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Topbar Hive and More Bee Stuff

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Thursday, April 19th, I made a quick run to feed the new bees in my bee yards- Apiaries. Feels a bit odd to say Apiaries, but I guess with 17 hives spread out in a couple of areas I really do have several Apiaries!

I installed a 3 pound package of bees into one of the topbar hives on April 8th. I purchased three topbar hives, 2 full sized and one about 2/3 size, with a nice square of cut honeycomb. They were already located at the berry farm and just needed a little clean up. Pretty good deal I do believe.

In order to speed up the growth of the colony inside the box I added some already drawn comb attached to some extra bars. One, was a piece that broke out of a frame from a Langstroth box. It was dark and obviously had been used to raise brood.

The wax hangs on bent pieces of wire screen.

I had a couple of pieces of virgin white comb that my bees in another location had built in the wrong place last week. I cut it off and attached it to a bar for the girls.

Adding already drawn comb also encourages the bees to draw their comb on the other bars in the manner that the beekeeper desires! I did find one bar with some cross combing, but it was minor.

Bars back in place and ready for the top cover.

The apiary a month ago. There now, two more Langstroth boxes, for a total of 4 active hives at the berry farm apiary. Two of the topbar boxes are waiting for me to round up a swarm or two.

I wandered through the blueberry patch on my way out to the highway. I snacked on a few but it will be at least a week before the berries are ready to “commercially” pick. The early ones are very tasty!

I may begin an early harvest of honey from a couple of very strong boxes in the next couple of weeks. Yum!

TTFN

Bishop

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Bees, Berries and Backyards

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Yesterday, Saturday the 7th of April, I drove over to Navasota to pick up 4 packages of bees from R Weaver Apiaries. Saturday was an unseasonably cool and misty day. Surprisingly it was 72 when I left the house in Kingwood and a brisk and damp 52 after the 75 mile drive through the oncoming cold front. I made a decision to wait and hive up the bees on Sunday.

Well, Sunday was a very brisk 44 and prospects for the high at 3:00 was only 55 or so. I waited until 1:30 in the afternoon and drove up to the berry farm. The process went very smooth.

I put the first package into one of the topbar hives. I decided to not shake out the bees and just allow them to migrate on their own.

The package box is leaning against the side with the queen attached to one of the bars. This is a bare hive box and the bees will set about drawing comb for the queen.

Here is her majesty in her cage. The bottom end of the cage has a candy plug. I poked a hole through it with a finishing nail. The girls should have it consumed and releasing the queen in about 3 days.

The second package went into a 10 frame Langstroth hive. Super smooth installation.

The package lying on its side, a can of sugar water is shipped with the package. Once they empty it in a couple of days then I’ll add a feeder. I’m lucky in that I have a full box of drawn comb and that will accelerate the growth of the colony.

The blueberries are plumping up out at Blakelock’s Berries. With our cool weather it may still be 10-14 days before they are ready to pick.

The clumps of berries look so good. If they ripen together it will be easy pickings. The adjacent blackberry patch is loaded with blossoms!

The berry farm was now complete and I headed off to hive a package in a big Kingwood backyard. This yard also holds a very strong Langstroth and a good topbar hive. The big Langstroth is booming, I had to add another super Friday and it was probably a week or more over due! Again, the process went smoothly.

Now over to Mike’s smaller backyard to fill his 8 frame Langstroth. My friend Mike, watched from a short distance away and I was a little distracted. Mike is a talker! I almost forgot to pull the cork and put a hole in the candy plug. Where was my Goo Friend John to keep me focused? Florida, hope you are having fun! FYI John – I was 4 for 4 but….it was close!

Now, Thursday, I pick up 6 NUC’s and will spend Thursday afternoon getting them situated. This could be a very sweet year!

TTFN

Bishop

Rain…..Yes it has Been Raining!

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Almost 5 inches of rain over the past two weeks. I think the garden is well soaked!

I have three bee hives located nearby in a friends yard…..much more than a yard – it is essentially 3 lots, one with a house and guest house, one recently cleared for a Barndominium project.

Barndominium is a neologistic portmanteau of barn and condominium with multiple meanings.” That should clear it up!

An the third is wooded on the front portion facing the street and cleared on the back portion holding some raised beds, bee hives and chickens.

It is not my backyard but the owner has encouraged me, in my spare time to plant, play and invest my time in his yard. I have two of the three beds buried in several inches of leaf mulch, one bed is going to be a chore….wild dewberries have infested it…I have plenty of leaves to deeply mulch it but…….work, work, work……is certainly needed.

Sugar snap peas and two types of green beans are popping up in one bed…..more on this project later.

Now, my backyard. The unusual freezing weather we had damaged my Meyer Lemon and probably killed the twig of a lime tree I had. The bananas are burned to the ground but will  survive much to my wife’s chagrin….”Aren’t you done with that experiment?”, she asked yesterday.

In my head I thought….. “I think I am but…..it will be a lot of work digging out all of the corms/bulbs/rhizomes and gunk….Maybe just one plant each of the two varieties and then call it quits!” I was wise enough to stay silent and just nod my head.

