Archive for the ‘Marriott’ Category

Table of productivity
These are ready for markets this weekend although the ornaments are wrapped and stored for our big holiday rollout after we finalize packaging and labeling. Yay!

Besides hand-pouring all these lovely beeswax candles, bars, blocks and ornaments, Mark’s been on a tight schedule to clean up from harvest season, treat and requeen all hives and make progress on the Honey House project. Finally got some engineers who speak the same language so we are super please about that. Thanks to our good friend Thomas for his help in reviewing all the plans and proposals and catching some things that helped us out a lot!

Check it out – more queens! Mark is really trucking along on Project Requeen Every Hive before mid-October. Good job, love. Unlike the last back of Olivarez queens (they came around 7:00pm), this box was waiting for me when I got home for lunch, which is really nice to be able to do almost every day. My day job is about 7 minutes from home. Pretty awesome. Anyway, so far so good on the requeening. Things are going very smoothly this year and the direct introduction method is working very well with our hives. So glad Mark read about it on our friend Emily’s bee blog and then followed up with the researchers. It has saved Mark a lot of time and energy.

Queen bees in the mail

The box under the queens contains more samples of containers we are considering for packaging the new holiday ornaments we have developed and plan to roll out in time for holiday shoppers! So excited. We are making progress with Maeve as well and hopefully we’ll have our new tags and labels soon for the creamed honey as well as the beeswax products. Did I mention we are excited? 🙂

Beautiful frame of bee brood

Speaking of excited – the report for the JW Marriott bee yard is fantastic. Mark went there this morning and was thrilled to see all the hives were doing very well. That’s a frame full of beautiful brood from one of the hives. You may recall that we lost four out of five hives out there at the Marriott last year so we are really happy they are thriving this year. You never know from year to year which yards will do well. Historical performances don’t always act as the best indications of how well a bee yard will do the current year. It all has to rain and what’s been blooming for the bees. No rain, no blooms, no protein = two bee yards moved out to new locations this year. You have to watch the hives and if they are not doing well, you have to help them and in our case, Mark moved them to areas that seem to be getting more rain this year. In both instances, the colonies made progress within a week or two of being in their new yards. That’s always a good feeling to know that you’ve helped them in some way. They do so much for us.

Moving the rest of the divides

One last thing, I miss seeing all our new divides out behind the house. We still kept a few teaching hives as well as the queen bank out back but this week, Mark and Stan completed their move of the new divides to their permanent home. They have been developing quite well and we hope they will make it through winter just fine. You don’t really know what 2014 will be like for them until spring, when we can see how they managed. But these bees have been building up their honey stores and carrying pollen like crazy so those are great signs. It’s raining on and off here this afternoon and that’s also a great sign. A wet fall and winter would do wonders for next season’s crop. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

Here’s how it looked when we had a full house not too long ago.

Backyard divides 2013

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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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Bees bringing in pollen

What a lovely sight to see. As a matter of fact, I have several lovely pictures to share with you this week. The above shot is from Mark’s visit to the JW Marriott this morning – good job bees! Nothing looks nicer this time of year than to see bees coming back in with both pollen baskets full of beautiful pollen. It’s amazing what a boost that will be for them as they have already started building themselves up in preparation for the honey-making months to come.

We actually got a bit of rain last night and this morning – a quarter of an inch according to the rain gauge. We will take it. Every little bit helps. The bulk of the storm cell just missed us but as long as some of the areas around the yards got rain, then we’re happy.

Below is a picture of bee brush Mark snapped at the Elm Creek bee yard the other day. Gorgeous blue sky on a sunny, cool day. Can’t beat that in Texas this time of year. The bee brush is a lovely scent and blooming pretty much everywhere right now and the bees love it. Again, we are thankful to see the great food source in bloom for our the bees. Every little bit of protein they get means stronger, healthier, more robust hives.

Lovely blooming bee brush

Speaking of robust, look at this Big Oaks frame of brood! Incredible.

That's a lot of brood about to come out.

I couldn’t believe how packed it was and I was so happy to see it as it means the queen is gearing her colony up for spring and honey-making. While we are thrilled to see all of this, it’s a constant worry that the bees continually have enough protein out there to keep them going. We have also seen the Huisache in bloom as well as the wonderful wild mustard that got us through the 2011 drought, when nothing else was out there for them to eat.

In other news, we received a letter from the City saying we were officially annexed February 1. We continue to figure things out to try and move forward with building the Honey House. Mark continues to pour candles between doing everything else that needs to get done. By the way, we got new molds in for some colonial tapers – six inches of lovely wax. We decided to try it after talking with our brother-in-law about his Revolutionary War lantern replica. He uses the six inch taper and next thing you know, Mark ordered the molds and here we are. We are test burning four different wicks and so far so good. We love a dripless candle and soon, our testing will be done and the candles will be available for purchase.

