Posts Tagged ‘Pearl Farmers Market’

Bigfoot bee yard June 2015

Above: Littlefoot – a new bee yard established Spring 2015 in Frio County. The Mesquite tree in the background on the left was struck by lightning several weeks ago. Luckily, it did not fall towards the hives because that’s been one of the highest productivity yards this year so far!

It has been the strangest spring ever in many ways. We’ve had plentiful rain filling up empty stock tanks and raising lake levels and things are greener at the end of June than I’ve seen it in the twenty years I’ve lived here. What a spring. Over all the bees are doing well and honey making is happening in bits and pieces. While some yards are heavy with activity, other yards are doing next to nothing. That’s why we spread out our 170 hives…just in case. Below is a look at some gorgeous honey we are letting sit on the hives a little longer so the bees can continue drying it. Lots of moisture this year! We have pulled just a fraction of what the bees made and with the timing (if it is just right), Mark just told me at lunch there is a chance we may get some Mesquite Honey this year after many years of going without one of our all-time favorites – woo! hoo! Seriously, I love that honey for it smooth, smokiness. Let’s hope it happens after all.

Almost ready to harvest

So. The major shift in focus. What is it? Well, if you follow any of our other social media platforms, then you already know. This coming weekend is OUR LAST WEEKEND AT PEARL. Yep. This is a 2012 photo I snapped in September, just a few months after we had been accepted as a vendor at the Pearl Farmers Market. What an amazing and exciting and exhausting 35 months we have had! 🙂

New location for Pearl Farmers Market

With each year since we formally established GBR, the business has picked up and the opportunities have also. Last year when Mark was elected President of the Pearl Farmers Market Association, we had no idea the amount of time and energy it would take and what it would take out of us both. We planned on longer hours and some hard work but it has been more like what we planned for and then multiplied by 20. We have learned so much at market and have made so many friends amongst our fellow vendors as well as our customers, but the time had come to make a change. Not only are we physically exhausted doing both weekend markets on top of a very full 5-day work week, but we are just not as young as we were and the pace is insane but maybe that’s just us because that’s how we work. We give it our all. You know we lived and breathed bees and somewhere along the way, market out-weighed bees in terms of workload. There are so many projects we want to pursue but haven’t had time to carry out the work. There are so many exciting new products we want to roll out but there’s prototypes, testing, packaging, marketing – there hasn’t been enough hours for us to do any of that the way we want to so now we re-focus.

Improve the process for making our popular Creamed Honey. Done.

Ready for ordering and  purchase - yummy!!!!

Begin making the new beeswax products we’ve been meaning to try – like extra tall Bee-Day Candles. Done.

New at the Bee Ranch - extra tall Bee-Day candles

Brainstorm and plan out the next chapter of GBR – not just new classes and new products but also some down time for resting, returning to church and seeing more of our family members. Done.

Planning the next chapter

It feels good to take some steps to focus on what we want to do and where we want to do it. More of GBR at the Bee Ranch. We’ll still do occasional shows but the primary focus will be right here at the home we love so much and have spent so little time enjoying. We hope you stay with us and see what is next for us. One of the exciting goals I have for myself is a return to this beloved Bee Blog of ours that has been neglected like many other things we hold dear. Here’s to a new chapter! Or Version 2.0 as a friend put it.


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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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Curling incense

In case you didn’t know it, today is the first day of the Lunar New Year! So happy Tet (Vietnamese New Year) to you if you are celebrating! I love that I have two cultures to draw from – so we get another new year kickoff! In honor of Tet, I made some quiet time this morning to reflect on our past, our present and what might be in our future and I am so thankful, so happy, and so excited about our continuing journey this coming year. We feel like it’s going to be a big, big year for our business as well as for our personal family life. There’s a saying that when your incense curls while burning, that means good things are happening so I was very happy to see our incense this morning. Good sign.

I took today off to just celebrate life and everything in it and to be with Mark and Tang. I sure miss them when I go off to work at the mill and they’re doing all sorts of work together. I do love getting reports and checkins but it’s not the same as being together. So today, I am very happy I get to just be with them as I was last Sunday when we went out to two bee yards to check on and feed the bees. And yes, they are used to all my gear.

Hanging out with the men

Do you need some help deciding if you should come check out the Pearl Farmers Market every Saturday morning? Have you been but thought, “Oh, been there, done that. Why should I go again?” Allow me to share with you why WE love to go…

We’ve got all these good-looking, good-smelling, good-for-your-environment beeswax products we like to share.

Candles candles and more candles

And these sweeties will be there tomorrow also.

Oh sweet heart ornaments

Then there’s the food we pick up so we can nourish our bodies. I made this last week and my brother told me I should have a restaurant (that’s a big compliment from him). I got the ingredients from fellow Pearl market vendors: big portabella mushroom from Kitchen Pride Mushroom, spinach from Springfield Farm, goat cheese from CKC Farms, cauliflower from Oak Hill Farms, egg from Wholesome Harvest Farm (right here in Seguin with us!).

