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Elm Creek bee yard winter 2015-16

Hello there and here we are, already moved into February and what looks like a spring weather pattern forecasted through next week (70s and 80s with chances of rain here and there). Mark’s been checking, feeding as needed in hives scattered among our different bee yards, and treating mites all fall and winter. Overall our hives are getting along well this winter and he is very happy with how they look, commenting this is the best winter to date for our apiary. Many hives are heavy with bees and even fall honey still left on the frames – great news for the bees and for us. We are excited about the upcoming season, as always!

We’ve been enjoying focusing our attentions on the Bee Ranch and it is paying off – more and more people are coming to visit the two mornings we are open and classes continue to fill up (as a matter of fact, March and April are booked solid and we’ve moved into May for the Introduction to Beekeeping class). Mark’s Saturday morning workshop series continues to be a fun success and we’ve met some great folks, many of whom are eager to begin their beekeeping adventures. Here’s a list of upcoming topics for planning; hope you can join us some time in the near future!

Free Spring workshops at the Bee Ranch

This was just yesterday when Mark demonstrated how to do an Apivar treatment for their mites to help their bees.

Spring 2016 activities at the Bee Ranch

While you are here, whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday, we hope you take a look around the Honey House – Mark has done a great job filling it up with bee gear and bee equipment. We have a lot of fun learning about new products and suppliers and we enjoy sharing new things with our visitors.

Spring 2016 activities at the Bee Ranch

The Honey Store is also shaping up nicely and we enjoy stocking it regularly with new things we are developing – come visit us!

GBR product prep in the Honey Store

Free Workshops at the Bee Ranch

Howdy, friends. In case you haven’t seen it elsewhere – here is a listing of free workshops we are hosting at the Bee Ranch every Saturday morning through January 2016! We make a pot of hot coffee and I’ll put on hot cider for non-coffee drinkers and y’all just talk about things with Mark while I tend the shop. Pretty fun and Mark even gave away a free smoker, a $40 value, as part of a raffle for attendees. Nice and lots of fun. We hope to see you a a workshop in the near future.

Bees at entrance

Well, here we are into November and there’s only 5.5 more Mondays until Christmas. Yikes! I might as well cover the next two months in case I don’t have a chance to post until 2016!

Today it is once again cloudy as our slightly rainy period began about a month ago. Prior to that we were bone dry and our ground had severe cracks all over the yard. I shot the above photo several weeks ago on a Saturday morning during our Honey Store hours. The bees were flying like crazy after a rain spell and they brought in such beautiful and bright pollen – it’s always so awesome to see them like this. Amazing and mesmerizing to me.

Beekeeping supplies

On the Honey House front, we have lots going on as we shift our focus more on all the new things we want to do and offer at the Bee Ranch. Our beekeeping supplies and equipment have really grown and we’ve even added a storage container in order to make more room inside for new things arriving weekly. We now have everything a new or an experienced beekeeper might need – from bee gear (suit, gloves, etc.) to bee equipment (extractors, smokers, bee brushes, etc.). Need a book about beekeeping? We have it. Need some frames? Got it. Can’t decide which smoker you want to buy? We have two and we can talk about which one Mark likes best and why. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to explore new products and to share what works for us and why with new beekeepers. We’ve been able to conduct more classes than in the past several years and we love that! You know we both like to help others and we both enjoy teaching. And of course, we both love to talk bees and honey so this is really becoming a dream come true for us – sharing what we love right at the Bee Ranch, which we love so much and love to share with visitors. We hope to see you sometime soon!

Happy to be home and working on new products!

On the Bee Crafts front, we have a lot going on as usual. It’s amazing what we keep learning and our biggest desire most of the time is that we have more time to explore, learn, try and try again! haha I’ve been reading up on bee crafts such as body and home care for about a year and have been experimenting with different products the past six months. Mark and I are so excited to have three new products we are rolling out: our first lip balm, a traveling tea light, and a tin of sweet tea lights for a delicate way to ease into cold temperatures and before we bring out the big pillars to warm up the house. We are working to get things listed on the website so be patient a little longer and give us about two or three weeks to get everything up and running! Meanwhile, here are some sneak peeks in case you don’t follow us on all the other social media outlets where I typically share day-to-day work. Enjoy and talk to you soon, I promise. There are some new workshops we are hosting at the Bee Ranch every Saturday starting in a couple weeks and I will definitely need to post the topics here. Free and open to all during our shop hours.

