Home

Playing in the Rain and in the Garden

4 Comments

I do believe that I am a 6 year old trapped in the body of a 63 year old man. We have had a couple of good downpours today – I wish I could send some to my California friends – mixed with gentle sprinkles. During one of the misty lulls I went out to the garden inspect and snack….

Inspecting how the bees were doing, I am happy to report that they are doing very well. Here is where the curiosities of a 6 year old kick in. I stand off to the side of the take off and landing pattern. I marvel at the roles visible at the entrance….some bees just hang out there as guard bees preventing “robbers” from getting in and fanning at the entrance to help maintain proper hive temperature. The others that were zooming in and out are the foragers, the last period of a worker bee’s life. They are on a mission! When they arrive at the entrance from a foraging flight, it is all business and they disappear inside immediately. The foragers departing don’t display quite the same sense of urgency…. some wander around for a few moments…possibly checking out the proposed flight plan and then off they go. Others, the hesitation is very brief and then off they go. I feel such a sense of wonder, almost mesmerized, as I watch the choreographed activity!

If you haven’t had the opportunity, follow a 3-6 year old child as they wander around outside. Watch to see what they find fascinating and attempt to see it through there eyes….some amazing things are taken for granted in this natural world around us….never lose the ability to see and appreciate the simple wonders around you.

Post rain - the bees are slowly beginning to forage and defend the entrance.

Post rain – the bees are slowly beginning to forage and defend the entrance.

Snacks…My Juliet tomatoes are such a sweet snack. I picked a large number of the little cherry tomatoes and have about a dozen or more of the Juliets ready to be picked for the kitchen. Post rain they are so picturesque! Beads of rainwater still clinging to their skins and begging to be picked and consumed. Who am I to argue! Several found their way into my mouth!

Small, probably 2 ounces, but prolific and tolerant of the Houston heat and humidity.

Small, probably 2 ounces, but prolific and tolerant of the Houston heat and humidity.

Going vertical….Cucumbers and yes, even watermelons. My pickling cucumbers succumbed to the nasty white flies….the Lady Bug beetles were working hard but not enough to keep them in check. I still have Straight Eight and Armenian type growing and beginning to develop fruit.

An Armenian Cuke developing.

An Armenian Cuke developing.

I am growing a variety of small watermelons. A refrigerator  type and growing them vertically. As the fruit develops I will have to hang a sling to keep them up off of the ground…..I can’t wait. In the background is a banana plant that should bear fruit next year. I met a Mexican worker on a pipeline job that I am supporting that gave me the corms. He grows many varieties of bananas in his yard south of Houston. It is an apple banana, Manzano Banana tree! Looking forward to harvesting!

A developing melon. Full sized will be just a bit smaller than a volleyball.

A developing melon. Full sized will be just a bit smaller than a volleyball.

The vertical climbing vines with the banana tree in the background.

The vertical climbing vines with the banana tree in the background.

I finally got a “round to it” handed to me concerning my worm farm. We have all used that phrase I am sure….”Yeah, I’ll get a round to it.” – But we never do…..I had a coworker who had a bunch made up – they look like wooden nickels and he hands them out to procrastinators…..I received one…what does that tell you about me? Yes, I fit the description! I harvested at least 10 pounds of wet worm poop and made several gallons of diluted worm poop tea! After spreading the gathered goodies I heard some “oohs” and “ahs” as the garden absorbed the delicious feeding!

TTFN

Bishop

Strawberries for my Birthday

2 Comments

This morning I woke up on the green side of the earth rather than the under side……That was a good thing and made even better with a handful of fresh picked strawberries – <strong>Yee Haw</strong> – the strawberry harvest has started. I picked a nice handful of red, ripe, sweet berries. Once in hand the self-talk started. Should I share them? Should I eat every one of them before I get into the house? A bit of a dilemma for me.

I didn’t share-(sorry Kathy) and I didn’t eat every one of them. The very best berries found their way into my mouth and several others started the frozen package being accumulated for the jam making later this spring. There is something so very special about berries picked at the peak of their flavor. That first berry I bit into caused a wonderful flood of true strawberry flavor and my mouth was overjoyed.

A handful of Birthday Berries for me!

A handful of Birthday Berries for me!

A healthy berry bed....more berries on the way!

A healthy berry bed….more berries on the way!

While wandering through the garden on this beautiful birthday morning I found a few early stalks of asparagus….Not enough to save for anyone other than the birthday boy. If you have never had asparagus picked and savored the freshest, you are missing the sweetness that is missing from commercially farmed and shipped from who knows where asparagus.

