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Archive for the ‘dividing’ Category

Hello there. It’s been a while, yes? I have been doing all my updating on other social media platforms just because I somehow seem to be able to put up a picture and a few lines faster than sitting down at the computer to write out my full thoughts on something. Sorry. But really, if you are on things like Facebook, Twitter, and ESPECIALLY Instagram…you can keep up with all our happenings because I post daily there.

Making hive divides

Tis the busy season now for our bees here in South Texas. Mark has begun his hive dividing in preparation for our nuc customers. We still sell a very limited number of nucs each year, primarily to our beekeeping students but also to a handful of other customers. We are still at about 200 hives and maybe 10 bee yards though we continue to seek ways to consolidate apiaries in order to work them more efficiently. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s so much work to keep the bees going while also maintaining and running the shop. Not to mention working all the administrative details of small business. Fun and we love it, but lots of work.

We are loving the shop and being there! So cool to help our customers with what they need.

Assisting customers in the GBR Beekeeping Showroom

The classes are going strong (filled up for spring and fall dates for Introduction to Beekeeping should be up soon on the website) and so are the workshops designed to focus on specific beekeeping topics. This morning’s topic was South Texas Honey Plants with special presenter, Bill Evans. Huge group and lots of great discussion. My favorite thing on Saturdays is peeking into the Showroom between my Honey Store customers to check on the beekeepers. Makes us so happy to see people hanging out and talking bees even after the one hour workshop is over. It’s a great way to network with other beekeepers. Even if you’re not a beekeeper yet, it’s a great way to start learning about things. We love seeing our customers showing other customers something about a product we have in the Showroom! I saw today that our dentist and her husband were in the shop – they’re starting their own beeventures, too! How cool.

If you haven’t noticed, I did just list new dates for upcoming “Drops” in San Antonio – that’s where we take orders into SA and meet up with customers at a designated spot at Pearl. I also listed the fall Introduction class dates but wait a few more days for it to get updated on the website please. If you have any questions, just comment here or you can always email or call us. info@gretchenbeeranch.com or 830-305-7925.

Goodnight, xo
Thien

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October-November SA Drop dates

Hello folks. Just wanted to drop a quick line to say hi. We are heading into San Antonio this Thursday morning if you need us to bring in an order of anything. Holler at us on the company line (no texting) 830-305-7925. Also, check out what Mark and Stan bottled this year…it’s been a while for the larger sizes of local honey. This is nice to see.

2016 Guadalupe County Wildflower Honey

I love that we have jars from cute little 2-ounces to the 5-pounder. Cool and fun for us.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent email Mark sent out to his beekeeping group:

“We are in the midst of a Fall season that has been beneficial to our bees here in Guadalupe County. We see a moderate honey flow and a strong pollen flow continuing. I am spot feeding here and there, mainly the new splits to boost brood production. We are nearing the end of our re-queening project and we are very pleased with the Kona (Hawaii) and Wilbanks (Georgia) queens that we used. We are seeing strong brood rearing in all of the colonies with new queens. This will greatly help us in early spring when we start making divides and nucs. Two weeks ago we were inspected by the State Apiary Inspection Service. They tested for nosema spores and for mites. The resulting numbers looked good, although the mite numbers were slightly higher than I had predicted given that we had treated with Apivar over the previous six weeks. It underscored for me the need to perform a follow-up mite treatment this fall with Apiguard.”

Apiary inspections with the State went very well.

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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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Friday view from my fave yellow hive - we love to see a storm brewing! #bees #beekeeping #sky #texas #gretchenbeeranch

As we continue to experience growth with our bees as well as our business, the work day keeps stretching out longer and longer and then here we are in Spring already. We are happy to report that our wet winter is rolling right into a somewhat wet spring and things are about as green as we would expect to see when we visit family along the east coast. Lush grasses and trees along with a multitude of wildflowers everywhere you turn your eyes. It truly is one of the best times to be in South Texas and certainly one of the best times to be a honeybee here. EXCEPT that if we don’t get a bit of good ole sunshine soon, it might end up not being a robust honey year. While rain is awesome, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. As Mark often says, conditions have to be just right for a great honey crop. We do need rain but the bees do need a good amount of dry, sunny days in order to fly and forage. There’s a noticeable gap recently in the wildflower blooming. We had massive ways of early Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes and of course sprinklings here and there of other flowers, however, the Indian Blankets which normally appear abundantly are appearing more lazily this spring. That makes an incredible honey so we have hopes of a robust bloom in about a week. In the picture below, I harvested some lavender from our little herb garden out back. Lavender blooms abundantly only with rainfall (versus hand watering) so this is my SECOND harvest of blooms! That should tell you how wet this spring has been. I’ve never been able to harvest enough of it to do anything with the blossoms so this year I am very excited to enjoy them for a while before drying them out. They smile divine! I’m going to infuse some oil and make our own lavender oil I’ve been reading up on lately. I think I will also try adding them to lip balm, which is next on my list of beeswax related items I’ve been developing for our personal use at this time. More on that in a bit.