That’s about it for now. Heading to bed and then we do what we do tomorrow. Hope you are all having a great week so far. It’s on the down slope now! 🙂 Wait, as soon as I wrote that I realized that Friday is no longer what it used to be for me since Saturday and Sunday are our wake-up early, work-work-work days. lol I have to find a new Friday! Okay. Goodnight.

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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. 😦 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. 😦 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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Applying Hopguard to the hives in Runge, Texas

We got it all in one post. Today Mark and David trekked down to Runge to check on the hives down there. A few supers came back with them and they spent some time applying Hopguard on the bees to treat for mites. Given the hot, dry weather conditions, Mark said the bees were not too pleased being bothered in the middle of the day so they were a bit feisty. Mark got about 15 stings down there, poor man. When I got home and went to check on him in the Honey House, I think I gasped a little when he looked at me. He was a little red from the heat and swollen from the stings. 😦 My poor beekeeper. I know he’s tough but when you love someone and they look tired and slightly swollen…my heart just constricted a bit. So I did what any normal, loving, allergic-to-bee-stings wife would do – I ran in the house (lot of bees in the HH due to the honey supers) to make fresh ice water and a plate of cheese on crackers. Later, when some friends needed to borrow a bee suit, Mark went back out to the HH to get it and a bee got in his shirt. She let him know she was there as we ate dinner. That was sting #16. Good thing he is not allergic to them. I itch just thinking about it. 🙂

JW Marriott Wildflower 2012

This was my little project this week to help Mark fill a special order for our friends at the JW Marriott in SA. They need 150 little jars of the Wildflower extracted from the hives on their property. And guess where our wonderful jars of honey are headed? New York City! We’re hoping Ryan will take a picture or two during the trip and share with us. We’d love to see what’s happening with it. I did learn that the event is a special dinner at which Ryan (JW’s executive chef) is presenting some delicious, Texas theme dishes, according to the James Beard events calendar. That organization grants awards in the food industry (including wines, restaurants, etc.) that are like the Oscars. Wow! That’s cool to think our honey heading to an event of that caliber. We’re happy Ryan and his staff are so supportive of our efforts. Like the griffin logo that belongs to JW Marriott? Mark designed it for their honey. I am always impressed with Mark’s creative side. Way to go, honey bee!

Lastly, I saved this less-than-lovely-but-oh-so-fascinating shot of what Mark and David saw at the Runge bee yard – yikes! Mark texted this to me while I was at work and I opened the picture and I’m pretty sure I yelped. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a scream. Maybe it was. But it’s sort of fascinating while also gross. It made me think of Lord of the Flies, which I read while in high school. At one point in the book, the boys stake a pig’s head on the beach from what I remember. It’s been a while. Speaking of which, my TWENTY-FIFTH (yep, 25th) reunion is next month in my hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina! Shout out to my friends – go Eagles! 🙂

Don't lose your head, hog. Runge, Texas bee yard.

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Cleaning honey house 2

What a blessing to have so many buckets of honey in the Honey House! But it’s a constant battle to shift around and make room for changing inventory of honey, wax, new bottles, new bags, stock for market, general beekeeping equipment…and bodies! Sometimes we have to turn sideways to get through stacks of things. That’s a shot of the shipping table after we moved things around a bit. Now we don’t have to turn sideways and suck in our tummies to scoot through. At least that’s what I had to do. It’s more funny than frustrating to me now but I’m shorter and smaller than most of the other people working in there so they may NOT find it as funny right now. So, Mark and I spent all Sunday morning shifting and reorganizing in order to accommodate more honey supers as well as preparing for a visit from a writer from the San Antonio Express News. Edward will be here this coming Saturday and we wanted the honey house to look presentable and we are happy we put the time into it. Plus it was nice to work together again – things have been so crazy busy that I miss that part of life and business very much with Mark working full time somewhere else. I’m glad he’ll be coming back soon. It also doesn’t help when I’m out of commission for a few days. I want to thank our friends Cathy and David for standing in for me at the Pearl Farmers Market with Mark. Mark sent me the picture below as I was stuck at home trying to sleep off my ailment and I could tell that it was a busy day! And I’m so glad the three of them had each other. With my sister off to see my dad, we Hoang girls were no good to Mark last week!

