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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.

    1. Honey House Construction Photos
    2. 2013 Holiday Open House Photos

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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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New beeswax ornaments - testing heat factor from Christmas lights
This is us testing the impact of Christmas light heat on the beeswax ornaments. So far, no impact. Good.

I never know where the days melt away to from Monday to Thursday night. Isn’t that interesting? Last thing I recalled, it was Sunday evening and I was relishing the relaxed hours after market and before the official work week kicked in the next morning. Anyway, here we are. Time to get tags together for Creamed Honey jars, prep supplies such as spoons and postcards, box up the bottled honey Stan got ready for us during the week…oh yea, and gear up to do a new DOUBLE TENT set up at Saturday’s Pearl Farmers Market. We are thrilled to give it a try and now we’ll have Sunday to rest a bit. We are on Quarry Market sabbatical until further notice. We have got to have a little rest now that the harvest is over and we just really want to be back with our church family for a while. We really miss them. So while we will enjoy sleeping until at least 7am one day out of the week, maybe even 7:30am (!!) and seeing our church family, we will surely miss our Quarry market family for a while. We’ve met some wonderful, wonderful people and feel so blessed.

On the beekeeping front, Mark is doing really well with his requeening project. Down to one yard left to be completely done. Yay! He’s been pushing it and is pretty much tired out by evening time each day but I’m so proud of him. Besides the bee work and candle work and beeswax testing, Honey House construction and some administrative work, Mark found a little time to check out some merchandise at our favorite home goods and gift shop here in town – Gift & Gourmet. They had a big warehouse sale today and boy did we strike it rich! Mark actually was taking some stuff to store there at the warehouse Mary graciously is letting us use and he couldn’t get in. Tough luck. lol BUT in the process, we scored a couple of awesome display shelves – one with lights even! That will show off the products very nicely we think. We also purchased several very lovely display racks and ornament trees. What a gift – we didn’t like what we’d seen last night during our research of ornament display trees and this serendipitous shopping excursion pretty much has us set for a while in terms of product display furniture. Nice. Oh yes, in the picture below, I did a collage of the three cabinets Mark sent pictures of for my input. We didn’t buy all of these but I still couldn’t get over the fact that they were so affordable and better yet, that we’d have many pieces of our favorite shop in our own shop. That’s so special to us. We love Mary and her staff and all the wonderful things they do for us as well as for the community. They are just awesome folks. The bottom left picture is the ONE shot I thought to snap of a display rack and the mini-crockpot is actually for wax melting. Smells lovely and will be going with us to market since our double tent will now have electricity! woohoo – we are moving on up, eh? I was so excited about personal shopping that I totally forgot to shoot anything of all the other super cool pieces we bought for the bee biz. haha, I am bad! By the time I got there and saw the outrageously low prices, I went into Christmas gift shopping mode for family and girlfriends. It was awesome. And fun. Things and people were everywhere. To get out from “behind the scenes” where Mary treated us to some special treasures, we actually climbed through the bottom shelf of a display cabinet. Talk about fun. And even Mark did it. He said it is a good thing he’s dropped 40 pounds recently. hehe Wish you could have seen us.

Shopping for GBR

Late afternoon brought a few customers to the Bee Ranch. This is a fairly new beekeeper who’s enjoyed his two hives so much, he is on the list for several more nucs come next spring. Love to hear that. Today he was picking up two queens so he and Mark discussed the direct introduction method for his new queen installation. Hopefully he will have as much success as we have had with that way of doing the queen intros.

Queen introduction discussion

Later I will share with your our other visitor – a florist from north of Austin. We have partnered with them and are honored and thrilled they want to share our honey and beeswax products with their customers. Can’t wait to post about that when the time is right. 🙂 For now, I bid you a goodnight. Sleep well.

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Table of productivity
These are ready for markets this weekend although the ornaments are wrapped and stored for our big holiday rollout after we finalize packaging and labeling. Yay!

Besides hand-pouring all these lovely beeswax candles, bars, blocks and ornaments, Mark’s been on a tight schedule to clean up from harvest season, treat and requeen all hives and make progress on the Honey House project. Finally got some engineers who speak the same language so we are super please about that. Thanks to our good friend Thomas for his help in reviewing all the plans and proposals and catching some things that helped us out a lot!

Check it out – more queens! Mark is really trucking along on Project Requeen Every Hive before mid-October. Good job, love. Unlike the last back of Olivarez queens (they came around 7:00pm), this box was waiting for me when I got home for lunch, which is really nice to be able to do almost every day. My day job is about 7 minutes from home. Pretty awesome. Anyway, so far so good on the requeening. Things are going very smoothly this year and the direct introduction method is working very well with our hives. So glad Mark read about it on our friend Emily’s bee blog and then followed up with the researchers. It has saved Mark a lot of time and energy.

Queen bees in the mail

The box under the queens contains more samples of containers we are considering for packaging the new holiday ornaments we have developed and plan to roll out in time for holiday shoppers! So excited. We are making progress with Maeve as well and hopefully we’ll have our new tags and labels soon for the creamed honey as well as the beeswax products. Did I mention we are excited? 🙂

Beautiful frame of bee brood

Speaking of excited – the report for the JW Marriott bee yard is fantastic. Mark went there this morning and was thrilled to see all the hives were doing very well. That’s a frame full of beautiful brood from one of the hives. You may recall that we lost four out of five hives out there at the Marriott last year so we are really happy they are thriving this year. You never know from year to year which yards will do well. Historical performances don’t always act as the best indications of how well a bee yard will do the current year. It all has to rain and what’s been blooming for the bees. No rain, no blooms, no protein = two bee yards moved out to new locations this year. You have to watch the hives and if they are not doing well, you have to help them and in our case, Mark moved them to areas that seem to be getting more rain this year. In both instances, the colonies made progress within a week or two of being in their new yards. That’s always a good feeling to know that you’ve helped them in some way. They do so much for us.

