Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Hello there. It’s been a while, yes? I have been doing all my updating on other social media platforms just because I somehow seem to be able to put up a picture and a few lines faster than sitting down at the computer to write out my full thoughts on something. Sorry. But really, if you are on things like Facebook, Twitter, and ESPECIALLY Instagram…you can keep up with all our happenings because I post daily there.

Making hive divides

Tis the busy season now for our bees here in South Texas. Mark has begun his hive dividing in preparation for our nuc customers. We still sell a very limited number of nucs each year, primarily to our beekeeping students but also to a handful of other customers. We are still at about 200 hives and maybe 10 bee yards though we continue to seek ways to consolidate apiaries in order to work them more efficiently. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s so much work to keep the bees going while also maintaining and running the shop. Not to mention working all the administrative details of small business. Fun and we love it, but lots of work.

We are loving the shop and being there! So cool to help our customers with what they need.

Assisting customers in the GBR Beekeeping Showroom

The classes are going strong (filled up for spring and fall dates for Introduction to Beekeeping should be up soon on the website) and so are the workshops designed to focus on specific beekeeping topics. This morning’s topic was South Texas Honey Plants with special presenter, Bill Evans. Huge group and lots of great discussion. My favorite thing on Saturdays is peeking into the Showroom between my Honey Store customers to check on the beekeepers. Makes us so happy to see people hanging out and talking bees even after the one hour workshop is over. It’s a great way to network with other beekeepers. Even if you’re not a beekeeper yet, it’s a great way to start learning about things. We love seeing our customers showing other customers something about a product we have in the Showroom! I saw today that our dentist and her husband were in the shop – they’re starting their own beeventures, too! How cool.

If you haven’t noticed, I did just list new dates for upcoming “Drops” in San Antonio – that’s where we take orders into SA and meet up with customers at a designated spot at Pearl. I also listed the fall Introduction class dates but wait a few more days for it to get updated on the website please. If you have any questions, just comment here or you can always email or call us. info@gretchenbeeranch.com or 830-305-7925.

Goodnight, xo


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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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First Bluebonnets of the 2014 in Seguin

These are the things I want to tell you about in this post. I have to make this list of three or else I will be all over the place since I have a million thoughts that want to be written.
1. Spring
2. The Honey House
3. Spring Open House

This could apply to many, many things right about now. Sometimes I have so many things I want to tell you guys that I don’t even know where to begin. Which reminds me that lately, Mark and I have so much going on that we sometimes feel on the edge of being overwhelmed and then we tell ourselves (and each other), okay slow down. Take a deep breath. Don’t freak. Make a list of the top three things you MUST do and go from there. Remember you cannot do ALL the things you have on your list/in your head to do.

Crazy eyes

Okay, it may just be me having those last thoughts. haha Mark is much calmer and cooler than I am like 99.9% of the time. I’m more of the Daffy Duck to his Bugs Bunny. That image came to my head as I was typing this.

Okay so did you see the Bluebonnets?!?! I spotted them not too far from the Bee Ranch but I had not been able to stop for a photo because the batch was at a pretty busy and somewhat dangerous intersection on Highway 725 and Interstate 10. BUT yesterday, I showed Mark when we were coming back from errands and he found a good safe spot for me. He’s so great to me. Anyway, it’s really exciting to see signs of spring – the Mesquite is even budding out now and many people believe that once the Mesquite does that, well, there are no more freezes coming our way. We will see and hope for that because the up and down weather patterns have killed back early bloomers quite a bit and people are sad about those losses. I was remembering last year when we brought back the nucs that all the Huisache was in full bloom and looking gorgeous (see picture of that loveliness on Flickr). This year? They still look dormant because what did start budding out pretty much froze off during one of the weird temperature dips. Oh well. They were so beautiful and abundant last year but still the bees didn’t touch it.

The Honey House on a drizzly night

And now a little update on the Honey House. It looked particularly special Saturday night when I went out there to get Mark for dinner. You see, it had been drizzling and/or raining pretty much all day! Talk about wonderful. We loved hearing it on the roofs of the house and the HH because the metal roofing sounds lovely. We just can’t believe it still – all that space is actually ours and it’s actually done and inspected and passed. And all we have to do is figure out work-flow and organization and then get our stuffs in there. We are SUPER excited about it and feel very blessed of course but it is causing some stress from time to time for the beekeeper. Poor man. So much he wants to do…tend to the bees, make candles, move into the HH, taxes (yay, almost ready to check this off the list), and then there’s life stuff. You know, we do try to have a little down time (a few hours here and there) once in a while. Here’s a peek inside (and no we do not have temperature control in there):

Visit to the Honey House one evening

Finally, I just want to mention we decided to have a Spring Open House since we had so much fun at the Holiday OH! Plus we hope to have things set up in the Honey House so we can tour y’all around. So, save the date and come visit the Bee Ranch! That’s a Sunday and the Open House will be the usual 2 to 6 p.m. More on that later this week (once I finish the flyer). Okay got to run, ciao and have a great day!

