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Archive for the ‘pollen’ Category

Sunflowers from Naegelin Farms

First off, let me just say that although it turned out to be the hottest days yet this spring (upper 90s and we felt it on the asphalt at markets), we really had a great time being back at both the Pearl and the Quarry markets. We sure miss our friends – both vendors and customers – when we are not at market! And how nice to know they missed us as well. 🙂 Thanks for the love, everyone. I am also thrilled to once again restock our produce, meats and eggs and I even grabbed several beautiful sunflowers from our next door neighbor vendor, Naegelin Farms, for my mom’s prayer table. They are at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market. These things make me so happy!

You should see all the wonderful things you can buy at market – check out my Flickr set for examples. I told Mark starting in June, I will keep track of how much we spend each weekend at the markets. I want to see some numbers since I have been feeling as if my initial assessment may be inaccurate – that you spend more eating better when you buy at farmers market than if you buy at the usual grocery stores. I really think we’ve been spending less because what we do buy last a LOT longer than what we used to buy at stores. But I want collect real data on that. We both LOVE buying our vegetables, meats, eggs, plants/flowers and eats at market. It’s better quality products; it’s made by people we’ve met and have gotten to know; it’s not been “chemicalized” and is as fresh and real as you can get…it’s an amazingly reassuring feeling to know where things come from and to know the hands that brought it all to market. Anyway, I’ll let you know what I discover. All that to say this, if you haven’t tried the farmers markets yet, you should. Even if you aren’t there for us, you should check out the other products. I think you’ll like it. Here are just some of the wonderful things I look forward to preparing this week. Not included here are: fresh bread, tilapia, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, chicken, and eggs.

Some of the goodies from Pearl market today

And these beauties from Oak Hills Farm out of Poteet and at the Pearl Farmers Market:

Berries from Oak Hills Farm

AND…we introduced our newest honey at the Quarry market today to a very, very warm reception! I don’t have the numbers in front of me but informally, we both felt the Cenizo out-sold the Wildflower AND the Huajilla today. It’s really delightful – a blend of both flavors in my opinion. Not as flowery as the Wildflower Honey but more body than the Huajilla Honey. You’re going to have to taste it yourself soon and let us know what you think. 🙂

Cenizo Blossom Honey at the Quarry Market now

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Small swarm

Since I am fielding calls quite frequently about bees swarming here and there, I thought I’d do a quick post on a few things that I have found interesting so far this week. First of all, a few words about swarms – they are not necessarily cause for alarm, folks! Bees are actually quite gentle in this state for several reasons. Simply put, they have no home at this point to defend and they are actually quite full of honey so who cares about stinging people. They’ve got to look for a home all while clustered around their queen to keep her safe. That’s right. She’s in the middle of all the bees you might see hanging from a tree, fence, building, air conditioning unit (yep, remember when Mark removed one a few years ago?) or some such place. Usually they will stay only a few days or until they find a new home. While most of the bees are clustered, some scout bees will venture about seeking the perfect space to make their home. Somewhere closed typically so that it’s easily defended. Anyhow, just wanted you to know this is happening right now so you know what it is and why you don’t need to panic. Next topic…

Isn’t she adorable!? When Mark showed me this picture, he knew what my reaction would be – delight. He knows me. I was delighted for sure. She was covered in pollen! She must have rolled all around the flowers. lol They can be so silly and so much like children in my opinion. I love to hear about them and see what they are doing. If you can’t see the bee with pollen dust, look in the upper left quadrant of the photo and see if you can spot the one bee with wings that look mustardy. That’s her. 🙂

That's a dusty girl

In other bee-related news, we got moves going on left and right. Yep, the bees are getting shuffled around. We don’t actually move our hives around too much but when conditions warrant it, it happens. This particular move below was several hives going from the Big Oaks nursery to the Gonzales bee yards. You know how we love the Gonzales honey so here’s hoping they have a great year. I just had some Gonzales Wildflower in my cup of coffee – oh my it was delish. I sometimes forget just how smooth that county honey is – not sure why but it doesn’t seem to crystalize as quickly either. Too bad we didn’t make a lot of it last honey season – this jar was in my reserve. It pays to know the beekeeper, eh? By the way, the ice you see helped keep the bees cool during the drive as it was in the mid-80s that day. We don’t want them overheating while sitting on the truck. They made it just fine.

