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Archive for the ‘Extraction’ Category

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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Drawn comb on a frame

Often I like to go out to the Honey House after work, or any chance I have. We both really love that we work and live on the same property so we can enjoy this luxury. I was intrigued by the lovely beeswax the bees had drawn out on this frame. We have pretty much run out of honey supers for the girls to fill up. This happens when we have grown in the number of hives we have AND it is a good honey flow year AND the honey is slow to dry out so we can’t extract quickly in order to reuse the supers. If you don’t continue to provide adequate space (supers in this case), then you slow the girls’ productivity and essentially can miss out on prime honey making opportunities.

We are taking this as an opportunity to just let our bees draw out some comb on more frames which will be useful in the future. Sometimes people say or ask how we feel about forcing the bees to make honey by continuing to put supers on. Mark, who has kept bees for over 30 years, told me that people who ask that have never likely kept bees or they’d know whether we provide the supers or not, they bees WILL make honey. That’s what they do. And it is a real mess when they don’t have adequate space in their home to store the honey. I am always learning new things when we discuss things like this and he is always good about answering questions that come up that I raise to his attention. He’s so busy tending to the bees as well as managing the business that he doesn’t see/hear all the social media, email and phone activities since I try to field those for him. Back to honey-making…don’t worry, we are pulling some supers when possible but we are simply taking our time and letting nature take its course. Rushing never works great in the long run. Here’s a beautiful frame the men brought in last week.

Honey harvest June 2016

Do you like persimmons? I love them. Have you seen them in the wild? Out in a field in the middle of nowhere? On a ranch? On the side of some old dirt road you’re cruising to look for wildflowers or wildlife? Here’s another thing I learned about bees and how persimmons come into play.

Aphids on wild persimmon limb

Have you ever noticed bees going to a wild persimmon bush or tree? But you look and think, hey, there aren’t any flowers right now. That’s odd. This happened here in our area a couple weeks ago. The wild persimmons had already bloomed out earlier this year and Mark knew that but saw bees on the big bushes so he took a closer look and watched patiently to see what the bees were doing. He took that picture for me and for us to share with you. Those are aphids and I missed them at first. He told me that the aphids secrete a honeydew on the wild persimmon bushes and that the bees must be gathering it. You can’t find a lot of writing on the matter but I read a post somewhere that people say they gather the honeydew there for different reasons – some say they do it when they are desperate while others say they collect it regardless of what else is out there because it’s just what they do. Whatever the case is, our bees were seen on the wild persimmons. Good eye, honeybee!

Bee gathering honeydew from leaves of Texas wild persimmon bush

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Spring 2016 beekeeping activities

Well, I know I missed out on April but basically we have been getting April-and-now-into-May-and-a-little-into-June rainfall which means more greenery than usual for south Texas but it appears we are finally hitting our typical hot and or humid temperatures now. It’s okay. You just have to know it’s going to come and you accept it and wait for fall (if you are me haha).

Shoppers and visitors at the Bee Ranch

We have been doing well – having tons of fun fixing up the Honey House, stocking the Honey Store, creating and pouring awesome new products in the Candle Shop, seeing our family more…so much and all right here at the Bee Ranch. The bees are well, making honey and growing stronger. Not all of them but most of them. Being open to the public two days out of the week has been great – so fun to share what we love with folks on those two dedicated mornings. Saturdays have been so busy it’s truly amazed us both. We feel so blessed and so excited about the future. There are sooooo many ideas we want to pursue and we look forward to continuing to learn and do and enjoy.

