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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

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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!

 

Do You Really Know Your Honey?

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No, I am not talking about the person you met through “Match.com” or for that matter, your significant other. I am talking about the liquid gold in the bottle called “Honey”. I have done my own sleuthing on the local supermarket shelves and I have been surprised. There is not much truth in labeling at the supermarket. Local raw honey is a real treat, if you spend the time and effort necessary to verify the moniker, “Local Raw Honey”!

I ran a cross this article while looking around and thought it did a great job illustrating the point….”do you really know your honey?”

“…..Research at Texas A&M University shows that most honey labels aren’t telling the truth, and 75% of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. And this could apply to as much as 90% of the nation’s honey, according to lead federal honey investigator.”

Dr. Vaughn Bryant is an anthropologist and a bit of a honey sleuth at Texas A&M University. He utilizes A&M’s extensive pollen library to identify where honey originates by it’s pollen “fingerprint”. A Michigan TV station did a little test of honey off the shelf at a local store.

“……..So, we took some samples and sent them to Texas A&M University. Our five samples included a bottle from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms, Honey Tree’s Michigan Great Lakes Raw Honey, Organic Rainforest honey, plus a Meijer brand and a Spartan brand.” Just an FYI, every bottle of “USDA” labeled honey I found in local supermarkets comes from either Brazil, Argentina or Mexico….the USDA labeling is based on the country certifying that the honey meets the standards. Long story….

So, what did Channel 17 learn from the samples? You have to read it to believe it….3 of the 5 samples had no pollen present…..it is a great way for distributors/bottlers to disguise the origin of the honey by ultra-fine filtration and usually done under high temperatures, destroying any beneficial properties.

Local raw honey will be cloudy due to fine bubbles and pollen in the honey….

“Most of them were not what they claimed to be,” said Bryant.

First, he looked at the honey bottled from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms. They were previously fined for mislabeling Chinese honey. The label on this particular bottle said “Pure Honey Clover.” Although Dr. Bryant said the sample wasn’t from China, he said there was still a problem with the label. “It turned out not to be clover honey.”

There was “not enough clover pollen to warrant the honey being called a unifloral clover honey,” his report said. The other flower pollens found in the honey included “soybeans, chestnut, mesquite, and eucalyptus.”

“A little bit of clover pollen in here,” said Vaughn. “But it would not qualify as clover pollen. So here’s the case where it’s sold as pure clover honey, but it’s really not.”

Onto jar number two, a jar labeled Great Lakes Raw Michigan Honey. This honey appeared much more true to form according to Dr. Bryant’s analysis. He said there was “sumac” pollen in this sample, which grows commonly in the state. “It could well be from Michigan,” said Bryant. However, a few other suspicious pollens were discovered, too, which could indicate there was other honey mixed in from southern regions, or it could simply mean that the pollen accidentally got in there some other way. Bryant’s report showed pollen from citrus:  lemon, orange, sweetgum, mesquite, eucalyptus and magnolia.

“Those could have been contamination from some other source,” said Bryant. “Or, they could have been part of a mixture. It’s hard to tell.”

Chris Olney, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honey Tree said that the pollen from southern regions likely came from hives that were used in Florida, then brought to Michigan.  He said 50% of the hives are transported by beekeepers to southern regions like Florida to pollinate citrus crops, then they are brought back to Michigan to pollinate crops here in the summer.

Now on to sample 3, which was labeled Organic Rainforest honey. “We don’t know what it is,” said Bryant.

The label had the abbreviation “BR” on the back, which stands for Brazil. However, Bryant couldn’t prove it came from rainforest flowers. It came back from testing as a question mark, because someone had strained all the pollen out. “We have no idea whether it’s organic,” said Bryant. “We have no idea whether it’s from the rainforest or anything else.”

Sample 4, the Meijer Pure Clover honey, had stamps for USA, Canada, and Argentina on the label, but for Bryant, it remains a question mark because, according to the test, “all of the pollen has been removed.”

Sample 5, the Spartan premium golden honey had the markings of “AR” and “CA” stamped on the back. AR stands for Argentina according to country code listings, and CA stands for Canada. However, Bryant couldn’t prove where this sample was from either country. “One certainly could not prove that the contents of this honey is what is claimed on the label.”

