Archive for the ‘Honey Plants’ Category

Broom weed at Pizza Yard

First stop – Pizza Yard! It’s been a while since I accompanied Mark to bee yards for more than just a quick drop-off or pick up of queens or observation hive bees. And today was the perfect fall day to go with him to release the Heitkam queens in our two Gonzales bee yards. As you can see, things are sort of brown but there is still a good amount of broom weed and other yellow flowers that the bees are feasting upon right now. I saw some very bright pollen being carried into the hives when Mark opened them up. Though the day was lovely for us (in the 60s and bright and sunny with a nippy breeze), it was not too great for the bees I think. The cool breeze is not their favorite thing. Imagine trying to regulate your hive to a lovely 90 degrees only to have some beekeeper open it up to release a queen. Huh. And speaking of queens, an interesting thing happened to the one in Pizza yard – she was dead when Mark checked on her! It doesn’t happen often he says, but it does happen so he’ll have to go back with another queen. Then it was off to the original Gonzales bee yard to release four queens there. That was an exciting pit stop!

HIpstamatic beekeeper 4

Looks lovely, doesn’t it? I used a phone app called Hipstamatic on that shot, by the way. Still one of my favorite yards, I always enjoy going with Mark. Didn’t see the horses this time but saw other interesting things. For example…

…a beautifully capped frame of fall honey. Nice! I shot a short video of the bees drinking up the honey so I’ll try and load it to YouTube before bed but no promises. It may wait till tomorrow at the rate I’m typing tonight. [Side note: how did it get to be past 11p??]

Frame of honey at Gonzales yard

…a really cool frame with multiple queen cells, all of which Mark got rid of since we don’t want them making their own queens. They’re feisty enough here in Texas.

Queen cells 2

And while there are no good pictures to share, there were a few exciting, intense moments for us as the last hive was quite agitated (and in need of requeening, it appears). Right before Mark told me I should get in the truck, I had a sinking feeling something was crawling on me. Under my jacket. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Not good. Thank goodness for Mark! He’s ever so calm and patient. He went with me as I continued to pray the little bee wouldn’t sting me. I could feel her for sure now and I tried really hard to calmly take off my veil and jacket. Mark lifted my t-shirt sleeve just as I felt the beginnings of a sharp jab (for lack of a better descriptor) and she flew up. Right into my hair where she got a little tangled it sounded like. My sweet man caught her and killed her. I was so relieved. I really didn’t want to get all swollen and more than that, I really don’t like to be out of commission and miss out on any fun. Thank you, my love! Unfortunately, they got after Mark a bit and a few managed to get under his veil. He walked away once I saw and then he came back since you have to finish the job. He closed up the hive as I watched and marveled at the way the bees flew around him. You can definitely tell the difference in flight pattern and behavior if you watch our usually gentle bees versus this agitated hive. Nothing like bees smacking into my veil as a warning to get me into the truck. ๐Ÿ™‚ We are okay though poor Mark is quite swollen under one eye. It also seems to wear him out a bit more when stung on the face he says. I think I saw a sting on his neck also.

Luckily for us, we had a nice, relaxing social gathering to attend in order to get to know some of our new friends from the Pearl market. Had a lovely, lovely time and even enjoyed a cozy fire outside now that it is cool enough to enjoy it. Minus mosquitos. Score!

Lovely evening for a fire out

Thank you for a lovely day, honey bee! I love it when we get to spend an entire day together. This weekend was a busy one and we had to split up in order to cover two simultaneous events in Seguin and San Antonio. While we love working with Lan and Stan, we miss working together when we spilt. So here’s to next weekend when we’re both at the Pearl at the same time! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Fall honey and pollen

Today was a gorgeous day out there – nice day to work the bees, not too hot. While I was in an office listening to the breeze whip bush limbs against my window, Mark and Stan were busy, busy. Stan’s got a whole lot of our honey bottled and ready for markets, class and other events coming up. What a great help and a great space saver for us. I actually was able to move freely around the Honey House after work as I met a customer and then did some work there (although my flowing skirt kept catching on the bottling tank valves, hehe).

Anyway, that gorgeous frame at the top of the post is from the Pizza yard and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a shot like that – of the perfect frame – that makes me wish I was there with him with my big camera. The colors are gorgeous. That’s brood in the center followed by a ring of pollen and then honey. The bees are doing very well at the Pizza yard and they made some fantastic honey that I got to taste this evening. Thanks, girls!

