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Blogging Hiatus

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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!

TTFN

Bishop

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Christmas Eve in the Garden

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It was “77 degrees F” yesterday and I actually worked up a sweat raking leaves to add to the compost bin. It wasn’t too bad….just barely a one T-shirt job. Summer jobs in Houston are typically 3 or more T-shirt changes.

I gathered up the ripening, the dropped and the green Juliet tomatoes. Even covered, the last freeze hit the plant hard.

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Well the last freeze has made the Juliet tomato plant look pretty sad. I grabbed this handful, green ones included, as the last of the harvest. Yummy Christmas cookies in the background….my secret recipe. Ask for it…

The freeze didn’t bother the strawberries. They handle it well. If I see temperatures in the teens I will definitely cover them. I added another 100 plants last fall……need to treat my babies well!

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December 24th and the strawberries are making their appearance.

The colder weather of last week finally started killing off the asparagus ferns. I will find a nice day next week to cut them back and top dress the asparagus bed.

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A tangled mess. I didn’t get to it but I will cut back the asparagus ferns next week and dream of spring spears.

I will make some Meyer Lemon Honey Jam in a week or two and maybe a small batch of lemon curd….so rich and so yummy.

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My sad transplanted dwarf Meyer Lemon. I moved it from it’s wine barrel home of 4 years to my garden last spring….hope for better results this next year.

My experimenting will continue into 2017. Mike and Annette, who host one of my hives, have two volunteer papaya trees that bear fruit. Fruit tossed into their compost bin several years ago took off and bear very nice papayas. I saved some of their seeds and put them in a small pot. They are doing well. I will repot and protect the young ones for spring.

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Papaya….I have a hive in a yard here in Kingwood that has two papaya trees. I dropped a handful of seeds into this pot and have been rewarded. Now to transplant them.

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Merry Christmas

TTFN

Bishop

For Bonnie

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I commented on a blog I follow this morning, “The Iris and the Lilly” by Bonnie Michelle with a bit of a lament on how cold it was in Pennsylvania. She takes wonderful photos and writes a great blog. I have included a link to her post below. After chiding her on how different the weather was here she challenged me to post a bit of my trip, So, Bonnie, I hope it warms you a bit.

https://theirisandthelily.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/caterpillars-contemplating-their-transformative-nature/

I flew into Los Angeles on Friday the 13th – it wasn’t scary, it was one of those perfect weather days. 78 degrees F, a little breeze and the clearest skies that I have encountered in several years of visits. I left the airport and decided to drive the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1) north to visit my mother in the Morro Bay area, Los Osos to be exact.

I jumped on the PCH and fought the usual traffic until around Sunset Blvd. The traffic moved well. On the left the views were stunning! Santa Catalina Island was clearly visible. the drive north offered stunning views of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. I have always loved seeing the silhouette of Anacapa Island. I took my open water scuba certification on the leeward side of the island. Such great memories!

I drove along with the window down, watching the surf, the tourists and the locals enjoying a day as close to perfection as it gets in southern California. The best yet was finding K-Earth 101 on the radio. Now I was flooded with nostalgia – ah, some amazing memories….Most will be quietly enjoyed with a smile and a nod of the head……linked closely to the music, the sound of the surf and the stunning visions along the route. Unfortunately just north of Malibu the PCH was closed and I was diverted through one of the many canyon roads over to Highway 101….not an unpleasant diversion but I did want to see Zuma Beach and Pt. Magu. Oh well, it was OK.

I drove through the strawberry fields in the Camarillo and Oxnard area, had lunch with my oldest daughter Melissa in Camarillo and then back on the road. I kept the camera close but didn’t stop to capture anything. The hills were as green as I have ever seen them. Once through the hills at Gaviota when Highway 101 leaves the coastline, the view changed to rolling hills, cattle grazing and vineyards everywhere. I was tempted to stop and shoot a few but decided I wanted to arrive at Mom’s at a reasonable hour so I pressed on. Strawberries dominated the fields visible as I passed through Santa Maria.

I arrived in time to take mom out to dinner. We had a good visit and I retired early, still on Texas time. Up early the next morning I wandered around and was surprised to find a couple of young bucks feeding adjacent to the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve a short block from Mom’s house. I almost missed them as I wasn’t looking for nor expecting them.

Young buck wandering off to join his buddy off in the brush.