Moving more hives

Tomorrow Mark and Stan will move more bees – this time from Runge to a new yard they will establish in…wait for it…wait…BIGFOOT!! Finally! I get to write about Bigfoot; got to love that name. Here’s the sign I snapped when we visited the first time –

Bigfoot, Texas

It had such a neat feeling to it. Can’t wait to see what honey is like there. The farm we will be on is amazing. Well, the owner and his crew are what make it amazing. I have a Frio County Farm Visit Flickr set (of course) in case you want to see what the area looks like. We loved it and we can’t wait to work the bees down there! And a word about why we’re moving the bees: There isn’t much for the bees to feed on right now in Runge and they are looking pretty sad. We need to move them somewhere they’ll have some food so they won’t starve to death. This is what you do. You watch and care for them and you help them when they need you, which may not be often but this is a prime example. Sometimes we have people call us and ask our opinion about their hives. Sometimes we can help, sometimes it’s too late. Sometimes something could have been done to help the bees if intervention came sooner. So, here’s some advice for our new beekeepers – get in your hives on a regular basis. If you don’t know exactly when to check on them, at least read this blog or other beekeeper blogs and do what they do. When they check hives, you check hives. When they feed, you feed. When they treat for mites, you treat for mites. 🙂 One of the best ways to learn is to do. So open up those hives and keep an eye on your gals! And few guys.

Okay, I think that’s about it for now. Not bad for a mid-week post. 🙂 Now, I have candles to wrap for market. Lots of candles. Yay! OOOOOH! Forgot to tell y’all that we sold our first bucket o’ unrefined wax to a company that specializes in some very nice looking beauty care products. We’ll let you know how things progress. ALSO…we have signed on to be a participant at the Artisan’s Market being hosted by the La Cantera William-Sonoma! Exciting! More on that soon. It’ll be on a Saturday (April 27) from noon to 4:00 p.m. Can’t wait to share all the varieties of honey with folks and we hope to see as many of YOU ALL out there! That’d be awesome!

Okay, for real this time. Goodnight. 🙂

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Mystery flower at Comanche Creek March 29

Does anyone know what this might be? Our friend suggested Crabapple but if it is, then it is of a very small variety compared to the typical bloom. All we know is that it is abundant out at Comanche Creek and our bees seem to LOVE it. They were all over it when I went with Mark last Friday – which, by the way, was one of my best days off ever! Even though it now seems long ago, it still makes me happy to think I got to kick off a 3-day weekend hanging out with my most awesome beekeeping husband! It was a beautiful day here – cool enough to sit out back with a customer for a bit while we waited for Mark to bring back a few nucs for pick-up. I packed a lunch and we headed to Comanche Creek after that. I always enjoy riding around with Mark because you never know what we’ll see or who we get to meet! There’s always an adventure out there if you just are open to it. I love being with him.

Anyway, enough of the mushy stuff, I’m sure you’re thinking. Okay so today Mark went out to CC again to feed the bees. He wants them really nice and strong as can be before the Huajilla blooms in earnest. And they send pictures home of a big ole rattlesnake. Another one in our life is not my idea of nice. One in the back yard is still worrisome (along with a den we still need to deal with eventually) but the one they saw was as big as a man’s forearm. Too big for me. They heard him when they were opening the third gate to get to the bee yards on the ranch. 😦 Very worrisome that we are going to continue to run into more of them. And to think all these years we’ve gone without seeing any. And now two within two weeks. Eeeks. Snake boots and a gun. Mandatory gear for a while I think. Mark told me when we recapped our day that there might be a market for these rattlers if he and Stan catch them. WHAT?? I hope he’s kidding.

