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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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Today as I pulled into our drive...

Oh beautiful sky with your beautiful clouds, why not darken a bit and drop some raindrops? Couldn’t hurt to ask. During the hottest weeks/months of summer when the sun beats down on your back when you’re working outside, you welcome clouds even when they don’t always or often yield moisture. Mark will sometimes say to me that he appreciates the clouds when he’s working the bees. Clouds soften the brutal sun rays. I snapped this photo with my phone pointed straight up in front of me. The clouds were gorgeous and held such promise for rain here and there around us. The wind picked up and it cooled down quite a bit but hours later, we still did not receive any rain. Oh well. There’s always a little hope. It’s actually not as dry as it has been in the past for this time of year. It’s August in South Texas. It’s pretty hot now! Three-digit heat has finally arrived but most of us say, “If we can just get through August, then there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” haha The heat makes us appreciate the cold later.

Mark and Tang continue to tend to the hives out in different yards. It’s rare to have some of the hives still making a little bit of honey but we won’t complain. What an odd year it is. So far, we have harvested (or extracted) about 6,000 pounds of honey! Great numbers considering how little we got last year. Every drop is appreciated for sure! For hives that are strong and thriving, Tang and Mark are dividing. We’re going through a steady supply of queen bees ordered from outside of Texas, as always. We have another 28 queens coming this Wednesday. There’s also mite treatments to be completed, empty honey supers to treat for wax moths and then stored for winter, pecan trees to be tended to since there’s a second round of caterpillars…the list goes on. There’s never a dull moment but we try to rest when we can. The pace as well as the heat can truly be tiring.

In other news, we are thankful to be covered in a couple of local publications in the San Antonio area! Our first story is out now in Edible San Antonio magazine. You can find a copy by visiting their webpage. I want to give a big shoutout to our friend, Josh Baker of AzulOx Visuals. Josh photographed us at our Bee Ranch last fall and we were happy to have one of the photos we love so much be used in the article. Josh is an amazing photographer and he’s a lot of fun so please do check out his website if you are looking for photographer who will do more than take the usual posed pictures. Okay, the second article? You’ll have to wait! But you won’t have to wait long because we have seen the copy and the print is coming to the Pearl Farmers Market THIS coming Saturday. So excited and thrilled to have people interested in what we do at the Bee Ranch. Yay bees and beekeeper!

Edible San Antonio August-Sept issue

In happy honey-lover news, I’m excited to be able to share that Mark has updated the GBR website with the latest inventory of our local South Texas honey – the Gonzales County Wildflower. I love how light it is, just gorgeous! It tastes very similar to our Guadalupe County Wildflower. Light in color and light in taste. Check our Honey Shop if you would like to try some of this beautiful honey.

Gonzales County Wildflower Honey (2014 harvest)

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Greetings from the sky as I finish out my three straight weeks of travel to do some instructor-led training on a new gadget at work. Apparently getting on a plane to fly from Texas to South Carolina is my best chance at getting some work done for both companies I work for these days. I forget how long the flight is but I’m balancing CMC and GBR work as we cruise because somehow it has been a month since my last post and a lot has happened! I really should let y’all know what we’ve been up to this past month. And just so you know, part of my issue with posting has been a new PC/tablet combination I have been assigned at work. While I force myself to use it to learn it, I find that I can’t copy my usual Flickr picture links so that I can easily and quickly add them here. That’s been frustrating. Anyhow. Time and tech issues. I got them both! Haha

Since I last wrote, we finished our 2014 honey extraction! And by “we,” I mean a team of us. What we’d do without the help of family and friends, I’m not really sure. We are blessed this year to have my brother Tang staying with us a few months – he is a huge help to us both with beekeeping and candlemaking activities. And if you’ve been to the Pearl Farmers Market lately, then no doubt you have seen, heard and possibly met Tang, affectionately known as Forklift (because he says whatever we need done in the bee yard, honey house, or home, a forklift can help). He’s an absolute blessing to us, as are our friends Stan, Belinda and the Saviors. Collectively, they have helped us pull heavy honey supers and then handled the extraction activities so that Mark and Tang could take back empty supers or do mite treatments if a yard is done honey-making. We sure appreciate each of them so much and are so blessed to know them. The wonderful thing about family and friends is that no matter how hot and hard the work gets, there’s always opportunities to laugh and enjoy working together. It’s truly awesome.