Stuffed portabella

Ah finally, an update on our lovely, lovely Honey House – so close to being ready for final inspection! Holding back on the exclamation points but we are pretty excited, to say the least. When I get frustrated with the red tape businesses have to cut through just to get something like this done, all I have to do is to into the HH. All that negativity just disappears into thin air as I look around and visualize us all working in the space that will soon be completed. No more falling on top of each other. No more sticking to honeyed/waxed equipment that because there wasn’t enough room to pass by even with your gut sucked in (haha). No more hunting one room for tape, another room for a box and a third room for the products you need to ship. WOW. What are we going to do or think?? This will feel like a mansion to us! Well, actually it will be a mansion for our bee biz. It’s really tangible now. It’s really looking like a work space and we can’t wait to move in, get to work and have y’all over!

Mark and I check out the current progress of the HH

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A gift in the bee box

And it’s about to get busier for a while. We are all set for tomorrow’s Pearl Farmers Market. If you are coming to see us, don’t forget we have relocated to the lot directly in front of the CIA Bakery (you gotta love that name – it’s really the Culinary Institute of America) and it’s only for tomorrow. After that, we’ll all move back to the usual spot on the other side of the stable. After market, we’ll load up for Yulefest here in Seguin at the Coliseum on Sunday – 10a to 4p. Great place to find some nice gifts for the family and friends. I want to get some of that awesome soup in a jar from Jett’s Jelly. Yum. Speaking of jelly, the box above was on loan and then returned to us by a friend. She also left us gifts inside! The eggs are from her hens and she made the most delicious blackberry jam I have ever tasted. I’m not even really a jam/jelly kinda gal but this was excellent. I hope she sells it one day so we can buy it all up. Danielle was a student in one of our classes and now has hives of her own. She also raises the yummiest chickens – I can testify to that. I am still talking about the chicken now. lol – just go check her site out if you want some great eats. Click here for Hanson Family Farm.

Mark’s been busy, busy. All week he’s been filtering wax and trying to catch up on beeswax orders and also stock up for markets. He sent this great shot the other day and I really loved it. Obviously he’s taller than I am and has a perspective y’all don’t get to see often in our photos since I see the world differently from my level. Ever thought about that? Tall and petite people shoot pictures differently. Anyway, here’s the awesome shot of his candle table. 🙂

The beekeeper's candle table this morning

Some of Mark’s other work this week included checking on and feeding some of the hives that needed it. Things are looking pretty good as he preps the hives for winter. He is also moving the Honey House over here bit by bit now that we have that new shed set up with electricity. He’s got to build a new candle table, however, and then we’ve got to move all those heavy buckets of honey! Looks like the garage will be our little honey shop until we can get the new HH built here at the new property. Very exciting! Somewhere along here we need to sit and plan out the space. I love doing that sort of thing!

Next topic: the “interesting” photos Mark sends me from the fields as he drives the country roads. I never know what he’ll send and sometimes he doesn’t warn me. Remember that shot of the wild hog’s head hanging from the tree down in the Runge bee yard? With the beer can in its mouth. Weird. I won’t post the two he sent this week but one was a headless hog (no one can figure out who would do that and why) and the other one was of a coyote sort of eaten up. Interesting. Made me laugh out loud literally. At work. Luckily I was alone. I think I may have screamed a little scream of shock. Maybe. lol

Oooooooh! I almost forgot! Tomorrow we are also delivering our first batch of Guadalupe County Wildflower AND Frio County Huajilla to Melissa Guerra! We are so excited to have a such an awesome new retail outlet in the downtown area. And besides that, we really like the look and feel of the shop, the friendliness of the staff and what Melissa does with the store. Looking forward to this new partnership. I’ll try to get a shot for y’all tomorrow post-market.

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New location for Pearl Farmers Market

Today was the first day for the Pearl Farmers Market (PFM) in our new location in front of the historic brewhouse. We had a shady spot (bottom right) and a nice little breeze this morning. How lovely after the high 90s and 100 degree days of months past. There was a special treat for us today (besides our seeing the other vendors, enjoying our favorite crepes and coffee) – we had a lovely, lovely visit from our family from Austin. It was their first visit to the Pearl and they spent some time helping us out behind the table. Our niece and nephew did wonderfully helping us out a bit – didn’t take them long to start repeating what they heard us tell our customers about the honeys and the bees. The switched on and off with duties such as providing honey samples, wrapping candles for customers, accepting payment and talking bees when people stopped by the observation hive. It was wonderful to see our family in action and we sure appreciated the help as Lan and Cathy were not with us this weekend! But what was even better than that is that we got to spend some time with the kids (AND their parents :))! After helping us unload everything back at the Bee Ranch, we all went for an great lunch at Kirby’s. Can you say delicious burgers, fries, fried okra and chocolate shakes!? Now that’s nice.

