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Benefits of a Cool Spring

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Spring of 2018 here in the Houston area has been cool and reasonably wet. Good for my garden and also for the flowers and plants that the bees forage upon.

I got started late on my sugar snap peas…. actually I started too early and our January freezes did them in. So, I had to replant! It is unusual to be harvesting the sugar snaps and green beans at the same time. The green beans are just beginning to produce and they do love the warmer weather soon to come!

A nice big handful of sugar snap peas. This photo is just the survivors of the trip from the garden to the kitchen. I love to snack on them while I wander through the garden.

My Swiss Chard is also enjoying the pleasant spring weather.

Swiss Chard behind the strawberries. So easy to grow here in Houston and prolific!

My Meyer Lemon tree has been a casualty of the winter freezes. I was optimistic when I saw new growth and a number of blossoms a few weeks ago. Unfortunately no fruit has set!

Forecast is favorable for at least the next 10 days….. relatively cool and a little rain. More sugar snaps, Chard, green beans, strawberries and the last of the beets!

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

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The Orange Blossom Special

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Not the Johnny Cash version but my backyard version. It is also not a true orange but rather it is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or common orange, native to China, a Meyer Lemon. Today is January 26th and my tree is blooming.

If you are not familiar with Meyer Lemons, buy a few and enjoy the difference. I saw a phrase recently that said, ” If life gives you Meyer Lemons, life is sweet.” Very true. The scent from the blossoms are truly intoxicating.

Case in point, last week I met with a couple that will be hosting a couple of my beehives. While waiting for the husband to arrive I was offered a glass of iced tea with a slice of lemon. As soon as my nose moved over the glass I knew it was a Meyer Lemon. The scent is sweet and unique!

Once the husband arrived we wandered his garden area to select a good hive site. He has several citrus trees, including a very nice sized Meyer Lemon. His tree was showing buds and we both agreed that it is a bit early. I shared with him my memories of late night motorcycle rides down Sunset Blvd. from UCLA to the beach. The early spring night air was filled filled with a heavenly citrus blossom scent! He keeps a chair in the garden for those early spring evenings to sit and take in the incredible citrus scents! We seem to be kindred spirits!


Even a single blossom sends out and amazing scent! Photo with my iPhone 6S.

TTFN

Bishop

Where Have The Bees Gone?

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In the past my Meyer Lemon tree and the lime tree have been mobbed by bees when those blossoms burst out. The amazing citrus blossom scent can be detected by my puny olfactory senses from many yards away. Intoxicating! Spring of 2015 is very different. I have not observed a single honey bee visiting the blossoms. Not a single bee. What is odd about their absence? I have a huge bee hive in my backyard, 30 yards at the most from the two citrus trees. I see the bees returning to the hive loaded with pollen and the top two supers are packed with honey.

My Lemon Tree blossom being visited.....LAST YEAR!

My Lemon Tree blossom being visited…..LAST YEAR! Thee blossoms in 2015  have been lonely.

My Lemon tree just burst out into a second round of blossoms and they are lonely! For this second round of blossom I now have an additional two top bar hives, very active top bar hives! For whatever reason, my three hives are foraging somewhere else! The set of fruit has been very light this year but, this has been a very wet and stormy spring……not sure if that is a factor but I assumed that my bees would visit my citrus trees in large numbers….Wrong…..

This is what should be happening...again this is from 2014!

This is what should be happening…again this is from 2014!

Someone …. Probably many people in the neighborhood are benefitting from my bees, and yes, I do get a major benefits. The honey they are producing is mine to share as I see fit but, I may need to coach them a little better. Anybody speak bee? I could use a translator!!!!!

Maybe I need smarter  bees!

Maybe I need smarter bees!

TTFN

Bishop

Morning in the Pea Patch

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Mornings – ah literally my favorite time of the day. I enjoy the stillness, the quiet and watching the dew gather up on the plants as the sun sends its golden warmth to caresses the garden. This time of year, unfortunately doesn’t last long enough! All too soon these gentle mornings give way to some brutally hot and even more brutal humidity! The pea patch is in it’s last few weeks of the this lush green and dew bejeweled days. I am realistic enough to know that this is the expected and natural progression. The dead vines will be chopped and shredded on their way to the compost pile. I am well prepared though for their replacement. Two weeks ago I planted the cucumber seeds that have now emerged and will begin climbing the lattice soon to be vacated by the peas. The peas loath the heat but my cucumbers embrace the heat….. The garden illustrates diversity and adaptation  at it’s best.

As much as I love these spring mornings in my pea patch I know that soon the dew will be on my forehead, (is it dew or “perspiration”,)  when I step into the garden. I can take solace in the fact that I have choices that I can take in response to the the new conditions rather than lament to passing of these sweet and special mornings in the patch! Change…..it is something that many times I/we fear or want to avoid. The world around us is always changing and always will. With change I/we have an opportunity to adapt and respond in a way that  is “forward looking” – and yes we use our knowledge of the past – the past, a place where cannot really return,  but it  provides a vision for the path forward.

