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Sweet Variations

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It is honey season right now! Let me back up just a little, based on my March hive inspections I was anticipating a stellar season. I had nectar coming in and over the next couple of weeks I added honey supers. Some hives went up to two and several went to three. Mother Nature had different plans. April turned out to a a dry month…..bees were bringing in lots of pollen but upon a late April inspection it was like the taps shut off.

The inspections showed a lot of nectar, boxes were heavy but little, if any frames were being capped. In some cases the additional top supers were untouched. I adjusted to make sure I didn’t give too much room for the bees to defend against the small hive beetles. I put out a posting to my customers who were patiently waiting for their doses of local honey…..I hung my head and asked them to wait a little longer.

The rain began to pickup in early May. By the day of the third week of May I decided to see how much it had helped. Great progress on getting nectar dry and capped in many cases. The top supers were heavy with nectar but mostly uncapped. The local area Tallow tree flow was on and I felt better! I wound up with a pretty good haul from three locations.

Three locations, the darker honey is 12-14 miles from the location of the middle honey. The lightest honey is almost 20 miles from the darker honey and 6 miles due East of the middle location.

I bottle by the postal zip code in which the apiaries are located. I has it’s pluses and also drawbacks. The health benefits are pretty much identical but some folks have been hooked by the “hyper-local” concept. I aim to please and we, my sales manager wife and I, try to do our best to meet expectations. I still have two locations a little further north and east to be harvested in the next day or two……dodging thunderstorms now…..and the bees get a little pissy sometimes when inclement weather coincides with a planned visit.

Rainy days are good for me to make my creamed honeys, plain and with cinnamon……so good. It takes a little time but those that have tried it love it. During the off and on rains I place the extracted frames out in my garden and miles away from my hives for the local population to clean up!

The girls do a great job cleaning up the comb. I freeze it for a couple of days and may cycle some of the frames back into strong hives for a refill. Comb already drawn out accelerates the process.

TTFN

Bishop

Snow in Houston Means Banana Harvest Time!

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I was holding off until it got cold before harvesting!( code for “round tuit”)!

https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/round_tuit

Well the snowfall in Houston last night convinced me it must be time to harvest, albeit – at least a day late!

Three bunches of the Manzano variety and two bunches of the Burro(chunky banana). Brought a few hands into the house to ripen and the rest are stored in the garage for the time being!

Early this morning. Just putting a little chill on the bananas.

The harvest.

Fingers crossed I will have enough ripening to make some banana jam!

TTFN

Bishop

The Garden Is Still There

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For whatever reason, I can come up with too many to list, I just haven’t written much about the garden in the past year or so. It does not mean that I am not active in the garden, in fact, up until a week ago I was buried with cucumbers! Then, the heat and white flies took their toll! The banana plants are growing like crazy but no hint of fruit……yet. They need 14-15 frost free months…..oops….fingers crossed for a mild winter. Looking at March of 2018……..

Tomatoes have finally bit the dust but a couple are hanging around……Yanked most of the vines out last week. Spread mulch and soon…..finished compost from my bins. I just planted some fall Irish Potatoes……only need 110 days or so….should be no trouble.

My Scarlet beans are still climbing skyward, soon to be replaced with Blue Lake….my favorite. Half of my strawberry plants are kicking butt, but, the half that was heavily shaded by the voraciously growing cucumbers look a little pathetic. Gotta give them some love!

I potted up 5 pineapple plants so I can shield them from potential freezes…..I didn’t do so well with those left in the ground last year. I really, really, really want to eat a homegrown pineapple! At the same time I potted up 3 Manazano banana plants…..it is a chore to stay ahead of the new growth that pulls nutrients away from the main stalks. The trimmed banana leave do make excellent mulch…….and they cover a lot of surface area….weed killer deluxe.

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Five pineapple plants, two are over a year old the other three are from early summer.

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One fat stalk and two smaller Manzano banana plants.

