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Archive for the ‘My Father's Farm’ Category

New divides check

Now that the summer harvest is over and equipment’s been cleaned (thanks to the awesome work of our Belinda!), it’s time to tend to the bees to make sure they are ready for fall and winter. We tell people who go through our classes or who buy our bees – treat for mites, feed when they’re hungry, check on the bees. Do it now.

In the above picture, which I snapped right before dinner this evening, Mark is checking on the new divides we have out back to make sure things are going well. He’s looking to make sure queens are accepted; he’s feeding hives that look like they might need a little boost (nothing much for them to feed on lately); he’s making sure he doesn’t see some problem that needs to be handled immediately. Happy news is that they are looking good so far; strong and doing well with their new queens that were recently installed. This makes us feel more confident that they will head into winter months able to sustain themselves into next spring. It’s what every beekeeper wants, right? To know that their bees will be okay over winter. So far, so good but some rain would sure help the girls make some honey for their winter store. We’re always hoping. At least there are more clouds in the sky lately. That helps keep us below the 100 degree mark which makes a big difference believe it or not. The mornings seem more pleasant and actually a bit on the cool side (don’t want to say that too loudly for fear it will change on us suddenly). Today only got up to about 94 I believe. Cool front! lol

In mite news, Mark’s been treating with Apivar right now and he’s completed Cibolo Creek, Elm Creek and Big Oaks bee yards. Each hive had to be opened and each box of the hive receives two strips per brood box. It’s much easier to handle than Hopguard and has proven to be very effective for our bees. He’ll continue with treatments with each yard; he’s got quite a few more to go.

In addition to the treatments, he also had Stan help him move emptied honey supers and other equipment out of the The Farm location and into a new storage facility – a temporary solution until we get that honey house built. Here’s our new storage at the warehouse our friend Mary is letting us use – we’re only taking up a small portion of the space but it’s a huge help to us!

G&G Warehouse

Another view:

G&G Warehouse

It’s going to be so nice to have our own space one day soon! I love it when things are neatly piled in their places. Of course, you can necessarily tell that by looking at our house right now but I do. lol Okay, here’s a look at the before shot of the former storage space at the Farm (this is just one side of the space we used so there’s some equipment to the right of the picture you cannot see here):

Moving out of The Farm storage space

And here is how Mark and Stan left it – nice and very clear, ready for whatever new adventures await the spooky-ish greenhouse:

Moving out of The Farm storage space

In Honey House news, it’s moving along! Engineers and drawings completed, septic system designed, building purchased and plans in review…things are getting lined up. At this rate, we are hopeful that the HH will be ready (enough) to host our annual Holiday Open House, which is usually in November. Keep your fingers crossed!

In market news, we had to drop Southtown market for several reasons but we are rooting for the other vendors that the market will be successful. We’re just pretty worn out, to be honest with you. The 7-day work week in the heat is wearing on us and let’s face it, while we’re not in our golden years, we’re not spring chickens anymore either. 🙂 We need some kind of rest that’s more than the Sunday afternoons after markets are done. Anyway, we’re still at two markets and we hope you’ll continue to support all your local farmers, ranchers and producers no matter which market you support. We have an entire new level of appreciation for the growers of our foods and we feel blessed to have had the chance to meet all these fine, hard-working people who we now consider friends. Please support them as best you can. Thanks!

Random market story: We met a young group of friends last Sunday at market and one of them was Vietnamese and she asked me if I’d heard of or sampled a new trendy delicacy – bee larvae in puddings or porridges. No. I can’t say I’ve had it but I have heard of it and not too long ago, actually! A beekeeper in Hawaii that I follow on Instagram posted about the protein provided by bee larvae and how people harvest some of those for that purpose…that’s about as close as I’ll probably get to consuming them. I don’t see myself trying that since I look at bee larvae and I see a honeybee to be. Oh well, still interesting to learn new things.

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Hives at Elm Creek

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

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

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

Pizza Bee Yard

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

Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market

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Farm 2012 hives 2

Now that Mark is back full time, there’s a lot of catch up work going on. Here’s an update on some of his activities since he got back to GBR.

Coyote Bee Yard: We lost one hive there and pulled a couple of honey supers still left there. No coyotes spotted. And no goats either (as we normally see and/or hear).

