Archive for the ‘Gonzales’ Category

Gonzales Bee Yard

As the men drive to Gonzales and to our original bee yard there, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic this morning. While it had been a good place to start with, it has become so dry in that county that we need to move the bees in order to same them from continuing their decline. There’s simply not enough to sustain them on their own there so they’ll be moving to the Cibolo Creek bee yard as that location’s hives seem to be thriving. So in tribute to the good years we had at this yard, here’s some of my favorite shots.

In greener years, we got some of the BEST honey ever tasted from this bee yard!

Frame full of honey

Here Mark was checking on the honey flow of 2010.

Gonzales bee yard

We’ll miss the dogs and horses and cows. ๐Ÿ™‚

cow sniffs hive gonzales

And all the lovely flowers, too!

Wild poppy


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Hives at Elm Creek

I don’t know if you noticed it Sunday but not only was it rumbling thunder and flashing lightning all across the lovely Texas sky, but we also had morning temperatures in the upper 60s. Yes. You read right – upper 60s. As a matter of fact, when we set up shop at the Quarry market, we both noted it was a bit on the chilly side. I actually had a light rain jacket on and Mark was on the chilled side with the constant wind and being in short sleeves. This has got to be the strangest Texas spring/summer I’ve seen in the 16 years I’ve lived here. Up and down and back up again in temperatures – it’s no wonder the flowers don’t know what’s going on, which impacts how the bees make honey. As I have mentioned before, if there isn’t a consistent bloom season, then the bees don’t have enough flowers to get a great honey flow going. So far, we are seeing a little improvement in honey production but it’s still spotty to be honest and the total production numbers should be interesting to compare to the past couple of years. 2010 and 2011 were drought years so we didn’t get much honey production while 2012 was a bumper crop year. Let’s see what 2013 will yield.

Today Mark went to Elm Creek, which is pictured above. That is white bee brush you see next to the hives and the bees love that and so do we. It has the loveliest, sweetest scent and when Mark showed it to me in full bloom one year, I was so in love with it. It was like a summer snow dusting on the ground at Elm Creek. I still remember stepping out of the truck and just soaking in the fragrant air. Loved it. The bee brush typically blooms several days after a rain and when it blooms abundantly, then that is a real boost to the bees’ honey production. Wednesday we’ll go out to Comanche Creek to see how the brush did out there and whether it gave the bees a bit of a boost at all. We’ll report back afterwards.

After Elm Creek and some work at The Farm yards, Mark headed out to Gonzales. While they still aren’t doing much at the Gonzales yard, the Pizza yard bees were looking a little better and making a bit of honey. This is a shot of one of the fields Mark drove through on his way to the Pizza bees – good sign for the girls – that’s a lot of horsemint to munch on and that’s a great sight to see! Like bee brush, horsemint has a light, sweet fragrance and is a great bee food so we are pleased to see it growing like this. It’s also nice to not have to worry about someone mowing it all down like we have seen in some areas. Always breaks my heart a bit when I see beautiful fields of wildflowers mowed down. Well, we shall remain hopeful that these blooms will continue for a while so that the girls can get a steady honey flow going.

Pizza Bee Yard

In other news, we have joined another farmers market – Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market, which will be located at the cool Blue Star Arts Complex! This Saturday morning market formally kicks off on June 15 although we won’t be able to join them until June 22 since we will be out of town for our daughter’s wedding. If you are looking for the same Sunday morning atmosphere of the Quarry market, then you’ll want to come visit us and the other vendors at the Blue Star. This market is coordinated by the same dynamic duo who run the Quarry market – Heather and David. As a webpage is developed, I will be sure to share it with you. Meanwhile, you can find the market on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SouthtownFarmersMarket.

Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market

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Small swarm

Since I am fielding calls quite frequently about bees swarming here and there, I thought I’d do a quick post on a few things that I have found interesting so far this week. First of all, a few words about swarms – they are not necessarily cause for alarm, folks! Bees are actually quite gentle in this state for several reasons. Simply put, they have no home at this point to defend and they are actually quite full of honey so who cares about stinging people. They’ve got to look for a home all while clustered around their queen to keep her safe. That’s right. She’s in the middle of all the bees you might see hanging from a tree, fence, building, air conditioning unit (yep, remember when Mark removed one a few years ago?) or some such place. Usually they will stay only a few days or until they find a new home. While most of the bees are clustered, some scout bees will venture about seeking the perfect space to make their home. Somewhere closed typically so that it’s easily defended. Anyhow, just wanted you to know this is happening right now so you know what it is and why you don’t need to panic. Next topic…

Isn’t she adorable!? When Mark showed me this picture, he knew what my reaction would be – delight. He knows me. I was delighted for sure. She was covered in pollen! She must have rolled all around the flowers. lol They can be so silly and so much like children in my opinion. I love to hear about them and see what they are doing. If you can’t see the bee with pollen dust, look in the upper left quadrant of the photo and see if you can spot the one bee with wings that look mustardy. That’s her. ๐Ÿ™‚

That's a dusty girl

In other bee-related news, we got moves going on left and right. Yep, the bees are getting shuffled around. We don’t actually move our hives around too much but when conditions warrant it, it happens. This particular move below was several hives going from the Big Oaks nursery to the Gonzales bee yards. You know how we love the Gonzales honey so here’s hoping they have a great year. I just had some Gonzales Wildflower in my cup of coffee – oh my it was delish. I sometimes forget just how smooth that county honey is – not sure why but it doesn’t seem to crystalize as quickly either. Too bad we didn’t make a lot of it last honey season – this jar was in my reserve. It pays to know the beekeeper, eh? By the way, the ice you see helped keep the bees cool during the drive as it was in the mid-80s that day. We don’t want them overheating while sitting on the truck. They made it just fine.

Moving more hives

Tomorrow Mark and Stan will move more bees – this time from Runge to a new yard they will establish in…wait for it…wait…BIGFOOT!! Finally! I get to write about Bigfoot; got to love that name. Here’s the sign I snapped when we visited the first time –

Bigfoot, Texas

It had such a neat feeling to it. Can’t wait to see what honey is like there. The farm we will be on is amazing. Well, the owner and his crew are what make it amazing. I have a Frio County Farm Visit Flickr set (of course) in case you want to see what the area looks like. We loved it and we can’t wait to work the bees down there! And a word about why we’re moving the bees: There isn’t much for the bees to feed on right now in Runge and they are looking pretty sad. We need to move them somewhere they’ll have some food so they won’t starve to death. This is what you do. You watch and care for them and you help them when they need you, which may not be often but this is a prime example. Sometimes we have people call us and ask our opinion about their hives. Sometimes we can help, sometimes it’s too late. Sometimes something could have been done to help the bees if intervention came sooner. So, here’s some advice for our new beekeepers – get in your hives on a regular basis. If you don’t know exactly when to check on them, at least read this blog or other beekeeper blogs and do what they do. When they check hives, you check hives. When they feed, you feed. When they treat for mites, you treat for mites. ๐Ÿ™‚ One of the best ways to learn is to do. So open up those hives and keep an eye on your gals! And few guys.

Okay, I think that’s about it for now. Not bad for a mid-week post. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now, I have candles to wrap for market. Lots of candles. Yay! OOOOOH! Forgot to tell y’all that we sold our first bucket o’ unrefined wax to a company that specializes in some very nice looking beauty care products. We’ll let you know how things progress. ALSO…we have signed on to be a participant at the Artisan’s Market being hosted by the La Cantera William-Sonoma! Exciting! More on that soon. It’ll be on a Saturday (April 27) from noon to 4:00 p.m. Can’t wait to share all the varieties of honey with folks and we hope to see as many of YOU ALL out there! That’d be awesome!

