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Archive for the ‘bee craft’ Category

Drawn comb on a frame

Often I like to go out to the Honey House after work, or any chance I have. We both really love that we work and live on the same property so we can enjoy this luxury. I was intrigued by the lovely beeswax the bees had drawn out on this frame. We have pretty much run out of honey supers for the girls to fill up. This happens when we have grown in the number of hives we have AND it is a good honey flow year AND the honey is slow to dry out so we can’t extract quickly in order to reuse the supers. If you don’t continue to provide adequate space (supers in this case), then you slow the girls’ productivity and essentially can miss out on prime honey making opportunities.

We are taking this as an opportunity to just let our bees draw out some comb on more frames which will be useful in the future. Sometimes people say or ask how we feel about forcing the bees to make honey by continuing to put supers on. Mark, who has kept bees for over 30 years, told me that people who ask that have never likely kept bees or they’d know whether we provide the supers or not, they bees WILL make honey. That’s what they do. And it is a real mess when they don’t have adequate space in their home to store the honey. I am always learning new things when we discuss things like this and he is always good about answering questions that come up that I raise to his attention. He’s so busy tending to the bees as well as managing the business that he doesn’t see/hear all the social media, email and phone activities since I try to field those for him. Back to honey-making…don’t worry, we are pulling some supers when possible but we are simply taking our time and letting nature take its course. Rushing never works great in the long run. Here’s a beautiful frame the men brought in last week.

Honey harvest June 2016

Do you like persimmons? I love them. Have you seen them in the wild? Out in a field in the middle of nowhere? On a ranch? On the side of some old dirt road you’re cruising to look for wildflowers or wildlife? Here’s another thing I learned about bees and how persimmons come into play.

Aphids on wild persimmon limb

Have you ever noticed bees going to a wild persimmon bush or tree? But you look and think, hey, there aren’t any flowers right now. That’s odd. This happened here in our area a couple weeks ago. The wild persimmons had already bloomed out earlier this year and Mark knew that but saw bees on the big bushes so he took a closer look and watched patiently to see what the bees were doing. He took that picture for me and for us to share with you. Those are aphids and I missed them at first. He told me that the aphids secrete a honeydew on the wild persimmon bushes and that the bees must be gathering it. You can’t find a lot of writing on the matter but I read a post somewhere that people say they gather the honeydew there for different reasons – some say they do it when they are desperate while others say they collect it regardless of what else is out there because it’s just what they do. Whatever the case is, our bees were seen on the wild persimmons. Good eye, honeybee!

Bee gathering honeydew from leaves of Texas wild persimmon bush

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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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February 2016 Agarita blooming

Well it appears spring is pretty much here to stay. That’s Agarita in bloom in the above picture. It’s a great early spring plant for the bees and they are all over it. Very awesome to see this. I was hoping for a little colder weather still as I do miss it even though I’ve been here 20 years and I know what to expect but I still hope for some crazy cold, long lasting winter. HEHE I know that’s not what the beekeeper might want and likely the bees wouldn’t either. Speaking of beekeeper, Mark continues to make his rounds to his bee yards, checking their statuses and feeding whenever necessary. Some hives are doing really well while others need a little help until the flowers really bust out. He’s also continuing his mite treatments as he continues to see mites in the hives. A follower on Instagram asked us if we do that preemptively or if we actually have mites and know it. I told her we have mites; we know it; most beekeepers, if not all, have them; and she’d be wise to start reading up on all the research out there on multiple treatments available. No one yet knows the best answer but it’s a raging topic and a debate at times among beekeepers and sometimes even with bee supporters who don’t know much about bees or this mite issue. I can’t tell you how often people judge beekeepers who opt to use ANYTHING UNNATURAL on the bees. We’ve now gotten to the point where we just tell folks that if we were really sick and had a palm-sized tick sucking the life juice out of us, please give us medicine and help us. We don’t want to die that way nor would we want to let our bees die that way. It’s a terrible issue and we will do what we can to help our girls. Okay, on to more positive news from the Bee Ranch and Seguin.

