Posts Tagged ‘class’


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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Our first Honey harvesting classes are set for August 1st and again on the 15th. Check our website for more info http://www.gretchenbeeranch.com/education/beekeeping_classes.html

Hard to believe August is here nearly! I just wanted to do a quick post on new class dates as well as an entirely new topic – How to Harvest Your Honey. We are thrilled to be able to start offering classes we’ve wanted to do for a while now. This saturday is our first round of the harvest class so Mark’s been working on the outline and flow as well as pulling together materials for an actual harvest. Should be a lot of fun! We still have seats if you’re interested and we’ll do a second offering of that class on August 15. You check our website to see more about the class information as well register. Additional Introduction to Beekeeping class dates have also been added the the calendar. Hooray! (Click here to go to our website.)

Here’s a quick look at upcoming events on Saturdays in August – busy but at least we are around the Bee Ranch and that is super awesome! Also super awesome is our honey harvest, which has exceeded a ton (which is a lot of fun to say). I hope to have a little time later today to write about the harvest. I am pumped about the strong possibility that we have some Mesquite this year after several years of not having the timing right for my favorite honey. Yay! More soon.

Busy bees in August

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July bee class

Hello there! Guess what we added to the calendar since we are actually doing more work around the Bee Ranch now? A new class date for Introduction to Beekeeping. Our next class will be Saturday, July 18 in case you are interested. Here’s link for more information as well as to register. We have some seats still available and hope you can join us! Click here for class info.

In other wonderful news – pollen, pollen, and more pollen. WOW! We are loving how the pollen looks AND tastes this year. Subtly sweet and soft to the touch. Due to the hot weather, we aren’t shipping it out but if you would like some, do stop by the Bee Ranch one Wednesday or Saturday (9-12pm).

Pollen is amazing this season!

And in case you would prefer honey – it’s coming! We have started a slow harvest due to rainy spells and high levels of moisture in the honey. What we have harvested, we like. A lot. And we can’t wait to host a few honey tasting events to share it with you all!

Harvest time at the Bee Ranch

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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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In the hive 24

Okay, so you are probably wondering why everyone’s looking at their finger, right? 🙂 One of the joys of keeping our hives gentle with out-of-state queens is that we can have class with little worry about people getting the backyard bees worked up too much. Sometimes we have to urge our students to keep their veils and gloves on as they just get real comfortable around the bees. It probably doesn’t help that Mark and I are minimally veiled. Once in a while a bee may get irritated but I usually just step away a bit until she leaves me alone. If not, I just add a veil and gloves. Back to the picture – now that the bees are making honey, the students got to taste some honey straight from the frame. That was unexpected and very fun I think. I know I enjoyed it when Mark let me do that the first time at Gonzales bee yard. Yum. Nothing like tasting fresh honey straight from the frame. If you’re really lucky, your beekeeper gives you a bit of honeycomb that the bees built off the frame. This is me trying to save the honeycomb that was falling off the hive tool out at Rattlesnake bee yard. I saved it but I managed to get honey all on my hand. I must be the messiest bee yard visitor ever. Mark and David just broke off some honeycomb and popped it in their mouths no problem. I always end up with sticky fingers and then I discover I also got honey in my hair or on my shirt.

Messy me but I had to try that honey

Back to class – here is a shot of our session inside the honey house, where we discuss the extraction process and also get to do a honey tasting. We don’t normally get many photos of this portion of class because it’s hard for me to move around when we have more than five students. Plus I have that height challenge. But we managed and we had a great time. As always, people had great questions and discussion was awesome. The best part is getting into the hive for some hands-on time. I really liked how comfortable everyone was during this portion of class. Though we didn’t get to see the queen during class, we did get to see some great frames of pollen in addition to the honey. No mites seen, which is good. No beetles either. The students got to handle a super so they can feel the average weight of a honey-laden box. I enjoy the classes because I never know when Mark is going to throw in something new that he hadn’t done before in class. Love it.

