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Archive for the ‘Honey Plants’ Category

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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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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Mac desktop all clean

Besides church in the morning, Sundays are now a little extra time to catch up on tasks around the house (both personal and for GBR) as well as some much needed time to simply rest. We’re not quite the spring chickens we used to be and while we aren’t ready for retirement, we just needed at least one day at home. That doesn’t mean we sit around watching football like we used to while we read the paper. There are plenty of things to do to keep the business and the home running – we just get to go at a more leisurely pace and when we’re not feeling so great (me), we get to actually go back to bed for a while. I was thankful for the extra rest yesterday, that’s for sure. And I also FINALLY had and made time to move my trillion-billion pictures off my computer and onto external memory. Phew. Been dreading that but now it’s done and my desktop and Mac are super clean and happy. Yay for time!

Anyway, in weather news – we got rain again! It started Saturday, overnight, and it’s been raining on and off through today. At lunchtime, I checked the radar and saw a line running north/south and moving across the area westward so I booked on home and got here in time to prep lunch and then we watched a strong rain shower come down on the Bee Ranch. The sound of it on the metal roof is quite lovely. 🙂 I think the rain gauge indicates about 4.5 inches of rain so far. This nice, lingering, soaking type of rain is great for the parched ground and it’ll certainly help with next year’s flowering season, which will certainly help with honey production we anticipate. Already, this fall has been better than last year’s fall in terms of moisture. The weather people predict a bit more rain this week – pretty exciting news around here. When we went out to collect pollen at Cibolo Creek yard, we saw the Bottle Brush fading but there was a bit of Bee Brush in bloom along with a variety of yellow wildflowers I haven’t looked up in our books yet. Pollen collection has gone well and the girls are quite productive. Mark has put away a decent amount of pollen for them and even made up several jars for people wanting pollen for allergy relief. I am thankful for it as well as my allergies have been quite manageable and only occasionally am I impacted by them. I am, however, very pleased that I can’t recall the last time I had an infection due to allergens. Yay! I used to get them several times a year once allergies entered my Texas life. Miserable, especially right about now with cedar, which I noticed just started appearing in the pollen reports I get emailed to me daily. Nerd, right? I like to know what’s in the air so I know what might be triggering any reactions. Anyway, I have put in my own order for some new pollen to ward off whatever this fall has in store for us. Yay for connections with the awesome beekeeper!

Check out these lovely mushrooms I spotted out at Big Oaks bee yard – really cool new things pop up when there’s actually rain!

Mushrooms at Big Oaks Bee Yard

Ohhh! Sundays are also for visiting and being with family and friends. So, in light of that, we want to make it official – we’ve set the date for our 4th Annual Holiday Open House at the Bee Ranch! We hope you can join us here at our Bee Ranch on Sunday, December 8. Like last year, it will run from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and there will be light refreshments, bees (as long as conditions permit us to bring them here and they won’t be bothered by it), me and Mark giving visitors our time and attention, candle shop tours and hopefully demos (depending on what’s cooling in the molds), honey tastings and shopping, of course! We always have a lot of fun so we hope to see a lot of you here. 🙂 I’ll post more information as the date drawers nearer.

In other news…

  • We will not be at Pearl Farmers Market this Saturday, October 19.  [We are actually having a mini-vacation! On an actual beach!]
  • Progress on the Honey House is actually occurring! Slowly but surely, that HH will get built. And we will appreciate every square foot of it. I am really hoping that there will be a slab, four walls and a roof at least. That’s all I need to have the Holiday Open House in there which would be so awesome! I’m praying we have at least that much done but if not, we’ll go with Plan B: The Party Garage. 🙂
  • The Spurs season is gearing up! You know we are crazy about our Spurs and especially about Tim Duncan (okay, I might be a little crazier about him than the beekeeper since TD’s an ACC guy). GO SPURS GO!
  • Smokey and Mark teamed up and got a rattlesnake in the backyard, in case you don’t follow our other social media outlets. About 3 feet long and hopefully that was the mate to the earlier one we spotted and shot at months ago. eeks.
  • The scorpions are out and about and I do not mean the band. We had two in the house this past week. Double eeks.

Okay, I’ll call that a wrap for the night. 🙂 Just wanted to catch you up a bit on us. Y’all have a super great week! Don’t forget to enjoy life and have a little fun each day!

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Hoang girls at Comanche Creek #2

All that and a visit from our North Carolina sister. 🙂 It was a happy, happy week at the Bee Ranch as we got to share all we do with another family member. Thuy went everywhere with us and did everything we needed to do as we worked with the bees, prepared for markets, made candles and so on. We had such a great time and we appreciate all the expert help and advice she gave us on the administrative side of the business. Thanks, Thuy! Come back soon please.

