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Archive for the ‘equipment’ Category

Bees at entrance

Well, here we are into November and there’s only 5.5 more Mondays until Christmas. Yikes! I might as well cover the next two months in case I don’t have a chance to post until 2016!

Today it is once again cloudy as our slightly rainy period began about a month ago. Prior to that we were bone dry and our ground had severe cracks all over the yard. I shot the above photo several weeks ago on a Saturday morning during our Honey Store hours. The bees were flying like crazy after a rain spell and they brought in such beautiful and bright pollen – it’s always so awesome to see them like this. Amazing and mesmerizing to me.

Beekeeping supplies

On the Honey House front, we have lots going on as we shift our focus more on all the new things we want to do and offer at the Bee Ranch. Our beekeeping supplies and equipment have really grown and we’ve even added a storage container in order to make more room inside for new things arriving weekly. We now have everything a new or an experienced beekeeper might need – from bee gear (suit, gloves, etc.) to bee equipment (extractors, smokers, bee brushes, etc.). Need a book about beekeeping? We have it. Need some frames? Got it. Can’t decide which smoker you want to buy? We have two and we can talk about which one Mark likes best and why. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to explore new products and to share what works for us and why with new beekeepers. We’ve been able to conduct more classes than in the past several years and we love that! You know we both like to help others and we both enjoy teaching. And of course, we both love to talk bees and honey so this is really becoming a dream come true for us – sharing what we love right at the Bee Ranch, which we love so much and love to share with visitors. We hope to see you sometime soon!

Happy to be home and working on new products!

On the Bee Crafts front, we have a lot going on as usual. It’s amazing what we keep learning and our biggest desire most of the time is that we have more time to explore, learn, try and try again! haha I’ve been reading up on bee crafts such as body and home care for about a year and have been experimenting with different products the past six months. Mark and I are so excited to have three new products we are rolling out: our first lip balm, a traveling tea light, and a tin of sweet tea lights for a delicate way to ease into cold temperatures and before we bring out the big pillars to warm up the house. We are working to get things listed on the website so be patient a little longer and give us about two or three weeks to get everything up and running! Meanwhile, here are some sneak peeks in case you don’t follow us on all the other social media outlets where I typically share day-to-day work. Enjoy and talk to you soon, I promise. There are some new workshops we are hosting at the Bee Ranch every Saturday starting in a couple weeks and I will definitely need to post the topics here. Free and open to all during our shop hours.

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

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Honeycomb on frame VSCO app

Hello friends. Here we are in September already – so sorry that August got away from me before I could get a post going. We have had so much going on and pretty much all of it awesome. Harvest has been going very well and despite the long spells of wet spring weather, the girls finally shifted into high gear and we are at about 8500 pounds of some of the lightest, sweetest honey varieties we have ever harvested.

So awesome when every honey you taste is slightly (or completely) different from bee yard to bee yard. Wonderful for us and even more wonderful when we can do a honey tasting for our customers who visit the Bee Ranch. Being at home and having the Honey Store open to the public two days a week has been working very well for us and we continue to see increases on both days in terms of visitors and sales. We especially appreciate our loyal customers and friends from the San Antonio markets we previously attended – thanks y’all! Making the trek to Seguin isn’t as bad as many of them thought it would be and being on the edge of town gives our sweet little Bee Ranch a quiet country feel but only 30 minutes from downtown San Antonio. Cool!

Here’s a recap of our recent happenings:

Classes in July and August were SO FUN! What a blessing and a blast to FINALLY get to work a class together again. For the three years we were at farmers market, on class days, I’d head off to market while Mark handled class with a friend or with our son. I loved getting to help a bit and having time to take some pictures in between helping customers who stop by Saturday mornings. We’ve even had several neighbors stop in the Honey Store to say hello and to check us out. Here’s one of our favorite photos from a recent class. We love getting students into the hives so they can really see and learn about the bees. This also allows us to explain what they see on the frames as well as around the hive area. Many of our students are interested in keeping their own hives at some point and we are always happy to help them as best we can. (Seats are still available for September 26 and October 17 if you are interested in joining us!)

