Friday, 21 June 2013

Top Bar Hive

Three years ago Max made a top bar hive. We wanted to compare the two different ways of beekeeping. We left the TBH outside in an enticing position and waited...and waited. Absolutely nothing! We had swarms from our hives but we wanted these back. For the TBH we were hoping for a wild swarm or a swarm from a callout. But for two years we had no calls for swarms and the TBH found its way to the back of the wood barn where it waited some more.

Then on Monday we were driving home when I suddenly saw a swarm sitting in a tree trunk just a few miles from home. Max returned half an hour later with the only equipment we currently have available - a small step and a sheet - and bought them home. Meanwhile I had managed to extract the TBH from under a pile of wood.

It took a while. These bees were obviously looking for a different des res but luck and the weather were on our side. It started to rain and didn't stop for 24 hours. It's not often I welcome 24 hours of rain, especially during the tennis season, but this time I was delighted. The bees realise that a TBH that was waterproof was the best offer they were getting and filed in. We checked yesterday and they are slowly building comb. We are devising a feeding system for them as the weather is still not great.

I will try and keep you up to date on this hive. I love the idea if a more natural way of beekeeping although I have no plans to get rid of my trusty Dadant hives.


The garden in late June

A wet June but it hasn't all been bad. The pears are amazing; for once I thinned then and it seems to have paid dividends as the fruit is developing nicely and we should have a good crop.

The artichokes always look beautiful and add structure.

Stargazer lilies and decorative poppies outside the kitchen door add colour and the courgettes are delicious - we've just eaten some!


Lily Beetle

There is only one good thing about the lily beetle : you can see them easily. Once the lilies start coming through I check on them several times a day. Almost without fail I find one or more of these beasts. They are very nifty at dropping off the leaf at the first sign of danger (ie me) but I have developed some equally nifty techniques at catching them.

I usually have a small container of some sort so that I can just knock them in. They fall on their back and I can then pick them out and kill them between two stones.

If I don't have a container I try to arrange things in such a way that they fall into my hand. Then again the trick with the stones.

Be warned, these beasties can fly away. However, if they are on their back you usually have the upper hand.

Why are they so horrible? They lay their eggs on the underside of the lily leaf and the larvae hatch in what appears to be poo. The larvae then eat voraciously, weakening the plant to such an extent that the flowers are severely stunted.

I am always open to suggestions of a positive nature. If anyone wants to give me just one good reason not to squash these red pests, I will listen carefully.


Yippee, courgettes

Not many and not huge, but delicious. If the weather picks up maybe we'll get some more.


Strawberry Coulis

This year we have had another bumper strawberry crop. 2.5kilos every two days for between two and three weeks. We eat most of them of course, but just occasionally even we find our limit.

My solution to the extra is to make and freeze strawberry coulis. It takes approximately 10 minutes from start to freezer. I store them in foil ramekins and use them throughout the year as an accompaniment to yoghurt, ice cream, etc.

I am sure there are other recipes but this is the one I use.

500gms strawberries, hulled
100gms castor sugar
100mls water

Put the strawberries in a liquidiser.
Bring the sugar and the water to a gentle simmer for about five minutes, making sure the sugar is dissolved.
Pour the syrup over the strawberries and liquidise.
Pour into ramekins and freeze.


Saturday, 15 June 2013


Never mind Ascot or Wimbledon, we have strawberries galore!

My favourite way to eat them is of course straight off the plant. However, I also love strawberry sandwiches. It has to be on plain white bread - I use the traditional French baguette. Squiggle down the strawberry and eat. Somehow the flavor blends into the bread and explodes in the mouth. You don't believe me? Well, try it for yourself.


Monday, 3 June 2013

The garden in June



Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Spring honey harvest 2013

This is the spring harvest from the oil seed rape. Despite the top picture it is in fact all the same colour. Over time it will change its texture and harden. Taste? Delicious!

One hive gave us a total of 13 kilos. Not one for the record books but given the weather, not too bad.


Monday, 13 May 2013

Beautiful spring

The clematis outside the kitchen is always a sign of good weather. Spring is late but it has arrived.


Friday, 10 May 2013

The garden in May

Our gite is now open for business. These are the photos I took of the garden last week to help promote it.

The greenhouse is being productive. After last year's tomato disaster I decided to keep two tomatoes growing under cover. The rest are in the veggie patch. The lettuces will be reay next week.

Celery to keep Max happy.

Last year a friend told me that you can keep weeds down by mulching with (untreated) grass cuttings so this year we decided to try it. I have them around the toms and lettuces in the greenhouse and around everything in the veggie patch that doesn't have a plastic mulch.

I DON'T like weeding!


Sunday, 28 April 2013



This is what happens when you leave a rake the wrong way around and the stand on it. Hurts like mad but I put some arnica oil on it so I hope it goes down quickly.


Sunday, 14 April 2013



After the appalling weather this year we finally had the opportunity to open up the hives this afternoon.

We finished 2012 with three full size hives and two nucs. I have been concerned about all of them but with freezing weather turning to monsoon and back to freezing it has been impossible to do anything.

So it wasn't without a certain amount of trepidation that we approached the first of the three big hives. This is the colony that we took from a tree last year where it was upsetting a farmer - he was being attacked every time he drove past in his tractor! To our delight it was full of brood and had a small amount of honey. We put on a super and moved on.

Elsewhere there was good news and bad news. The good was that each and every hive/nuc had brood and looked healthy. However, they all had a minimum amount of honey stored so we put the feeders on and will give them a syrup feed tomorrow morning. Will they survive? I hope so. The oil seed rape is just coming into flower around is so if the rain holds off a bit they will have plenty of food.

Fingers crossed!


Thursday, 28 March 2013

A new year, a new resolution

Max ticked me off this morning because I haven't been blogging Up The Garden Path. He's quite right and I really will try to change this. To be honest I haven't been very active in the garden for a while but that too has to change.

March is often considered the beginning of the gardening year. We've been away, and anyway it's apparently been very cold, but now we are back and there are jobs to be done. A new chicken house, a new pig hut and the bees need checking.

The greenhouse needs cleaning out and if it ever warms up I an start sowing some vegetables.

You've read it here first. I'll be back in the garden - just as soon as it's warm enough for my fingers!