Archive for the ‘Big Oaks’ Category

Cathy & Lan helped me out today

This morning feels like it happened last week – haha it feels as if our wake up call at 6a for market happened so long ago! Mark and I had concurrent events today so we had to split up and we missed working together. He helped me get the tent set up in San Antonio (what a guy!) and then booked it back to Seguin to prep for our first fall class. I had a great team with me – Lan and Cathy and we alternated between the front table sales and the side table observation hive duty. Very fun but I did miss my honey bee and I didn’t even get a crepe. Just not the same without the biggest crepe fan alive. Sorry, CrepeLandia – next week, my friends. 🙂

Resuming bee class in fall 2012

Today Mark had nine students in class and we were super pleased with the attendance. He said he had a very nice class and of course his assistant, Smokey, made himself quite the social butterfly. Apparently he made friends with pretty much everyone in class and was pampered with attention. What a ham. He must have really missed classes! We are very happy to have had so many students in class now that we’ve picked back up with it with fall coming on now. Much nicer to get in bee suits when it’s not near 100 degrees. We will be on a monthly schedule now so if you’re interesting in class, our next one will be October 20.

After we unloaded the truck and grabbed a bite and balanced the books and did a little packing, we thought about a nap. But then we thought there’s too much to do so it’ll have to wait. Instead we trekked out to Deadman Creek bee yard out at the Lazy U Ranch – love that ranch. Still too wet from the recent rains (5+ inches!) for driving, we parked the truck and walked in rain boots down to the hives. It was a humid but not unpleasant walk. I got to see the broom weed starting to come out and the bees will make their winter honey off this pretty, dainty little yellow flower. I’ll try and get a good shot with the big camera soon. The iPhone did not do it justice. I also got to see lovely yellow butterflies fluttering about near the ground. Next to them were tiny pale purple butterflies. I loved it! It was like seeing something magical. I only wish I cold have captured it for you to see also. Sorry! It was just too bright to capture on the phone. The sight made me think of my sister Thuy and I wished she could have seen it with us. 🙂

Gathering pollen from the traps 3

Then we hit the evening time and we pushed ourselves hard. With the help of our sweet friend Sonia, we packed up our office and convoyed three vehicles of stuff over to the new house. Tomorrow is the big day and we wanted to be prepared as much as possible. Thank you for all the help we’ve received already and for all the help to come tomorrow and beyond as we transition to our new home. We really appreciate you all very much!!!

Packing it up


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Cleaning honey house 2

What a blessing to have so many buckets of honey in the Honey House! But it’s a constant battle to shift around and make room for changing inventory of honey, wax, new bottles, new bags, stock for market, general beekeeping equipment…and bodies! Sometimes we have to turn sideways to get through stacks of things. That’s a shot of the shipping table after we moved things around a bit. Now we don’t have to turn sideways and suck in our tummies to scoot through. At least that’s what I had to do. It’s more funny than frustrating to me now but I’m shorter and smaller than most of the other people working in there so they may NOT find it as funny right now. So, Mark and I spent all Sunday morning shifting and reorganizing in order to accommodate more honey supers as well as preparing for a visit from a writer from the San Antonio Express News. Edward will be here this coming Saturday and we wanted the honey house to look presentable and we are happy we put the time into it. Plus it was nice to work together again – things have been so crazy busy that I miss that part of life and business very much with Mark working full time somewhere else. I’m glad he’ll be coming back soon. It also doesn’t help when I’m out of commission for a few days. I want to thank our friends Cathy and David for standing in for me at the Pearl Farmers Market with Mark. Mark sent me the picture below as I was stuck at home trying to sleep off my ailment and I could tell that it was a busy day! And I’m so glad the three of them had each other. With my sister off to see my dad, we Hoang girls were no good to Mark last week!

David and Cathy helping us out

And here’s what the inventory looked like after market – can you believe it? They did an amazing amount of sales last Saturday and when I told Lan, she said she couldn’t believe she missed out on making the big sales goal. We just love it when family and friends find it as fun as we do because it is hot, tiring work. But with the right people, you can sure have a lot of fun!

