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Today as I pulled into our drive...

Oh beautiful sky with your beautiful clouds, why not darken a bit and drop some raindrops? Couldn’t hurt to ask. During the hottest weeks/months of summer when the sun beats down on your back when you’re working outside, you welcome clouds even when they don’t always or often yield moisture. Mark will sometimes say to me that he appreciates the clouds when he’s working the bees. Clouds soften the brutal sun rays. I snapped this photo with my phone pointed straight up in front of me. The clouds were gorgeous and held such promise for rain here and there around us. The wind picked up and it cooled down quite a bit but hours later, we still did not receive any rain. Oh well. There’s always a little hope. It’s actually not as dry as it has been in the past for this time of year. It’s August in South Texas. It’s pretty hot now! Three-digit heat has finally arrived but most of us say, “If we can just get through August, then there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” haha The heat makes us appreciate the cold later.

Mark and Tang continue to tend to the hives out in different yards. It’s rare to have some of the hives still making a little bit of honey but we won’t complain. What an odd year it is. So far, we have harvested (or extracted) about 6,000 pounds of honey! Great numbers considering how little we got last year. Every drop is appreciated for sure! For hives that are strong and thriving, Tang and Mark are dividing. We’re going through a steady supply of queen bees ordered from outside of Texas, as always. We have another 28 queens coming this Wednesday. There’s also mite treatments to be completed, empty honey supers to treat for wax moths and then stored for winter, pecan trees to be tended to since there’s a second round of caterpillars…the list goes on. There’s never a dull moment but we try to rest when we can. The pace as well as the heat can truly be tiring.

In other news, we are thankful to be covered in a couple of local publications in the San Antonio area! Our first story is out now in Edible San Antonio magazine. You can find a copy by visiting their webpage. I want to give a big shoutout to our friend, Josh Baker of AzulOx Visuals. Josh photographed us at our Bee Ranch last fall and we were happy to have one of the photos we love so much be used in the article. Josh is an amazing photographer and he’s a lot of fun so please do check out his website if you are looking for photographer who will do more than take the usual posed pictures. Okay, the second article? You’ll have to wait! But you won’t have to wait long because we have seen the copy and the print is coming to the Pearl Farmers Market THIS coming Saturday. So excited and thrilled to have people interested in what we do at the Bee Ranch. Yay bees and beekeeper!

Edible San Antonio August-Sept issue

In happy honey-lover news, I’m excited to be able to share that Mark has updated the GBR website with the latest inventory of our local South Texas honey – the Gonzales County Wildflower. I love how light it is, just gorgeous! It tastes very similar to our Guadalupe County Wildflower. Light in color and light in taste. Check our Honey Shop if you would like to try some of this beautiful honey.

Gonzales County Wildflower Honey (2014 harvest)

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Greetings from the sky as I finish out my three straight weeks of travel to do some instructor-led training on a new gadget at work. Apparently getting on a plane to fly from Texas to South Carolina is my best chance at getting some work done for both companies I work for these days. I forget how long the flight is but I’m balancing CMC and GBR work as we cruise because somehow it has been a month since my last post and a lot has happened! I really should let y’all know what we’ve been up to this past month. And just so you know, part of my issue with posting has been a new PC/tablet combination I have been assigned at work. While I force myself to use it to learn it, I find that I can’t copy my usual Flickr picture links so that I can easily and quickly add them here. That’s been frustrating. Anyhow. Time and tech issues. I got them both! Haha

Since I last wrote, we finished our 2014 honey extraction! And by “we,” I mean a team of us. What we’d do without the help of family and friends, I’m not really sure. We are blessed this year to have my brother Tang staying with us a few months – he is a huge help to us both with beekeeping and candlemaking activities. And if you’ve been to the Pearl Farmers Market lately, then no doubt you have seen, heard and possibly met Tang, affectionately known as Forklift (because he says whatever we need done in the bee yard, honey house, or home, a forklift can help). He’s an absolute blessing to us, as are our friends Stan, Belinda and the Saviors. Collectively, they have helped us pull heavy honey supers and then handled the extraction activities so that Mark and Tang could take back empty supers or do mite treatments if a yard is done honey-making. We sure appreciate each of them so much and are so blessed to know them. The wonderful thing about family and friends is that no matter how hot and hard the work gets, there’s always opportunities to laugh and enjoy working together. It’s truly awesome.