Overall and especially in Guadalupe County bee yards (this is the county where we reside so most of our bees are here), Mark’s been really pleased with how almost all the hives are looking at this point. Strong hives with lots of bees, brood patterns starting to thicken, more and more pollen coming in and good looking queens. This may be the strongest he’s seen the majority of his hives at the end of winter and rolling into spring. We are very excited about this!

That's a lovely queen we got there

Here are a couple of projects and developments that have us super excited.

Beeswax lotion bars. I’ve been working on this formula for some time now and I think I may have it the way we like it. I’m so excited to get a label for this soon and start offering it! I am so in love with learning how to make these new products with Mark and making it for us, our family, friends, and soon our customers.

Beeswax Lotion Bars at the Bee Ranch

Hive Kits for sale at the Bee Ranch

Our Bee Gear and Equipment retail area continues to grow and Mark is happy he can supply local folks with things they need to get started to get going. These fully equipment hive kits (three levels) have become quite popular now that spring is upon us and busy people just want to pick up the complete hive and not sorry about piecing it together, which they can do if they choose to here. It’s been a good learning experience but also a lot of work for Mark but if you know him, you know it also makes him happy to help people starting out in beekeeping. He’s a great teacher and mentor.

Okay, I am off to do some more body care product development. We both wish we had more hours in a day to do all the fun things we want to try! 🙂

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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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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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Pearl Market treats

While we love road tripping, we sure love coming home! Getting the bees from Florida is always fun but also a lot of stress since we worry about their well-being the entire trip and you never know what can happen on the road. I have a lot of pictures I need to upload and then I will devote a separate posting just for that since it is deserving of special focus.

What’s with the picture up top? Those are things we got at the Pearl last time we worked it. And you know what? We sure missed good eating while on the road! Can’t wait to get back to market and get some fresh, local foods! Top of the list – Brussels sprouts. And more spinach for this (I call it the Green Thienie Surprise since I sprung it on the men a few weeks ago):

Green Smoothie

And speaking of market and the last time we worked it, our friend Beatriz gave us this very cool waxed sheet of fabric that we can use as a food storage option – it’s reusable! This was a sweet gift and timely as I would like to learn how to make these also so maybe I will ask Beatriz to tell me more about it next time we have a chance to visit. I saw these on one of my favorite websites/blogs/shops (Food 52) and they had sandwich storage beeswax sheets such as this. I hadn’t had time to follow up with more research and then here we are…Beatriz beat me to it. Thanks, friend!

Beeswax storage sheet

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HH construction December 16, 2013

Yesterday I finally got out to the HH to see how things were progressing inside. It’s so exciting! It’s feeling real when we walk in and we can already envision next season when we can drive the truck through during extraction time. And gift packaging where there’s an actual shipping table and products within easy reach. We’re making things work this year because we know it’s a transition year but we cannot wait to have things in place in the HH. The space closest to us in the picture will be the bottling room. Next to it will be our temporary retail space until we have enough money to put one up front and that’ll be visible from W. Kingsbury. Next to the retail space will be the full-size bathroom. And the space above all of that will be for storing honey supers. 🙂

Shipping GBR goodies out for the holidays

The holidays have been crazy but in a good way. We just realize how much more we’ll appreciate the HH after this season. We have one more big push at Pearl market this weekend and of course there are the phone and online orders to fill but come Christmas, we’re hoping we can sleep in a little and just catch our breath. Good thing we have Tang helping us out this year! He rocks and we enjoy working with him a great deal. That’s one hardworking brother we got!

Getting punchy

Smokey thought about helping me pack ornaments and honeys but in the end, he really just wanted me to hold him and cuddle. I gave him about three minutes. Sorry, Smoke! Too busy!