Intro to Beekeeping August 22, 2015

Here’s another class shot because I had so much fun looking at them. haha

Bees on frame

There are still so many things to do and opportunities to explore! Ugh. There just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to do everything but what a great feeling that is for us. To know we have all these fun ideas we want to pursue when we can. As we get older and the hot days seems to get longer (and the honey boxes seem to get heavier), we have to think about how our company and activities might need to shift in order to accommodate us. One of those things is to do another update to the website so we can list some new items such as the Pecan Creamed Honey and the sweet little Gift Jar we now offer. Another update will include at least three new recipes added to our Recipe Page. So excited about this one! I research a lot of recipes and then start experimenting and then let tasters try out what I made and provide feedback. Here’s one of the things I’ve wanted to learn, get the way we like it, and then share – Honey Roasted Pecans. I think I finally got it the way I like it. I’m also working on Honey Oats Granola and a friend I met via Pearl and Instagram (Slice of Rei) has a very yummy Honey Caramel Popcorn recipe I want to see if she’ll let us post to our site. Lots of fun stuff going on here at the Bee Ranch.

Honey Roasted Pecans Foods August 2015

Our Beeventures have also taken us down the road of selling beekeeping equipment and supplies. If you haven’t visited us lately in Seguin, you don’t know we carry everything you need to get started with bees and to keep going. Bee-gear (veil, suits), honey extraction equipment and tools, boxes, frames – ask us. We might have it now. So excited for Mark to do something he’s been thinking about for years. Our students kept coming back to us with requests for supplies and Mark has been working hard to find the best quality items for a good price. We sell only what we use so if we’ve got it, you can ask us what we think about it. Check us out sometime! We’d love to see you at the Bee Ranch.

Beekeeping supplies

That’s it for now as I need to run to an appointment. More Beeventures and more posting over on our other social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr).

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We got about an inch and a lizard of rain Saturday. Lol he's so cute!

Well happy October, everyone! I can’t believe it’s here already but what a welcome change in terms of weather patterns. Mark caught this little guy in the rain gauge last week when he was checking on the rain we had gotten. Over the past several weeks, we have seen maybe 1 to 3 inches of rain each week and it’s made everything around here green again. The bees are flying heavily and bringing in tons of pollen. They’re also making some good honey for their winter stores and we are so excited about the potential for another great season next spring. Yes, we are already thinking ahead. This good soaking of the ground is what the wildflowers need NOW in order to bloom beautifully LATER.

In other news, we’ve been getting honey supers cleaned (with help from the bees as well as Stan and Mr. Savior), getting the home better organized (finally unpacking books and such now that we found some shelves), and preparing for upcoming holiday events! It’s about that time, right? We are busily getting wording and pictures updated so we can get the website caught up – we are so behind in terms of all the new products we haven’t had time to get listed. Well, we are now working on it and hope to have information to our friend Troy soon. He’s our awesome web designer who also happens to now have his own hives (yay Troy and family!)!

GBR Product Shoot 2014

Last Sunday we hosted our first vendor/member for our Pearl FM family! It was a great turnout and we look forward to having more of these so that we can all get to know each other better, away from the hustle and bustle of market. We are all so busy there that it’s hard to have time to visit with each other. This event was so much fun and we appreciated folks making time to drive to the Bee Ranch to see the operation. Can’t wait to see where we go next time!

Pearl Vendor Get Together

One more thing before I go…this is Mark’s third rattler killed. Thankfully only one has been at the house and now that we have spotted the family of gray foxes, we haven’t noticed snakes. Anyway, this one was at the Carolina bee yard which is located at the Moo Jesus Dairy Farm. Mark said it was headed into the garden the family keeps and he sure did not want it surprising them so he grabbed his handing garden hoe and took care of it. Thank goodness he had his snake boots on this time! Yay, honeybee! Good job, love. People have been telling us that they notice more rattlers this year so be careful out there, friends!