Beeswax lanterns and sunflowers

Before I forget – free workshops! Most Saturdays when we can and when we don’t have a formal beekeeping class, we have a great group of beekeepers (mostly newbies) coming together to share ideas, problems, knowledge, etc. And so nice for us to see them all getting to know each other. We love this series and hope you can come join us some time, even if you are not a beekeeper. Sometimes the subject matter is interesting whether you have bees or not! Here is a look at topics coming up soon:

June 18 Interpreting the Bee Dance
June 25 Measuring Honey Moisture with a Digital Refractometer
July 2 Mite Testing Using Powdered Sugar Roll Method
July 9 How to Use a Fume Board to Clear Bees from Your Honey Supers
July 16 How to Combine Colonies
July 23 NO WORKSHOP
July 30 Reducing Mite Levels with Oxalic Acid Vaporization
Aug 6 Open Session Q&A
Aug 13 Late Summer & Fall Honey Plants of South Texas
Aug 20 Processing Round Sections of Comb Honey (Ross Rounds)
Aug 27 NO WORKSHOP

April Introduction to Beekeeping class at the Bee Ranch

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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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Greetings from the sky as I finish out my three straight weeks of travel to do some instructor-led training on a new gadget at work. Apparently getting on a plane to fly from Texas to South Carolina is my best chance at getting some work done for both companies I work for these days. I forget how long the flight is but I’m balancing CMC and GBR work as we cruise because somehow it has been a month since my last post and a lot has happened! I really should let y’all know what we’ve been up to this past month. And just so you know, part of my issue with posting has been a new PC/tablet combination I have been assigned at work. While I force myself to use it to learn it, I find that I can’t copy my usual Flickr picture links so that I can easily and quickly add them here. That’s been frustrating. Anyhow. Time and tech issues. I got them both! Haha

Since I last wrote, we finished our 2014 honey extraction! And by “we,” I mean a team of us. What we’d do without the help of family and friends, I’m not really sure. We are blessed this year to have my brother Tang staying with us a few months – he is a huge help to us both with beekeeping and candlemaking activities. And if you’ve been to the Pearl Farmers Market lately, then no doubt you have seen, heard and possibly met Tang, affectionately known as Forklift (because he says whatever we need done in the bee yard, honey house, or home, a forklift can help). He’s an absolute blessing to us, as are our friends Stan, Belinda and the Saviors. Collectively, they have helped us pull heavy honey supers and then handled the extraction activities so that Mark and Tang could take back empty supers or do mite treatments if a yard is done honey-making. We sure appreciate each of them so much and are so blessed to know them. The wonderful thing about family and friends is that no matter how hot and hard the work gets, there’s always opportunities to laugh and enjoy working together. It’s truly awesome.

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This year is the latest we have ever extracted. We thought by the end of June we’d be done but we didn’t even start pulling the bulk of the supers until July! Gee! Thanks to the late and intermittent rains, as flowers bloomed after a rain, the bees would pick up with their honey-making and when they are doing that, you sure don’t want to interrupt their work. Most everyone who waited for local honey learned this year that when it comes to the honey supply, we are on the schedule of Mother Nature and the bees. We can hope, want and demand all we want but until they are done, we all wait. It’s part of the learning process for some of our customers. It’s important for people to understand that honey is a limited resource, especially in a drought area. We each have to appreciate the hard work the bees put into producing every drop of honey. Once a crop is depleted, or once your honey jar is depleted, then you have to wait until next season. It sometimes amazes me that some customers assume we can harvest any time we wish. Nope! You get one harvest usually. That’s it. A lot rides on that harvest and we feel being at the Pearl market and building a solid foundation of loyal customers helps us to educate people on this process.

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Speaking of the Pearl, we are very, very happy with how things have developed there for us. Our move to a double booth and expanding our product line to include additional beeswax ornaments as well as bee pollen has really helped us to develop more steady income which in turn has helped us to make small improvements to our business and our operations. Also, being at the Pearl has opened up several partnering opportunities with local chefs as well as publications devoted either to the culinary scene in San Antonio or to the farm to table movement. We are thrilled that soon (like in the next two weeks), we will be in two publications which I will share here as soon as they are out. I promise I won’t wait a month before I tell you all. I’m too excited about this!