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Ok, not easy to see, but I have 6 potholes dug with cut pieces of potato buried……just waiting for some shoots to emerge.

Bees, yes I still have them – down to 12 hives……one became weak and I combined it with a stronger hive and wow, it is booming. I have work to do this week, three hives are overflowing with bees and I need to put a plan together……splits?, NUC’s?, or? The summer dearth is here so I am feeding the bees until the Fall flow…..Goldenrod is the mainstay but will have to see what else adds to the Fall nectar flow.

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This is the swarm I trapped in my backyard over the May weekend when my son Ben was married. I replaced the queen a several weeks ago and added a second brood box today… the new queen is really doing well.

Ok, enough for now…..more garden clean-up, sweat soaked shirts and bee business for the remainder of the week.

TTFN

Bishop

“Maters” and Bees

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The garden is pretty quiet right now. I have a potted Juliet tomato that just keeps on producing, a few pole beans from a volunteer Kentucky Blue wonder variety and now the carrots and beets are popping up. Oh yes, and a large bunch of Burro bananas – hopefully it will be another mild winter and they will fully mature.

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About every other day I pick a handful just like this….picked these on November 22nd! The plant is still loaded.

Now for the bees. I visited my remaining topbar hive yesterday. Nice sunny day and warm enough to open it up. This hive is the remnant of the colony I rescued over a year ago from a downed tree near downtown Houston. They split themselves several times, I split out a queen cell and a few frames into another topbar, robbed a queen cell for a queenless Langstroth  hive and harvested about 4 bars of honey from the original. They have been gentle and prolific.

I last opened this hive in early October and they had pulled comb back to about the 18th bar. I had intended to move the divider up and shrink the hive for winter but was then distracted and didn’t return. Now, on November 22nd I open it up and they have pulled comb back to about bar 24. Nothing put away at the back end but nice looking comb. I brought six empty bars and intended to remove any empty comb as I slid the divider forward. In hindsight I could have pulled 10 bars of drawn comb…..next time.

I worked my way up into the front third before finding brood. Some pretty good honey stores but lighter than I want so I am still giving them a little heavy syrup until it becomes too cold.

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Nice looking bar….

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A little closer look. About what I would expect for this time of the year.

 

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Son Joe getting a lesson on lighting the smoker.

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Joe, keeping his distance as I start the inspection.

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Ashleigh doing the selfie thing with Joe and myself geared up and ready to go.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Los Osos Corner Plot

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Los Osos, a little town near Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, is gardener’s paradise. It has that Goldilocks weather, not too hot and not too cold, it is just right. The soil may be a bit on the sandy side but add some compost and it will drain well and produce amazing crops.

I have been wanting stop and look at the corner lot in town near my mother’s place for several years and finally decided to stop and look. It looks a lot like my hair on a windy day, disheveled yet remnants of a part still visible. There is obviously a plan but the owner of the plot, I am sure, never worried about staying in the lines while coloring.

Cool weather crops can pretty much be grown here round and warm weather crops benefit from the warm sun and soil after the morning fog rolls back. By stopping and looking, I noticed his “girls” in the fenced run at the far side of the garden. Looks like 8-10 well feathered hens of various colors and varieties. I am certain that they produce some tasty and beautiful eggs.

Buying a lot in Los Osos to vegetable garden would probably not payout in several lifetimes. Unless, of course, it was inherited from way back when they were begging people to buy lots there in the 60’s and possibly earlier. I have tried to talk my mom into allowing me to put in some edible borders at her place but I haven’t convinced her yet. Yes, the cost of water in this extended drought they have been facing is a real concern, we could use drip irrigation. Whaddya say Mom?

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.

Looking back toward the street .

Looking back toward the street .

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!

I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!

