Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Troy and Mark

This is our friend and awesome web designer, Troy! He owns Stratagem Technical Services and has really helped us create a beautiful site for our growing little bee biz. We are thrilled that Troy got to stop in to see us at the Bee Ranch this week – even got to visit a couple of bee yards with Mark while I worked. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on his first visit with bees – sometimes we are with them so much, you miss out on the newness of experiences. I have two favorites that Troy shared with me and I will tell you briefly here what they are.

Troy and the queen bank

Troy got to see the queen bank and install a queen cage into a hive. Remember, Mark has those 50 Heitkam queens he needs to install. Well I think my favorite thing about Troys’s description of the experience is the feeling of all those little wings touching his bare hands as he slide the cage between two frames full of bees. How lovely it sounded – I have never done that before so see what I’m missing out on there? I liked hearing about it, however. It was so poetic.


Funny shot, rigth? I love that donkey because from day 1 at Deadman Creek bee yard, he has been a real character. The first time we “met” him, he was trotting stalkingly behind and beside us in the ATV we were riding to check out the property with Craig. Hilarious little fella. Well apparently he treat Mark and Troy to a real show while they were working bees. About ten feet away from the hives, Donkey decided to stop, drop and roll around in the dirt! Troy’s phone was inside his bee suit and by the time Mark got his phone out and camera on, Donkey had finished and jumped straight up as if nothing unusual had just happened. Ugh! I miss all the fun! If I had seen that in person, I seriously think I would have laughed my head off. What a silly donkey he is.

After all that excitment of the day, no visit would be complete without a real south Texas meal so we took Troy to Clear Springs and the food was yummy. And abundant. 🙂 We thoroughly enjoyed the visit and getting to know Troy better. Can’t wait for his next visit already.

I think we were up till about 1:00am to finish as much prep as possible for the Pearl market and the Gonzales Come & Take It Festival. We’re learning about doubling up on everything from products to supplies to staffing. But we are ready! So come by and visit us at either or both events!! Come & Take It is always a fun event to do – people are wonderful and there’s music, food, vendors, a carnival with rides, a Saturday parade and so much more. We always love doing that event. It starts tonight and Mark and Stan are there setting up – we’ll be ready with local and specialty honeys by 5:00pm today and it runs to midnight (yes!). Jess and I will be manning the double booth all day tomorrow and we’ll be in our usual spot hear the fire house, on the side where you can see the old theatre. Great spot. Then Sunday Mark and I will wrap it up together so do stop by and visit. Lan and Cathy will be helping Mark at the Pearl tomorrow and our CrepeLandia friends are back so that will be a treat for Mark – we missed them last week as rain and crepes apparently do not mix. lol Crowds are expected to be full since a lot of folks need to pick up goods they missed out on last weekend thanks to all that water everywhere. So if you want your honey and candles, be sure to get there early!

Okay friends – we are out of here! Y’all have a wonderful and safe weekend. We hope to run into you somewhere along the beeventure trails. Love, Thien


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Installations of the Heitkam queens from Cali

Today Mark finally had a chance to start installing a few of the fifty queens he recently received from Heitkam Honey Bees out of California. In between administrative work, errands and candle making, he headed out to Big Oaks where the queen bank is located. He said that one of the hives was very strong but also on the aggressive side. A great reason to requeen, I’d say. He only got stung a few times but none after donning the Ultra Breeze. The challenges of working with a suit on include not being able to easily have a water break without opening up the suit and it’s hot. But we’re in Texas, so it’s pretty much hot in any suit (in my opinion). The UB does help because it has great ventilation (though I sort of prefer the soft cotton suits because they are lighter).

In the picture above, you see one of the queens in her cage. Mark has taped the opening end and will leave the cage in the newly divided hive for two days so that the bees may begin getting used to the new queen’s scent. He will then return to that yard and remove the tape on those hives he did today. Within seven days, the bees and the queen will eat through the sugar cork that is in the end of the cage. Once they eat through that cork, the queen will be able to move out of the cage – by that time, hopefully everyone’s been seduced by their new queen’s scent and they will simply go about doing their bee assignments. That’s ultimately what you hope for when you install queens. Mark told me that he once had to requeen a hive five times before the bees accepted their queen. That’s a lot of poor queens that the bees did away with for some reason. At about $20 a pop, it sounds like a lot of money but when you start thinking about how critical the queen is to the well-being of a hive, then it puts it in perspective, right? $20 for an awesome queen with a healthy, strong, abundantly populated hive sounds like a great deal. I wonder if queen breeders ever have a BOGO deal. Wouldn’t that be funny? 🙂 BOGO stands for buy-one, get-one in case you didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue the first few times I saw it. There’s your retail trivia for the day.

