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Archive for the ‘tours’ Category

Doing some pricing work for GBR

Hello everyone and greetings from the chilly but lovely Greensboro. We’re visiting with family here and having a great time and even getting some bee work done – the administrative part of work, that is. As I type, we have a focus group and some consulting going on to examine our pricing structure and to discuss the direction of our company. Each year, every company should regroup and see what adjustments need to be made in order to continue or change course. And if you only have two full time employees (and a cat), it’s critical that we optimize our energy and work. So while this task is challenging and time-consuming, it’s absolutely necessary and we are super excited about it! And we want to thank our friends and family members for all their support and help. That’s my sister Thuy sitting with Mark and working on our pricing model. She’s meticulous, sharp and all the other fine qualities an accountant should be. Plus she’s one of our biggest customers and her opinion and advice really mean a lot to us. Thanks for all your help, Thuy! We also want to give a big Texas shout-out to Granddad Ed. His input and perspective was very helpful and insightful as a small business owner, honey lover, potential future beekeeper and interested consumer-at-large. He and Thuy rock and we love ’em.

Now, on to something I’ve been wanting to tell you about but haven’t had time. Recently, we had a wonderful opportunity to visit a very cool ranch west of San Antonio in a place called D’Hanis, Texas. It all started when we met some very nice customers at the Pearl market. They picked up some honey (and liked it – yay!) and then talked with us about putting some bees on their ranch. That ranch is called the Comanche Creek Ranch and it’s a beautiful 3500-acre property with some areas for the longhorns and other areas for farming. Our tour guide was the energetic Mr. Anderson – he is amazing! When I first saw him coming out to meet us at the truck, you could not tell me he was 95 years old. πŸ™‚ He was a wonderful host and I hope that I’m at least close to as energized and sharp as he is when I get to my 80s and 90s. Here he is opening up the gates to his ranch for our tour.

Mr. Anderson leads the way

And here we are sporting the gift caps, which came in handy as we jeeped around the ranch, looking for bee yard locations. What a lovely, lovely land Texas is (although it did take me several years to develop an appreciation of the different beauty here – just different from the NC beauty I grew up with)

Ready to roll on the ranch

After trekking around the property, spotting hogs, deer and armadillo in addition to bee sites, we were fed quite well by Mike –
Mike serves up fajitas

We did settle on two new sites and we anticipate moving 40-50 of our hives to the ranch next month – an early start for them to build up nice and strong so they can make us some good Huajilla honey. This is one of the locations we’ll prepare soon. That’s Joe, Mr. Anderson’s nephew, and he’s helping Mark find and prep sites for the bees.

Discussing hive location with Joe

You can see more of our visit with Mr. Anderson by viewing our Flickr photo set for Comanche Creek. We’ll keep you posted on things as we move forward with this new bee yard. We are thrilled to now have a presence in Medina County!

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Sue was a student with us

Well, we had a blast at Sunday’s Open House and already can’t wait for the next one! Hopefully by that time, the new Honey House will be completed as well as a retail space in the front of the property. We’ll see. πŸ™‚ We want to thank everyone who came by to visit and also those who sent well wishes when they couldn’t join us. We really do appreciate the support and as Mark told a customer earlier, every single purchase means a lot to us as we grow our little business. Things are picking up now that the holidays are fully upon us. Even in our house I have Christmas tunes on as we work this evening. Smokey is out cold on the sofa. I love our cozy home.

During the Open House, we had fun showing folks our products and then of course the bees in the back yard. Everyone loves the bees and we love how gentle they are so that we can take people so close with little worry about attacks and stings. No one even needed a suit. I think that surprised many people. We love turning them onto to gentle honey bees. Nice when we can win fans over. We had one brave young man join us that day so that he could overcome his fear of them. He did fantastic! He said he’s no longer bothered by them and that made us happy to hear. Makes the work all worth it when people really begin to understand how gentle they can be if managed properly here in Texas.

We also enjoyed showing them where we plan to have the temporary bottling tanks and the beeswax equipment and candle making table. We’ve decided to keep the garage a fulltime shop. I’ve lived this long without a garage to park in, what’s another six months or so as we build the HH. I told Mark let’s go for it. It’s already a lot more room than we had in the honey house for storage and a retail space. We’ll make it work. If you would like to see the full set of Holiday Open House pictures, just just click here and have a look.

As I mentioned earlier, we are also gearing up for the holidays with more baskets and gift sets in addition to the usual honey and candles we package and ship. Now that we are at the Pearl every Saturday, we also regularly accept orders via the web and then people have the option to pick up at the Pearl. That’s working out well. Speaking of which, I have so much to share with y’all!

