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Hello 2015

Mistletoe at the Bee Ranch

Where has our 2014 gone? I love the holidays because it often brings out the best in most people. The holiday season also is one of our busiest retail times with holiday shows and our annual Holiday Open House – this was our 5th year! – on top of the usual weekly store hours at the Bee Ranch and the Saturday Farmers Market at the Pearl AND the kickoff of the first annual Gift Market that Pearl hosted. So, my apologies for not being able to keep up with the blog as I would have loved. You have no idea how many times I have opened this up to add tidbits. I am determined to post today! The problem is we’ve had so much to share that it’s totally overwhelming so I’m going to simplify a bit for now.

First off – HAPPY NEW YEAR!! How has your first day of the new year been? Are you going to fill 2015 up with adventures and laughter and fun along with all the hard work I’m sure we all have ahead of us in life? We plan to enjoy every moment and every beeventure, that’s for sure.

Next, how are our bees doing? Great! It’s the first of January and we’ve been going through a rather wet winter spell though it’s been pretty mild most all of December. Great news for the bees – there’s been a good amount of pollen and nectar gathered for their stores and we’ve actually been amazed at the amount of brood on many of the hives when we opened them up for an occasional check on things. I like it when Mark is excited and happy with the hives’ health. He says it’s looking very good for a great season coming up and we hope this pattern will remain until spring!

We are looking forward to another year of grueling though very rewarding work and the best part of all of this is that we get to work with each other, family members and some of the very best friends anyone could ask for in this world. We are often amazed at how tireless they work to help us when they have plenty going on in their own lives as well. We sure appreciate each and every person in our life. We love you and we learn from you.

This is the lovely Thuy who stopped by in December for too short a visit. But while she was here, she sure did help us with ornament making and candle pouring. Oh yes, and bookkeeping. Fun! Always fun to have her help. Awwww...my two ornament making maniacs!!! 😬👍🐝

And then there’s our adorable, hard-working grandson – if you are doing something, he wants to help. That young man sure has learned a great work ethic early in life! He seems to get great satisfaction out of whatever it is he is doing. We sure love him!

Our lil boo helped me with more gift baskets before he left. We love spending time with him!

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We got about an inch and a lizard of rain Saturday. Lol he's so cute!

Well happy October, everyone! I can’t believe it’s here already but what a welcome change in terms of weather patterns. Mark caught this little guy in the rain gauge last week when he was checking on the rain we had gotten. Over the past several weeks, we have seen maybe 1 to 3 inches of rain each week and it’s made everything around here green again. The bees are flying heavily and bringing in tons of pollen. They’re also making some good honey for their winter stores and we are so excited about the potential for another great season next spring. Yes, we are already thinking ahead. This good soaking of the ground is what the wildflowers need NOW in order to bloom beautifully LATER.

In other news, we’ve been getting honey supers cleaned (with help from the bees as well as Stan and Mr. Savior), getting the home better organized (finally unpacking books and such now that we found some shelves), and preparing for upcoming holiday events! It’s about that time, right? We are busily getting wording and pictures updated so we can get the website caught up – we are so behind in terms of all the new products we haven’t had time to get listed. Well, we are now working on it and hope to have information to our friend Troy soon. He’s our awesome web designer who also happens to now have his own hives (yay Troy and family!)!

GBR Product Shoot 2014

Last Sunday we hosted our first vendor/member for our Pearl FM family! It was a great turnout and we look forward to having more of these so that we can all get to know each other better, away from the hustle and bustle of market. We are all so busy there that it’s hard to have time to visit with each other. This event was so much fun and we appreciated folks making time to drive to the Bee Ranch to see the operation. Can’t wait to see where we go next time!

Pearl Vendor Get Together

One more thing before I go…this is Mark’s third rattler killed. Thankfully only one has been at the house and now that we have spotted the family of gray foxes, we haven’t noticed snakes. Anyway, this one was at the Carolina bee yard which is located at the Moo Jesus Dairy Farm. Mark said it was headed into the garden the family keeps and he sure did not want it surprising them so he grabbed his handing garden hoe and took care of it. Thank goodness he had his snake boots on this time! Yay, honeybee! Good job, love. People have been telling us that they notice more rattlers this year so be careful out there, friends!

