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Archive for the ‘beeswax’ Category

Kumquats

Hi there! At the beginning of August, I noted the huge ground cracks at our lovely little Bee Ranch. I was hand watering my garden and thought I’d drop some water into one of the cracks to see if it’d fill up a bit of land and after about 30 seconds, I gave up. No water filling up at all. It was sort of sad to see the land like that again – even though it’s sort of typical for August in South Texas, it’s still hard to see things drying up so badly. Anyway, here we are approaching the end of the month and we have now had about 16 inches of rain (give or take a few inches as I’ve lost track of the rainfall). We keep thinking, “what a weird August we are having!” But we are not complaining. It’s just different.

Mark and his crew continue to harvest and are just about to wrap up the year. Only a little bit left to pull from the yards and extract. It has been a bit of work to make sure everything is dry before storing but Mark is getting through it all to get the moisture levels to where they need to be so the honey doesn’t go bad. Check out this selection of comb honey the bees made this year –

Honeycomb 2016

Sales at the Bee Ranch on the two mornings we are open to the public have been awesome and make us super happy we decided to focus our energies to increasing traffic here instead of out and about. The beekeeper workshops Mark conducts on Saturdays he’s free have been awesome – what a great way for new beekeepers to meet each other and continue learning from one another. Last weekend we covered how to process Ross Rounds and of course we sampled for our guests – super fun! Join us sometime if you can. You can check all our social media for upcoming topics and other developments or you can just call us at 830-305-7925.

Ross Rounds beekeeper workshop

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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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Bees at the Bee Ranch bringing in lots of pollen

Here at the Bee Ranch, we keep ten to fifteen hives on-site for learning purposes and just to enjoy having them nearby so we can watch them whenever we want. Last Saturday during shop hours, it was a pleasure to share the bees (as always) with our visitors. The girls were bringing in plenty of their own pollen which was super nice to see. As much as we like to help the bees and as much as we do to make sure they are not starving for food and water, nothing beats the real stuff they themselves bring in on their foraging expeditions. Yay girls! BUT, when in need in bee yards that haven’t as much abundance in food, we don’t hesitate to give our girls a pollen patty until the wildflowers get here. Speaking of which, Mark saw Huisache blooms and an actual Bluebonnet in the bee yard last week south of town. I guess spring is pretty much here. We are in the upper 70s and low 80s lately. Where was winter?! lol

While most of our hives are doing just fine and many actually having the best winter ever (since we started GBR some six or seven years ago), a few need some TLC. We fed sugar/water feed and or added a pollen patty supplement with our pollen and a little sugar water to make this paste. Should be enough hopefully to get the girls to the wildflowers and other blooming plants just about to come out. With about ten or eleven bee yards located across the area, we see different developments with our hives. It’s a good way to learn and practice different things Mark continues to read about.

Pollen patty supplement on hive frames

Meanwhile, I totally enjoy watching and shooting bee shots any and all the time. This was out at Elm Creek last week as Mark checked the hives and completed his mite treatments.

Bees on backlit frame

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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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July bee class

Hello there! Guess what we added to the calendar since we are actually doing more work around the Bee Ranch now? A new class date for Introduction to Beekeeping. Our next class will be Saturday, July 18 in case you are interested. Here’s link for more information as well as to register. We have some seats still available and hope you can join us! Click here for class info.

In other wonderful news – pollen, pollen, and more pollen. WOW! We are loving how the pollen looks AND tastes this year. Subtly sweet and soft to the touch. Due to the hot weather, we aren’t shipping it out but if you would like some, do stop by the Bee Ranch one Wednesday or Saturday (9-12pm).

Pollen is amazing this season!

And in case you would prefer honey – it’s coming! We have started a slow harvest due to rainy spells and high levels of moisture in the honey. What we have harvested, we like. A lot. And we can’t wait to host a few honey tasting events to share it with you all!

Harvest time at the Bee Ranch

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2014 Spring Open House

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

Bunny ornament 2014

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Hot tea with Honey Citrus Syrup

So a few weeks ago, after the mad rush of holiday activities, I finally came down with something. It didn’t feel like a flu but it didn’t feel like just allergies. I guess it could have been a combination of really bad allergies and a really bad cold. I was out of it, sleepy all the time, no energy, congested, coughing and freezing all the time (which is really unheard of for me and that’s how Mark knows I must really be ill). My sore throat could only be soothed with hot beverages and the lemon honey tea is always nice for that. I think all the talking during Pearl market really was what pushed me over the sick edge. The soar throat was just killing me from talking for about four hours and inhaling all that cold air and whatever was flying around that day. Anyway, I did have some nice down time and fortunately it happened when things were slow at my other job as well, with so many coworkers on vacation or out ill.

Hot tea with lemon and honey

At market, we often exchange ideas with friends and customers about uses for our products and other vendors’ products. And so I had a chance to talk again about using our honey in a cough syrup and decided I should really do it. So I combed through many blogs and recipe sites to see what was out there for natural honey recipes for coughs. I really liked the sounds of one in particular and I used it as a base model for some syrup to help my and Tang’s coughs. It’s essentially this: fill a jar (any size but I used a pint jar) 3/4 of the way up with lime slices and about 2 teaspoons worth fresh ginger (I just sliced up what looked like the equivalent of that and then added more slices for good measure since ginger is so good for the digestive system anyway). Then I went to work layering things into the jar.

Ingredients for a Honey Lime Syrup

For an extra boost of local allergy relief, I used the wildflower comb honey I had left from Guadalupe County. I liked the bits of wax that came along for the ride. Couldn’t hurt.

Adding raw honey to the syrup concoction

I mashed things up and then poured more honey in so that it was near the top of the jar. Then it went in the fridge over night and the next night we each had a cup of hot tea with one teaspoon of the syrup. Even though Mark doesn’t typically like citrus flavors in this hot tea, he did like this formula and the three of us give this syrup three thumbs up for sure. I am excited to next try a rosemary-lime-honey syrup since we have a potted rosemary by the back door and I love rosemary! You can also try oranges with cloves and honey but I haven’t done that one yet.

Lime Ginger Honey Syrup in the fridge

I sent some of my pictures and information out to family and friends and my brother Tuan sent me his picture of his own version. I like learning from others and in his version, he used five very juicy limes and upped the amount of ginger (as in he used “a ton” of fresh ginger they had in the freezer, he said). He did the 3/4 lime-ginger and 1/4 honey combination and stirred it all up, adjusting sweetness and sourness to his liking. Then he popped it into the refrigerator for a few hours and then proceeded to down five tablespoons straight up. He cracked me up! It does taste very good and I can see myself doing the same if I would allow it, which I won’t. haha Anyway, thank you brother dear for sharing your concoction and picture with us and for letting me use it here. I love how you committed immediately with the quart size jar! By the way, I am so happy to see you guys are burning the candles! We will send more.

Another version of the Honey Lime Syrup

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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.

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