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

Honeycomb on frame VSCO app

Hello friends. Here we are in September already – so sorry that August got away from me before I could get a post going. We have had so much going on and pretty much all of it awesome. Harvest has been going very well and despite the long spells of wet spring weather, the girls finally shifted into high gear and we are at about 8500 pounds of some of the lightest, sweetest honey varieties we have ever harvested.

So awesome when every honey you taste is slightly (or completely) different from bee yard to bee yard. Wonderful for us and even more wonderful when we can do a honey tasting for our customers who visit the Bee Ranch. Being at home and having the Honey Store open to the public two days a week has been working very well for us and we continue to see increases on both days in terms of visitors and sales. We especially appreciate our loyal customers and friends from the San Antonio markets we previously attended – thanks y’all! Making the trek to Seguin isn’t as bad as many of them thought it would be and being on the edge of town gives our sweet little Bee Ranch a quiet country feel but only 30 minutes from downtown San Antonio. Cool!

Here’s a recap of our recent happenings:

Classes in July and August were SO FUN! What a blessing and a blast to FINALLY get to work a class together again. For the three years we were at farmers market, on class days, I’d head off to market while Mark handled class with a friend or with our son. I loved getting to help a bit and having time to take some pictures in between helping customers who stop by Saturday mornings. We’ve even had several neighbors stop in the Honey Store to say hello and to check us out. Here’s one of our favorite photos from a recent class. We love getting students into the hives so they can really see and learn about the bees. This also allows us to explain what they see on the frames as well as around the hive area. Many of our students are interested in keeping their own hives at some point and we are always happy to help them as best we can. (Seats are still available for September 26 and October 17 if you are interested in joining us!)

Intro to Beekeeping August 22, 2015

Here’s another class shot because I had so much fun looking at them. haha

Bees on frame

There are still so many things to do and opportunities to explore! Ugh. There just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to do everything but what a great feeling that is for us. To know we have all these fun ideas we want to pursue when we can. As we get older and the hot days seems to get longer (and the honey boxes seem to get heavier), we have to think about how our company and activities might need to shift in order to accommodate us. One of those things is to do another update to the website so we can list some new items such as the Pecan Creamed Honey and the sweet little Gift Jar we now offer. Another update will include at least three new recipes added to our Recipe Page. So excited about this one! I research a lot of recipes and then start experimenting and then let tasters try out what I made and provide feedback. Here’s one of the things I’ve wanted to learn, get the way we like it, and then share – Honey Roasted Pecans. I think I finally got it the way I like it. I’m also working on Honey Oats Granola and a friend I met via Pearl and Instagram (Slice of Rei) has a very yummy Honey Caramel Popcorn recipe I want to see if she’ll let us post to our site. Lots of fun stuff going on here at the Bee Ranch.

Honey Roasted Pecans Foods August 2015

Our Beeventures have also taken us down the road of selling beekeeping equipment and supplies. If you haven’t visited us lately in Seguin, you don’t know we carry everything you need to get started with bees and to keep going. Bee-gear (veil, suits), honey extraction equipment and tools, boxes, frames – ask us. We might have it now. So excited for Mark to do something he’s been thinking about for years. Our students kept coming back to us with requests for supplies and Mark has been working hard to find the best quality items for a good price. We sell only what we use so if we’ve got it, you can ask us what we think about it. Check us out sometime! We’d love to see you at the Bee Ranch.

Beekeeping supplies

That’s it for now as I need to run to an appointment. More Beeventures and more posting over on our other social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr).

Our first Honey harvesting classes are set for August 1st and again on the 15th. Check our website for more info http://www.gretchenbeeranch.com/education/beekeeping_classes.html

Hard to believe August is here nearly! I just wanted to do a quick post on new class dates as well as an entirely new topic – How to Harvest Your Honey. We are thrilled to be able to start offering classes we’ve wanted to do for a while now. This saturday is our first round of the harvest class so Mark’s been working on the outline and flow as well as pulling together materials for an actual harvest. Should be a lot of fun! We still have seats if you’re interested and we’ll do a second offering of that class on August 15. You check our website to see more about the class information as well register. Additional Introduction to Beekeeping class dates have also been added the the calendar. Hooray! (Click here to go to our website.)

