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Today is my Birthday and I have been busy doing random stuff in my garden, with the bees and like any good A.D.D. guy, anything to get in the way of sitting down to finish my taxes.

Blueberries and Blackberries;

Drove out to Grangerland to take a look at my hive and add some corrugated plastic roofing to a couple of the topbar hives. IMG_4630

Got the smoker going and my new pair of goat skin gloves, Christmas present from my better half, are getting ready receive baptism.

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Evidence that the bees are doing their part to make the blueberries at Blakelock’s Berries big and flavorful. Can’t wait for them to ripen.

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Between my bees, and I am positive this is one of my bees……. and the local bumblebees the Blueberry blossoms are being well pollinated.

After Grangerland I rolled back to Russel Palmer in Kingwood to check on my suspect topbar hive. I was worried after my inspection a couple of weeks ago as it appeared that the hive beetles were taking over the hive. I cleaned and scraped and good rid of suspect comb but didn’t see much evidence of a healthy hive. It is amazing  what 10-12 days will do for a hive. I opened it yesterday, March, 11, day before my birthday and – WOW- they are kicking butt. Lots of capped brood(baby bees waiting to emerge), honey stores and bees hauling in pollen……abundant wild blackberries(dewberries) all over the area…….and very few hive beetles!

The topbar hive ready for inspection; lovely capped brood and tons of nurse bees; a dewberry blossom being serviced!

After that stop, it was off to Mills Branch at the back of Kingwood. Just a visual inspection of the three of the bees there, busy as bees usually are, hauling in loads of pollen. Fed the chickens, pulled some weeds from the raised beds and gave the chickens a green treat, gathered eggs and headed home.

I just love how fresh eggs have yolks that sit up so nicely and the whites don’t run everywhere! FYI, the little egg in the photo was found to be sans a yolk!

I did think about beer a bit….I will probably add a post over on my beer blog very soon. https://bishopsbeerblog.com/

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I almost forgot about this cute guy…..He is a little over a week old and being bottle fed at the Russel Palmer location. It was touch and go for a bit but it looks like the little guy will pull through……So a quick stop here evolved into a tour…..Ronnie’s garden, potatoes, blackberries, citrus, asparagus, figs, strawberries, cattle, rabbits, fresh tilled soil with rabbit manure, talk of tomato plants yet to be put in the ground, pinto beans, okra and on and on…..I love his place!!!!! Did I mention my A.D.D.?

Swiss Chard…….from my garden last week.

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Prepping the leaves to parboil before freezing……Mmmmmm good!

Enough for now….

TTFN

Bishop

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Just Gotta Love Chickens!

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At one of my apiaries, three hives, the property owner has 11 laying hens. I love chickens, always have. I loved it when grandma would send me out to her coop in Ford City – across the oil ditch north of Taft California.

Well, since I am mostly retired and have time in between my beer drinking/brewing duties and the occasional consulting job I have been spending more time with Troy’s chickens. I recently built some nesting boxes that can be accessed from outside the coop. I relocated roosting bars the keep the boxes cleaner but realized I need to do something to keep the rainwater generated mud out….,Hey Troy, would you mind if I build an awning? Haven’t had the conversation but I think he will let me play.

Today I picked up 10 eggs from the 11 hens. Can’t be unhappy with that! I do need to have a do better chat with one of the hens. She is short changing the egg laying process!

Do you see what I am talking about? One of her coop mates will sometimes lay a double yolk egg but no excuses! I also spent some time pulling weeds and tossed them into the coop! They appear to love the variety in their diet.

I love the slomo iPhone capabilities!

Bee stuff;

The bees are looking good too! I will rehouse the small topbar hive into a full sized box next week. The topbar hive in another location, that I assumed was queenless, may have fooled me. When I stopped by after a beer at “The Draught” today – I saw pollen being hauled in. Not a definitive sign of a queen in the hive but it does require a peek inside, again, in the next day or two!

A photo from a few years ago with one of my topbar hives!

TTFN

Bishop

Rain…..Yes it has Been Raining!

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Almost 5 inches of rain over the past two weeks. I think the garden is well soaked!

I have three bee hives located nearby in a friends yard…..much more than a yard – it is essentially 3 lots, one with a house and guest house, one recently cleared for a Barndominium project.

Barndominium is a neologistic portmanteau of barn and condominium with multiple meanings.” That should clear it up!

An the third is wooded on the front portion facing the street and cleared on the back portion holding some raised beds, bee hives and chickens.

It is not my backyard but the owner has encouraged me, in my spare time to plant, play and invest my time in his yard. I have two of the three beds buried in several inches of leaf mulch, one bed is going to be a chore….wild dewberries have infested it…I have plenty of leaves to deeply mulch it but…….work, work, work……is certainly needed.

Sugar snap peas and two types of green beans are popping up in one bed…..more on this project later.

Now, my backyard. The unusual freezing weather we had damaged my Meyer Lemon and probably killed the twig of a lime tree I had. The bananas are burned to the ground but will  survive much to my wife’s chagrin….”Aren’t you done with that experiment?”, she asked yesterday.

In my head I thought….. “I think I am but…..it will be a lot of work digging out all of the corms/bulbs/rhizomes and gunk….Maybe just one plant each of the two varieties and then call it quits!” I was wise enough to stay silent and just nod my head.

So what else you might ask…..My wild native plum trees are blooming. They are still residing in large planters awaiting a move …… one of these days to a piece of ground! I like seeing them bloom…..I transplanted them from a ranch up north near Franklin Texas. Long story but briefly, the HOA made me relocated a hive in my yard and I had to act fast. A client’s wife was related to a woman who owned the ranch, Johnnie. Johnnie had always wanted bees and well, and we were connected. We developed a warm relationship before she passed away from lung cancer. We were kindred spirits, she made lots of jams and jellies, loved her bees and her quiet life. Her wild plum jelly was wonderful. The year before she passed I made some from her plums and asked for some plants. I was given permission but did not bring them home until early spring of 2017, after her death. The blooms are such a great reminder of her gentle spirit. I miss you Johnnie.

