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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

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Bees, Berries and Backyards

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Yesterday, Saturday the 7th of April, I drove over to Navasota to pick up 4 packages of bees from R Weaver Apiaries. Saturday was an unseasonably cool and misty day. Surprisingly it was 72 when I left the house in Kingwood and a brisk and damp 52 after the 75 mile drive through the oncoming cold front. I made a decision to wait and hive up the bees on Sunday.

Well, Sunday was a very brisk 44 and prospects for the high at 3:00 was only 55 or so. I waited until 1:30 in the afternoon and drove up to the berry farm. The process went very smooth.

I put the first package into one of the topbar hives. I decided to not shake out the bees and just allow them to migrate on their own.

The package box is leaning against the side with the queen attached to one of the bars. This is a bare hive box and the bees will set about drawing comb for the queen.

Here is her majesty in her cage. The bottom end of the cage has a candy plug. I poked a hole through it with a finishing nail. The girls should have it consumed and releasing the queen in about 3 days.

The second package went into a 10 frame Langstroth hive. Super smooth installation.

The package lying on its side, a can of sugar water is shipped with the package. Once they empty it in a couple of days then I’ll add a feeder. I’m lucky in that I have a full box of drawn comb and that will accelerate the growth of the colony.

The blueberries are plumping up out at Blakelock’s Berries. With our cool weather it may still be 10-14 days before they are ready to pick.

The clumps of berries look so good. If they ripen together it will be easy pickings. The adjacent blackberry patch is loaded with blossoms!

The berry farm was now complete and I headed off to hive a package in a big Kingwood backyard. This yard also holds a very strong Langstroth and a good topbar hive. The big Langstroth is booming, I had to add another super Friday and it was probably a week or more over due! Again, the process went smoothly.

Now over to Mike’s smaller backyard to fill his 8 frame Langstroth. My friend Mike, watched from a short distance away and I was a little distracted. Mike is a talker! I almost forgot to pull the cork and put a hole in the candy plug. Where was my Goo Friend John to keep me focused? Florida, hope you are having fun! FYI John – I was 4 for 4 but….it was close!

Now, Thursday, I pick up 6 NUC’s and will spend Thursday afternoon getting them situated. This could be a very sweet year!

TTFN

Bishop

Garden Macro

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A few macro looks at stuff in the garden.

I have a little sugar water feeder in my backyard to attract neighborhood bees. Who knows, maybe word will get out and I will get some scout bees looking for a home in my swarm trap nearby!

Yum!!!! Strawberry season is kicking in. I have about 100 plants, about 1/3 newly planted so they won’t produce much. Love watching them mature and ripen up!

I put in some 2-3 year old blueberry plants in this winter. Looks like I may wind up with enough for a snack or two from my Backyard Garden.

JBD_1952

Blue Lake pole bean plant wending its way skyward. It is fascinating to see how the vines grab and wrap themselves in a ……….. I tried to google the direction question about the pole beans and became confused…….mine all seem to grab and twist to the right….is that counter-clockwise? I think it is!

JBD_1938

Signs of life. My Meyer Lemon tree was very hard hit by the winter’s extended freeze her in Houston. Over the past several weeks it began to leaf out. Closer inspection yesterday shows a handful of blossoms emerging. I do think it will survive! Yee Haw.

TTFN

Bishop

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.

https://www.facebook.com/blakelocksberries/IMG_4526

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

Lots of Blueberries

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Yesterday, June 11th, was the day after the opening of Moorhead’ Blueberry Farm. The crowd was very large and traffic in and out was a zoo…..we learned a lesson, the smart people park outside the gate along the road….it is just a short walk in! I have been wanting to go gather blueberries at this farm for several years now but life seems to get in the way. Swim meets, soccer games, vacation, chores or the dreaded disease of age, CRS. (can’t remember shtuff).

http://www.moorheadsblueberryfarm.com/

On, Friday my “Goo” friend John and I had – (I just discovered an interesting tidbit, the difference between friend and fiend is a missing “R”) – Now back to the story. John and I had gone to inspect a house with bees in the wall. Structural cutouts are not my thing but the gentle man that called me to recue bees from a storm downed tree at his machine shop called me to help a friend. The owner of the house is an amazing creature lover, refusing to kill any insects. He wanted someone to safely relocate the bees.