David and Cathy helping us out

And here’s what the inventory looked like after market – can you believe it? They did an amazing amount of sales last Saturday and when I told Lan, she said she couldn’t believe she missed out on making the big sales goal. We just love it when family and friends find it as fun as we do because it is hot, tiring work. But with the right people, you can sure have a lot of fun!

Post Pearl Market August 25th

After the cleanup on Sunday, I crashed again while the hardworking beekeeping librarian returned the observation hive bees to Big Oaks bee yard and then headed over to Elm Creek to pull some honey supers. There are still two yards left to pull and he’s getting to them when he can and also when our friend Stan is able to help us extract. Thank goodness for Stan and Zach – they have extracted quite a few supers this summer and we are fortunate to have hardworking friends like them to help us out or else we’d be missing out on a lot of honey. Here’s a shot of the Elm Creek load Mark brought back Sunday. Tomorrow Stan hits the extractor.

10 supers from Elm Creek

Well, I guess that’s about it and I should probably wrap it up and get to sleep. Got lots of errands to run between work and working on the houses for moving. We’ve got a snazzy little label Mark created for the JW Marriott’s special order and we can’t wait to show it to y’all. In the new Honey House, I’ve asked for a Honey Bar and now I think I’m going to also ask for a place to showcase all our different honeys and labels. I think that’d be pretty cool to see a progression of those two things.

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Mark shows Patti how to extract honey

So, today was PACKED but I’m not going to bed until I write about it. So hold on. First we kicked off the day with class – our last class before we take a summer break so that we don’t have another you-attended-class-on-the-hottest-day-certificate class like last year. 🙂 We love our students but we just think a break during Texas summers is a great idea. Those bee suits do get hot. With a small class, we get to do different and more things…like let the students try their hands at uncapping honey frames. Very fun and nothing beats seeing exactly how the honey comes out of the frame and finally into a jar.

Camaran & his bee tat

At the end of class we had visits from other beekeeping pals and new beekeeping friends. Want to learn more about Camaran and his awesome bee tattoo? Be sure to check back later this week because I want to devote an entire post to our friends and specifically Perez Beekeeping, which is run by Camaran and his wife Angelica from San Antonio. After the visitors left, we grabbed a quick PBH sandwich and booked on over to the new house we hope to purchase very soon. Had to meet with the inspector, owner and realtor. Thumbs up so far. We’ll keep you posted.

Felicia of the Seguin Gazette visited us to talk extraction

After the house visit, we booked back to the Bee Ranch for our next appointment of the day – a visit from Felicia of the Seguin Gazette. She is doing a story on GBR and the extraction process. We had a lot of fun showing her how things work and then took her through the honey-tasting. Story should run this week. We’ll share when it does.

Check out the samples…so yummy.

Honey tasting time

[Personal aside: Mark just found ENTER THE DRAGON on TV. I hope I can finish this before getting totally distracted by Bruce Lee.]

We wrapped up honey work for the day by filling up jars of comb honey for the JW Marriott crew – my gosh the bees made an awesome Bexar County Wildflower honey this year. We talked about it and agreed it’s almost as smooth as the Mesquite from here. That’s pretty great in my opinion (since it’s my favorite). Here’s to an even bigger crop next year!

JW Marriott Comb Honey Jars

And then we wrapped up our wonderful day with Blizzards from Dairy Queen (DQ). I would share a picture but both of the ones I snapped were not that useable and I didn’t get the affect I was going for and I couldn’t get them right with apps. Suffice it to say we were very happy with our treat and our day. Thanks, everyone, for your usual love and support. We love what we do but we love y’all even more. Tomorrow we do mostly non-bee work. Tell you more later.

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot – we have BIG news about what we’ll be doing every Saturday starting next week. 🙂 Teaser for tomorrow’s post. I promise.

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No, we didn’t do the Biggest Small Town Parade and we didn’t watch fireworks down at Starcke Park. We have done those things plenty during Mark’s tenure with the City of Seguin. No, instead we picked up David in Marion and headed to the JW Marriott yard to pull supers. Had a really great time with Ryan, Bethany and Brett as usual. They helped up pull supers that were ready for harvesting and continued learning about beekeeping and their hives there at the resort. The bees did fine this year and built up strong enough to produce a decent amount of honey. We used Bee Robber to push the bees out of the supers and I’m always fascinated with the speed at which they exit the hive. Pretty cool so I shot a brief video at our second stop – Rattlesnake yard. Meanwhile, here’s a shot of Ryan and Brett taking a turn at examining the bees at the entrance.

Ryan next to the boxes

We got Brett to run his hands through the bunch – no stings. Good job, Brett!