Young buck wandering off to join his buddy off in the brush.

I then drove in the direction of Montana De Oro State Park and stopped for a few more photos.

Morro Rock and the surfline beyond the dunes.

Morro Rock and the surfline beyond the dunes.

Another view of Morro Rock and a bit of the estuary.

Another view of Morro Rock and a bit of the estuary.

After a another great day visiting with mom we dined at her favorite restaurant….BK….She had her usual, a Junior Whopper and a Mocha Frappe….Quality dining.

Sunday I had to leave early in the morning and had high hopes to capture a  view of Morro Bay from high up the hills along Highway 46 heading over to Paso Robles. The stunningly clear weather of the day before gave way to the standard morning fog that settles in over Morro Bay. Oh well, one of these days I will get the shot. I saw it once but, it’s a long story, I wasn’t allowed to stop and get the shot.

Not far off Highway 101 along Highway 46 is this ranch house.

Not far off Highway 101 along Highway 46 is this ranch house.

Cattle grazing on the greenest grass!

Cattle grazing on the greenest grass!

A rustic barn along the Highway.

A rustic barn along the Highway.

Down in the mist is Morro rock. The image I will capture one day will show the rock lit up in golden light of an early morning.

Down in the mist is Morro rock. The image I will capture one day will show the rock lit up in golden light of an early morning.

On the western slope heading into Paso Robles was a tidy barn near a ranch house.

On the western slope heading into Paso Robles was a tidy barn near a ranch house.

Leaving Paso Robles on Highway 46 on the drive back to Bakersfield I took a winding detour on the Bitterwater Road that leaves and rejoins Highway 46 in 30 mile loop. I was hoping to find some interesting sights. The primary surprise was the early emergence of the wildflowers.

Brilliant California Poppies

Brilliant California Poppies

California Poppies dominate the scene.

California Poppies dominate the scene.

A single bloom

A single bloom

The hillside with splotches of color.

The hillside with splotches of color.

Ah….a great trip.

FYI – my wife is caring for my strawberries in my absence, snacking on the sugar snack peas and keeping the bees fed with sugar water. I hope she sends me a couple of photos while I’m gone.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

Tomatoes – Goodbye, Farewell, Adieu – At Least Until Spring

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I finally called it quits with my tomatoes yesterday, December 25th. You’d think I lived in Australia with how the tomato plants have done this year. I actually have some volunteer seedlings that are about 4-5 inches tall that have not succumbed to the little dab of cooler Houston temperatures.

My Juliett variety was loaded with green tomatoes, a few beginning to show signs of changing color as well as some that had ripened naturally. I brought them all in to the house and will attempt to ripen the green ones. I used to work at a produce warehouse in my student days. The trucks would come in and deliver boxes of tomatoes called breakers – the tint of pink color was just beginning to break. We would stack the boxes 5 or 6 high with room for air to circulate around them and them shut the room up tight and introduce ethylene gas to speed the ripening! A few days later the tomatoes are red but I wouldn’t call them ripe! That is why the store-bought tomatoes are so firm…..they haven’t been allowed to really ripen!

The tomatoes rescued and brought in on Christmas Day. Hope to ripen the green ones

The tomatoes rescued and brought in on Christmas Day. Hope to ripen the green ones

I decided to try to ripen the green ones here at home. I don’t have an ethylene gas ripening room so it is off to plan B! Two good natural sources of ethylene gas are ripe bananas and apples. No bananas on hand but I had some apples. An internet search shows using a container, a banana and a few green tomatoes to ripen. I used brown paper sacks, apples and the green tomatoes…..I will publish an update on the process in a week or so.

The plants are all pulled up and disposed of….I try to keep the tomato plants out of the compost heap but may try running them through my shredder and just live with any of the volunteer plants….My best cherry tomato plant this past year was one of those volunteers that did very well.

Let’s see, today is the 26th of December and I hope to have my 2013 tomato transplants in the ground before March 1st!

My daughter wanted my famous fried potatoes this morning so I included Poblano peppers that I stepped out and picked while the potatoes were cooking…..Yum!