Post Pearl Market August 25th

After the cleanup on Sunday, I crashed again while the hardworking beekeeping librarian returned the observation hive bees to Big Oaks bee yard and then headed over to Elm Creek to pull some honey supers. There are still two yards left to pull and he’s getting to them when he can and also when our friend Stan is able to help us extract. Thank goodness for Stan and Zach – they have extracted quite a few supers this summer and we are fortunate to have hardworking friends like them to help us out or else we’d be missing out on a lot of honey. Here’s a shot of the Elm Creek load Mark brought back Sunday. Tomorrow Stan hits the extractor.

10 supers from Elm Creek

Well, I guess that’s about it and I should probably wrap it up and get to sleep. Got lots of errands to run between work and working on the houses for moving. We’ve got a snazzy little label Mark created for the JW Marriott’s special order and we can’t wait to show it to y’all. In the new Honey House, I’ve asked for a Honey Bar and now I think I’m going to also ask for a place to showcase all our different honeys and labels. I think that’d be pretty cool to see a progression of those two things.

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Tang helps Mark open up a hive

Just another busy week for us as here at the Bee Ranch – bee world, library world and steel making IT world. The highlight of this week (other than Mark not having to work crazy long library hours to prepare for an annual budget presentation) are the visits from my dad and brother who live in Florida. This is not their first visit to Texas, but it is their first to the Bee Ranch. 🙂 We were both excited to show them our little growing business and to see how my brother Tang would do with the bees. You see, Tang will come to live with us soon so we thought it’s important to see how he feels about them since he’ll be around them so much in the near future.

Last night we took Tang to Deadman Creek bee yard and he got his first taste of opening up a hive. After about ten times, I stopped counting when he said, “Wow, that is soooo cool!” I was just happy as can be that he loved it! And he really did. Tang is young at heart and I love that we’ll learn to re-see things through his eyes. He marveled at the bees and honey as well as the surroundings and was particularly fascinated with the longhorns on property. As well as the donkey. Too sweet. I thought my little heart was going to burst. I was so happy.

This evening we took both Dad and Tang out to Big Oaks. Dad wanted to see the bees and to better understand what Mark does when he “works in the bee yard.” I tell you what – I am so proud of my brother and Dad because they really handled the bee frames quite professionally! Mark and I were very impressed. They remained calm and moved deliberately and followed instructions very well. I especially enjoyed watching Dad replace the frames and watched as he carefully spaced out the frames as he had seen Mark doing in the previous hive. He’s always been meticulously orderly. Something about watching him do that today was very comforting and somehow reassuring. We were happy they both enjoyed it and we are already looking forward to our next visit with them, whether here or in Florida.

Dad handles the frames like a pro

After their visit and dinner, Mark and I did a little work in the Honey House to prepare two orders and to continue prepping for the Pearl Farmers Market again this Saturday. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of business we get after the initial onslaught of customers that a first-time vendor might receive as a welcome. We’ll see if it levels out a bit. We’re excited, too, that my sister Lan will be joining the GBR team when her schedule permits. Lan has great customer service values and is great with money. She has years and years of retail experience as well as an eye for decorating and display. We know she’ll be a great addition to our team. Can’t wait for her and David to meet. 🙂

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Rattlesnake yard harvest

“It’s a LOT of honey.” This is what I have heard Mark say about 23 times in the last month and it tickles me each time because I think of the shortage last year and how so many people didn’t even get any honey out of their hives. This year is so totally opposite and it’s wonderful. Everything is thriving and abundant – from rain to fields to animals to us. Isn’t it great?

I went with Mark, David and Ira to one bee yard this morning and then I fixed them lunch while they unloaded the load they hauled in just from Rattlesnake – and amazing 1000 pounds (estimate)! And it sure does taste good. Here’s the honey house after the men brought back supers from Big Oaks and Nash Creek bee yards. We are loaded and we hope the floor withstands all the weight! Seriously.