Okay, for real this time. Goodnight. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Broom weed at Pizza Yard

First stop – Pizza Yard! It’s been a while since I accompanied Mark to bee yards for more than just a quick drop-off or pick up of queens or observation hive bees. And today was the perfect fall day to go with him to release the Heitkam queens in our two Gonzales bee yards. As you can see, things are sort of brown but there is still a good amount of broom weed and other yellow flowers that the bees are feasting upon right now. I saw some very bright pollen being carried into the hives when Mark opened them up. Though the day was lovely for us (in the 60s and bright and sunny with a nippy breeze), it was not too great for the bees I think. The cool breeze is not their favorite thing. Imagine trying to regulate your hive to a lovely 90 degrees only to have some beekeeper open it up to release a queen. Huh. And speaking of queens, an interesting thing happened to the one in Pizza yard – she was dead when Mark checked on her! It doesn’t happen often he says, but it does happen so he’ll have to go back with another queen. Then it was off to the original Gonzales bee yard to release four queens there. That was an exciting pit stop!

HIpstamatic beekeeper 4

Looks lovely, doesn’t it? I used a phone app called Hipstamatic on that shot, by the way. Still one of my favorite yards, I always enjoy going with Mark. Didn’t see the horses this time but saw other interesting things. For example…

…a beautifully capped frame of fall honey. Nice! I shot a short video of the bees drinking up the honey so I’ll try and load it to YouTube before bed but no promises. It may wait till tomorrow at the rate I’m typing tonight. [Side note: how did it get to be past 11p??]

Frame of honey at Gonzales yard

…a really cool frame with multiple queen cells, all of which Mark got rid of since we don’t want them making their own queens. They’re feisty enough here in Texas.

Queen cells 2

And while there are no good pictures to share, there were a few exciting, intense moments for us as the last hive was quite agitated (and in need of requeening, it appears). Right before Mark told me I should get in the truck, I had a sinking feeling something was crawling on me. Under my jacket. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Not good. Thank goodness for Mark! He’s ever so calm and patient. He went with me as I continued to pray the little bee wouldn’t sting me. I could feel her for sure now and I tried really hard to calmly take off my veil and jacket. Mark lifted my t-shirt sleeve just as I felt the beginnings of a sharp jab (for lack of a better descriptor) and she flew up. Right into my hair where she got a little tangled it sounded like. My sweet man caught her and killed her. I was so relieved. I really didn’t want to get all swollen and more than that, I really don’t like to be out of commission and miss out on any fun. Thank you, my love! Unfortunately, they got after Mark a bit and a few managed to get under his veil. He walked away once I saw and then he came back since you have to finish the job. He closed up the hive as I watched and marveled at the way the bees flew around him. You can definitely tell the difference in flight pattern and behavior if you watch our usually gentle bees versus this agitated hive. Nothing like bees smacking into my veil as a warning to get me into the truck. ๐Ÿ™‚ We are okay though poor Mark is quite swollen under one eye. It also seems to wear him out a bit more when stung on the face he says. I think I saw a sting on his neck also.

Luckily for us, we had a nice, relaxing social gathering to attend in order to get to know some of our new friends from the Pearl market. Had a lovely, lovely time and even enjoyed a cozy fire outside now that it is cool enough to enjoy it. Minus mosquitos. Score!

Lovely evening for a fire out

Thank you for a lovely day, honey bee! I love it when we get to spend an entire day together. This weekend was a busy one and we had to split up in order to cover two simultaneous events in Seguin and San Antonio. While we love working with Lan and Stan, we miss working together when we spilt. So here’s to next weekend when we’re both at the Pearl at the same time! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Troy and Mark

This is our friend and awesome web designer, Troy! He owns Stratagem Technical Services and has really helped us create a beautiful site for our growing little bee biz. We are thrilled that Troy got to stop in to see us at the Bee Ranch this week – even got to visit a couple of bee yards with Mark while I worked. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on his first visit with bees – sometimes we are with them so much, you miss out on the newness of experiences. I have two favorites that Troy shared with me and I will tell you briefly here what they are.

