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Catching Up…..Spring is on the Way

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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

Honey Fermented Garlic Cloves

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I do enjoy fermenting, primarily beer, a bit of wine and mead. I had never heard about fermenting garlic cloves. In fact, it wasn’t even my idea! My wife suggested it and didn’t even ask for my expertise! FYI, I have no expertise in the category of fermenting anything that doesn’t include an ABV % attached to it.

So why? I asked my wife why she decided to embark on this adventure and her immediate response was to receive the benefits of the “Immune-Boosting Effects”. Upon digging a little deeper there are other benefits that should “Reduce Blood Pressure” & Improves Cholesterol Levels, both LDL and total cholesterol.

“Studies have shown that the fermentation process increases the amount of nutrients in garlic and makes them easier to absorb by the body. The highest protein content was available after 60 days of fermentation while the highest fat and carbohydrate content was found after 90 days of fermentation.” From “ WebMD, September 29, 2020”

How to go about it? First prepare the garlic cloves by peeling the skin off by lightly crushing them or buy a big jar of already peeled garlic cloves. She opted for the latter. Next, she took a 1/2 gallon jar of raw honey and filled 3 one pound bottles leaving about 3 pounds, or around 8 cups of honey behind. She then loaded up the jar with a whole lot of garlic…..not a very quantitative measure but accurate. As the garlic settled she added more until the jar was chock full, again, not quantitative but the photo below will illustrate the quantity.

Chock full!

The honey that was used is raw honey…….so what exactly does that mean? Raw honey is best described as honey as it exists in the hive. Raw honey has not been filtered nor heated, has all of the pollen, natural wild yeasts and beneficial enzymes intact. The wild yeasts are the star of the process. As the garlic cloves release water into the honey it becomes wet enough to allow fermentation. Ideally honey is harvested with less than 18% water in order to prevent the yeast activity. In this case we want the % water to rise and allow fermentation.

After the fourth or fifth day of adding cloves up to the chock full point and also flipping the jar over several times daily keeping the cloves covered…..the bubbles were appearing…..fermentation was under way. Now the flipping process includes burping the gasses off……smells very garlicky ….. go figure. Kathy has selected a date about 3 months out for the first taste test, March 12, 2021 when some old guy she knows turns 70……wow! The jar will be stored in a dark cool place once the fermentation slows down. The honey fermented garlic can be safely stored out beyond a year or more according to the researched recipes.

How to use? Just pop a clove to boost immunity response during cold or flu season, this is Kathy’s primary reason for the effort. Cooking, use as a marinade or as a glaze for meats and vegetables. I will attach a link to foraging and fermenting website. Check it out, suggestions include honey fermented cranberries as well as elderberries. I think I will do the cranberries next year prior to Thanksgiving! https://www.growforagecookferment.com/fermented-honey-garlic/

TTFN

Bishop

Sweet Variations

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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

Bee Rescue – Giving Back

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I am in the midst of a trap out for a woman that can’t afford to pay the usual $400.00 to do a cut out. My wife made the connection with the woman and I was reluctant because I don’t want any part of the work and effort to do a cut out. I hemmed and hawed for a week, then asked for a photo…….good news, the location seemed to lend itself to a simple trap out. My biggest concern is Fall……once out I will need to baby the bees for them to make it through the winter.

The location- in the wall of an out of service cold box with wood clad external sides. Apparently a knot in the wood rotted out and left a very nice 1 inch diameter hole. The flat surface of the cold box simplifies the process. First build the escape cone.

Start with 1/8 inch(#8 hardware cloth), create a cone with an exit hole a little larger than than a pencil thickness. I drilled a 2 5/8 inch hole in a thin piece of plywood, sized so 6 or 7 inches of the cone protruded through. Trimmed the fat end to create wings, covered the wings with duct tape and secured with staples.

The bees were foraging and calm when I installed the cone.

The wire cone and small escape hole is not well seen by the bees complex eyes.after escaping to forage they return and are locked out. They mill around, they smell their hive and scramble trying to find a way back in. Sometimes there are other access holes and they will find a way back in. Fortunately, I got lucky….just a single entry hole.

Now I need to make them comfortable. I have a short topbar box needing bees and it has 4 bars of drawn comb, some old heavily propolized bars and a packet of queen scent. Today was day three and the escapees have found a home. I just hope that the weather holds long enough to starve out the queen. Workers are bringing pollen in and I will add a feeder shortly.

Love watching the girls work and drawing in more recruits. If the weather was warmer I would be tempted to bring this box a bar of eggs and brood. I really need to get the queen to recognize that no resources are coming in and choose to leave. I will give her a little time and may poke another hole to pump some smoke into the cavity to encourage her to leave.

Update….. 8 days later and the bees have found some rotted out wood at the base of the old cold box back around the backside. I have sealed up the area but will have to wait for flying weather after our cold snap to gauge my success. Looking for something north of 50-55 degrees F to check it out.

TTFN

Bishop

Learning The importance of a Gesture

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It has been probably 6 years or more since a chance meeting introduced me to beekeeping in Oman. Maybe it wasn’t totally chance, I had been hired to teach a class for a large oil company and one of the attendees was the grandson of a traditional honey gatherer. His grandfather would search the Wadis in northern Oman seeking bees and the honey located in the cracks and crevices of the canyon walls.