Now, below is a shot of two of the five mites Mark spotted on the poor little larva. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ This is why he’s treating with Mite Away. To put this in perspective for people during our bee classes, Mark tells students to imagine a tick the size of a FOOTBALL on your back – just sucking the life out of you. YUCK. Now imagine five of them. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I am so sad just thinking about the poor bees. Let’s hope the Mite Away does its job well and helps them out a bit. So far, so good with the treatments.

Mites on bee larva

Let’s end on a good note, shall we? Mark also visited the Marriott again and was pleased with his check of the treatment he applied earlier. Then he sent me this shot and again I marveled at the beauty of the bees’ work. Gorgeous frame of pollen and bees. It takes so many little pouches of pollen to fill each one of those cells…can you imagine how many foraging trips it took the bees to fill one cell? And then all the cells on one frame? And then the other frames in one bee box? And then the other boxes stacked on the colony? That’s a lot of work.

Bees & Pollen

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Installations of the Heitkam queens from Cali

Today Mark finally had a chance to start installing a few of the fifty queens he recently received from Heitkam Honey Bees out of California. In between administrative work, errands and candle making, he headed out to Big Oaks where the queen bank is located. He said that one of the hives was very strong but also on the aggressive side. A great reason to requeen, I’d say. He only got stung a few times but none after donning the Ultra Breeze. The challenges of working with a suit on include not being able to easily have a water break without opening up the suit and it’s hot. But we’re in Texas, so it’s pretty much hot in any suit (in my opinion). The UB does help because it has great ventilation (though I sort of prefer the soft cotton suits because they are lighter).

In the picture above, you see one of the queens in her cage. Mark has taped the opening end and will leave the cage in the newly divided hive for two days so that the bees may begin getting used to the new queen’s scent. He will then return to that yard and remove the tape on those hives he did today. Within seven days, the bees and the queen will eat through the sugar cork that is in the end of the cage. Once they eat through that cork, the queen will be able to move out of the cage – by that time, hopefully everyone’s been seduced by their new queen’s scent and they will simply go about doing their bee assignments. That’s ultimately what you hope for when you install queens. Mark told me that he once had to requeen a hive five times before the bees accepted their queen. That’s a lot of poor queens that the bees did away with for some reason. At about $20 a pop, it sounds like a lot of money but when you start thinking about how critical the queen is to the well-being of a hive, then it puts it in perspective, right? $20 for an awesome queen with a healthy, strong, abundantly populated hive sounds like a great deal. I wonder if queen breeders ever have a BOGO deal. Wouldn’t that be funny? ๐Ÿ™‚ BOGO stands for buy-one, get-one in case you didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue the first few times I saw it. There’s your retail trivia for the day.

Wonder what tracks these are...

I always love hearing what Mark did during his day with the bees and the bee business. I never know what he’ll tell me or what picture he’ll show me. When I saw this one of the tracks, I asked if it was the longhorns out at Deadman Creek on the Lazy U Ranch. No, he said. They’re probably tracks of the CHUPACABRA. In case you don’t know what that animal is, take a minute to Google it since I don’t have an actual picture of the rarely-seen, questionably-real creature. That beekeeper of mine is funny.

And here’s a lovely shot he got of one of the bees working the Broomweed, which is now blooming all about the area. This makes a bitter honey that we leave on the hives for the bees to winter on and perhaps we won’t have to feed them until next spring. With the rain we’ve been getting, it’s been wonderful for the bees. We hope there will continue to be enough out there for our newly divided hives to strengthen themselves on in preparation for the South Texas winter.

Bee in the broomweed

Finally, we want to thank our friends and family who have helped us move over to the new Bee Ranch. We are officially moved in though things are of course not yet in all their right spots. The Honey House on Krezdorn is still in use as we don’t have a new HH yet so if you see a vehicle over there, feel free to stop in as we always love visitors. Wish us luck in cleaning things up and getting some little fixes completed on our sweet little original Bee Ranch. That home was a good home to us and we hope the next owners will love it as much as we loved it. It’s just time for us to move on. Speaking of which, my sweet little baby Smokey is out and about exploring his new territory. We haven’t seen him back in about 24 hours so I’m an anxious momma. I hope that crazy cat comes home soon. Mark said he LOVED class last Saturday and I can’t imagine class without him. Send him home if you see him please! Goodnight.

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Taking the Pearl girls home

Not really. Today Mark had a big library budget presentation that took weeks to prepare for and meant he worked long hours past 5:00pm so that meant very little time left for me and the girls. Good thing I have a house to clean and a house to pack. Today, however, he actually made it home before dark and I was thrilled!