Troy and the queen bank

Troy got to see the queen bank and install a queen cage into a hive. Remember, Mark has those 50 Heitkam queens he needs to install. Well I think my favorite thing about Troys’s description of the experience is the feeling of all those little wings touching his bare hands as he slide the cage between two frames full of bees. How lovely it sounded – I have never done that before so see what I’m missing out on there? I liked hearing about it, however. It was so poetic.


Funny shot, rigth? I love that donkey because from day 1 at Deadman Creek bee yard, he has been a real character. The first time we “met” him, he was trotting stalkingly behind and beside us in the ATV we were riding to check out the property with Craig. Hilarious little fella. Well apparently he treat Mark and Troy to a real show while they were working bees. About ten feet away from the hives, Donkey decided to stop, drop and roll around in the dirt! Troy’s phone was inside his bee suit and by the time Mark got his phone out and camera on, Donkey had finished and jumped straight up as if nothing unusual had just happened. Ugh! I miss all the fun! If I had seen that in person, I seriously think I would have laughed my head off. What a silly donkey he is.

After all that excitment of the day, no visit would be complete without a real south Texas meal so we took Troy to Clear Springs and the food was yummy. And abundant. ๐Ÿ™‚ We thoroughly enjoyed the visit and getting to know Troy better. Can’t wait for his next visit already.

I think we were up till about 1:00am to finish as much prep as possible for the Pearl market and the Gonzales Come & Take It Festival. We’re learning about doubling up on everything from products to supplies to staffing. But we are ready! So come by and visit us at either or both events!! Come & Take It is always a fun event to do – people are wonderful and there’s music, food, vendors, a carnival with rides, a Saturday parade and so much more. We always love doing that event. It starts tonight and Mark and Stan are there setting up – we’ll be ready with local and specialty honeys by 5:00pm today and it runs to midnight (yes!). Jess and I will be manning the double booth all day tomorrow and we’ll be in our usual spot hear the fire house, on the side where you can see the old theatre. Great spot. Then Sunday Mark and I will wrap it up together so do stop by and visit. Lan and Cathy will be helping Mark at the Pearl tomorrow and our CrepeLandia friends are back so that will be a treat for Mark – we missed them last week as rain and crepes apparently do not mix. lol Crowds are expected to be full since a lot of folks need to pick up goods they missed out on last weekend thanks to all that water everywhere. So if you want your honey and candles, be sure to get there early!

Okay friends – we are out of here! Y’all have a wonderful and safe weekend. We hope to run into you somewhere along the beeventure trails. Love, Thien

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Gonzales honey frame

Our first full day back in Texas and Mark could hardly wait to get out to check on the bees. We had a nice morning catching up on some work and then I think we breezed through lunch together and then he was off in his Tundra. Today’s focus was Gonzales to see how the bee yards were doing – looks like they’re doing okay! Making honey and making my beekeeper happy. He said he ran out of honey supers and will need to return there this week with four more supers to accommodate the girls and all their honey-making activities. Nice! We love our local honey and we’re happy they are making it abundantly this year.

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cow at hive gonzales

Today Mark made a visit out to the Elm Creek, Gonzales and Pizza yards. It’s been several days since he’s been out to the yards – we’re really worried about the fires raging through our poor state. Thousands of gorgeous acres burned to a crisp. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ All the poor people who have lost their houses…my heart just aches every time we watch the news. Mark is constantly changing the channel once I grab tissues. So how does this equate to him not visiting the bees? Well, we were talking about how one of the big fires started because of the catalytic converter of a vehicle sparking the dry grass and brush. Which then led to Mark thinking he wouldn’t want to start a fire with his own truck or the smoker. Which led me to think I sure wouldn’t want him to be out there in the event a brush fire is blown his way with the winds we’ve been having. He often does his bee work solo and if he got caught in the fires…well, I just couldn’t bear that thought. So, he took a bit of a break since last week and today he really enjoyed being out in the yards with his bees. The weather has also been so much more pleasant. We have been in the 90s this week with mornings in the upper 50s and lower 60s – FABULOUS! Today at Gonzales he was kept company by some of the tamest cows he’s encountered. I thought they were really sweet looking and he said they were nice – even let him pet them. I wish I had been there!! I always miss it when I don’t get to go to the yards and he tells me about his visits.

