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Posts Tagged ‘bees’

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

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

Harvesting lavender

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

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

Spring wildflowers at the Bee Ranch

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

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Farmers Market - adapting to extremely cold temps

Today it was in the low 30s when we were at the Pearl Farmers Market. After I checked the weather app when we started setting up for market, I told myself not to look again because I did not want to know it felt like 24 degrees. COLD to us! But we made it work after having a year to freeze at market and now we do things like pack a lot of hot beverages, load up the kerosene heater, keep the honey samplers near the warmth so dispensing is doable, bring rain gear just in case (and two blankets for wrapping around us), etc. Six hours on your feet out at market is tiring even after two years. We love it but it does wear us out sometimes. So we are especially thankful for customers who show up in support of everyone who made it. And we are thankful for fellow vendors who braved the weather with us so the shoppers may have a bit of variety in shopping. Mark continues to lead the market association membership – continues to learn also. He’s getting pretty good researching Robert’s Rules in my opinion. He has such patience with things like that. It does take a lot more of his time than we anticipated but it’s important to both of us and he wants to do the best he can. I’m so proud of him!

Speaking of time, we decided that since we have limited time, we would have to change up what and how we do things. So, out with big nuc sales for others and in with spending that time with our own bees. So far, we are liking this decision a lot. About this time of the year, we’d be heading or making plans to head to Florida to see family and to pick up nucs for our customers. It was stressful and yielded little profit. Mark did it to help other people. What it did to our bees, however, was not worth it this year we decided. Our own hives typically got a big neglected as Mark focused almost all his attention on caring for and growing those nuc hives in anticipation of customer pick-up late March. And you know what? Sometimes a few unpleasant incidents with people are just enough to signal a change is needed. So – take a look at one of our hives so far.

Thriving bees

This was a couple of weeks ago and is typical of how our hives are looking. This is a huge improvement over past years. A strong hive such as this resulted from Mark’s constant checking on them during winter months, especially towards the end of winter now. This is a critical time for the bees because things are starting to bloom out but not yet abundantly what with all the up-and-down weather we’ve had. So, the queens are laying more so that’s more bees and that means more mouths to feed. If we didn’t have to check our hives and they ran out of food at this point of winter, then some bees or hives may not make it and that’d put us back a bit. That is what used to happen when we sold bees to others and we are thrilled to see what we can do with our own girls this year since Mark can devote his focus on them. So exciting!

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First issue of TxFarm2Market

Here it is – our second published article in August! Wow, it’s as exciting as the fact that the bees are still making honey into August. We still have bees in Comanche making some honey. Crazy but good year! Back to the article. We met these two wonderful gentlemen at the Pearl Farmers Market back in June I believe and we really enjoyed learning about their plans for a new publication with a focus on the true producers of Texas, whether farming or ranching. Even on a Bee Ranch. We are so happy to be in the first issue of TXfarm2market and we hope you will make some time to read it in support of the publication as well as our fellow Pearl Farmers Market vendor, the Palmers of Palmer Farms. Thank you, Ernie, for taking the time to visit with us at market as well as driving out to Seguin to see the Bee Ranch – it was fun! Click here to see the first issue. Below is a shot of Ernie interviewing Mark at the Bee Ranch.

Ernie's awesome and we're enjoying our time and appreciate Tx Farm 2 Table coming to visit GBR!

Fumigating frames so wax moths won't eat up all the wax during winter storage

As we wrap up the last of honey being produced, there’s a lot of work to clean and then treat the hives for mites and fumigating with moth crystals to make sure we kill any wax moth larvae that might be on the frames. With three-digit heat indices, the men are usually pretty exhausted by the time they call it a day. Actually some days, lunch time brings me two very pooped men and I feel for them when they often head back out after lunch. Sometimes they can catch a break with work in the Candle Shop and when they do, I come home to beautiful candles. I love seeing what they do at the end of the day and hearing about it over dinner. Here’s a shot I took one afternoon when they starting hand-dipping sweet little tapers. I shot this one holding my camera under the rack and just above the hot beeswax. A little bit nervous but glad I got the shot.

Hand-dipped candles going into the wax melter #bees #beeswax #beekeeping #texas

Before I close, I want to mention that our bee classes are kicking back up next month! Nice to think that some slightly less sweltering heat is right around the corner (really it is!). If you are interested or know anyone who would like to come visit us for a class, then please check out our website for more information. Who’s ready to look at some bees with my beekeeper?

The queen in this hive is going to town. We'll likely be able to split this one. #bees #beekeeper #beekeeping

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Visiting the Country Bees

Cool bee wax

Cool bee wax

This past weekend, we went to check on the country bees out near Elm Creek. They were doing fine and we survived the mosquitos and butterflies flying all around. It was a gorgeous day to check on the bees. It’s always amazing to me how gentle these bees are. I had on jeans and a t-shirt and at first didn’t wear a veil but I did don one after one little bee kept bumping me. Mark once taught me and Dave Stewart (baseball all star for Oakland) that if a bee is bumping you a few times, it means she’s checking you out and that you’re in her territory and on her radar. After three bumps, I went to get my veil. 🙂 And thanks to Mark’s advice, several bees now live safely out in California because Stew doesn’t just automatically kill them if they are near him. LOL. He was nice enough to text Mark and share that with him. I thought that was pretty cool of him to remember and to share with us.

I like this shot a lot because the wax that the bees make look like little sculptures to me. I really enjoyed my morning out there with them and with Mark.

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