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Posts Tagged ‘harvest’

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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Drawn comb on a frame

Often I like to go out to the Honey House after work, or any chance I have. We both really love that we work and live on the same property so we can enjoy this luxury. I was intrigued by the lovely beeswax the bees had drawn out on this frame. We have pretty much run out of honey supers for the girls to fill up. This happens when we have grown in the number of hives we have AND it is a good honey flow year AND the honey is slow to dry out so we can’t extract quickly in order to reuse the supers. If you don’t continue to provide adequate space (supers in this case), then you slow the girls’ productivity and essentially can miss out on prime honey making opportunities.

We are taking this as an opportunity to just let our bees draw out some comb on more frames which will be useful in the future. Sometimes people say or ask how we feel about forcing the bees to make honey by continuing to put supers on. Mark, who has kept bees for over 30 years, told me that people who ask that have never likely kept bees or they’d know whether we provide the supers or not, they bees WILL make honey. That’s what they do. And it is a real mess when they don’t have adequate space in their home to store the honey. I am always learning new things when we discuss things like this and he is always good about answering questions that come up that I raise to his attention. He’s so busy tending to the bees as well as managing the business that he doesn’t see/hear all the social media, email and phone activities since I try to field those for him. Back to honey-making…don’t worry, we are pulling some supers when possible but we are simply taking our time and letting nature take its course. Rushing never works great in the long run. Here’s a beautiful frame the men brought in last week.

Honey harvest June 2016

Do you like persimmons? I love them. Have you seen them in the wild? Out in a field in the middle of nowhere? On a ranch? On the side of some old dirt road you’re cruising to look for wildflowers or wildlife? Here’s another thing I learned about bees and how persimmons come into play.

Aphids on wild persimmon limb

Have you ever noticed bees going to a wild persimmon bush or tree? But you look and think, hey, there aren’t any flowers right now. That’s odd. This happened here in our area a couple weeks ago. The wild persimmons had already bloomed out earlier this year and Mark knew that but saw bees on the big bushes so he took a closer look and watched patiently to see what the bees were doing. He took that picture for me and for us to share with you. Those are aphids and I missed them at first. He told me that the aphids secrete a honeydew on the wild persimmon bushes and that the bees must be gathering it. You can’t find a lot of writing on the matter but I read a post somewhere that people say they gather the honeydew there for different reasons – some say they do it when they are desperate while others say they collect it regardless of what else is out there because it’s just what they do. Whatever the case is, our bees were seen on the wild persimmons. Good eye, honeybee!

Bee gathering honeydew from leaves of Texas wild persimmon bush

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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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Today as I pulled into our drive...

Oh beautiful sky with your beautiful clouds, why not darken a bit and drop some raindrops? Couldn’t hurt to ask. During the hottest weeks/months of summer when the sun beats down on your back when you’re working outside, you welcome clouds even when they don’t always or often yield moisture. Mark will sometimes say to me that he appreciates the clouds when he’s working the bees. Clouds soften the brutal sun rays. I snapped this photo with my phone pointed straight up in front of me. The clouds were gorgeous and held such promise for rain here and there around us. The wind picked up and it cooled down quite a bit but hours later, we still did not receive any rain. Oh well. There’s always a little hope. It’s actually not as dry as it has been in the past for this time of year. It’s August in South Texas. It’s pretty hot now! Three-digit heat has finally arrived but most of us say, “If we can just get through August, then there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” haha The heat makes us appreciate the cold later.

Mark and Tang continue to tend to the hives out in different yards. It’s rare to have some of the hives still making a little bit of honey but we won’t complain. What an odd year it is. So far, we have harvested (or extracted) about 6,000 pounds of honey! Great numbers considering how little we got last year. Every drop is appreciated for sure! For hives that are strong and thriving, Tang and Mark are dividing. We’re going through a steady supply of queen bees ordered from outside of Texas, as always. We have another 28 queens coming this Wednesday. There’s also mite treatments to be completed, empty honey supers to treat for wax moths and then stored for winter, pecan trees to be tended to since there’s a second round of caterpillars…the list goes on. There’s never a dull moment but we try to rest when we can. The pace as well as the heat can truly be tiring.

