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Yummy Late Season Surprise

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I went to check on of my 8 frame garden hives a few days ago and had a pleasant surprise. I had left a medium super on top the two brood boxes as this hive seemed to be a little slow this spring. Wow, I opened it up and it was wall to wall of beautiful capped honeycomb. The brood boxes were well filled out so I figured I should provide some room for the ladies! 
I pulled 4 frames of beautiful honeycomb. I replaced them with 4 four frames of drawn comb. It seems that this urban setting still has some nectar flow. I haven’t fed this hive at all this summer. I added a feeder just to help them out. I will cut 3.25X3.25 inch squares from 2 or 3 of the frames and squeeze the remainder. They look so nice. 


A garden update, bananas are still my proudest success but the Armenian cucumbers have grown beyond belief! They are essentially a melon, so even the large ones are edible. I am surprised that my relief gardener missed picking them at a more manageable size. 


Please, no rude comments! 

The Poblano and Serrano peppers are still thriving. I replanted some tomatoes for the fall and added some more pole beans. Would love to have some relief from the heat and humidity.  It was 78 F at 5:45 this morning and only 93% humidity! 
TTFN

Bishop

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Bee Adventures

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Yesterday morning, yes too early for the bees  (mistake one), I went to check on and maybe harvest some honey from my original top bar hive. It has been intolerably hot lately, hot enough to make the wax comb very soft. This topbar hive is my gentle hive. See photo below;


I normally just smoke them a little and wear my veil as seen in the photo! Today I decided to gear up and wear my white overalls, gloves and the above veil.

Mistake two; The bees were agitated from the “git go!” No problem, I had smoke and protective gear. It was 8:45 in the morning and the top bar hive was still in the shade. Probably a thousand or more clustered on the outside and little evidence of foraging…..

The veil has long strings and the trick is to make sure that my collar is flipped up and the veil secured without gaps. Mistake number three, I failed to check the collar and the fit. All of a sudden I feel air from beating wings on my face.

“John, are the bees inside my veil?”  I ask.

“Yes, quite a few”, he responds.

I start heading out of the area and I have company both inside and out. They seem to be pissed at me and ignoring John. I took 6-7 or more in the back of my head and a few more on my forehead.

I wander back to my Suburban, licking my wounds and suit up. John is putting the bars back in place and the top back on. I return to take a peek at the other topbar hive and the two Langstroth hives.

The 8 frame is healthy but growing slower than my other three 8-frame hives. The 10 frame hive is doing nicely with a queen hatched from my original top bar hive. FYI,  my top bars sized to fit in my Langstroth hives. The second top bar hive was also cloned from a queen cell and a few  bars of brood, pollen and honey from the original hive.

Ok, I have orders from the sales manager (my wife for some cut comb and I know where to go. I have two 8 frame hives nearby and I have been anxious to harvest them. I pulled 11 frames, 3 beautiful ones for cut comb and we extracted the others.


I wound up with 12 – eight ounce squares and I also boxed up all the trimmings. I let them drain a bit on the rack before boxing them up. I love cut comb! I also wound up with over 30 pounds of liquid honey. Two more hives to visit in the next day or two to  on the honey production.

TTFN

Bishop

Gathering the Honey

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I have been less than diligent in keeping up with my blogging. This Back Yard Farming effort has 3 or 4 posts in draft form waiting for me to get off of my butt and finish. I have also given equal procrastination to my Beer Blogging – that’s only fair isn’t it? So to catch up I am going to go in a bit of a reverse order, subsequent posts may be older but I will feel better if I clean-up my backlog, regardless of how I approach it.

So let’s talk about honey. My first ever hive is located further from my house than I would like but in the process of managing it I have made great friends. In addition I have created at least one and maybe two new beekeepers. Here is the synopsis;

August of 2015 while on a work assignment in Richmond, California, my wife phoned and read a letter from our HOA. Essentially it said, an unnamed neighbor has complained about my hive (it had been in my yard for 18 months already with no issues). They were utilizing a “protective clause” in the HOA covenants gave me 7 days to remove it. I am 1800 miles away and already burning days and I won’t be home until the deadline comes and goes. I am in a quandary! Mark, one of the managing engineers for the client overheard my lament and bailed me out. Mark has a piece of property north of Kingwood on a ranch just outside of Franklin, TX. His neighbor, Johnnie, had expressed interest in keeping bees, with a mentor of course. He made a call to her and I committed to relocating my hive. I did call the HOA and unfortunately, it is an insidious form of government with unbridled power. I do believe that the HOA is comprised primarily of people who had been bypassed as “Hall Monitors” in grade school. Nuff said!