Harvesting lavender

Today at lunch (one of our few quiet times we have together when we’re actually sitting down), Mark and I were discussing the move of our Cibolo Creek bee hives. We haven’t been there long but we liked it – close to home (just south of Seguin and just on the other side of the county line), made great honey, gorgeous landscape for photographs and just nature enjoyment. But recently we’d notice work getting done – fences going in, land getting cleared. We like to keep in close touch with our landowners so that we know what’s going on and how it might impact our bees. Long story short, we are very happy that two options may have presented themselves today to Mark. We’re so thankful when people meet with us to check out potential bee yard locations and it all happens to work out! Mark says the new locations are both near us so that helps with fuel cost as well as with time, which we find less and less available. Both weekend days are booked now with Pearl Farmers Market (which are both well attended and have been great for our business). Serving as president of the farmers market association has also taken up a lot more of Mark’s time than we anticipated so that’s been a real challenge. And while I can manage with the other social media platforms, it’s harder and harder to find time for an in-depth post on our beloved Bee Blog. So, forgive me. But honestly if you do have access to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, do find us. I am on there daily as it’s just easier to post pictures as we work and add a short description. Stick with us!

Well, I want to post this before it’s delayed any longer. I told Mark I have started about four times on this and it’s taking me over two weeks. LOL I am determined to get this up on the blog!!!! Take care and hope to catch up with you soon. Much love, Thien & Mark

Spring wildflowers at the Bee Ranch

This is a shot of some of our new hives Mark made up from strong hives this spring. I don’t even know what our current count is anymore for our own hives, but it’s been really wonderful to have had this spring to focus on them.

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Farmers Market - adapting to extremely cold temps

Today it was in the low 30s when we were at the Pearl Farmers Market. After I checked the weather app when we started setting up for market, I told myself not to look again because I did not want to know it felt like 24 degrees. COLD to us! But we made it work after having a year to freeze at market and now we do things like pack a lot of hot beverages, load up the kerosene heater, keep the honey samplers near the warmth so dispensing is doable, bring rain gear just in case (and two blankets for wrapping around us), etc. Six hours on your feet out at market is tiring even after two years. We love it but it does wear us out sometimes. So we are especially thankful for customers who show up in support of everyone who made it. And we are thankful for fellow vendors who braved the weather with us so the shoppers may have a bit of variety in shopping. Mark continues to lead the market association membership – continues to learn also. He’s getting pretty good researching Robert’s Rules in my opinion. He has such patience with things like that. It does take a lot more of his time than we anticipated but it’s important to both of us and he wants to do the best he can. I’m so proud of him!

Speaking of time, we decided that since we have limited time, we would have to change up what and how we do things. So, out with big nuc sales for others and in with spending that time with our own bees. So far, we are liking this decision a lot. About this time of the year, we’d be heading or making plans to head to Florida to see family and to pick up nucs for our customers. It was stressful and yielded little profit. Mark did it to help other people. What it did to our bees, however, was not worth it this year we decided. Our own hives typically got a big neglected as Mark focused almost all his attention on caring for and growing those nuc hives in anticipation of customer pick-up late March. And you know what? Sometimes a few unpleasant incidents with people are just enough to signal a change is needed. So – take a look at one of our hives so far.

Thriving bees

This was a couple of weeks ago and is typical of how our hives are looking. This is a huge improvement over past years. A strong hive such as this resulted from Mark’s constant checking on them during winter months, especially towards the end of winter now. This is a critical time for the bees because things are starting to bloom out but not yet abundantly what with all the up-and-down weather we’ve had. So, the queens are laying more so that’s more bees and that means more mouths to feed. If we didn’t have to check our hives and they ran out of food at this point of winter, then some bees or hives may not make it and that’d put us back a bit. That is what used to happen when we sold bees to others and we are thrilled to see what we can do with our own girls this year since Mark can devote his focus on them. So exciting!

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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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Enjoying the kitchen window

When I am cooking at the Bee Ranch, I love gazing out the square window above the sink, especially if Mark’s out there working the new hives. When Mark’s on the phone, he often watches the activities outside also. It’s a great view of the trees and sky. Now I’m already missing some of the hives out there. When I was cooking lunch today, it hit me that many of the new divides were moved to their new and permanent home (unless they aren’t doing well, we don’t move hives around).

Moving 12 of the divides

Yesterday Stan and Mark got an early, early start and moved twelve of the new divides from the back yard to their new home, which we are so happy to introduce to you today – the Carolina Bee Yard! Mark chose that name because he said the tall trees at that location reminded him of the tall trees of my home state of North Carolina (GO PACK!). 🙂

Here’s a look of the new hives out at the MooJesus Dairy Farm, which is actually part of the EverythingJesus! Ranch. Actually, they do a whole lot of a lot out there so if you ever have a chance, do take a tour out there. They open back up to the public September 18 according to the website. We love our friends there and what they are doing with the learning, growing and fellowshipping. Happy to be out there with our bees, also!

Our newest bee yard was established today: the Carolina Bee Yard

Here’s a closer look at the hives Mark and Stan set up out on the ranch.

New bee yard out at MooJesus Dairy Farm in Seguin

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