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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

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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

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.

 

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…..

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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

 

 

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

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