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Archive for the ‘Pizza Yard’ Category

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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June requeen Pizza

It has been cloudy and cold all day to ring in the new year and of course, that makes Mark long for the summer sun so he asked me to post a picture of a typical summer day here in South Texas. What better representation than our Pizza Bee Yard out towards Gonzales, which is east of Seguin about an hour. We hope you have been enjoying the holiday season as much as we have this year. It’s been a big year for us and we were happy to be busy but also happy to have had a little rest the past couple of days. It feels as if we’ve been moving at 95 miles per hour non-stop since….spring perhaps. We were blessed to have my dad and brother visit from Florida – loved showing them the markets and work we do and they also seemed to enjoy their time with us and Lan. Lots of fun and now missing them as things quieted down again around the house.

With a break from my other full time job, I was so happy last week to be outside with Mark at a bee yard again. It has been a while and I really didn’t want to miss out on the almost perfect day – look at that blue sky! It was absolutely gorgeous out that day last week. Air was dry and crisp though a bit windy. We waited until it hit the 60s and then we went out to Nash Creek. The bees like that area and produced good honey there this year so we’re looking forward to seeing how they do next season. It’s a small yard so we’ll be looking to grow in hive number though likely in a different Nash Creek location. Not sure where yet. The hives looked robust though there was one slightly lackluster one that Mark fed in hopes of reviving it. We sure needed rain and thankfully we finally got some rain to welcome in the new year. Yay for the bees! Let’s pray for more rain. We’re going to need more if we’re going to have another booming honey harvest in 2013.

Nash Creek yard check 2

Here’s one of our lovely and quite large queens Mark let me spot in one of the hives. I like to keep in good practice with picking out the queens, especially when they are not marked.

Nash Creek yard check 6

After we checked on the bees, we dropped off some equipment for storage at The Farm yard. Plus Mark wanted to check on the new Hansvold bees he and Stan picked up a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a panoramic shot of where we store some of our equipment during winter months.

Storage area at The Farm yard

And on the same property but on the other side of the road, we have the little nursery where the Hansvold bees will remain until spring. At that time, we’ll either move them into other yards or we’ll sell some of them. They did so well for us last year and we were really pleased to be able to get some more of them to add to our apiary.

The Farm Nursery 3

One more shot just because I just love the Century Cacti that grow around here. 🙂

The Farm Nursery 7

And finally, I want to send a special hello to our my sweet friend Mary of NC – hi Mary! We finally got your wonderful card, sweet girl. Thank you for thinking of us here at the Bee Ranch. We can’t wait to see you later this month!

Enjoy the new year, friends! And bee safe. [Sorry, couldn’t resist that.]

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Broom weed at Pizza Yard

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

HIpstamatic beekeeper 4

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

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

Frame of honey at Gonzales yard

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

Queen cells 2

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

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

Lovely evening for a fire out

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

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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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Mark gets to work pulling supers

You wouldn’t think this is August really if you look at that picture, would you? It’s been hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry. Yet I was so pleased to see all the little flowers blooming in the fields both at Big Oaks and the Pizza yards. However, when we got a closer look at Pizza yard, we did see a sign of the dry ground – a hive was down. 😦 Luckily, Mark was able to right the boxes but they sure weren’t too happy. Not horribly mean but I sure was happy I was covered up. I had about five irritated girls poking at my veil. Interesting behavior and I was fascinated. Mark said they were trying to intimidate me. Hmmm.

Looks like the ground gave way

By the way, we were ONE degree off the record temperature today, I just heard the weatherman say. It was 101 degrees! Yikes. So far, I think this is one of the hottest weeks so far this year. Booooo. Tomorrow will be 101 again. Sigh. I need a pool.

We are busy and we are thankful but you know what? I can’t wait for the beekeeper to get back to beekeeping full time! We have so much going on it’s hard to keep up with everything! He works long hours but we’re hoping that will be finished soon. I try to run errands for home and GBR during lunch hours and post work but even then we have a long list still. Speaking of which, we still haven’t finished extracting and we need to be thinking about splitting hives as well. Better than being bored I suppose. I think I’ve said it before but I don’t know how anyone could possibly be bored with life. There sure is a lot to do.

We’re gearing for Pearl again. We’re getting pretty good at it and it is going so smoothly we can hardly believe it! We’re having a good time and it’s been great for the business. Sure are happy we got accepted!

Before I leave you, I want to show you some other hazards the bees are facing again this summer…drought brings out some funny creatures. There are spiders galore!

Lurking Spider at Big Oaks

The above spider can be found all over the countryside. Around the Big Oaks yard we saw at least three big webs and many little bees caught up in them. Very smart of the spiders to build near the hives. Here’s another type of spider we saw at the Pizza yard.

Unidentified spider

Finally, despite this not being a great picture because it’s hard to focus an iPhone on a flying insect buzzing around preying another flying insect…

Robber fly & predator

Something that chases the robber fly! Remember them? I blogged about them last summer when they were abundant during the drought and they preyed on our poor little bees, catching them and draining the liquid out of our girls. Fascinating how nature works. Well I do not know what the black creature is to the left in the picture but it followed the robber fly around, zipping here and there. Then when the brown robber fly (on right and landed on a weed) would land somewhere, that black thing would hover near the fly, two appendages (not sure if they are legs or what) pop out in front and then charge it. It was pretty neat. The black thing looked like a creature out of a science fiction flick. Anyway, I find those things interesting and I love it when I get to accompany Mark to bee yards. Always seeing something new and learning. 🙂

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Gorgeous Texas day

Today we ushered in the new year with a gorgeous day – full of warm sun but with a slightly nippy wind, especially out in the countryside. We took a drive out to the Pizza bee yard in Gonzales and feed the bees. They look pretty decent and one hive in particular was fantastically robust, literally filled to the brim with beautiful golden bees. Mark said he wished he could get them all to be like that. 🙂

I didn’t take a ton of photos, believe it or not, but I did manage to snap one close-up of the robust hive. I was struck by their light golden coloring. When Mark opened the hive up…we both were astounded by the sheer thickness of bees in there. Good job, girls!

Sweet golden bees at Pizza Yard

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Poor bee

As if the drought and extreme heat were not enough of a challenge this year, we have a new threat to our sweet bees, especially at the Pizza yard. It took a couple of days to identify this creature but we now know it is a robber fly and it was chowing down on our bees! I first noticed them flying about the yard as I wandered around snapping away on my camera, enjoying being outdoors, listening to Mark and David work the hives. Then I noticed how big they were and how they resembled mosquitos. Mosquitos and I do not like each other. I don’t mind them but they like to chow down on me so we can’t live in harmony I’m afraid. Anyway, for this reason I was weary of these flying, giant mosquito like critters. So of course I snapped some shots to show Mark since I’d never seen this type of insect before in our bee yards. THEN I saw it’s odd movements…CREEPY! When I saw this guy with one of our bees, I was horrified but fascinated. Poor bee. It appears (and my coworkers and I confirmed this with a little research today) that the evil robber fly sometimes hunts its prey for up to 20 minutes and when they least expect it (imagine innocent bee going about her business gathering nectar and pollen), they are pounced upon by this alien-look-alike and then the liquid in their little bodies are sucked out of them. Gruesome. We all agree it’s straight out of a horror science fiction flick – yes, there’s been a LOT of discussion about the evil robber fly. Anyway, thought you might like to see one of the perils facing our bees this year. Look for a movie about giant 6-foot robber bees terrifying beekeepers and beekeeper’s wives/photographers. I’m going to write a screenplay one day when I have time. Meanwhile, I will entertain my friends and coworkers with tales of our alien-creature beeventures.

I posted a short 17-second video of the robber fly on our Facebook should you wish to see it. I’ve been having trouble loading to YouTube still so I am frustratingly taking a break from the YT.

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