My lemon tree is showing signs of blossoming soon. I can’t think of a flower blossom that is any more intoxicating than that of citrus. It is amazing how some scents and aromas can cause flashback memories. When my lemon tree blooms I am always transported to a late night motorcycle ride from UCLA down Sunset Blvd., to Will Rogers beach. That cool night ride took us through what used to be extensive citrus orchards before the land was converted to homes and estates. Fortunately many of the home owners kept the citrus trees, helping to fill the air the night with that intoxicating citrus blossom scent…..I said <strong>intoxicating</strong> before didn’t I! Let me dive into the Thesaurus! Intoxicating is a good word for the scent filled night air but…..there could be a stronger word or something better able to convey the sweet olfactory assault that created the enduring memory!

How about “enthralling” – no, doesn’t capture the feeling/memory/brain recalled sensation. “stimulating” – not quite strong enough either. “Enchanting” – close. “ Exhilarating” – needs a little more to meet up with the sensations and emotions connected to the sensory memory . I’ll have to wave the white flag and give up on finding the perfect word….I will take any suggestions – English majors preferred! Just trust me…..it was an amazing memory.

The garden is shaping up nicely; onions, strawberries, snap peas, asparagus, beets, turnips and yes, tomatoes are in the ground and putting down roots. I’m another day older and the garden is entering the new growing season….It may sound trite but I feel renewed….not older – just entering a new phase…. TTFN Bishop

Backyard Farm – December Notes on Christmas Morning

2 Comments

My postings for the past couple of months have slowed a little but I have tended to some of the chores!
• Spreading compost from the bin on the right and turning the bin on the left.
• Son Ben did a fantastic job adding gravel around the edges. Looks great! An early and well appreciated Christmas gift.
• Turned ad prepped the bed for potato planting.
• Cut back the Asparagus ferns and added a layer of compost and leaf mulch. Gotta love Houston, two days ago I noticed several young shoots about 6 inches above the mulch…my reward for taking care of the bed. NOW GO TO SLEEP DANG NABBIT!
• Carrots and sugar snap peas have emerged from the late fall plantings.
• Planted 6 Blueberry plants and 8 replacement bare root blackberry plants – Ben was a little overzealous when he added a pvc irrigation line in the blackberry bed. We had a good laugh!
• Planted more Chard and Beet seeds yesterday as well as some red onion seeds in the front portion of the potato bed.

December 4th I ate my first ripe strawberry – way too early, it was kinda small and misshapen but it was sweet! Inspection yesterday showed numerous blossoms and a few dozen green berries trying to fill out. It may be another stellar strawberry year and maybe, just maybe a few more jars of jam to share.

One of several confused strawberries. This was the little one I ate! Yum

One of several confused strawberries. This was the little one I ate! Yum

TTFN & Merry Christmas – share something wonderful with those you love!

Bishop

My Falling Into Fall Efforts

2 Comments

I haven’t written much lately about the backyard garden but it has been slowly morphing into a winter garden. I harvested the last cucumbers two weeks ago because I knew that the Houston winter temperatures were coming. On the vines were a few edible and nearly a dozen immature cukes that became worm food.  The sweet potato vines finally showed their dislike for anything below 50 degrees F. They weren’t grown for tubers this year, but they did provide great ground cover. I found a couple of nice sized tubers and a bunch that were restricted by the heavy soil to  elongated sausage looking things. The dying tomatoes were pulled up along with the Poblano pepper plants.

I left the Serrano peppers in as the plant is still setting fruit. I made a batch of Serrano  Pepper jelly last week and may make another batch soon. This week I also made a couple of pints of lemon curd from my Meyer Lemon tree. What an amazingly rich treat – 4 very big lemons, 2 cups of lemon juice, at least 2/3 cup of zest, 12 egg yolks, two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar… I am afraid to calculate the calories per teaspoon! I will send a jar to my granddaughter – she loves it!

Over the past two weeks I pulled about 2 large wheel barrow loads of compost out of my bins to amend the beds. I fed a bunch to the asparagus bed hoping to get it producing better during this next spring. I added a bunch to a section of the beds that I have designated as the carrot patch. That same bed is also home to my sugar snap peas – hopefully this planting of peas will be the one that produces. I tried on two previous efforts to get them to sprout and the cool weather never showed up. They don’t like warm weather! I hope I didn’t miss the weather window!

Some of my strawberry plants are confused. Weeks ago I had a number of them blossom and I plucked the blossoms off. After traveling and working for a few weeks out of town, I ignored them. I now have green strawberries – about 3 plus months too early!  My 100 new strawberry plants planted in early October have settled nicely into their new home and will hopefully bring me a couple of good years of harvesting pleasure.