Wonder what tracks these are...

I always love hearing what Mark did during his day with the bees and the bee business. I never know what he’ll tell me or what picture he’ll show me. When I saw this one of the tracks, I asked if it was the longhorns out at Deadman Creek on the Lazy U Ranch. No, he said. They’re probably tracks of the CHUPACABRA. In case you don’t know what that animal is, take a minute to Google it since I don’t have an actual picture of the rarely-seen, questionably-real creature. That beekeeper of mine is funny.

And here’s a lovely shot he got of one of the bees working the Broomweed, which is now blooming all about the area. This makes a bitter honey that we leave on the hives for the bees to winter on and perhaps we won’t have to feed them until next spring. With the rain we’ve been getting, it’s been wonderful for the bees. We hope there will continue to be enough out there for our newly divided hives to strengthen themselves on in preparation for the South Texas winter.

Bee in the broomweed

Finally, we want to thank our friends and family who have helped us move over to the new Bee Ranch. We are officially moved in though things are of course not yet in all their right spots. The Honey House on Krezdorn is still in use as we don’t have a new HH yet so if you see a vehicle over there, feel free to stop in as we always love visitors. Wish us luck in cleaning things up and getting some little fixes completed on our sweet little original Bee Ranch. That home was a good home to us and we hope the next owners will love it as much as we loved it. It’s just time for us to move on. Speaking of which, my sweet little baby Smokey is out and about exploring his new territory. We haven’t seen him back in about 24 hours so I’m an anxious momma. I hope that crazy cat comes home soon. Mark said he LOVED class last Saturday and I can’t imagine class without him. Send him home if you see him please! Goodnight.

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Applying Hopguard to the hives in Runge, Texas

We got it all in one post. Today Mark and David trekked down to Runge to check on the hives down there. A few supers came back with them and they spent some time applying Hopguard on the bees to treat for mites. Given the hot, dry weather conditions, Mark said the bees were not too pleased being bothered in the middle of the day so they were a bit feisty. Mark got about 15 stings down there, poor man. When I got home and went to check on him in the Honey House, I think I gasped a little when he looked at me. He was a little red from the heat and swollen from the stings. 😦 My poor beekeeper. I know he’s tough but when you love someone and they look tired and slightly swollen…my heart just constricted a bit. So I did what any normal, loving, allergic-to-bee-stings wife would do – I ran in the house (lot of bees in the HH due to the honey supers) to make fresh ice water and a plate of cheese on crackers. Later, when some friends needed to borrow a bee suit, Mark went back out to the HH to get it and a bee got in his shirt. She let him know she was there as we ate dinner. That was sting #16. Good thing he is not allergic to them. I itch just thinking about it. 🙂

JW Marriott Wildflower 2012

This was my little project this week to help Mark fill a special order for our friends at the JW Marriott in SA. They need 150 little jars of the Wildflower extracted from the hives on their property. And guess where our wonderful jars of honey are headed? New York City! We’re hoping Ryan will take a picture or two during the trip and share with us. We’d love to see what’s happening with it. I did learn that the event is a special dinner at which Ryan (JW’s executive chef) is presenting some delicious, Texas theme dishes, according to the James Beard events calendar. That organization grants awards in the food industry (including wines, restaurants, etc.) that are like the Oscars. Wow! That’s cool to think our honey heading to an event of that caliber. We’re happy Ryan and his staff are so supportive of our efforts. Like the griffin logo that belongs to JW Marriott? Mark designed it for their honey. I am always impressed with Mark’s creative side. Way to go, honey bee!

