Archive for the ‘tours’ Category

Troy and Mark

This is our friend and awesome web designer, Troy! He owns Stratagem Technical Services and has really helped us create a beautiful site for our growing little bee biz. We are thrilled that Troy got to stop in to see us at the Bee Ranch this week – even got to visit a couple of bee yards with Mark while I worked. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on his first visit with bees – sometimes we are with them so much, you miss out on the newness of experiences. I have two favorites that Troy shared with me and I will tell you briefly here what they are.

Troy and the queen bank

Troy got to see the queen bank and install a queen cage into a hive. Remember, Mark has those 50 Heitkam queens he needs to install. Well I think my favorite thing about Troys’s description of the experience is the feeling of all those little wings touching his bare hands as he slide the cage between two frames full of bees. How lovely it sounded – I have never done that before so see what I’m missing out on there? I liked hearing about it, however. It was so poetic.


Funny shot, rigth? I love that donkey because from day 1 at Deadman Creek bee yard, he has been a real character. The first time we “met” him, he was trotting stalkingly behind and beside us in the ATV we were riding to check out the property with Craig. Hilarious little fella. Well apparently he treat Mark and Troy to a real show while they were working bees. About ten feet away from the hives, Donkey decided to stop, drop and roll around in the dirt! Troy’s phone was inside his bee suit and by the time Mark got his phone out and camera on, Donkey had finished and jumped straight up as if nothing unusual had just happened. Ugh! I miss all the fun! If I had seen that in person, I seriously think I would have laughed my head off. What a silly donkey he is.

After all that excitment of the day, no visit would be complete without a real south Texas meal so we took Troy to Clear Springs and the food was yummy. And abundant. 🙂 We thoroughly enjoyed the visit and getting to know Troy better. Can’t wait for his next visit already.

I think we were up till about 1:00am to finish as much prep as possible for the Pearl market and the Gonzales Come & Take It Festival. We’re learning about doubling up on everything from products to supplies to staffing. But we are ready! So come by and visit us at either or both events!! Come & Take It is always a fun event to do – people are wonderful and there’s music, food, vendors, a carnival with rides, a Saturday parade and so much more. We always love doing that event. It starts tonight and Mark and Stan are there setting up – we’ll be ready with local and specialty honeys by 5:00pm today and it runs to midnight (yes!). Jess and I will be manning the double booth all day tomorrow and we’ll be in our usual spot hear the fire house, on the side where you can see the old theatre. Great spot. Then Sunday Mark and I will wrap it up together so do stop by and visit. Lan and Cathy will be helping Mark at the Pearl tomorrow and our CrepeLandia friends are back so that will be a treat for Mark – we missed them last week as rain and crepes apparently do not mix. lol Crowds are expected to be full since a lot of folks need to pick up goods they missed out on last weekend thanks to all that water everywhere. So if you want your honey and candles, be sure to get there early!

Okay friends – we are out of here! Y’all have a wonderful and safe weekend. We hope to run into you somewhere along the beeventure trails. Love, Thien


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That could mean so much, right? I usually think of two things when I hear “extraction” (before GBR, of course): teeth pulling and a military maneuver of some sort. Too many David Baldacci and James Rollins novels. Anyway, the extraction we now are consumed with around here is that of honey. Gosh, what a sweet honey it is this year! Some people have asked us what we’re doing now that the extraction is done. Well, there’s still a lot of work to be completed before the honey is ready for purchase. First we need to do something with all the emptied supers that aren’t going to be used for additional honey-making so Mark and David have been putting them out at the bee yards for the bees to clean up – they’ll go after all the residual honey left on the boxes and frames. It’s amazing how clean the girls can get those things. The shot above is Mark opening up the entrance to Big Oaks; I got to go with him yesterday evening after dinner. I wanted to see what the skies would be like since we had the edge of a storm blow through. Unfortunately, we got very little rain. But I did get to see some lovely clouds and a very nice sunset. So, it was Tuesday and the boxes that he put in Big Oaks today should be clean by the weekend. He’s going to come back and check on things and we’ll report back to you.

Okay, I had to take a break because we had printer issues and that consumed the time I was going to post. So here we go with getting this done before bed. I would really like to hit the hay before midnight tonight. That would be nice. Okay, so this evening we went back out to Big Oaks as well to Deadman Creek because we had some guests here at the Bee Ranch – the San Antonio Pearl Farmers Market representatives! Bryan and Rhonda were so nice and we instantly felt at ease with them. They farm and are also part of the market. Part of the application process is a site visit so that the market organizers know how you operate and that you actually produce what you sell. Sounds great to us! We really like the process and the trouble they go to in order to ensure quality vendors at the market. Nice. The visit went well – we showed them the Honey House and explained extraction, bottling and the beeswax portion of GBR. Then we made quick visits to Big Oaks (where there was a swarm and bees were flying everywhere – sort of like La Guardia or O’Hare) and opened up a hive at Deadman Creek. What pretty yards they are. We were hoping to get to the Pizza yard but it we were losing light. Here’s a shot of Bryan and Mark sampling some honey straight from a frame. At dusk, the bees were a bit irritated but that was not unexpected. Still, Bryan and Rhonda said they enjoyed the visit and we did also. Let’s hope we hear some good news on that front soon! We are super thrilled at the possibility of getting into the SA area and building our customer base there. It’ll be a big commitment for us – every Saturday of the year. So…we better start lining up some help in case one or both of us can’t make it for some reason.


