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Friday view from my fave yellow hive - we love to see a storm brewing! #bees #beekeeping #sky #texas #gretchenbeeranch

As we continue to experience growth with our bees as well as our business, the work day keeps stretching out longer and longer and then here we are in Spring already. We are happy to report that our wet winter is rolling right into a somewhat wet spring and things are about as green as we would expect to see when we visit family along the east coast. Lush grasses and trees along with a multitude of wildflowers everywhere you turn your eyes. It truly is one of the best times to be in South Texas and certainly one of the best times to be a honeybee here. EXCEPT that if we don’t get a bit of good ole sunshine soon, it might end up not being a robust honey year. While rain is awesome, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. As Mark often says, conditions have to be just right for a great honey crop. We do need rain but the bees do need a good amount of dry, sunny days in order to fly and forage. There’s a noticeable gap recently in the wildflower blooming. We had massive ways of early Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes and of course sprinklings here and there of other flowers, however, the Indian Blankets which normally appear abundantly are appearing more lazily this spring. That makes an incredible honey so we have hopes of a robust bloom in about a week. In the picture below, I harvested some lavender from our little herb garden out back. Lavender blooms abundantly only with rainfall (versus hand watering) so this is my SECOND harvest of blooms! That should tell you how wet this spring has been. I’ve never been able to harvest enough of it to do anything with the blossoms so this year I am very excited to enjoy them for a while before drying them out. They smile divine! I’m going to infuse some oil and make our own lavender oil I’ve been reading up on lately. I think I will also try adding them to lip balm, which is next on my list of beeswax related items I’ve been developing for our personal use at this time. More on that in a bit.

Harvesting lavender

Today at lunch (one of our few quiet times we have together when we’re actually sitting down), Mark and I were discussing the move of our Cibolo Creek bee hives. We haven’t been there long but we liked it – close to home (just south of Seguin and just on the other side of the county line), made great honey, gorgeous landscape for photographs and just nature enjoyment. But recently we’d notice work getting done – fences going in, land getting cleared. We like to keep in close touch with our landowners so that we know what’s going on and how it might impact our bees. Long story short, we are very happy that two options may have presented themselves today to Mark. We’re so thankful when people meet with us to check out potential bee yard locations and it all happens to work out! Mark says the new locations are both near us so that helps with fuel cost as well as with time, which we find less and less available. Both weekend days are booked now with Pearl Farmers Market (which are both well attended and have been great for our business). Serving as president of the farmers market association has also taken up a lot more of Mark’s time than we anticipated so that’s been a real challenge. And while I can manage with the other social media platforms, it’s harder and harder to find time for an in-depth post on our beloved Bee Blog. So, forgive me. But honestly if you do have access to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, do find us. I am on there daily as it’s just easier to post pictures as we work and add a short description. Stick with us!

Well, I want to post this before it’s delayed any longer. I told Mark I have started about four times on this and it’s taking me over two weeks. LOL I am determined to get this up on the blog!!!! Take care and hope to catch up with you soon. Much love, Thien & Mark

Spring wildflowers at the Bee Ranch

This is a shot of some of our new hives Mark made up from strong hives this spring. I don’t even know what our current count is anymore for our own hives, but it’s been really wonderful to have had this spring to focus on them.

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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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First Bluebonnets of the 2014 in Seguin

These are the things I want to tell you about in this post. I have to make this list of three or else I will be all over the place since I have a million thoughts that want to be written.
1. Spring
2. The Honey House
3. Spring Open House

This could apply to many, many things right about now. Sometimes I have so many things I want to tell you guys that I don’t even know where to begin. Which reminds me that lately, Mark and I have so much going on that we sometimes feel on the edge of being overwhelmed and then we tell ourselves (and each other), okay slow down. Take a deep breath. Don’t freak. Make a list of the top three things you MUST do and go from there. Remember you cannot do ALL the things you have on your list/in your head to do.

