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May 6th, 2017 – Nude Gardening Day

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I receive quite a few emails every day, most are welcome, some SPAM, some – based on the sender I look over my shoulder first and then there are a few senders that are off the wall. You know who you are! 

My curiosity was piqued when I saw the subject line- 13th Annual Nude Garfening Day. Well, it is true. No, I will not include the link! Readers, you are safe, I will not be participating!! My son, Benjamin is getting married on the 6th!

I guess I could get some early photos and try to pass them off as Nude Gardening Day, but, I do have some boundaries and integrity. Kathy also convinced me pass – at least this year! 

Next year! 


Go ahead and use your imagination! I can say with certainty there will not be a Nude Beekeeping Day! 

TTFN

Bishop

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Blakelock’s Berries

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http://blakelocksberries.com/

I went to visit Paul at Blakelock’s for a private blueberry picking session. In about 25 minutes , on very young plants, +\- 3 years old, I was able to gather about 9 1/2 pounds of the sweetest blueberries. My dilemma now is – I want to make some jam and Kathy wants them all frozen in small bags for snacking. There should be some middle ground don’t you think? 

Blakelock’s is primarily a blackberry u-pick farm. They should be open by mid May. I picked at his place last year and I got a ton of great blackberries. 


I love how the blueberries cluster up. Makes for easy picking. 


The blackberries are blossoming and forming good looking fruit right now! 

I have committed to placing 3 hives at Blakelock’s early next spring. Should be a win/win. Paul gets the benefit of improved pollination and I get some berry good honey! 


This is one 4.5 plus bucket of berries drying out before packaging for my lovely and loving wife! PS- can I now make some jam Hun? FYI- a handful of green beans in the background along with my sourdough starter jar! 

Check out Paul’s website;

http://blakelocksberries.com/
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”?

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

 

 

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!

 

Blogging Hiatus

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Oh, I hope it is over! I am long overdue. I have an excuse for the hiatus….actually multiple excuses. It has been a bit of slow times in the garden, Holidays, travel and building/prepping bee equipment that I will claim for my excuses. Let me add the distraction of my Christmas gift, Kitchen Aid mixer for making bread and creamed honey for your consideration! I have more if you want to ask!

January 2nd, my wife and I embarked on an epic 4,125 mile road trip. We got as far north as Billings,MT. Why Billings…… it had something to do with beer, snow and stubbornness! Torrington, WY to see my great grandsons….. and granddaughter. Four days in Breckinridge, CO for a family gathering – skiing, tubing and snowshoeing and family bonding. Albuquerque, NM  to visit with my cousin. All in all an interesting trip.
Upon return we witnessed the remnants of the Houston freeze that decimated my bananas and plants, destryed the 14 papaya plants, killed my young lime tree and ruined 3 dozen or so of my Meyer lemons!On  the positive side, lots of dead foliage for mulch and compost!

Bees- building more boxes, painting more boxes and experimenting with new semi-transparent stains. My wife gets involved putting her touch, stenciling and stamping bees and other images on the boxes. Teamwork, I do the mindless hammering, painting and staining and she does the creative elements. Works for me!

The blue stain looks gray, the green stain looks very nice and the natural stain always looks good. I am purging white painted boxes and making them yellow! Not quite so boring!

Green medium boxes with the first coat in place.

Kathy has stamped some bee images on the medium boxes now with a second coat.


A mix of natural stain and yellow boxes. You can see some more intricate stenciling from last year’s efforts. Time consuming and probably overkill.


The “blue” gray stained boxes. The black bees show up nicely. Thanks Hun! And yes dear, when I stack the boxes on the hives I will make sure the bee images alternate and not line up, one over the other!

Can’t wait for Spring……and it looks like it might “bee” early!

TTFN

Bishop

Bee Tragedy Averted

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Houston had some huge downpours at the end of this week. I had noticed that my hive had a slightly forward leaning stance but wasn’t too concerned. I should have been! The ground softened and the weight in the upper portion of the hive caused the soft ground to give way and it apparently toppled.

Today is Saturday and based on input from my wife the hive was upright on Wednesday. Because of the rains she had not checked on my little guys. I arrived home Friday night and decided to spend time with my bride rather than in my garden and with the bees! That was a good choice and it paid dividends, but……….

So up and out to see my bees fairly early on Saturday morning and oops, the hive was upside down in the mud! The bees acted lethargic and many dead ones scattered about in the area! I scrambled to get some of my gear on, the smoker was just barely lit but I needed to help my little buddies out! I moved slowly and calmly as I added more support to the pedestal that the hive had previously sat upon.

I slowly restacked the hive, shimmed the hive so it was level and left them alone for a couple of hours. In the meantime I poured a portion of my quart jar of honey into a small a jar for a friend. Rather than rinse, or lick the excess honey from the funnel I decided to give my bees a treat and let them lick it clean. It doesn’t take long for the word to get out. A waggle dance here and a waggle dance there and the feeding frenzy is on! Those dang littl sugar ants find the treat pretty quickly too!

Once one bee has a sip of the good stuff the response is amazing!

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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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