Brett goes in a second time

Next it was back towards Marion and a pit stop (no pun intended) at the Rattlesnake yard to pick up quite a load of what ended up being my favorite honey – MESQUITE. The reason I say it that way is because we took the supers home and started extracting. After we got through with David’s honey supers, we hit Rattlesnake and then did a taste test after bottling a jar. I knew as soon as I tasted it that it was Mesquite. The men took several more tastes before concluding that it is predominantly Mesquite with a touch of Wildflower. Even better for my allergies. Excellent. We didn’t finish all the boxes on the fourth but we did make great progress. This evening Mark and I headed out there to do some more work after his long day as a library administrator in the midst of budget time. Doesn’t sound as fun as honey extraction if you ask me but I haven’t done the budget task so I may not be the best judge on this.

My reward for working late tonight was a taste of some of the most divine honey I have tasted this year – our first Bexar County Wildflower Honey. WOW. Mark’s reaction to the flavor was enough to get me to slip out of my glove to take a sample for myself and I am so glad I did. It was awesome! When we placed the hives at the Marriott, we told ourselves that we’d be happy if they all just survived. And if they made honey, that’d be bonus. But if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be disappointed. We just weren’t sure what they would feed on out there. Well, whatever it was, I hope it blooms again next year and that our little girls make even more. Every drop of this honey has already been sold to JW Marriott but it shows us that there is good honey to be made there in Bexar County…no telling where the next yard will be.

Extracting Marriott Wildflower

If you’d like to view the full set of JW Marriott photos, you can check our set on Flickr. There’s even a short video of our time there.

We have a Rattlesnake Bee Yard photo set as well and the short video of bees exiting the hive is in that set.

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Doing a great job uncapping frames

I don’t think we could have made it as far as we have without the help of our friends. It’s been a rough weekend but we look at it as an opportunity to grow through trying times – limited hours and tight quarters, our two worst enemies. Maybe if we were still in our twenties, pulling an all-nighter might have been doable. Or even a half-nighter. We stayed up until 3:00a.m. Friday night in order to get through all the frames before we lose any more. Remember you only have a certain amount of time to get the honey off before the wax worms or beetles become a nuisance. While David, Mark and I finished off Friday night, we sure couldn’t have gotten to that end without all the help of friends who pitched in along the way, and after as well. We sure do appreciate it and you’ll forever be in our hearts. This is just one pair of the uncapping crews that we’ve had through the honey house over the past week. This is Bethany and Ryan from JW Marriott. They came, along with Brett, and stayed an entire morning and put in some great hours. Stan, Zach, Belinda, Dale, Joy, Pete, Jessica and Tim…y’all sure were a blessing to us and we just wanted to say THANKS. And thanks also to those of you who offered to pitch in a few hours. I put the word out there that we were done but next year, I think I will still schedule people to help with taking supers back out to bee yards and to clean up the honey everywhere!

We’ve got a bit of cleaning to do before the Pearl Farmers Market folks visit this Wednesday (rescheduled from last week). We’ll let you know how the visit goes. Meanwhile, y’all have a great week. We’re back at our full time jobs tomorrow but we’ll be thinking about the honey we’ve harvested and the small batch of maybe another 1000 pounds already on the supers the men put back earlier this week. Amazing year.

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Brent, Bethany and Ryan of JW Marriott

This morning Mark went and checked on the Marriott bees before heading to the library downtown. The report is good as you can tell from the full frames the chefs and culinary gardener are holding in the picture. Yay bees! Like we’ve said before, we weren’t sure what production would be like at that location and that we’d be happy if the bees survived. Well, they are surviving well (must be the resort and spa services they are enjoying) AND they are making some great honey for us. Wonderful news for all! Mark said that while they didn’t need to add any supers, he was happy with the way they are progressing. All hives look good and healthy and honey is being made. Good job, bees. We are really enjoying our partnership with the fine folks at JW Marriott and we are happy it has been working out.

Speaking of honey…who’s ready for some of the finest tasting honey around?? With our first dip into this year’s honey harvest we have pulled, extracted and bottled enough to start selling some to you all. We are still labeling and prepping but come next Monday, it’s ready for you to stop by anytime you are ready! One or both of us will be around the Bee Ranch on the dates listed below so we hope to see you here.

2012 Honey Sale Flyer

Please keep in mind that we are both now working full time jobs and so Mark won’t be around the Bee Ranch as often as he has been the past couple of years. We are usually here in the evenings after work and of course on weekends but if you plan to visit, it’s probably best if you could call or email us. We want to be here to meet you!

Phone: (830)305-7925
Email: info@gretchenbeeranch.com

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