Lastly, I saved this less-than-lovely-but-oh-so-fascinating shot of what Mark and David saw at the Runge bee yard – yikes! Mark texted this to me while I was at work and I opened the picture and I’m pretty sure I yelped. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a scream. Maybe it was. But it’s sort of fascinating while also gross. It made me think of Lord of the Flies, which I read while in high school. At one point in the book, the boys stake a pig’s head on the beach from what I remember. It’s been a while. Speaking of which, my TWENTY-FIFTH (yep, 25th) reunion is next month in my hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina! Shout out to my friends – go Eagles! 🙂

Don't lose your head, hog. Runge, Texas bee yard.

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The round swingy chair :-)

While I have some quiet time here in Irving (just swinging in the bumblebee-like chair at the hotel), I was thinking how much I miss my beekeeper and my home and our bees and our new Bee Ranch and my friends and my kitty. I think that about covers it. I’m finishing up my second week of travel for my IT training job and while I have enjoyed dipping back into training delivery (really, really miss teaching!), I will be glad to be home again. I need to pack a house, after all!

Earlier during a break between classes, a teammate stopped by to check on me and then our talk turned to bees, which often happens once people get a taste of our beeventures and the honey. He asked great questions – how does the queen mate? How long do they live? What is honey used for in nature if we didn’t extract it? Do other animals bother the bees? Do ants pose a problem? How do you get a bucket of honey? Does it go bad? I loved it. I love talking bees and honey and beeswax. 🙂 And partnerships and sharing and fun friends we make. I also had another conversation with a new friend and vendor at Pearl and we’re going to continue our discussion in future about growing a small business. Mark and I had just talked about the potential of our friends’ venture and what great products they have but noted they had no online presence up to this point. We thought about how much they could grow their sales if only people knew what they had and how they made it. Well, our friend brought it up and wants some insight into the whole social media component of marketing a business. You know me – I love to talk about social media so I can’t wait to give them some information about how it has really helped GBR grow. If utilized properly, then social media need not be a scary, bad thing. Really.

Putting moth crystals on cleaned up empty supers

I have been wanting to share with you all something we are doing – prepping empty supers for storage now that the honey flow is over. That’s a shot of Mark at The Farm bee yard in one of the greenhouses not being used currently. Pedro is nice enough to let us store our supers there – good and dry cover so that is wonderful. As we finish extracting, the empty honey supers are stacked and then taken out to a bee yard so that the bees can go to town cleaning them up – getting all the honey they can off the frames and boxes. They typically do a great job within a few days. Then you must get the cleaned, empty supers and prepare them for storage. The honey the bees make from now through fall will be a darker honey from Broomweed and we’ll leave that for them to eat on during winter and before things bloom in spring. In the shot below Mark is putting plates of moth crystals on top of the stacks of empty supers. The crystals will not damage or contaminate the wax and boxes in any way but it will keep wax moths from eating up our wax. Mark replaces the lids snuggly and makes sure any holes/entrances are plugged. We need to seal them up so that the proper fumigation takes place. These frames will be used again next year.

Moth crystals to fight wax moths

Here’s a shot of what happens if you don’t get the moth crystals on the supers in time or if they are just pesky enough to survive the crystals – yuck!!!!!! No matter how many times I see these types of frames, I am always a little startled by them. It’s not the end of the world, however, and often you can just clean off the frames and they’ll be fine for reuse but me being the girl I am…I am ever thankful that Mark handles all this. He’s a sweetie to not ask me to work the bees and clean up messes like this and I’m super grateful! And sorry I didn’t get a closer shot…I didn’t want to really see it up close but I must note it is rather fascinating that those little devils turn our beautiful honeycomb frame into what looks like ashy webs. 😦

So your beekeeping lesson: Try and take care of your supers as soon after you extract as possible. And at least here in south Texas, prepare the supers for storage by getting a good amount of moth crystals (NOT MOTH BALLS) on the empty boxes.

Bad frame - wax moths

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Bottling Gonzales Wildflower Honey

Hello there! I’m back so it’s time to catch up a bit on things and to catch you up on what we’re up to these days. Mark and I are both back to our jobs full time so we’re squeezing in as much GBR work as possible in the evenings and on weekends. Doesn’t help when I go out of town (you can always tell b/c my posting goes MIA) but I had a fabulous visit in with my family as we all regrouped in Florida for a big ceremony for my mom. While it was wonderful to be with my family, I was happy to get back to my beekeeper and beekeeping life here in the scorching heat of Texas. Actually, this week is not too bad BUT next Monday I was told by Mark that the temperature is forecasted to be 102. This made me laugh because my NC sister and nephew are visiting the entire week. What a hot welcome they’ll get – I better tell them to pack bathing suits. lol