The only good thing about this is that I get some pics without worry about it being alive. It does, however, still move from reflex and that's a little creepy. #texas #rattlesnake

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Comanche Creek bee yard Aug 2014

Holy smokes, folks. Guess what? We managed to bring back thirty-one (yes 31!) honey supers yesterday from Comanche Creek bee yard. Pretty late in the year for the bees to be making honey but no one here is complaining, that’s for sure. Though we are in September, the bees made the bulk of this honey in August so we’ll go with an August harvest. So cool! Comanche Creek Farm & Ranch is the yard west of San Antonio. The past two years had been pretty hard for the hives out there due to the extreme drought. We even moved half of them off the property despite our desire to partner with the super nice Anderson family. We left one of two bee yards intact and prayed for a better year. And it happened. That area has received so much rain this year that creeks we typically see dry are filled with water. There is green grass all along the dirt roads we normally meander on to get to the hives. Trees and brush are greener and fuller. Bees are happier, healthier and busier. So not only are they making an amazing amount of honey this year, the hives are just downright robust and that makes for a very happy beekeeper. Mark and I were talking yesterday about how it all hinges on nutrition. With the rains, things bloom. With the blooms, bees receive the nutrition they need to thrive. Man, what an amazing switch for them and we couldn’t be happier. Go bees! The above picture was shot last week when Tang, Mark and I went to see the bees on Labor Day. We had a lovely picnic under an oak tree and I even spotted a wild beehive right above us – heard the hum of the bees. Below is one of my favorite shots – Tang loves to photograph things as much as I do! LOL If I get my camera/phone out, he has to have a shot also. That is one of the many Cenizo bushes in bloom after the rains out in that area. The bees were buzzing all over the bushes and you could really hear them well. I saw many had full pollen buckets so we were all very happy for them and for us.

Comanche Creek bee yard Aug 2014

The honey pulled yesterday tastes like it has this Cenizo as well as Bee Brush in it. All I know is that it’s gorgeously light and tastes wonderful. How nice to have a slightly different variety to try out in a year when my favorite Mesquite honey didn’t get made!

Comanche Creek honey Sept 2014

And this is what the 31 honey supers look like in the Honey House – so awesome!

Late harvest 2014

By the way, in case you don’t follow any of our other social media…we have official store hours now! It’s a start and we are pleased to be able to commit to it.

We started official store hours!

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First issue of TxFarm2Market

Here it is – our second published article in August! Wow, it’s as exciting as the fact that the bees are still making honey into August. We still have bees in Comanche making some honey. Crazy but good year! Back to the article. We met these two wonderful gentlemen at the Pearl Farmers Market back in June I believe and we really enjoyed learning about their plans for a new publication with a focus on the true producers of Texas, whether farming or ranching. Even on a Bee Ranch. We are so happy to be in the first issue of TXfarm2market and we hope you will make some time to read it in support of the publication as well as our fellow Pearl Farmers Market vendor, the Palmers of Palmer Farms. Thank you, Ernie, for taking the time to visit with us at market as well as driving out to Seguin to see the Bee Ranch – it was fun! Click here to see the first issue. Below is a shot of Ernie interviewing Mark at the Bee Ranch.

Ernie's awesome and we're enjoying our time and appreciate Tx Farm 2 Table coming to visit GBR!

Fumigating frames so wax moths won't eat up all the wax during winter storage

As we wrap up the last of honey being produced, there’s a lot of work to clean and then treat the hives for mites and fumigating with moth crystals to make sure we kill any wax moth larvae that might be on the frames. With three-digit heat indices, the men are usually pretty exhausted by the time they call it a day. Actually some days, lunch time brings me two very pooped men and I feel for them when they often head back out after lunch. Sometimes they can catch a break with work in the Candle Shop and when they do, I come home to beautiful candles. I love seeing what they do at the end of the day and hearing about it over dinner. Here’s a shot I took one afternoon when they starting hand-dipping sweet little tapers. I shot this one holding my camera under the rack and just above the hot beeswax. A little bit nervous but glad I got the shot.