In other news, we are thankful to be covered in a couple of local publications in the San Antonio area! Our first story is out now in Edible San Antonio magazine. You can find a copy by visiting their webpage. I want to give a big shoutout to our friend, Josh Baker of AzulOx Visuals. Josh photographed us at our Bee Ranch last fall and we were happy to have one of the photos we love so much be used in the article. Josh is an amazing photographer and he’s a lot of fun so please do check out his website if you are looking for photographer who will do more than take the usual posed pictures. Okay, the second article? You’ll have to wait! But you won’t have to wait long because we have seen the copy and the print is coming to the Pearl Farmers Market THIS coming Saturday. So excited and thrilled to have people interested in what we do at the Bee Ranch. Yay bees and beekeeper!

Edible San Antonio August-Sept issue

In happy honey-lover news, I’m excited to be able to share that Mark has updated the GBR website with the latest inventory of our local South Texas honey – the Gonzales County Wildflower. I love how light it is, just gorgeous! It tastes very similar to our Guadalupe County Wildflower. Light in color and light in taste. Check our Honey Shop if you would like to try some of this beautiful honey.

Gonzales County Wildflower Honey (2014 harvest)

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Greetings from the sky as I finish out my three straight weeks of travel to do some instructor-led training on a new gadget at work. Apparently getting on a plane to fly from Texas to South Carolina is my best chance at getting some work done for both companies I work for these days. I forget how long the flight is but I’m balancing CMC and GBR work as we cruise because somehow it has been a month since my last post and a lot has happened! I really should let y’all know what we’ve been up to this past month. And just so you know, part of my issue with posting has been a new PC/tablet combination I have been assigned at work. While I force myself to use it to learn it, I find that I can’t copy my usual Flickr picture links so that I can easily and quickly add them here. That’s been frustrating. Anyhow. Time and tech issues. I got them both! Haha

Since I last wrote, we finished our 2014 honey extraction! And by “we,” I mean a team of us. What we’d do without the help of family and friends, I’m not really sure. We are blessed this year to have my brother Tang staying with us a few months – he is a huge help to us both with beekeeping and candlemaking activities. And if you’ve been to the Pearl Farmers Market lately, then no doubt you have seen, heard and possibly met Tang, affectionately known as Forklift (because he says whatever we need done in the bee yard, honey house, or home, a forklift can help). He’s an absolute blessing to us, as are our friends Stan, Belinda and the Saviors. Collectively, they have helped us pull heavy honey supers and then handled the extraction activities so that Mark and Tang could take back empty supers or do mite treatments if a yard is done honey-making. We sure appreciate each of them so much and are so blessed to know them. The wonderful thing about family and friends is that no matter how hot and hard the work gets, there’s always opportunities to laugh and enjoy working together. It’s truly awesome.

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This year is the latest we have ever extracted. We thought by the end of June we’d be done but we didn’t even start pulling the bulk of the supers until July! Gee! Thanks to the late and intermittent rains, as flowers bloomed after a rain, the bees would pick up with their honey-making and when they are doing that, you sure don’t want to interrupt their work. Most everyone who waited for local honey learned this year that when it comes to the honey supply, we are on the schedule of Mother Nature and the bees. We can hope, want and demand all we want but until they are done, we all wait. It’s part of the learning process for some of our customers. It’s important for people to understand that honey is a limited resource, especially in a drought area. We each have to appreciate the hard work the bees put into producing every drop of honey. Once a crop is depleted, or once your honey jar is depleted, then you have to wait until next season. It sometimes amazes me that some customers assume we can harvest any time we wish. Nope! You get one harvest usually. That’s it. A lot rides on that harvest and we feel being at the Pearl market and building a solid foundation of loyal customers helps us to educate people on this process.

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Speaking of the Pearl, we are very, very happy with how things have developed there for us. Our move to a double booth and expanding our product line to include additional beeswax ornaments as well as bee pollen has really helped us to develop more steady income which in turn has helped us to make small improvements to our business and our operations. Also, being at the Pearl has opened up several partnering opportunities with local chefs as well as publications devoted either to the culinary scene in San Antonio or to the farm to table movement. We are thrilled that soon (like in the next two weeks), we will be in two publications which I will share here as soon as they are out. I promise I won’t wait a month before I tell you all. I’m too excited about this!

