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Archive for the ‘store’ Category

Hello there. It’s been a while, yes? I have been doing all my updating on other social media platforms just because I somehow seem to be able to put up a picture and a few lines faster than sitting down at the computer to write out my full thoughts on something. Sorry. But really, if you are on things like Facebook, Twitter, and ESPECIALLY Instagram…you can keep up with all our happenings because I post daily there.

Making hive divides

Tis the busy season now for our bees here in South Texas. Mark has begun his hive dividing in preparation for our nuc customers. We still sell a very limited number of nucs each year, primarily to our beekeeping students but also to a handful of other customers. We are still at about 200 hives and maybe 10 bee yards though we continue to seek ways to consolidate apiaries in order to work them more efficiently. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s so much work to keep the bees going while also maintaining and running the shop. Not to mention working all the administrative details of small business. Fun and we love it, but lots of work.

We are loving the shop and being there! So cool to help our customers with what they need.

Assisting customers in the GBR Beekeeping Showroom

The classes are going strong (filled up for spring and fall dates for Introduction to Beekeeping should be up soon on the website) and so are the workshops designed to focus on specific beekeeping topics. This morning’s topic was South Texas Honey Plants with special presenter, Bill Evans. Huge group and lots of great discussion. My favorite thing on Saturdays is peeking into the Showroom between my Honey Store customers to check on the beekeepers. Makes us so happy to see people hanging out and talking bees even after the one hour workshop is over. It’s a great way to network with other beekeepers. Even if you’re not a beekeeper yet, it’s a great way to start learning about things. We love seeing our customers showing other customers something about a product we have in the Showroom! I saw today that our dentist and her husband were in the shop – they’re starting their own beeventures, too! How cool.

If you haven’t noticed, I did just list new dates for upcoming “Drops” in San Antonio – that’s where we take orders into SA and meet up with customers at a designated spot at Pearl. I also listed the fall Introduction class dates but wait a few more days for it to get updated on the website please. If you have any questions, just comment here or you can always email or call us. info@gretchenbeeranch.com or 830-305-7925.

Goodnight, xo
Thien

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Kumquats

Hi there! At the beginning of August, I noted the huge ground cracks at our lovely little Bee Ranch. I was hand watering my garden and thought I’d drop some water into one of the cracks to see if it’d fill up a bit of land and after about 30 seconds, I gave up. No water filling up at all. It was sort of sad to see the land like that again – even though it’s sort of typical for August in South Texas, it’s still hard to see things drying up so badly. Anyway, here we are approaching the end of the month and we have now had about 16 inches of rain (give or take a few inches as I’ve lost track of the rainfall). We keep thinking, “what a weird August we are having!” But we are not complaining. It’s just different.

Mark and his crew continue to harvest and are just about to wrap up the year. Only a little bit left to pull from the yards and extract. It has been a bit of work to make sure everything is dry before storing but Mark is getting through it all to get the moisture levels to where they need to be so the honey doesn’t go bad. Check out this selection of comb honey the bees made this year –

Honeycomb 2016

Sales at the Bee Ranch on the two mornings we are open to the public have been awesome and make us super happy we decided to focus our energies to increasing traffic here instead of out and about. The beekeeper workshops Mark conducts on Saturdays he’s free have been awesome – what a great way for new beekeepers to meet each other and continue learning from one another. Last weekend we covered how to process Ross Rounds and of course we sampled for our guests – super fun! Join us sometime if you can. You can check all our social media for upcoming topics and other developments or you can just call us at 830-305-7925.

Ross Rounds beekeeper workshop

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Elm Creek bee yard winter 2015-16

Hello there and here we are, already moved into February and what looks like a spring weather pattern forecasted through next week (70s and 80s with chances of rain here and there). Mark’s been checking, feeding as needed in hives scattered among our different bee yards, and treating mites all fall and winter. Overall our hives are getting along well this winter and he is very happy with how they look, commenting this is the best winter to date for our apiary. Many hives are heavy with bees and even fall honey still left on the frames – great news for the bees and for us. We are excited about the upcoming season, as always!