First of all, we are joining the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market every Sunday morning, 9a-1p. Yep! You can check out their website and then come visit us sometime. We are looking forward to it even though that’s about the last day we had free to rest, go to church and get chores done at home. However, Mark has heard my concerns about fatigue and he’s giving me a break – Stan will be helping us out at the Quarry so that I may take a break once in a while to get things done for the home. What a guy I have. πŸ™‚ Lucky me. Hopefully, one day soon, I can help Mark full time and that would make it a lot better. Anyway – visit with us! It looks like a neat market environment and we are super thrilled to be accepted into the mix. We are totally enjoying access to fresh eggs, meats and veggies. AND awesome eats and then there’s the food (CrepeLandia’s at both Pearl and Quarry – woohoo for the Shrimp & Grits Crepe!)!

Secondly, we will be at the annual Yulefest at the Seguin Coliseum this coming Sunday. You can catch us there from 10a to 4p. We will have plenty of our products there as we have a double booth again this year. πŸ™‚ I may even do some shopping myself as there are some nice vendors there with us. So, come do your Christmas shopping with some locals!

Thirdly, we got a new bee net! Our first one to own. In the past, when we’ve picked up bees, we borrowed friends’ nets. It was time to plop down some serious money for our own net. It was huge and heavy! I wanted to pick it up so you could have some relative size comparison. Don’t you love how Smokey photo-bombed me? Crazy kitty.

Our first bee net!

Fourthly (is that a word?), Mark went and got some more beeswax today! Thanks to the increased movement of our beeswax products, we’ve about doubled our beeswax on hand and in the coming year, we anticipate producing quite a bit of our own with our increase in hives. Mark will start processing it pretty soon as we need a LOT more candles for the holidays. Good thing more candle molds are also on order.

More beeswax

Okay, I guess that’s a good wrap of things for now. I don’t want to overwhelm people. I have gift boxes to make now. Goodnight and sleep tight. ❀

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All set (mostly) for tomorrow's Open House

Well, we are finally cleaned up and ready for bed. But not before I post a little on what we’ve been doing. I was wondering earlier about all the “famous and successful” businesses that started out in garages. You know, I’m too tired to go Google it and I have set a time limit on how late I can stay up to write this so I’ll keep moving. You know what I mean about the garage. We all have to start and sometimes restart somewhere and here’s where we’re at – our new Bee Ranch at 2745 W. Kingsbury. We’re now on the edge of town. Feels like the country sometimes since we are no longer about ten feet from our neighbors and we regularly have deer grazing on and running through the front to the back yard and then on to the eleven acres behind our property. πŸ™‚ We will miss the good ole house on Krezdorn and people will have to adjust their coordinates for picking up our products, but we are really just ten minutes from where we used to be and right down the street from Interstate 10 AND Granzin’s Meat Market. What more could you ask for?

So, here’s your chance to see our restart. The Krezdorn house is under contract now, which means we seriously need to start emptying out the Honey House (not to mention our attic, still). When it came time to decide about events such as daily drop-bys from customers and the open house event, it seemed like the right time to go ahead and transition things over to the new Bee Ranch. We are happy to say we had our first shoppers stop by for BLACK FRIDAY shopping – we weren’t even having any specials but they sure didn’t mind. We appreciated their support as well as another big order I took over the phone. It’s that gift-giving time of year and we’re happy people are picking up our honey and wax products for family and friends. Tomorrow we’ll open our garage doors for any of you who’d like to do a little shopping, a little visiting and a little munching. We’ll have light snacks and some hot cider. Mark and I will be happy to show you our vision for the new Bee Ranch – Where will the honey house sit? Where might the retail shop be located? Where will Mark make his gorgeous candles? Where will Stan bottle honey? Which boots will I wear to tromp around the property in search of photo opportunities? If you swing by here tomorrow, we can show you where all this and more will happen. AND Smokey will be so happy to see you! He may run around the yard in a frenzy from the joy of having people visit us again. I think he’s really missed seeing people for classes and drop-by customers. Poor cat, like Lan and I don’t give him enough attention and snuggles.

Here’s a look at some of the handiwork from setup activities this evening. We just want to say a great big THANK YOU to my sis Lan. Boy, she is a worker bee to the max. Helped us out at the Pearl Farmers Market then came to Seguin in the evening to hang out and help us set up for tomorrow. We love working with family members and have enjoyed her feedback in addition to her hard work. We even had a video call with my other sis Thuy in NC to show her what we were doing – she loves our products and events as much as we do although today she told me that she thinks she gets more excited about our Pearl adventures than I do. How lovely that so many people, especially family members, care so much about what we do and how we do that they text and call afterwards to see how things went. It’s so awesome!

3rd Annual Holiday Open House at GBR

Okay, I’ve exceeded my time limit by three minutes. Oops. Gotta go to bed now so y’all sleep tight and come visit us!

Oh! The bees are here also! I know a lot of you love to see them. So there. Okay, this time I am really stopping. πŸ™‚

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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.

Donkey!

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. πŸ™‚ 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.

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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. πŸ™‚

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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