The hive has flourished in the northern location. My best friend has now become a beekeeping assistant of sorts, i.e., whenever he has free time that coincides with one of my bee adventures, he raises his hand. I think he really just enjoys road trips and biscuits at the breakfast stops on the way. Actually, it has become more than that! I am still a novice and do make a few mistakes but, my “Goo” friend John is an internet surfing fool. He has learned a lot about beekeeping that aids me in a number of ways. Thanks John.

Beekeeper number two is Johnnie, she hosts my hive on her property. Her enthusiasm is boundless. She has attended two beekeeping schools, the last one was this past April in Brenham, TX. We actually sat through a couple of presentations together. She now owns two hives and the bees in them. I will attempt very soon to split my original hive…..should have done it in March….still learning! Mark now has two hives across the road on his property, one of mine and one he owns. I have 5 and soon/maybe/possibly to be 6 hives to manage up near Franklin, TX.

Saturday May 7th John was free and we headed north. It was a multi-objective mission. First order of business was to check on the four NUCs installed at the end of April and add some sugar water to the frame feeders. Secondly we were going to check on my original hive and see how they had progressed in the super I added nearly 6 weeks ago. I had a good idea from the peek I took when I installed the NUCs at the end of April, but did not look at the super below it. Good news, 9 fully capped frames of honey on top and 4 very good looking ones below. The third order of business was to extract honey. I brought a three frame extractor up with me and we got busy…..busier than I have time to explain here….we will do better next time and I will leave it at that.

I left 2 quart jars, about 6 pounds, for Johnnie and Mark. I brought the bucket home with about 19 pounds of honey. I let it sit for a week to let the bubbles rise to the top and the micro pieces of capping wax that fits through the 400 micron filter to rise to the top. It is not harmful at all but for aesthetic purposes, I don’t want it in the final bottled product. That left a little over a pound in a quart jar for my use! 17 – .75 lbs. bottles, 4 – 1 lbs. bottles and 6 honey bear bottles with about 6.8 ounces of honey in each.

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The labels will also include the zip code of the location of the hives. This batch was 77856, Franklin, TX. I have had this idea  for quite some time to really zero in on the “Local Honey” aspect by zip code. At the bee school in April, I took a marketing class from a gal named Tara Chapman. She stresses LOCAL in her approach down to the neighborhood level in the Austin, TX area using the term – “hyper-local”. My aim is similar, I have hives in area code 77339 and 77345. Hopefully soon across the river to 77346.

Check out Tara at – https://twohiveshoney.com

Honey work for the next week or so? I have built 10 supers for my 8 frame hives, that means 80 – 6 5/8 frames with foundation must be built. Then I need to build at least 10 supers for my 10 frame hives…..another 100 – 6 5/8 frames needed. I suspect that after building that many frames I may be able build them in my sleep! Another trip up north to feed bees and check on their wellbeing.

TTFN

Bishop

Jammin’

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Although I have been quiet with my blogging I have been staying busy with the garden, the bees, the beer sampling and trying to make sense of the crazy politics. I promise that I will not bring politics into the mix…

I started picking my first strawberries in late December…not really enough to call a harvest but those that survived the trip from garden to kitchen were cleaned up and placed in a freezer bag. I tend to snack on the goodies when out in the garden, berries, snap peas and now the asparagus spears that are poking through. Thanks to a Valentines gift from my wife several years ago I have a little sink with running water in my garden. A quick rinse and I have a garden fresh snack.

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I don’t believe this one survived the trip into the kitchen. March has been a better month for strawberries and based on blossom count April should be awesome. I celebrated the first day of spring yesterday by whipping up a batch of strawberry jam. Results, 6 –  1/2 pint jars, 2 – 1/4 pint jars, 1 – 12 oz. jar and a miscellaneous sized cute jar found in amongst my canning supplies. FYI, I use the “SureJell” low sugar pectin and recipe as it allows, in my opinion, more of the fruit flavor to come through.

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Yum! I decided to label my jars with the label being used for my honey. The design for “Bishop’s Bees and Honey” is under revision….I hope to have a new logo and label design before first honey harvest around May 1st! By the end of April I should be managing 12-13 hives. I still have swarm traps out so that number could grow. I am more excited about those numbers than my wife is, but, she does do an amazing job selling my honey. My “honey” really knows how to move my honey!

Another brief note on berries…….the trails around our area are covered up with Dewberry blossoms. Dewberries are a small but tasty blackberry that grows wild here. This is the most amazing display of blossoms in the 12 years we have lived in Kingwood. I am looking forward to the harvest time….should be a good one.

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Just a sampling of what is to come.

TTFN

Bishop

Backyard Blackberry Honey Pepper Sauce

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This is a sauce that has four ingredients and  75% can be sourced from your backyard. 1. Blackberries, yes I do have blackberry vines in my backyard. 2. L Honey, well I had a hive in my backyard but a neighbor complained and I moved it to a yard nearby. 3. Peppers, I used a poblano pepper from my yard. 4. The tablespoon of sugar – well, it is store bought.

