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Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

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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Honeybees carrying in pollen

These bees were spotted carrying in some pollen earlier this week – yay! We’ve actually gotten a bit of rain here and there, definitely enough to make a difference since they’re finding pollen somewhere out there. Just this week, we’ve measure about 1.25 inches in the gauge. And Mark reported earlier today that Bigfoot got about two inches down there in Frio County. Nice! A fellow Texan commented on one of my Instagram shots that it is funny how excited we get over rain here. Well, it’s true. We do. We just don’t always get rain consistently so we get excited in drought years. 🙂 And then we run outside to pull our potted plants out far enough so they, too, can benefit from the natural watering from above.

Rainy evening

Next up and in light of some cool (though not really cool for our bees) pictures the beekeeper gets for me when I’m not with him in bee yards and the fact that people have questions about what dangers face the honeybees, I thought I’d show you some of the things we’ve seen in our beeyards that might impede the progress of the bees (besides man). First, here’s the very gorgeous Lynx Spider. Though not poisonous to humans, I read their bite does cause pain. Quite a bit. My awesome older bro pointed out to me, when I told him this, “All bites cause pain.” Well, that’s sort of true isn’t it? Put it in perspective for me. haha

Got another one for dinner

Back in 2006 we had our first but not our last sighting of the awful Robber Fly – nasty and reminds me of several alien-related movie creatures. Poor bees – these guys prey cleverly, following the bees around the area as they forage. And when the bees least expect it, they pounce! Grabbing them and then doing their thing. I read that they pretty much drink the life out of the bees. 0_0 Mark has gone through several robber fly swatters as he smacks them whenever he can in the bee yards.

Something wicked this way comes...what is that?!

Back to spiders – the Black Widow seems to really love hanging out in the boxes. Not sure we’ve seen them feasting on the bees but Mark’s pretty sure they want to feast on the beekeepers. Thank goodness for good gloves and that the beekeeper and crew are wearing them more this year. They get in the way and slow down work at times but it’s better than getting a kiss from one of these ladies. 😦

Biggest Black Widow I've ever seen

This one has got to be one of my favorites only in the sense that the spider is pretty awesomely unique. I mean look at those fangs and that helmet head!

Spider's dinner

One last one to show the cleverness of the bee predators – building a web right outside the front door! Poor bees don’t even see the web until it’s too late sometimes, although I did watch as several of the bees were able to disentangle themselves and scoot on inside. After a shot this, Mark got rid of the web since he had to open up the hive to tend to the bees. Good job, love.

Spider web at hive entrance

Okay, so there’s a tour of some of the dangers awaiting bees and beekeepers here in South Texas. Besides these things, we just have to keep one eye out on the fields around us – no bears but sometimes there are snakes, wild hogs, skunks, and such things. The fun things include wild turkeys, road runners, deer, fiesty donkeys (thinking about the hilarious one at Deadman Creek), lots of gorgeous birds, weird looking caterpillars and an occasional coyote or fox. Pretty awesome stuff to see. I’m sure in different areas, y’all have different threats and all sorts of loveliness to see as well. That’s one of the many rewards of beekeeping I would say.

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Gonzales Bee Yard

As the men drive to Gonzales and to our original bee yard there, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic this morning. While it had been a good place to start with, it has become so dry in that county that we need to move the bees in order to same them from continuing their decline. There’s simply not enough to sustain them on their own there so they’ll be moving to the Cibolo Creek bee yard as that location’s hives seem to be thriving. So in tribute to the good years we had at this yard, here’s some of my favorite shots.

In greener years, we got some of the BEST honey ever tasted from this bee yard!

Frame full of honey

Here Mark was checking on the honey flow of 2010.

Gonzales bee yard

We’ll miss the dogs and horses and cows. 🙂

cow sniffs hive gonzales

And all the lovely flowers, too!