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The Blossoms are so tiny and delicate.IMG_4497 An up close look at the blossoms. Fingers crossed that we avoid another freeze and the tree can set more fruit. The area where this tree was dug out of is covered with trees well over 10 feet tall. They are prolific and can become invasive unless managed.

Everything you want to know about these wild plums is located in this link. It even has a recipe for sourdough utilizing the yeast on the skin of the plums. http://www.foragingtexas.com/2009/07/plum-wild.htm

Behind my fence and mostly out of sight are some other goodies. My strawberry plants, especially the mature ones, made it through the freezing weather pretty well. I added another 30+ plants at the beginning of February and all are doing well.

 

Strawberry jam/preserves on the “hoof”. I have had ripe strawberries before Valentines day, but obviously, not this year. My Birthday is March 12…..maybe by then.

IMG_4479One of several Swiss Chard plants that survived the freeze. All of my early sugar snap peas died during the freeze…..so much for my early experiment to get a jump on spring….oh well, seeds are cheap. IMG_4482A look down the active bed. Strawberries, barely visible sugar snaps coming up, right front more Swiss Chard(Red variety), up under the arches are beets, the surviving beets were covered and the new beets at the far end are sprouting.  Up against the fence are my new blueberries and some potted pineapples as well as a few banana plants kept in the garage during the freeze. The sad dwarf Meyer Lemon against the far fence is mostly green twigs! Yes, the garden could use some clean up and organization…organization and neatness are not my strong points!

Lets talk bees for a bit. One of my topbar hives is looking very weak….not sure that I have a queen. That said, it was loaded with slabs of honey, looking very much like the one my daughter-in-law Cheryl is pictured holding last Fall. I pulled 8 bars looking very much like this from the hive next to her. I left them with several more slabs and fingers crossed. Once the weather improves I do have a very strong small top bar hive that I can transfer into this weak one, freeing the small one up to receive a split from a very strong topbar hive.

File Jul 28, 12 35 35 PM

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A lovely slab from the topbar hives last summer, 2017. This one I cut into squares and and crushed the odd shaped pieces.

After crushing and squeezing the honey out of the comb I put the wax out in the garden for the bees to clean up the traces of yummy honey.

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This was the start before word got out in the neighborhood. 10 minutes later it was a swirling mess as the bees did their thing!

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The barren banana bed……I have two tepees set up for green beans, pole variety, I hate bending over to pick the bush varieties! Lots of work needed to dig out those beds…. and organize the mess! Yes Dear!

Ah, the sun is out right at he moment, time to put my rubber boots on and wade out into the garden.

TTFN

Bishop

Too Busy is my Excuse

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I really have been busy. Bees, garden, substitute chicken farmer, setting up new apiary and more.

The bees first….two of the four top bar hives look very strong, one is toast and one may need an infusion of brood from a stronger hive. The remaining four Langstroth hives are doing very well. The swarm I rescued just after hurricane Harvey is now residing at Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland. At the berry farm I scored a major coup. An acquaintance of mine, through my consulting, had previously kept three bar hives(only one held a colony) out at Blakelock’s but life happened and he needed to step back from beekeeping. So, for a very fat and thick piece of comb honey I was able to take possession of the boxes. Thanks David!!!!!

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A wide shot of the new apiary at the back of the property. Great exposure to morning sun and should receive late afternoon broken shade. Paul, the berry farmer, has three varieties of blackberries and some relatively young blueberries growing on his property. The blueberries began blooming a few days ago. I set the Langstroth hive Saturday and visited the girls yesterday. I wandered through the blueberries and saw not a single honey bee, Apis millifera.  I did see a small variety of bumble bee, actually many of them, visiting the flowers. I am not a bumble bee expert but Paul may have a variety called the American Bumble Bee(Bombus pensylvanicus) working his blueberries. I struck out trying to capture an image with my iPhone. I will take a better camera and lens out on my next visit.

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A little closer look at the 8 frame Lang beautifully painted by my wife!!!!!! The small topbar in the background once held a colony of bees. I have cleaned it up, added swarm scent and a rescue bar with some comb from one of my other hives.

IMG_4453One of the rescue bars holding comb……I like the design of these and will build a few of my own going forward. Fingers crossed I get a swarm to move in. I do have some package bees coming in early April if I don’t have luck. I also gave to other two topbar boxes  a shot of swarm attractant.

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Day two on site and they are settling in. Undertaker bees hauling out the dead and dying.

“But I’m Not Dead Yet!”

“One of the most fascinating aspects of beekeeping is watching the numerous activities of the colony.  Every bee has a specific job, without which the hive as a whole could not exist.  There are bees that build wax; nurse bees to take care of the babies; field bees to collect water, propolis, pollen and nectar; bees to make honey; guard bees to protect the hive; and undertaker bees who clean the hive of carcasses…………..”

Excerpt from an article on http://www.beverlybees.com take a read….an amazing web site….informative and fun. Check it out.

https://www.beverlybees.com/bring-out-yer-dead-the-undertaker-bees/

Ok, I’m running out of steam….Very shortly look for garden stuff…..maybe even tonight.

Thanks to Paul for letting my set up a mutually beneficial apiary. Just an FYI, I have made many, many jars of blackberry preserves over the past two years featuring his berries. The blueberry plants are young but I was able to pick 10 pounds or so last year for fresh eating, freezing and jam making. Looking forward to more!!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

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

 

 

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 

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