Stacks and stacks of honey

Here’s a look at some of the frames in the 20-frame extractor this evening. I was too hot and sticky to want to get in a bee suit or other protective gear so I would pop in and out of the honey house to check on progress and to snap a few pictures. There wasn’t a lot of room in there so I didn’t want to stay too long for several reasons but mainly because I didn’t want to be in the way of either beekeeping crew or bees. Once a little one landed on the back of my neck, I was out of there and back inside to listen/watch the Spurs lose (again in OK) and to edit and load my hundred or so pictures. I am so happy I got to tag along to Rattlesnake this morning – best

Honey frames in extractor 2

And most of all, I go out to check on my beekeeper because I miss him when we aren’t together. Love to see him so happy. 🙂

A tired but happy beekeeper

If you would like to see my full set of photos from this year’s harvesting event, you can visit our Flickr set for 2012 Honey & Harvest. I will continue to add pictures as we proceed with harvesting the rest of our yards.

Next up – the MESQUITE is blooming so you know what that means! My favorite honey hopefully!

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Greetings from lovely Florida where we are with my entire family – a huge reunion to send my mother off on her next journey. Thank you for the support and kind words that you have sent us. While we are sad that mom is no longer here with us, we are happy that she had a peaceful home-going and that she no longer has to worry about aches and pains. In her honor, I want to write about two things – a recent interest (bees) and a lifelong love (flowers).

Mom loved hearing how we and the bees were doing each time I talked with her or when we visited. She would ask how what Mark was doing with them and if they were making honey. Last year, we talked about how hard it was for them to survive during the drought and how hard it was for the flowers to survive as well. This year, we visited her a couple of times and we were able to tell her that things looked better with the rains we received over the winter months and then also into spring. I wish I could have shown her our wildflowers because she would have loved the colors out here. My mom could make any plant robust, even if I had taken it to the point of death. 🙂 She was AMAZING! She would have loved the Horsemint from this season, which was abundant and fragrant, too.

Horsemint at Big Oaks with butterfly

Here’s a shot to remind you what the Horsemint from 2011 looked like with so little rain. See how brown it was? See how brown the background was as well?

Poor Horse Mint

In the picture at the beginning of this post, did you notice the bees with yellow pollen on their backs? They get that from the horsemint because of the way the flower is shaped. As you watch them work the Horsemint, you can see how their backs rub up against the flower in a way that gets pollen all over them. Here’s a closeup of some of them –


And here is a shot of one of the girls working the Horsemint –

Bee in Horsemint

Amazing what a year makes. Here’s to you mom. You’re gone in body but you’ll always, always, always be in our hearts. We love you and we know you’re now going to be able to visit all our bee yards with us. 🙂

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Huisache blooms at Big Oaks

Hello everyone. I thought we’d give you an update on things that are going on daily now. Mark has been checking on bees, making sure they have what they need in order to build themselves up strongly for the honey flow, which has started in some of the bee yards. He took honey supers out to some of them already – such a great change from last year. We got another 2.5-3 inches of rain last night, all between about 10pm to about 6am. There was a huge storm cell that blew through all of Texas and along with it came some hail, three tornadoes in our local news station’s viewing area, a LOT of rain, lightning and thunder. Very loud thunder. Poor Mark. I know I was pretty startled at least two or three times as a very loud clap of thunder sounded right over us. I love storms – just don’t love the uncertainty of if/when the loud thunder follows the lightning. Between all of that and the power outage, we didn’t get much sleep so I didn’t even hear my alarm go off. Sigh. Good thing my sister sent me a text. The trilling of her text tone was my alarm at 7:22am. Thanks Thuy! 🙂

We are so thrilled with the bees’ progress in the yards. There is plenty of nectar and pollen out there right now and it appears they have their pick of what to bring back to the hives. The Huisache is gorgeous – prettier than I’ve ever noticed before but for some funny reason, the bees are not on it as much as we thought they’d be. Perhaps due to the other food sources available right now. They continue to go to the wild mustard and we see them in the wildflowers, especially the Bluebonnets. There are wild raspberries along the tanks at the Farm Yard and they really like that as well. Mark says it looks like a great year for Horsemint – I love that. It’s a lovely flower to look at and to smell. Last year it was quite pitiful – they blooms very sparingly and what we did see was puny and somewhat dull, almost brownish. I hope to snap some lovely, lush blooms this year for you to see. The above shot of the beautiful pompoms on the Huishache is one that I love looking at. Mark shot it while at the Big Oaks bee yard.

