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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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There Must Have Been a Reason!

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Wednesday, April 11th, my bride and I drove over to Lake Charles, Louisiana. We enjoyed a few beers at two breweries, lost a little money at one of the casinos with the intent of picking up bees early the next morning.

Early, early Thursday morning, I drove over to Jennings, LA, a short 40 minute drive from the hotel in Lake Charles, to pick-up 6 NUC’s. The pick-up went very smooth and I was back at the hotel to pick-up my wife by 7:40 AM. She was still snoozing!!!! 8:00 AM wake-up for her, breakfast and on the road by 9ish…..

Returned to Kingwood just a little before noon and now……time to install the bees. My Goo friend John……long story, went along for the ride. I was well prepared for the work. I had feeder buckets ready to install in the hives that I set-up a week ago, and……yes, I forget to put the buckets in the truck! I did bring the lids! Not much good with out the buckets!

I also made up 6 jars of sugar water for the entrance feeders on the new NUC’s…. and…… yes I left them sitting next to the back door. I set them there so I wouldn’t forget. Hmmmm, didn’t work out so well.

So now it is Friday, a storm is on the way and I had a meeting with a client on the west side of Houston early this morning! Meeting went well and now an hour drive back to Kingwood. Change clothes and…..

Ok, I remembered to load the materials and off I went into the wind and minor precipitation. First stop!

A big wad of bees, a swarm, sitting on the ground, 25 feet from one of my “empty” hive boxes! Yee haw. I positioned the empty box, fortuitous, on the board adjacent to the bees and started scooping. Around scoop 5 or 6 the bees started migrating toward the box. Success!

About 25 minutes later it looks like they are happy with their new home! If the storm had caught them out on the ground like they were when I found them, it could have scattered them or worse. My poor memory may have, at least this time, been beneficial!

If they stick around I will be managing 17 colonies. So much for being retired! Not that I really want to “fully” retire!

I put all the feeders in place and then went on up to Blakelock’s Berries in Grangerland. There are now 4 boxes of bees up at Paul’s place. The blueberries need pollination help! Paul’s plants are young but they are loaded! I did wander over to check! It is amazing to see how big they swell up when ripe! Paul, I did sample a couple as a taste test. Thumbs up!

The plants are loaded!

In a week or 10 days from now the picking will be amazing!

The Natchez blackberries are looking good too! Paul has 3 varieties which leads a long picking season.

Tons of blossoms all the way through the fields. I am looking forward to picking season!

The day, and I guess everyday upon reflection, is the way it is for a reason. The reason may not always be so obvious!

TTFN

Bishop

The Acorn Drops Close to the Big Ole Oak!

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Just a quickie. I went over to my son’s house to let his dog out while Ben is at work. I knew he was embarking on his own backyard farming adventure, starting with compost bins. He had even began talking in terms of the ratios of browns to greens in the mix. That makes my heart sing!

He brought some,very well made, pallets home from work and- lo and behold – ready to go compost bins! Hey Ben – I found a cold Sculpin IPA out there- thanks!

FYI, Sierra did her duty.

So, next up- raised beds and a fence to keep the dogs from rolling up the produce!

TTFN

Bishop

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

 

 

Honey Caramels Recipe

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I have an insatiable sweet tooth. It is no wonder that that one of my Rugby buddies refers to me, affectionately, as “Fatboy”! Thanks Steve! For a number of years another Rugby buddy, Vince P and I catered large BBQ’s and fundraising events – we were also affectionately known as the “Fatboys”. Now, don’t read too much into that affectionate stuff, Ruggers just tend squeeze tight in scrums, ruck and mauls!

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Just an FYI….I am the Skinny one pictured on the apron! LOL

Back to talking about the Caramels……..Just a side note….how do you say “caramel”?

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noun car·a·mel \ˈkär-məl; ˈker-ə-məl, ˈka-rə-, -ˌmel\

Looks like Merriam and Webster will give you a choices.

Even though honey season is over and I have “officially” sold out, I did keep a 1/2 gallon jar(6 lbs.) of late summer honey for my personal use. Did I say I had a sweet tooth? I do love my honey!

