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Busy as a Bee

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I feel fortunate, as a beekeeper I am able to witness bee behavior not seen by very many people. Bees love a tidy home and go to great lengths to ensure that it is so. I have been lucky enough to have caught 4 swarms this year. I have a few more baited up and I have my fingers crossed for more.

So, what do you bait them with you might ask? Here is what I do;

Make a box that holds 5 or 6 deep frames – with at least 19L of volume. Yes, I do use the metric system sometimes. – 1160 cubic inches…like two big block engines.

Use a deep frame with brood comb or secure some brood comb with rubber bands. I have 4 to five frames with wax foundation of partially drawn comb

Add a smidgeon of lemon grass oil, a squirt of Swarm Commander and sometimes a envelope of queen scent.

Secure to a tree or elevate the box on a ladder.

Hope the scout bees love your box and go back and recruit more scouts – hopefully they all agree and move in!

This is what moving in day looks like. It really doesn’t take a day once they have all agreed and the queen steps inside.

About an hour later most of the bees had moved in. It was just amazing to watch them climbing up and over the lip and into the box.

Move in day is almost complete.

Now I mentioned earlier that they like a tidy house. In this box was a big chunk of brood comb secured with rubber bands. A couple of days ago I stopped by to see how they were doing……they had apparently secured the brood comb and cut the rubber band loose. Look closely at the opening.

The next day. Look closely inside the entrance for the other pieces of rubber band being extracted. They are amazing!

This isn’t the first time I have witnessed this type of behavior. A couple of years ago my “Goo” friend John helped me cut a colony out of a downed tree. We rescued 6 or 7 frames of comb by securing them with rubber bands. The video below shows a pile of rubber band below the hive and an interesting look at an undertaker bee hauling out a dead bee. It is so cool to see the free fall of the two bees, one dead and one very much alive.

 

Isn’t that just too cool? The division of labor in a hive is also amazing but I won’t bore you with the details but if interested just ask Google, Siri or Alexa.

I moved the captured swarm out of John’s yard and over to my nearby apiary. Left them locked in for two days because the move was just a two miles. I also shrouded the front of the hive with a bunch of branches to force them into orientation flights. Sure enough, once unlocked they did their figure 8 dance facing the hive.

I baited another box and hoisted it up into the tree where I caught a strong one last year. When it comes to swarms, lightning does strike twice, actually many times. I know beekeepers that catch multiple swarms every year in the same stop!

TTFN

Bishop

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A post from My Beer Blog

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Sharing a post from my Beer Blog that is at least 50% about “gardening”. Elements of Beekeeping and Beers!

Hive loss but found a soothing ale….Please check it out.

 

Easing the Pain of Loss

 

How to get the Kitchen Floor Mopped?

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It is a given that my wife married a man that is just a little sloppy with his activities, and yes, his(my) activities include use of the kitchen for;

Honey bottling

Jam and jelly making

Making beeswax lip balms

Beer making & bottling

And obviously cut up, shredding and prepping meats for the grill and smoker.

And I am sure there are some unnamed transgressions.

Today was a little busier than usual! I finished cutting up and bagging around 15 pounds of strawberries…….. note – yesterday I ran off to Wood Duck Farms in the morning and picked 6 buckets of strawberries, returned home, cleaned and packaged half the haul and made it into the shower for an on time departure to see George Strait at the Houston Rodeo.( English majors and other grammar police….I kinda like run on sentences)

As I said – finished the berries but then decided to make strawberry jam! It is a pretty simple process. I have determined that a gallon freezer bag stuffed full is perfect for a batch. I follow the SureJell package instructions very closely. Critical are the boiling sequence and times. Add pectin and a 1/4 cup of sugar, on high heat, mash and stir at the same time. Once at a full rolling boil, add the remaining 3 – 3/4 cups of sugar and return to a full rolling boil….count slowly to 72 while it boils and remove from the heat. Oh yeah, toss in a tbsp of butter to reduce foaming…….I am not sure it helps but the directions suggest it.

