Winter Composting

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I am visiting my daughter in Denver this week, totally different weather than my Houston clime! Her neighbor loves gardening but laments the fact that she doesn’t seem to be able to compost in the winter. I decided to to investigate cold weather composting tips….and yes, I can learn a little in the process.

I found a nice article from the Empress of Dirt. Granted, she is a little further north but the method should work as well. I think I would consider adding a microbe addition, similar to the type in the included link from Safer Brand. I have used some of their products in the past and really like them.

The winter composting also contains a link to composting basics, 101, that I thought would beneficial to folks new to composting! Because of my warmer climate I don’t utilize closed type bins, I utilize home built open enclosures. The 20 gallon galvanized can recommended in the article appears to be handy for holding scraps, especially in the grips of brrrrr type of cold, before adding to your pile.

Bottom line, COMPOST YOUR WASTES……. adapt to your climate, keep compostables out of the landfills! Landfills create methane….methane is 30 times stronger than CO2 as a green house!

Research from JPL NASA comes this piece of data;

“Emissions data like this can help facility operators identify and correct problems – and in turn, bring California closer to its emissions goals. For example, of the 270 surveyed landfills, only 30 were observed to emit large plumes of methane. However, those 30 were responsible for 40% of the total point-source emissions detected during the survey. This type of data could help these facilities to identify possible leaks or malfunctions in their gas-capture systems.



I ran across a nice compost image that could be used in most climes and can help deter common pests. My old bins are becoming pretty ragged. I built them with fencing materials that were blown down during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

From ; https://www.backyardboss.net/

Besides being good looking it looks hell for stout!



Learning The importance of a Gesture

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It has been probably 6 years or more since a chance meeting introduced me to beekeeping in Oman. Maybe it wasn’t totally chance, I had been hired to teach a class for a large oil company and one of the attendees was the grandson of a traditional honey gatherer. His grandfather would search the Wadis in northern Oman seeking bees and the honey located in the cracks and crevices of the canyon walls.

The video attached below is the technique he said his grandfather used. No protective gear, sometimes a little smoke but the key was to move slowly and gently! The young man in my class, and for the life of me, I can’t recall his name, would go with his grandfather carrying the bucket used to transport the honey.

The young man did something that only now do I fully understand the importance of his gesture. The last day of the class he brought me what looked like a 750 ml screw top wine bottle filled with honey from his cousins apiary. His cousin had transitioned to more modern techniques but the honey was truly Omani mountain honey. The cap was not a tight seal so I taped it up tightly and packed it, well protected, deep inside my checked luggage. I thanked him profusely, knowing that similar size bottles I saw in the old market at the port of Muscat were $ 75.00 USD or more.

Six years later;

This morning while reminiscing I pulled up the article linked below detailing beekeeping in Oman. I cut a portion of the article enclosed in quotes below. I now know that gesture from 6 years ago carries much more weight than I ever imagined.


“Twice a year, from March to May and September to December, Hamrashdi, 48, harvests honey according to a method that he learned from his father.

Destined for local markets, the precious golden liquid is traditionally bottled by Omani farmers in recycled glass Vimto bottles, a beverage of choice during the month of Ramadan in the Arabian Peninsula.”

I now recognize that ill fitting cap and the shape of the bottle. My gift was from the heart and a reflection of Omani culture. The honey, WOW, the flavor was unique. It was almost spicy in flavor. I selfishly doled out the precious liquid on special occasions, or, to share it’s uniqueness with friends. Now, how do I go back, reconnect and give the appropriates thanks? I need to add this return trip to my bucket list!



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.


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.


Blogging Hiatus


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!



BeeWeaver Honey Tasting


I need to tell you folks out there of a new development at the Bee Weaver Apiary, Navasota TX. My “Goo” friend John** and I were visiting the apiary to pick up 4 queens for a fall requeening effort. BeeWeaver Apiary will soon be a honey tasting bar, beekeeping equipment store, selling bee themed jewelry and ties and more. They have also built a  unique observation hive into the wall – cool looking hexagon designed windowed frames. The walls are paneled with hive body parts, the floor has inlayed “scroll W” brand emblems. Very cool.