The Farm Bee Yard: The picture above is from the Farm yard. I haven’t been out there in a while with Mark so he snapped this for me. He pulled about ten honey supers off the hives there and looking forward to extracting them. It’s been amazing what this year has yielded in our honey production and we are very happy and thankful for it all.

Restocking: Mark has restocked at Ta’s in Marion as well Lily’s Cookies in SA. Also got that order to JW Marriott for the trip up to New York City (You must say this in that Texas cowboy twang like on the salsa commercial – I wonder if I drive Mark crazy sometimes saying that. I can’t help it. Our honey is going to NYC and it’s exciting and fun! And for some reason that makes me use a twang.) Back to business – there should also be a good supply at Gift & Gourmet here on the town square of Seguin.

Administrative Work: There’s a LOT of catch up work here and I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, Mark will be busy, busy, busy between the bees, balancing the books, weekend markets and moving. Yep. We’re trying to move and the big move is coming up this weekend. Wish us luck. [BTW, if you want my undying gratitude and if you have time to help on Sunday, let me know! There’s pizza in it for you. :)]

Hopguard: It’s time to treat the bees for mites so Mark begins the rounds tomorrow. Elm Creek is first and then he’ll just continue on with the rest of the bee yards. No more powdered sugar treatments at this time.

A new honey: Check out our new Texas Clover harvested from the Runge Bee Yard down south of us about two hours. Yummm. Very light in flavor and people responded well to it last weekend at Market. We’ll have to try and get more sizes bottled before Saturday. Now that Mark is back home, we hope traffic will pick back up here at the Honey House. Can’t wait to get our new Honey House built and a big, welcoming GBR sign put up out front. And a retail space. And a honey bar. 🙂

Texas Honey

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A tray of moth crystals

Hi everyone. My sister and nephew are now safely back in North Carolina and we are missing them already. We had a super week with them here and my sister Lan in SA came to hang out as well and to help in the honey house with all my chores – what a great family and what a great time we had. We’re just sad Mark had to work all week but we enjoyed our time with him once he got home. After the ride to the SA airport and a nap to make up for just five hours of sleep (that’s what happens when you try and squeeze in just a few more things the night before family leaves), I accompanied Mark out to the Farm yard to place some empty boxes in storage. These were the boxes we pulled from Big Oaks when Thuy and Alec went with us.

He’s placing a plate full of moth crystals on the top of each stack before putting the lids back on in order to prevent wax moths from setting into the honeycomb. We are slowing down on honey production (hopefully Mesquite) and so we don’t need so many of the supers. We’re waiting for the honey to dry a bit more before the next round of extraction, a smaller one though we anticipate perhaps a couple thousand more pounds of honey. What a year!

We went out to a few bee yards with Thuy and Alec and here are just two of my many favorite memories from last week. The first one is me and Alec riding on the truck bed together, trying to stay on while his Uncle Mark drove all crazy from the hives to the gate. Alec loved it and so did I. But I have to admit I was a little nervous I was going to bounce right off that truck.

Me & Alec having a grand time

And here’s one of Alec and Thuy as they prepare to ride out of Big Oaks. Thuy said she hadn’t done that in so long and she had a great time! As did we while they were here. Love our families. 🙂

Alec & Thuy ready to ride

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Full shot of the newer hives at the Farm

After about a week of dreary weather, the sun shined brightly today and it turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day in the neighborhood so you know what that means – bee work! The picture above is the second of two locations of hives we have at My Father’s Farm on Highway 123. We usually just call it The Farm bee yard now for short. Mark and David picked this location for the fifty or so hives they brought back from East Texas last year. Then they move hives to other yards as they are ready. Hard to believe how different everything is this year compared to last year. They actually made up twenty new hives last week out of this yard. Very nice. We’re going to need more bees to make honey with all the beautiful flowers we have popping up everywhere!

I saw some really wonderful things today and I can post all the shots I would like to so I’m going to point you to the Flickr set for The Farm bee yard. You can see what I saw today. 🙂 Meanwhile, let me hit the highlights for you here. The Bluebonnets are here! The Bluebonnets are here! Now, they are only just starting to come out, but it’s lovely to see them sprinkled here and here. I especially love that the bees are getting after the pollen on the blooms. I think that pollen is the red we see them carrying in. Speaking of which, they are carrying in a great amount of pollen – it’s so nice to see our bees gearing up for spring! Things are really just about to burst around here. Last year, Mark reminded me it was already about 90 degrees this time of the year. I’m so glad this year has brought us abundant rain to catch up from the drought and the temperatures have been very pleasant. No complaints here!