Here’s a quick look at upcoming events on Saturdays in August – busy but at least we are around the Bee Ranch and that is super awesome! Also super awesome is our honey harvest, which has exceeded a ton (which is a lot of fun to say). I hope to have a little time later today to write about the harvest. I am pumped about the strong possibility that we have some Mesquite this year after several years of not having the timing right for my favorite honey. Yay! More soon.

Busy bees in August

July bee class

Hello there! Guess what we added to the calendar since we are actually doing more work around the Bee Ranch now? A new class date for Introduction to Beekeeping. Our next class will be Saturday, July 18 in case you are interested. Here’s link for more information as well as to register. We have some seats still available and hope you can join us! Click here for class info.

In other wonderful news – pollen, pollen, and more pollen. WOW! We are loving how the pollen looks AND tastes this year. Subtly sweet and soft to the touch. Due to the hot weather, we aren’t shipping it out but if you would like some, do stop by the Bee Ranch one Wednesday or Saturday (9-12pm).

Pollen is amazing this season!

And in case you would prefer honey – it’s coming! We have started a slow harvest due to rainy spells and high levels of moisture in the honey. What we have harvested, we like. A lot. And we can’t wait to host a few honey tasting events to share it with you all!

Harvest time at the Bee Ranch

Bigfoot bee yard June 2015

Above: Littlefoot – a new bee yard established Spring 2015 in Frio County. The Mesquite tree in the background on the left was struck by lightning several weeks ago. Luckily, it did not fall towards the hives because that’s been one of the highest productivity yards this year so far!

It has been the strangest spring ever in many ways. We’ve had plentiful rain filling up empty stock tanks and raising lake levels and things are greener at the end of June than I’ve seen it in the twenty years I’ve lived here. What a spring. Over all the bees are doing well and honey making is happening in bits and pieces. While some yards are heavy with activity, other yards are doing next to nothing. That’s why we spread out our 170 hives…just in case. Below is a look at some gorgeous honey we are letting sit on the hives a little longer so the bees can continue drying it. Lots of moisture this year! We have pulled just a fraction of what the bees made and with the timing (if it is just right), Mark just told me at lunch there is a chance we may get some Mesquite Honey this year after many years of going without one of our all-time favorites – woo! hoo! Seriously, I love that honey for it smooth, smokiness. Let’s hope it happens after all.

Almost ready to harvest

So. The major shift in focus. What is it? Well, if you follow any of our other social media platforms, then you already know. This coming weekend is OUR LAST WEEKEND AT PEARL. Yep. This is a 2012 photo I snapped in September, just a few months after we had been accepted as a vendor at the Pearl Farmers Market. What an amazing and exciting and exhausting 35 months we have had! :)

New location for Pearl Farmers Market

With each year since we formally established GBR, the business has picked up and the opportunities have also. Last year when Mark was elected President of the Pearl Farmers Market Association, we had no idea the amount of time and energy it would take and what it would take out of us both. We planned on longer hours and some hard work but it has been more like what we planned for and then multiplied by 20. We have learned so much at market and have made so many friends amongst our fellow vendors as well as our customers, but the time had come to make a change. Not only are we physically exhausted doing both weekend markets on top of a very full 5-day work week, but we are just not as young as we were and the pace is insane but maybe that’s just us because that’s how we work. We give it our all. You know we lived and breathed bees and somewhere along the way, market out-weighed bees in terms of workload. There are so many projects we want to pursue but haven’t had time to carry out the work. There are so many exciting new products we want to roll out but there’s prototypes, testing, packaging, marketing – there hasn’t been enough hours for us to do any of that the way we want to so now we re-focus.

Improve the process for making our popular Creamed Honey. Done.

Ready for ordering and  purchase - yummy!!!!

Begin making the new beeswax products we’ve been meaning to try – like extra tall Bee-Day Candles. Done.

New at the Bee Ranch - extra tall Bee-Day candles

Brainstorm and plan out the next chapter of GBR – not just new classes and new products but also some down time for resting, returning to church and seeing more of our family members. Done.

Planning the next chapter

It feels good to take some steps to focus on what we want to do and where we want to do it. More of GBR at the Bee Ranch. We’ll still do occasional shows but the primary focus will be right here at the home we love so much and have spent so little time enjoying. We hope you stay with us and see what is next for us. One of the exciting goals I have for myself is a return to this beloved Bee Blog of ours that has been neglected like many other things we hold dear. Here’s to a new chapter! Or Version 2.0 as a friend put it.

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