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Archive for the ‘dividing’ Category

New divides check

Now that the summer harvest is over and equipment’s been cleaned (thanks to the awesome work of our Belinda!), it’s time to tend to the bees to make sure they are ready for fall and winter. We tell people who go through our classes or who buy our bees – treat for mites, feed when they’re hungry, check on the bees. Do it now.

In the above picture, which I snapped right before dinner this evening, Mark is checking on the new divides we have out back to make sure things are going well. He’s looking to make sure queens are accepted; he’s feeding hives that look like they might need a little boost (nothing much for them to feed on lately); he’s making sure he doesn’t see some problem that needs to be handled immediately. Happy news is that they are looking good so far; strong and doing well with their new queens that were recently installed. This makes us feel more confident that they will head into winter months able to sustain themselves into next spring. It’s what every beekeeper wants, right? To know that their bees will be okay over winter. So far, so good but some rain would sure help the girls make some honey for their winter store. We’re always hoping. At least there are more clouds in the sky lately. That helps keep us below the 100 degree mark which makes a big difference believe it or not. The mornings seem more pleasant and actually a bit on the cool side (don’t want to say that too loudly for fear it will change on us suddenly). Today only got up to about 94 I believe. Cool front! lol

In mite news, Mark’s been treating with Apivar right now and he’s completed Cibolo Creek, Elm Creek and Big Oaks bee yards. Each hive had to be opened and each box of the hive receives two strips per brood box. It’s much easier to handle than Hopguard and has proven to be very effective for our bees. He’ll continue with treatments with each yard; he’s got quite a few more to go.

In addition to the treatments, he also had Stan help him move emptied honey supers and other equipment out of the The Farm location and into a new storage facility – a temporary solution until we get that honey house built. Here’s our new storage at the warehouse our friend Mary is letting us use – we’re only taking up a small portion of the space but it’s a huge help to us!

G&G Warehouse

Another view:

G&G Warehouse

It’s going to be so nice to have our own space one day soon! I love it when things are neatly piled in their places. Of course, you can necessarily tell that by looking at our house right now but I do. lol Okay, here’s a look at the before shot of the former storage space at the Farm (this is just one side of the space we used so there’s some equipment to the right of the picture you cannot see here):

Moving out of The Farm storage space

And here is how Mark and Stan left it – nice and very clear, ready for whatever new adventures await the spooky-ish greenhouse:

Moving out of The Farm storage space

In Honey House news, it’s moving along! Engineers and drawings completed, septic system designed, building purchased and plans in review…things are getting lined up. At this rate, we are hopeful that the HH will be ready (enough) to host our annual Holiday Open House, which is usually in November. Keep your fingers crossed!

In market news, we had to drop Southtown market for several reasons but we are rooting for the other vendors that the market will be successful. We’re just pretty worn out, to be honest with you. The 7-day work week in the heat is wearing on us and let’s face it, while we’re not in our golden years, we’re not spring chickens anymore either. 🙂 We need some kind of rest that’s more than the Sunday afternoons after markets are done. Anyway, we’re still at two markets and we hope you’ll continue to support all your local farmers, ranchers and producers no matter which market you support. We have an entire new level of appreciation for the growers of our foods and we feel blessed to have had the chance to meet all these fine, hard-working people who we now consider friends. Please support them as best you can. Thanks!

Random market story: We met a young group of friends last Sunday at market and one of them was Vietnamese and she asked me if I’d heard of or sampled a new trendy delicacy – bee larvae in puddings or porridges. No. I can’t say I’ve had it but I have heard of it and not too long ago, actually! A beekeeper in Hawaii that I follow on Instagram posted about the protein provided by bee larvae and how people harvest some of those for that purpose…that’s about as close as I’ll probably get to consuming them. I don’t see myself trying that since I look at bee larvae and I see a honeybee to be. Oh well, still interesting to learn new things.