Guess what – it’s finally coming down hard here at the Bee Ranch! How exciting! I won’t have to water yet, which is always nice but even nicer is that it will be a great boost for our bees. Yay rain! You wouldn’t believe how often we all check the forecasts and radars. lol

Let’s see what else is going on – bee checks and feedings, that’s what. We moved several more hives out to CC so it’s proving to be one of our larger yards. Still amazing to us to be on a ranch that big and have two separate yards in which to place the bees. Still more amazing is that every time we go out there, we get to see amazing beauty. We feel so incredibly blessed when we experience that!

I have so many things I want to show you from out there. Here’s CC #2 yard, named #2 only because we scouted the location second during our very first visit.

Mark at Comanche Creek March 29 3

They were flying like crazy out there. The hum of the bees was amazing. I’m glad I was fully suited as a couple of girls got irritable since it turned cloudy and a bit breezy. And if you missed it on Facebook, here’s a video I captured while at CC #1. Be sure to watch the HD version so it’s a better picture. I shoot it in HD but the default setting for YouTube viewing is less than that so you have to manually choose it. If there’s a way to change that default, you can tell me. 🙂

While at CC #1, I also saw beautiful Bluebonnets that I just had to shoot.

Bluebonnets at Comanche Creek March 29 2

I saw a few bees in there and I captured a couple of shots though none good enough to share in my opinion. Their buzzing, however, did lead me to find them not on the flowers, but on the ground taking in water at the end of the tank. Funny little girls. They need lots of water so we are happy the tanks levels are still up at this time. The tank is just down the hill from the yard location so it’s perfect for the bees.

Here’s another shot I really liked – check out her pollen basket! So cool. At this point, dressed in my full suit on top of my jeans, boots and so on, I was level with the entrance and could enjoy watching them coming and going for quite some time. It was nice to feel secure in my suit and not be a bother to them. They are just so fascinating to watch. Sometimes they tumble a bit when they land, which is hilarious. I also saw at another hive that there were several bee fights going on as they rob from each other sometimes when we feed them. Silly girls, they sure cracked me up jumping on each other and rolling right off the landing of then entrance.

Bees at entrance at Comanche Creek March 29 4

Okay, one more. I told Mark I noticed the gigantic red ants were nearby and I tracked their huge home up at the top of the hill. It was huge. And they do bite and it does sting and I do swell a bit. FYI – don’t think they are harmless. Anyway, he later called to me and showed me a hilarious sight – here’s why we don’t mind the ants in bee yards.

ants with hive beetle and bee

That little ant just chugged along with his hive beetle larvae. He had a long way to go up that hill but I watched him and snapped his progress. It was so interesting! He moved faster than you’d think. And then I saw this other ant headed the same way; really, you cannot help but see them because they are HUGE. Anyway, the second ant had half a bee (our bee!) and was headed home. For some reason, this just really fascinated me. It was like a race and the hive beetle ant was beating the bee ant by a long shot. It was fun to watch them and this was all just a fraction of the fun I had that day at Comanche Creek with Mark. 🙂 I am a lucky, happy girl.

If you would like to see more pictures of our Comanche Creek bee yards, you can swing over to our Flickr photo set and enjoy. 🙂

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The British Invasion queen

I am determined to write this before I hit the sack since we have a long day tomorrow. Remember that new approach to queen installation/introduction I mentioned? This was the hive that we got from Jester Bees in Florida but they had lost their Jester queen and had made their own, which we didn’t want. Mark put the Big Island queen in and did the heavy smoke and release approach. Well, Mark went back in today and it has only been three days…and there she was! Still alive and well AND laying eggs. Amazing! He was quite pleased and will continue to monitor her and the hive. He said he may also try a few more to see how it goes. Sure would save time and energy if it works consistently. We’ll keep you posted.