We’ve been enjoying focusing our attentions on the Bee Ranch and it is paying off – more and more people are coming to visit the two mornings we are open and classes continue to fill up (as a matter of fact, March and April are booked solid and we’ve moved into May for the Introduction to Beekeeping class). Mark’s Saturday morning workshop series continues to be a fun success and we’ve met some great folks, many of whom are eager to begin their beekeeping adventures. Here’s a list of upcoming topics for planning; hope you can join us some time in the near future!

Free Spring workshops at the Bee Ranch

This was just yesterday when Mark demonstrated how to do an Apivar treatment for their mites to help their bees.

Spring 2016 activities at the Bee Ranch

While you are here, whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday, we hope you take a look around the Honey House – Mark has done a great job filling it up with bee gear and bee equipment. We have a lot of fun learning about new products and suppliers and we enjoy sharing new things with our visitors.

Spring 2016 activities at the Bee Ranch

The Honey Store is also shaping up nicely and we enjoy stocking it regularly with new things we are developing – come visit us!

GBR product prep in the Honey Store

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Free Workshops at the Bee Ranch

Howdy, friends. In case you haven’t seen it elsewhere – here is a listing of free workshops we are hosting at the Bee Ranch every Saturday morning through January 2016! We make a pot of hot coffee and I’ll put on hot cider for non-coffee drinkers and y’all just talk about things with Mark while I tend the shop. Pretty fun and Mark even gave away a free smoker, a $40 value, as part of a raffle for attendees. Nice and lots of fun. We hope to see you a a workshop in the near future.

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We are so thrilled to finally have all the components ready for the rollout of our first-ever holiday ornaments! We had been working on the packaging as I have mentioned in previous posts and now we’re ready. We did a soft launch this past weekend at market and class but now these lovelies are up for grabs anywhere and anytime. I still have to do an official photo shoot in order to prep them each for the website but here’s the basic information you’ll need to know to decide if you want to buy them for yourself or as a gift for others:

  • Angel with Candle and Santa & Kitty ornaments are each $14.
  • Round Tree of Life ornament is $16.
  • All ornaments are 100% pure beeswax – all natural with no artificial scents added, just the sweet and natural honey in there. All beeswax comes from right here in South Texas.
  • We hand-pour and pull each ornment in our Candle Shop here at the Bee Ranch.
  • Each ornament comes in its own linen bag that includes a pull-twine-tie and a folded, heavy-stock information booklet with a history of beeswax ornaments and care and handling tips.

Surprise!!!! Soft intro of holiday ornaments today at @pearlbrewery farmers market.

Here’s the front of the booklet:

New holiday ornament booklets  arrived!

The inside and back are filled with beeswax ornament history and care information:

Inside the insert

Also, just so you know, I can’t wait to do a beeswax ornament themed tree this year – our first. 🙂 Excited! We’ve been testing the impact of small lights on the ornaments and are happy to report there is no significant impact whatsoever and I’ve had the bulb touching the ornaments for weeks. There’s barely any warmth where it touches the wax so it appears to withstand the lights quite well.

New beeswax ornaments - testing heat factor from Christmas lights

PS – You can click on each picture to view them at a larger size. Just a reminder.
Subscript to the PS – I did some Christmas shopping already and I’m putting a gift under the tree tonight! HEHE

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New beeswax ornaments - testing heat factor from Christmas lights
This is us testing the impact of Christmas light heat on the beeswax ornaments. So far, no impact. Good.

I never know where the days melt away to from Monday to Thursday night. Isn’t that interesting? Last thing I recalled, it was Sunday evening and I was relishing the relaxed hours after market and before the official work week kicked in the next morning. Anyway, here we are. Time to get tags together for Creamed Honey jars, prep supplies such as spoons and postcards, box up the bottled honey Stan got ready for us during the week…oh yea, and gear up to do a new DOUBLE TENT set up at Saturday’s Pearl Farmers Market. We are thrilled to give it a try and now we’ll have Sunday to rest a bit. We are on Quarry Market sabbatical until further notice. We have got to have a little rest now that the harvest is over and we just really want to be back with our church family for a while. We really miss them. So while we will enjoy sleeping until at least 7am one day out of the week, maybe even 7:30am (!!) and seeing our church family, we will surely miss our Quarry market family for a while. We’ve met some wonderful, wonderful people and feel so blessed.