TTFN

Bishop

Dancing Flames

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It is almost cold enough to enjoy a fire but it is December and I just had to fire up the outdoor Chiminea. It might have been in the high 50’s so I was still in shorts, sandals and a t-shirt.  I had some chicken on the grill and my son’s dog Sierra working her nose into my hand begging for a scratch and a pat on the head. There is something so relaxing and mesmerizing in the flames dancing across the coals in a fire. I just love the patterns, the swirls and the pleasant smell of wood smoke. Building and maintaining a fire is my specialty. I know just how to stack the wood to maximize airflow and keep the fire burning without billowing smoke out of the chimney stack. The only thing that would make it better is for the air to crisp up and beg for a jacket, long pants and some gloves. My boys went duck hunting a few days ago and had to shed the sleeves while putting out the decoys. We need some cold weather!!!!

The Chiminea in the backyard.

The Chiminea in the backyard.

Looking into the middle of the fire.

Looking into the middle of the fire.

The longer you sit the more the fire draws you into the swirling and dancing flames, Photos can never quite capture the glow of the embers.....I love the warmth radiating out of the mouth.

The longer you sit the more the fire draws you into the swirling and dancing flames, Photos can never quite capture the glow of the embers…..I love the warmth radiating out of the mouth.

Somewhere on the horizon is some winter chill! I will admit that my tomatoes bit the dust with the freeze just before my return from California late last week. Even the Poblano pepper plant is showing some leaf burn. The strawberries have set a ton of blossoms that I need to snap off so they can have a better spring. Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I will putter a bit in my garden, do a little clean-up in John’s and enjoy some homemade Christmas tamales!

Merry Christmas to all y’all.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

Frost on the Pumpkin

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This morning was one of those mornings…..just a little of the frosty white crystals on the edges of the leaves on the ground and the blades of grass.  I wonder how many people actually slowed down enough in their hurry to even notice. I was a little slow getting out of bed this morning, the sun still had not popped over the horizon but the early morning glow was starting to wipe away the darkness of night.

Rather than ride my bicycle down for coffee this morning I chose to fire up the car and drive. The energy flowing out of my neighborhood was crazy! huge batches of cars seemingly bound together all rushing down the road. I wonder how many of the drivers even noticed how nice this morning really was? The frost, the golden glow in the sky, the leaves that have finally turned color and the crisp bite of the air as you inhale. There are times when I think most of my community has lost touch with the quiet, with the beautiful gift that lies all around us every day.  It is far too easy to get caught up in the race that seems to have no end if I am not careful. The shiny new BMW driven by someone in a much bigger hurry than I am is anxiously trying to find a gap around me. The car whips around me only to catch the red light and there we sit side by side. The light changes and the exhaust sends out a huge billowing cloud of steam and off to the races again….but not for me. I ease on down the road seeing a little more than those poor souls. The bridge across the river near my house is an incredible vantage for sunrises, water, clouds and trees all lend themselves to making my morning so much nicer!

The December sun coming up over the water.

The December sun coming up over the water.

The trees along the lake back-lit by a wonderful early morning sun.

The trees along the lake back-lit by a wonderful early morning sun.

One of the winter pelicans in the early morning  that grace our lake. Wish I had caught it with crisper focus!

One of the winter pelicans in the early morning that grace our lake. Wish I had caught it with crisper focus!

Thanks for slowing down, stopping by and sharing the morning with me.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Tomatoes – Hasta Luego en Espanol und Bis Spater auf Deustch

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The freeze or near freeze last night put the hurt on two of the 4 remaining tomato plants.  The Juliett plants showed significant freeze burn on the extremities and my potted patio plants have begun to droop. Some of the droop is due to the large number of tomatoes ripening and trying to ripen.  I picked quite a few today and will get the remaining in tomorrow. I saved some so my little buddy Caleb two doors down can pick some. During his last visit to the garden I had to do some coaching concerning what was ready and what needed to wait….poor little guy, there wasn’t much that he could pull! Tomorrow he can pick large and small tomatoes, Poblano peppers, Meyer lemons, turnips, carrots, radishes and some leaf lettuce. If his mother approves I hope to capture his joy and smile in some pictures to include in the near future.

A large mixing bowl with at least double that remaining. They may have to sit in the widow sill to finish ripening.

A large mixing bowl with at least double that remaining. They may have to sit in the widow sill to finish ripening.

A closer look at the tomatoes and a few radishes.

A closer look at the tomatoes and a few radishes.

December 11th, 2012……I will have to wait about 90 days before I can put my transplants out for 2013. With a little bit of shelter I might be able to get these tomato plants to over-winter, hmmmmmm, another potential experiment !

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

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