% of the strawberries originate in my garden although I do supplement with strawberries picked, again, by me, at “Wood Duck Farm”, about 25 minutes north of Kingwood. They are grown, as are mine, with no chemicals of any sort.

Laying out some of the tools of the trade. Four cups of sugar minus 1/4 cup mixed with the pectin prior to cooking. I use the Sure Jell pectin for my jams, they are made with 1/3 less sugar than with regular pectin. A spoon to skim the foam and yes I rinse it off after every lick. Green handle magnet to save my pinkies. An 8 ounce ladle…It does help when filling 8 ounce jars. Jar tongs….indispensable for fishing jars out from the boiling hot water just prior to filling. Last but not least, my trusty old, at least 35 years old, canning funnel.

The start of the process; 1/4 cup sugar mixed with pectin and the measured volume of crushed strawberries, just a note here, follow the recipe very darned close!!!!! Too much of the fruit mixture or too little will impact the final results. I use a potato masher to, yes, mash up the fruit, so there are some nice chunks of berry in every jar, a dab of butter to help reduce the foaming. FYI – Not sure if it helps all that much but I can’t argue with the success of the final product.

Follow the recipe; bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, i.e., cannot be stirred down. Note the light pinkish foam around the edges.  Then add remaining sugar – 3 and 3/4 cups, return to full rolling boil for one minute….I just slowly count to 75 and it seems to work for me.

Skim the foam but don’t discard. You have several choices, place in a bowl, refrigerate and use as you would any jam or preserve, or, as my wife does, spread across an egg white & oatmeal frittata, or dig in with a spoon and place directly into your mouth…..my personal favorite!

Ready to can, foam has been skimmed, jars are in a boiling water bath for sanitation purposes, ladle and funnel are ready, magnetic stick finger saver, spoon (recently licked and rinsed properly)….use however you want and the jar lids in a bowl of very hot water to soften the seals.

Grab a hot jar, drain and fill to about 1/4 inch of the topic the jar with the strawberry jam mixture. FYI, there is a tool made to gauge that space but I rarely use it, wipe any excess Jam from rim of the jar, place the lid on and screw the metal band on snuggly.

Once all the jars are filled and sealed, return to the hot water bath, submerge the jars with at least one inch of water covering the jars. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool. If you have done a good job you will hear the lids pop down as the jars cool, indicating s good seal.

Next step, distribute and bring smiles to the faces of the recipients!

TTFN

Bishop

A Return to the Garden

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This morning I caught a 5:40 AM flight from Lafayette, Louisiana back home to Houston. I had a short consulting job……gotta find a way to pay for my hobbies and vices…..landing here in Houston before 7:00 AM. I bought my Goo friend and driver, John, breakfast as his “Uber driver” payment for bringing me home. I was back home in the garden by 8:20 AM.

The strawberries are slowing down but the pole beans, both green and purple, are really kicking in! Here is the haul on the first pass! A token yellow squash was also discovered. On my next trip out I will pick a bucket full of sugar snap peas and an armful of Swiss Chard. The peas will give way to cucumber plants over the weekend. Side note; I have so much Chard that I can’t give it all away… the chickens at one of my apiary locations nearby happily accept every armful!!! Somehow I have earned the label – “The Chicken Whisperer” at this location. They all seem to love my visits!

FYI, I only planted one mound of squash. I have not had much luck with summer squashes in the past but it looks promising this year!

TTFN

Bishop

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