Honey house 2

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Hands on portion of class

Well, it took a several hours but I finally finished loading, editing, sorting and then Flickr loading most of the 285 photos I took this past Saturday during our big class and nucleus hive pick up event. Wow, what a day! We spent most of the week preparing and stressing a bit but once the class actually started, it was all worth it. I thought David and Mark did a great job for their first advance topic class – How to Build Up Your Hive in the Spring. We had twenty-four students and the class ran from 9:00 a.m. to about 12:45 p.m. It was past 1:00 p.m. by the time the last student and nuc hive left the Bee Ranch. It was tiring but fun and we sure are happy we have great partners in David and Jessica. David and Mark were already talking about how to tighten up their class outline for the April 21 class. I don’t even think we had a chance to eat lunch yet and they were already looking to the future class. 🙂 That’s how I know they love what they are doing. I love watching them work in the bee yards and I sure enjoyed watching and listening to them engaging with all our new beekeepers. I am so proud to work with them and with Jessica. Without her, I think I really would have been a mess Saturday. She worked the registration and payment table with me and pretty much kept order to things. I think if it was possible for me to socialize and take pictures, I’d be happy as a bee on a Bluebonnet. 🙂 I had the Nikon as well as my iPhone 4s, which has a 8 megapixel camera. A good thing since my Nikon started acting up and decided to stop working halfway through the class. Maybe it was the humidity. I don’t know for sure but I took it inside and later that day, it worked fine. Hmm. I probably should have kept it in the big Ziploc bag I had for it since it was slightly misty that morning. Oh well, I had many little lessons learned to take away from Saturday and like the beekeepers, I will need to tighten up my own activities for the class in April. Man, we keep learning so much each day and each event we have.

Learning to close the hive entrance

The class consisted of lecture, open discussion, constant question/answer, demonstrations and hands-on opportunities. There was smoker lighting and extinguishing, opening a hive and reading it for good and bad signs, identifying different bees, installing the nucleus hives (which the beekeepers had to do once they got their bees home that day), mixing feed, applying medicine, and the list goes on. A lot to cover in three hours but everyone seemed happy to be there learning. Most have been doing extra reading in order to prepare for their new bees, which indicates to us they are serious about their new endeavor and that makes us so happy. We are just really impressed with how much they all already look like beekeepers – they handled the frames just great and they were quite at ease throughout the morning. We can’t wait to see how they progress with their bees and we hope they keep us posted. Did I mention we were actually missing the bees by the evening. It was sort of funny because we felt like parents whose children had been adopted by other families. I know. We’re so hooked for life on beekeeping. We’re just happy we now have another twenty-something new beekeepers to keep us company! Hope you all enjoy your beeventures!

Here are some links to media you can view from Saturday’s event:

Full Flickr photo set – Click here for photos
Short YouTube video of Mark – Click here for Mark’s video
Short YouTube video of David – Click here for David’s video

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Introductions 4 & hive

This weekend we had our first Intro to Beekeeping class for the new year and we had a blast. It felt like forever since we had taught our last class (it was actually just last month!) and we felt a little rusty setting up the night before but we got everything together. Even Smokey kicked it into high gear as students mingled in the yard before and after class. Here we are on the back deck by the bamboo and the gate. He knows that’s where the students enter the yard and you can find him around that area most Saturday mornings if we are out there. He does this hilarious though weird dash through the crowd at least once each class. I call it the Psycho Monkey Run and it cracks me up. See the fun we have during class? No wonder we love having folks over to the Bee Ranch.

Smile kitty

We had fifteen students this round, including two kids who did great. They were already over by the hives within inches, not suited up, before we started class! Fearless I tell you. It was a gorgeous day, slightly chilly but luckily it warmed up enough to go into the hives for a while. Everyone had a chance to hold a frame of bees, we spotted the queen and we think everyone had a good time and learned some things along the way. We had a treat this class – a couple of the students make mead and they brought samples for everyone AND they also let us sample Cranberry and Saw Palmetto honeys from their personal stash. What a nice treat! It was super fun and now we can’t wait for our next class on February 4. 🙂

Into the hives 10

We have a full set of pictures at Flickr if you would like to check out
what the class did January 21.

By the way – tomorrow is Lunar New Year, also known as Tết to Vietnamese people or Chinese New Year to other people. Year of the Dragon this time. Here’s to a prosperous, fun and happiness-filled, healthy year for all of us and all the bees! Chúc mừng năm mới!!

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