Update: Sorry, I got excited and forgot to say the Open House is APRIL 6. hehe

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Chinaberry above the backyard hives

Let me start off with the good. Look at the lovely Chinaberry blooming out back, just above the backyard hives we have set up here at the little Bee Ranch. Lovely. I first noticed they were beginning to bud out during the March bee class and I made a note to check again. Love looking at them. As we drove to market this morning in SA, I noticed that more of these had bloomed all along Highway 281; so pretty! I also enjoyed seeing the spreads of Bluebonnets, Primroses, Indian Blankets, Horsemint (yay!), and several other flowers I didn’t know names of this morning. I love this time of year. Weather’s still enjoyable and cool-ish. ๐Ÿ™‚ No 3-digit oven temps just yet.

And now for something a little less good. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I just want to share these things with everyone so that our new beekeepers (who are hopefully reading our blog posts as we suggested or joined up with a local bee club) will also be on the alert.

Brown Recluse in observation hive

So you know what that is? We looked at many pictures to confirm it…brown recluse. Yuck. And what’s that you see under her? Egg sack perhaps!? Double yuck. I sure was not happy when Mark showed me that picture. This little beauty was actually ON our observation hive that we pulled out of the garage for the first time this year. It’s been in there since the weather turned cold and we stopped taking our bees to markets. If he hadn’t gotten the box out for display, that means more than likely that sack of tiny, terrible babies would be all over our garage! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Thank God things happen they way they did. He killed the spider and got rid of the sack as well. Between the rattlesnake den and the brown recluse plus sack and all the crawling, long, fuzzy black caterpillars…it’s amazing Smokey’s not been carried off somewhere. We’re going to have to really watch ourselves (minus caterpillar danger) and you should also.

For new beekeepers, please keep in mind that things crawl in and out of our bee boxes all the time so take precautions when you are checking your hives. Which you should be doing now. If you don’t recall, last year during harvest, we ran across black widows under the lids on some hives. Danger! Just be careful out there.

Biggest Black Widow I've ever seen

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Introductions 7 & bee box

What does that title mean, you ask? Well…this is a title that has been bestowed upon our little piece of paradise by a student after Cupid tagged her and a fellow student! So sweet! I loved that phrase and asked if I could share it with you all. We love meeting people – we have made so many wonderful new friends the past year as we launched our classes. And now we can say that our students also love meeting each other! ๐Ÿ™‚ We wish our lovebirds the very best and we hope to get an update on how things go for them.

It’s a busy month for us. We’ve got every Saturday booked – which is a blessing but sometimes it does get us tired. ๐Ÿ™‚ We had another wonderful class yesterday with fourteen students and since we are in the midst of hive growth and honey production, each class yields something new for students. When the opportunity presents itself, students have gotten to dip into the honey on a frame, lift supers filling up with honey to see how weighty it can be, find and squish a hive beetle (thank goodness those are not a problem this season so that’s only happened once). Lots of fun and I’m never sure what new thing I’ll photograph the students doing. The bees were flying great even though we were all in the way but no one got stung and that’s always a wonderful thing. I think we were in the hive for a good thirty minutes and the bees were as great as you could ask of them.

To see the full set of photos from class, check out the Flickr album I just finished loading.

Next weekend we have our advance topic class – How to Build Your Hives Up in the Spring. It’s our second time teaching it and we still have seats so if you’d like more information on it or to sign up, just drop us a line at info@gretchenbeeranch.com or you can call 830-305-7925. We would love to see you! I made a flyer for the class and it’s on Flickr if you’d like to see it.

It’s another busy week – my brother and his family are visiting from California so we’re thrilled they’ll be checking out the bees and our operation while they are here. Since Mark has daily checks to do at bee yards, they will have their pick of opportunities to see the beautiful Texas landscape currently still in bloom. We’ve also got another visit out to the Marriott to check bees and to also work on the honey display in the restaurant. We have some good ideas to make it an interesting experience for their customers and we’re excited about the opportunity.