So, what is your best option? Know who your beekeeper is, ask to go see the hives, maybe even ask to help gather the honey……. This maybe a little TMI, but you will be tempted to lick your fingers every once in a while as you go through the extraction process……FYI I do keep a bowl of sanitary water in the extraction area to dip fingers and hands in while working with the very raw honey. Just saying! Link to the article below.

http://fox17online.com/2014/02/25/the-truth-behind-the-honey-labels-a-fox-17-investigation/

 

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This is hand crushed honeycomb from my topbar hive.

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Here is a shot of me squeezing the honey from the wax. I would squeeze and compact the was as tight as I could. I then place it out near the hive and the next several days it is wild watching the bees from the neighborhood clean the wax.

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A nice capped section of honeycomb ready to be cut off the bar.

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Honey….being added to a frame. Not ready to extract but looking good.

Buy Local and know your honey.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

Homemade Bread -Rainy Day

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Texas is getting wet – Today, Tomorrow and most likely a day beyond. Galveston is flooding with over 9 inches of rain and more coming. Eighty miles north in Kingwood we are wet but not flooding. Dark and dreary day and I was feeling a little blue and a little lazy.

I have found a simple French bread recipe that is so easy and so good. Being lazy I let the bread machine do most of the work. I goes so well with soup…..I have a really flavorful turkey noodle soup made with smoked and deep fried turkey from last week.

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Yum…great crust and texture. So good when warn and “real” butter. Banneton basket used on this loaf.

Today’s version was done using a rectangular brotoform or Banneton Proofing basket. I had no clue what they were until a year or so ago when I was trying to perfect a sourdough bread recipe. I gave up on that endeavor! This French bread recipe is just foolproof.

Recipe

  • 1 1/8 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil or butter – I have used butter, olive oil and coconut oil…all work well
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar –  I have used my raw local with equally good results
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 pkg of machine bread yeast.
  • Place into the machine tub in the order listed.

Put the machine on the dough cycle. Monitor early in the cycle….I sometimes need to add a teaspoon of water to ensure proper dough consistency. Remove from the machine when complete and shape the loaf. Cover and let rise in a warn place for 60-90 minutes. Add 3-4 diagonal slashes across the loaf to allow steam to escape. I like the looks of the loaf with an egg white wash so it is your choice. Preheated oven to 425 F for 20 minutes and then another 8-10 minutes at 350. Toss a 1/2 cup of water into the oven right off the bat to develop steam for a nice crust.  Listen for the hollow sound when you thump it to see if it is done.

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Same as the loaf shown above but not brushed with the egg white mixture.

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Loaf formed by stretching dough into a rectangle and then rolling it up into a loaf. Pinch the seam together and turn ends under and pinch closed. Bake with the seam down.Oddly shaped but my subsequent loaves have been less misshapen.

Garden notes;

Peas are reaching skyward, beets are still popping up and lo and behold….Swiss Chard has emerged. I have a bunch of soaked seeds needing a home! Oh yes, my dwarf Meyer Lemon tree is pretty well loaded up.

The honey harvest inventory  for 2016 is pretty well consumed. I may have 15-18 pounds of honey in various sizes available. Kingwood locals…..put your orders in!

 

TTFN

Bishop

“Maters” and Bees

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The garden is pretty quiet right now. I have a potted Juliet tomato that just keeps on producing, a few pole beans from a volunteer Kentucky Blue wonder variety and now the carrots and beets are popping up. Oh yes, and a large bunch of Burro bananas – hopefully it will be another mild winter and they will fully mature.

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About every other day I pick a handful just like this….picked these on November 22nd! The plant is still loaded.

Now for the bees. I visited my remaining topbar hive yesterday. Nice sunny day and warm enough to open it up. This hive is the remnant of the colony I rescued over a year ago from a downed tree near downtown Houston. They split themselves several times, I split out a queen cell and a few frames into another topbar, robbed a queen cell for a queenless Langstroth  hive and harvested about 4 bars of honey from the original. They have been gentle and prolific.

I last opened this hive in early October and they had pulled comb back to about the 18th bar. I had intended to move the divider up and shrink the hive for winter but was then distracted and didn’t return. Now, on November 22nd I open it up and they have pulled comb back to about bar 24. Nothing put away at the back end but nice looking comb. I brought six empty bars and intended to remove any empty comb as I slid the divider forward. In hindsight I could have pulled 10 bars of drawn comb…..next time.

