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Oh Honey!

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One of my hives is booming. A few weeks ago it was honey bound so I cleaned things up, added super and pulled a very full box plus a few more frames – about 56 pounds of a dark amber and very rich honey. Now , several weeks later I pulled a very full box of a nice robust and lighter colored honey.

Honestly, not a lot of difference in flavor! It would be difficult to to do a blind taste test and accurately guess. The other super on this hive is essentially full, but not capped, so I’ll return the spun frames so they can clean them up, divide space to the hive so it ldoesn’t become honey bound, again. The nectar flow is definitely on!

Can you see the difference? Same hive, same location and only a few weeks difference!

Now a short story. I have a swarm trap in the yard, the honey bottles are sitting on it for the photo. I may be getting lucky today!

They are clustering up on the swarm box. Once the short story sorts out I may share how I may have accidentally been the cause! More later.

TTFN

Bishop

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Two More Batches of Jam

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Yesterday was a busy day in the kitchen. I had planned on making a batch of both strawberry and blueberry jams. My wife had decided to do some full week meal prep the same day. Communication on each of our endeavors was, how should I say it, absent. We did manage to get our respective tasks done but I was crowding my timeline to get off to my evening workout at the gym! We were both successful!

Not an advertisement but a graphic visual of the low sugar pectin I have had so much luck and success with.

A short clip at an awkward angle of what a “full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down” looks like! It is a common question of novice Jam/Jelly makers.

The delicious foam scraped off of the jam after removing from the heat. I wonder if there is market for such a thing!

Finished product cooling and waiting for labels. I know, the pink towel really doesn’t lend itself to a quality “Good Housekeeping” type of food photo. I need to brush up on the technique.

I have at least two more batches of Strawberry Jam to make and blackberry season starts this week at Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland at my apiary location!

FYI, I inspected the bees out there yesterday and saw the most beautiful and large blackberries! Yes, just to ensure they were ripe, I sampled a couple before the birds had a chance!

TTFN

Bishop

My Strawberry Jam

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I am about to give away the secret to making my very well received and highly praised, Strawberry Jam. A quote from one of my regular customers, “How can you go back to “Smucker’s” after tasting Bishop’s jam?”

Side Note – I have labeled it preserves in the past but a little research shows that I make jams!

Summary:

1.The differences between jam and preserves are:

2.Jam is made from chopped or crushed fruit.

3.Preserves are made from whole chunks of fruit.

4.Jam contains sugar, pectin, and lemon juice.

5.Preserves are only boiled in sugar.

6.Jam is allowed to jell.

7.Preserves are not jelled in the process of manufacturing.

http://www.differencebetween.net/object/comparisons-of-food-items/difference-between-jam-and-preserves/

It’s not that I do anything out of the ordinary to make my “jams”, other than the fact that every berry in the process is/was hand selected by me! In fact, 75% of the strawberries originate in my garden although I do supplement with strawberries picked, again, by me, at “Wood Duck Farm”, about 25 minutes north of Kingwood. They are grown, as are mine, with no chemicals of any sort.

Laying out some of the tools of the trade. Four cups of sugar minus 1/4 cup mixed with the pectin prior to cooking. I use the Sure Jell pectin for my jams, they are made with 1/3 less sugar than with regular pectin. A spoon to skim the foam and yes I rinse it off after every lick. Green handle magnet to save my pinkies. An 8 ounce ladle…It does help when filling 8 ounce jars. Jar tongs….indispensable for fishing jars out from the boiling hot water just prior to filling. Last but not least, my trusty old, at least 35 years old, canning funnel.

The start of the process; 1/4 cup sugar mixed with pectin and the measured volume of crushed strawberries, just a note here, follow the recipe very darned close!!!!! Too much of the fruit mixture or too little will impact the final results. I use a potato masher to, yes, mash up the fruit, so there are some nice chunks of berry in every jar, a dab of butter to help reduce the foaming. FYI – Not sure if it helps all that much but I can’t argue with the success of the final product.

Follow the recipe; bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, i.e., cannot be stirred down. Note the light pinkish foam around the edges.  Then add remaining sugar – 3 and 3/4 cups, return to full rolling boil for one minute….I just slowly count to 75 and it seems to work for me.

Skim the foam but don’t discard. You have several choices, place in a bowl, refrigerate and use as you would any jam or preserve, or, as my wife does, spread across an egg white & oatmeal frittata, or dig in with a spoon and place directly into your mouth…..my personal favorite!

Ready to can, foam has been skimmed, jars are in a boiling water bath for sanitation purposes, ladle and funnel are ready, magnetic stick finger saver, spoon (recently licked and rinsed properly)….use however you want and the jar lids in a bowl of very hot water to soften the seals.

Grab a hot jar, drain and fill to about 1/4 inch of the topic the jar with the strawberry jam mixture. FYI, there is a tool made to gauge that space but I rarely use it, wipe any excess Jam from rim of the jar, place the lid on and screw the metal band on snuggly.

Once all the jars are filled and sealed, return to the hot water bath, submerge the jars with at least one inch of water covering the jars. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool. If you have done a good job you will hear the lids pop down as the jars cool, indicating s good seal.

Next step, distribute and bring smiles to the faces of the recipients!

TTFN

Bishop

A Return to the Garden

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This morning I caught a 5:40 AM flight from Lafayette, Louisiana back home to Houston. I had a short consulting job……gotta find a way to pay for my hobbies and vices…..landing here in Houston before 7:00 AM. I bought my Goo friend and driver, John, breakfast as his “Uber driver” payment for bringing me home. I was back home in the garden by 8:20 AM.