Crazy eyes

Okay, it may just be me having those last thoughts. haha Mark is much calmer and cooler than I am like 99.9% of the time. I’m more of the Daffy Duck to his Bugs Bunny. That image came to my head as I was typing this.

Okay so did you see the Bluebonnets?!?! I spotted them not too far from the Bee Ranch but I had not been able to stop for a photo because the batch was at a pretty busy and somewhat dangerous intersection on Highway 725 and Interstate 10. BUT yesterday, I showed Mark when we were coming back from errands and he found a good safe spot for me. He’s so great to me. Anyway, it’s really exciting to see signs of spring – the Mesquite is even budding out now and many people believe that once the Mesquite does that, well, there are no more freezes coming our way. We will see and hope for that because the up and down weather patterns have killed back early bloomers quite a bit and people are sad about those losses. I was remembering last year when we brought back the nucs that all the Huisache was in full bloom and looking gorgeous (see picture of that loveliness on Flickr). This year? They still look dormant because what did start budding out pretty much froze off during one of the weird temperature dips. Oh well. They were so beautiful and abundant last year but still the bees didn’t touch it.

The Honey House on a drizzly night

And now a little update on the Honey House. It looked particularly special Saturday night when I went out there to get Mark for dinner. You see, it had been drizzling and/or raining pretty much all day! Talk about wonderful. We loved hearing it on the roofs of the house and the HH because the metal roofing sounds lovely. We just can’t believe it still – all that space is actually ours and it’s actually done and inspected and passed. And all we have to do is figure out work-flow and organization and then get our stuffs in there. We are SUPER excited about it and feel very blessed of course but it is causing some stress from time to time for the beekeeper. Poor man. So much he wants to do…tend to the bees, make candles, move into the HH, taxes (yay, almost ready to check this off the list), and then there’s life stuff. You know, we do try to have a little down time (a few hours here and there) once in a while. Here’s a peek inside (and no we do not have temperature control in there):

Visit to the Honey House one evening

Finally, I just want to mention we decided to have a Spring Open House since we had so much fun at the Holiday OH! Plus we hope to have things set up in the Honey House so we can tour y’all around. So, save the date and come visit the Bee Ranch! That’s a Sunday and the Open House will be the usual 2 to 6 p.m. More on that later this week (once I finish the flyer). Okay got to run, ciao and have a great day!

Update: Sorry, I got excited and forgot to say the Open House is APRIL 6. hehe

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Bees drinking feed

I have a few minutes before we need to go to bed since it’s market day tomorrow morning. I didn’t realize we’ve hit February without a post – SORRY!!! It’s just been so hectic with the Honey House nearing finish, bees needing checking and feeding, beeswax to filter and pour, and the list goes on. Anyway, it’s been good!

The above picture is a shot I snapped out at Comanche Creek in Medina County, where we visited last Sunday. It’s one of my favorite pictures because it looks like the bee on the left is sipping on the straw. haha It was such a beautiful day, warm and sunny. After several days of cold weather, we all were ready to be outside and so were the bees. They looked great and we are hoping for just a bit of rain so things can really pop! And we were happy to see some Agarita about to bloom and a couple of other bushes we didn’t know the names of yet. We’ll have to see how they bloom and then maybe we’ll figure out what they are. This is what Agarita looks like and it’s also about to bloom out at Deadman Creek, as reported by Mark and Tang today.

Agarita

And of course, since it is Valentine’s Day, I will say goodnight with a shot of a couple of the cards I made for my friends. I hope you had a wonderful day!

5-minute Valentine Cards

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Mac desktop all clean

Besides church in the morning, Sundays are now a little extra time to catch up on tasks around the house (both personal and for GBR) as well as some much needed time to simply rest. We’re not quite the spring chickens we used to be and while we aren’t ready for retirement, we just needed at least one day at home. That doesn’t mean we sit around watching football like we used to while we read the paper. There are plenty of things to do to keep the business and the home running – we just get to go at a more leisurely pace and when we’re not feeling so great (me), we get to actually go back to bed for a while. I was thankful for the extra rest yesterday, that’s for sure. And I also FINALLY had and made time to move my trillion-billion pictures off my computer and onto external memory. Phew. Been dreading that but now it’s done and my desktop and Mac are super clean and happy. Yay for time!

Anyway, in weather news – we got rain again! It started Saturday, overnight, and it’s been raining on and off through today. At lunchtime, I checked the radar and saw a line running north/south and moving across the area westward so I booked on home and got here in time to prep lunch and then we watched a strong rain shower come down on the Bee Ranch. The sound of it on the metal roof is quite lovely. 🙂 I think the rain gauge indicates about 4.5 inches of rain so far. This nice, lingering, soaking type of rain is great for the parched ground and it’ll certainly help with next year’s flowering season, which will certainly help with honey production we anticipate. Already, this fall has been better than last year’s fall in terms of moisture. The weather people predict a bit more rain this week – pretty exciting news around here. When we went out to collect pollen at Cibolo Creek yard, we saw the Bottle Brush fading but there was a bit of Bee Brush in bloom along with a variety of yellow wildflowers I haven’t looked up in our books yet. Pollen collection has gone well and the girls are quite productive. Mark has put away a decent amount of pollen for them and even made up several jars for people wanting pollen for allergy relief. I am thankful for it as well as my allergies have been quite manageable and only occasionally am I impacted by them. I am, however, very pleased that I can’t recall the last time I had an infection due to allergens. Yay! I used to get them several times a year once allergies entered my Texas life. Miserable, especially right about now with cedar, which I noticed just started appearing in the pollen reports I get emailed to me daily. Nerd, right? I like to know what’s in the air so I know what might be triggering any reactions. Anyway, I have put in my own order for some new pollen to ward off whatever this fall has in store for us. Yay for connections with the awesome beekeeper!

Check out these lovely mushrooms I spotted out at Big Oaks bee yard – really cool new things pop up when there’s actually rain!

Mushrooms at Big Oaks Bee Yard

Ohhh! Sundays are also for visiting and being with family and friends. So, in light of that, we want to make it official – we’ve set the date for our 4th Annual Holiday Open House at the Bee Ranch! We hope you can join us here at our Bee Ranch on Sunday, December 8. Like last year, it will run from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and there will be light refreshments, bees (as long as conditions permit us to bring them here and they won’t be bothered by it), me and Mark giving visitors our time and attention, candle shop tours and hopefully demos (depending on what’s cooling in the molds), honey tastings and shopping, of course! We always have a lot of fun so we hope to see a lot of you here. 🙂 I’ll post more information as the date drawers nearer.

In other news…

  • We will not be at Pearl Farmers Market this Saturday, October 19.  [We are actually having a mini-vacation! On an actual beach!]
  • Progress on the Honey House is actually occurring! Slowly but surely, that HH will get built. And we will appreciate every square foot of it. I am really hoping that there will be a slab, four walls and a roof at least. That’s all I need to have the Holiday Open House in there which would be so awesome! I’m praying we have at least that much done but if not, we’ll go with Plan B: The Party Garage. 🙂
  • The Spurs season is gearing up! You know we are crazy about our Spurs and especially about Tim Duncan (okay, I might be a little crazier about him than the beekeeper since TD’s an ACC guy). GO SPURS GO!
  • Smokey and Mark teamed up and got a rattlesnake in the backyard, in case you don’t follow our other social media outlets. About 3 feet long and hopefully that was the mate to the earlier one we spotted and shot at months ago. eeks.
  • The scorpions are out and about and I do not mean the band. We had two in the house this past week. Double eeks.

Okay, I’ll call that a wrap for the night. 🙂 Just wanted to catch you up a bit on us. Y’all have a super great week! Don’t forget to enjoy life and have a little fun each day!