I have four pineapple plants started from tops nearly two years ago.  They are now beginning to leaf out vigorously and who knows, this may be the year. A little research says it takes 2 years and maybe more if it is cold, in order to flower. The leaves look like they are becoming mature so this could be the lucky year.  I put another top in the ground a week ago to add to my collection. According to the research the buggers will start spreading on their own. May wind up with 30 or 40 before long.

My little buddy Caleb and his now walking little brother Levi, stopped by for a visit a few days ago. Caleb is ALL boy….gotta keep an eye on him. Levi loves to munch on cucumbers off the vine and the cherry tomatoes, not so much for Caleb. They both enjoy the strawberries when they are in season. I hope to have them back this week to help plant my beets and turnips. I was in the process of harvesting the worm poop and adding another bin to the top of my worm composting bins during their visit. Being boys….they both loved touching and playing with the little wrigglers! Mom wasn’t as enthused or amused as the boys were! I sent them home with a couple of long stemmed roses for their mother……she left smiling!

The new carrot patch....waiting for the emerging tops.

The new carrot patch….waiting for the emerging tops.

The old sweet potato bed - cleaned out and what next ????

The old sweet potato bed – cleaned out and what next ????

Pineapples - or hopefully this year they will fruit.

Pineapples – hopefully this year they will fruit.

Those danged, confused strawberries.

Those danged, confused strawberries.

Strawberry towers planted with about 85 of the 100 new plants.

Strawberry towers planted with about 75 of the 100 new plants.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Quiet Tuesday

1 Comment

I had hoped to garden some today but I took the day off. Early, it was warm and very humid. Mid morning, the skies opened up and really drenched my neighborhood. The busy hummingbirds too a short break but as the rained eased they flew. My wife asked about them flying in the rain – I told her their wings beat so fast that they don’t get wet….not sure she believed me.

I think more than anything I was just lazy today!

As the sun was going low I sat on the patio and snapped a couple of backyard shots that I would like to share with you.

 

One of the little bombers circling

One of the little bombers circling

Ready to dip the bill

Ready to dip the bill

Casting shadows on the fence

Casting shadows on the fence

Cropped a little closer

Cropped a little closer

The Texas Star

The Texas Star

 

I hope to get some dirt on my hands this week…..I promise I will!

TTFN

Bishop

Back in the Backyard

1 Comment

Trying to balance work, travel and my backyard duties has been a juggling act. My hired help has had to step in and lend me a hand. My hired hand is a bit expensive but he does good, albeit slow, and deliberate work. Expensive in that I pay him an hourly wage and have to feed the 6 foot 5 inch behemoth too! He really is worth every grocery bag that he chomps through!

This week besides the usual lawn mowing and edging he harvested some long overdue Sago Palm pups. He did a beautiful job removing them and now we are in the process of potting them. Sago Palm pups can be a money making venture. I may ask him to cruise the neighborhood and remove the pups for our neighbors.

DSC_3669

A nice sized pup!

A nice sized pup!

Before I took off to Colorado last week I was replanting some of my strawberries. One of my beds was devastated by the brutal summer an then wiped out completely by my son as he did some irrigation work in the strawberry patch. It really turned out well for me in the end. I had a portion of my veggie beds where I had dropped some strawberry plants into several years ago. They took over that end of the bed! I am needing to clean that end out to plant some fall veggies so no harm done. I moved quite a few out last week and have more to do this weekend. Can’t wait for the spring harvest!

The newly planted strawberry bed

The newly planted strawberry bed

The white flies destroyed my cucumbers and devastated my friend John’s too. I replanted and the white flies returned only this tie I was ready! At first sign of the little buggers I blasted them with a good and safe insecticidal soap. They are looing really healthy! My discarded sweet potatoes have overwhelmed the 4X25 foot bed near the garage. Wow….I will be very curious to see the resulting harvest in a month or so.

My healthy cucumbers climbing the trellis

My healthy cucumbers climbing the trellis

Those pesky sweet potato vines!

Those pesky sweet potato vines!

 

The hummingbirds have been cruising through the Houston area on their way south. We love watching their antics around the feeders as the greedy ones chase others off.

Backyard Visitors

Backyard Visitors

Rain has been long overdue and we are getting a huge dose of it over the past several days! Needed but probably not quite enough to pulls us out of the state wide drought!