Smokester sort of helps out with packaging

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2013 GBR Holiday Open House

My intentions of posting before the big weekend hit didn’t quite pan out so here we are, post-huge-double-event-weekend and some pictures loaded so I can share with you what and how we’ve been doing. We’re doing great, by the way. Quick run-down of things:

  • Our 4th annual Holiday Open House went smashingly. It was crazy. It was hectic. It was fun. And we are all excited about next year’s event and have made plans to bring in as many Hoang family members as can make it. Talk about fun working together! We couldn’t have survived the weekend as well as we have without the help of our family and friends. Thanks, everyone!
  • The Honey House is moving right along and we are thrilled! The crews worked really hard to help us get in the HH by the time Open House came along and they did it! Walls and roof up and on, then the windows and doors crews got to work and poof, we got some useable space. We made due with a very, very long extension cord and were able to have hot cider and the Christmas tree lit but that was it. 🙂 We were thrilled to have such an open space even with it unfinished. Today we had temporary power hooked up so that the insulation crew could do their thing and they did. Can’t wait to look inside again tomorrow. Mark and Tang picked out paint today while I was at the mill working and the HH gets a coat of paint inside, top to bottom.

Honey House Construction Update

  • Speaking of Tang, that’s my older brother and he is visiting with us for about two months while our dad is traveling. Tang got to stay with us a week last Christmas and we all had a great time so we were thrilled when we found out he’d be here even longer with us. He is a sweet soul and an eager learner and helper. He LOVES Mark and Stan and being around them and he loves to help them do “man work,” as he calls it. I love him and I love that my beekeeper is teaching him how to make candles. Tonight at dinner he told us he enjoyed making the candles and when asked which was his favorite, he responded that the 1-pound block is his fav. He’s not sure why; he just likes it. Made us laugh. I’m sure there will be many beeventures for Tang between now and February so we’ll be sure to share! By the way, his name is not  pronounced like the orange powder drink, but rather sounds like “tong.”

Tang levels out the vintage cookie mold for beeswax ornaments

 

  • We had a record sales day at the Pearl this past weekend and it happened to be the coldest day ever! The vendor turnout was lower than usual and we were in a temporary location due to the Tamales Festival running on the same day and there weren’t nearly as many shoppers as usual but the ones who came out to support the market were amazing! We really weren’t sure what to expect since we were pretty much frozen within an hour of getting there and setting up so imagine our utter surprise when Mark gave us the final numbers. And “us” includes Mark, me, Tang and another brother name Hung and our sis Lan. What a great crew we had and somehow we managed to laugh through some of it but man were we glad to get done and get home! Thank God for great family!

Okay, that’s about it for now. I need to do other stuff before bed. I hope you all have had a great month so far. This is my favorite time of the year!!!! If you want, here are links to two photo sets on our Flickr page. Click on the link to check out more of what we’re doing by viewing my visual memory book. 🙂 Goodnight.

We are so thrilled to finally have all the components ready for the rollout of our first-ever holiday ornaments! We had been working on the packaging as I have mentioned in previous posts and now we’re ready. We did a soft launch this past weekend at market and class but now these lovelies are up for grabs anywhere and anytime. I still have to do an official photo shoot in order to prep them each for the website but here’s the basic information you’ll need to know to decide if you want to buy them for yourself or as a gift for others:

  • Angel with Candle and Santa & Kitty ornaments are each $14.
  • Round Tree of Life ornament is $16.
  • All ornaments are 100% pure beeswax – all natural with no artificial scents added, just the sweet and natural honey in there. All beeswax comes from right here in South Texas.
  • We hand-pour and pull each ornment in our Candle Shop here at the Bee Ranch.
  • Each ornament comes in its own linen bag that includes a pull-twine-tie and a folded, heavy-stock information booklet with a history of beeswax ornaments and care and handling tips.

Surprise!!!! Soft intro of holiday ornaments today at @pearlbrewery farmers market.

Here’s the front of the booklet:

New holiday ornament booklets  arrived!

The inside and back are filled with beeswax ornament history and care information:

Inside the insert

Also, just so you know, I can’t wait to do a beeswax ornament themed tree this year – our first. 🙂 Excited! We’ve been testing the impact of small lights on the ornaments and are happy to report there is no significant impact whatsoever and I’ve had the bulb touching the ornaments for weeks. There’s barely any warmth where it touches the wax so it appears to withstand the lights quite well.