With the rain over the weekend, we couldn’t return the poor Pearl bees – ground too wet to take the truck in where the bee yard is at Deadman Creek on the Lazy U Ranch. So we waited. Just as well as Mark never got home in time to take them. We went today and though the ground was still quite saturated in some places, we were able to get back to the yard and the girls are doing fine. Mark was worried that they would not accept their queen back as she’s been out of the hive for about a week now. Thankfully, they seem to take her in fine so that’s good. They did have some queen cells made but nothing progressed far enough yet, which is also good.

With the 3.5 inches of rain we got, the small variety of wild sunflowers are making a bit of a comeback and the bee brush is probably going to bloom soon. It is a lovely, lovely ranch and the longhorns were also magnificent to see. As was the sky at dusk. I am soooo thankful we got an evening together to do “normal” things at the same time rather than me eat dinner early and Mark eat way too late. Can’t wait for him to be back full time.

Longhorns at Lazy U Ranch

Tomorrow we prep once again for the Pearl Farmers Market Saturday morning. Then Mark plans to pull some supers on Sunday and I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. I know what I SHOULD be doing but I will likely not pass up a chance to accompany Mark as it allows us to have some quality time together. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Mark showing bees at Pearl July 21

It was another great and super-busy four hours this morning at the Pearl Farmers Market and I didn’t fail to look at the clock two hours into it but feeling like it must be at least three hours into it. Not that we didn’t enjoy ourselves – we did! Especially with my sister Lan now joining us at the market when she can. We sure did appreciate her help because we were bless-fully swamped!

Here are a few things we noted from today’s activities:
1. The observation hive continues to be a huge hit and draws people of all ages to the booth. Nothing beats watching the queen bee lay eggs and for us to be able to point to the frame and explain how the honey goes from there to a tank to a bottle gets the point of freshness across quite easily. It’s fun to educate people.
2. Lan really knows how to sell! Not that I’m surprised because I know she has tons of retail experience and she’s also been working in the hotel industry so she’s all about great customer service. We both really appreciate her attention to detail and her products display skills. What’s awesome on top of all that is that she hasn’t been to one of our classes yet (though she will in the fall when we resume) nor has she had time to spend a great deal of time working the bees with us. But she sure can listen to what we say to customers and then repeats it herself and sounds like she’s been doing it for years. She rocks. She’s as outgoing as David is so we can’t wait for them to meet and work together. We think on those days they will probably sell out of honey and beeswax.
3. Speaking of beeswax, it continues to be a great seller at the market! Who knew? Typically, consumers have not bought a lot of beeswax during the summer. Not sure why but we suspect it’s just hot and how really things of burning candles or melting beeswax in 100 degree weather, right? Besides candle-making beekeepers. Well, people in SA sure do like their beeswax and beeswax candles. We sold quite a bit last weekend and we did so again today. Below is a shot of some of the wax products we took to market today.

Beeswax at the Pearl July 21

Finally, here’s a parting shot for the evening. I went with Mark to return the observation hive bees to their home at Deadman Creek so I decided to start practicing with my new tiny macro lens I got last week for the iPhone. It cost about $11, compared to a $1000 Nikon macro lens. Yea, we’ll be okay with the iPhone lens for a while. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think it’ll be fun to shoot with it for a while. It’s not perfect or even super-awesome, by any means, but it will allow me to get some close-ups of bees, wax, and super-tiny flowers like the Bee Brush, which is blooming abundantly right now after last week’s rain. I usually can’t get a great close-up of the blooms with my regular Nikon lens because it’s hard to capture white and the flowers are very small and bunched together. I’m happy with this shot for now. Hope you like it and that you sleep well tonight.

Bee brush macro July 2012

Thank you so much to all the fine folks we met today. We had a blast making new friends and also getting to see more and more of our dear SA friends. I have really missed a lot of you and I am so happy when y’all stop by the booth to see us. Really makes my morning so thank you, thank you! Okay, before I got to bed, I have to share with you one of our favorite vendors (already) – the crepes folks of Crepelandia. Oh my. We are addicted.

Mark’s choice –
Strawberry crepes

My choice –
Sunrise Crepe - tomato, spinach, avocado, etgg, cheese

Okay. Now for real, goodnight.