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This year is the latest we have ever extracted. We thought by the end of June we’d be done but we didn’t even start pulling the bulk of the supers until July! Gee! Thanks to the late and intermittent rains, as flowers bloomed after a rain, the bees would pick up with their honey-making and when they are doing that, you sure don’t want to interrupt their work. Most everyone who waited for local honey learned this year that when it comes to the honey supply, we are on the schedule of Mother Nature and the bees. We can hope, want and demand all we want but until they are done, we all wait. It’s part of the learning process for some of our customers. It’s important for people to understand that honey is a limited resource, especially in a drought area. We each have to appreciate the hard work the bees put into producing every drop of honey. Once a crop is depleted, or once your honey jar is depleted, then you have to wait until next season. It sometimes amazes me that some customers assume we can harvest any time we wish. Nope! You get one harvest usually. That’s it. A lot rides on that harvest and we feel being at the Pearl market and building a solid foundation of loyal customers helps us to educate people on this process.

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Speaking of the Pearl, we are very, very happy with how things have developed there for us. Our move to a double booth and expanding our product line to include additional beeswax ornaments as well as bee pollen has really helped us to develop more steady income which in turn has helped us to make small improvements to our business and our operations. Also, being at the Pearl has opened up several partnering opportunities with local chefs as well as publications devoted either to the culinary scene in San Antonio or to the farm to table movement. We are thrilled that soon (like in the next two weeks), we will be in two publications which I will share here as soon as they are out. I promise I won’t wait a month before I tell you all. I’m too excited about this!

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In case you are local and you’re wondering what honeys we have this season, we are pleased to have a wonderfully light Huajilla Honey from our bee yards in Bigfoot (Frio County) and in the D’Hanis area (Medina County). When I first saw a picture of the first bottle, I never would have believed it was Huajilla had Mark not told me. Light in color and taste – we’ve really been enjoying it. For our closer bee yards (Guadalupe, Gonzales and Bexar counties), we have our wonderful Wildflower Honey. As my go-to honey for my allergies, I am happy to see this year’s crop is also very light in color and taste. Some people as us which is best and that is purely up to individual taste buds. While I am sad the way things worked out so that the bees could not make Mesquite Honey this year, I am happy that the Huajilla has a bit of Mesquite in it as both bloomed simultaneously (typically Mesquite blooms later in the summer after everything else and so we’ve gotten a late summer harvest of it in the past). The taste of the Huajilla is typically described as smooth and smoky. I love it this year and for me it will have to do without Mesquite as an option. The Wildflower Honey is described by most as possessing a more floral taste and the impression is that it “tastes sweeter” than the Huajilla. But you could survey two people and they could possibly tell you the opposite things for each honey. That’s what I tell customers when they don’t want to taste the samples but would rather have me tell them what is what. I tell them but it’s really up to your taste buds to tell you if you prefer one over the other.

Okay, I think this is good for now. Wouldn’t want to overload you guys. I appreciate y’all’s patience as we work away at the harvest and everything else we have going on these days. There just never is enough time for us to do all we wish to do in a day. And for that, we are grateful. Loving the life we live and hoping you are as well! Take care and hope to talk to y’all again real soon.

PS – I got busy once I landed in SC so I am only now able to get pictures loaded to go with my post. What’s a post without pictures!? I love it when I go to blogs and see pictures so there. Also, I am super happy to have finished my series of training courses that has taken me away from home for three straight weeks. This is a very happy me after work today! Tomorrow I get to hang out with my little sis and then I fly home to my men Thursday. Woohoo!

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Hello Again

Rainy Memorial Day weekend 2014

So…I don’t know how it got to be so long since I last posted. I kept wanting to and started and then something would come up that needed my attention. And then here we are. Sooooo much is going on that I get overwhelmed trying to decide what to tell you all so I suppose I should simply start somewhere. Anywhere.

This year has been an odd year for us and the bees! In April we thought the honey production was pretty much done and we were really a little blue about it. But then we took a trip to Florida to see family and when we got home, it became the beginning of on and off rainy spell that has continued until now. Amazing what a week can change. We went from worrying about how to make the little bit of honey stretch all year to having to wait and wait and wait while the bees continue to make honey. Great change in plan. We pulled honey supers twice now from our two farthest bee yards! The second round (just yesterday) yielded 42 supers and we could not be happier with our bees in Comanche Creek and Bigfoot. Good job girls!

Here’s a shot of Mark and my sister Thuy last week at Comanche Creek bee yard in Medina County. Those are the second round supers on the hives. We had gone out there to see how they were doing. We also measured moisture levels to confirm they supers were ready to pull.