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In case you are local and you’re wondering what honeys we have this season, we are pleased to have a wonderfully light Huajilla Honey from our bee yards in Bigfoot (Frio County) and in the D’Hanis area (Medina County). When I first saw a picture of the first bottle, I never would have believed it was Huajilla had Mark not told me. Light in color and taste – we’ve really been enjoying it. For our closer bee yards (Guadalupe, Gonzales and Bexar counties), we have our wonderful Wildflower Honey. As my go-to honey for my allergies, I am happy to see this year’s crop is also very light in color and taste. Some people as us which is best and that is purely up to individual taste buds. While I am sad the way things worked out so that the bees could not make Mesquite Honey this year, I am happy that the Huajilla has a bit of Mesquite in it as both bloomed simultaneously (typically Mesquite blooms later in the summer after everything else and so we’ve gotten a late summer harvest of it in the past). The taste of the Huajilla is typically described as smooth and smoky. I love it this year and for me it will have to do without Mesquite as an option. The Wildflower Honey is described by most as possessing a more floral taste and the impression is that it “tastes sweeter” than the Huajilla. But you could survey two people and they could possibly tell you the opposite things for each honey. That’s what I tell customers when they don’t want to taste the samples but would rather have me tell them what is what. I tell them but it’s really up to your taste buds to tell you if you prefer one over the other.

Okay, I think this is good for now. Wouldn’t want to overload you guys. I appreciate y’all’s patience as we work away at the harvest and everything else we have going on these days. There just never is enough time for us to do all we wish to do in a day. And for that, we are grateful. Loving the life we live and hoping you are as well! Take care and hope to talk to y’all again real soon.

PS – I got busy once I landed in SC so I am only now able to get pictures loaded to go with my post. What’s a post without pictures!? I love it when I go to blogs and see pictures so there. Also, I am super happy to have finished my series of training courses that has taken me away from home for three straight weeks. This is a very happy me after work today! Tomorrow I get to hang out with my little sis and then I fly home to my men Thursday. Woohoo!

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Doing a great job uncapping frames

I don’t think we could have made it as far as we have without the help of our friends. It’s been a rough weekend but we look at it as an opportunity to grow through trying times – limited hours and tight quarters, our two worst enemies. Maybe if we were still in our twenties, pulling an all-nighter might have been doable. Or even a half-nighter. We stayed up until 3:00a.m. Friday night in order to get through all the frames before we lose any more. Remember you only have a certain amount of time to get the honey off before the wax worms or beetles become a nuisance. While David, Mark and I finished off Friday night, we sure couldn’t have gotten to that end without all the help of friends who pitched in along the way, and after as well. We sure do appreciate it and you’ll forever be in our hearts. This is just one pair of the uncapping crews that we’ve had through the honey house over the past week. This is Bethany and Ryan from JW Marriott. They came, along with Brett, and stayed an entire morning and put in some great hours. Stan, Zach, Belinda, Dale, Joy, Pete, Jessica and Tim…y’all sure were a blessing to us and we just wanted to say THANKS. And thanks also to those of you who offered to pitch in a few hours. I put the word out there that we were done but next year, I think I will still schedule people to help with taking supers back out to bee yards and to clean up the honey everywhere!

We’ve got a bit of cleaning to do before the Pearl Farmers Market folks visit this Wednesday (rescheduled from last week). We’ll let you know how the visit goes. Meanwhile, y’all have a great week. We’re back at our full time jobs tomorrow but we’ll be thinking about the honey we’ve harvested and the small batch of maybe another 1000 pounds already on the supers the men put back earlier this week. Amazing year.

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Me, with the HH all to myself

Hello there! Greetings from a busy little Bee Ranch in the heart of Seguin. That picture was a shot I sent my sister when she asked me how things were going so far. I took the day off to help with the harvest because the honey cannot stay on the frames too long or else we’ll have some hive beetle and wax moth issues. So I worked the morning and some of the afternoon with a crew and then I had about thirty minutes before the next crew started to arrive. So I sort of enjoyed cleaning up quietly and going about preparing for the next group – mopping up the honey that drips everywhere, wiping down countertops (freezer, luckily I left the plastic tablecloth on it), organizing empty and full supers so there’s room for next load the guys were bringing in, scraping wax off the sieves, cleaning up the uncapping table and tools, avoiding getting stung. You know, the usual stuff.