On the beekeeping front, Mark is doing really well with his requeening project. Down to one yard left to be completely done. Yay! He’s been pushing it and is pretty much tired out by evening time each day but I’m so proud of him. Besides the bee work and candle work and beeswax testing, Honey House construction and some administrative work, Mark found a little time to check out some merchandise at our favorite home goods and gift shop here in town – Gift & Gourmet. They had a big warehouse sale today and boy did we strike it rich! Mark actually was taking some stuff to store there at the warehouse Mary graciously is letting us use and he couldn’t get in. Tough luck. lol BUT in the process, we scored a couple of awesome display shelves – one with lights even! That will show off the products very nicely we think. We also purchased several very lovely display racks and ornament trees. What a gift – we didn’t like what we’d seen last night during our research of ornament display trees and this serendipitous shopping excursion pretty much has us set for a while in terms of product display furniture. Nice. Oh yes, in the picture below, I did a collage of the three cabinets Mark sent pictures of for my input. We didn’t buy all of these but I still couldn’t get over the fact that they were so affordable and better yet, that we’d have many pieces of our favorite shop in our own shop. That’s so special to us. We love Mary and her staff and all the wonderful things they do for us as well as for the community. They are just awesome folks. The bottom left picture is the ONE shot I thought to snap of a display rack and the mini-crockpot is actually for wax melting. Smells lovely and will be going with us to market since our double tent will now have electricity! woohoo – we are moving on up, eh? I was so excited about personal shopping that I totally forgot to shoot anything of all the other super cool pieces we bought for the bee biz. haha, I am bad! By the time I got there and saw the outrageously low prices, I went into Christmas gift shopping mode for family and girlfriends. It was awesome. And fun. Things and people were everywhere. To get out from “behind the scenes” where Mary treated us to some special treasures, we actually climbed through the bottom shelf of a display cabinet. Talk about fun. And even Mark did it. He said it is a good thing he’s dropped 40 pounds recently. hehe Wish you could have seen us.

Shopping for GBR

Late afternoon brought a few customers to the Bee Ranch. This is a fairly new beekeeper who’s enjoyed his two hives so much, he is on the list for several more nucs come next spring. Love to hear that. Today he was picking up two queens so he and Mark discussed the direct introduction method for his new queen installation. Hopefully he will have as much success as we have had with that way of doing the queen intros.

Queen introduction discussion

Later I will share with your our other visitor – a florist from north of Austin. We have partnered with them and are honored and thrilled they want to share our honey and beeswax products with their customers. Can’t wait to post about that when the time is right. 🙂 For now, I bid you a goodnight. Sleep well.

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GBR Check out page

It’s back and better! When the shopping cart went down on us a couple of weeks ago, the company that ran the back end didn’t even notify clients. Really! That is crazy business. Thanks to Troy and Mark working away since that time, we now have a brand new shopping cart with lots more for you.

Here are a couple of things I wanted to point out real quick since I need to go to bed for an early drive to SA markets.

You like the honey? You want to tell us how you cooked with it in a wonderful recipe? We now have a review feature – tell us what you liked and didn’t like (hopefully you’ll call us on this one so we can work it out together)!

GBR Shop Cart Reviews

Need to do a quick search since you don’t have time to browse? Check out the new search capability as well as the featured products for that time period.

GBR Shop Cart Search

Take a look around and tell us what you think. We’ve been working and testing but nothing beats real user testing. We also added several free pickup locations in the “shipping” section. Thanks for your patience and support as we worked through another little hurdle in running a business and having an online store. When a server crashes, sometimes you just have to sit and eat honey until the next solution is ready. 🙂 We’re ready now.

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Hoang girls at Comanche Creek #2

All that and a visit from our North Carolina sister. 🙂 It was a happy, happy week at the Bee Ranch as we got to share all we do with another family member. Thuy went everywhere with us and did everything we needed to do as we worked with the bees, prepared for markets, made candles and so on. We had such a great time and we appreciate all the expert help and advice she gave us on the administrative side of the business. Thanks, Thuy! Come back soon please.