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Comb in the uncapping tub

While I do tire of the non-stop 3-digit heat days, I never cease to be fascinated by the beautiful work of the bees. Not just the honey but look at the wax they create, like art to me. I love to visit the shop and see what’s happening out there. I shot the above photo because I just love the different colors of the wax. Some darkened with use, age, light, etc. Still good, all of it. These are bits of the cappings we shave off the tops of honey frames so we can get to the honey. We still do it all by hand with with bread knife. We have a heated knife for this purpose but found the bread knife works just fine in the blistering heat (natural heating 🙂 ). There’s a lot of honey still left on the comb so we just let it drip down into the tub under this for a couple of days and then we’ll run that through our fabric filter to catch debris. It’s amazing how much honey you can harvest from the cappings alone. We never waste a thing if we can help it. The cappings are then stored in buckets until Mark is ready to clean the wax for our beeswax products. We love it and I always tell Mark that even if we never sold another candle, I’m sure our families and I could use up all the candles he makes. We love his work! We can’t wait to show you some of the new things we’re working on for the upcoming holidays. Some new beeswax ornaments for the gift-giving season – you’ll like them I think. Stay tuned.

As I type, I see the clouds have rolled in – yay! Some relief from the scorching sun! It’s been a brutal stretch lately. I believe yesterday Mark told me we’re going on our 13th straight day of 100+ heat. Not unexpected here in Texas this time of year but I think we all still long for fall to hurry on up already. Anyway, whenever there’s a change in the sky, you get excited. lol even if, like yesterday, you don’t get more than 45 drops of rain, the claps of thunder and dark skies make for a welcome change. Sounds like I’m in a bowling alley. Very nice sounds.

Prior to the change just now, we turned on the drip hose for the new hives out back. We’ve been doing this since they got here and the temperatures have been so high. The girls seem to be holding up just fine. The bit of water does a lot to cool them and also provides them with what they need to cool their hives down. They fan water in the hives to create their own cooling system. Pretty awesome, those bees.

Watering divides at the Bee Ranch

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Ebert Queen introduction

One of my favorite times of any weekday is when Mark and I regroup in the kitchen and we’re winding down while we prepare dinner. During the week, I don’t often get to go on beeventures with Mark and I always feel like I am missing out on stuff. I try not to think about it most of the time and he’s really great about texting status updates and pictures to me and other family members. We are blessed that our families enjoy learning about what we are doing and they are constantly asking for updates. I use those updates for everyone on our social media outlets and I especially love it when Mark shares pictures, and sometimes videos, with us (lately my favorite it still the two fighting bulls out in a field). So here’s the story on our sweet little Ebert queen in the above shot. Mark casually told me this story while I was peeling shrimp or something like that and I couldn’t wait to tell y’all. Hopefully it’s as interesting to you as it was to us.

The twenty Ebert queens are tucked away in their queen bank and as Mark needs them, he can quickly and easily retrieve them from the back yard. There are currently about thirty newly divided hives back there along with the queen bank and the hives are grouped together based on when they were divided and when they need their queen introduced. The other day, Mark was introducing queens to two hives that he had not gotten to the day before. He opened up the plastic cage so that the queen could crawl out and onto the tops of the frames in that box. Well…this one decided for whatever reason, she needed to fly about for a bit. So Mark watched as she took flight and circled the hive in the area up above his head a few times. Now this part I don’t know that I would ever catch with my own eyes, but Mark caught sight of her a couple of times as she rounded so he stepped back about six feet and into the tree line in front of the hives. He watched as she landed at the entrance of the very hive he had opened. Then she calmly walked into her new home and new family. WOW! I guess she just didn’t want to be dumped there. That queenie was determined to make an entrance. She did it her own way. What a queen. He checked her two days later and the above picture is what he saw when he picked up one of the frames.

Here’s a shot of new divides in the back yard. I like seeing them lined up back there and I’ll miss them once they are ready for a permanent home.

Backyard divides 2013

Now I want to finish off with dinner, which on a market night is either leftovers or pizza or the buffet, whatever our energy levels happen to be. Tonight was actually leftovers we knew would be great because the jambalaya gets better with a few days on it. The okra was from Engel Farm at the Quarry market and I got it last Sunday. The chicken was an entire chicken that I got from Parker Creek Ranch who are at both Southtown and Quarry markets with us. I just love Travis and Mandy – really great young couple doing a great thing out there in D’Hanis (y’all look them up and try their beef, eggs and chickens – we have and it’s all been GREAT). The funny thing about the chicken is that Mandy called it “deformed” because though it was a very good chicken, it was missing one leg. I didn’t have time to ask for the back story on Deformed Chicken but I needed a small chicken since I wanted dark meat in my jambalaya so when she held it up to me, I thought I just had to have it – a small chicken with a story. That’s bound to make my jambalaya good. And it did. Thanks for the deformed chicken, Mandy. You are my favorite poultry vendor ever. See you tomorrow!