Now here is an update on things related to bees and honey-making – things are looking much better than a couple of weeks ago. Most of the hives in each bee yard are making a good amount of honey. With several days off during Thuy’s visit, I got to tag along on the yard checks and here are a few shots I wanted to share.

This is a shot of some limited frames of comb honey we hoped the bees would be able to draw out. Looks like they did it!

2013 honey

This gorgeous lady is holding a lovely frame of capped honey. This is what the bees do when they determine they’ve dried out the honey to their liking. 🙂 That means it’s good for us also!

July 2 visit to Bigfoot bee yard

Then we let her try this year’s honey. It was quite awesome.

July 2 visit to Bigfoot bee yard

When we taste the honey, we do a little damage to the wax but the bees will fix this right up within a few days and we’d never be able to tell it’s where we dipped into the frame. Each year, whenever possible, you want to return frames in good or great shape so that it reduces the amount of work the bees have to do next year. They mend all the cells and reuse these frames. They are the ultimate recyclers.

July 2 visit to Bigfoot bee yard

In this shot, Mark is using the refractometer to check the moisture levels of random honey frames. Looking great – many are below the 18% point. Once the majority of the frames are capped, it’ll be harvest time.

Comanche Creek bee yard

Here’s some fantastic news for you Mesquite Honey fans – it’s blooming all over and has been for some time and will likely continue to bloom more. You know what that means, right? There’s going to be a nice bit of Mesquite in the honey, adding a nice, smooth flavor. Yay! This year’s honey has a healthy mix of all the wildflowers that bloomed on and off all spring and now into the summer – from early Bluebonnets to Indian Blankets to Mesquite and Haujilla. We are hopeful about bringing in a decent amount of local honey and we can’t wait for you to try this year’s harvest!

Old and new Mesquite blooms at Elm Creek yard

LOCAL HONEY ALERT! I found two locations where our local Guadalupe County Wildflower Honey is still available in case you need some before this year’s harvest is ready.

In Seguin, you can find several bottles of our Guadalupe County Wildflower still on their lovely display! Be sure to stop by there and tell them we said hi. Mary and her entire staff are wonderfully friendly and helpful. I love shopping there so if you ever need a gift, check them out!

Gift & Gourmet of Seguin

In San Antonio, I saw at least ten 1-pound jars at Melissa Guerra at the Pearl. That was last Saturday so call ahead and check that it’s still there before you head there although I must say parking is quite easy there at the lovely Pearl complex. Also ask them for the current pricing as they price differently from us (just wanted to give you a heads-up on that).

Local Texas Honey still available at Melissa Guerra at the Pearl

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Me & Mark at Round 2, Game 2 Spurs/Grizzlies

Okay, the NBA Finals are on and I need distractions. To say we are fans is to put it lightly. We LOVE our Spurs! And I am a little on the intense side and sometimes I have to multitask during games so I can break up the stress. 🙂 Poor Mark has to listen to a lot of commentary (I have an awesome husband!). And to think I never even wanted to watch pro-basketball when I was growing up – only college ball for me. Then my brother took me to a Spurs game and I was hooked! And the rest is history.

So, on to the bee news since we are up by 6 with under four minutes to go. Some bee yards are doing well while others are just okay. And in one bee yard, you can have a hive that is cranking out honey production like crazy while the one next to it just isn’t quite as productive. We’ve been wondering if there is ever going to be a sustained honey flow this year – they just had the oddest weather to work with this year. Well, this week has given us a bit more hope. We’ll take whatever they give us but more is always better, given that demand has grown so much. So here’s a rundown of this week’s visits.

Bigfoot visit - honey frame 2

That’s a shot from Bigfoot bee yard in Frio County. Last visit when Mark was there, there wasn’t much to write home about but today…nearly every hive had a super of honey on it. Nice! By the way, he also sent this great picture while there – can you guess the significance of the ranch name? I loved it when he explained it. 🙂

Bigfoot visit - ranch life

Here’s yard #1 at Comanche Creek. A little on the dry side but it can always be worse. We’re thinking we may move this location since any rain looks like it’d come right through part of the yard and may wash away hives. We certainly don’t want that risk. I think Mark has already scoped out possible new spots.

