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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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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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Hello 2015

Mistletoe at the Bee Ranch

Where has our 2014 gone? I love the holidays because it often brings out the best in most people. The holiday season also is one of our busiest retail times with holiday shows and our annual Holiday Open House – this was our 5th year! – on top of the usual weekly store hours at the Bee Ranch and the Saturday Farmers Market at the Pearl AND the kickoff of the first annual Gift Market that Pearl hosted. So, my apologies for not being able to keep up with the blog as I would have loved. You have no idea how many times I have opened this up to add tidbits. I am determined to post today! The problem is we’ve had so much to share that it’s totally overwhelming so I’m going to simplify a bit for now.

First off – HAPPY NEW YEAR!! How has your first day of the new year been? Are you going to fill 2015 up with adventures and laughter and fun along with all the hard work I’m sure we all have ahead of us in life? We plan to enjoy every moment and every beeventure, that’s for sure.

Next, how are our bees doing? Great! It’s the first of January and we’ve been going through a rather wet winter spell though it’s been pretty mild most all of December. Great news for the bees – there’s been a good amount of pollen and nectar gathered for their stores and we’ve actually been amazed at the amount of brood on many of the hives when we opened them up for an occasional check on things. I like it when Mark is excited and happy with the hives’ health. He says it’s looking very good for a great season coming up and we hope this pattern will remain until spring!

We are looking forward to another year of grueling though very rewarding work and the best part of all of this is that we get to work with each other, family members and some of the very best friends anyone could ask for in this world. We are often amazed at how tireless they work to help us when they have plenty going on in their own lives as well. We sure appreciate each and every person in our life. We love you and we learn from you.

This is the lovely Thuy who stopped by in December for too short a visit. But while she was here, she sure did help us with ornament making and candle pouring. Oh yes, and bookkeeping. Fun! Always fun to have her help. Awwww...my two ornament making maniacs!!! 😬👍🐝

And then there’s our adorable, hard-working grandson – if you are doing something, he wants to help. That young man sure has learned a great work ethic early in life! He seems to get great satisfaction out of whatever it is he is doing. We sure love him!

Our lil boo helped me with more gift baskets before he left. We love spending time with him!

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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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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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Queen cups

Good morning and happy Monday. We survived one of our biggest weeks and weekends. Yay! Thanks to all our friends and family who helped us through it all, from working the bees with Mark to going to market so we could distribute nucs and conduct our advance class. Overall it was great and we appreciate people being so interested and eager. We did learn some things from a few interactions we had and we’ll be analyzing things moving forward from this year on.

I wanted to post and since I want to keep things positive for our week kick-off, I thought I’d just share some recent photos that make us happy, amazed and thankful we get to work with such amazing creatures. In the picture above, those are queen cups the girls have prepared in the event the need to make some queens of their own. I love seeing queen cups and queen cells. It’s so neat to think what’s happening in there – a little bee could be growing up to be the mother of her own hive. Think about how many babies she might have and how much work they’d accomplish in their life. Pretty amazing.

Next I wanted to show you a cool shot Mark got out at Coyote Creek a couple of weeks ago. This has never been one of our stronger yards so we are pretty excited to see how booming the hives are this year already! Maybe this will be the year these girls take off over there in Kingsbury (not too far from us). This particular hive was growing so fast that the girls made cells on the lid, using every bit of space available. The queen then laid eggs in those cells, which is what you are seeing now.

Booming hive out at Coyote Creek bee yard

Sometimes, when you break open the cells accidentally, it does allow you to see and learn even if it means those few bees won’t make it. Sometimes we purposely open cells to check the larvae to see if mites are on them so we can take action. In the picture below, however, I was thrilled when Mark showed me the teeny, tiny eggs in the cells! Loved it. It just totally mesmerized me to think about those tiny girls.

Eggs in broken cells on hive lid

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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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Bees drinking feed

I have a few minutes before we need to go to bed since it’s market day tomorrow morning. I didn’t realize we’ve hit February without a post – SORRY!!! It’s just been so hectic with the Honey House nearing finish, bees needing checking and feeding, beeswax to filter and pour, and the list goes on. Anyway, it’s been good!

The above picture is a shot I snapped out at Comanche Creek in Medina County, where we visited last Sunday. It’s one of my favorite pictures because it looks like the bee on the left is sipping on the straw. haha It was such a beautiful day, warm and sunny. After several days of cold weather, we all were ready to be outside and so were the bees. They looked great and we are hoping for just a bit of rain so things can really pop! And we were happy to see some Agarita about to bloom and a couple of other bushes we didn’t know the names of yet. We’ll have to see how they bloom and then maybe we’ll figure out what they are. This is what Agarita looks like and it’s also about to bloom out at Deadman Creek, as reported by Mark and Tang today.

Agarita

And of course, since it is Valentine’s Day, I will say goodnight with a shot of a couple of the cards I made for my friends. I hope you had a wonderful day!

5-minute Valentine Cards

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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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