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Musings – Something I do too Often

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My wandering mind, always a bit out of control.

Yesterday I was trying to cram too many activities into my day…..The guy at the mower shop called for the third time about my leaf vacuum and chipper that had been in the shop, ready for over two weeks….I had bees to feed, beers to drink, weeds to pull, strawberries to pick and the list went on.

My fat tired garden wagon was strapped to the rack on the back of my Suburban. I released the ratchet strap and placed the strap inside the vehicle…..got distracted…….maybe the bee swarm trap was attracting attention, another cup of coffee, my 5th, and…..oh yes go get the leaf Vac. Fired up the Suburban and headed off. Arrived at the shop, grabbed a strap to tie down the leaf vac and wandered to the back of the Suburban……..and i luckily made it the 8 miles to the shop with the garden wagon still resting on the rack…..Surprise, surprise. FYI, this is garden wagon number two……..I lost one a year and half ago….it was “strapped” down, but obviously not well. Fifteen miles of freeway driving followed the 6 miles from my house down Kingwood Drive to the freeway. I retraced the route, hoping for the best but, I was worried about a catastrophic event. It became obvious that I was lucky and I suspect someone else got lucky and picked up and $ 80.00 wagon…….maybe a little scraped and dented!

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The infamous rack and a peek inside my two “seater” Suburban. the wagon wheels are visible on the left side. I may need to invest in a truck soon!

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A closer look. My “Goo” friend John built me a box to organize my tools….again…my scattered brain always hunting for where the needed tools are. The box will also double a a swarm box if I encounter one…..Love it!

What else…..Oh yes the swarm. It is drawing “lookie lu’s”…..today looks promising. I have some old comb in the trap and that is generating lots of visitors into the open house. Fingers crossed.

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Swarm box with “lookie lu’s”. I hope they like the decor and invite the rest of the group.

Tomatoes

March 28 and I have lot’s of green tomatoes, Celebrity and Juliet are producing. I have been using my electric toothbrush to buzz pollinate the tomato blossoms….apparently successfully. Check out the old link to my article.

 

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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”?

caramel

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…..

caramel

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

 

 

Gathering the Honey

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I have been less than diligent in keeping up with my blogging. This Back Yard Farming effort has 3 or 4 posts in draft form waiting for me to get off of my butt and finish. I have also given equal procrastination to my Beer Blogging – that’s only fair isn’t it? So to catch up I am going to go in a bit of a reverse order, subsequent posts may be older but I will feel better if I clean-up my backlog, regardless of how I approach it.

So let’s talk about honey. My first ever hive is located further from my house than I would like but in the process of managing it I have made great friends. In addition I have created at least one and maybe two new beekeepers. Here is the synopsis;

August of 2015 while on a work assignment in Richmond, California, my wife phoned and read a letter from our HOA. Essentially it said, an unnamed neighbor has complained about my hive (it had been in my yard for 18 months already with no issues). They were utilizing a “protective clause” in the HOA covenants gave me 7 days to remove it. I am 1800 miles away and already burning days and I won’t be home until the deadline comes and goes. I am in a quandary! Mark, one of the managing engineers for the client overheard my lament and bailed me out. Mark has a piece of property north of Kingwood on a ranch just outside of Franklin, TX. His neighbor, Johnnie, had expressed interest in keeping bees, with a mentor of course. He made a call to her and I committed to relocating my hive. I did call the HOA and unfortunately, it is an insidious form of government with unbridled power. I do believe that the HOA is comprised primarily of people who had been bypassed as “Hall Monitors” in grade school. Nuff said!

The hive has flourished in the northern location. My best friend has now become a beekeeping assistant of sorts, i.e., whenever he has free time that coincides with one of my bee adventures, he raises his hand. I think he really just enjoys road trips and biscuits at the breakfast stops on the way. Actually, it has become more than that! I am still a novice and do make a few mistakes but, my “Goo” friend John is an internet surfing fool. He has learned a lot about beekeeping that aids me in a number of ways. Thanks John.

