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Strawberries, Beets and Other Musings

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Let’s start right out in the field.

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This was the first of three buckets I filled in about 20 minutes of picking. The result was 14 pounds of luscious hand picked berries. Wood Duck Farms just 25 minute north form Kingwood….Organically grown and very sweet. http://www.woodduckfarm.com/

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A little clean-up and sorting….I had intended to freeze all of the berries but as it was the day before Easter my bride suggested that I make a plate of the nicer looking berries for fresh eating at our Easter luncheon……Yes Dear! I still manged to sort, clean and slice up about 10 pounds for the freezer to be made into jam. I have picked enough for two batches from my garden so I will have plenty for gifts and for a sale or two or three or more.

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A few of the berries dedicated to our Easter  Luncheon

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Two batches of low sugar strawberry jam….Sure-Jell light recipe, pink box….just 4 cups of sugar per batch vs 6 cups of the regular recipe…..And three pints of Pickled Beets.

Side note on the beets….. I used about 12 medium sized beets and roasted them in the oven at 400 deg. F for 40 minutes inside of a foil pouch. Included in the pouch were 2 tsp olive oil, 2 peeled shallots and two sprigs of Rosemary. What a great aroma….peeled and thinly sliced the beets and layered them into the pint jars with Frenched Red onions….I also learned how to French to onions……old dogs can learn. The brine was boiled for a while to allow the spices to meld. Processed in boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 cups Tarragon wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp of pickling spice.

The bees are coming – can you hear the buzzzzzzzzzzz – 4 packages of bees from Navasota on Saturday April 14 and 6 NUC’s from Jennings, Louisiana on the 12th of April…..looks like I will be a busy boy this spring!

I have decided that my experimenting with banana growing is halting… not enough joy! lots of space consumed and the returns are minor….I need to do this in Belize…..OK – I can dream. I’ll stick with mostly tried and true….with an experiment or two along the way.

Hoisted a swarm trap up onto the big oak in the back yard today. A lot of reports coming in on the “Beek” forums here in Texas with success stories. I need to be careful and not exceed my self imposed limit of ….. No more than 25 hives.

Three more batches of strawberries in the freezer awaiting their fate….Jam is such a sweet fate…And more pickings everyday from my garden. A few asparagus sprouts are being snacked upon, more beets to be picked, snap peas for a bit longer, cucumbers and beans are climbing, potatoes in pots and a few quarts of blueberries in a few weeks. I should also haul in a big load of blueberries from Blakelock’s Berry Farm in a few weeks –  Yum.

 

TTFN

Bishop

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Random Stuff

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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

Gardens, Bananas and Other Stuff

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The bees and some consulting work have occupied my time, keeping me from blogging about my sparse gardening activities. I am still getting dirt on my hands, planting a little for the fall winter garden as well as prepping the bees for winter.

The garden activities have also included photographing and marveling at the growth of my banana clusters. Three clusters of the Manzano and two of the Burro(chunky banana), both Mexican varieties. I suspect the weather will cooperate and allow them to mature before the threat of a freeze heads our way. They do tolerate some cold weather but the freeze this past January was both long enough and cold enough to damage the plants.

A project on my loooooooong hunny do list is/was to clean/organize my garage, a three car garage that does house a single vehicle. Lots of bicycles, hive bodies, beer making equipment, tools(multiples of the same type), camping gear and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff left behind when our children moved out. Why am I telling you this in a gardening blog? Well, I started the cleaning process and I am easily distracted, “Look a butterfly”,…..I found some dried bean pods gathered from several seasons back and rather than toss them I wandered out to the garden and planted them. Three days later they are sprouting! A check with google on the time to maturity for the Blue Lake pole bean variety, 60 days or so, and I might get lucky and have fresh green beans by Thanksgiving….

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Wow, in just three days this bean is leaping up. Looking around the base of the tepee towers, I see several others peeking through the leaf and compost mulch.

More gardening, I have several late summer plantings, a volunteer Matt’s Wild Cherry, a volunteer English cucumber in a pot(producing nicely and an heirloom Brandywine growing nicely. Beets and Swiss Chard are also in the ground hoping to get a good start before it does get cold. The asparagus ferns are starting to die back allowing me time to clear them off and add compost before next spring.

Our neighborhood is having its annual yard sale this coming weekend. I have been drafted to help! Yes Dear! I will help…..and have a table set up to sell my honey and jams. I have 40+ pounds of honey and about 40 jars of jams, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry, taking up shelf space. I will report out soon!

TTFN

Bishop

Gobs and Gobs of Green Beans

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Even with good friends to share with, I am overrun with green beans. I built two 6-pole tepees for my green beams and a set of vertical poles at the entrance to my hide-away garden. I prefer pole beans vs. the bush beans…..why? – The bush beans ripen pretty much all at once and I used to be 6’3″ tall…..too much bending over to pick! Two varieties seem to do so very well in the Houston area, Kentucky Wonder pole bean and the Blue Lake variety.