Before saying goodnight, I wanted to share two pictures I snapped last night while making gift baskets out in the honey house. Mark pulled these two honey supers out of the freezer we have out there. To help with any issues of wax moth or hive beetle larvae, you can freeze the frames and super and it takes care of the problem. These have been in there for months and they are ready to be used this year.

2 honey supers thawing out

I was next to the supers and could feel the cold air – like a little air conditioner which was nice as it was a bit humid last night. 🙂 I pulled some frames out to look at the honeycomb (I just love doing that, it’s so lovely.) and at first I missed them. Do you see them? I put the frame back and then thought, “Wait. Was that what I think it was.”

Did you see the two bees emerging from their cells? Only to be caught frozen forever? Or until the 2012 bees pull them out to prep the cells for pollen, nectar, honey or another little bee. Fascinating isn’t it? Or is it just me? I have never seen a sight such as this and I wanted to share it with you. It’s pretty cool. [No pun intended.]

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Drones, Interrupted

Baby bees!!

When hives start getting big in the spring, the queen begins to lay eggs in honeycomb that the bees build in-between the upper and lower hive boxes. Today at the Big Oaks bee yard, I accidentally exposed this brood as I unstacked the boxes to examine and feed the hive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These are drone larvae and when they’re exposed I can examine them for mites and get an idea of the mite load inside the hive. Drone larvae is attractive to mites because drones take longer to develop inside their cells. That gives the mites that are inside the drone cells an opportunity for more reproductive cycles. Fortunately, I didn’t find any mites that were attached to these larvae. I did install the HopGuard strips and I’ll check the white board on this hive tomorrow to get an even better reading on its mite levels.

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Spring Fever!

Frame of bees Big Oaks

I know it’s mid-winter, and January is hardly behind us, but the bees are acting as if spring is right around the corner. I am seeing the bees building up earlier than usual and with more enthusiasm than I saw all of last year. The queens are laying solid and gradually larger brood patterns on multiple frames, like this one. It is good to see after struggling with drought diminished hives most of last year. Many hives are still drought-weakened and have much ground to make up – the fact that they are getting an early start is encouraging.

bee with red pollen

We’ve been watching bees carry in multiple pollens this winter, including this beautiful red colored pollen. And they are finding it in large quantities. This pollen, protein for the bees and their young, is what the bees were dying for last year and why they are thriving this year.

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Bee Eggs & Pollen

New bees different stages Oct 2011

In beekeeping class I stress the importance of being able to identify eggs that the queen has laid. A good pattern of eggs indicates the presence of a good queen and a healthy hive. In class it’s hard to show students eggs on a frame because they are so small and the light has to catch the frame just right – so I was happy that Thien captured this great shot of eggs and larvae that we can now reference in class. I like the way you can see the spectrum of worker bee development, from egg to larvae to capped brood as you move your eyes across the frame. It helps that I used a black foundation, specially made to help old eyes like mine spot the tiny eggs.

Yellow pollen on frame with bees Oct 2011

We also spotted plenty of beautiful pollen at the Big Oaks bee yard. I like the way the color of it stands out against that black foundation. A good pollen flow prompts the queen to lay eggs, which is good because we need plenty of young bees in these hives for them to survive the winter.

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A Star is Born

I’m amazed at these bees that just keep doing their thing even when I pull their hive apart. A queen will lay up to 2,000 eggs a day, and you can see this queen not missing a beat despite the disruptive presence of the beekeeper. Near the end of this video clip you can see the queen (the large one with the white dot on her back) place her abdomen in a cell and quickly lay an egg, then she pulls out and does it again. She is not the least bit camera shy. When our students at beekeeping class are gathered around a hive and I pull the lid off, they are amazed that the bees just continue doing what they were doing before. I encourage them to keep gentle bees that are more interested in working than they are in stinging.

If you are in the area this weekend, come out and visit with us at Trade Days on the square in Seguin. We’ll have great tasting honey, beautiful candles (including our new pine cone candle) and the prettiest queen bee this side of, well, anywhere.

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