Family time - our Connecticut niece and nephew are back in Texas!

I snapped some pictures yesterday I wanted to share with you all. I went to the Honey House to help prep for market and watched as Mark removed another batch of candles. He’s been working hard to get ahead a bit on the beeswax products since they’ve been so popular in San Antonio and we’ve got several events coming up in a couple of weeks. This is the candle-making table and I noticed this past week that he got some new molds as well as a nice holder for the tapers. Very nice as this will help keep the taper molds stay put (versus tipping over, which has happened). Looking great, honey! You’re awesome. Keep up the candle production – the holidays are coming!! LOL That’s what even the customers are telling us, which is really nice we think. We’re selling so much beeswax lately and we are so thrilled! Our only concern is having enough for everything we have coming up – market every Saturday at the Pearl, Seguin Trade Days resuming September 29, Gonzales’ Come & Take It Festival and the holiday shopping season. AGH!! It’s a busy time of year in terms of selling and we are gearing up for it as best we can. Should be another fun season!

The Candle-making Beekeeper at Work

Here’s Mark removing a pine cone from one of the molds. The tricky part is getting the candles out of their molds without losing parts of the candle. You have to make sure the molds are clean before you pour the wax in there and in this case, the pine cone is a tricky, tricky candle to remove from the mold cleanly. During this candle-making session, Mark lost three of the pine cones. 😦 Bad news for the fans of the 92-hour burning king of the candle table.

Removing the candle from the mold 2

And here’s what happens when things aren’t perfect – you get a few missing petals off the pine cone and this gets to be my own personal candle, warming us up as the weather gets cooler and helping to fill the house up with the sweet smell of honey. I love rejects from the Candle-making Beekeeper! I have a lovely jar in which I keep my sweet rejects. 🙂

Defective Pine Cone Candles

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Mark showing bees at Pearl July 21

It was another great and super-busy four hours this morning at the Pearl Farmers Market and I didn’t fail to look at the clock two hours into it but feeling like it must be at least three hours into it. Not that we didn’t enjoy ourselves – we did! Especially with my sister Lan now joining us at the market when she can. We sure did appreciate her help because we were bless-fully swamped!

Here are a few things we noted from today’s activities:
1. The observation hive continues to be a huge hit and draws people of all ages to the booth. Nothing beats watching the queen bee lay eggs and for us to be able to point to the frame and explain how the honey goes from there to a tank to a bottle gets the point of freshness across quite easily. It’s fun to educate people.
2. Lan really knows how to sell! Not that I’m surprised because I know she has tons of retail experience and she’s also been working in the hotel industry so she’s all about great customer service. We both really appreciate her attention to detail and her products display skills. What’s awesome on top of all that is that she hasn’t been to one of our classes yet (though she will in the fall when we resume) nor has she had time to spend a great deal of time working the bees with us. But she sure can listen to what we say to customers and then repeats it herself and sounds like she’s been doing it for years. She rocks. She’s as outgoing as David is so we can’t wait for them to meet and work together. We think on those days they will probably sell out of honey and beeswax.
3. Speaking of beeswax, it continues to be a great seller at the market! Who knew? Typically, consumers have not bought a lot of beeswax during the summer. Not sure why but we suspect it’s just hot and how really things of burning candles or melting beeswax in 100 degree weather, right? Besides candle-making beekeepers. Well, people in SA sure do like their beeswax and beeswax candles. We sold quite a bit last weekend and we did so again today. Below is a shot of some of the wax products we took to market today.

Beeswax at the Pearl July 21

Finally, here’s a parting shot for the evening. I went with Mark to return the observation hive bees to their home at Deadman Creek so I decided to start practicing with my new tiny macro lens I got last week for the iPhone. It cost about $11, compared to a $1000 Nikon macro lens. Yea, we’ll be okay with the iPhone lens for a while. 🙂 I think it’ll be fun to shoot with it for a while. It’s not perfect or even super-awesome, by any means, but it will allow me to get some close-ups of bees, wax, and super-tiny flowers like the Bee Brush, which is blooming abundantly right now after last week’s rain. I usually can’t get a great close-up of the blooms with my regular Nikon lens because it’s hard to capture white and the flowers are very small and bunched together. I’m happy with this shot for now. Hope you like it and that you sleep well tonight.

Bee brush macro July 2012

Thank you so much to all the fine folks we met today. We had a blast making new friends and also getting to see more and more of our dear SA friends. I have really missed a lot of you and I am so happy when y’all stop by the booth to see us. Really makes my morning so thank you, thank you! Okay, before I got to bed, I have to share with you one of our favorite vendors (already) – the crepes folks of Crepelandia. Oh my. We are addicted.