Wild poppy

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Prepping display for Artisans' Market at Williams-Sonoma at the Shops at La Cantera

Hello friends! Hope everyone’s had a great week and hope our San Antonio friends are enjoying the cooler weather for all their Fiesta festivities. 🙂 Fiesta is pretty much a week-long party in the city of SA for those of you who haven’t experienced one. It’s a lot of fun!

In market news, we have two events happening Saturday. Mark and I will kick off at the Pearl as usual but then Jessica and Sonia will take over for us so we can head over to The Shops at La Cantera from 12-4p. If you are in either areas, then we hope you’ll stop by to say hello. Earlier this week I did a dry-run of the display for the Williams-Sonoma event since we are limited to one 6-ft table but allowed to bring any of our products, including the ever popular specialty honeys, honey dippers and honey pots. Yep. Honey samples WILL be provided. 🙂

Lovely honeycomb filling up with honey

Speaking of honey. Did you see that lovely frame up above? I shot that one while out at Comanche Creek with Mark on my day off – what a gorgeous place to visit and wow, are the bees doing great out there! They are making some light Huajilla Honey and we were thrilled to have Mark use up all the honey supers he took with him. I believe he said he could have used a few more. So it’s a good thing he is heading back out there today (minus me…boooo!) to check on things. Luckily (or not), we did not encounter Mr. Rattler as I’m now calling him – that big ole rattlesnake Stan and Mark saw last time they were out there together.

Okay, since many people seem to want to know what it’s like in a bee yard and some want to go with us and since we can’t accommodate all the requests, I thought I could at least shoot a video for y’all. This is at Comanche Creek #2 (remember we have two locations on that ranch) and the bees were flying beautifully that day. I was in full gear only because I was all over the place and right up on the entrances shooting pictures and videos and I didn’t want any stings slowing me down. Otherwise, most anyone else would have done fine with just a veil like Mark. The bees were just simply too busy foraging and making honey. What a lovely sight it was.

In other related news – we finally, officially own the property attached to our little Bee Ranch on the back side. WOO HOO! This means signing papers and checks and then a celebratory dinner where I didn’t have to cook (even though I do love to cook, that was nice). Of course, over dinner, we had the beginnings of a deep discussion that will continue I’m sure. What exactly do we want to do with that land? How will we build? How big or small will it be? What operations do we want it to support and how long might we want to do this? 🙂 I told Mark I really want to retire at some point (and him too of course) and travel and see places we talk about – both here in the states and abroad. Heck, I can’t wait to get back to the Outer Banks in NC! Love that place. Anyway. We need to figure some things out before we break ground. But what a relief to have this really long, unexpectedly long process (almost) completed. Just waiting on other signatures and so on. We’ll update y’all on things as they develop but this bit of news is big for this project that laid dormant for so long. YAY!

Signing checks and papers - one step closer to a new honey house.

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Showing Contractor Ed the property soon to be ours

Took a little stroll out to the back part of the property this evening with Contractor Ed. We really like him and the ideas he had. Let’s hope things progress a little bit now. The update on the new Honey House is there’s no update on the HH. Amazingly, we are still waiting on paperwork from the seller. No one seems in a hurry whatsoever on this so I guess it’s a GREAT thing we have some options in terms of extraction locations come harvest time. We would, however, really like to have a HH in time for our annual fall open house – it would be really great to be able to give people a real tour of our little central honey hub! Keep your fingers crossed on that for us.

Besides that stuff, Mark’s been out in the bee yards even when he’s not feeling 100%, unlike me feeling 100% under the weather and crashing for a whole day and a half! Crazy. Anyway, luckily we are both feeling better this evening and the bees seem to be feeling just fine right now. Lately Mark’s been checking on the bees at Big Oaks, Elm Creek and Deadman Creek. They are all doing well and there is even a bit of a honey flow going on at Elm Creek. Here’s a picture of one of our very first bee yards we established here in Guadalupe County. Still one of my favorites.