New beeswax ornaments - testing heat factor from Christmas lights

PS – You can click on each picture to view them at a larger size. Just a reminder.
Subscript to the PS – I did some Christmas shopping already and I’m putting a gift under the tree tonight! HEHE

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Financial work sessions

Today’s work is some serious financial reconciliations and planning and strategies for future efficiencies. Even while we took a late lunch break, we continued to discuss business matters, covering everthing from nuc sales forecasting to holiday ornanment pricing structure. We are so blessed to have a sister who loves her financials and loves us. Win, win. 🙂 We’re also blessed because we get to celebrate with her even as we work. Thuy is a breast cancer survivor and it’s a little over a year since she was first diagnosed and underwent her first surgery to remove the cancer. Through it all she has just let her magnificent light shine and it now shines even brighter than I have ever known it to – she’s glowing with life and a pure happiness and joy that comes from learning not to take a day for granted. Last fall, Thuy’s days were often filled with chemo treatments, meaning plenty of not so great side effects that kept her from doing anything except sleeping so her body could heal. We are all so thankful that she has made such a great recovery in so little time. I know it’s been a year but it is just hard to believe it’s been a full year. Seems like yesterday when we had to cancel her trip to the Bee Ranch thanks to the dreaded BC diagnosis. This summer, Thuy told me she wants to enjoy every single day of fall and winter since she missed them both last year. I just really love how she is embracing each day she wakes up and it inspires me even more to do the same myself. So here we are, enjoying even the work we must do while we are on our little mini-vacation. Really, who can complain about work when you get to look up and see the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and shrimping boats and dolphin pods and gentle waves. Not us!

To date, we are entering fall in pretty good shape in almost all bee yards. Last week in our area, we averaged about 5.5 inches of rain on top of the recent weekly rains. This fall rain is great and will hopefully mean the bees will be good and strong come next spring so they can gear up for honey production. The pollen and nectar they continue to bring in this fall all go towards building up their winter honey stores, meaning we leave it for them and they will sustain themselves with little intervention from us. We do have several gallon bags full of pollen should some of the bees need a boost to help them get to spring in good shape. In other bee biz news, mite treatments were all administered. The Honey House building continues to move along even if it is slower than we’d like; at least things are happening now that Mark decided he needed to be his own contractor. More work but more control that way. He’s in the collect-bids stage so we’re getting engineers to finally agree and qoutes from plumbers, electricians, septic system designers and builders and so on and so on. Exciting! One day we are really going to be rocking and rolling in our new building and we probably won’t know what to do. Well, yes we will because we are desperate for more space for working but you know what I mean. 🙂

Also wanted to share that we have enjoyed working with our branding consultant, Maeve of Design Maeven, and we have approved labels and tags to the printers. Woohoo! As much as I enjoy “crafting” the handmade Creamed Honey tags, I just don’t have time to do the print-cut-glue-cut-hole-punch-tag process every week. 🙂 Can’t wait to peel and stick all those jars – people love it so much I can hardly keep up with the 48-55 jars we sell weekly pretty consistently. The other part of the rebranding project is our gift tags for the ornaments we want to introduce this year. Can’t wait to show that to y’all and to have the products available for purchase. People have already started pre-orders for the ornaments as Christmas gifts and they haven’t even seen the final packaging! We are so touched by the trust placed with us to do good things. Thank y’all so much!

Now, I must really take a stretch break. We’ve been working all day and while the view of the ocean is lovely and the sound of the gentle waves is relaxing, my east coast soul yearns to walk in the water. Unfortunately, it is a little on the chilly side for a dip in the ocean today (boo) but I hope to do so before we leave. Meanwhile, I have watched this shrimp boat cruise back and forth about three times today so I’m thinking shrimp might be what’s for dinner. Will let y’all know. Will also let you know if Mark and Thuy ever take a break today from their financial planning and reconciliation activities. I’m happy they are making such great progress on their to-do list, however. Thankful, thankful. Talk to y’all soon.

Update 11:42pm EST: They took a break around 5:45p and we finally got to walk along the beach, collecting shells and taking fun pictures and just being thankful for having this time together. I just love being with these two. 🙂

Thinking we will have shrimp for din tonight...2nd pass this AM.

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