Below is a shot of the same oak tree in the background and it was shot back in 2010 at the end of June. Granted, the two pictures are separated by about two and a half months (end of June versus mid-Septembr) but I wanted you to recall how beautiful the Gonzales countryside is, especially at that beeyard. We love going out there – breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the peacefulness of no cars or trucks or other city noises. I hope that we can see it return to its lush state in the near future.

She sure was curious.

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Mega-Horse Feeding

Horse at Gonzales yard

It’s still hot and dry and Mark’s still out in the bee yards feeding, watering and dusting bees. Today he delivered honey along his way to Gonzales to check the bees there and at the Pizza yard (quickly becoming one of the more intriguing yards to our loyal bee supporters). Always nice when we can combine many errands and chores together since gas is still about $3.45 here in Seguin and $3.39 in Gonzales. Did I tell you before that when Mark and I first started seeing each other and making the commute between here and San Antonio, that the gas was only $.89? Well, if I did, then sorry. But wow! What a difference! I want those days back please.

Back to the topic at hand. See the horse? There are actually two of them out at the Gonzales yard and they are inquisitive and not shy of us or our trucks. They come over sometimes and check on things. I think they would like it if we had treats for them as we do for the bees. ๐Ÿ™‚ Mark said that he was tending bees when he turned around and saw this horsey with its head way into his feed bucket – eating on the Mega-Bee that was meant for our bees! Silly horse!

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Pizza Divide 31-Jul-11 47

…the heat, that is. We had another successful day out in the hot Texas countryside, dividing some of the hives. Today we hit the Pizza yard as well as David’s yard, also known as Holdman Honey. We all survived the heat and enjoyed each other’s company as we drove around the lovely country outside Seguin. In the picture above, David assists Mark check the frames to make sure they select an appropriate number of frames with the appropriate number of bees and brood to make a new hive as successful as possible. When you split a hive, you want to make sure each hive remains as strong and as healthy as possible. Below is a shot of the second batch of queens we got on Friday from Derwin Thrash. Mark found the first batch successful so he decided to use them this round as well. Poor queens, it is pretty hot so they struggle to stay alive in those cages and that’s why Mark was trying to move as fast as possible to get them established. We lost only two of the caged queens but it makes me sad to see them lifeless in there. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Thrash Queens 2nd batch top

Finally, I am including this happy me picture because Mark says he likes it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus I have to end on a positive note. Because that’s just me. Most of the time, I am behind the camera and I feel most comfortable there. But if you point a camera at me, I have learned to just smile. And if it’s one thing I know how to do, it’s smile big. I am smiling big here because although I have a lot to work on for the business, I really didn’t want to miss another day of hive dividing with Mark and David. I didn’t go yesterday so I didn’t want to miss out on the fun a second day! I am so glad I went because it was really nice to be out in the weather, even when the weather is hot. I love visiting the bee yards and being with my beekeepers!

Ready for the heat

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Nuc at Pizza Yard (1)

We spent part of this week-end at the Pizza Yard in Gonzales County re-queening a couple of hives and making up two new hives using the Koehnen queens that I ordered last week. I’m using a small box called a “nuc” (short for nucleus) box. I put in four frames of brood and bees and finish it off with a frame feeder. As the hive grows I will eventually transfer them to a regular sized hive box.

2 nuc boxes

Wrapped up and ready to move to the nursery bee yard. If I left them here most of the bees would return to their original hive. It was hot, of course, so the bees were already out of the entrance trying to stay cool as I loaded them on the truck, below. At the nursery bee yard I installed the queens. I’ll check back in a week to see if the bees accepted their new home and their new queen. If so, the bees have a very good chance to be a viable hive.

Bees on nuc box Mark carrying

This was a trial run for the 30-50 hives that I will make in July. But first, we have to extract more honey! Even in this drought these amazing bees are finding a way to make more honey. We couldn’t be happier.

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