Hand-dipped candles going into the wax melter #bees #beeswax #beekeeping #texas

Before I close, I want to mention that our bee classes are kicking back up next month! Nice to think that some slightly less sweltering heat is right around the corner (really it is!). If you are interested or know anyone who would like to come visit us for a class, then please check out our website for more information. Who’s ready to look at some bees with my beekeeper?

The queen in this hive is going to town. We'll likely be able to split this one. #bees #beekeeper #beekeeping

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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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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

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2014 Spring Open House

Guess what? It’s on! Spring is coming – can’t you see it in the wildflowers that are popping up more and more around us? How about these great little rain storms we’ve been getting? It’s great for the flowers, trees, fields and bees. We are excited about the outlook for the honey season. We’re also very excited about sharing our new Honey House with you all so we decided we didn’t want to wait until the Christmas holidays rolled around again. That is waaaaaaay too far away. So please swing by for our Spring Open House and we’ll be happy to show you around the new building and property. While we won’t every single thing in place, we have it functioning and looking and feeling really awesome. We just want to share some of that goodness. As always, honey tastings are going to be available as well as whatever wonderful beeswax products we’ve poured…including the exquisite Bunny ornament that Mark started pouring recently. I love it! Perfect for an Easter basket or a sweet little hostess gift. We hope to see you soon!

Bunny ornament 2014

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Queen cups

Good morning and happy Monday. We survived one of our biggest weeks and weekends. Yay! Thanks to all our friends and family who helped us through it all, from working the bees with Mark to going to market so we could distribute nucs and conduct our advance class. Overall it was great and we appreciate people being so interested and eager. We did learn some things from a few interactions we had and we’ll be analyzing things moving forward from this year on.

I wanted to post and since I want to keep things positive for our week kick-off, I thought I’d just share some recent photos that make us happy, amazed and thankful we get to work with such amazing creatures. In the picture above, those are queen cups the girls have prepared in the event the need to make some queens of their own. I love seeing queen cups and queen cells. It’s so neat to think what’s happening in there – a little bee could be growing up to be the mother of her own hive. Think about how many babies she might have and how much work they’d accomplish in their life. Pretty amazing.

Next I wanted to show you a cool shot Mark got out at Coyote Creek a couple of weeks ago. This has never been one of our stronger yards so we are pretty excited to see how booming the hives are this year already! Maybe this will be the year these girls take off over there in Kingsbury (not too far from us). This particular hive was growing so fast that the girls made cells on the lid, using every bit of space available. The queen then laid eggs in those cells, which is what you are seeing now.

Booming hive out at Coyote Creek bee yard

Sometimes, when you break open the cells accidentally, it does allow you to see and learn even if it means those few bees won’t make it. Sometimes we purposely open cells to check the larvae to see if mites are on them so we can take action. In the picture below, however, I was thrilled when Mark showed me the teeny, tiny eggs in the cells! Loved it. It just totally mesmerized me to think about those tiny girls.

Eggs in broken cells on hive lid

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First Bluebonnets of the 2014 in Seguin

These are the things I want to tell you about in this post. I have to make this list of three or else I will be all over the place since I have a million thoughts that want to be written.
1. Spring
2. The Honey House
3. Spring Open House

This could apply to many, many things right about now. Sometimes I have so many things I want to tell you guys that I don’t even know where to begin. Which reminds me that lately, Mark and I have so much going on that we sometimes feel on the edge of being overwhelmed and then we tell ourselves (and each other), okay slow down. Take a deep breath. Don’t freak. Make a list of the top three things you MUST do and go from there. Remember you cannot do ALL the things you have on your list/in your head to do.

Crazy eyes

Okay, it may just be me having those last thoughts. haha Mark is much calmer and cooler than I am like 99.9% of the time. I’m more of the Daffy Duck to his Bugs Bunny. That image came to my head as I was typing this.

Okay so did you see the Bluebonnets?!?! I spotted them not too far from the Bee Ranch but I had not been able to stop for a photo because the batch was at a pretty busy and somewhat dangerous intersection on Highway 725 and Interstate 10. BUT yesterday, I showed Mark when we were coming back from errands and he found a good safe spot for me. He’s so great to me. Anyway, it’s really exciting to see signs of spring – the Mesquite is even budding out now and many people believe that once the Mesquite does that, well, there are no more freezes coming our way. We will see and hope for that because the up and down weather patterns have killed back early bloomers quite a bit and people are sad about those losses. I was remembering last year when we brought back the nucs that all the Huisache was in full bloom and looking gorgeous (see picture of that loveliness on Flickr). This year? They still look dormant because what did start budding out pretty much froze off during one of the weird temperature dips. Oh well. They were so beautiful and abundant last year but still the bees didn’t touch it.