I will continue to enjoy each morning, each day and each evening that I can spend in my garden. I will look forward to the changes yet to come – not worrying about those things which are beyond my control. So as the environment warms I will adapt, I will plant new varieties, I will embrace new practices to tend my little patch. As the weather becomes wetter I will raise the beds a little higher, choose my planting to embrace the changes and I will continue to enjoy all of my mornings, days and evenings in the patch.

TTFN

Bishop

Pre-Valentine’s Day Blog and Poll

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Shown above are key elements of the poll to follow….but first I need to place everything into context so you, the readers, can make the appropriate vote. The poll will be good for only one week so be prompt. Click on the image to see more clearly which gift is the Best!

The context;

I 2009 my wife Kathy and I were able to extend one of my work trips to the Islands for an additional week. We chose to hop over to the island of Kauai and we spent a wonderful week there. I always have my cameras with me and I  filled up a big memory card with the stunning scenery on the island – aptly named the “Garden Isle”…. The memory card helps support my 60+ year old brain….so far so good but…..

The Book

I have been painfully slow getting the photo book put together and printed. (I used Blurb – simple enough even for me)  I was thinking about a gift for this Valentine’s Day so I actually planned far enough out to finish the book, started 10 months ago and recently revived, so that I could deliver it to her on or before Valentine”s Day. The finished book arrived on February 8th, yesterday…well before the day I needed it. I was so excited to, both get it done and wanted to see the surprise/enjoyment on her face…..that I gave it to her yesterday. I will not share how it was recieved in order to not bias your votes nor spend time on the couch. Don’t let that last comment taint your response.

The sink

…….after Kathy looked through the book, she smiled and said, “I got your Valentine’s present out in the back of the car. I followed her out and I was impressed! I had just mentioned to her a week or so ago that “if” she spotted one on Kingwood Yard sale or Craig’s List – for a good price – to grab it. I know how much she loves finding those treasures out there but didn’t expect this kind of quick result. I immediately removed the faucet so I could trace the outline of the sink on the potting bench in preparation for installing it. I think she laughed a little because I was right in the middle of pruning the Crepe Myrtle and just dropped everything to start the sink project. I did manage to get the sink set yesterday before dark but it won’t be functional until the weekend after I plumb up the lines and fittings. It is going to be so perfect….don’t let that influence your vote! I still have a bit more to prune on the Crepe Myrtle……manana, maybe.

So, all ya’ll……those that really do read the blog….please go back up to the poll and select the appropriate answer. I am curious to see which gift is “the best” !!!!!

Just a note for today in the garden – picked a couple more asparagus spears, a couple of strawberries, a handful of sugar snap peas and the remaining lemons…it is going to be a good spring….with a very early start. I have 6 tomato plants in the ground and looking healthy! Note to Bev…I found the soy bean seeds to plant in John’s garden….it is so nice that you have taken an interest in the plantings…and I aim to please.

TTFN

Bishop

The Houston Chronicle Declares the End of Winter!

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Several times in my recent postings I have mentioned how mild this so called winter has been. Well, this past weekend the Houston Chronicle declared that winter is over! Just to cover their” paper derriere” they mentioned that February sometimes surprises us and that the official average last day of frost at Bush Intercontinental Airport is March 1st. I have been making my own observations on how the various plants in both my backyard farm and in the area have been responding. The results are mixed but the plant world seems to think that Spring is here!

Evidence that spring is here and winter (the winter that never was) has faded away include these observations;

  • The Ornamental pear trees have been in full blossom for over a week now
  • My strawberries are blooming like crazy –
  • I noticed plum and peach trees on sale at the nursery were blooming last week – Late January!
  • My potted pepper plants are still green and one has two bell peppers nearly ready to pick.
  • My overwintered upside down tomato plant is leafing out!

And low and behold,during  this morning’s walk through my garden I spotted an asparagus spear emerging up through the layers of leaf mulch!

My Meyer Lemon tree seems to be a little more reluctant to believe what is written in the paper. I looked closely at the tree this morning and although there is a  bit of evidence of bud formation, they are probably a week or two away from bursting open. It is not unusual for  lemon trees to blossom in February but today is just the first day of the month.

I need to get over to John’s garden today and thin the lettuce patch. I scattered about 4 different varieties in his bed and they found a home very much to their liking. They are thick, crowded and the thinning’s should be a nice addition to a garden salad. I will probably need to help his sugar snap peas continue their upward climb…. they seem to like his bed a little better than mine do…… I still get a few to eat from my yard but John should have many handfuls of the sweet green pods gracing his table soon!

I am being tempted………. not by whiskey ( well maybe a little) or younger women (hmmmmmm…..) insert a smile here as I pause to think…….Okay….I am tempted by many things but today the temptation at hand is about tomatoes!!!!! I want them and I want them early – before the brutal Houston heat sets in for the summer! I will wander down to Kingwood Nursery this week and see if the temptation will be realized… they carry both hybrids and heirlooms that do well in the local area…. If I get an early start and make provisions to shield the plants if, as the Chronicle noted, February surprises us…. I can be eating home grown tomatoes by the end of April – WOW!

TTFN

Bishop

PS – I have some 20 year old Pappy Van Winkle Whiskey and may be able to get my hands on the 23 year old this week – the whiskey!

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