I have purchased, NUC’s and queens from Beeweaver and have been very pleased. They have a great reputation and people come from all over the state to buy bee stuff. My friend John and I arrived a bit earlier than the 10:00 pick-up time, firmly held time, and we both bumped into a few  other likeminded beekeepers. Ryan, a young firefighter from just outside of Austin area, was just getting off shift and had several battle wounds from his morning adventure with his bees. He was picking up some NUCs and heading home for a nap. John visited with a mature gentleman…..about my age, down from the Kilgore area.

The store and honey tasting bar is technically not open but, Laura Weaver gave us a quick tour of the store under construction, some Weaver beekeeping history and let us know that they are shooting for a soft opening on October 15th. Visitors need to be aware that there is a related operation, RWeaver Apiaries, on the same corner. If you choose to visit, and I hope you do, pay attention to the turns and routing. New signage will help travelers coming off the short jaunt from Highway 6, a few miles south of Navasota.  Take FM 2 to the east off of Highway 6. At the crest of the hill turn left (north) on County Rd 319. Not far up the road there will be a sharp right corner. You will see the RWeaver Apiaries shed just before the corner. Drive 200 feet around the corner until you see signs letting you know that you have arrived at BeeWeaver Apiaries. 



One pound Muth jars of honey. I just love the retro look of Muth jars.


The porch will display many essentials and tools for beekeeping.

All photos with my iPhone …… didn’t carry my good camera and  lens. Next time!!!


** Read and older blog –

“Goo Friend”https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2016/04/

The “Requeening” Adventure will be a tale for another day.




“Goo” Friends are Great Friends


This past week was a very busy bee week….pun untended. Tuesday morning I received a call from an old cowboy down in the town of Porter. He had a tree filled with bees that fell last winter. He had been cutting it up to get it out of the way and came to a halt when he noticed bees exiting a split in the side of the tree. There it sat until Tuesday morning.

He mentioned something to Chuck down at the Knox feed store on Knox Rd in nearby Porter. The cowboy didn’t necessarily want to harm the bees, but if they wouldn’t leave, he would apply diesel and a torch. I gave my “goo” friend John a call to see if he wanted to join me on an adventure….I didn’t see his eyes roll but I am sure they did…….Let me back up, why do I call John a “goo friend”?


I posted a bit of our adventure on Facebook and fat fingered what should have read, “good friend”, but left the “d” off! An observant reader of the post caught the error…….But, it sounded good to me, I mean we are dealing with gooey honey! On top of that that, John was one of the unfortunate senior guys and in this downturn the Company gave him the opportunity to look for another career. Not sure he had being my assistant beekeeper on his list of options. He has been a good sport and we have had some “goo” adventures.


Back to the adventure. I picked up John and we went to check the tree out and figure out what options we had. The cowboy said that the bees didn’t seem too riled up when he was using the chainsaw so that became plan number one. We planned to open the hive with the chainsaw. The split where the bees were entering and exiting the hive seemed very busy! Lots of activity and lots of pollen going in. The log had several other cracks which turned out to be to our advantage. About 3 ½ feet to the left of where I planned a cut was the stub of a forked branch that showed evidence of being hollowed out. That turned out to be correct and helped us out on day two of the removal. Yes, two days for free bees!


At the end of day one…really about 3 hours of continuous work, we had about 14 frames with cut comb rubber banded into place. Operatiing a chainsaw in full gear, awkward positions and on a fairly warm sunny day took a lot of steam out of this 65 year old guy! Our close examination of the tree indicated a possible narrowing on the left end and a massive cluster of bees massed up on the log interior that was void of comb. Our guess was that the queen had run on up into that narrowing and the girls were clustered up with her. Packed up our gear and made plans for day two.


Day two now, in addition to the chainsaw I brought a reciprocating saw for making more controlled cuts. Long story cut short, we wound up borrowing the cowboy’s reciprocating saw as mine was sick and wouldn’t get up to speed. First order of business was to gather the clustered bees. Using sugar water and a misting spray bottle we swept bees into a plastic tub and a plastic feed scoop, “gotta” love a cowboy with lots of tools and equipment. Just guessing we scooped up enough bees to fill at least two packages of bees, maybe more. We were dumping them in on top of the frames and they were pretty much staying put. We made our fine cuts into the narrowing end and realized that we needed to go with the big gun and fired up the chainsaw.


