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Archive for the ‘honey’ Category

Hello Again

Rainy Memorial Day weekend 2014

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

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

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

Comanche Creek bee yard June 2014

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

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

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

Go Spurs go!

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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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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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Scenic drive on Highway 118

Hello everyone! Sorry it’s been so long but we took some time off to visit our grandbabies and kiddos out in West Texas. And then it was bam, bang, boom as soon as we got back so I haven’t had time to catch y’all up on stuff. So much at work, home AND GBR. Be patient with us and I’ll do a fuller beekeeping post as soon as markets are over. Meanwhile, here’s a quick rundown of a few things.

We had a great visit with the kids, fell in love with the grandkids and witnessed a lot of beautiful skies, weather and landscape. Oh yes, and then there was the rainbow. Two of them. We were blessed to witness an amazing double rainbow the last night there and just as we finised dinner at the Lodge where our son works. Gorgeous and breathtaking!

Double Rainbow over Fort Davis Lodge

Back at market today, we introduced our creamed honey and it was met with great enthusiasm and sold out by 11am. Nice. We’ll continue to work on the formal packaging but we have my handmade tags for the time being. Doesn’t seem to be stopping people from enjoying the smooth creaminess and spreadability of the new product. If you haven’t ever had creamed or whipped honey, here’s your chance to grab some. We’ll have a few jars at Quarry tomorrow and try to get more together for next weekend. Hopefully, our project with Maeve for the label will move along quickly and I won’t be making the laborous tags much longer. Not that I mind crafting but there’s too much to do for me to be crafting! 🙂

Earlier on Instagram and Facebook, I posted a shot of three of the new holiday ornaments we are working on so that they’ll be ready in time for holiday shopping – so exciting! We’re trying out molds and seeing how the wax might or might not develop a bloom over time, causing a little bit of haziness on the ornaments. You can easily wipe off the bloom and it doesn’t impact the scent or quality of the ornament at all but we still work on the bloom not happening at all. Anyway, we are just super excited to work with Maeve to develop just the right packaging for the formal introduction of these ornaments. Can’t wait!

Just love the sweet ornaments we're developing for the holidays! Sneak peak  for you.

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Comb in the uncapping tub

While I do tire of the non-stop 3-digit heat days, I never cease to be fascinated by the beautiful work of the bees. Not just the honey but look at the wax they create, like art to me. I love to visit the shop and see what’s happening out there. I shot the above photo because I just love the different colors of the wax. Some darkened with use, age, light, etc. Still good, all of it. These are bits of the cappings we shave off the tops of honey frames so we can get to the honey. We still do it all by hand with with bread knife. We have a heated knife for this purpose but found the bread knife works just fine in the blistering heat (natural heating 🙂 ). There’s a lot of honey still left on the comb so we just let it drip down into the tub under this for a couple of days and then we’ll run that through our fabric filter to catch debris. It’s amazing how much honey you can harvest from the cappings alone. We never waste a thing if we can help it. The cappings are then stored in buckets until Mark is ready to clean the wax for our beeswax products. We love it and I always tell Mark that even if we never sold another candle, I’m sure our families and I could use up all the candles he makes. We love his work! We can’t wait to show you some of the new things we’re working on for the upcoming holidays. Some new beeswax ornaments for the gift-giving season – you’ll like them I think. Stay tuned.

As I type, I see the clouds have rolled in – yay! Some relief from the scorching sun! It’s been a brutal stretch lately. I believe yesterday Mark told me we’re going on our 13th straight day of 100+ heat. Not unexpected here in Texas this time of year but I think we all still long for fall to hurry on up already. Anyway, whenever there’s a change in the sky, you get excited. lol even if, like yesterday, you don’t get more than 45 drops of rain, the claps of thunder and dark skies make for a welcome change. Sounds like I’m in a bowling alley. Very nice sounds.

Prior to the change just now, we turned on the drip hose for the new hives out back. We’ve been doing this since they got here and the temperatures have been so high. The girls seem to be holding up just fine. The bit of water does a lot to cool them and also provides them with what they need to cool their hives down. They fan water in the hives to create their own cooling system. Pretty awesome, those bees.

Watering divides at the Bee Ranch

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Gonzales Bee Yard

As the men drive to Gonzales and to our original bee yard there, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic this morning. While it had been a good place to start with, it has become so dry in that county that we need to move the bees in order to same them from continuing their decline. There’s simply not enough to sustain them on their own there so they’ll be moving to the Cibolo Creek bee yard as that location’s hives seem to be thriving. So in tribute to the good years we had at this yard, here’s some of my favorite shots.

In greener years, we got some of the BEST honey ever tasted from this bee yard!

Frame full of honey

Here Mark was checking on the honey flow of 2010.

Gonzales bee yard

We’ll miss the dogs and horses and cows. 🙂

cow sniffs hive gonzales

And all the lovely flowers, too!

Wild poppy

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2013 Mesquite comb honey

Above photo: Every time I see comb like this, I simply want to glob a big fat piece of it into my mouth. Yuuuum.

Ever feel like there’s so much going on that you don’t even know which way to turn. And then the next thing you know, it’s bed time. And then you the alarm goes off and you are at it again. LOL that’s us right about now. We still try and make time here and there to just sit or to visit with friends or to go hunting down historical STUFF…but it’s a crazy time for GBR and most other beekeepers are in the same boat, we’re sure. It’s harvest and dividing time so that’s what we’re all about. The weird spring turned weird summer means it’s totally different from last year, when EVERYTHING was pulled at the same time and we killed ourselves trying to extract before the honey went bad on us. This year it’s more like a little here is ready and then maybe a little somewhere else might be ready. Crazy year for sure.

Okay, here are some of the highlights as of late:
1. We got more queens in, this time from Ebert out in Iowa. Mark’s already used six of them.
2. With dividing of hives in progress, he now has 30 new hives, quite a few in our backyard awaiting queen introductions.
3. Went to the Marriott yard today in SA and pulled a few supers. Sponsored hives are looking pretty good and I got some shots of the activities in order to send out an update to our sponsors.
4. We’re still working on getting the word out about the Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market down at the Bluestar Art Complex (Saturdays 9-1p) so help us out if you can. Sonia and Danny are working it for us and doing a GREAT job. Sure appreciate them!
5. Belinda’s rejoined us and we’re happy to have her help and her smile back.

Here’s the second queen bank Mark built for the 20 Ebert queens. They came in plastic cages.

New queen bank for the 14 Ebert queens left, 6 introduced.

Finally, I wanted to just tell you about how happy I have been to put all the blazing heat to good use out here in Texas! 🙂 It’s in the 3-digits these days and the sun is hot enough to fry eggs on the ground. Really. I saw a little egg drop from above onto our pavement and though it was not of the eat-me-with-a-biscuit quality or quantity, it was cooked. Poor baby birdy. Anyway, a friend of ours (hi Pete!) asked me about decrystalizing a bottle of honey he had gotten a while ago. I explained the typical hot water in a pan technique and then I said, you know what – just go set it on a table outside for a couple of days and it’ll do the trick. I have had our various crystalized jars out there (Remember my cabinet full of honey? Some of it had crystalized and while I like it, it’s hard to get the honey out of the plastic squeeze bottles.) and most of them have been successfully decrystalized now. Free. Easy. Pretty fast. Done. And so am I. Goodnight, friends.

Solar heating

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