TTFN

Bishop

Waiting on Garden Photos

2 Comments

I have been in California since July 3rd and won’t return until the 24th. I have left others at the house in charge of my vegetable patch. I am hoping for the best. Even though I left good instructions I think my garden misses my dirty hands….. It’s not that others can’t do what I do but I would suggest that my soul and the soul of my garden have a stronger connection. I am missing my visual fix, my fix from the garden/earthy odors and the fix I get from sampling the bounty.

My son Joe is at the house now….I asked him to send some current photos……he said he would –  when got around to it. Now I suspect that was  a literal comment and he is hunting for a “roudtuit”! Once he finds it it I am sure he will then send me some photos for my visual fix!

Here is what I remember….. and what I need to see more of!

Wine Barrel Composter

Wine Barrel Composter

Gate to my Garden

Gate to my Garden

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM - today's storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM – today’s storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

One of the many blackberry clusters.

One of the many blackberry clusters.

Celebrity Variety - 4-5 inch size and does well when it is hot.

Celebrity Variety – 4-5 inch size and does well when it is hot.

Some of my Swiss Chard

Some of my Swiss Chard

All is not lost…..I have been up and down the state of California traveling through those commercial sized gardens and orchards. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, citrus, avocados in the orchards. Fields of strawberries, tomatoes, grapes, onions, cabbage and more. Last Friday I sat a the in-laws place watching polo on some of the most verdant grass you have ever seen!

Prince William galloping across the verdant grass on his way to scoring a goal in the 2011 match in Santa Barbara.

Prince William galloping across the verdant grass on his way to scoring a goal in the 2011 match in Santa Barbara. From the in-laws patio!

Joe – I am still waiting!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

The Other Garden “Ato” – the Potato

5 Comments

I seem to celebrate the tomato as if it the crown jewel of the backyard farmer as many gardeners do. Tomatoes do seem to be a central theme with many garden bloggers, “how to” sites, mail order companies and farmer’s markets. That said, I would like to share my growing fascination with potato growing. I have tried barrel or basket growing in the past. This year I have a mix of conventional trenched and hilled in ground method, a barrel and two tubs.

I planted some Yukon Gold taters in the ground and the barrel at the same time. They are doing very well. I had a few leftover and a couple of weeks later I planted them in the Rubbermaid tub I had been using to house my vermicomposting worms. I need to add lots of soil to it tomorrow!!!! I planted another tub a week ago and the shoots have yet to break the surface.

The barrel planted potato eyes were placed in the barrel with about six inches of soil. They took off. I think they benefitted from the warming effect of the barrel. The soil level is up to about 40 inches now and I won’t add any more. The in ground potatoes are also doing very well. The plants are 30+ inches above the hilled up mounds. I have high hopes for a good harvest.

DSC_3097

An old garbage barrel with  holes in the bottom. Potato eyes at the bottom, 30 + inches below support the lush green growth.

An old garbage barrel with holes in the bottom. Potato eyes at the bottom, 30 + inches below support the lush green growth.

The newest tub was planted with supermarket spuds that sprouted in the pantry. Supermarket spids are not the best choice as they are sometimes treated to inhibit sprouting. The Yukon Gold are actual seed potatoes purchased at Kingwood Garden Center. Helpful folks, lots of knowledge and support organic gardeners!

The tub as it appears when the potatoes are planted. About 6 inches in the bottom,

The tub as it appears when the potatoes are planted. About 6 inches in the bottom,

Soil in this one is up about 10 inches and needs quite a bit more this weekend.

Soil in this one is up about 10 inches and needs quite a bit more this weekend.

I am looking forward to filching a few “new” potatoes down a foot or so a little later in early summer. I will be watching closely….once they flower and the tops die back I will harvest. The nice thing about using the tubs and barrels is the no digging to harvest. Just dump the container and sort through bounty!

PS – lunch was tomatoes picked today used in a wilted spinach and fresh Chard salad with grilled chicken breast. Dressing was simply EVOO and a blackberry flavored aged Balsamic vinegar. A little fresh ground pepper and sea salt! Just perfect!

TTFN

Bishop

Tomato Heaven Has Opened It’s Gates in My Backyard

4 Comments

May 10th 2013 I picked the season’s first red, ripe and redolent of traditional flavor – tomatoes – yes plural form of the word tomato, more than one – Yee Haw cowboy! The Sweet Million variety is the first to deliver the goods. My Celebrity plant will not be too far behind. My mouth will just have to wait a little longer to savor a BLT with one of MY red, ripe and redolent of traditional flavor – real tomatoes. I will have to admit that I am not so optimistic with my Mortgage Lifter tomatoes – at least so far this season. I have had blossoms, I put my bumblebee suit on and buzzed the flowers with the electric toothbrush but the blossoms close up and drop off! Another update – I have my wife to thank for having tomatoes to pick today….she was tempted yesterday…thank goodness they weren’t apples or margaritas!