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This year is the latest we have ever extracted. We thought by the end of June we’d be done but we didn’t even start pulling the bulk of the supers until July! Gee! Thanks to the late and intermittent rains, as flowers bloomed after a rain, the bees would pick up with their honey-making and when they are doing that, you sure don’t want to interrupt their work. Most everyone who waited for local honey learned this year that when it comes to the honey supply, we are on the schedule of Mother Nature and the bees. We can hope, want and demand all we want but until they are done, we all wait. It’s part of the learning process for some of our customers. It’s important for people to understand that honey is a limited resource, especially in a drought area. We each have to appreciate the hard work the bees put into producing every drop of honey. Once a crop is depleted, or once your honey jar is depleted, then you have to wait until next season. It sometimes amazes me that some customers assume we can harvest any time we wish. Nope! You get one harvest usually. That’s it. A lot rides on that harvest and we feel being at the Pearl market and building a solid foundation of loyal customers helps us to educate people on this process.

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Speaking of the Pearl, we are very, very happy with how things have developed there for us. Our move to a double booth and expanding our product line to include additional beeswax ornaments as well as bee pollen has really helped us to develop more steady income which in turn has helped us to make small improvements to our business and our operations. Also, being at the Pearl has opened up several partnering opportunities with local chefs as well as publications devoted either to the culinary scene in San Antonio or to the farm to table movement. We are thrilled that soon (like in the next two weeks), we will be in two publications which I will share here as soon as they are out. I promise I won’t wait a month before I tell you all. I’m too excited about this!

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In case you are local and you’re wondering what honeys we have this season, we are pleased to have a wonderfully light Huajilla Honey from our bee yards in Bigfoot (Frio County) and in the D’Hanis area (Medina County). When I first saw a picture of the first bottle, I never would have believed it was Huajilla had Mark not told me. Light in color and taste – we’ve really been enjoying it. For our closer bee yards (Guadalupe, Gonzales and Bexar counties), we have our wonderful Wildflower Honey. As my go-to honey for my allergies, I am happy to see this year’s crop is also very light in color and taste. Some people as us which is best and that is purely up to individual taste buds. While I am sad the way things worked out so that the bees could not make Mesquite Honey this year, I am happy that the Huajilla has a bit of Mesquite in it as both bloomed simultaneously (typically Mesquite blooms later in the summer after everything else and so we’ve gotten a late summer harvest of it in the past). The taste of the Huajilla is typically described as smooth and smoky. I love it this year and for me it will have to do without Mesquite as an option. The Wildflower Honey is described by most as possessing a more floral taste and the impression is that it “tastes sweeter” than the Huajilla. But you could survey two people and they could possibly tell you the opposite things for each honey. That’s what I tell customers when they don’t want to taste the samples but would rather have me tell them what is what. I tell them but it’s really up to your taste buds to tell you if you prefer one over the other.

Okay, I think this is good for now. Wouldn’t want to overload you guys. I appreciate y’all’s patience as we work away at the harvest and everything else we have going on these days. There just never is enough time for us to do all we wish to do in a day. And for that, we are grateful. Loving the life we live and hoping you are as well! Take care and hope to talk to y’all again real soon.

PS – I got busy once I landed in SC so I am only now able to get pictures loaded to go with my post. What’s a post without pictures!? I love it when I go to blogs and see pictures so there. Also, I am super happy to have finished my series of training courses that has taken me away from home for three straight weeks. This is a very happy me after work today! Tomorrow I get to hang out with my little sis and then I fly home to my men Thursday. Woohoo!

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Pecan tree

And we are serious about caring for the twenty-four trees we have on our Bee Ranch. We have officially committed to caring for and growing our pecan tree – we’ve hired a caretaker for the orchard! You’ll be hearing more in future about the awesome Mr. Savior. He has already helped us so much with last year’s pecan harvest and he’s ready to do more. Yesterday he started meticulously fertilizing the orchard and he will continue to provide care and feeding so that we can have future crops to take to market in support of our growing bee business. We are so thankful for Mr. S!! He and his family are dear friends from church and we are so excited to continue working with them on different projects!