Comanche Creek bee yard June 2014

During the past several weeks, we’ve also had a big development in our Pearl Farmers Market life. Mark was elected President of the Board of Directors for the market association and I will continue in my support role of Communications Liaison between the Board and association members. We have a lot to learn but we are excited to have a chance to be more involved with the continued growth and development of the market. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for us all there at the Pearl. What a lovely place to be! We are close to having permanent home for the market. Once the Pearl completes construction of the Hotel Emma and neighboring structure, the market will finally have a home we can grow into. Exciting! We continue to meet some fantastic friends at market and partnerships continue to grow for our little company. We are so thankful for all the opportunities afforded to us!

His first moments after election to the Board at the Pearl FM

Finally, here’s another reason we got a little busier and more distracted – GO SPURS GO! Our marvelous Spurs made us so happy and proud. We are so thrilled we were able to go to different series games and got to see the final game and watch and be a part of the celebration at the arena. This team is amazing and we can’t wait to see what Tim Duncan’s 18th season will be like. Happy we get to see him another year at least!

Go Spurs go!

Pecan tree

And we are serious about caring for the twenty-four trees we have on our Bee Ranch. We have officially committed to caring for and growing our pecan tree – we’ve hired a caretaker for the orchard! You’ll be hearing more in future about the awesome Mr. Savior. He has already helped us so much with last year’s pecan harvest and he’s ready to do more. Yesterday he started meticulously fertilizing the orchard and he will continue to provide care and feeding so that we can have future crops to take to market in support of our growing bee business. We are so thankful for Mr. S!! He and his family are dear friends from church and we are so excited to continue working with them on different projects!

Bee board holding pecans

Mr. S is currently researching and developing a system for watering the orchard. He had also helped us design our mobile feeding system and that made the work more efficient for Mark. In all that we do, we are truly blessed to continually receive help from our friends and family. We couldn’t possibly have all the time and energy to do all we want to do if we didn’t have the help of all of you, whether it’s a feeding system, working events or sending encouragement via our electronic world (and in person at market and events). We so appreciate you all!! Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day and hope to see you at the Pearl Farmers Market tomorrow (9-1p). It is the market’s 5th birthday and there are special treats and giveaways so it’s totally the day to give it a try if you haven’t been there yet. And if you have, we look forward to seeing you again!

The beekeeper mixing some sugar and water feed for the bees

Granbady and the beekeeper at Cibolo Creek bee yard

[And no, I do not mean the elections you THINK I might mean. Read on to learn about the Pearl market election.]

As you can tell, I sort of fell behind on the blog. You can’t blame me, though, when there is such a sweet little grandbaby to watch over and have fun with out and about. Once in a while we get to hang out with the baby and we love it! Yesterday after church, we went to check on the bees out a Cibolo Creek to see if the recent rains did anything for them. Happy to report that things not only perked up in terms of greenness and flower blooms, but the bees perked up also and have resumed honey production. Excellent news! Before our Florida trip last week, it looked as if Mark might be able to start a slow harvest this week or next. While we would be happy with any amount of honey produced, of course, any signs of resumed honey production is something to cheer about – so yay!

In the picture above, Rhys and I had been walking around the area to enjoy the scenery a bit. He really loves the outdoors but he adores his granddaddy even more so we had to go check on the beekeeper a few times. Happy to see the baby is right at home amongst the hives and rather than saying “ewwww” (which is really super cute), I am teaching him to say “bee” instead. He currently refers to all small critters as “ewwww.” haha what a nut and cutie he is. Anyway, we had a lot of fun and I am now searching for mini-bee hat/veil and beesuit for our little man. Why? Because whatever Grandaddy has on, Baby Rhys will want to have on as well. We just adore him.

May 2014 at Cibolo Creek with Rhys

Back to the weather at hand, just before the 1/2 inch of rain we got at the house, this is what the ground looked like. Many, many ground cracks just like this one could be seen all around the property. It made my heart sad a little for the land. I know we are in Texas and that drought is part of life here but it doesn’t mean we don’t want and pray for some rain. As a matter of fact, tomorrow is suppose to only see 66F degrees as the high! Yay – what a great gift for me. Mid-May and a freak 60-degree day? I’ll take that any day. Plus there’s a forecasted 90% chance of rain. Wow. That’d be a great gift as well.

Ground cracks at the Bee Ranch

Before I go, I just wanted to share some big news for us. Saturday we had our annual members meeting for the vendors of the Pearl Farmers Market. Long story short, Mark was honored to be elected the new Board President and so we’re going to need some more good thoughts, vibes and prayers, friends! Really, we are so excited and with Mark, they’ll get two Gretchens for one we say. I’ll be helping however I can and of course, I expect now that I have easy access to a Board member, getting information out to membership will be kicked up another notch or two. Yay! We need to build on the wonderful success this great market has become. Our own little company has grown so much after we joined Pearl FM that we want to help in any way we can to make sure we continue to grow. Can’t wait to see what the next three years will bring (duration of office for Mark).