Now luck worked into the equation. Realize now, that I am a rookie and my “goo” friend is a little less than a rookie but learning quickly. I fired up the chainsaw and feeling my way along, advice I heard in a video by a local beekeeper Tom Brueggan, cut out the narrowing portion. It came out in a half pipe like piece about 3 feet long and bees packed solid in the “trough’ like section. Poured and swept the bees into the open top of the box. We placed the top on the box and went about some clean up and organizing tools. John pointed out that the bees were now clustering on the top lid and marching in through the hole. I broke into a big grin and he said it first, “We have the queen don’t we?” Yes we did. It was a first for both of us to witness the “march”. They we packing themselves into the hive body.


Our cowboy kept his distance and watched as we finished cleaning up and putting away our tools. We battened down the top of the hive box, two deeps and a medium pretty well filled with bees and cut comb. I went over to visit with the cowboy as John shed his gear. I had my hood and gloves off while letting the sweat cool me off. About that time cowboy’s brother showed up and I knew him, couldn’t place exactly where but he had sat through one of the classes I teach in my consulting role. So now cowboy, Deon as best I can decipher how he says his name and brother Rocky are visiting with us. Deon has an ice cold Miller Lite in his hand and must have seen me eying it. As any good cowboy, he had an ice chest in the bed of his pick-up with a few more. Wow, that beer hit the spot.


We got permission to leave the hive box in place for a while, until I find the right spot to locate it. That will give the girls time to get comfortable and begin attaching the comb we cut out and placed into the frames.


The hive box with 20 frames containing the comb rubber banded into the frames. added a super shortly after this.


Interior back wall of the log. It was a bit of a challenge to cut with the chainsaw and be delicate enough to feel the hollowed out portion. Thanks again to Tom Brueggan for his hint.


Day three;

My “goo” friend and I head out to Navasota to pick up four packages of bees to be installed into four ready and empty hives. 10 minutes into the drive we were at the Hot Biscuit of Porter and yes, they make good biscuits. An hour and 20 minutes later we were at R Weaver’s place and enjoying the welcoming committee.


Hello boys!


Any goodies for us….They had plenty but was going to be a difficult meal….they were working on a poor box turtle that was cracked open in the road.

We were picking up the package bees, four to be exact and hopefully sans hitchhikers! We then turned around and headed back to Kingwood. First stop was at the Dacus place on Russel Palmer Road to install two of the packages. Max was home and came out to observe just as we were finishing up. Max is very new and we put his gear on and gloves to watch. Went very smooth.

Next stop was placing a package in the hive at Mike and Annette’s place. Mike watched from a distance and John reminded me to remove the plug from the queen cage….yes, I forgot….isn’t that what “goo” friends are for. Mike became a lot more comfortable and actually posed next to the hive in shorts, flip flops and a T-shirt……A great illustration that 99% or more of the time bees just want to go about their business while ignoring people.


Mike was photo bombed by one of his new friends!

Package four went to Troy’s place out off Mills Branch Road. Troy was home so I had him suit up and watch the process. He is also very new to bees and very hungry to learn. It went very smooth and again the “goo” friend had to remind me again to remove the plug from the queen cage. Did I say that I was 65 yet?…..maybe. Troy also mention that he just picked up a few empty lots down the street from his house that I can use to expand if needed…..I think I know where the Cowboy hive is going to go!



John and Troy and a glimpse of my topbar hive behind them.

So, a great “bee” week, a lot of learning and nice successes.






Country Honey

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If you have been following along you will remember that my sweet neighbor filed  a complaint with the HOA about my bees. Some BS about the bees posing a threat. After 18 months in my backyard they suddenly posed a threat. Under protest and a deadline I moved the hive too far away but the location is very nice. The woman hosting the hive is a sweetheart, wants bees and takes good care of them. 

A couple of days ago my wife and I drove north to knock off two tasks. One, meet out son who attends Texas A&M University and two, me running over to the ranch and checking on the bees. My wife did some grocery shopping for Joe while I borrowed his truck to head over to the ranch. 

The hive seems to like it’s new home.  It is in a small fenced area to keep the cattle out and has enough sun under the big oak tree. There is a stock tank for water very close by. Looks like bee heaven. 