Bee board holding pecans

Mr. S is currently researching and developing a system for watering the orchard. He had also helped us design our mobile feeding system and that made the work more efficient for Mark. In all that we do, we are truly blessed to continually receive help from our friends and family. We couldn’t possibly have all the time and energy to do all we want to do if we didn’t have the help of all of you, whether it’s a feeding system, working events or sending encouragement via our electronic world (and in person at market and events). We so appreciate you all!! Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day and hope to see you at the Pearl Farmers Market tomorrow (9-1p). It is the market’s 5th birthday and there are special treats and giveaways so it’s totally the day to give it a try if you haven’t been there yet. And if you have, we look forward to seeing you again!

The beekeeper mixing some sugar and water feed for the bees

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Granbady and the beekeeper at Cibolo Creek bee yard

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

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

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

May 2014 at Cibolo Creek with Rhys

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

Ground cracks at the Bee Ranch

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

Annual members meeting at Pearl Farmers Market

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Pollen gathering at Big Oaks

Happy Easter, everyone! Today feels like it’s already a full day and it’s only 7pm. haha, love that. We kicked off our wonderful day with a great breakfast before booking it out to collect pollen we planned to collect yesterday but you know what? We were so tired that after a friend stopped by for a visit and stayed longer than anticipated (but what a nice visit that was!), we just didn’t even REMEMBER we were supposed to go to Big Oaks. That’s tired. And that is usually what happens to us by Saturday afternoons after market and class, as we had both events yesterday. I think the week catches up to us and we just sort of get drained. It felt good to rest and get a little extra sleep, that’s for sure.

So…back to this morning. The top shot is Mark pulling pollen traps (Sundance brand). We currently have a pollen trap on seven hives and today alone, we got about 13 pounds of some of the cleanest pollen we’ve ever collected. Below is a trap he just pulled out and you can see there are hardly any pieces of debris in there. We talked about how great that is since it will mean minimal cleaning is required if we decide to bottle some to sell. The pollen we collected in fall had more pieces of twigs, leaves, grass and so on and that means more cleaning time. Below is a closer look at the trap (or tray). So pretty and tastes so nice and mild! Sweet as well.

Pollen gathering at Big Oaks

Below is what I posted on Facebook earlier this morning. That is the fullest we have ever had one of our traps and we just were simply amazed! The girls are really pulling in a lot and if you are new to our blog and haven’t read previous posts about pollen collecting, then I’ll just reassure you that collecting it like this does not diminish a hive’s health. The traps only brush off some of the pollen being carried in, not all of it. So don’t worry that the bees are left with little or no protein. They are doing just fine.

Pollen trap full of pollen

Collecting pollen this time of year is new for us. We wanted to give spring collecting a try after talking with a fellow beekeeping friend who collects at this time and has seen zero impact on bee health as well as honey production. We trust them and respect their experience and knowledge so we’re giving it a go. We’ll keep you posted on things. Here’s putting our money where our mouth is – 17 new pollen traps came in last week! They are painted and ready for installation this week. Like, tomorrow according to Mark.

Pollen traps

By the way, here is what we had for breakfast, which we don’t have often so on Sundays when we do eat breakfast, I like to make it special and just the way my beekeeper like it – yummy! The eggs are from fellow Seguinite, Wholesome Harvest Farm, while the strawberries are from Wheeler Farm. We are eating so much better now that we shop mostly at the Pearl market while we are there every Saturday. The bacon and other meats I need that I can’t get at market, I get from the meat market just down the road from us (Granzin’s).

Breakfast feast on Easter

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Pearl Market treats

While we love road tripping, we sure love coming home! Getting the bees from Florida is always fun but also a lot of stress since we worry about their well-being the entire trip and you never know what can happen on the road. I have a lot of pictures I need to upload and then I will devote a separate posting just for that since it is deserving of special focus.

What’s with the picture up top? Those are things we got at the Pearl last time we worked it. And you know what? We sure missed good eating while on the road! Can’t wait to get back to market and get some fresh, local foods! Top of the list – Brussels sprouts. And more spinach for this (I call it the Green Thienie Surprise since I sprung it on the men a few weeks ago):

Green Smoothie

And speaking of market and the last time we worked it, our friend Beatriz gave us this very cool waxed sheet of fabric that we can use as a food storage option – it’s reusable! This was a sweet gift and timely as I would like to learn how to make these also so maybe I will ask Beatriz to tell me more about it next time we have a chance to visit. I saw these on one of my favorite websites/blogs/shops (Food 52) and they had sandwich storage beeswax sheets such as this. I hadn’t had time to follow up with more research and then here we are…Beatriz beat me to it. Thanks, friend!