The job was well out of my expertise, so I decided to decline. I knew the people in the house, the home owner’s daughter and children were anxious, as the bees had also found access to the babies bedroom…..just a few but disconcerting for the mother.  I knew two people that are “one with bees” to refer the owner to. One of them was booked for weeks the other, I leaned on him a bit, and he took the job as an emergency job.  I will share the full story later….I am going over to help/observe the removal in a couple of days.

On the return trip John and I wandered by a mutual friend’s house, one that is hosting one of my hives. He and his wife had just returned from the opening day of picking blueberries at Moorhead Blueberry Farm. Mike and Anette had 35 pounds of blueberries spread out to do the culling and drying before bagging and freezing. That piqued my interest as well as John’s. We decided to go on a berry picking adventure the next day. The wheels were turning and plans were being made. Mike and Annette suggested going early, they arrived at 7:00 AM and people were already leaving loaded down with bags of plump and ripe berries.

We didn’t take the advice to arrive early, but managed to gather three full buckets in a relatively short time. Entering and parking around 8:45 in the morning was very congested, thus the recommendation to park out on the road. John grabbed a small bucket, he put 6 + pounds into it. Kathy and I went big and each of our buckets ultimately held over 12 pounds of berries. Note for berry pickers; bring a couple of small towels. The buckets have a cord that hangs the bucket around your neck….one towel will provide cushioning and the other to wipe hands, sweaty brow and whatever else.

 

Berries 1

Two 12 pound buckets and a 6.5 pound bucket of plump and seet berries.

Berries 2

Kathy and John showing the fruits of our labor. We finished just before the rain hit.

Arriving home, we spread berries out in single layers on butcher paper to dry as we sorted them before bagging. Kathy over-filled 8 small freezer bags, labeled pint size, but they hold much more than that. I made two batches of jam, 10 cups of berries in each batch and we still have a bowl to eat fresh. YUM!

Berries 3

Some of the many iterations of sorting and drying before bagging. In the background are some jars of wild plum jelly.

The first batch was straight up blueberry jam made with SureJell light….less sugar, only 4 ½ cups per batch. The result was 10 half pint jars. The second batch, also made with less sugar plus a vanilla bean steeped in the hot and boiling jam. FYI, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean before using. In the future I may experiment with vanilla extract – vanilla beans are too friggin’ expensive.  The Vanilla Bean version made 4 pint jars and 2 half pint jars….identical yields…… and so very sweet!

Jam 1

1o half pint jars of wonderful and sweet blueberry jam.

Now, plan a blackberry picking trip!

TTFN

Early March Gardening

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Back into the garden today… wet and sloppy but I put my poorboy topsy turvy style tomato planters together. I bought two determinate patio style plants, cheap two dollar buckets and a left over bag of potting soil. The plant hanger is a bit wobbly so I will need to stiffen it up or secure it better.

I will provide some updates as the season progresses. I shot a picture of one of my mixed beds. The Swiss Chard is doing well and the Romaine is really starting to get big. The garlic is looking good but I have never been able to get good bulbs here in the Houston area.

What isn't seen is a few spindly spears from the asparagus crowns I put in last fall. I have heard they can grow here and do fairly well. I see three of the 4 crowns have put a spear up. The new blueberry plants are leafing out now. The new June bearing strawberries are taking hold so it should be a good berry season. Some of the ever bearing plants already have berries. The buds are swelling on the blackberries so I will soon see if I managed the canes properly last summer and fall.

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