Rattlesnake hole

In other news, Smokey found (or ran across) a rattlesnake in the back area of our yard where the candles shop and our supplies and equipment are! Yikes. I didn’t have a zoom lens so that pic of the den is all you get. I was on watch while Mark went to find the gun and ammunition. The den is a little close to home. It appears the den is along the tree line and Smokey was between the snake and its den. Fortunately he got Mark’s attention somehow and did not move from the area until Mark came over (cautiously, for he heard that awful rattling sound). We are pretty proud of that cat of ours and we are glad he didn’t get hurt. I’m really glad Mark didn’t happen upon him unsuspectingly – it’s an area we venture into to look at what’s blooming in the field. Now we know to watch our step. I have never heard a rattlesnake before in real life and it is somewhat creepy. Mark’s right – you can’t really tell exactly where it’s at when you hear it! 😦

Danielle helping Mark make up some nucs

Back to bee news – that’s our friend and former student, Danielle, helping out at Big Oaks bee yard today. She and Mark prepared enough nucleus hives (nucs) for our students and customers tomorrow. It got a little warm and Danielle wasn’t feeling so great by the end of the day so we sure hope she feels better soon!

While I was working, Mark also sent this great shot of the bees carrying some beautiful pollen – we certainly love to see this!

That's some nice pollen they're carrying in today.

Okay, I had better say goodnight and see you tomorrow. Remember, Mark’s in class here. I’m downtown on the Seguin square for Seguin Trade Days (9-4p) and Lan will be celebrating her LAST DAY AT THE PEARL (!!) with Sonia and Danny. 😦 Be sure to swing by there and wish her well as she’s moving soon! We sure are going to miss one of our top sales guru. Thank you for all you’ve done for us Lan!

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Black Brush in Frio County

Well, it’s been busy! Before we go to bed, I wanted to do a little update. First and foremost on my mind – we got 1.25″ of rain!!! It sounded like a train ran over our metal roof and it was loud like I have never heard it but it was awesome! I was so tired from work and then market and an evening event that I registered the thunderstorm, gave thanks for it and then went right on back to my slumber. Poor Mark apparently was up most of the night and then next thing you know – we were up at 5a for market. I don’t care what the sprung forward clock said, it sure FELT like it was 5a. Painful the first night especially when you are already beat. Anyway, we were happy for the market and then rain and the friends who joined us to help. We appreciate it all!

Secondly, things are really starting to come out – from leafs to buds to blooms. The top picture is of Black Brush Mark saw while visiting the Youngbloods down in Frio County. Todd says the bees don’t go to this even though you’d think they would, right? I’ve never seen a plant such as this – bursting with blooms. Wish I could have show my mom all these blooms coming out now. She would have enjoyed it as she has an incredible green thumb. Now here’s another shot I loved because I want to see it in full bloom and to see the fruit would be fun – the Wild Persimmon! I have a fondness for Persimmons as it is so these hold a special appeal to my heart.

Wild Persimmon

So pretty! That was in Frio County as well and I can’t wait to see if we get any in our own bees yards. With so many scattered across several counties, I’m hoping we’ll have a chance to see them so I can photograph some of them for myself. I love doing that. Next post, I will post some of the shots I snapped at Comanche Creek of blooms we are uncertain of so that perhaps you all can help identify them. 🙂

For the coming week, we have a lot going on. In a nutshell and just so you know what’s going on with the bee part of our world, Mark’s schedule is about to get real tight again. It’s the feeding, nurturing and checking of the bees time of year. We have to make sure the bees are as ready as possible for things that are about to burst. We need them out there foraging as much as possible but in the meantime, he’ll spend a good part of this week feeding the bees and treating for mites. We have been happy with the state of the bees and we are encouraged about the coming honey season, especially with the rain we just received. It was widespread and long enough a storm cell to cover most all of our dozen or so bee yards. Just have to wait and see how it plays out. Just like farming sometimes. 🙂 Even our nucs are doing well with their adjustment to Texas. We have them all pretty much spoken for and we look forward to our class and pick-up day on the 23rd of this month. It’s always exciting!