(see- https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2012/10/02/a-vibrating-garden-visitor/ ) I also planted some grafted heirloom varieties purchased from Burpee so maybe I will have some better luck!

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM - today's storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM – today’s storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

The asparagus bed gets better each year…I think it is on year 5 for the oldest root crowns. Sometimes the spears never make the kitchen……they are so good freshly cut! Last night I snacked on a few after my return from McAllen Texas, down in the Rio Grande River valley. I also savored a few Alpine strawberries and a few full sized berries off of my strawberry towers. The white Pineberries seem to be busy sending out runners…..I may have to snip that behavior and try to force it until later this summer.

Finger sized asparagus spear....flash photograph at 10:30 AM!!!!!

Finger sized asparagus spear….flash photograph at 10:30 AM!!!!!

My friend John and I have cucumber seeds in the ground ready to start up the trellis. He is a bit more limited with space so he is only growing a slicing variety. Me, on the other hand have slicers, Armenian long style and “picklers” planted in my beds. I will promise my family….no more attempts at making dill pickle. I can’t compete with your favorites! So, sweet or bread and butter types will be my focus. Several years ago I made a spicy, mildly hot bread and butter recipe….I liked it! If I remember I will share that recipe later on this summer.

I am pleasantly surprised, my quiet strawberry beds, resting after an early spring burst of activity, are showing lots of blossoms….again, Yee Haw cowboy! I really don’t think a person can have too may strawberries! The arches over the garden entry I built with Crepe Myrtle pruning’s are supporting several varieties of pole beans. The blossoms are heavy on some of the supports indicating a potentially bountiful harvest. Once the vines are filled in a little better I will share a photo. I have a mix of red, purple and white pole bean blossoms showing. Fingers crossed that the vision in my head is reflected in the end result of the planting.

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

Chard, Brussels Sprouts and some tomatoes

Chard, Brussels Sprouts and some tomatoes

My Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree has set a good number of lemons, some are approaching egg size right now. What is interesting though is that there is evidence of many new blossom forming on the tree now. Not sure if this is in the realm of normal behavior but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth….I will certainly take and enjoy any extra efforts by my little lemon tree!

Weather update….nearly 2000 lightning strike per hour in some areas just east of Houston. Flooding, hail and dark, dark skies! we are bracing for some very wet weather.

TTFN

Bishop

Bees and my Strawberries

3 Comments

It really started with my broccoli plants that took off and went to blossom. Theyhave beautiful yellow blossoms that are attracting honeybees and a small variety of bumblebee. I found this a real positive change from previous springs. In fact, the number of honeybees spotted in my garden area has been dismal and seemed to be getting worse. I actually employed some Mason Bees the past two years. There seems to be a steady crew working from mid-morning until late afternoon. My guess is that these are a wild variety that hang out in the woods nearby.

I put my macro lens of my Nikon D-200 and attempted to capture the guys at work. The yellow broccoli blossoms must be a bee magnet. I will try to remember that fact next year to draw bees in. I seem to be getting a little better handling this lens.

Bee and broccoli blossom

Bee and broccoli blossom

Carrying quite a load while working this blossom

Carrying quite a load while working this blossom

Off to another one. Trying to improve my moving critter skills. My goal is get a crisp shot of the bee flying!

Off to another one. Trying to improve my moving critter skills. My goal is get a crisp shot of the bee flying!

Strawberries grown outside seem to pollinate themselves pretty well but the fruit size may improve with help from the bees. If you are anal enough, you can take on the task yourself armed with a magnifying glass and an artist’s brush. I have used an electric toothbrush with my tomatoes with outstanding results. If I get frisky enough to crawl around the berry patch soon I will let you know!

Although small, strawberry blossoms have a delicate beauty about them. I caught some of the broccoli work crew sliding on over to the strawberry bed and working their magic. I may hire on tomorrow with my magnifying glass and brush….Love those strawberries! I will make jam in a couple of days and will hopefully put up a couple of dozen jars!

Do your magic little guy!

Do your magic little guy!

JBD_3398

Very nice strawberry  blossom

Very nice strawberry blossom

Now for the payoff –

Just starting to show!

Just starting to show!

Yes - developing nicely

Yes – developing nicely

The final payoff

The final payoff

Yum!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

Older Entries Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: