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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

 

 

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Cutting Squares – Cut Honeycomb

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My topbar hive was becoming loaded, so heavy, that my poorly constructed hive support legs  were breaking. I needed to both harvest and stabilize the hive. Stabilizing was quick and easy but- we nearly tipped the hive over as one of the existing legs nearly failed completely as I lifted it to supports in place.  Now on to the harvest. 

I built a set of racks, half sheet wire cake racks, to keep the slabs from breaking up into less than desirable pieces that wont make “pretty” squares. The set-up will hold 4 slabs, stacked and spaced so the slabs hold their shape…… in theory! My Goo friend John helped me out. 

It was more or less successful, albeit, a little awkward! I will need to prevent the slabs from sliding around on the parchment paper I placed under each slab to minimze damage to the slabs, i. e., wire rack embedding in the soft wax. 


A nice full slab, beautifully capped, thick and very yummy. 

I filled 14 boxes of 3.25 X 3.25 inch squares of honeycomb. The slab pictured above was thicker than some of the others. The old shaped pieces were squeezed for the honey. 


I was able to get 5 nice squares out of the beautiful slab above! Almost perfect! 


I dropped 3 odd shaped chunks of comb into a pint jar. About 1.5 pounds of honey and honeycomb goodness! 

Looks like I have about $ 150.00 of product at my retail prices. I may be able to pull a little more from this hive but I won’t get too greedy! This hive is so strong and full,  I will more than likely split it again this year. 

TTFN

Bishop

Bees Again

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During the month of April I added 6 new hives installed from the six – 3 pound packages I picked up in Navasota. They are doing very, very well. I was able to start 5 off in Langstroth boxes with already drawn frames. That allows the queen to start laying immediately.

 The sixth box was a Topbar hive. I had two pieces of comb to start them out and I added two fully drawn bars and a partially drawn bar today when I fed the bees. 


The bar above is very similar in size to the two I added today. Albeit, without bees and honey. This should provide a good template for them to draw straight comb and accelerate the queen’s laying. 

One of my strong hives is really flying, buzzing and working hard. Below is a slo-mo video, starts and ends full speed! Love that iPhone feature! 


I could spend hours just watching the girls coming and going. 

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

 

 

Do You Really Know Your Honey?

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No, I am not talking about the person you met through “Match.com” or for that matter, your significant other. I am talking about the liquid gold in the bottle called “Honey”. I have done my own sleuthing on the local supermarket shelves and I have been surprised. There is not much truth in labeling at the supermarket. Local raw honey is a real treat, if you spend the time and effort necessary to verify the moniker, “Local Raw Honey”!

I ran a cross this article while looking around and thought it did a great job illustrating the point….”do you really know your honey?”

“…..Research at Texas A&M University shows that most honey labels aren’t telling the truth, and 75% of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. And this could apply to as much as 90% of the nation’s honey, according to lead federal honey investigator.”

Dr. Vaughn Bryant is an anthropologist and a bit of a honey sleuth at Texas A&M University. He utilizes A&M’s extensive pollen library to identify where honey originates by it’s pollen “fingerprint”. A Michigan TV station did a little test of honey off the shelf at a local store.

“……..So, we took some samples and sent them to Texas A&M University. Our five samples included a bottle from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms, Honey Tree’s Michigan Great Lakes Raw Honey, Organic Rainforest honey, plus a Meijer brand and a Spartan brand.” Just an FYI, every bottle of “USDA” labeled honey I found in local supermarkets comes from either Brazil, Argentina or Mexico….the USDA labeling is based on the country certifying that the honey meets the standards. Long story….

So, what did Channel 17 learn from the samples? You have to read it to believe it….3 of the 5 samples had no pollen present…..it is a great way for distributors/bottlers to disguise the origin of the honey by ultra-fine filtration and usually done under high temperatures, destroying any beneficial properties.

Local raw honey will be cloudy due to fine bubbles and pollen in the honey….

“Most of them were not what they claimed to be,” said Bryant.

First, he looked at the honey bottled from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms. They were previously fined for mislabeling Chinese honey. The label on this particular bottle said “Pure Honey Clover.” Although Dr. Bryant said the sample wasn’t from China, he said there was still a problem with the label. “It turned out not to be clover honey.”

There was “not enough clover pollen to warrant the honey being called a unifloral clover honey,” his report said. The other flower pollens found in the honey included “soybeans, chestnut, mesquite, and eucalyptus.”

“A little bit of clover pollen in here,” said Vaughn. “But it would not qualify as clover pollen. So here’s the case where it’s sold as pure clover honey, but it’s really not.”

Onto jar number two, a jar labeled Great Lakes Raw Michigan Honey. This honey appeared much more true to form according to Dr. Bryant’s analysis. He said there was “sumac” pollen in this sample, which grows commonly in the state. “It could well be from Michigan,” said Bryant. However, a few other suspicious pollens were discovered, too, which could indicate there was other honey mixed in from southern regions, or it could simply mean that the pollen accidentally got in there some other way. Bryant’s report showed pollen from citrus:  lemon, orange, sweetgum, mesquite, eucalyptus and magnolia.

“Those could have been contamination from some other source,” said Bryant. “Or, they could have been part of a mixture. It’s hard to tell.”

Chris Olney, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honey Tree said that the pollen from southern regions likely came from hives that were used in Florida, then brought to Michigan.  He said 50% of the hives are transported by beekeepers to southern regions like Florida to pollinate citrus crops, then they are brought back to Michigan to pollinate crops here in the summer.