Beeswax storage sheet

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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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Picking pecans and enjoying the sun and foliage on our little slice of heaven

Hi. I’m sorry. I don’t know where December 18 through the end of the year went. I know I meant to blog several times and then record-breaking sales at market happened. And holiday events happened. And family Christmasing happened. And then I got sick. And then here we are…2014. We did the best we could to keep up with orders, markets and walk-in business while balancing work with the Christmas spirit and joys of life. We love what we’re doing; we just wish time would somehow slow down a bit. Just a bit. But then we think, maybe that’s what will happen later in life when our bodies won’t let us do anymore what we’re able to do now. Maybe. We’ll see. 🙂 Meanwhile, it’s full steam ahead.

Welcome to the new year! We are so excited to see what will happened for us all and we will continue to share it with y’all here and on our other social media outlets. 2013 was truly an amazing year for us and our little but growing business. We started setting our roots here at the new Bee Ranch of W. Kingsbury (I love how that sounds so medieval.) and we started expanding our line of beeswax products and we went into a few more select retail outlets. Oh yes, we established a few new bee yards and closed out a couple of others. Gosh, how to sum up an entire year of beeventures without writing a book? What a great year it was and the most amazing thing is that we have a feeling this new year will bring us even more beeventures and we are eager to experience it all. Can’t wait!

Here’s an example of a continued successful collaboration we look forward to growing – our friendship with the Springfield Farm family! We are thrilled they continue to use our honey and wax in their growing cosmetics line. Here’s a peek at a new scrub that features our honey. Be sure to go by the Pearl Farmers Market every Saturday and support our fellow vendors and friends. We all strive to develop partnerships that support each other and we’re so proud and honored when someone wants to use our products in their own products or services.

Besswax candles and honey scrubs

In Honey House construction news, we’re happy to report that there is now ALMOST official power in there. We’re “this” close! 🙂 It’s a lot closer than before actually and come Thursday (tomorrow), the electrical and plumbing should be ready for City inspection. Woohoo! Below was a shot I snapped because I liked the thought of a conduit carrying power into that big ole HH. haha little things are big to us and we are so excited! Can’t wait to get set up in there and be able to work more efficiently. Soon. Very soon. Must be patient.

Conduit for power to the HH

So in our free time, we like to find more things to do. New things we’ve never done before. Like caring for and harvesting from our pecan orchard of twenty-three trees. 🙂 Seriously, we love pecans and we’ve picked pecans for our own devouring and gifting, but we’ve never harvested on a larger scale than that. But in a year when so many people told us their trees yielded no crop whatsoever, it would be a shame to let our own crop go unharvested and uneaten. So here we are, harvesters of pecans. Learning a lot each day, as always.

Harvesting delicious pecans

Back to something we know a bit about – bees. Lately, we haven’t had many warm days for bee feeding so with forecasted temperatures in the mid-60s, we decided we were going to hit two bee yards that needed feeding. The three of us loaded up and headed to Carolina and Pizza bee yards and it was so much fun! I had not been out to a bee yard in so long that I had to accompany the men despite not feeling 100%. It was so nice to get out of the house!

Here’s a look at the men while we were at Carolina yard.

January 2014 feeding

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HH construction December 16, 2013

Yesterday I finally got out to the HH to see how things were progressing inside. It’s so exciting! It’s feeling real when we walk in and we can already envision next season when we can drive the truck through during extraction time. And gift packaging where there’s an actual shipping table and products within easy reach. We’re making things work this year because we know it’s a transition year but we cannot wait to have things in place in the HH. The space closest to us in the picture will be the bottling room. Next to it will be our temporary retail space until we have enough money to put one up front and that’ll be visible from W. Kingsbury. Next to the retail space will be the full-size bathroom. And the space above all of that will be for storing honey supers. 🙂

Shipping GBR goodies out for the holidays

The holidays have been crazy but in a good way. We just realize how much more we’ll appreciate the HH after this season. We have one more big push at Pearl market this weekend and of course there are the phone and online orders to fill but come Christmas, we’re hoping we can sleep in a little and just catch our breath. Good thing we have Tang helping us out this year! He rocks and we enjoy working with him a great deal. That’s one hardworking brother we got!

Getting punchy

Smokey thought about helping me pack ornaments and honeys but in the end, he really just wanted me to hold him and cuddle. I gave him about three minutes. Sorry, Smoke! Too busy!

Smokester sort of helps out with packaging

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