I had a long weekend over to the New Braunfels  area of Texas over this past weekend. My “Goo” friend John picked enough for his wife and made a bee run to feed my bees in my absence. When I returned, I picked over 3 pounds of green beans on Tuesday…..Gobs and gobs. I had instructions from my wife to deal with them ASAP…..I negotiated a reprieve until this morning….I am an early riser and would have them dealt with long before she awoke….I even managed to prepare 8 quarts of sugar water for the bees.

Unfortunately – most of the green beans were on the larger side of what I prefer, so, add, bacon, onions, garlic and a long slow simmer……Yum!

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Just beginning to simmer.

The color of the fresh green beans alone is appetizing and the aroma as they simmer, so tantalizing!

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A six-pole tepee with two bean stalks per pole. I soak the bean seeds in water overnight to help with germination before planting.

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At the entrance to the garden…..at 6’3″ I still need assistance when picking the tall vines….lends credence to the “Jack and The Bean Stalk” story….

Now to brag a little. It is April 26th and the tomato harvest has begun. I believe that it is the first time time in many, many years that i have had ripe tomatoes before May 1st! Not complaining…..! Another good surprise is the health and productivity of my Brandywine heirloom tomato plant. I have half a dozen large fruits developing….If you have never taste a Brandywine….find one and try it. It is the very best I have ever tasted.  I have been diligent with my buzz pollination, electric toothbrush technique this spring and it appears to be paying off. Expect some more bragging and photos when I harvest!!!!!

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A bunch of Juliet tomatoes ripening on the vine!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Freshest Carrots

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I picked several handfuls of carrots today. The Houston clay soil makes carrot growing difficult at best. These carrots were from a bed that is about 4 years old. The soil is beginning to loosen but I still wind up with many two, three and sometimes four legged carrots. 


Roasting size. I grow Danvers Half long and Scarlet Nantes varieties.?

Today’s bigger carrots will be destined for roasting. The small ones were cut thin and sautéed in butter. I added a little sea salt for flavor and halfway through I drizzled some of my raw honey over the simmering morsels. Cooked just long enough – not too soft and not too crunchy. The only complaint…..I didn’t make enough. Next time Hun! 


So “danged” delicious! 

TTFN

Bishop

Good Things From the Yard

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Nearly started off with an interesting typo! “Good Thongs From the Yard” – that could have raised some eyebrows! Spring is here and good things are showing up. 

One of the yards that hosts a couple of hives also has chickens. For my garden I receive some chicken fertilizer…. nice way to say it! Almost as good are the excess eggs I receive. Yum! 

Little ones, medium ones and big ones! He has about 20 chickens and they are laying very well now! 

Carrots, I grow short ones because of my clay soil. They may be short but they are very sweet. 


Unwashed but yummy. I put them on the grill the other night with some asparagus and chicken. Very yummy. When the sugars carmelize they are so yummy. 

Snow peas and sugar snaps are blooming and producing. The early pods never make it to the house. Insert smiley face and tongue licking lips here! 


 And yes…..strawberries. I have made two batches of preserves so far. One plain and the other with vanilla. I am hoping for so much more. 


And bees too. The Meyer Lemons are blooming and the bees are working. Mine and many others. Such remarkable creatures!


Ok, enough for now! Just one sting today out of 6 hives inspected today! I can always attribute a sting to a faux pas on my part! Yes, I have made a mistake or two! Most of the time I have no swelling but this one……hit my left hand and sure enough –  a little ballooning on the back of my hand. Ok Hun- please kiss it and make it better. 

TTFN

Bishop

Please Peas!

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I have been trying to get my Sugar Snap Peas up and going for about 6 weeks. I have planted the pea seeds 3 times with no luck. I am usually gifted with a green thumb and most often have great results with my garden. I have been disappointed with my efforts to get the peas going this Fall. Yes, I have soaked them. Yes, the soil has been the right temperature. But……being a cheapskate, I dug through my box of unused pea seed packages from past years, rather than spend $ 1.89 on current year offerings. The date on the packages is usually just a guide and I have had seeds several years old germinate.

Apparently not this year! About 10 days ago I coughed up the $ 1.89 and bought “2017” dated pea seeds. I soaked them over night, actually a little over 24 hours before planting them. I was a bit concerned as the Houston weather was starting to cool off, soil temperatures should be above 40 degrees F for best germination. The weather cooperated and they have sprouted. Lucked out, it dipped 41 degree air temperature today so I dodged the bullet.

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The key piece of information – lower right corner – Packaged for 2017

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Planted 7 days ago….the package info appears to be correct!

Yes dear, I read the instructions! The results are very encouraging. I hope to have some pods in 6 weeks or so….”fingers crossed”. The shoots are working their way up through the fall oak leaves and looking healthy.

I made the same mistake with my beets and Swiss Chard. I finally have some beets up through the soil, but , I am 6 plus weeks behind what I wanted. Yes, I just planted the 2017 beet seeds last week. I am soaking a few more for a second planting……with the cooperation of the weather. Swiss Chard…..2017 seeds in a day or so!

I did have some success with my 2-3 year old carrot seeds…..but I think I may have learned my lesson! Let me write that down so I don’t forget!

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

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