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Archive for the ‘administrative’ Category

Agarita at the Lange Road bee yard

Hello friends and beekeepers! Our apologies for being absent for so long but so much has happened in the past six months that it’s hard to know where to begin. First off, I got laid off my IT training job which was full time. It was hard at first but was obviously a blessing also because we experienced the most hectic (in a very good way for a small business) holiday season. I do believe there were a couple of times Mark and I looked at each other and acknowledged feeling overwhelmed by the amount of business and wondered if we could do it all. But we did and we loved it. We were, however, happy for the season to slow down on Christmas Day so we could take a break.

With me home for now and helping out, we have been able to get reorganized a bit and have added a lot more to our Honey Store as well as in the Beekeeping Showroom. We are so enjoying it! How exhilarating to see our dreams of a cool beekeepers paradise take shape finally! If you are in the area, do stop in and look around. We still maintain our Bee Ranch apiary and love to show our visitors the hives when we can.

Meanwhile, in the beekeeping arena, I thought it best for you to hear from Mark. Here’s is an update he sent out to his beekeepers mailing list last week:

“We are a long time away until our first full honey super and until our first divided colony, but we already are seeing some exciting developments early in this beekeeping season. Wildflowers are sprouting up and growing thanks to our winter rains. Agarita, one of our best early bee plants, is about to bloom heavily. And our mite counts are very low. We sampled about 900 bees from three colonies in one bee yard today and found only three mites. That is below the treatment threshold. We will sample bees in every bee yard and treat as needed with oxalic acid. We will also feed as needed. Just about every hive will receive a helping of natural pollen or a pollen supplement as most are light on pollen right now.

We do not have a workshop scheduled for this Saturday, but I am available for one-on-one consulting to help you with whatever beekeeping questions or challenges that you have. And, at about 10 AM Saturday morning I will open up one of my Bee Ranch colonies and give it a late-winter inspection. Bring your protective gear and join me as I look through a colony and assess its condition and needs at this early stage of the beekeeping year. It will be fun!

Keep an eye on you hive’s food level and mite level this time of year, and take action as needed. Our low mite counts were a surprise today, and I will not assume that they will be low tomorrow in the next bee yard. I will take samples in each bee yard and treat accordingly. I urge you to do the same.”

We do, however, have a workshop coming up this Saturday and then into February so check the right side of this entry and you’ll see the workshop listing as well as other class information. Even if you’ve had bees a while, come visit and hang out a bit. We are loving being a meeting area for local beekeepers and we love sharing news and ideas. Thanks and see you soon!

Signing off from the Bee Ranch – Mark & Thien

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Spring 2016 beekeeping activities

Well, I know I missed out on April but basically we have been getting April-and-now-into-May-and-a-little-into-June rainfall which means more greenery than usual for south Texas but it appears we are finally hitting our typical hot and or humid temperatures now. It’s okay. You just have to know it’s going to come and you accept it and wait for fall (if you are me haha).

Shoppers and visitors at the Bee Ranch

We have been doing well – having tons of fun fixing up the Honey House, stocking the Honey Store, creating and pouring awesome new products in the Candle Shop, seeing our family more…so much and all right here at the Bee Ranch. The bees are well, making honey and growing stronger. Not all of them but most of them. Being open to the public two days out of the week has been great – so fun to share what we love with folks on those two dedicated mornings. Saturdays have been so busy it’s truly amazed us both. We feel so blessed and so excited about the future. There are sooooo many ideas we want to pursue and we look forward to continuing to learn and do and enjoy.