The only good thing about this is that I get some pics without worry about it being alive. It does, however, still move from reflex and that's a little creepy. #texas #rattlesnake

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Pecan tree

And we are serious about caring for the twenty-four trees we have on our Bee Ranch. We have officially committed to caring for and growing our pecan tree – we’ve hired a caretaker for the orchard! You’ll be hearing more in future about the awesome Mr. Savior. He has already helped us so much with last year’s pecan harvest and he’s ready to do more. Yesterday he started meticulously fertilizing the orchard and he will continue to provide care and feeding so that we can have future crops to take to market in support of our growing bee business. We are so thankful for Mr. S!! He and his family are dear friends from church and we are so excited to continue working with them on different projects!

Bee board holding pecans

Mr. S is currently researching and developing a system for watering the orchard. He had also helped us design our mobile feeding system and that made the work more efficient for Mark. In all that we do, we are truly blessed to continually receive help from our friends and family. We couldn’t possibly have all the time and energy to do all we want to do if we didn’t have the help of all of you, whether it’s a feeding system, working events or sending encouragement via our electronic world (and in person at market and events). We so appreciate you all!! Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day and hope to see you at the Pearl Farmers Market tomorrow (9-1p). It is the market’s 5th birthday and there are special treats and giveaways so it’s totally the day to give it a try if you haven’t been there yet. And if you have, we look forward to seeing you again!

The beekeeper mixing some sugar and water feed for the bees

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Pollen gathering at Big Oaks

Happy Easter, everyone! Today feels like it’s already a full day and it’s only 7pm. haha, love that. We kicked off our wonderful day with a great breakfast before booking it out to collect pollen we planned to collect yesterday but you know what? We were so tired that after a friend stopped by for a visit and stayed longer than anticipated (but what a nice visit that was!), we just didn’t even REMEMBER we were supposed to go to Big Oaks. That’s tired. And that is usually what happens to us by Saturday afternoons after market and class, as we had both events yesterday. I think the week catches up to us and we just sort of get drained. It felt good to rest and get a little extra sleep, that’s for sure.

So…back to this morning. The top shot is Mark pulling pollen traps (Sundance brand). We currently have a pollen trap on seven hives and today alone, we got about 13 pounds of some of the cleanest pollen we’ve ever collected. Below is a trap he just pulled out and you can see there are hardly any pieces of debris in there. We talked about how great that is since it will mean minimal cleaning is required if we decide to bottle some to sell. The pollen we collected in fall had more pieces of twigs, leaves, grass and so on and that means more cleaning time. Below is a closer look at the trap (or tray). So pretty and tastes so nice and mild! Sweet as well.

Pollen gathering at Big Oaks

Below is what I posted on Facebook earlier this morning. That is the fullest we have ever had one of our traps and we just were simply amazed! The girls are really pulling in a lot and if you are new to our blog and haven’t read previous posts about pollen collecting, then I’ll just reassure you that collecting it like this does not diminish a hive’s health. The traps only brush off some of the pollen being carried in, not all of it. So don’t worry that the bees are left with little or no protein. They are doing just fine.

Pollen trap full of pollen

Collecting pollen this time of year is new for us. We wanted to give spring collecting a try after talking with a fellow beekeeping friend who collects at this time and has seen zero impact on bee health as well as honey production. We trust them and respect their experience and knowledge so we’re giving it a go. We’ll keep you posted on things. Here’s putting our money where our mouth is – 17 new pollen traps came in last week! They are painted and ready for installation this week. Like, tomorrow according to Mark.

Pollen traps

By the way, here is what we had for breakfast, which we don’t have often so on Sundays when we do eat breakfast, I like to make it special and just the way my beekeeper like it – yummy! The eggs are from fellow Seguinite, Wholesome Harvest Farm, while the strawberries are from Wheeler Farm. We are eating so much better now that we shop mostly at the Pearl market while we are there every Saturday. The bacon and other meats I need that I can’t get at market, I get from the meat market just down the road from us (Granzin’s).

Breakfast feast on Easter

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* Watch one of the HD versions if you have a fast connection. The HD quality is much better even though in this case you’re really listening to the sounds rather than the picture.