Beekeeper number two is Johnnie, she hosts my hive on her property. Her enthusiasm is boundless. She has attended two beekeeping schools, the last one was this past April in Brenham, TX. We actually sat through a couple of presentations together. She now owns two hives and the bees in them. I will attempt very soon to split my original hive…..should have done it in March….still learning! Mark now has two hives across the road on his property, one of mine and one he owns. I have 5 and soon/maybe/possibly to be 6 hives to manage up near Franklin, TX.

Saturday May 7th John was free and we headed north. It was a multi-objective mission. First order of business was to check on the four NUCs installed at the end of April and add some sugar water to the frame feeders. Secondly we were going to check on my original hive and see how they had progressed in the super I added nearly 6 weeks ago. I had a good idea from the peek I took when I installed the NUCs at the end of April, but did not look at the super below it. Good news, 9 fully capped frames of honey on top and 4 very good looking ones below. The third order of business was to extract honey. I brought a three frame extractor up with me and we got busy…..busier than I have time to explain here….we will do better next time and I will leave it at that.

I left 2 quart jars, about 6 pounds, for Johnnie and Mark. I brought the bucket home with about 19 pounds of honey. I let it sit for a week to let the bubbles rise to the top and the micro pieces of capping wax that fits through the 400 micron filter to rise to the top. It is not harmful at all but for aesthetic purposes, I don’t want it in the final bottled product. That left a little over a pound in a quart jar for my use! 17 – .75 lbs. bottles, 4 – 1 lbs. bottles and 6 honey bear bottles with about 6.8 ounces of honey in each.

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The labels will also include the zip code of the location of the hives. This batch was 77856, Franklin, TX. I have had this idea  for quite some time to really zero in on the “Local Honey” aspect by zip code. At the bee school in April, I took a marketing class from a gal named Tara Chapman. She stresses LOCAL in her approach down to the neighborhood level in the Austin, TX area using the term – “hyper-local”. My aim is similar, I have hives in area code 77339 and 77345. Hopefully soon across the river to 77346.

Check out Tara at – https://twohiveshoney.com

Honey work for the next week or so? I have built 10 supers for my 8 frame hives, that means 80 – 6 5/8 frames with foundation must be built. Then I need to build at least 10 supers for my 10 frame hives…..another 100 – 6 5/8 frames needed. I suspect that after building that many frames I may be able build them in my sleep! Another trip up north to feed bees and check on their wellbeing.

TTFN

Bishop

Sunrise – Good for the Soul

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Spent the early morning down on the dock near  our house….Stunning sunrise. This morning was my good for the soul effort! I do feel better. Took my camera and  decided  to use one of the photos to grace the header on my blog.  Hope you enjoy the images.

Small resized image of  a stitched together image of  several photos.

Small resized image of a stitched together image of several photos.

Another shot a little earlier as the sun was coming up.

Another shot a little earlier as the sun was coming up.

I love mornings like these!

I love mornings like these!

TTFN

Bishop

Beekeeping Lesson 11

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I rescued a bee colony from a tree that broke off during a storm. The tree snapped at a large knot hole, splitting the colony into two sections. When I arrived the bees were calm and well behaved in the section that was on the ground. To get a better look into the cavity holding the bees, I pulled some of the vines from the trunk section. Here is part A of the lesson; try to identify the vine species prior to handling it, especially if you are highly susceptible to poison ivy or poison oak!!!!!! I am highly susceptible and I am now paying the price.

Lesson 11 – it has several elements. Part A above.

Helpful tips;

B. Thoroughly wash with hot soapy water, any skin surface that may have come into contact with the vines. Touching body parts with hands coated with the plants oils leads to a spreading of the rash. Trust me – sensitive skin parts should never be touched! Nuff said.

C. Contaminated clothes, like my bee suit, should be washed in hot water. Sometimes it may require several washings. I am putting my bee suit back int to wash for a second go…… Yes, I am dealing with a second round of rash breakout.

D. Aveeno works well on the rash. I have also found, at least for me, a very hot shower, as hot as you can physically stand, blunts the itching for 4-5 hours.