So what else you might ask…..My wild native plum trees are blooming. They are still residing in large planters awaiting a move …… one of these days to a piece of ground! I like seeing them bloom…..I transplanted them from a ranch up north near Franklin Texas. Long story but briefly, the HOA made me relocated a hive in my yard and I had to act fast. A client’s wife was related to a woman who owned the ranch, Johnnie. Johnnie had always wanted bees and well, and we were connected. We developed a warm relationship before she passed away from lung cancer. We were kindred spirits, she made lots of jams and jellies, loved her bees and her quiet life. Her wild plum jelly was wonderful. The year before she passed I made some from her plums and asked for some plants. I was given permission but did not bring them home until early spring of 2017, after her death. The blooms are such a great reminder of her gentle spirit. I miss you Johnnie.

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The Blossoms are so tiny and delicate.IMG_4497 An up close look at the blossoms. Fingers crossed that we avoid another freeze and the tree can set more fruit. The area where this tree was dug out of is covered with trees well over 10 feet tall. They are prolific and can become invasive unless managed.

Everything you want to know about these wild plums is located in this link. It even has a recipe for sourdough utilizing the yeast on the skin of the plums. http://www.foragingtexas.com/2009/07/plum-wild.htm

Behind my fence and mostly out of sight are some other goodies. My strawberry plants, especially the mature ones, made it through the freezing weather pretty well. I added another 30+ plants at the beginning of February and all are doing well.

 

Strawberry jam/preserves on the “hoof”. I have had ripe strawberries before Valentines day, but obviously, not this year. My Birthday is March 12…..maybe by then.

IMG_4479One of several Swiss Chard plants that survived the freeze. All of my early sugar snap peas died during the freeze…..so much for my early experiment to get a jump on spring….oh well, seeds are cheap. IMG_4482A look down the active bed. Strawberries, barely visible sugar snaps coming up, right front more Swiss Chard(Red variety), up under the arches are beets, the surviving beets were covered and the new beets at the far end are sprouting.  Up against the fence are my new blueberries and some potted pineapples as well as a few banana plants kept in the garage during the freeze. The sad dwarf Meyer Lemon against the far fence is mostly green twigs! Yes, the garden could use some clean up and organization…organization and neatness are not my strong points!

Lets talk bees for a bit. One of my topbar hives is looking very weak….not sure that I have a queen. That said, it was loaded with slabs of honey, looking very much like the one my daughter-in-law Cheryl is pictured holding last Fall. I pulled 8 bars looking very much like this from the hive next to her. I left them with several more slabs and fingers crossed. Once the weather improves I do have a very strong small top bar hive that I can transfer into this weak one, freeing the small one up to receive a split from a very strong topbar hive.

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A lovely slab from the topbar hives last summer, 2017. This one I cut into squares and and crushed the odd shaped pieces.

After crushing and squeezing the honey out of the comb I put the wax out in the garden for the bees to clean up the traces of yummy honey.

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This was the start before word got out in the neighborhood. 10 minutes later it was a swirling mess as the bees did their thing!

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The barren banana bed……I have two tepees set up for green beans, pole variety, I hate bending over to pick the bush varieties! Lots of work needed to dig out those beds…. and organize the mess! Yes Dear!

Ah, the sun is out right at he moment, time to put my rubber boots on and wade out into the garden.

TTFN

Bishop

Too Busy is my Excuse

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I really have been busy. Bees, garden, substitute chicken farmer, setting up new apiary and more.

The bees first….two of the four top bar hives look very strong, one is toast and one may need an infusion of brood from a stronger hive. The remaining four Langstroth hives are doing very well. The swarm I rescued just after hurricane Harvey is now residing at Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland. At the berry farm I scored a major coup. An acquaintance of mine, through my consulting, had previously kept three bar hives(only one held a colony) out at Blakelock’s but life happened and he needed to step back from beekeeping. So, for a very fat and thick piece of comb honey I was able to take possession of the boxes. Thanks David!!!!!

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A wide shot of the new apiary at the back of the property. Great exposure to morning sun and should receive late afternoon broken shade. Paul, the berry farmer, has three varieties of blackberries and some relatively young blueberries growing on his property. The blueberries began blooming a few days ago. I set the Langstroth hive Saturday and visited the girls yesterday. I wandered through the blueberries and saw not a single honey bee, Apis millifera.  I did see a small variety of bumble bee, actually many of them, visiting the flowers. I am not a bumble bee expert but Paul may have a variety called the American Bumble Bee(Bombus pensylvanicus) working his blueberries. I struck out trying to capture an image with my iPhone. I will take a better camera and lens out on my next visit.

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A little closer look at the 8 frame Lang beautifully painted by my wife!!!!!! The small topbar in the background once held a colony of bees. I have cleaned it up, added swarm scent and a rescue bar with some comb from one of my other hives.