Bee on Bluebonnet 3

For a while, I watched Mark introduce his Big Island queens from Hawaii – he had about eighteen to do I believe. The caged queens have been in there two days now and so Mark took out the cork and put in a candy stopper for each queen. Now she and her assistants will eat their way out just as the hive bees will also eat their way in to release her. It’s so neat to learn the whole queen introduction process Mark goes through each time with each queen. You really have to be patient so that you don’t rush the introduction and in that way, the bees will have time to adjust to and accept their new queen. There was one incident of taking eyes away from the cage for a second or two to switch out the stoppers and then poof – she disappeared on Mark! Poor thing. We couldn’t find her but fortunately he had an extra queen.

Taking out the cork on the queen cage 4

Have you ever seen a bee come out of it’s cell for the first time? It’s really neat to watch and you have to be super patient (gee, beekeeping = patience I guess) because it just takes time to watch the frame of bees. I saw this for the first time at one of our past events where we had the observation hive. It was so fun to watch it happen with the folks who stopped by to visit our booth. I was amazed to learn that they know, as soon as they “hatch out” of their cells, that they are to turn right around and clean it out to prepare it for use again. My goodness – couldn’t ask for a better tenant and worker, right? Anyway, I got a real treat today! I got to see not one, not two…but THREE bees coming out of their cells at the same time. And drones at that – those big boys made me laugh and I felt like a proud parent cheering them on. Sort of reminded me of that scene from Jurassic Park (first one) where the park creator watched baby dinosaurs hatching out of their eggs. 🙂 Anyway, here are the triplet drones. They are in the center of the picture and their heads are sticking up – versus most other bees you see working a frame, their heads are often sticking down into the cell as they clean, store pollen, etc.

Drones emerging from cells

We had a wonderful weekend even though the rains meant we actually canceled our bee class for the first time ever. But the rain did not keep everyone away – we still had several visitors to the honey house and we really enjoyed meeting our new friends and future students (yes, they’re all coming back!). We also had some time to prepare some materials for our hive sponsors. We have to get things ready for sharing with the two schools sponsoring hives. We’re excited to take this journey with all the staff and students! Okay I should probably stop here or else this post could just go on too long. You all have a great week and we’ll keep you posted on all the things we are doing to gear up for what could be a great season!

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Growth Spurt

A peek inside at the Farm yard

We are very happy with the growth of our hives this year, especially compared to last year during the drought when we just could not get them to grow. This is one of the 50 or so hives we brought in from East Texas last fall as single story hives. We began adding second brood boxes in early February and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Good rains and a heavy pollen flow have worked miracles on our hives.  It’s a good thing too because we’ll be making nucleus hives with these bees just as soon as we receive our new queens, scheduled for delivery on March 8. That should give us time for one more round of feeding and a round of mite treatment with HopGuard.

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In the hive 10

Hi everyone. This week has been filled with lots of different activities – from visiting a friend’s garden property to our class today with sales and visits in between as well emails and so on. We had a great class this morning despite it being a bit on the chilly side. It has been a long time since we had a cozy class of six. A small class allows for more personal conversation, getting to know each other. Thanks for joining us, folks! In the picture above, Mark was able to show the students a lot of things in the hive today, including the process through which he counts mites. On this board, they were able to see a beetle (squished after show and tell), beetle larvae and mites that had been groomed off the bees. Nice!

Me at Mike's Altwein Farm

Speaking of class, in the above photo, we visited with Mike, a former student, at his nearby garden, half-way between Seguin and New Braunfels. Always a great time visiting with Mike – he is so enthusiastic about things he does and he has marvelous gardens. The vegetables he sends back with us are amazing! We are thrilled to work with him to get hives on his gardens in the near future.

David & Mark discuss an upcoming event

Finally, I wanted to share a shot I particularly like of David and Mark as they plan the takeover of the world through bees and honey. 🙂 They are so fun and I knew they were out at the Farm yard Friday afternoon so I hoped over there after work to catch a bit of the great outdoors before it got too dark. The bees were really flying these days and that’s wonderful to see.

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