Annual members meeting at Pearl Farmers Market

Pollen gathering at Big Oaks

Happy Easter, everyone! Today feels like it’s already a full day and it’s only 7pm. haha, love that. We kicked off our wonderful day with a great breakfast before booking it out to collect pollen we planned to collect yesterday but you know what? We were so tired that after a friend stopped by for a visit and stayed longer than anticipated (but what a nice visit that was!), we just didn’t even REMEMBER we were supposed to go to Big Oaks. That’s tired. And that is usually what happens to us by Saturday afternoons after market and class, as we had both events yesterday. I think the week catches up to us and we just sort of get drained. It felt good to rest and get a little extra sleep, that’s for sure.

So…back to this morning. The top shot is Mark pulling pollen traps (Sundance brand). We currently have a pollen trap on seven hives and today alone, we got about 13 pounds of some of the cleanest pollen we’ve ever collected. Below is a trap he just pulled out and you can see there are hardly any pieces of debris in there. We talked about how great that is since it will mean minimal cleaning is required if we decide to bottle some to sell. The pollen we collected in fall had more pieces of twigs, leaves, grass and so on and that means more cleaning time. Below is a closer look at the trap (or tray). So pretty and tastes so nice and mild! Sweet as well.

Pollen gathering at Big Oaks

Below is what I posted on Facebook earlier this morning. That is the fullest we have ever had one of our traps and we just were simply amazed! The girls are really pulling in a lot and if you are new to our blog and haven’t read previous posts about pollen collecting, then I’ll just reassure you that collecting it like this does not diminish a hive’s health. The traps only brush off some of the pollen being carried in, not all of it. So don’t worry that the bees are left with little or no protein. They are doing just fine.

Pollen trap full of pollen

Collecting pollen this time of year is new for us. We wanted to give spring collecting a try after talking with a fellow beekeeping friend who collects at this time and has seen zero impact on bee health as well as honey production. We trust them and respect their experience and knowledge so we’re giving it a go. We’ll keep you posted on things. Here’s putting our money where our mouth is – 17 new pollen traps came in last week! They are painted and ready for installation this week. Like, tomorrow according to Mark.

Pollen traps

By the way, here is what we had for breakfast, which we don’t have often so on Sundays when we do eat breakfast, I like to make it special and just the way my beekeeper like it – yummy! The eggs are from fellow Seguinite, Wholesome Harvest Farm, while the strawberries are from Wheeler Farm. We are eating so much better now that we shop mostly at the Pearl market while we are there every Saturday. The bacon and other meats I need that I can’t get at market, I get from the meat market just down the road from us (Granzin’s).

Breakfast feast on Easter


* Watch one of the HD versions if you have a fast connection. The HD quality is much better even though in this case you’re really listening to the sounds rather than the picture.

Hello there! I have watched this video about 15 times now and really wanted to share it with you all. The other day Mark observed some queen behavior he had not witnessed before and he even managed to capture it on video. I am so happy! As I watched it over and over and listened to the sounds, Mark pulled out some books and read up on the sounds and behaviors.

Reading up on queen bees

The first sound you hear is the roaming queen “piping” a challenge to another queen. In this instance, the other queen is a young one still in the queen cup you see on the frame later in the video. In response, the young queen in the cup will make what is called a “quacking” call. See if you can differentiate the different calls. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did. The bees are constantly fascinating us and we love it!

This just in: It’s bonus day at the Bee Ranch! We just received an email from a Texas A&M student that Mark first met at the Pearl Farmers Market. Alison shot a video there of her interview with Mark and then she joined us at the Bee Ranch when we had the advance class (How to Build Up Your Hives for Spring) for folks who were picking up their nucs. It covered more than just transferring the nuc frames to their permanent homes and we are seriously thinking that if we continue to sell nucs in future, we may require this class – it hurts when nucs end up dying (for different reasons) on those folks who chose not to take a class (especially newbie beekeepers). Requiring the class may also cut down on the amount of emails and phones we get from worried parents wondering all sorts of things about their nucs. Anyway, that’s a different post really so here’s one of the videos Alison recorded when she visited us. This one is about the importance of the Queen Bee to the hive. I love that she came to do this on a day when I could not observe the class since we had nuc customers to tend to at the same time class was held. Thanks, Alison! We enjoyed your visit.

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