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While we worked on the display for the Gift & Gourmet hutch, we listened to the wonderful rain coming down on the honey house. What a wonderful soaking we are getting! This will really pump up the greenery and liven up blooms for the bees. I’m sure they will get the boost they need from this rain (and Saturday’s 1.5 inches) and chug along with their honey production. Good. Because we have a lot of people wanting that awesome local honey and that includes me. I love our specialty honeys but I am so in love with our Wildflower and Mesquite. We are on our last two pound jar from last year and don’t think I don’t have this thought in my mind – if we run out before the harvest, how can I get a frame of honey out? Hmm…

The first picture is our work in progress with the hutch we found for our retail display at Gift & Gourmet. EXCITED is an understatement about wanting to see their new location downtown. They have been renovating an old building and Mark said it looked great today when he stopped by there to speak with the owner. He said it brought William Sonoma to mind. o_o I l-o-v-e that store. Too bad I don’t make a lot of money so I can go buy things there all the time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, sounds like we are going to have our very own WS shop in town and I am thrilled. I have love Gift & Gourmet since before I even moved to Seguin. They are exquisite – product and staff alike. Check them out if you haven’t already.

The picture below is a Chinese Tallow, one of two we saw on our walk Sunday evening. Bees love it and we saw a couple on there so maybe they are our little backyard girls. There are two things I want to share with you about this – 1. I almost never remember the correct name of this tree. I tend to call it a Japanese Tallow and sometimes I get it right but second guess myself so that now it’s a game with me and Mark to see if I get it right. 2. The fact that we went for a walk that was about a mile, maybe a little over, is awesome news for me. I had stopped running and walking outdoors because my allergies had gotten so bad several years ago. But now that they are better (thanks local honey), I wanted to try it. So we did. And no headache. I am THRILLED. Thanks honey bees.

Chinese Tallow bloom

And as we come to the close of my post, it’s sprinkling. How lovely to have more rain. And the rest of the week also promises thunderstorms here and there. I have the solo piano channel on Pandora playing. And I have Mark sitting across from me working on his own work. And I don’t think I could ask for a more perfect life with a more perfect person for me. My beekeeper is helping me get through some of the down times I have with my mother gone. Amazingly, he found the one thing that flips my emotional switch pretty easily and when he utters that one thing, I find my tears drying and I am either laughing or trying to not to get mad. Weird, right? I won’t tell you what that thing is because I don’t want everyone stopping me from crying from time to time. As I tell Mark…”IT’S HEALTHY TO CRY!!!!”

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Fentress countryside

If ever I needed the peaceful countryside, this week would be it. After work, we met up at the Bee Ranch and our new acquaintance Bill took us out to see some potential bee yard areas. Bill and his father were beekeepers years ago and while Bill only keeps a couple of hives now for fun, he says that scouting bee yard areas is in his blood and he can’t help it. He sees countryside and he wonders, “Would THIS be good bee area?” And you know what? Mark does the same thing. ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoyed sitting in the back, listening to them talk and occasionally I’d make comments. But mostly I aimed my phone camera out the to show you what I saw. The above shot doesn’t even begin to capture the yellow splashes of color on the hills. And yes, there were hills. Who knew there were so many nearby in the Fentress area?? It’s a sign we saw as we drove from Seguin, through Geronimo and on to San Marcos on the way to Austin. We always say, “Oh, let’s go to Fentress sometime.” But we didn’t until today and we realized all we had been missing. It is LOVELY out there. It made my heart sing and then it made me almost giddy to see the beauty. If Bill had not been with us, I might have really let out more happy sounds but I kept it in check.

One of the primary purposes was to hunt down the Clover that Bill recalls having bees on in the past. We several areas that had great big patches of it and then we came upon the main field snapped below. It’s about twenty-five acres and it was full of Yellow Clover! There were some bees on it but not too many and certainly enough to share should we find someone with property out there who might want some bees on their property. If you know of anyone, let us know! If I was young and more foolish, I would have run through the field. But I’m older now and I think about all sorts of insect bites. So I take pictures. haha

Clover field and a Horsemint

In other beekeeping news, we got twenty new queens in from Derwin Thrash out of Mississippi. Guess what – they came in the regular mail, late in the day and stuff into our mailbox! We can only think they did because the envelope had not been marked in any way to indicate bees were inside and our postal friends are typically very kind to us and the bees and call early in the morning for us to go get the girls. Oh well. Mark was pleased that all queens survived and he quickly got them into a queen bank.

Queen bank with Derwin Thrash queens

In case you are wondering how you would know there’s something alive inside the envelope…here is a video of the buzzing queens. I only hesitated to open it because I wasn’t positive there weren’t bees floating around inside the envelope but outside the queen cages. ๐Ÿ™‚ Gotta be safe you know.