Unfortunately, I seem to discover lessons the hard way! I will keep you posted on my future adventures that become lessons for others.

Suited up - the end of the section is open to the colony. Bees were buzzing before I secured the end. Suit is in the wash.....again

Suited up – the end of the section is open to the colony. Bees were buzzing before I secured the end. Suit is in the wash…..again

 

TTFN

Bishop

For Bonnie

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I commented on a blog I follow this morning, “The Iris and the Lilly” by Bonnie Michelle with a bit of a lament on how cold it was in Pennsylvania. She takes wonderful photos and writes a great blog. I have included a link to her post below. After chiding her on how different the weather was here she challenged me to post a bit of my trip, So, Bonnie, I hope it warms you a bit.

https://theirisandthelily.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/caterpillars-contemplating-their-transformative-nature/

I flew into Los Angeles on Friday the 13th – it wasn’t scary, it was one of those perfect weather days. 78 degrees F, a little breeze and the clearest skies that I have encountered in several years of visits. I left the airport and decided to drive the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1) north to visit my mother in the Morro Bay area, Los Osos to be exact.

I jumped on the PCH and fought the usual traffic until around Sunset Blvd. The traffic moved well. On the left the views were stunning! Santa Catalina Island was clearly visible. the drive north offered stunning views of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. I have always loved seeing the silhouette of Anacapa Island. I took my open water scuba certification on the leeward side of the island. Such great memories!

I drove along with the window down, watching the surf, the tourists and the locals enjoying a day as close to perfection as it gets in southern California. The best yet was finding K-Earth 101 on the radio. Now I was flooded with nostalgia – ah, some amazing memories….Most will be quietly enjoyed with a smile and a nod of the head……linked closely to the music, the sound of the surf and the stunning visions along the route. Unfortunately just north of Malibu the PCH was closed and I was diverted through one of the many canyon roads over to Highway 101….not an unpleasant diversion but I did want to see Zuma Beach and Pt. Magu. Oh well, it was OK.

I drove through the strawberry fields in the Camarillo and Oxnard area, had lunch with my oldest daughter Melissa in Camarillo and then back on the road. I kept the camera close but didn’t stop to capture anything. The hills were as green as I have ever seen them. Once through the hills at Gaviota when Highway 101 leaves the coastline, the view changed to rolling hills, cattle grazing and vineyards everywhere. I was tempted to stop and shoot a few but decided I wanted to arrive at Mom’s at a reasonable hour so I pressed on. Strawberries dominated the fields visible as I passed through Santa Maria.

I arrived in time to take mom out to dinner. We had a good visit and I retired early, still on Texas time. Up early the next morning I wandered around and was surprised to find a couple of young bucks feeding adjacent to the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve a short block from Mom’s house. I almost missed them as I wasn’t looking for nor expecting them.

Young buck wandering off to join his buddy off in the brush.

Young buck wandering off to join his buddy off in the brush.

I then drove in the direction of Montana De Oro State Park and stopped for a few more photos.

Morro Rock and the surfline beyond the dunes.

Morro Rock and the surfline beyond the dunes.

Another view of Morro Rock and a bit of the estuary.

Another view of Morro Rock and a bit of the estuary.

After a another great day visiting with mom we dined at her favorite restaurant….BK….She had her usual, a Junior Whopper and a Mocha Frappe….Quality dining.

Sunday I had to leave early in the morning and had high hopes to capture a  view of Morro Bay from high up the hills along Highway 46 heading over to Paso Robles. The stunningly clear weather of the day before gave way to the standard morning fog that settles in over Morro Bay. Oh well, one of these days I will get the shot. I saw it once but, it’s a long story, I wasn’t allowed to stop and get the shot.

Not far off Highway 101 along Highway 46 is this ranch house.

Not far off Highway 101 along Highway 46 is this ranch house.

Cattle grazing on the greenest grass!

Cattle grazing on the greenest grass!

A rustic barn along the Highway.

A rustic barn along the Highway.

Down in the mist is Morro rock. The image I will capture one day will show the rock lit up in golden light of an early morning.