Later in the week, we prep for our markets as usual. We have a new employee we are training. Jessica (Or Little Jess as we affectionately nicknamed her – she’s shorty than I am. It’s true.) is our newest addition to the team since Lan will be leaving us soon. 😦 Won’t think about that right now. I realized we need to introduce y’all to our growing team (if somewhat fluctuating) so I will snap some shots of Stan, Jessica and Allison so you can say hi if you visit us at markets and other events. We don’t have a formal training program so a lot of what they learn is on-the-job. Hopefully they’ll not think we’re too crazy and will stay with us a looooooooong time. lol Seriously, though, we couldn’t do what we do (without really killing ourselves) if it wasn’t for our dear family and friends. They all really are amazing and we are blessed they believe in what we are doing enough to want to help us when they can.

Y’all have a great week ahead and enjoy the weather – it’s suppose to be a pretty week, warming up as we progress towards Friday. Yep. We keep up pretty well with forecasts since bee work is kicking into full gear. Good thing they have apps for weather tracking. Okay, goodnight. Sleep tight.

OOOH! PS – forgot to mention I am learning to be a candle-maker! 🙂 Mark is going to be too busy with bee work for candle making so I offered to take over. We’ll let you know how it goes. hehe

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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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Allison checks out the bees

Now that my belly is full thanks to the wonderful beekeeper, I am sitting here trying to wrap up the week while the Ravens and the 49ers try and wrap things up down on the bayou. Our niece should be happy as she’s been a Ravens fan for quite some time now. Mark and I don’t have much time any more for football though occasionally we enjoy a game on the tube, though not sure when we last watch a game in the entirety. BUT…we do try and catch our Spurs. 🙂

This week was filled, as usual, but we got a little extra help! Our new intern came out and spent the morning getting to know the operations a bit with Mark and then she got to work. She learned how to mix some feed and that was a big help as it freed Mark up for more candle making, which we really needed since last weekend was so crazy at markets. Welcome to the family, Allison!

During the week, the weather warmed up enough so that Mark was able to open up some of the new hives so that he could check on them and feed as needed. Did you know feeding bees can be as messy as eating fried chicken with honey. And with your hands? 🙂

Feeding the bees is messy work

Yep. I showed up at the yard after work that day to see how things were going and I saw this. Makes me love that man even more. lol The sky has been absolutely amazing as of late. The days are getting warmer but still aren’t yet hot and muggy. Great in my book but the beekeeper told me he likes hot and muggy. Sigh, such opposites but we work well together. Back to the weather, now the weatherman is saying there’s no rain in the forecast. Too bad. We need it so the bees can get a real boost before honey-making time. We are pleased, however, to see pollen now coming into the hives. Besides the wonderful Huisache blooming, we’re not sure what else the girls are into these days but we’re happy for whatever it is. Always fun to watch the entrance to see them flying on a beautiful, sunny day.

Speaking of Huisache, that reminds me that I wanted to let you know that if you want to get a fuller picture of our activities, think about following us on Facebook and/orTwitter. When I don’t have time to post as much as I would like, I use FB and the tweets to share pictures and tidbits of our daily activities. The blog is a nice place for an overview of how things are going. The other social media are immediate and daily. FYI.

We’ve also been working on receiving and processing bids on the slab and building of the new Honey House, though really we won’t start building a thing until all the paperwork is done with the city. Yes. It feels like things are moving at a snail’s pace but things will come along as they should and we certainly don’t want to rush into things.

Okay, are you ready to kick off the new week tomorrow? Not sure we are or not but I guess Monday’s coming so we all better get some rest. 🙂 Goodnight, friends.

PS – Don’t forget that the big LOVE day is coming and soon! Chocolates are great but think about giving your honey some candles, maybe a beeswax heart (for the Scentsy perhaps), some good ole honey. mmmm…think about it. Okay. Goodnight.

I just love the hearts.

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