Snapping shots of the bees

So while I was gone over the weekend, Mark had class and ran it by himself. Smokey enjoyed it and did his usual socializing and schmoozing. I think that cat thinks he’s a human. He’s hilarious. By the way, my welcome home from him was watching him stalk and then pounce on a poor, sweet little dove who seemed to have a lame wing and could not fly away. 😦 If I didn’t have my hands full with travel stuff and if I wasn’t so tired, I would have chased his furry butt away from the poor bird. But instead I had to watch the snatch and run. And then when I left to pick up dinner, there he was enjoying HIS dinner. I can’t stay mad at that Smokey. Especially when he looks up and he’s got a feather on his head. Made me laugh.

Bee in honey

In other news directly related to honey and bees…we got a floater in there! We were laughing when we ran across this last night as we needed to bottle up the Gonzales Wildflower in the tank so that we could pour Guadalupe County Wildflower in there. [Notes to ourselves: get more tanks once we have more space.] Sometimes the bees just can’t keep themselves out of the honey, even if it means dying in the tank. I guess if you have to go, at least this is an awesome way to go.

So on that note, I will end with this thought: this weekend we do more catch-up work on GBR and we take the “sold out” off most of the sizes for our local honey, both Guadalupe and Gonzales. People have been itching to buy it up and we’ve been itching to share it on a larger scale. We just needed some time to bottle and label. So, thank you for y’all’s patience and know that we should have a LOT available very, very soon. 🙂

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pulling out old frames

Today Mark went out to the Big Red Barn, formally known as the Texas Agricultural Education and Heritage Center, which we’ve posted about in the past when he or both of us have been out there for educational events such as Ag Fest. This time he went out in order to deliver some bees of ours for the observation hive. Seems their bees flew off so they needed some replacements. In the above shot, Mark’s opened up the case with the help of a very nice man who works the farm. He has to remove the old bottom frames and clean things up a bit. Looks like these bees and frames had been in the case for a while. Then, in the below picture, he is placing one of our new bee frames into the bottom slot. He picked some frames that had plenty of brood ready to go. This one was nice and full on both sides.

Mark placing bee frames 2

Finally, in the shot below, Mark has completed the cleaning and installation of our bees and they now have a new home at the Barn. We are eager to see how they fare there and hope they will thrive with their Derwin Thrash queen. We’ll need her to lay plenty of eggs in order to rebuild the hive there so that when we go out to speak to people coming through there, we’ll have plenty to educate with as they go about their business. I still wish we could figure out how to put a webcam on the bees. That’d be really neat to see where they go and how they get in and out of the tube at the Barn. 🙂

Big Red Barn Bees closeup

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cow at hive gonzales

Today Mark made a visit out to the Elm Creek, Gonzales and Pizza yards. It’s been several days since he’s been out to the yards – we’re really worried about the fires raging through our poor state. Thousands of gorgeous acres burned to a crisp. 😦 All the poor people who have lost their houses…my heart just aches every time we watch the news. Mark is constantly changing the channel once I grab tissues. So how does this equate to him not visiting the bees? Well, we were talking about how one of the big fires started because of the catalytic converter of a vehicle sparking the dry grass and brush. Which then led to Mark thinking he wouldn’t want to start a fire with his own truck or the smoker. Which led me to think I sure wouldn’t want him to be out there in the event a brush fire is blown his way with the winds we’ve been having. He often does his bee work solo and if he got caught in the fires…well, I just couldn’t bear that thought. So, he took a bit of a break since last week and today he really enjoyed being out in the yards with his bees. The weather has also been so much more pleasant. We have been in the 90s this week with mornings in the upper 50s and lower 60s – FABULOUS! Today at Gonzales he was kept company by some of the tamest cows he’s encountered. I thought they were really sweet looking and he said they were nice – even let him pet them. I wish I had been there!! I always miss it when I don’t get to go to the yards and he tells me about his visits.

Below is a shot of the same oak tree in the background and it was shot back in 2010 at the end of June. Granted, the two pictures are separated by about two and a half months (end of June versus mid-Septembr) but I wanted you to recall how beautiful the Gonzales countryside is, especially at that beeyard. We love going out there – breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the peacefulness of no cars or trucks or other city noises. I hope that we can see it return to its lush state in the near future.