Skim the foam, yes there will be foam. Waste not, want not. My wife loves the foam on top of here egg white and oatmeal frittata. Three tablespoons of quick oats in a small non stick pan, add enough egg white to cover and cook to done. Smear a little strawberry foam on it and enjoy. Remove a jar from the hot water bath and fill to 1/4 inch of the top. Snug up sanitized lids. The process took a little longer as I made 19, 55ml jars, cute little things, and 5 – 7 ounce hex jars. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath and then set aside.

This is not a full rolling boil. There is foam and a few boiling bubbles but not what you are looking for.

Getting close! If it is still bubbling and spattering, even while stirring, you are there.

Processing for 10 minutes.

The finished product ready for labeling. To the right is the yummy foam my wife uses for her frittata.

Next up was prepping two chickens to be cooked “Beer Butt” style on the grill. It takes 75 minutes or so while trying to keep the closed grill temperature at about 350 F.

The final result. In the beer cans was a nice oatmeal stout and a few crushed garlic cloves. I used A rub and garlic salt seasoning.

A quick dinner with a nice quinoa cold salad before heading off to the gym. When I returned I still had the beer to rack over with the reminders of the spots on the kitchen floor still fresh in my ears. Got the beer, a nice Wit beer, racked and the floor mopped – Hun!

It says priming tank but has been put into service as a fermenter due to leaks in my original fermenting bucket.

I think it is bed time now.

TTFN

Bishop

An Early Spring – Maybe

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February 6th was yesterday, bees were hauling in pollen and maybe even nectar. We had a bit of discussion at the Liberty County Beekeeper’s meeting two nights ago concerning pollen and nectar. The discussion; Can you tell if a Bee is hauling in nectar just by how the bee looks? It is very easy to tell if they are bringing pollen but nectar…..that is a different story. Most comments mentioned nectar hauling bees will be coming in “heavy” and rather clumsy and maybe a bit chubbier. That aligns with my observations! Watch the video below and look for chubby clumsy vs. those hauling pollen. This video is from one of my hives shot a few days ago.

I have left a feeder jar on this hive but haven’t used it. This hive had good stores and was heavy so I have just been monitoring. I suspect that there is a nectar source nearby. I hope that the bees don’t build up thinking it is spring and then get hammered by a freeze. Did you see any chubbiness or clumsiness in the slo-mo portion?

A front blew in today so it went from 82 yesterday, to mid forties this afternoon. Certainly puts a pause on Bee activities! So, I prepped a couple of swarm traps today and tackled a task that I had procrastinated on for too long! I have been out of my lip balm for more than a month……..today was the day!

Tube tray loaded and ready to fill. This is my Burt’s Bees clone recipe

First of two batches. 46 tubes filled and then another 38 with 3 tins.

A bowl full of creamy smooth lip balm. If you are Santa’s nice list you may score some!

I managed to squeeze in some beer brewing activity to help fill in the day. Ten days ago I brewed a SMaSH IPA. (Single malt – Marris Otter malt and single hop – Mosaic). The beer should roll in at 5.8% ABV. I racked it over into the secondary fermenter and will dry hop it with a couple ounces of Mosaic. It will be delicious. I may get frisky this weekend and bottle the 4+ gallons of wild Mustang grape wine that is now finished.

Beets, turnips, carrots and strawberries are looking good. I will plant sugar snap peas in a day or two along with some radishes and more carrots. I will pick-up a few buckets of rabbit manure this weekend and scrape out some chicken manure, will let it cool before using it on my lemon tree. That’s how my garden grows.

TTFN

Bishop

Washington on the Brazos

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I started this post over a week ago and then I became distracted. I had a batch of beer to brew, bees needed some attention, a little garden work and some physical therapy exercise got in the way. Let me finish this up as I have several more posts formulating in my scattered brain. FYI, today is January 31, 2019 as a point of reference.

A week ago, January 15th, was a dreary and cloudy day. I woke up early and was in kind of a blue funk. I decided I needed a mental health drive through the countryside. Those mental health drives have me looking for the perfect little piece of ground that would fit my bees, a chicken tractor or three and rows upon rows of raised beds! I had two big cups of coffee in the cup holders, a couple of apples and no planned destination.