Mark’s choice –
Strawberry crepes

My choice –
Sunrise Crepe - tomato, spinach, avocado, etgg, cheese

Okay. Now for real, goodnight.

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Tang helps Mark open up a hive

Just another busy week for us as here at the Bee Ranch – bee world, library world and steel making IT world. The highlight of this week (other than Mark not having to work crazy long library hours to prepare for an annual budget presentation) are the visits from my dad and brother who live in Florida. This is not their first visit to Texas, but it is their first to the Bee Ranch. 🙂 We were both excited to show them our little growing business and to see how my brother Tang would do with the bees. You see, Tang will come to live with us soon so we thought it’s important to see how he feels about them since he’ll be around them so much in the near future.

Last night we took Tang to Deadman Creek bee yard and he got his first taste of opening up a hive. After about ten times, I stopped counting when he said, “Wow, that is soooo cool!” I was just happy as can be that he loved it! And he really did. Tang is young at heart and I love that we’ll learn to re-see things through his eyes. He marveled at the bees and honey as well as the surroundings and was particularly fascinated with the longhorns on property. As well as the donkey. Too sweet. I thought my little heart was going to burst. I was so happy.

This evening we took both Dad and Tang out to Big Oaks. Dad wanted to see the bees and to better understand what Mark does when he “works in the bee yard.” I tell you what – I am so proud of my brother and Dad because they really handled the bee frames quite professionally! Mark and I were very impressed. They remained calm and moved deliberately and followed instructions very well. I especially enjoyed watching Dad replace the frames and watched as he carefully spaced out the frames as he had seen Mark doing in the previous hive. He’s always been meticulously orderly. Something about watching him do that today was very comforting and somehow reassuring. We were happy they both enjoyed it and we are already looking forward to our next visit with them, whether here or in Florida.

Dad handles the frames like a pro

After their visit and dinner, Mark and I did a little work in the Honey House to prepare two orders and to continue prepping for the Pearl Farmers Market again this Saturday. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of business we get after the initial onslaught of customers that a first-time vendor might receive as a welcome. We’ll see if it levels out a bit. We’re excited, too, that my sister Lan will be joining the GBR team when her schedule permits. Lan has great customer service values and is great with money. She has years and years of retail experience as well as an eye for decorating and display. We know she’ll be a great addition to our team. Can’t wait for her and David to meet. 🙂

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Pearl & Facebook

It’s official – we’re heading to our first market with the Pearl folks in San Antonio. If you haven’t been to that area lately, you need to see all the wonderful things that are now where they use to brew beer at the Pearl Brewery. I am always impressed when I go by that area and see the development and improvements to the river there. The Pearl is worth checking out, if you haven’t already. Good eats, cool merchandise, beautiful river enhancements, awesome Culinary Institute of America bakery, and the farmers market on Saturday mornings. There’s even development for downtown living in progress there. If I’m gushing, it’s because I love what’s happening there and I will always love SA since it was my first taste of Texas living. The people are so nice – it’s what struck me when I came on my interview and subsequent visits. It will always be dear to me and I love to see SA growing and blossoming. Nothing pretentious, though. Just fun and genuine, in my opinion.

Okay, so why the picture above? For starters, I was excited that we got a new follower on Twitter (thanks for following us Pearl). But then Mark messaged me and said we had jumped up a bit with our Facebook fan count and I couldn’t understand why. We’re always curious about who likes us and how they heard about us. So I thought to check the Pearl page and look what I found – they mentioned us and linked us also. That explains the jump in number. 🙂 Which takes me back to one of the things we talk about anytime people ask us to present something on GBR – the importance of social media. It’s not a bad word (words) – like everything else in life, it has its ups and downs. Yes, you have to keep up with it. Yes, you have to be careful to strike that balance between sharing with people and maintaining some degree of privacy. Yes, it takes time and if you fake it most people will see through you. No, it does not have to be drama-filled.

Word-of-mouth business has helped us grow but social media, in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and our blog, has enhanced our online presence beyond our website. It’s a gorgeous website and we LOVE it (Thanks, Troy!). But we like the immediacy of sharing afforded by our FB posts, tweets and albums. It allows us to connect on a personal level with our customers and followers. With YOU. 🙂 We want you to know who we are and how we work and where your honey and candles come from. And the wonderful thing about other people connecting with us is that they connect us with their group of friends and followers. In this case, Pearl has over 11,000 followers. Makes our almost-400-followers seem so small right now. But that’s okay. I have reasonable social media goals. I want us to reach 500 before the holidays. Let’s see if we can do it.

So here’s where we’ll be every Saturday for a while. 8-12p during hot July and August and then back to the usual 9-1p the rest of the year. Personally, I’m also looking forward to having access to fresh produce and meats while we’re there. It was great the last time we visited as consumers.

veggies - peppers

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