While cruising through Facebook a few days ago I ran across a mention of Honey Caramel candy and just had to try it. End result – very, very tasty but did not turn out as aesthetically pleasing as the results on the recipe web page! See below.

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Looks so yummy and I think they must have frozen theirs or cheated some other way that only food photographers know the truth…..

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I wound up rolling mine in wax paper like Bakersfield’s famous Dewar’s Caramel chews.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Line a 8-in. square pan with foil; grease the foil with 1 teaspoon butter and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the cream, honey, sugar and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until a candy thermometer reads 238°.
  3. Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, wash down the sides of the pan to eliminate sugar crystals.
  4. Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 255° (hard-ball stage). Stir in walnuts( I only used 1/3 cup) and vanilla; return mixture to 255°. I think Hard Ball stage is a little higher than 255 deg F.
  5. Remove from the heat. Pour into prepared pan (do not scrape saucepan).
  6. Let stand until firm, about 5 hours or overnight.
  7. Using foil, lift candy out of pan; discard foil. Cut candy into 1-in. squares. Wrap individually in waxed paper; twist ends. Yield: about 1-1/2 pounds.

I originally heated it to “soft ball stage….235 deg F – I reheated to 255 deg F and research indicates that the hard ball stage runs up to 265 deg F. My suggestion if you want to try this recipe is go on up to the 260-265 deg F range.

One more suggestion…..use heavy duty foil in the pan!

Originally published as Honey Caramels in Taste of Home Christmas Annual 2013, p144 

Busy day today…..Earlier in the day I took one of my favorite customer and his wife out on a bee inspection tour. We first visited my topbar hive here in Kingwood. The hive is doing beautifully. They were taking photos and shared the results with me. There was a perfect view of a bar with a perfect dense brood pattern……text book. The queen is doing her job!

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Look at the tight dense pattern. This was one of several bars with a similar pattern.

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The girls are working hard, putting pollen away, making bee bread and some honey across the top of the bar.

Next we visited one of my 8 frame garden hives.

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This is a deep frame with an almost perfectly capped honeycomb. Close to 5 pounds – both sides looked just like this. Yum

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There she is….tucking some pollen away. The symmetry is almost mind-blowing! I just marvel at what nature can accomplish!

 

I am going to end this post with sadness in my heart. A woman who came into my life when I had to immediately move a hive upon nasty request by my HOA, has passed away. She graciously offered up a location for my hive on her ranch up in Franklin,Texas. It was a bit far away, but it grew into a friendship and a mentorship. Johnnie wanted to become a beekeeper and I helped….She was so cute in her bee suit….I had to coach her about donning the outfit….Still makes me smile and laugh a little. We wound up with two hives for her and one more across the road on her niece’s property in addition to one for me. My original hive was productive but absconded…..

 

I found a good deal on 4 NUC’s and installed them the spring of 2016. We had problems with hive beetles. We lost two and another was not doing well. Johnnie nursed that hive back to health. She physically squished hundreds of hive beetles and kept the beetle traps loaded with mineral oil. She was becoming a beekeeper. We picked up two strong NUC’s at the end of summer and now we had 4 good hives. This was when she began telling me of some pains. It wasn’t long before it was diagnosed and the prognosis wasn’t good.

I visited her a few weeks ago, sat beside the bed and held her hand. She had a grace and sweetness about her that touched my heart. My mother passed away at the end of July 2016,  teaching life lessons up until her last breath. Johnnie also showed me grace, dignity and no fear of death. She was ready to shed her earthly body. She passed away early this morning. There is a little less sweetness on earth today but heaven has gained a beautiful soul.

Rest in Peace Johnnie

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!

 

Way too Early for Bananas

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I stepped out into the garden this afternoon and discovered the surprise. My banana plant has opened up the female flowering portion of the plant, the inflorescence. This variety produced a very nice bunch of at least 40 big bananas last SUMMER! This is February FIRST! I am praying that we don’t have one of those February hard freezes that will wipe out the bananas.

On a side note, my bees have been hauling in pollen big way for over a month! The bees have found the banana nectar. Hope they are my bees.

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TTFN

Bishop

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