The Honey House on a drizzly night

And now a little update on the Honey House. It looked particularly special Saturday night when I went out there to get Mark for dinner. You see, it had been drizzling and/or raining pretty much all day! Talk about wonderful. We loved hearing it on the roofs of the house and the HH because the metal roofing sounds lovely. We just can’t believe it still – all that space is actually ours and it’s actually done and inspected and passed. And all we have to do is figure out work-flow and organization and then get our stuffs in there. We are SUPER excited about it and feel very blessed of course but it is causing some stress from time to time for the beekeeper. Poor man. So much he wants to do…tend to the bees, make candles, move into the HH, taxes (yay, almost ready to check this off the list), and then there’s life stuff. You know, we do try to have a little down time (a few hours here and there) once in a while. Here’s a peek inside (and no we do not have temperature control in there):

Visit to the Honey House one evening

Finally, I just want to mention we decided to have a Spring Open House since we had so much fun at the Holiday OH! Plus we hope to have things set up in the Honey House so we can tour y’all around. So, save the date and come visit the Bee Ranch! That’s a Sunday and the Open House will be the usual 2 to 6 p.m. More on that later this week (once I finish the flyer). Okay got to run, ciao and have a great day!

Update: Sorry, I got excited and forgot to say the Open House is APRIL 6. hehe

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Curling incense

In case you didn’t know it, today is the first day of the Lunar New Year! So happy Tet (Vietnamese New Year) to you if you are celebrating! I love that I have two cultures to draw from – so we get another new year kickoff! In honor of Tet, I made some quiet time this morning to reflect on our past, our present and what might be in our future and I am so thankful, so happy, and so excited about our continuing journey this coming year. We feel like it’s going to be a big, big year for our business as well as for our personal family life. There’s a saying that when your incense curls while burning, that means good things are happening so I was very happy to see our incense this morning. Good sign.

I took today off to just celebrate life and everything in it and to be with Mark and Tang. I sure miss them when I go off to work at the mill and they’re doing all sorts of work together. I do love getting reports and checkins but it’s not the same as being together. So today, I am very happy I get to just be with them as I was last Sunday when we went out to two bee yards to check on and feed the bees. And yes, they are used to all my gear.

Hanging out with the men

Do you need some help deciding if you should come check out the Pearl Farmers Market every Saturday morning? Have you been but thought, “Oh, been there, done that. Why should I go again?” Allow me to share with you why WE love to go…

We’ve got all these good-looking, good-smelling, good-for-your-environment beeswax products we like to share.

Candles candles and more candles

And these sweeties will be there tomorrow also.

Oh sweet heart ornaments

Then there’s the food we pick up so we can nourish our bodies. I made this last week and my brother told me I should have a restaurant (that’s a big compliment from him). I got the ingredients from fellow Pearl market vendors: big portabella mushroom from Kitchen Pride Mushroom, spinach from Springfield Farm, goat cheese from CKC Farms, cauliflower from Oak Hill Farms, egg from Wholesome Harvest Farm (right here in Seguin with us!).

Stuffed portabella

Ah finally, an update on our lovely, lovely Honey House – so close to being ready for final inspection! Holding back on the exclamation points but we are pretty excited, to say the least. When I get frustrated with the red tape businesses have to cut through just to get something like this done, all I have to do is to into the HH. All that negativity just disappears into thin air as I look around and visualize us all working in the space that will soon be completed. No more falling on top of each other. No more sticking to honeyed/waxed equipment that because there wasn’t enough room to pass by even with your gut sucked in (haha). No more hunting one room for tape, another room for a box and a third room for the products you need to ship. WOW. What are we going to do or think?? This will feel like a mansion to us! Well, actually it will be a mansion for our bee biz. It’s really tangible now. It’s really looking like a work space and we can’t wait to move in, get to work and have y’all over!

Mark and I check out the current progress of the HH

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