Hello there! I have watched this video about 15 times now and really wanted to share it with you all. The other day Mark observed some queen behavior he had not witnessed before and he even managed to capture it on video. I am so happy! As I watched it over and over and listened to the sounds, Mark pulled out some books and read up on the sounds and behaviors.

Reading up on queen bees

The first sound you hear is the roaming queen “piping” a challenge to another queen. In this instance, the other queen is a young one still in the queen cup you see on the frame later in the video. In response, the young queen in the cup will make what is called a “quacking” call. See if you can differentiate the different calls. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did. The bees are constantly fascinating us and we love it!

This just in: It’s bonus day at the Bee Ranch! We just received an email from a Texas A&M student that Mark first met at the Pearl Farmers Market. Alison shot a video there of her interview with Mark and then she joined us at the Bee Ranch when we had the advance class (How to Build Up Your Hives for Spring) for folks who were picking up their nucs. It covered more than just transferring the nuc frames to their permanent homes and we are seriously thinking that if we continue to sell nucs in future, we may require this class – it hurts when nucs end up dying (for different reasons) on those folks who chose not to take a class (especially newbie beekeepers). Requiring the class may also cut down on the amount of emails and phones we get from worried parents wondering all sorts of things about their nucs. Anyway, that’s a different post really so here’s one of the videos Alison recorded when she visited us. This one is about the importance of the Queen Bee to the hive. I love that she came to do this on a day when I could not observe the class since we had nuc customers to tend to at the same time class was held. Thanks, Alison! We enjoyed your visit.

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Curling incense

In case you didn’t know it, today is the first day of the Lunar New Year! So happy Tet (Vietnamese New Year) to you if you are celebrating! I love that I have two cultures to draw from – so we get another new year kickoff! In honor of Tet, I made some quiet time this morning to reflect on our past, our present and what might be in our future and I am so thankful, so happy, and so excited about our continuing journey this coming year. We feel like it’s going to be a big, big year for our business as well as for our personal family life. There’s a saying that when your incense curls while burning, that means good things are happening so I was very happy to see our incense this morning. Good sign.

I took today off to just celebrate life and everything in it and to be with Mark and Tang. I sure miss them when I go off to work at the mill and they’re doing all sorts of work together. I do love getting reports and checkins but it’s not the same as being together. So today, I am very happy I get to just be with them as I was last Sunday when we went out to two bee yards to check on and feed the bees. And yes, they are used to all my gear.

Hanging out with the men

Do you need some help deciding if you should come check out the Pearl Farmers Market every Saturday morning? Have you been but thought, “Oh, been there, done that. Why should I go again?” Allow me to share with you why WE love to go…

We’ve got all these good-looking, good-smelling, good-for-your-environment beeswax products we like to share.

Candles candles and more candles

And these sweeties will be there tomorrow also.

Oh sweet heart ornaments

Then there’s the food we pick up so we can nourish our bodies. I made this last week and my brother told me I should have a restaurant (that’s a big compliment from him). I got the ingredients from fellow Pearl market vendors: big portabella mushroom from Kitchen Pride Mushroom, spinach from Springfield Farm, goat cheese from CKC Farms, cauliflower from Oak Hill Farms, egg from Wholesome Harvest Farm (right here in Seguin with us!).

Stuffed portabella

Ah finally, an update on our lovely, lovely Honey House – so close to being ready for final inspection! Holding back on the exclamation points but we are pretty excited, to say the least. When I get frustrated with the red tape businesses have to cut through just to get something like this done, all I have to do is to into the HH. All that negativity just disappears into thin air as I look around and visualize us all working in the space that will soon be completed. No more falling on top of each other. No more sticking to honeyed/waxed equipment that because there wasn’t enough room to pass by even with your gut sucked in (haha). No more hunting one room for tape, another room for a box and a third room for the products you need to ship. WOW. What are we going to do or think?? This will feel like a mansion to us! Well, actually it will be a mansion for our bee biz. It’s really tangible now. It’s really looking like a work space and we can’t wait to move in, get to work and have y’all over!