Oh, before I leave I wanted to show you a picture of the HH as it is now after a bit of cleaning by Mark and Belinda. There’s still honey in funny places and I spent about an hour wiping down surfaces that were sticky. Even my little CD player/radio was cover in honey! Lesson learned for NEXT time – COVER EVERYTHING WITH PLASTIC. lol

Honey House Post Extraction

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Mark and JW Marriott chefs in SA

Today Mark went to check the Marriott bees and is very pleased with how they are doing overall. He’ll have to requeen one of the five hives as it has lost its queen for some reason. All the other hives are doing quite well – actually better than we thought they might be at this point. Three of the hives had queens laying up into a second box already and they are all drawing out their frames nicely. Good job, bees. The above shot is the first group of chefs that went with Mark and Bethany a few trips ago. We gifted each chef with a jar of Huajilla honey so they can see how great the honey tastes. Wait until they taste the honey straight from the frames. 🙂

One of the nicest things we’ve been thrilled with is the full engagement on the part of the staff – a couple of the chefs have even purchased their own gear in order to check the bees with Mark when he’s there. That is awesome! During the last two visits, Mark was joined by Ryan (Executive Chef), Steve (Banquet Chef), Brett (Executive Sous Chef) and Bethany (Culinary Gardener). We love it that the chefs are so interested in their hives and want to learn. Each chef had their own hive to go through and Mark provided guidance as they checked the frames looking for signs of how the girls are doing (are queens laying, how does the brood look, where is the queen, are there any potential problems, etc.) and then fed each hive. The shot below is of Chef Ryan as he checked a hive – gorgeous frame shot. I can’t wait to visit the yard again with Mark.

Bees at Marriott

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Mite counting

Yes, these are dead mites, killed by our application of a natural miticide called HopGuard. The mites are the oval shapes, about the size of a pin-head. (The fuzzy stuff is the cardboard used with the HopGuard product. The bees chew it literally to bits and remove it from the hive.) Twenty-four hours after the HopGuard application I checked these white boards, which catch the dead mites as they fall to the bottom of the hive. I was surprised to find between 100 and 200 dead mites fallen from the hives at Elm Creek. The hives at the Farm only had about 20 dead mites on their white boards. The Elm Creek hives either had a serious infestation of mites, or the HopGuard is very effective at killing them. I’ll do mite counts again soon to see how they are doing.

Applying HopGuard

I treated the hives at the Pizza Yard with HopGuard on Friday. The weather was cool and windy with some sprinkles. The bees did not appreciate being disturbed in those conditions, and for this hive the HopGuard application was the final straw. At least they appear to be big and strong!

Showing our guests the bees

Today we had a knock on the door from a Turkish beekeeper and his family! The parents are visiting from Turkey and found us through a beekeeping association and our website. It was so great to meet them and to share our backyard bees and honey house with them. If only there had been time to take them to a bee yard. Maybe next year when they visit again. The father has about one hundred hives in northern Turkey, near Russia, and we have a standing invitation to visit them. This made our day for sure. Meeting wonderful people like this family is one of our favorite things about keeping bees and running GBR. You just never know who’s going to knock on the door or walk through the gate. And it is awesome.

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Today we drove about an hour and a half south to Frio County to visit with a friend from one of our bee classes. We got to go through and to places name Bigfoot and Kyote and Devine. Awesome names, right? I love exploring new places with Mark; it’s always an adventure. We went to talk bees with Mike and to get a tour of a big piece of property he has in the Devine area down in Frio County. There are a lot of bees and beekeepers down in that area and that means a lot of great honey. If you haven’t tried Huajilla from down there, then you are really missing out. Anyhow, Mike has a wonderful “side hobby/passion” he enjoys when he’s not working on his other gazillion projects…farming. 🙂 And boy, is his farming something else. We had a blast just seeing what he is currently growing down in Frio and what his plans are in future. Neither Mark nor I could get over how wonderful the heritage broccoli tasted straight off the stem. As you can tell the bees love it also. They were on it pretty good while we were there. The picture below is of one of the broccolis going to seed. It’s amazing to us that some people, and especially young folks, may not have ever seen where broccoli comes from (plant wise) so here’s a picture.

I also have some other great farm shots on Flickr if you’d like to see other vegetables we saw today. I didn’t want to make this post a photo collage but I could very easily. I love shooting vegetables. And sometimes I shoot other shots, too, for fun. So here’s one I liked from today – me and my beekeeper. Well, our shadows actually. Y’all have a great Sunday!