I reason I wish I was an octopus is because there is so many things to do that I want to do, not just have to do, that I am constantly moving. Earlier, I posted a picture on FB wherein I was munching on a yummy peanut butter and honey sandwich once the afternoon arrived and the men were unloading the third trailer of honey supers. Well, my dear friend pointed out that I wasn’t even sitting down to eat. And you know what? It never even occurred to me I was standing at the window, looking off into LaLa Land. haha, I cracked up. What a crazy time. I remember I ate a piece of cold pizza in the truck while driving to New Braunfels to pick up a load of Huajilla and empty 5-gallon buckets in which we’ll store our honey until we need to bottle them. I remember because I snapped of picture for my sister. She and I are constantly communicating about what’s happening at GBR. I love how interested our families are about what we’re doing.

We are all tired and I can’t speak for the rest of the crew but I, for one, am having such a blast that I have decided I should take time off during next year’s harvest. I am so excited just thinking of all the small and big ways we might improve the process and experience. I’m sure you have guessed that I will likely focus on the creature comforts of it all. Assuming we are in a bigger space (home and business), here are some things that are on my mind:

  1. What will I feed the crew that will fill them up, be easy on me and not bust the bank?
  2. Where and how will I feed the crew? If you have been to the Bee Ranch, then you know we have a tiny but quaint home. Great for the two of us and Smokey; not so great for feeding many people who happen to be hot, tired, and very sticky. But at least they are sweet. 🙂 hmmm…and how will I remind them to take off sticky shoes/boots unless I’m there??
  3. What shifts should be developed so folks don’t get overheated and just worn out. I was going to say plumb tuckered out but then I realized I don’t know if it’s “plum” or “plumb” and I don’t want to leave this to look it up because that just makes writing not as fun. So instead you get my total thought here. 🙂 I write what I think. Thank goodness most people seem to not mind that.
  4. Orientation!!!!!! I love employee development. I have been involved with and have delivered employee dev. programs on and off for years and I love it. If you teach people how to do things and you explain why it’s important and you’re patient about it, it all really works out better. Case in point – labeling our bottles of honey. Seems like a small thing, right? We didn’t train someone who had worked with us in the past. They’ve seen and handled so many bottles, we’ve all lost count. But when I let go of that task and later went back to just gaze upon our gorgeous honey…I was so surprised to see inconsistent placement and in some cases, a totally sideways label. Lesson learned for us: do not assume labeling honey jars is so basic that it doesn’t warrant time spent training people of technique and expectations. We can apply this all over the place in our professional and personal lives. Anyway, training is a passion of mine so I’ll move on or else this will be even longer. Needless to say, my pet project will be the GBR Orientation Program Yet to Be Named Something Snazzy.
  5. Process flow – how can we design work space in our new home/business (hopefully) that will help make what we’re doing, and what we want to do, more efficient? It’s amazing we are doing this huge harvest in our sweet little Honey House but it’s a must. Once we survive this year, we’ve just got to get a bigger space. With hopefully continued good rains, we may have even more hives and more honey…well, we’ll just see what the future brings.
Okay, time for another picture. Here is the second trailer load the crew unloaded yesterday evening. Hooray for Stan and Zach coming to the rescue. Mark, David and Dale had been pulling honey supers all day in the hot, hot South Texas heat and sun so they were TIRED. Belinda and Ira had just finished with their extraction work and they were DONE. So we want to give thanks for friends who rescue us when we need help. Thank you so much. And thank you, Jess and Tim (again), for buying us some more ice and paper towels! Our little ice machine and the few bags we had bought couldn’t keep up with the thirst of the crew.

Stan, Mark, David are pictured here

Gotta go…I’m pulling together leftovers and just thought I could make them all a bit of smoothie. I have tons more to share so I’ll keep you posted on things. Tomorrow Mark and David will extract and in the morning the Marriott chefs are coming to visit! Yay!! Oh, and Pearl Farmers Market is suppose to come inspect things soon also as part of our application to be a vendor. EEE!!

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