The video attached below is the technique he said his grandfather used. No protective gear, sometimes a little smoke but the key was to move slowly and gently! The young man in my class, and for the life of me, I can’t recall his name, would go with his grandfather carrying the bucket used to transport the honey.

The young man did something that only now do I fully understand the importance of his gesture. The last day of the class he brought me what looked like a 750 ml screw top wine bottle filled with honey from his cousins apiary. His cousin had transitioned to more modern techniques but the honey was truly Omani mountain honey. The cap was not a tight seal so I taped it up tightly and packed it, well protected, deep inside my checked luggage. I thanked him profusely, knowing that similar size bottles I saw in the old market at the port of Muscat were $ 75.00 USD or more.

Six years later;

This morning while reminiscing I pulled up the article linked below detailing beekeeping in Oman. I cut a portion of the article enclosed in quotes below. I now know that gesture from 6 years ago carries much more weight than I ever imagined.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/features/liquid-gold-price-omans-sweet-success

“Twice a year, from March to May and September to December, Hamrashdi, 48, harvests honey according to a method that he learned from his father.

Destined for local markets, the precious golden liquid is traditionally bottled by Omani farmers in recycled glass Vimto bottles, a beverage of choice during the month of Ramadan in the Arabian Peninsula.”

I now recognize that ill fitting cap and the shape of the bottle. My gift was from the heart and a reflection of Omani culture. The honey, WOW, the flavor was unique. It was almost spicy in flavor. I selfishly doled out the precious liquid on special occasions, or, to share it’s uniqueness with friends. Now, how do I go back, reconnect and give the appropriates thanks? I need to add this return trip to my bucket list!

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

Blueberry Bonanza

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I keep a handful of my beehives at Blakelock’s Berries, they have young, early season blueberries and three varieties of luscious blackberries. My wife and I both love blueberries and was able to satisfy some of our cravings from the early picking at Blakelock’s.

The go to place for blueberries on the north side of Houston has been out at Moorehead’s off FM 1314. The berries are abundant but the parking, traffic and lines at the checkout station are much more than my crowd anxiety can put up with.

Today I made a discovery, a Blueberry Bonanza! Pioneer Berries at 2512 Pioneer Lane north of Highway 105 and just west of Cleveland, TX. It seems like a looooong mile north of 105 but trust me, you won’t miss it on the right side of the road.

The blueberry plants are younger than Moorehead’s but much more mature than Blakelock’s. If you like to pick when the weather is cooler, hit up Blakelock’s – their berries are ready to pick in mid April and are done by the end of May. If you want to stock the freezer you have early and late choices.

How did I stumble across this place? Well, even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then! I went the the bee supply store near Conroe and was headed to Splendora to check on my beehives. I chose Highway 105 as it was the most direct route. Cruise control was set at 60 mph, yes it really was, and I went right past the sign pointing north off of 105. Safe U-turn and I was on my way to Pioneer Berries.

Plenty of parking for the weekend crowd. They don’t get overrun like Moorehead’s.

Look close many ripe berries and many, many more to come.

Oops, the berries are not in focus but they are still very tasty, blurry image and all!

This typical. I picked for less than 15 minutes as I had the bees calling me.


3 Point 9 pounds of berries laid out to dry, sort through, remove stems and soft berries. Oh yes, a little to snack on before bagging and freezing.

The left bucket is some nice light honey from 77339, about 18 pounds has already been bottled. The right bucket is from 9 frames I extracted after berry picking today. It will be about 25 pounds after I clean up and drain the extractor and uncapping tank. The jars on the right are a nice dark red-amber honey – a little over 15 pounds. Part of this dark honey will be converted to Cinnamon Creamed honey by the end of next week.

The bees are really packing in the honey right now. I am looking forward to a very good spring/early summer harvest.

I will be off to Blakelock’s in the morning to round up some berry farm honey for what he expects to be a big day on June 2nd. I will be sell honey from zip codes 77345 & 77339 – Kingwood/Porter, 77328 – Splendora and 77302/77306 – Grangerland. I will also be selling my homemade jams, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry. Come on out for a good time picking Blackberries at Blakelock’s and if you want safe and sane blueberry picking, head on over to Pioneer Berries.

TTFN

Bishop

Oh Honey!

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One of my hives is booming. A few weeks ago it was honey bound so I cleaned things up, added super and pulled a very full box plus a few more frames – about 56 pounds of a dark amber and very rich honey. Now , several weeks later I pulled a very full box of a nice robust and lighter colored honey.

Honestly, not a lot of difference in flavor! It would be difficult to to do a blind taste test and accurately guess. The other super on this hive is essentially full, but not capped, so I’ll return the spun frames so they can clean them up, divide space to the hive so it ldoesn’t become honey bound, again. The nectar flow is definitely on!

Can you see the difference? Same hive, same location and only a few weeks difference!

Now a short story. I have a swarm trap in the yard, the honey bottles are sitting on it for the photo. I may be getting lucky today!

They are clustering up on the swarm box. Once the short story sorts out I may share how I may have accidentally been the cause! More later.

TTFN

Bishop

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

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

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