The truck seemed to have a destination in mind so I let the small turbo diesel in my Ram 1500 have a loose set of reigns and off we went. As the miles started adding up I saw a sign for the town of Navasota. I love the rolling hills in the area and the area includes some top notch bee suppliers – Bee Weaver and across the invisible fence – R Weaver. I was tempted to swing by the honey tasting room at Bee Weaver but drove past the turn with the truck seemingly to wanting to roll on.

As I took the business route off the main highway toward Navasota I decided the drive was taking me toward, Washington on the Brazos, the birthplace of the Texas Republic. It was midweek, wintertime and a dreary day lent itself to some uncrowded exploration. I was the only guest at the State Park visitor center when I arrived. It turned into a personalized experience. After a 45 minute Texas history lesson in the reproduction Independence Hall I decided to visit the attached homestead farm of the last President of Texas, Anson Jones Barrington Farm. I paid the $5.00 fee and strolled into the farm grounds.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/washington-on-the-brazos

Even though it was a midweek visit, the site was staffed by a young man and woman dressed in period costumes. Both were knowledgeable and great hosts. I should have had them pose for photos……..shame on me!

This is the view from the trail leading away from the parking lot. The farmhouse yard includes the cookhouse, smoke house and the chicken yard. The fields are lined with split rail fences just as would have been used in the 1840’s.

After walking past a tree lined pasture I approached the barn, animal pens and some storage sheds. All the structures are faithful reproductions from the period.

Cotton, corn and cattle were the staples of the time. The Brazos River Valley was an active cotton growing region during this time in Texas history.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/washington-on-the-brazos/barrington-living-history-farm

No Butterball turkeys here. Heritage breed turkeys, chickens, hogs and cattle are found on the farm. Also found on the farm are oxen used to plough/plow the fields in the spring.

Not much growing in the winter garden. Housing for the slaves that lived in the property are on site. I missed the the hog butchering that occurred a couple of weeks earlier. The hog’s hair had been scraped off the carcass and was strewn about the yard and under the work table. Check the website for the farm activities offered throughout the year.

Not a typical southern plantation but more of a family farm. Even though slaves lived onsite, the farm work included every family member. Bunks were used in the upstairs portion of the house. The breezeway style is/was very common in the south to help stifle the heat a bit.

The downstairs interior included two bedrooms, dining area and a sitting room. I was impressed with the attention to period detail. Very well done.

The chicken/duck yard and sturdy coop were well built. There was a pasture located behind the yard with beef cattle, oxen and the requisite longhorn. Longhorns where not really common during the early years of the Texas Republic but thrived after the Civil War with the development of rail and big beef slaughter houses. It is estimated that there were as many 6,000,000 wild longhorns running free in Texas in 1860.

An effort to supply the hide and tallow markets began in Texas shortly after the end of the Civil War. During the war, many longhorns from Texas had been driven into the Southeast (swimming the Mississippi River enroute) where they supplied the field kitchens of the confederate forces.12 Those first drives had taught the Texans that Longhorns could be driven long distances successfully and without much, if any, loss of weight. Having learned that lesson well, enterprising southerners began driving their longhorns north to the railheads at Abilene and Dodge City, where they were loaded onto trains and taken to Chicago and points east to supply leather and tallow (and to a far lesser extent, beef) markets of the wealthier northern states. That was the beginning of the glory years of cowboys and long distance cattle drives. By 1895 it has been estimated that over 10,000,000 head had been driven the length of the Chisholm, Goodnight and other trails from Texas and other southern states to the northern markets. These drives, which lasted in total less than thirty years and were often led by very young cwboys and “vaqueros”, became a part of the romantic western lore as the “legendary cattle drives of the old west.” Many of the more docile animals were also used, before being slaughtered, to pull wagon trains westward.13 

During the memorable cattle drives, those millions of Longhorn bulls, cows, steers, and calves walked north along well worn trails and actually gained weight as they walked, all the while protecting themselves and their calves from predators, swimming rivers, and surviving desert heat and winter snows. The fact that they could not only survive but actually thrive under those conditions is a remarkable testament to the evolutionary advantages these animals had gained.