Down in the mist is Morro rock. The image I will capture one day will show the rock lit up in golden light of an early morning.

On the western slope heading into Paso Robles was a tidy barn near a ranch house.

On the western slope heading into Paso Robles was a tidy barn near a ranch house.

Leaving Paso Robles on Highway 46 on the drive back to Bakersfield I took a winding detour on the Bitterwater Road that leaves and rejoins Highway 46 in 30 mile loop. I was hoping to find some interesting sights. The primary surprise was the early emergence of the wildflowers.

Brilliant California Poppies

Brilliant California Poppies

California Poppies dominate the scene.

California Poppies dominate the scene.

A single bloom

A single bloom

The hillside with splotches of color.

The hillside with splotches of color.

Ah….a great trip.

FYI – my wife is caring for my strawberries in my absence, snacking on the sugar snack peas and keeping the bees fed with sugar water. I hope she sends me a couple of photos while I’m gone.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons…….be Decadent!

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I know, that’s not how the standard saying goes, but life is too short to be just ordinarily optimistic. I suggest that you amp up your response and make people wonder about your sly smile. Do something out of the ordinary when life gives you lemons….maybe, step out and do something decadent!
Life did give me lemons, some wonderful Meyer Lemons from my dwarf tree in the backyard. My wife left for Orlando yesterday with my daughter and on her way out the door she pointed to the bag of lemons and said, “Do something with those lemons!”
She wasn’t smiling and I wasn’t sure if the tone in her voice had any latitude or hint of humor!

I figured I just better give the standard Texas husband’s response and said, “ Yes dear,”
I had intended to deal with them on my own time and schedule but I never found one of those handy “ round to it’s” lying around …..Until her comment. That was a genuine “round to it” handed to me!
I had some errands to run and decided that if I am getting a “round to it”, I may as well be decadent and enjoy the thrill. I knew that if I was to be really, really decadent with the lemons I needed lots of eggs and lots of butter. Decadent Lemon Curd was going to my afternoon plan! The recipe to make one single pint of this luscious, sensual and decadent curd requires one stick of butter, six egg yolks, one cup of sugar and of course fresh squeezed lemon juice with zest.
I took a risk and made double batches, two to be precise. The yield was about 4.75 pints. I am licking my lips right now…..there was a trace of this Lemon curd from the toast I just consumed before starting the post! Oh my, yes a bit of a cliché, but, Oh My…..it is so good!

The recipe;
Ingredients
• 6 egg yolks
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 meyer lemons, juiced (you should get a generous 1/2 cup. Make sure to strain it, to ensure you get all the seeds out)
• 1 stick of butter, cut into chunks
• zest from the juiced lemons
Instructions
1. In a small, heavy bottom pot over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the lemon juice and switch to stirring with a wooden spoon, so as not to aerate the curd. Stir continually for 10-15 minutes, adjusting the heat as you go to ensure that it does not boil. Your curd is done when it has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. (my research finds that about 170 deg F is good).Drop in the butter and stir until melted.
2. Position a fine mesh sieve over a glass or stainless steel bowl and pour the curd through it, to remove any bits of cooked egg. Whisk in the zest.
3. Pour the curd (a single batch will make one pint of curd) into your prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. If you want to process them for shelf stability, process them in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (start the time when the water returns to a boil). According to So Easy to Preserve, it is best to process only in half-pint jars or smaller, as they allow better heat infiltration.
4. Eat on toast, stirred into plain yogurt or straight from the jar with a spoon.
Notes
Adapted from “The Martha Stewart Cookbook”
Step 4 is well stated – several years ago when I made my first batch of this decadent concoction, I made a comment about the uses for such a treat. One of my readers and author of the wonderful blog, “Promenade Plantings” suggested that the best way to use it is by the spoonful, straight out of the jar! She is spot on!
Give her blog a look….great stuff, stories and recipes. http://promenadeplantings.com/

I put three of the pints into pint jars....A bit much but once a jar is opened it doesn't last long!

I put three of the pints into pint jars….A bit much but once a jar is opened it doesn’t last long!

TTFN

Bishop

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