Honey flow at Elm Creek Spring 2013

Here’s a not-so-welcoming site Mark received out at Deadman Creek bee yard today. Great, another potentially dangerous critter to add to this year’s growing list. We’ve not had problems with them in the past and this is actually the first we’ve seen on or near our hives so now we know to be watching our for them as well. Let’s see, that’s rattlesnakes, black widows, brown recluses, and scorpions. Let’s see what else we encounter as we continue working the bees. By the way, bees are looking good at Deadman Creek. The recent rain helps but we are hoping for more this Thursday when the forecast is predicting about a 60% chance of rain. Keep your fingers crossed.

Found him on a bee box. Took care of him with the hive tool.

Tonight I decided I had all the right ingredients to try a scrub recipe I’ve been wanting to make for quite some time. I love the lemony smell so I went with that one; plus it has honey in it so you can’t go wrong, right? It was very easy to make and took no time whatsoever. 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon of honey. That’s it. I’ll let you know how I like it after I try it.

Honey & Lemon scrub making

I really love the yellow, spring look to it. If nothing else, it will certainly add color and a fresh scent to the bathroom. 🙂

Ready to use homemade Honey & Lemon Scrub

Tomorrow’s agenda: Visit the Marriott Bee Yard and see how they’re doing. The four sponsored hives are there as well and so we’ll update our sponsors about their progress.

*Verdict on the scrub: I like it but next time I will reduce the amount of olive oil to 1/4 cup rather than 1/2. Love the texture, however.

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Chinaberry above the backyard hives

Let me start off with the good. Look at the lovely Chinaberry blooming out back, just above the backyard hives we have set up here at the little Bee Ranch. Lovely. I first noticed they were beginning to bud out during the March bee class and I made a note to check again. Love looking at them. As we drove to market this morning in SA, I noticed that more of these had bloomed all along Highway 281; so pretty! I also enjoyed seeing the spreads of Bluebonnets, Primroses, Indian Blankets, Horsemint (yay!), and several other flowers I didn’t know names of this morning. I love this time of year. Weather’s still enjoyable and cool-ish. 🙂 No 3-digit oven temps just yet.

And now for something a little less good. 😦 I just want to share these things with everyone so that our new beekeepers (who are hopefully reading our blog posts as we suggested or joined up with a local bee club) will also be on the alert.

Brown Recluse in observation hive

So you know what that is? We looked at many pictures to confirm it…brown recluse. Yuck. And what’s that you see under her? Egg sack perhaps!? Double yuck. I sure was not happy when Mark showed me that picture. This little beauty was actually ON our observation hive that we pulled out of the garage for the first time this year. It’s been in there since the weather turned cold and we stopped taking our bees to markets. If he hadn’t gotten the box out for display, that means more than likely that sack of tiny, terrible babies would be all over our garage! 😦 Thank God things happen they way they did. He killed the spider and got rid of the sack as well. Between the rattlesnake den and the brown recluse plus sack and all the crawling, long, fuzzy black caterpillars…it’s amazing Smokey’s not been carried off somewhere. We’re going to have to really watch ourselves (minus caterpillar danger) and you should also.

For new beekeepers, please keep in mind that things crawl in and out of our bee boxes all the time so take precautions when you are checking your hives. Which you should be doing now. If you don’t recall, last year during harvest, we ran across black widows under the lids on some hives. Danger! Just be careful out there.

Biggest Black Widow I've ever seen

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Mystery flower at Comanche Creek March 29

Does anyone know what this might be? Our friend suggested Crabapple but if it is, then it is of a very small variety compared to the typical bloom. All we know is that it is abundant out at Comanche Creek and our bees seem to LOVE it. They were all over it when I went with Mark last Friday – which, by the way, was one of my best days off ever! Even though it now seems long ago, it still makes me happy to think I got to kick off a 3-day weekend hanging out with my most awesome beekeeping husband! It was a beautiful day here – cool enough to sit out back with a customer for a bit while we waited for Mark to bring back a few nucs for pick-up. I packed a lunch and we headed to Comanche Creek after that. I always enjoy riding around with Mark because you never know what we’ll see or who we get to meet! There’s always an adventure out there if you just are open to it. I love being with him.