Now on to sample 3, which was labeled Organic Rainforest honey. “We don’t know what it is,” said Bryant.

The label had the abbreviation “BR” on the back, which stands for Brazil. However, Bryant couldn’t prove it came from rainforest flowers. It came back from testing as a question mark, because someone had strained all the pollen out. “We have no idea whether it’s organic,” said Bryant. “We have no idea whether it’s from the rainforest or anything else.”

Sample 4, the Meijer Pure Clover honey, had stamps for USA, Canada, and Argentina on the label, but for Bryant, it remains a question mark because, according to the test, “all of the pollen has been removed.”

Sample 5, the Spartan premium golden honey had the markings of “AR” and “CA” stamped on the back. AR stands for Argentina according to country code listings, and CA stands for Canada. However, Bryant couldn’t prove where this sample was from either country. “One certainly could not prove that the contents of this honey is what is claimed on the label.”

So, what is your best option? Know who your beekeeper is, ask to go see the hives, maybe even ask to help gather the honey……. This maybe a little TMI, but you will be tempted to lick your fingers every once in a while as you go through the extraction process……FYI I do keep a bowl of sanitary water in the extraction area to dip fingers and hands in while working with the very raw honey. Just saying! Link to the article below.

http://fox17online.com/2014/02/25/the-truth-behind-the-honey-labels-a-fox-17-investigation/

 

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This is hand crushed honeycomb from my topbar hive.

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Here is a shot of me squeezing the honey from the wax. I would squeeze and compact the was as tight as I could. I then place it out near the hive and the next several days it is wild watching the bees from the neighborhood clean the wax.

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A nice capped section of honeycomb ready to be cut off the bar.

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Honey….being added to a frame. Not ready to extract but looking good.

Buy Local and know your honey.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

“Maters” and Bees

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The garden is pretty quiet right now. I have a potted Juliet tomato that just keeps on producing, a few pole beans from a volunteer Kentucky Blue wonder variety and now the carrots and beets are popping up. Oh yes, and a large bunch of Burro bananas – hopefully it will be another mild winter and they will fully mature.

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About every other day I pick a handful just like this….picked these on November 22nd! The plant is still loaded.

Now for the bees. I visited my remaining topbar hive yesterday. Nice sunny day and warm enough to open it up. This hive is the remnant of the colony I rescued over a year ago from a downed tree near downtown Houston. They split themselves several times, I split out a queen cell and a few frames into another topbar, robbed a queen cell for a queenless Langstroth  hive and harvested about 4 bars of honey from the original. They have been gentle and prolific.

I last opened this hive in early October and they had pulled comb back to about the 18th bar. I had intended to move the divider up and shrink the hive for winter but was then distracted and didn’t return. Now, on November 22nd I open it up and they have pulled comb back to about bar 24. Nothing put away at the back end but nice looking comb. I brought six empty bars and intended to remove any empty comb as I slid the divider forward. In hindsight I could have pulled 10 bars of drawn comb…..next time.

I worked my way up into the front third before finding brood. Some pretty good honey stores but lighter than I want so I am still giving them a little heavy syrup until it becomes too cold.

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Nice looking bar….

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A little closer look. About what I would expect for this time of the year.

 

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Son Joe getting a lesson on lighting the smoker.

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Joe, keeping his distance as I start the inspection.

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Ashleigh doing the selfie thing with Joe and myself geared up and ready to go.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Bee Adventures

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Yesterday morning, yes too early for the bees  (mistake one), I went to check on and maybe harvest some honey from my original top bar hive. It has been intolerably hot lately, hot enough to make the wax comb very soft. This topbar hive is my gentle hive. See photo below;


I normally just smoke them a little and wear my veil as seen in the photo! Today I decided to gear up and wear my white overalls, gloves and the above veil.

Mistake two; The bees were agitated from the “git go!” No problem, I had smoke and protective gear. It was 8:45 in the morning and the top bar hive was still in the shade. Probably a thousand or more clustered on the outside and little evidence of foraging…..

The veil has long strings and the trick is to make sure that my collar is flipped up and the veil secured without gaps. Mistake number three, I failed to check the collar and the fit. All of a sudden I feel air from beating wings on my face.

“John, are the bees inside my veil?”  I ask.

“Yes, quite a few”, he responds.

I start heading out of the area and I have company both inside and out. They seem to be pissed at me and ignoring John. I took 6-7 or more in the back of my head and a few more on my forehead.

I wander back to my Suburban, licking my wounds and suit up. John is putting the bars back in place and the top back on. I return to take a peek at the other topbar hive and the two Langstroth hives.

The 8 frame is healthy but growing slower than my other three 8-frame hives. The 10 frame hive is doing nicely with a queen hatched from my original top bar hive. FYI,  my top bars sized to fit in my Langstroth hives. The second top bar hive was also cloned from a queen cell and a few  bars of brood, pollen and honey from the original hive.

Ok, I have orders from the sales manager (my wife for some cut comb and I know where to go. I have two 8 frame hives nearby and I have been anxious to harvest them. I pulled 11 frames, 3 beautiful ones for cut comb and we extracted the others.


I wound up with 12 – eight ounce squares and I also boxed up all the trimmings. I let them drain a bit on the rack before boxing them up. I love cut comb! I also wound up with over 30 pounds of liquid honey. Two more hives to visit in the next day or two to  on the honey production.

TTFN

Bishop

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