Beeswax lanterns and sunflowers

Before I forget – free workshops! Most Saturdays when we can and when we don’t have a formal beekeeping class, we have a great group of beekeepers (mostly newbies) coming together to share ideas, problems, knowledge, etc. And so nice for us to see them all getting to know each other. We love this series and hope you can come join us some time, even if you are not a beekeeper. Sometimes the subject matter is interesting whether you have bees or not! Here is a look at topics coming up soon:

June 18 Interpreting the Bee Dance
June 25 Measuring Honey Moisture with a Digital Refractometer
July 2 Mite Testing Using Powdered Sugar Roll Method
July 9 How to Use a Fume Board to Clear Bees from Your Honey Supers
July 16 How to Combine Colonies
July 23 NO WORKSHOP
July 30 Reducing Mite Levels with Oxalic Acid Vaporization
Aug 6 Open Session Q&A
Aug 13 Late Summer & Fall Honey Plants of South Texas
Aug 20 Processing Round Sections of Comb Honey (Ross Rounds)
Aug 27 NO WORKSHOP

April Introduction to Beekeeping class at the Bee Ranch

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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

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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.

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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).

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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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Friday view from my fave yellow hive - we love to see a storm brewing! #bees #beekeeping #sky #texas #gretchenbeeranch

As we continue to experience growth with our bees as well as our business, the work day keeps stretching out longer and longer and then here we are in Spring already. We are happy to report that our wet winter is rolling right into a somewhat wet spring and things are about as green as we would expect to see when we visit family along the east coast. Lush grasses and trees along with a multitude of wildflowers everywhere you turn your eyes. It truly is one of the best times to be in South Texas and certainly one of the best times to be a honeybee here. EXCEPT that if we don’t get a bit of good ole sunshine soon, it might end up not being a robust honey year. While rain is awesome, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. As Mark often says, conditions have to be just right for a great honey crop. We do need rain but the bees do need a good amount of dry, sunny days in order to fly and forage. There’s a noticeable gap recently in the wildflower blooming. We had massive ways of early Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes and of course sprinklings here and there of other flowers, however, the Indian Blankets which normally appear abundantly are appearing more lazily this spring. That makes an incredible honey so we have hopes of a robust bloom in about a week. In the picture below, I harvested some lavender from our little herb garden out back. Lavender blooms abundantly only with rainfall (versus hand watering) so this is my SECOND harvest of blooms! That should tell you how wet this spring has been. I’ve never been able to harvest enough of it to do anything with the blossoms so this year I am very excited to enjoy them for a while before drying them out. They smile divine! I’m going to infuse some oil and make our own lavender oil I’ve been reading up on lately. I think I will also try adding them to lip balm, which is next on my list of beeswax related items I’ve been developing for our personal use at this time. More on that in a bit.

Harvesting lavender

Today at lunch (one of our few quiet times we have together when we’re actually sitting down), Mark and I were discussing the move of our Cibolo Creek bee hives. We haven’t been there long but we liked it – close to home (just south of Seguin and just on the other side of the county line), made great honey, gorgeous landscape for photographs and just nature enjoyment. But recently we’d notice work getting done – fences going in, land getting cleared. We like to keep in close touch with our landowners so that we know what’s going on and how it might impact our bees. Long story short, we are very happy that two options may have presented themselves today to Mark. We’re so thankful when people meet with us to check out potential bee yard locations and it all happens to work out! Mark says the new locations are both near us so that helps with fuel cost as well as with time, which we find less and less available. Both weekend days are booked now with Pearl Farmers Market (which are both well attended and have been great for our business). Serving as president of the farmers market association has also taken up a lot more of Mark’s time than we anticipated so that’s been a real challenge. And while I can manage with the other social media platforms, it’s harder and harder to find time for an in-depth post on our beloved Bee Blog. So, forgive me. But honestly if you do have access to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, do find us. I am on there daily as it’s just easier to post pictures as we work and add a short description. Stick with us!

Well, I want to post this before it’s delayed any longer. I told Mark I have started about four times on this and it’s taking me over two weeks. LOL I am determined to get this up on the blog!!!! Take care and hope to catch up with you soon. Much love, Thien & Mark

Spring wildflowers at the Bee Ranch

This is a shot of some of our new hives Mark made up from strong hives this spring. I don’t even know what our current count is anymore for our own hives, but it’s been really wonderful to have had this spring to focus on them.

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