Jambalaya part 2

PS – The garlic toast was made with Cheddar Dill bread from Biga on the Banks, a wonderful restaurant on the SA River downtown. Their awesome pastry chef, Lila, is a vendor at the Pearl market. This was delish!

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2013 Mesquite comb honey

Above photo: Every time I see comb like this, I simply want to glob a big fat piece of it into my mouth. Yuuuum.

Ever feel like there’s so much going on that you don’t even know which way to turn. And then the next thing you know, it’s bed time. And then you the alarm goes off and you are at it again. LOL that’s us right about now. We still try and make time here and there to just sit or to visit with friends or to go hunting down historical STUFF…but it’s a crazy time for GBR and most other beekeepers are in the same boat, we’re sure. It’s harvest and dividing time so that’s what we’re all about. The weird spring turned weird summer means it’s totally different from last year, when EVERYTHING was pulled at the same time and we killed ourselves trying to extract before the honey went bad on us. This year it’s more like a little here is ready and then maybe a little somewhere else might be ready. Crazy year for sure.

Okay, here are some of the highlights as of late:
1. We got more queens in, this time from Ebert out in Iowa. Mark’s already used six of them.
2. With dividing of hives in progress, he now has 30 new hives, quite a few in our backyard awaiting queen introductions.
3. Went to the Marriott yard today in SA and pulled a few supers. Sponsored hives are looking pretty good and I got some shots of the activities in order to send out an update to our sponsors.
4. We’re still working on getting the word out about the Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market down at the Bluestar Art Complex (Saturdays 9-1p) so help us out if you can. Sonia and Danny are working it for us and doing a GREAT job. Sure appreciate them!
5. Belinda’s rejoined us and we’re happy to have her help and her smile back.

Here’s the second queen bank Mark built for the 20 Ebert queens. They came in plastic cages.

New queen bank for the 14 Ebert queens left, 6 introduced.

Finally, I wanted to just tell you about how happy I have been to put all the blazing heat to good use out here in Texas! 🙂 It’s in the 3-digits these days and the sun is hot enough to fry eggs on the ground. Really. I saw a little egg drop from above onto our pavement and though it was not of the eat-me-with-a-biscuit quality or quantity, it was cooked. Poor baby birdy. Anyway, a friend of ours (hi Pete!) asked me about decrystalizing a bottle of honey he had gotten a while ago. I explained the typical hot water in a pan technique and then I said, you know what – just go set it on a table outside for a couple of days and it’ll do the trick. I have had our various crystalized jars out there (Remember my cabinet full of honey? Some of it had crystalized and while I like it, it’s hard to get the honey out of the plastic squeeze bottles.) and most of them have been successfully decrystalized now. Free. Easy. Pretty fast. Done. And so am I. Goodnight, friends.

Solar heating

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The Cali queens have arrived in Seguin! Time to divide some hives.

Yesterday we got our twenty new queens from Olivarez out in California. They’ve been good queens for us and the company has been a good one to work with so we gave them a call last week now that Mark’s ready to make a few divides with hives that seem to be done making any more honey this season.

This is how the post office receives the queens and they will either call us or bring them by the Bee Ranch. Inside, the queen cages are stacked. Sometimes, each queen will come with their own attendant bees inside the cage with her. These bees take care of her. Other times, we may receive them like this – attendants on the outside of the cages so they can care for all the queens together. Pretty neat. (I recall one time when the box was left open in the house and I came home to several attendant bees buzzing about – just have to be careful about opening the box.)

20 Olivarez queens all arrived alive and well.

Since he can’t install all twenty queens at one time or in one day with everything else he has to do, he has built his own Queen Bank (I call it the QB) so that the queens can be cared for in an efficient manner. This little frame has worked well in the past and the bar across the front can be easily moved out of the way so he can remove any number of queen cages needed.