Mark and I check out the current progress of the HH

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Building a Nuc

Guess what? Gretchen Bee Ranch will again have a limited number of starter hives, or nucleus hives, available for sale this spring. We’ve had so much fun and great success with the nucleus sales, that we wanted to offer the hives again. This will be our third year and we’re so excited! If you think you might be interested in a hive from us, then keep reading.

We will have the nucleus hives ready for pick-up here in Seguin on Friday, March 22 and again on March 28. Please understand that factors beyond our control (such as the weather and the delivery of our queens) could force us to alter this schedule. The cost of the nucleus hives is $195 each. As a reminder, the nucleus hive is a starter beehive consisting of five frames: one frame of honey, one frame of honey & pollen and three frames of brood in various stages of development. The frames will be covered with bees, and one of these bees will be a queen from a reputable queen breeder that is already laying eggs. The frames and bees will be enclosed in a corrugated plastic box designed to transport bees. The frames will need to be transferred to your wooden hive boxes soon after you arrive home. Our experience with nucleus hives is that they build up quickly and often produce honey the first year.

Building a Nuc

You may purchase a nucleus hive or hives on the GBR website or drop us a comment or email if you have questions.

On the day that the nucleus hives will be available for pick-up, we will also offer an optional class titled “How to Build Up Your Bees in the Spring.” This will be a two to three hour, hands-on class that will cover such topics as feeding your hive, evaluating your queen, enlarging the brood nest, swarm prevention, adding honey supers and mite control. There will be plenty of time for questions as well. The cost of the class is $59 per person. To register for the class, please email us and we’ll place you on the class roster. Again, this class is optional.

Our wonderful Honey House is still under construction so we may not have beekeeping equipment available for sale this spring. We recommend Mann-Lake as a reputable supplier with free shipping on most orders over $100. You can check the Mann-Lake site and see what you think. Even if you aren’t going to keep bees, it’s still fun to look at all the cool stuff.

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Honey house progress 11/14/13

Well, as of yesterday, this is how the Honey House (HH) is looking and we can’t begin to tell you the emotions and excitment we feel when we are out back there. It’s FINALLY REAL!!! See how happy we are? Smokey’s happy, too, and accompanies us each day to check out all the progress and to climb dirt piles and machinery. We leave the last two activities to him although I do get some height by standing on the tractor occasionally.

Honey house progress 11/14/13

It’s been a crazy busy kind of week but Mark’s made some new candles and I’m totally smitten with them! First we have these sweet round pillars, which we’ll be debuting at the Pearl Farmers Market as well as in the bee class that Mark teaches, both happening tomorrow. These are 3-inch diameter pillars and their heights are 3-, 4-, and 6-inches (priced $14, $18, $22 respectively).

Newest candles to be introduced tomorrow aim class and at the Pearl

He aslo made some sweet little hand-dipped tapers – his first! I will get a good picture of them and share them next post.

Finally, I just want to give a BIG TEXAS THANK YOU to our good friend, Josh, who owns Azulox Photography. I have admired his work and his talent for many years and we are so happy that we had a photo shoot with him finally – we’ve never had portraits made together, even for our wedding, so this was very special to us. I can’t think of anyone I trusted more to capture us and how we are together. We had so much fun and we love the photographs. It’s going to be very, very hard for me to pick the few I will put up on our walls. 🙂 Thank you so much, Josh! We love you and wish you all the best in your life and work. Here is ONE of my favorites:

Photography by Azulox Photography, LLC

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Official permits are not cheap

So funny that we work so hard to get a couple of sheets of paper that give us official permission to officially start construction of the Honey House. It has been about a year in the makings and countless hours of work for Mark and others to gather and prepare and present to the City. And here we are. They finally gave their okay to proceed. It is a huge investment of time, energy and money; hopefully we will have something to show for it SOON.

I’m really proud of Mark for the work he has put into all of this. His previous work experience with city administration ranged from libraries to golf courses to coliseum and then back to libraries and on to asset management. Long road and lots of learning along the way, like how to put together a completely impressive package of materials in triplicate. Oh yes, plus one. (What is a set of four called?) Then he met with city staff and presented all our plans and the meeting went really well. Good job, honeybee. Good job.

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