She sure was curious.

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hive entrance mite board

As part of his morning activities with the bees, Mark’s been going to out to each bee yard on a regular schedule that he keeps up-to-date on his phone. This morning he visited the Capote yard, which has been a tough yard for the bees this year. We love it out there but we’re down to a handful of hives. Mark just agreed, they are a handful. Those poor things have suffered cows and bulls bumping them and the dreaded foul brood, which Mark got under control. He’s moved some of the hives out and lost a couple but he perseveres as always. The powdered sugar treatment is a part of his routine out at the yards. He slides the marked board under the screen bottom board of the hive and then he shakes that fine dusting of sugar from above. As the mites fall off the bees and onto the board below, he can assess if the count warrants some more attention beyond the powdered sugar treatment. In the picture below, can you see some tiny brown, round flecks in the bottom of the grid? There’s also another mite in the second from bottom row on the grid – far right. So, I always wonder…when Mark goes to HEB (our local grocery chain) and buys bags and bags and bags of sugar and powdered sugar – do folks wonder what he’s got planned? Does the cashier thing, lord, this man must be a baker! Or a sugar addict. Oops, I gave away his secret. lol

mite board

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Mega-Horse Feeding

Horse at Gonzales yard

It’s still hot and dry and Mark’s still out in the bee yards feeding, watering and dusting bees. Today he delivered honey along his way to Gonzales to check the bees there and at the Pizza yard (quickly becoming one of the more intriguing yards to our loyal bee supporters). Always nice when we can combine many errands and chores together since gas is still about $3.45 here in Seguin and $3.39 in Gonzales. Did I tell you before that when Mark and I first started seeing each other and making the commute between here and San Antonio, that the gas was only $.89? Well, if I did, then sorry. But wow! What a difference! I want those days back please.

Back to the topic at hand. See the horse? There are actually two of them out at the Gonzales yard and they are inquisitive and not shy of us or our trucks. They come over sometimes and check on things. I think they would like it if we had treats for them as we do for the bees. 🙂 Mark said that he was tending bees when he turned around and saw this horsey with its head way into his feed bucket – eating on the Mega-Bee that was meant for our bees! Silly horse!

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Deadman Creek Jul15 2

Today I was feeling under the weather most of the day. Not sure if it’s some bug or what but by 5p, I was ready to just try and move around so I went with Mark out to release queens at Deadman Creek yard. I have not been out there in a long while and it’s gorgeous in my opinion. I thought the peacefulness of the yard and the fresh (HOT) air would be good for me. I was right.

I sat in the truck and even with the engine off (precaution against grass and brush fire due to our extremely dry condition), the little breeze we had was good enough. That and the little ice pack I had on my neck. 🙂 A girl’s gotta go prepared for the heat. I love to watch Mark working the bees. Today he released four queens into their new hives. There are now 13 out there at Deadman Creek and they seem to be doing okay despite the drought. Despite the heat, it was still lovely – I could hear birds, bees and the breeze. And I got to see this beautifully perfect frame Mark showed me:

Perfect frame

In other GBR news, our shipping table arrived this week! We now have an official Shipping Department – me and Mark. It may not seem like huge news but trust me, it is for us. When you are growing a small business and you have your small house and only the honey house to work with, space becomes a premium. Up to this point, when we need to ship, we use whatever space is available – our office desk, the kitchen table, the living room floor, the candle-making/frame building workbench. Now we don’t have to hunt around for shipping supplies because it’ll be neatly organized in one place. Nice. This table was shipped to us from Uline. They are loving us I’m sure because we buy all sorts of supplies from them – boxes to tables to bags and more. They’re a good supplier for us while we grow our bee biz.

Well, I’m off to get ready for bed. We’ve got another class in the morning and we both need some rest. We’re worn out. I also have Smokey sitting on my window sill, wanting me to come outside to be with him. He is such a nutty cat. He thinks it’s time to play or hunt. Did we tell y’all we have a bunch of raccoons in the hood now?? Besides one big one and a baby one spotted in the backyard, Mark recently saw three large ones crossing our front yard. I’m glad they kept going. I wish they would go to another town. 🙂

Shipping Table Jul15

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