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

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

Harvesting lavender

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

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

Spring wildflowers at the Bee Ranch

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

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Granbady and the beekeeper at Cibolo Creek bee yard

[And no, I do not mean the elections you THINK I might mean. Read on to learn about the Pearl market election.]

As you can tell, I sort of fell behind on the blog. You can’t blame me, though, when there is such a sweet little grandbaby to watch over and have fun with out and about. Once in a while we get to hang out with the baby and we love it! Yesterday after church, we went to check on the bees out a Cibolo Creek to see if the recent rains did anything for them. Happy to report that things not only perked up in terms of greenness and flower blooms, but the bees perked up also and have resumed honey production. Excellent news! Before our Florida trip last week, it looked as if Mark might be able to start a slow harvest this week or next. While we would be happy with any amount of honey produced, of course, any signs of resumed honey production is something to cheer about – so yay!

In the picture above, Rhys and I had been walking around the area to enjoy the scenery a bit. He really loves the outdoors but he adores his granddaddy even more so we had to go check on the beekeeper a few times. Happy to see the baby is right at home amongst the hives and rather than saying “ewwww” (which is really super cute), I am teaching him to say “bee” instead. He currently refers to all small critters as “ewwww.” haha what a nut and cutie he is. Anyway, we had a lot of fun and I am now searching for mini-bee hat/veil and beesuit for our little man. Why? Because whatever Grandaddy has on, Baby Rhys will want to have on as well. We just adore him.

May 2014 at Cibolo Creek with Rhys

Back to the weather at hand, just before the 1/2 inch of rain we got at the house, this is what the ground looked like. Many, many ground cracks just like this one could be seen all around the property. It made my heart sad a little for the land. I know we are in Texas and that drought is part of life here but it doesn’t mean we don’t want and pray for some rain. As a matter of fact, tomorrow is suppose to only see 66F degrees as the high! Yay – what a great gift for me. Mid-May and a freak 60-degree day? I’ll take that any day. Plus there’s a forecasted 90% chance of rain. Wow. That’d be a great gift as well.

Ground cracks at the Bee Ranch

Before I go, I just wanted to share some big news for us. Saturday we had our annual members meeting for the vendors of the Pearl Farmers Market. Long story short, Mark was honored to be elected the new Board President and so we’re going to need some more good thoughts, vibes and prayers, friends! Really, we are so excited and with Mark, they’ll get two Gretchens for one we say. I’ll be helping however I can and of course, I expect now that I have easy access to a Board member, getting information out to membership will be kicked up another notch or two. Yay! We need to build on the wonderful success this great market has become. Our own little company has grown so much after we joined Pearl FM that we want to help in any way we can to make sure we continue to grow. Can’t wait to see what the next three years will bring (duration of office for Mark).

Annual members meeting at Pearl Farmers Market

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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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Panorama of Big Oaks bee yard

Yesterday after work, Mark drove up as I got home from work. Luckily for me, I caught him between bee yard visits and after he unloaded a hive out by the Honey House, we headed out to Big Oaks. What a treat for me!!! I hadn’t been out there again since we unloaded the nucs and at this time of year, I always want to go out and see what’s growing and blooming. I wasn’t disappointed. The bees were looking good and there was a good variety of wildflowers starting to bloom and trees (and wild grapes) starting to bud out. Yay spring!

Mark inspects some Nucs at Big Oaks

The nucs are mostly coming along fine. There are a few that don’t look great but those will just stay and keep getting built up more. We have our first round of pick up this coming Saturday and we are super excited about that. People are really interested in the bees and keeping some on their own which all serves to meet our mission of replenishing honeybees to our region. Hopefully they will enjoy it as much as we are. In the picture above, Mark is inspecting the nuc frames to make sure there is good brood and eggs being laid by the queen. I love watching him work – he really gets into it and focuses on what he’s doing and we hardly ever speak. He’s busy tending to his bees and I’m busy getting to do what I love – observing him, the bees, and nature around me and photographing whatever I want.

Speaking of queen, we got our 83 Big Island queens in last week. It’s always an anxious waiting game when you know they are coming but not exactly the time and so nothing (well, very little) gets done away from the Bee Ranch just in case the delivery man (UPS usually) arrives with them. Luckily for us, that day, he came while I was there for lunch so I was able to watch Mark anticipate him, meet him out in the drive and then wait by the truck as he fetched them from the back. Here’s the happy beekeeper.

Finally, Big Island queens are in hand

Here’s the worried me wondering why I don’t hear the melodic humming of queens and attendants as I have with past batches. We figured it was because they got a little chilled riding around in that open UPS truck. It was on the cool side that morning. Once they warmed up sitting on the kitchen counter while we lunched, they started humming a bit. Or buzzing is what most people might call it but really, the sound is much more like a constant hum. At any rate, it’s quite soothing.

You girls okay in there?

Here’s a look at the queens once Mark got them all placed into the queen bank, which is a temporary home for them while he goes about installing them into hives he’s identified as needed to be requeened at his various bee yards.

The GBR queen bank

It looks like we will have about 20 extra queens at this point so if you need a queen, let us know (830-305-7925) and we’ll see about setting you up with what you need. At this time, they run $30 a queen and we’ve used Big Island quite a bit and have been pleased with their queens.

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First Bluebonnets of the 2014 in Seguin

These are the things I want to tell you about in this post. I have to make this list of three or else I will be all over the place since I have a million thoughts that want to be written.
1. Spring
2. The Honey House
3. Spring Open House

This could apply to many, many things right about now. Sometimes I have so many things I want to tell you guys that I don’t even know where to begin. Which reminds me that lately, Mark and I have so much going on that we sometimes feel on the edge of being overwhelmed and then we tell ourselves (and each other), okay slow down. Take a deep breath. Don’t freak. Make a list of the top three things you MUST do and go from there. Remember you cannot do ALL the things you have on your list/in your head to do.