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In case you are local and you’re wondering what honeys we have this season, we are pleased to have a wonderfully light Huajilla Honey from our bee yards in Bigfoot (Frio County) and in the D’Hanis area (Medina County). When I first saw a picture of the first bottle, I never would have believed it was Huajilla had Mark not told me. Light in color and taste – we’ve really been enjoying it. For our closer bee yards (Guadalupe, Gonzales and Bexar counties), we have our wonderful Wildflower Honey. As my go-to honey for my allergies, I am happy to see this year’s crop is also very light in color and taste. Some people as us which is best and that is purely up to individual taste buds. While I am sad the way things worked out so that the bees could not make Mesquite Honey this year, I am happy that the Huajilla has a bit of Mesquite in it as both bloomed simultaneously (typically Mesquite blooms later in the summer after everything else and so we’ve gotten a late summer harvest of it in the past). The taste of the Huajilla is typically described as smooth and smoky. I love it this year and for me it will have to do without Mesquite as an option. The Wildflower Honey is described by most as possessing a more floral taste and the impression is that it “tastes sweeter” than the Huajilla. But you could survey two people and they could possibly tell you the opposite things for each honey. That’s what I tell customers when they don’t want to taste the samples but would rather have me tell them what is what. I tell them but it’s really up to your taste buds to tell you if you prefer one over the other.

Okay, I think this is good for now. Wouldn’t want to overload you guys. I appreciate y’all’s patience as we work away at the harvest and everything else we have going on these days. There just never is enough time for us to do all we wish to do in a day. And for that, we are grateful. Loving the life we live and hoping you are as well! Take care and hope to talk to y’all again real soon.

PS – I got busy once I landed in SC so I am only now able to get pictures loaded to go with my post. What’s a post without pictures!? I love it when I go to blogs and see pictures so there. Also, I am super happy to have finished my series of training courses that has taken me away from home for three straight weeks. This is a very happy me after work today! Tomorrow I get to hang out with my little sis and then I fly home to my men Thursday. Woohoo!

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Hello Again

Rainy Memorial Day weekend 2014

So…I don’t know how it got to be so long since I last posted. I kept wanting to and started and then something would come up that needed my attention. And then here we are. Sooooo much is going on that I get overwhelmed trying to decide what to tell you all so I suppose I should simply start somewhere. Anywhere.

This year has been an odd year for us and the bees! In April we thought the honey production was pretty much done and we were really a little blue about it. But then we took a trip to Florida to see family and when we got home, it became the beginning of on and off rainy spell that has continued until now. Amazing what a week can change. We went from worrying about how to make the little bit of honey stretch all year to having to wait and wait and wait while the bees continue to make honey. Great change in plan. We pulled honey supers twice now from our two farthest bee yards! The second round (just yesterday) yielded 42 supers and we could not be happier with our bees in Comanche Creek and Bigfoot. Good job girls!

Here’s a shot of Mark and my sister Thuy last week at Comanche Creek bee yard in Medina County. Those are the second round supers on the hives. We had gone out there to see how they were doing. We also measured moisture levels to confirm they supers were ready to pull.

Comanche Creek bee yard June 2014

During the past several weeks, we’ve also had a big development in our Pearl Farmers Market life. Mark was elected President of the Board of Directors for the market association and I will continue in my support role of Communications Liaison between the Board and association members. We have a lot to learn but we are excited to have a chance to be more involved with the continued growth and development of the market. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for us all there at the Pearl. What a lovely place to be! We are close to having permanent home for the market. Once the Pearl completes construction of the Hotel Emma and neighboring structure, the market will finally have a home we can grow into. Exciting! We continue to meet some fantastic friends at market and partnerships continue to grow for our little company. We are so thankful for all the opportunities afforded to us!

His first moments after election to the Board at the Pearl FM

Finally, here’s another reason we got a little busier and more distracted – GO SPURS GO! Our marvelous Spurs made us so happy and proud. We are so thrilled we were able to go to different series games and got to see the final game and watch and be a part of the celebration at the arena. This team is amazing and we can’t wait to see what Tim Duncan’s 18th season will be like. Happy we get to see him another year at least!

Go Spurs go!

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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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