IMG_4453One of the rescue bars holding comb……I like the design of these and will build a few of my own going forward. Fingers crossed I get a swarm to move in. I do have some package bees coming in early April if I don’t have luck. I also gave to other two topbar boxes  a shot of swarm attractant.

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Day two on site and they are settling in. Undertaker bees hauling out the dead and dying.

“But I’m Not Dead Yet!”

“One of the most fascinating aspects of beekeeping is watching the numerous activities of the colony.  Every bee has a specific job, without which the hive as a whole could not exist.  There are bees that build wax; nurse bees to take care of the babies; field bees to collect water, propolis, pollen and nectar; bees to make honey; guard bees to protect the hive; and undertaker bees who clean the hive of carcasses…………..”

Excerpt from an article on http://www.beverlybees.com take a read….an amazing web site….informative and fun. Check it out.

https://www.beverlybees.com/bring-out-yer-dead-the-undertaker-bees/

Ok, I’m running out of steam….Very shortly look for garden stuff…..maybe even tonight.

Thanks to Paul for letting my set up a mutually beneficial apiary. Just an FYI, I have made many, many jars of blackberry preserves over the past two years featuring his berries. The blueberry plants are young but I was able to pick 10 pounds or so last year for fresh eating, freezing and jam making. Looking forward to more!!!!!!

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

Freshest Carrots

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I picked several handfuls of carrots today. The Houston clay soil makes carrot growing difficult at best. These carrots were from a bed that is about 4 years old. The soil is beginning to loosen but I still wind up with many two, three and sometimes four legged carrots. 


Roasting size. I grow Danvers Half long and Scarlet Nantes varieties.?

Today’s bigger carrots will be destined for roasting. The small ones were cut thin and sautéed in butter. I added a little sea salt for flavor and halfway through I drizzled some of my raw honey over the simmering morsels. Cooked just long enough – not too soft and not too crunchy. The only complaint…..I didn’t make enough. Next time Hun! 


So “danged” delicious! 

TTFN

Bishop

We Have Baby Bees!

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Earlier this week I was a bit disheartened. The hive that I had labeled the “Cowboy” hive appeared to have abandoned, absconded, from the hive. I am an eternal optimist and even though there was no evidence of robbing, no evidence of hive beetles and an apparently ghost town looking hive, I maintained hope. I planned to return a few days later to confirm my suspicion.

Today, Thursday February 9th, I went out to the hive location in Splendora. I anticipated removing one hive and possibly adding a deep box with drawn comb onto the second hive that was thriving. Well, the Cowboy hive with two deep boxes was void of bees in the top box but, on closer examination of the frames in the lower box…….I saw capped brood, tons of bee bread and after moving a cluster of bees I saw new larva. I was amazed and “friggin” happy. I went from losing a hive to having optimism for the survivor bees that my “Goo” friend John and I cut from a downed tree in Porter last spring. See Goo Friends post – https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2016/04/

I am a happy camper/beekeeper!!!!!!!

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Inspecting the Cowboy Hive in Splendora. Finding good news! We have babies!!!!! I am fully geared up but didn’t need to be…gentle bees.

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Such a serious look….but it is a happy look! Thanks to John – my Goo friend for snapping the photo.

My trip to Splendora was two fold, I found a small NUC box with 5 frames for sale on Craig’s List in a nearby area. The young couple selling the box were new residents to a nice 3.5 acre parcel in the Splendora area and the idea of becoming beekeepers in addition to the rest of the work needed on the property was a bit daunting. Therefore….I took/bought the box.

It was not just just a quick purchase and go. The young couple, Charlie and Esmeralda, were friendly, open and also inquisitive. Small world, their interest in beekeeping was the result of a” groupon” class taught by the same instructor I had three years ago. They had stars in their eyes about beekeeping but realized that they needed to take smaller bites in managing their property, the bees would have to wait. They had just planted some fruit trees and were prepping a couple of raised beds for veggies. Esmeralda wants bananas and I told her about my bananas, Mexican bananas, and I saw her grin. Next trip I committed to bringing some pups of both the Manzano and the Burro bananas for them.I gave them my beekeeper business card and I now have a new customer for my local raw honey as well, at least until they become beekeepers…..Yee Haw!

It is just amazing what happens when you take time to get to know people.

TTFN

Bishop

Trivia – I have been using TTFN as my sign off for quite some time now….I lifted the “intialized” phrase from a special friend many years ago and always thought it originated from Winnie the Pooh stories…….. Well not quite!

From Wikipedia – “TTFN is an initialism for a colloquial valediction, ‘ta ta for now’, based on ‘ta ta‘, an informal ‘goodbye’. The expression came to prominence, in the UK, during the Second World War. Used by the military, it was frequently heard by the British public.”

The link to Winnie the Pooh, ,Tigger actually, did not occur until long after A.A. Milne wrote the books. Again, according to Wikipedia, “In Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, a 1968 Disney featurette, the voice of Tigger was performed by Paul Winchell, whose wife Jean Freeman suggested that he ad-lib the line. Apparently it resonated!

And now you know the rest of the story!

 

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