Excerpt from – http://www.gandgtexaslonghorns.com/history

My next visit will include a big chunk of time in the Texas Star museum located onsite. So much to see here causedme to squander too much time on the farm……….but I am not complaining!

TTFN

Bishop

Fire Cider

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With the New Year comes opportunities to focus on change! Unfortunately the commitments tend to erode rapidly. I began my workout routine commitment two weeks post my arthroscopic knee surgery in early December. I am trying to get a jump start on the hordes that arrive the first week of January every year. I will resist erosion!

Now the commitment to the(my) midsection and general overall health. I intend to drop at least 15% of my body weight by summer……. of 2019! Yes, this year! I see the doctor for my annual wellness check in a couple of weeks and I know he will talk to me about the above mentioned 15% goal! He will probably suggest a little more, LOL.

I have been taking a tablespoonful of organic vinegar and my raw honey on a regular basis. One of our regular honey buyers was picking her order and mentioned “Fire Coder” as a healthy elixir. She swears by it so, I decided to make my own. Read a little below for anticipated health benefits.

https://scdlifestyle.com/2016/03/the-science-of-fire-cider-and-oxymels-for-health-improvement/

I found a good looking recipe that had the components of the elixir she takes. A quick search and I found a recipe that looked perfect.

https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/

My batch…….sadly, it will be 4 weeks in the making so I won’t be able to critique it, but, I ordered a bottle from Mountain Rose Herbs to get started with the regimen prior to mine being ready.

Recipe;

1/2 cup grated ginger root

1/2 cup grated horseradish root

1 medium onion chopped

10 cloves of garlic crushed or minced

2 jalapeños chopped

Zest of one lemon plus the juice

2 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp turmeric- I used 3 tbsp of fresh ground turmeric root

1/4 tsp cayenne

Apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raw honey- added after filtering the mixture at the end of 4 weeks to desired sweetness- may take more than 1/4 cup.

I added the ingredients to a wide mouth quart jar, used the canning jar funnel to reduce my mess, filled the jar with Braggs organic apple cider vinegar leaving enough room to be able to shake and mix the stuff up. I used parchment paper as suggested under the lid. It will prevent the vinegar from attacking the metal jar lid, I will probably buy some plastic lids for mason jars in the future.

Shake daily, store in a dark place, my pantry closet works well. At the end of 4 weeks strain through cheese cloth and wring out the damp clump. Mountain Rose suggests using the squeezed out ingredients in a stir fry.

Take a shot per day and more of sniffles are coming on. I will start a second batch in two weeks to keep the cycle going. Sorry Mountain Rose, but I will be on my own after the store bought bottles used,

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All ingredients except for the organic apple cider vinegar are in the quart jar.

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The canning funnel makes it easier to load the ingredients as well as topping off with the vinegar.

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Showing the head space needed to provide room for the daily shake and agitation.

 

FYI, I haven’t abandoned my garden nor my bees, but the right knee has been killing me so it was cleaned out in early December. I have beets, carrots, radishes and turnips planted. A few Meyer lemons are on the tree and I am abandoning my attempts to grow bananas.

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

Another Hiatus – Ended

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It has been too long between posts so I wanted to let all y’all know that I am still kicking and busy. Well, for a couple of weeks I was busy relaxing in Los Osos California “braving” the chilly 52 degree F mornings as my garden and friends back in Houston were sweltering. Damn, I had to put long sleeves on, slept with the window open under a comforter….wow, I could get used to this. All good things are subject to change….I had to pack up and return to Houston.

Upon my return my cucumbers had succumbed to the heat and the white flies, yes, I knew it would happen. A couple of the tomato plants had also passed away…RIP….But they were making way for an August planting to provide good veggies into the Fall. I will replant!

Cucumbers are going int first. I will load the bed up with compost and plant a couple of varieties. The English cukes did really well this year so more of them and then a bunch of Straight 8 variety. The local honeybees love visiting my Cukes!

JBD_1032

August appears to about normal in term of temperature and maybe a bit more damp than normal so it should be good.

With my tomatoes, I may try an heirloom or two. Get them established while it is warm and hopefully enjoy the cooler temperatures going into the fall. Pink Brandywine and Cherokee Purple will be high on the list.

TTFN

Bishop

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