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Greetings from lovely Florida where we are with my entire family – a huge reunion to send my mother off on her next journey. Thank you for the support and kind words that you have sent us. While we are sad that mom is no longer here with us, we are happy that she had a peaceful home-going and that she no longer has to worry about aches and pains. In her honor, I want to write about two things – a recent interest (bees) and a lifelong love (flowers).

Mom loved hearing how we and the bees were doing each time I talked with her or when we visited. She would ask how what Mark was doing with them and if they were making honey. Last year, we talked about how hard it was for them to survive during the drought and how hard it was for the flowers to survive as well. This year, we visited her a couple of times and we were able to tell her that things looked better with the rains we received over the winter months and then also into spring. I wish I could have shown her our wildflowers because she would have loved the colors out here. My mom could make any plant robust, even if I had taken it to the point of death. ๐Ÿ™‚ She was AMAZING! She would have loved the Horsemint from this season, which was abundant and fragrant, too.

Horsemint at Big Oaks with butterfly

Here’s a shot to remind you what the Horsemint from 2011 looked like with so little rain. See how brown it was? See how brown the background was as well?

Poor Horse Mint

In the picture at the beginning of this post, did you notice the bees with yellow pollen on their backs? They get that from the horsemint because of the way the flower is shaped. As you watch them work the Horsemint, you can see how their backs rub up against the flower in a way that gets pollen all over them. Here’s a closeup of some of them –


And here is a shot of one of the girls working the Horsemint –

Bee in Horsemint

Amazing what a year makes. Here’s to you mom. You’re gone in body but you’ll always, always, always be in our hearts. We love you and we know you’re now going to be able to visit all our bee yards with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Introductions 7 & bee box

What does that title mean, you ask? Well…this is a title that has been bestowed upon our little piece of paradise by a student after Cupid tagged her and a fellow student! So sweet! I loved that phrase and asked if I could share it with you all. We love meeting people – we have made so many wonderful new friends the past year as we launched our classes. And now we can say that our students also love meeting each other! ๐Ÿ™‚ We wish our lovebirds the very best and we hope to get an update on how things go for them.

It’s a busy month for us. We’ve got every Saturday booked – which is a blessing but sometimes it does get us tired. ๐Ÿ™‚ We had another wonderful class yesterday with fourteen students and since we are in the midst of hive growth and honey production, each class yields something new for students. When the opportunity presents itself, students have gotten to dip into the honey on a frame, lift supers filling up with honey to see how weighty it can be, find and squish a hive beetle (thank goodness those are not a problem this season so that’s only happened once). Lots of fun and I’m never sure what new thing I’ll photograph the students doing. The bees were flying great even though we were all in the way but no one got stung and that’s always a wonderful thing. I think we were in the hive for a good thirty minutes and the bees were as great as you could ask of them.

To see the full set of photos from class, check out the Flickr album I just finished loading.

Next weekend we have our advance topic class – How to Build Your Hives Up in the Spring. It’s our second time teaching it and we still have seats so if you’d like more information on it or to sign up, just drop us a line at info@gretchenbeeranch.com or you can call 830-305-7925. We would love to see you! I made a flyer for the class and it’s on Flickr if you’d like to see it.

It’s another busy week – my brother and his family are visiting from California so we’re thrilled they’ll be checking out the bees and our operation while they are here. Since Mark has daily checks to do at bee yards, they will have their pick of opportunities to see the beautiful Texas landscape currently still in bloom. We’ve also got another visit out to the Marriott to check bees and to also work on the honey display in the restaurant. We have some good ideas to make it an interesting experience for their customers and we’re excited about the opportunity.

Here is a shot of the wonderful Deadman Creek when we went to check on the bees there. This bee yard is on the Lazy U Ranch, which is a wonderful organic ranch – we are so glad to be there! They are making delicious honey out there and Mark will return there tomorrow to put another super on one of the strongest hives we have there. Hope you all enjoy your week!

Lazy U Ranch in spring 2012

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Runge Clover Field

I’ve never been to Runge but I can’t wait to go the next time Mark and David need to check on the bees. The two hour drive south is farther than we normally place hives but this location is a special and temporary project. You see, there’s Texas Clover down there. A big ole field of it (that’s the picture above this paragraph) and the beekeepers want to see how the bees will do. We’re hoping they survived the hot drive down there okay and that they’ll do fine. Glad to see some bees on the Clover, which is lovely in both white and yellow varieties. Hope they are our bees!

Bee on yellow clover

Here are the bees all set up and ready to go. Make us some good Texas Clover honey, girls!

Runge Clover Field Hives 2

If you’d like to see more pictures of the beeventure, just check out the Flickr set for The Runge Clover Field.

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