Moving the rest of the divides

One last thing, I miss seeing all our new divides out behind the house. We still kept a few teaching hives as well as the queen bank out back but this week, Mark and Stan completed their move of the new divides to their permanent home. They have been developing quite well and we hope they will make it through winter just fine. You don’t really know what 2014 will be like for them until spring, when we can see how they managed. But these bees have been building up their honey stores and carrying pollen like crazy so those are great signs. It’s raining on and off here this afternoon and that’s also a great sign. A wet fall and winter would do wonders for next season’s crop. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

Here’s how it looked when we had a full house not too long ago.

Backyard divides 2013

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Scenic drive on Highway 118

Hello everyone! Sorry it’s been so long but we took some time off to visit our grandbabies and kiddos out in West Texas. And then it was bam, bang, boom as soon as we got back so I haven’t had time to catch y’all up on stuff. So much at work, home AND GBR. Be patient with us and I’ll do a fuller beekeeping post as soon as markets are over. Meanwhile, here’s a quick rundown of a few things.

We had a great visit with the kids, fell in love with the grandkids and witnessed a lot of beautiful skies, weather and landscape. Oh yes, and then there was the rainbow. Two of them. We were blessed to witness an amazing double rainbow the last night there and just as we finised dinner at the Lodge where our son works. Gorgeous and breathtaking!

Double Rainbow over Fort Davis Lodge

Back at market today, we introduced our creamed honey and it was met with great enthusiasm and sold out by 11am. Nice. We’ll continue to work on the formal packaging but we have my handmade tags for the time being. Doesn’t seem to be stopping people from enjoying the smooth creaminess and spreadability of the new product. If you haven’t ever had creamed or whipped honey, here’s your chance to grab some. We’ll have a few jars at Quarry tomorrow and try to get more together for next weekend. Hopefully, our project with Maeve for the label will move along quickly and I won’t be making the laborous tags much longer. Not that I mind crafting but there’s too much to do for me to be crafting! 🙂

Earlier on Instagram and Facebook, I posted a shot of three of the new holiday ornaments we are working on so that they’ll be ready in time for holiday shopping – so exciting! We’re trying out molds and seeing how the wax might or might not develop a bloom over time, causing a little bit of haziness on the ornaments. You can easily wipe off the bloom and it doesn’t impact the scent or quality of the ornament at all but we still work on the bloom not happening at all. Anyway, we are just super excited to work with Maeve to develop just the right packaging for the formal introduction of these ornaments. Can’t wait!

Just love the sweet ornaments we're developing for the holidays! Sneak peak  for you.

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Tony & Mark unload burlap bags

That’s right – Facebook. Haha. One of our fellow vendors at the Pearl market is What’s Brewing, artisan roasters of gourmet coffee located in San Antonio (near the airport), and I follow them on Facebook. Good thing! I have wanted to craft with burlap in the past but found it difficult to lay my hands on some real burlap that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I know they sell rolls of it now hobby stores and even at Walmart, but I wanted some with character. In other words, I wanted burlap with a story, even if the story is that it held coffee beans. 🙂 But what if the coffee beans traveled all the way from South America? Or Hawaii, like some of our queen bees? And how many people handled the bags and what are there stories? That fascinates me. Anyway, I saw What’s Brewing post that they have TONS of these jute bags and they were for sale. What? Cool! Mark had mentioned in the past that he’d like to use burlap if only he could find them. And like me, he didn’t want to pay too much since he’d be using the bags in the smoker. Burlap provides a nice, slow, cool smoke that won’t hurt the bees. He used to use burlap in the past but it became harder to find. Currently, in case you forgot, we use cedar bark which also provides a nice cool and slow burning smoke. Smells nice, too, and even though I had severe cedar allergies in the past, I have no problems being around that smoke, even when it blows on me in the bee yard. Anyway, we want to give this burlap a try. We’ll let you know how the smoker business goes. This burlap does have a vegetable coating on it, which may help prolong the burn and smoke but hopefully it won’t cause any problems. Today Mark did try a round with it but we’ll want to see how it does over several uses before the verdict is in.

loading up 220 burlap bags

You know what my advice is for you if you’re going to go get some burlap – account for it being bulky and dusty. And maybe you should wear long sleeves. I know that’s really hard to do when it feels like 100F degrees but man my arms and face got itchy. I think I may just be a wimp because Mark took it all in stride of course. He’s my macho man! I don’t know what I was expecting but the bags were bigger than I anticipated so I was a little surprised by the bulkiness. Just keep that in mind and clear your trunks if you’re heading to SA to pick some up. Mark got 200 and I got 20. With our market equipment and supplies in and on the truck, we sort of pushed it getting everything loaded but he strapped us in and back we went with our bags. And then we had a lot of fun going through the pile and pulling out the ones with graphic designs on them. I can’t wait to do some things once I have some time. I picked out some extras from Mark’s pile – love them.

Burlap coffee bags

They are so unique and some quite lovely with the details. I even love the information printed related to weight and so on. I like this for it’s unique blue, the only one in the batch I got. And the design reminds me of Matisse, one of my favorite artists.

Burlap coffee bags

And I like this one for the details:

Burlap coffee bags

Okay, so I think I should actually include a shot that is related to beekeeping. Sorry I got carried away with how pretty the graphic bags are. The majority of Mark’s 200 bags did not have the graphics but some did. We stopped by Home Depot and got a new little ax and then he rolled up a bag and chopped these rolls and now they are ready to pop into the smoker. Less messy for sure than the cedar. Day one went well; more to report later. Good night, all.

Pop in the smoker and see how it goes tomorrow #smokerfuel

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