Comanche Creek yard - panorama

The #2 yard is hanging in there and we’re hoping it will pick up again but as I always say, “It can always be worse.” At least we’re not losing bees and at least we have SOME honey in the supers. The girls were busy and barely took notice of us while we were there. I didn’t even have to put on my full suit and that’s always nice. Especially when it’s 95F degrees and feels 100F. Hot. Pretty amazing because when we checked the weather, it was 87F in Seguin. What a big difference. Trust me, you can definitely feel those extra degrees. In my next post, I’ll share a couple other pictures and a video I shot of how the bees keep cool in the heat. I don’t want to overload this entry with too much information.

Comanche Creek June 5 2013 visit

There was a lot of this beautiful brush down at Comanche Creek. I like this shot a lot because of the fantasy feel of the white bee brush – it was blooming everywhere and smelled wonderful and sweet. It was great to see the bees all over the place and that there was food aplenty this trip. While we’ve had some rain, it is still pretty hot and pretty dry. Typical Texas weather so it’s always going to be a challenge if you’re in farming and/or have livestock. Also in bloom down there and with on the blooms included plants such as the wild persimmon, sprinklings of yellow wildflowers (several varieties), Huajilla still holding on and some Mesquite as well. Plenty for them to choose from but the key is that it’s sustainable. The bees need the blooms to be prolonged and then they can continue the honey flow better than the previous stop-and-go blooming. We’ll hope it continues to go well for the bees there.

Bee brush and honey bee

On our way home, we stopped by the last sunflower field with any upright blooms left but I was happy to find any. And as a reward, there was a chubby, cute little wild bee on the bloom. She was so stout and adorable and not bothered by me whatsoever. This is my second year missing the peak bloom time so here’s to next season!

Castroville sunflowers

We didn’t get a shot from Deadman Creek but Mark did check on them and had to add four more supers so that’s great news! We are hopeful that this will be sustained for a while so that they girls can keep on making the honey. Can’t wait to see what the harvest will be like this year. We anticipate harvest will begin in a week or so…pretty soon. Stay tuned.

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Hives at Elm Creek

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

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

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

Pizza Bee Yard

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

Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market

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Cibolo Creek Bee Yard

Today was the last of my four-day weekend that I took to celebrate my mom’s first year anniversary of her passing and my birthday. It has been an incredible weekend and the most awesome time ever. 🙂 We made a quick trip to see my family in Florida and that was after a bee class Saturday morning (our last until September). Today has been fantastic and I am so happy I finally got to see the new bee yard at Cibolo Creek. This is only our second yard in Bexar County so we are excited to have a number of hives now on a property packed with gorgeous wildflowers – a literal buffet of the most beautiful flowers a honeybee could ask for so they can (hopefully) make some of the most delicious honey ever. We are so hopeful the recent rains will keep the blooms coming so that the bees can regain footing in honey production. Keep your fingers crossed! Here’s one of my favorite things today – being quiet and listening for the bees among the flowers. I found many of them on the Indian Blankets. Remember how awesome that tasted this past season? This flower makes a fabulously light honey, both in color and taste. So, we are very happy to see plenty of these flowers at the new yard and plenty of bees on them.

Honeybee with pollen on Indian Blanket

Mark drove me around after he checked and put a few supers on the hives and we marveled at the variety of flowers on that property – it was amazing! Indian Blankets, Horsemint, Thistle, Mexican Hats, just to name a few right off the top of my head. It was so nice to see the Horsemint in bloom so abundantly again. It’s one of my favorite flowers because of it’s unique structure. It always reminds me of a cake. Or a cascading waterfall. Or a Fred Astaire movie with all the fancy dancers. 🙂 Love it.

Cibolo Creek Bee Yard

And then we drove through one field and saw this.

This doesn't look good.

The first thing we said to each other was, “Uh oh…hope they aren’t plowing this field.” That would be such a shame for the bees. That entire field is packed with “bee food” so we hope the two plowed lanes we saw will remain just two.

After we had our fill of Cibolo Creek yard, Mark took me to Elm Creek to check on one of his best yards at this time. The hives there are doing so well in terms of health, productivity and honey production. This is one of our original bee yards and while it is a little cramped, we still love how well the bees do there. I enjoyed the sweet scent of the white Bee Brush that was in bloom out there. Bees love the beautiful Bee Brush and it blooms after a rain typically. We’ve been blessed with weekly rains – not much but enough to keep things blooming. We are expecting another light rain tonight. What a crazy but wonderful spring it has been this year!

Bee Brush and hive

And finally, I just want to say a big ole THANK YOU to my busy honey bee for making this one of the very best birthdays ever! Thank you for taking time out to go to FL with me and then grilling for me and just being so good to me. You are such a blessing to me and everyone in our families!! We all love you so much!

My Grillmeister

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