Anyway, enough of the mushy stuff, I’m sure you’re thinking. Okay so today Mark went out to CC again to feed the bees. He wants them really nice and strong as can be before the Huajilla blooms in earnest. And they send pictures home of a big ole rattlesnake. Another one in our life is not my idea of nice. One in the back yard is still worrisome (along with a den we still need to deal with eventually) but the one they saw was as big as a man’s forearm. Too big for me. They heard him when they were opening the third gate to get to the bee yards on the ranch. 😦 Very worrisome that we are going to continue to run into more of them. And to think all these years we’ve gone without seeing any. And now two within two weeks. Eeeks. Snake boots and a gun. Mandatory gear for a while I think. Mark told me when we recapped our day that there might be a market for these rattlers if he and Stan catch them. WHAT?? I hope he’s kidding.

Guess what – it’s finally coming down hard here at the Bee Ranch! How exciting! I won’t have to water yet, which is always nice but even nicer is that it will be a great boost for our bees. Yay rain! You wouldn’t believe how often we all check the forecasts and radars. lol

Let’s see what else is going on – bee checks and feedings, that’s what. We moved several more hives out to CC so it’s proving to be one of our larger yards. Still amazing to us to be on a ranch that big and have two separate yards in which to place the bees. Still more amazing is that every time we go out there, we get to see amazing beauty. We feel so incredibly blessed when we experience that!

I have so many things I want to show you from out there. Here’s CC #2 yard, named #2 only because we scouted the location second during our very first visit.

Mark at Comanche Creek March 29 3

They were flying like crazy out there. The hum of the bees was amazing. I’m glad I was fully suited as a couple of girls got irritable since it turned cloudy and a bit breezy. And if you missed it on Facebook, here’s a video I captured while at CC #1. Be sure to watch the HD version so it’s a better picture. I shoot it in HD but the default setting for YouTube viewing is less than that so you have to manually choose it. If there’s a way to change that default, you can tell me. 🙂

While at CC #1, I also saw beautiful Bluebonnets that I just had to shoot.

Bluebonnets at Comanche Creek March 29 2

I saw a few bees in there and I captured a couple of shots though none good enough to share in my opinion. Their buzzing, however, did lead me to find them not on the flowers, but on the ground taking in water at the end of the tank. Funny little girls. They need lots of water so we are happy the tanks levels are still up at this time. The tank is just down the hill from the yard location so it’s perfect for the bees.

Here’s another shot I really liked – check out her pollen basket! So cool. At this point, dressed in my full suit on top of my jeans, boots and so on, I was level with the entrance and could enjoy watching them coming and going for quite some time. It was nice to feel secure in my suit and not be a bother to them. They are just so fascinating to watch. Sometimes they tumble a bit when they land, which is hilarious. I also saw at another hive that there were several bee fights going on as they rob from each other sometimes when we feed them. Silly girls, they sure cracked me up jumping on each other and rolling right off the landing of then entrance.

Bees at entrance at Comanche Creek March 29 4

Okay, one more. I told Mark I noticed the gigantic red ants were nearby and I tracked their huge home up at the top of the hill. It was huge. And they do bite and it does sting and I do swell a bit. FYI – don’t think they are harmless. Anyway, he later called to me and showed me a hilarious sight – here’s why we don’t mind the ants in bee yards.

ants with hive beetle and bee

That little ant just chugged along with his hive beetle larvae. He had a long way to go up that hill but I watched him and snapped his progress. It was so interesting! He moved faster than you’d think. And then I saw this other ant headed the same way; really, you cannot help but see them because they are HUGE. Anyway, the second ant had half a bee (our bee!) and was headed home. For some reason, this just really fascinated me. It was like a race and the hive beetle ant was beating the bee ant by a long shot. It was fun to watch them and this was all just a fraction of the fun I had that day at Comanche Creek with Mark. 🙂 I am a lucky, happy girl.

If you would like to see more pictures of our Comanche Creek bee yards, you can swing over to our Flickr photo set and enjoy. 🙂

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