Crazy eyes

Okay, it may just be me having those last thoughts. haha Mark is much calmer and cooler than I am like 99.9% of the time. I’m more of the Daffy Duck to his Bugs Bunny. That image came to my head as I was typing this.

Okay so did you see the Bluebonnets?!?! I spotted them not too far from the Bee Ranch but I had not been able to stop for a photo because the batch was at a pretty busy and somewhat dangerous intersection on Highway 725 and Interstate 10. BUT yesterday, I showed Mark when we were coming back from errands and he found a good safe spot for me. He’s so great to me. Anyway, it’s really exciting to see signs of spring – the Mesquite is even budding out now and many people believe that once the Mesquite does that, well, there are no more freezes coming our way. We will see and hope for that because the up and down weather patterns have killed back early bloomers quite a bit and people are sad about those losses. I was remembering last year when we brought back the nucs that all the Huisache was in full bloom and looking gorgeous (see picture of that loveliness on Flickr). This year? They still look dormant because what did start budding out pretty much froze off during one of the weird temperature dips. Oh well. They were so beautiful and abundant last year but still the bees didn’t touch it.

The Honey House on a drizzly night

And now a little update on the Honey House. It looked particularly special Saturday night when I went out there to get Mark for dinner. You see, it had been drizzling and/or raining pretty much all day! Talk about wonderful. We loved hearing it on the roofs of the house and the HH because the metal roofing sounds lovely. We just can’t believe it still – all that space is actually ours and it’s actually done and inspected and passed. And all we have to do is figure out work-flow and organization and then get our stuffs in there. We are SUPER excited about it and feel very blessed of course but it is causing some stress from time to time for the beekeeper. Poor man. So much he wants to do…tend to the bees, make candles, move into the HH, taxes (yay, almost ready to check this off the list), and then there’s life stuff. You know, we do try to have a little down time (a few hours here and there) once in a while. Here’s a peek inside (and no we do not have temperature control in there):

Visit to the Honey House one evening

Finally, I just want to mention we decided to have a Spring Open House since we had so much fun at the Holiday OH! Plus we hope to have things set up in the Honey House so we can tour y’all around. So, save the date and come visit the Bee Ranch! That’s a Sunday and the Open House will be the usual 2 to 6 p.m. More on that later this week (once I finish the flyer). Okay got to run, ciao and have a great day!

Update: Sorry, I got excited and forgot to say the Open House is APRIL 6. hehe

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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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Hot tea with Honey Citrus Syrup

So a few weeks ago, after the mad rush of holiday activities, I finally came down with something. It didn’t feel like a flu but it didn’t feel like just allergies. I guess it could have been a combination of really bad allergies and a really bad cold. I was out of it, sleepy all the time, no energy, congested, coughing and freezing all the time (which is really unheard of for me and that’s how Mark knows I must really be ill). My sore throat could only be soothed with hot beverages and the lemon honey tea is always nice for that. I think all the talking during Pearl market really was what pushed me over the sick edge. The soar throat was just killing me from talking for about four hours and inhaling all that cold air and whatever was flying around that day. Anyway, I did have some nice down time and fortunately it happened when things were slow at my other job as well, with so many coworkers on vacation or out ill.

Hot tea with lemon and honey

At market, we often exchange ideas with friends and customers about uses for our products and other vendors’ products. And so I had a chance to talk again about using our honey in a cough syrup and decided I should really do it. So I combed through many blogs and recipe sites to see what was out there for natural honey recipes for coughs. I really liked the sounds of one in particular and I used it as a base model for some syrup to help my and Tang’s coughs. It’s essentially this: fill a jar (any size but I used a pint jar) 3/4 of the way up with lime slices and about 2 teaspoons worth fresh ginger (I just sliced up what looked like the equivalent of that and then added more slices for good measure since ginger is so good for the digestive system anyway). Then I went to work layering things into the jar.

Ingredients for a Honey Lime Syrup

For an extra boost of local allergy relief, I used the wildflower comb honey I had left from Guadalupe County. I liked the bits of wax that came along for the ride. Couldn’t hurt.

Adding raw honey to the syrup concoction

I mashed things up and then poured more honey in so that it was near the top of the jar. Then it went in the fridge over night and the next night we each had a cup of hot tea with one teaspoon of the syrup. Even though Mark doesn’t typically like citrus flavors in this hot tea, he did like this formula and the three of us give this syrup three thumbs up for sure. I am excited to next try a rosemary-lime-honey syrup since we have a potted rosemary by the back door and I love rosemary! You can also try oranges with cloves and honey but I haven’t done that one yet.

Lime Ginger Honey Syrup in the fridge

I sent some of my pictures and information out to family and friends and my brother Tuan sent me his picture of his own version. I like learning from others and in his version, he used five very juicy limes and upped the amount of ginger (as in he used “a ton” of fresh ginger they had in the freezer, he said). He did the 3/4 lime-ginger and 1/4 honey combination and stirred it all up, adjusting sweetness and sourness to his liking. Then he popped it into the refrigerator for a few hours and then proceeded to down five tablespoons straight up. He cracked me up! It does taste very good and I can see myself doing the same if I would allow it, which I won’t. haha Anyway, thank you brother dear for sharing your concoction and picture with us and for letting me use it here. I love how you committed immediately with the quart size jar! By the way, I am so happy to see you guys are burning the candles! We will send more.

Another version of the Honey Lime Syrup

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