Now here is an update on things related to bees and honey-making – things are looking much better than a couple of weeks ago. Most of the hives in each bee yard are making a good amount of honey. With several days off during Thuy’s visit, I got to tag along on the yard checks and here are a few shots I wanted to share.

This is a shot of some limited frames of comb honey we hoped the bees would be able to draw out. Looks like they did it!

2013 honey

This gorgeous lady is holding a lovely frame of capped honey. This is what the bees do when they determine they’ve dried out the honey to their liking. 🙂 That means it’s good for us also!

July 2 visit to Bigfoot bee yard

Then we let her try this year’s honey. It was quite awesome.

July 2 visit to Bigfoot bee yard

When we taste the honey, we do a little damage to the wax but the bees will fix this right up within a few days and we’d never be able to tell it’s where we dipped into the frame. Each year, whenever possible, you want to return frames in good or great shape so that it reduces the amount of work the bees have to do next year. They mend all the cells and reuse these frames. They are the ultimate recyclers.

July 2 visit to Bigfoot bee yard

In this shot, Mark is using the refractometer to check the moisture levels of random honey frames. Looking great – many are below the 18% point. Once the majority of the frames are capped, it’ll be harvest time.

Comanche Creek bee yard

Here’s some fantastic news for you Mesquite Honey fans – it’s blooming all over and has been for some time and will likely continue to bloom more. You know what that means, right? There’s going to be a nice bit of Mesquite in the honey, adding a nice, smooth flavor. Yay! This year’s honey has a healthy mix of all the wildflowers that bloomed on and off all spring and now into the summer – from early Bluebonnets to Indian Blankets to Mesquite and Haujilla. We are hopeful about bringing in a decent amount of local honey and we can’t wait for you to try this year’s harvest!

Old and new Mesquite blooms at Elm Creek yard

LOCAL HONEY ALERT! I found two locations where our local Guadalupe County Wildflower Honey is still available in case you need some before this year’s harvest is ready.

In Seguin, you can find several bottles of our Guadalupe County Wildflower still on their lovely display! Be sure to stop by there and tell them we said hi. Mary and her entire staff are wonderfully friendly and helpful. I love shopping there so if you ever need a gift, check them out!

Gift & Gourmet of Seguin

In San Antonio, I saw at least ten 1-pound jars at Melissa Guerra at the Pearl. That was last Saturday so call ahead and check that it’s still there before you head there although I must say parking is quite easy there at the lovely Pearl complex. Also ask them for the current pricing as they price differently from us (just wanted to give you a heads-up on that).

Local Texas Honey still available at Melissa Guerra at the Pearl

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Mark at Williams-Sonoma

I want to thank my beekeeper for learning to be such a great sport about being in so many pictures! Someone’s got to represent us in front of the camera, right? We kicked off Saturday at the Pearl market and took off for Williams-Sonoma’s Artisans’ Market once Sonia and Jessica showed up to relieve us. The weekend markets and events are often our rewards for working all week – we enjoy interacting with customers and talking bees, candles and honey and even non-bee-related stuff on ocassion. 🙂 We want to thank the staff of Williams-Sonoma at La Cantera. It was a lot of fun and they really took good care of us. We thoroughly enjoyed it and are happy we were included on the invited list.

In other news and development, we are pleased to share with you that Poteet Country Winery has now received their second batch of honey from us and are carrying Guadalupe County Wildflower and Frio County Huajilla at their store in Poteet. We have not had a chance to visit them yet but we are looking forward to it and of course will share some pictures with y’all. For now, you can find and support them at the Pearl Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, they’re just down the row from us!

One last thing – besides the fantastic produce we have access to at market, we also benefit from our friends using our honeys in different ways. Here’s a gift we received from our Sprinfield Farm friends – homemade chocolate syrup – YUM! It is so fun to learn what others use honey for in their lives and products.

Love gifts from friends

The list of recipes and uses continue to grow!
For wax: shoe polish, wax polish, artwork, iron work coating, scrubs, soaps, balms and salves, lubricant for sewers, quilters, and woodworkers.
For honey: Soaps, marinades, sauces, granola, facials, dog treats (for allergy relief!)

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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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