I worked my way up into the front third before finding brood. Some pretty good honey stores but lighter than I want so I am still giving them a little heavy syrup until it becomes too cold.

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Nice looking bar….

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A little closer look. About what I would expect for this time of the year.

 

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Son Joe getting a lesson on lighting the smoker.

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Joe, keeping his distance as I start the inspection.

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Ashleigh doing the selfie thing with Joe and myself geared up and ready to go.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Fall Tomatoes and Other Notes

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The Juliet tomato is a prolific tomato in the Houston growing environment. Here it is, November 6, 2016, and I still have ripening tomatoes on the plant as well as blossoms! The tomato is sweet but does have a bit of a tough skin. Doesn’t bother me but some may notice. They look like a miniature Roma and make great sauce. The plants are indeterminate and again, to repeat myself, prolific. Two plants can overwhelm a family.

Stovetop Juliet Tomato Sauce

By Analiese Paik

Ingredients: (double or triple as necessary)

  • 1 pound of Juliet tomatoes, preferably organic.
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • fresh basil, oregano or parsley (optional)

Method:

  1. Rinse tomatoes and set aside. Chop garlic while heating a pot large enough to fit the tomatoes on the stove. Add olive oil to the pot and when it shimmers, add the garlic and stir until fragrant over medium heat, a minute or 2.
  2. Add tomatoes to the pot along with 1/4 cup of water so the garlic doesn’t burn. The tomatoes will take at least 5-10 minutes to soften up and begin releasing their juices. I like to put a lid on the pot to speed this up.
  3. Once the tomatoes begin to release their juices and the skins start to burst, remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes have all lost their skins or are quite soft
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce right in the pot. Add salt to taste and a chopped herb if you’d like. The flavor of the sauce, with the garlic alone, is rich and complex.
  5. Strain the sauce through a large strainer or food mill heavy enough to hold the seeds and skins. Be sure to push down on the solids to release all the sauce. Cool the sauce and store in the refrigerator in glass containers. When making large quantities, be sure to chill in the refrigerator before freezing.

http://fairfieldgreenfoodguide.com/2013/09/11/juliet-tomato-sauce/

 

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Bright Red Juliet tomato and more ripening

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More and more and hint at how they grow in clusters.

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A good number of the 100 Chandler strawberries in the ground planted through a weed barrier. Hope to keep the berries cleaner.

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The banana flowers begin to turn upward as they mature. The flower hangs down and the bunch develops and points skyward now.

Other Notes

The Burro banana plant has put on a nice bunch going into, what Houston calls , winter. As I have noted before, last winter I had a bunch survive and ripen even though the plant lost all of the leaves. I left the bunch on and I was rewarded with 40 plus Burro bananas. Fingers crossed I have the same luck.

The Burro and Manzano plants are trying to get ahead of me by sending up shoots. I dug up and potted one of each for a member of the Facebook page, “Texas Small Farming and Homesteading” group. Kim and Jeff live nearby and I delivered the potted plants to them yesterday. Surprise, surprise….they are also beekeepers! Smaller world than we’ll ever know. I guaranteed more if these two died.

I recently put Chandler Strawberry plants out into the garden. I am looking forward to spring and hopefully an epic strawberry jam making explosion. Today will be another round of adding beet, turnip and lettuce seeds. I soaked some snap peas and hopefully they will take off. The previous planting went into the ground without presoaking and sure enough….nothing germinated. I have some accidental pole beans growing from volunteers. Enough for a couple of handfuls for dinner.

Bee stuff……during the next two weeks I should finish prepping all the hives for winter and then make plans for 2017. Hopefully my strongest hives will be ready to split in the spring. I will also build a few more swarm traps…..no luck with the three I set out this year. I made about 8 pounds of “creamed cinnamon honey” this past week. Inventories are getting low…..can’t wait for spring!

Bonus; I am passing along my recipe for cinnamon creamed honey. Not sure I should do this but…..if you really wanted to make it you could do a search and find it just the same….

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~reute001/htm-files/Creamed%20honey%20recipe.html

 

Ok…..enough for today.

TTFN

Bishop

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