The strawberries are slowing down but the pole beans, both green and purple, are really kicking in! Here is the haul on the first pass! A token yellow squash was also discovered. On my next trip out I will pick a bucket full of sugar snap peas and an armful of Swiss Chard. The peas will give way to cucumber plants over the weekend. Side note; I have so much Chard that I can’t give it all away… the chickens at one of my apiary locations nearby happily accept every armful!!! Somehow I have earned the label – “The Chicken Whisperer” at this location. They all seem to love my visits!

FYI, I only planted one mound of squash. I have not had much luck with summer squashes in the past but it looks promising this year!

TTFN

Bishop

Topbar Hive and More Bee Stuff

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Thursday, April 19th, I made a quick run to feed the new bees in my bee yards- Apiaries. Feels a bit odd to say Apiaries, but I guess with 17 hives spread out in a couple of areas I really do have several Apiaries!

I installed a 3 pound package of bees into one of the topbar hives on April 8th. I purchased three topbar hives, 2 full sized and one about 2/3 size, with a nice square of cut honeycomb. They were already located at the berry farm and just needed a little clean up. Pretty good deal I do believe.

In order to speed up the growth of the colony inside the box I added some already drawn comb attached to some extra bars. One, was a piece that broke out of a frame from a Langstroth box. It was dark and obviously had been used to raise brood.

The wax hangs on bent pieces of wire screen.

I had a couple of pieces of virgin white comb that my bees in another location had built in the wrong place last week. I cut it off and attached it to a bar for the girls.

Adding already drawn comb also encourages the bees to draw their comb on the other bars in the manner that the beekeeper desires! I did find one bar with some cross combing, but it was minor.

Bars back in place and ready for the top cover.

The apiary a month ago. There now, two more Langstroth boxes, for a total of 4 active hives at the berry farm apiary. Two of the topbar boxes are waiting for me to round up a swarm or two.

I wandered through the blueberry patch on my way out to the highway. I snacked on a few but it will be at least a week before the berries are ready to “commercially” pick. The early ones are very tasty!

I may begin an early harvest of honey from a couple of very strong boxes in the next couple of weeks. Yum!

TTFN

Bishop

Benefits of a Cool Spring

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Spring of 2018 here in the Houston area has been cool and reasonably wet. Good for my garden and also for the flowers and plants that the bees forage upon.

I got started late on my sugar snap peas…. actually I started too early and our January freezes did them in. So, I had to replant! It is unusual to be harvesting the sugar snaps and green beans at the same time. The green beans are just beginning to produce and they do love the warmer weather soon to come!

A nice big handful of sugar snap peas. This photo is just the survivors of the trip from the garden to the kitchen. I love to snack on them while I wander through the garden.

My Swiss Chard is also enjoying the pleasant spring weather.

Swiss Chard behind the strawberries. So easy to grow here in Houston and prolific!

My Meyer Lemon tree has been a casualty of the winter freezes. I was optimistic when I saw new growth and a number of blossoms a few weeks ago. Unfortunately no fruit has set!

Forecast is favorable for at least the next 10 days….. relatively cool and a little rain. More sugar snaps, Chard, green beans, strawberries and the last of the beets!

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

There Must Have Been a Reason!

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Wednesday, April 11th, my bride and I drove over to Lake Charles, Louisiana. We enjoyed a few beers at two breweries, lost a little money at one of the casinos with the intent of picking up bees early the next morning.

Early, early Thursday morning, I drove over to Jennings, LA, a short 40 minute drive from the hotel in Lake Charles, to pick-up 6 NUC’s. The pick-up went very smooth and I was back at the hotel to pick-up my wife by 7:40 AM. She was still snoozing!!!! 8:00 AM wake-up for her, breakfast and on the road by 9ish…..

Returned to Kingwood just a little before noon and now……time to install the bees. My Goo friend John……long story, went along for the ride. I was well prepared for the work. I had feeder buckets ready to install in the hives that I set-up a week ago, and……yes, I forget to put the buckets in the truck! I did bring the lids! Not much good with out the buckets!

I also made up 6 jars of sugar water for the entrance feeders on the new NUC’s…. and…… yes I left them sitting next to the back door. I set them there so I wouldn’t forget. Hmmmm, didn’t work out so well.

So now it is Friday, a storm is on the way and I had a meeting with a client on the west side of Houston early this morning! Meeting went well and now an hour drive back to Kingwood. Change clothes and…..

Ok, I remembered to load the materials and off I went into the wind and minor precipitation. First stop!

A big wad of bees, a swarm, sitting on the ground, 25 feet from one of my “empty” hive boxes! Yee haw. I positioned the empty box, fortuitous, on the board adjacent to the bees and started scooping. Around scoop 5 or 6 the bees started migrating toward the box. Success!

About 25 minutes later it looks like they are happy with their new home! If the storm had caught them out on the ground like they were when I found them, it could have scattered them or worse. My poor memory may have, at least this time, been beneficial!

If they stick around I will be managing 17 colonies. So much for being retired! Not that I really want to “fully” retire!

I put all the feeders in place and then went on up to Blakelock’s Berries in Grangerland. There are now 4 boxes of bees up at Paul’s place. The blueberries need pollination help! Paul’s plants are young but they are loaded! I did wander over to check! It is amazing to see how big they swell up when ripe! Paul, I did sample a couple as a taste test. Thumbs up!

The plants are loaded!

In a week or 10 days from now the picking will be amazing!

The Natchez blackberries are looking good too! Paul has 3 varieties which leads a long picking season.

Tons of blossoms all the way through the fields. I am looking forward to picking season!

The day, and I guess everyday upon reflection, is the way it is for a reason. The reason may not always be so obvious!

TTFN

Bishop

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