Simple, 16 ounces of blackberries but raspberries would work too. If frozen thaw before cooking.

1/4 to 1/3 cup of local raw honey. I used a 1/4 cup.

Pepper. I used a medium poblano that was from my garden. You can used black pepper, 1 tbsp, or any other peppers depending on your taste and desire for heat.

1 tbsp of sugar

Medium heat and stir often. To speed up the fruit breakdown I use a potato masher.

Run through a strainer once the consistency you want is reached. I am using mine for a pork loin glaze so I will let it thicken. Should also  be good on Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream!

Recipe lifted from;

https://thewisercook.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/blackberry-honey-pepper-sauce/

Simmering on the stove

Simmering on the stove

Added a bit of the pulp and seed back into the sauce for texture. I put it back onto the stove to simmer until it thickened to my liking. The taste and aroma are amazing. I think the pork loin will be a real treat.

TTFN

Bishop

Country Honey

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If you have been following along you will remember that my sweet neighbor filed  a complaint with the HOA about my bees. Some BS about the bees posing a threat. After 18 months in my backyard they suddenly posed a threat. Under protest and a deadline I moved the hive too far away but the location is very nice. The woman hosting the hive is a sweetheart, wants bees and takes good care of them. 

A couple of days ago my wife and I drove north to knock off two tasks. One, meet out son who attends Texas A&M University and two, me running over to the ranch and checking on the bees. My wife did some grocery shopping for Joe while I borrowed his truck to head over to the ranch. 

The hive seems to like it’s new home.  It is in a small fenced area to keep the cattle out and has enough sun under the big oak tree. There is a stock tank for water very close by. Looks like bee heaven. 

   
 
I think the site will look better next spring if I can add a few more hives. Two or three here and maybe another two or three across the road on a friends ranch.  I am hoping 6 hives in the area will help make the trips a little more profitable. I pulled the top super from the hive in preparation for winter, shuffled some frames and refreshed the hive beetle traps. The observed numbers of beetles was significantly lower on this trip – I like that! 

Yesterday I extracted honey pulling about 12 pounds or so from the frames. The honey is dark and rich tasting. I will send a couple of jars up to Johnnie at the ranch as payment for hosting and keeping the feeder full. The hive looks well set to make it through the winter. 

Next trip up I will add a resrictor to keep the mice out and slip a thin board under the hive to cut down on the cold air that can enter through the screened bottom board. 

TTFN

Bishop

More Honey, Honey

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” What are you making now?” she asked.

I have been enjoying my beekeeping and honey harvest activities over the last month or so if you have been following along. As a young lad….many, many, many years ago I fell in love with creamed, churned or whipped honey……It is know by several names. I decided to use some the odds and ends of small jars of my honey occupying shelves and whip some up. (Pun intended)

The creamed, whipped or churned honey is not really what the name  implies.  Anyone who has enjoyed raw honey knows that it will crystalize over time. This type of honey is also crystalized but there is a method to create very fine crystals that make the honey smooth and creamy.

So, to answer my wife’s question, “I am making creamed honey, honey!”

The process….”my Raw Honey”….- Raw honey has not been heated to temperatures that alter the health properties of honey, i.e., above 118 degrees F.  Much  of the commercial honey has been heated to 170 degrees F, destroying the health benefits….but it will stay liquid on the shelf for a very long time. Raw honey has also not been filtered, I run mine through a fine sieve to remove wax and other non honey particulates.

I poured about 3 pint jars of honey into a bowl. To that I added about a half pint of creamed honey purchased from the store.  The creamed honey is the catalyst, if you will, for the raw honey in the bowl.  After thoroughly blending the microcrystals are distributed and now become the template for the rest of the honey.

The  honey after it has  been thoroughly blended. Air bubble form at the top and I skimmed those off before  bottling.

The honey after it has been thoroughly blended. Air bubble form at the top and I skimmed those off before bottling.

 

Filled to the brim. I weighed the jars to ensure truth in labeling. These 4 ounce by volume jars hold 6 ounces by weight of honey. Don't you just love the English system? Otherwise it would be, 4 ounce [US, liquid] = 118.294 118 25 milliliter and 6 oz= 170.0971grams

Filled to the brim. I weighed the jars to ensure truth in labeling. These 4 ounce by volume jars hold 6 ounces by weight of honey. Don’t you just love the English system? Otherwise it would be, 118.294 milliliters and 170.097 grams – Just love that precision!

After filling four jars with pure honey I added some cinnamon to the remainder. I think it should be wonderful!

After filling four jars with pure honey I added some cinnamon to the remainder. I think it should be wonderful!

The jars posing before resting in a cool place for a week or so.

The jars posing before resting in a cool place for a week or so.

Can’t hardly wait!!!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

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