 

TTFN

Bishop

Farmer Kathy

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In my line of work – the work that pays the bills – I am sometimes forced into that “make hay while the sun shines” mode….I am in the midst of one of those modes.  About 7 straight weeks of United Airlines seats and connections – I am still longing for Continental Airlines service because it disappeared at the merger – hotel beds, cardboard tomatoes,  Avis rental cars and an occasional bit tongue when dealing with my clients.

I am fortunate to have” Farmer Kathy” at home while I am away. Now, she does not necessarily have my level of passion for the garden but she seems to love me enough to take on most of the farmer duties. She waters, she pulls weeds – in this task she may exceed my attention to detail, thanks Hun – she gladly harvests the goodies….this morning( June 6th)  she told me about all of the blackberries she picked, many eaten on the spot – I was hoping some would make it to the freezer for my jam making efforts. She noted that the strawberry harvest is slowing down but the Sequoia plants in a bed near the back door are setting fruit! The tomatoes…. the slicing ones are overwhelming our needs and will need to be shared! Many of the cherry tomatoes succumb to the same fate many of the blackberries encounter…..immediate onsite consumption…..I can’t say as I blame her……..Farmer Bishop behaves in pretty much the same way.

A view of my garden taken about three weeks ago – just a reminder of what I am missing!

Coming up soon is a period of 8 0r 10 days when the Decker farmers will be on Holiday….Hopefully we can draft Lizzie and her young son Caleb who live just down thw street to swing by to harvest a little and apply a bit of water as needed. Daughter Lisa lives nearby and loves sliced cucumbers tossed with seasoned rice wine vinegar and sea salt…..I will see if I can trade some of her time for cucumbers!

I wanted to install a webcam so I could watch my lovelies out in the garden on my trips away but have run out of time…I may not have been able to convince the CFO, also known as Farmer Kathy, also known as my wife – that the camera is a necessary expenditure. Hmmmmm, I have been known to buy some things without consultation in the past and slept on the couch as my wounds healed….. Could it be worth it is the question I need to ask????????

TTFN

Bishop

 

Longing For Dirty Hands

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I am away from the garden since Tuesday morning… My only interaction has been to follow the weather reports to see how the plants and beds have been treated in my absence. Well, the reports indicate that we continue to have a spring like winter in Houston so all is well. I am fortunate to have a wife and partner in life that understands my love of the garden. She will peek over the gate and will sprinkle some water if things look too dry and I thank her for that. She will also snack on the berries when they are producing……her snacking sometimes diminishes the harvest available for my jam and jelly endeavors. It really is a small price to pay for her continued support.

When l get on the plane tomorrow at 6:00 AM in Grand Junction, Colorado, I will be on my way to getting my hands dirty again…..Yes I can wait but it sure is tough!

Note to wife, Grand Junction is becoming well known as a wine growing region as well as for their wonderful peaches….Lots of beautiful mountains nearby, rivers, lakes and forest…I could probably grow a nice garden/orchard here and we could have 4 seasons not the 1.5 seasons that we have in Houston….Just a thought Hun!
TTFN
Bishop

Halloween Garden Gnome

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Halloween Garden Gnome

My fall garden is guaranteed to be a success! I found this young garden Gnome in my front yard and I think I have him convinced to stay for the winter – at least! I promised to feed him, send him to school, since he is still so young – 400 years old in Gnome years which is like – 16 in people years, and provide transportation as needed. I know he likes the environment….he ate all of the green beans I picked this morning – just plain and raw.

He seems to have a lot of energy but that may be a good thing. I will see if he can patrol the garden at night or at least up to his curfew! Last night the garden was raided by either the racoon or the possum! I’m pretty sure it was the racoon as one of the newly planted broccoli transplants was neatly dug out and just plain GONE!

I will update all y’all in the near future on how well my Gnome is working out! I hope we get to arrest the broccoli thief soon.

TTFN
Bishop

Returning Home From Midland

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The Right Side is the Sunnier Side
Left side gets winter shade.

I returned Friday morning from a week in Midland Texas. Kathy kept the thirsty guys and gals in the beds well watered. We finally got some rain Thursday – not nearly enough to put a dent into the drought but it was a good soaking rain. I used my iPhone to shoot the two pictures shown. Not bad for an early generation iPhone…. I havent upgraded yet.

At the entrance on the left side my “volunteer” cucumber plants have been rewarding me nicely. I picked two very nice cukes for my salads and another 6 or so are maturing nicely. The green beans are doing well and I gathered about 3 handfuls. As you can see on the front right… the sugar snap peas are just reaching up to grab the twine. The bush cucumbers, back right, are beginning to produce little cukes but the weather may not let them become full-sized. Also in the right side beds are some radishes – I picked a few yesterday to go with the salads.
The butter crunch lettuce doesn’t seem to want to germinate so I reseeded two rows Friday AM…. hopefully the cool temperatures will help out. The kale has really taken off and the white onion sets put out a week ago are reaching skyward. I need to share a few  sets with my buddy John this week along with some of the extra garlic.  I also transplanted some broccoli today. The plants looked really healthy and they should do well.
I should be getting my strawberry plants week after next. I have 150 coming. 48 of them will be used to fill my vertical PVC towers, 24 per tower.  I am anxious to see how well they do in the towers. I will feature the strawberry plantings in a future rambling.
I am still waiting to see if the tomatoes will break color before the temperatures put a halt to their ripening.  It will be sunny and slightly warmer for the next 7 days and beyond!!!! So, fingers crossed, I will get some home-grown fall tomatoes.
TTFN
Bishop

Before and After – Ready for the Fall Season

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Well it has been brutal working in the garden, adding the extra touches and prepping for my fall growing season. As always I will be experimenting a little – it is all about learning.

When we returned from vacation the gourds and the indeterminate tomatoes had gone wild. There was not a clear and easy path down through the middle of my two biggest beds. Then there was the ankle biting Bermuda grass. You know, Bermuda grass is not so bad when you want it for your lawn, but in a vegetable bed…. it is insidious! I had tried to mulch the Bermuda out but it is just amazing how it can find a little light and burst out. I promise, scouts honor, to not let it get ahead of me this year. Yes, I was a Boy Scout…..not like my nephews that made Eagle Scout – congratulations Wesley and Wade, but I did make about 12 merit badges.

I recently scared off a potential convert. I had been negotiating with my friend John to add a 4X4 bed to his existing 4X4 raised bed. Once he saw my jungle at the end of July and followed my efforts to reclaim/re-tame my plot he backed off. I think we can get him to do another 4X4 – walk before we run.

So, the experiments; I planted tomatoes in August in order to get another bountiful blessing before first frost. The Carmello variety is setting some nice big flowers that may bear fruit. The jury is out on the others. The pole beans are climbing like crazy so I am optimistic for them. The Serrano Pepper plant is loaded with blossoms – 100’s. They just need to set. After solarizing my problem bed for 5+ weeks, I pulled the plastic off a couple of days ago and have begun planting it. I am trying Bush Cucumbers, Swiss Chard (always does well), the first of some staggered lantings for my beet rows, sugar snap peas and I will get some carrots going this weekend. I will continue to stagger plant beets and carrots about every 3 weeks. I have a couple of recently planted squash plants that have not shown signs of distress so I am hopeful. Lettuce will come in another few weeks. I have 150 strawberry plants being shipped the first week of November. I had very few survive this brutal summer.

I also poured a walkway down through the middle of my large beds. I used one of those forms that looks like irregular stones .Kathy wondered why I was pouring during the 105 deg weather and not waiting until December. I didn’t have a good answer other than I just wanted to get it done!  I think it looks good and should keep the mud away…..if it ever rains again. We are over 20 inches behind.

Here is a link to a cool site for backyard farming;

http://www.homefarming.com/

Look for another installment in a couple of weeks.

TTFN

Bishop

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