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Gonzales Bee Yard

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

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

Frame full of honey

Here Mark was checking on the honey flow of 2010.

Gonzales bee yard

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

cow sniffs hive gonzales

And all the lovely flowers, too!

Wild poppy

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Me & Mark at Round 2, Game 2 Spurs/Grizzlies

Okay, the NBA Finals are on and I need distractions. To say we are fans is to put it lightly. We LOVE our Spurs! And I am a little on the intense side and sometimes I have to multitask during games so I can break up the stress. 🙂 Poor Mark has to listen to a lot of commentary (I have an awesome husband!). And to think I never even wanted to watch pro-basketball when I was growing up – only college ball for me. Then my brother took me to a Spurs game and I was hooked! And the rest is history.

So, on to the bee news since we are up by 6 with under four minutes to go. Some bee yards are doing well while others are just okay. And in one bee yard, you can have a hive that is cranking out honey production like crazy while the one next to it just isn’t quite as productive. We’ve been wondering if there is ever going to be a sustained honey flow this year – they just had the oddest weather to work with this year. Well, this week has given us a bit more hope. We’ll take whatever they give us but more is always better, given that demand has grown so much. So here’s a rundown of this week’s visits.

Bigfoot visit - honey frame 2

That’s a shot from Bigfoot bee yard in Frio County. Last visit when Mark was there, there wasn’t much to write home about but today…nearly every hive had a super of honey on it. Nice! By the way, he also sent this great picture while there – can you guess the significance of the ranch name? I loved it when he explained it. 🙂

Bigfoot visit - ranch life

Here’s yard #1 at Comanche Creek. A little on the dry side but it can always be worse. We’re thinking we may move this location since any rain looks like it’d come right through part of the yard and may wash away hives. We certainly don’t want that risk. I think Mark has already scoped out possible new spots.

Comanche Creek yard - panorama

The #2 yard is hanging in there and we’re hoping it will pick up again but as I always say, “It can always be worse.” At least we’re not losing bees and at least we have SOME honey in the supers. The girls were busy and barely took notice of us while we were there. I didn’t even have to put on my full suit and that’s always nice. Especially when it’s 95F degrees and feels 100F. Hot. Pretty amazing because when we checked the weather, it was 87F in Seguin. What a big difference. Trust me, you can definitely feel those extra degrees. In my next post, I’ll share a couple other pictures and a video I shot of how the bees keep cool in the heat. I don’t want to overload this entry with too much information.

Comanche Creek June 5 2013 visit

There was a lot of this beautiful brush down at Comanche Creek. I like this shot a lot because of the fantasy feel of the white bee brush – it was blooming everywhere and smelled wonderful and sweet. It was great to see the bees all over the place and that there was food aplenty this trip. While we’ve had some rain, it is still pretty hot and pretty dry. Typical Texas weather so it’s always going to be a challenge if you’re in farming and/or have livestock. Also in bloom down there and with on the blooms included plants such as the wild persimmon, sprinklings of yellow wildflowers (several varieties), Huajilla still holding on and some Mesquite as well. Plenty for them to choose from but the key is that it’s sustainable. The bees need the blooms to be prolonged and then they can continue the honey flow better than the previous stop-and-go blooming. We’ll hope it continues to go well for the bees there.

Bee brush and honey bee

On our way home, we stopped by the last sunflower field with any upright blooms left but I was happy to find any. And as a reward, there was a chubby, cute little wild bee on the bloom. She was so stout and adorable and not bothered by me whatsoever. This is my second year missing the peak bloom time so here’s to next season!

Castroville sunflowers

We didn’t get a shot from Deadman Creek but Mark did check on them and had to add four more supers so that’s great news! We are hopeful that this will be sustained for a while so that they girls can keep on making the honey. Can’t wait to see what the harvest will be like this year. We anticipate harvest will begin in a week or so…pretty soon. Stay tuned.

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