Me & the Beekeeper

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KENS5 Great Day SA on GBR

Today we were thrilled to finally get to see the Great Day SA segment on one of our local stations (CBS). Eileen was a joy to meet and work with on this and we hope she’ll come back to visit soon! Our video is available for viewing on the GBR Press Page of our website so be sure to stop by and check it out.

Tomorrow is a busy day for us so I’m glad I was able to take the day off from work to accompany Mark to San Antonio. This is a borrowed photo from the JW Marriott website – I wanted to see what to expect when we head out there in the morning. Looks lovely! We met a very nice buyer while at the County Fair booth and she took our sample and card back to her Marriott crew and a few emails and a phone call later, we’re taking our honey samples, gift baskets and our bright, cheery selves to the resort to meet the Executive Chef and the Culinary Gardener for a tour and meeting. If it all works out, maybe you will see or taste some of our honeys in their Cibolo Moon restaurant. And if the garden is right, some of the bees may have very fancy digs to call home soon. We’ll let you know how it goes.

JW Marriott

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Eileen interviews Mark

Today we had a wonderful visit with Eileen and Andrew from the morning show, Great Day SA, which appears on KENS-5 (CBS). The segment should air sometime in November and we will let you local folks know when the date will be. This would not have been possible without the introduction to Eileen, who has been so nice and easy to work with on this endeavor. Our friend and president of the Alamo Area Beekeepers Association, Bruce, was the one who hooked us up with Eileen so that she could speak with people about the wellbeing of bees, why they are important and what we can do to help them. Sadly, Bruce passed away recently and we were deeply saddened when we found out about it. I thought of him often today and wished he could have been here with us but I know he’s watching from above so he’ll know exactly how we did. 🙂

Andrew moves back for a shot of the sign

After filming at the house and a honey tasting session (we couldn’t let them leave without THAT!), we took our guests out to Deadman Creek bee yard and did some more filming with the bees. It was such a beautiful day to be out there and I think they had a nice time. We love that our gentle bees allow for easy filming and photographing. Eileen and Andrew enjoyed the bee suits, as most people do when they visit with us. You don’t really need them, but better safe than sorry, right?

This was a fantastic experience for us and it gave us yet another opportunity to share some information, bust some myths about bees being mean, and make new friends. And if we can reach their viewers and educate them a bit about the bees, then we couldn’t be any happier!

Filming out at Deadman Creek yard

You can view more pictures from today on our Flickr page.

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Groupon Ad

We are happy to see that we have 24 people who have grabbed a spot in a class with us! Hopefully more and more will take advantage of the Groupon ad as the word spreads. 🙂

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Healthy hives

Do you like our bees? Have you met them at an event and wondered, “Are they really that gentle?” Well, guess what? We are so excited to share this news with you all – we are now offering Intro to Beekeeping here at the ranch! On Saturday, July 9, Mark will teach his first formal class as part of a joint effort with Round Rock Honey Company (Round Rock, Texas). We are thrilled to have an opportunity to share some of Mark’s thirty years of experience working with bees.

This class is available via Groupon San Antonio and will be featured tomorrow, June 30 through Sunday, July 3. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment here on the blog or you may email us (thien@gretchenbeeranch.com or mark@gretchenbeeranch.com).

We hope you will consider coming out and joining us – it should be a lot of fun! You know we love to talk about our bees and our business. And while we may not have all the answers, we sure don’t mind sharing what we know, what’s worked for us as well as what’s not worked for us as we learn more and more about bees and the bee business.

During the class, students will be given an introduction to the bee (who’s a queen, who’s a drone), beekeeping equipment and handling of bees. We will also have two hives on-site so that we can peek inside and discuss what we see. And if you’re wondering if you get to wear one of those awesome white bee suits…you’re in luck – we will have bee suits for students! Have I mentioned we’re going to have a lot of fun? 🙂

bee suits

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The Pees stop in to check out GBR

We look comfortable and relaxed, don’t we? You can’t tell it was nearly 100 degrees today with a heat index above a 100, can you? You can’t see the photographer looking like she just got back from a hard workout at the gym, can you? It was a HOT day here in Texas but thank goodness for a breeze and the ceiling fans Mark installed in the honey house.

We always enjoy it when friends stop by to see what we do at GBR and specifically, in the honey house. A lot of bee work goes on in there – from building frames boxes to bottling honey and pollen. Today, however, we had friends stop by to take a first look inside the operation so Mark showed them around a bit. If you have been here already, you know “showed them around a bit” really means take a look at our packed Tuff Shed that we love so much and that is the headquarters for almost all our bee activities non-field related. And it takes all of 15 minutes to get a tour when we’re not working. But we love it. And we love showing it to people who are interested and who want to learn. We appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm and support as we endeavor to build our little bee empire. Or maybe I should change that to dynasty in honor of my Asian heritage. The GBR Dynasty. I’ll ask the boss and see what he thinks.

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