I think the site will look better next spring if I can add a few more hives. Two or three here and maybe another two or three across the road on a friends ranch.  I am hoping 6 hives in the area will help make the trips a little more profitable. I pulled the top super from the hive in preparation for winter, shuffled some frames and refreshed the hive beetle traps. The observed numbers of beetles was significantly lower on this trip – I like that! 

Yesterday I extracted honey pulling about 12 pounds or so from the frames. The honey is dark and rich tasting. I will send a couple of jars up to Johnnie at the ranch as payment for hosting and keeping the feeder full. The hive looks well set to make it through the winter. 

Next trip up I will add a resrictor to keep the mice out and slip a thin board under the hive to cut down on the cold air that can enter through the screened bottom board. 



Los Osos Corner Plot


Los Osos, a little town near Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, is gardener’s paradise. It has that Goldilocks weather, not too hot and not too cold, it is just right. The soil may be a bit on the sandy side but add some compost and it will drain well and produce amazing crops.

I have been wanting stop and look at the corner lot in town near my mother’s place for several years and finally decided to stop and look. It looks a lot like my hair on a windy day, disheveled yet remnants of a part still visible. There is obviously a plan but the owner of the plot, I am sure, never worried about staying in the lines while coloring.

Cool weather crops can pretty much be grown here round and warm weather crops benefit from the warm sun and soil after the morning fog rolls back. By stopping and looking, I noticed his “girls” in the fenced run at the far side of the garden. Looks like 8-10 well feathered hens of various colors and varieties. I am certain that they produce some tasty and beautiful eggs.

Buying a lot in Los Osos to vegetable garden would probably not payout in several lifetimes. Unless, of course, it was inherited from way back when they were begging people to buy lots there in the 60’s and possibly earlier. I have tried to talk my mom into allowing me to put in some edible borders at her place but I haven’t convinced her yet. Yes, the cost of water in this extended drought they have been facing is a real concern, we could use drip irrigation. Whaddya say Mom?

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Looking back toward the street .

Looking back toward the street .

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!




Wild Blackberries


I went out for a morning walk in San Luis Obispo this morning. I discovered a patch of wild blackberries that I snacked on. I am scheming right trying to find a way to establish some of theses plants back in Houston. Farthing seeds will be easiest, a couple of cuttings would be best! They are much bigger and sweeter than the local wild dewberries!



Blossoms and wild blackberries along the trails walked this morning.

Hope to find a couple of Farmers Markets for a sampling of local fare! Need to find some local flowers to take over to Mom’s house in Los Osos, she is celebrating her 85th Birthday today!

Paso Robles and Morro Rock


I enjoy taking Highway 46 from Highway 1 near Harmony….south of San Simeon and Hearst Castle to highway 101 in Paso Robles. The views can be spectacular. There is a vista point along the highway heading east that affords a spectacular look back toward Morro Rock and the Morro Bay area, weather cooperating.

About a year ago I was driving my mother from her home in Los Osos, CA to Bakersfield, CA. I normally catch Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo and head back to Paso Robles and then on to Bakersfield. Mom prefers “her’ route! Mom has the route timed and the stops carefully designated to accommodate her “needs”. That means we drive her route and on her timetable! That is unfortunate for me! I almost always travel with a camera or two or three! On this trip I had just two. As we began the climb up and over the Coastal Range toward Paso Robles I caught an amazingly clear view of the Morro Rock and the Bay. It was early morning within the golden hour after sunrise. It was  absolutely amazing. I pulled of into the turnout and was prepared to snap a few shots. Again, unfortunately, I was not in charge and this was a disruption to her timetable. I “snapped” as many visual mental images as I could with out stopping. The images were and are still held in my memory . The problem is – I haven’t figured out how to hook a USB cable to my brain and download the images. You will just have to trust me that they would have been awesome through the camera lens.

I have driven this route four or five times since that trip but the fog, the sun or the clouds precluded a photo shoot. In early November this year I got a chance. The Morro Rock view was nice but still not close to the image I have stored in my itty bitty brain. I was pleased with the morning light on the fall colored vineyards just outside of Paso Robles. Click on an image to scroll through the gallery.

I am going to keep trying to get the shot!




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