The queen bank: temporary housing for the Olivarez queens

The frame is inserted into a small hive that he found at Big Oaks when we went out there early evening yesterday. Now begins the process of identifying hives that are strong enough (have a lot of bees) to be split/divided. And out of one strong hive, you can make two! And sometimes, when we have a super strong hive, we have even been known to make three hives from one. Crazy, isn’t it? And that, in a nutshell, is one way in which you can increase your hives. When I went home for lunch today, he already had four new hives out of the Big Oaks hives. I think he mentioned there could be more out of that yard. Then he proceeds to other bee yards and just goes down the list. Up to this point, he’s been monitoring the yards and the hives in each yard, taking notes and keeping track of who’s doing well in terms of number of bees as well as honey production. There are other factors to consider as well but that’s the jist of it. Okay, I need to go check on my beekeper. Y’all have a good one!

Big Oaks bee Yard  July 10, 2013

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The British Invasion queen

I am determined to write this before I hit the sack since we have a long day tomorrow. Remember that new approach to queen installation/introduction I mentioned? This was the hive that we got from Jester Bees in Florida but they had lost their Jester queen and had made their own, which we didn’t want. Mark put the Big Island queen in and did the heavy smoke and release approach. Well, Mark went back in today and it has only been three days…and there she was! Still alive and well AND laying eggs. Amazing! He was quite pleased and will continue to monitor her and the hive. He said he may also try a few more to see how it goes. Sure would save time and energy if it works consistently. We’ll keep you posted.

Rattlesnake hole

In other news, Smokey found (or ran across) a rattlesnake in the back area of our yard where the candles shop and our supplies and equipment are! Yikes. I didn’t have a zoom lens so that pic of the den is all you get. I was on watch while Mark went to find the gun and ammunition. The den is a little close to home. It appears the den is along the tree line and Smokey was between the snake and its den. Fortunately he got Mark’s attention somehow and did not move from the area until Mark came over (cautiously, for he heard that awful rattling sound). We are pretty proud of that cat of ours and we are glad he didn’t get hurt. I’m really glad Mark didn’t happen upon him unsuspectingly – it’s an area we venture into to look at what’s blooming in the field. Now we know to watch our step. I have never heard a rattlesnake before in real life and it is somewhat creepy. Mark’s right – you can’t really tell exactly where it’s at when you hear it! 😦

Danielle helping Mark make up some nucs

Back to bee news – that’s our friend and former student, Danielle, helping out at Big Oaks bee yard today. She and Mark prepared enough nucleus hives (nucs) for our students and customers tomorrow. It got a little warm and Danielle wasn’t feeling so great by the end of the day so we sure hope she feels better soon!

While I was working, Mark also sent this great shot of the bees carrying some beautiful pollen – we certainly love to see this!

That's some nice pollen they're carrying in today.

Okay, I had better say goodnight and see you tomorrow. Remember, Mark’s in class here. I’m downtown on the Seguin square for Seguin Trade Days (9-4p) and Lan will be celebrating her LAST DAY AT THE PEARL (!!) with Sonia and Danny. 😦 Be sure to swing by there and wish her well as she’s moving soon! We sure are going to miss one of our top sales guru. Thank you for all you’ve done for us Lan!

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Big Island Queen in a Cage

Thanks go out to Emily of the UK for putting the idea of introducing a queen to a new hive without the cage – an aggressive approach compared to our seven-day slow introduction method with a caged queen that has proven to work quite well in our hives. I came home today and when Mark got home, he surprised me with news that he and Danielle requeened a hive using the cageless introduction technique. Cool! He said while they were out in the bee yard feeding, doing mite treatments and dividing when they came across one of our new Jester Bees hive. That hive had lost its queen and the girls made their own, which Mark does not want here in Texas. So, he decided this was an opportunity to try the more aggressive approach – doesn’t hurt to try and I guess his curiosity had been piqued. First things first, he found and killed that queen the girls made for themselves. In the following picture, he is clearing off the attendant bees from the Big Island queen, as best he can.

Getting bees off the cage

After that, he put a very heavy smoke on the hive itself to really sedate them. Don’t worry, it won’t harm the bees.

Smoking the bee hive

Here he is pushing apart a couple of frames to make sure that when he releases her, she’ll be near or on the brood nest.

Releasing the queen

And there she goes when he pulls back the wire protective screen.

There she goes

After all that, he put some feed into the box for them and now we wait and hope. He will go back and check on them next week some time.

Feeding the bees

I want to thank the wonderful Danielle for taking these pictures for us – we wouldn’t have them if she wasn’t with Mark. Sounds like she had a better out in the yards with Mark, which makes me happy to hear. 🙂

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