Here is a shot of the wonderful Deadman Creek when we went to check on the bees there. This bee yard is on the Lazy U Ranch, which is a wonderful organic ranch – we are so glad to be there! They are making delicious honey out there and Mark will return there tomorrow to put another super on one of the strongest hives we have there. Hope you all enjoy your week!

Lazy U Ranch in spring 2012

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Lazy U Ranch - Deadman Creek

There’s no better way to end the day in my opinion than to have Mark drive up and say, “I have to go to one more yard to check the bees. You wanna go with me?” YES. ๐Ÿ™‚ Especially this year with all the green everywhere and now the splashes of color all over the countryside. It is amazingly gorgeous and never ceases to take my breath away when I see it. I can’t even fully capture the essence of the beauty we are currently enjoying here in the Seguin area. The above shot is what we saw as we drove to the Lazy U Ranch just off Highway 725, about 10 minutes from our house. This ranch is a certified organic ranch (really!) and the owner has been working to bring back the native grasses to his property. I’d say he’s doing a great job. What’s amazing to me is that this area is predominantly yellow and orange flowers while the areas closer to the hives feature blue and purple flowers predominantly…of course there’s lots of mixing of flowers and colors everywhere. Here’s a look at another area on the ranch.

Bluebonnets at Deadman Creek

While I wandered around snapping pictures and enjoying my time outside (yes, no allergy restrictions this year thanks to the honey), Mark checked on the hives and added more supers. Yes, they are making honey and going to town with it. They were flying well and doing well. Mark says it’s one of his best yards. Looks like he got them through the drought and then winter just fine. I sure like the looks of those growing hives. We didn’t get to see much of this growth last year as the honey season was so brief. I can’t wait to see how high these boxes might get and how many harvests there might be. Who knows…might we have another two harvest season like we did in 2010? You never know!

Hives looking good at Deadman

Here we are cruising on out of the bee yard…you can’t help but smile when you have so much beauty around you and perfect weather for enjoying nature. What a blessed life we have. By the way, I have a great guy – he never knows when I’ll holler out, “Smile!” He smiles. I snap. And here we are. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks sweetie.

Cruising with the honey bee

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Huisache blooms at Big Oaks

Hello everyone. I thought we’d give you an update on things that are going on daily now. Mark has been checking on bees, making sure they have what they need in order to build themselves up strongly for the honey flow, which has started in some of the bee yards. He took honey supers out to some of them already – such a great change from last year. We got another 2.5-3 inches of rain last night, all between about 10pm to about 6am. There was a huge storm cell that blew through all of Texas and along with it came some hail, three tornadoes in our local news station’s viewing area, a LOT of rain, lightning and thunder. Very loud thunder. Poor Mark. I know I was pretty startled at least two or three times as a very loud clap of thunder sounded right over us. I love storms – just don’t love the uncertainty of if/when the loud thunder follows the lightning. Between all of that and the power outage, we didn’t get much sleep so I didn’t even hear my alarm go off. Sigh. Good thing my sister sent me a text. The trilling of her text tone was my alarm at 7:22am. Thanks Thuy! ๐Ÿ™‚

We are so thrilled with the bees’ progress in the yards. There is plenty of nectar and pollen out there right now and it appears they have their pick of what to bring back to the hives. The Huisache is gorgeous – prettier than I’ve ever noticed before but for some funny reason, the bees are not on it as much as we thought they’d be. Perhaps due to the other food sources available right now. They continue to go to the wild mustard and we see them in the wildflowers, especially the Bluebonnets. There are wild raspberries along the tanks at the Farm Yard and they really like that as well. Mark says it looks like a great year for Horsemint – I love that. It’s a lovely flower to look at and to smell. Last year it was quite pitiful – they blooms very sparingly and what we did see was puny and somewhat dull, almost brownish. I hope to snap some lovely, lush blooms this year for you to see. The above shot of the beautiful pompoms on the Huishache is one that I love looking at. Mark shot it while at the Big Oaks bee yard.

Before saying goodnight, I wanted to share two pictures I snapped last night while making gift baskets out in the honey house. Mark pulled these two honey supers out of the freezer we have out there. To help with any issues of wax moth or hive beetle larvae, you can freeze the frames and super and it takes care of the problem. These have been in there for months and they are ready to be used this year.

2 honey supers thawing out

I was next to the supers and could feel the cold air – like a little air conditioner which was nice as it was a bit humid last night. ๐Ÿ™‚ I pulled some frames out to look at the honeycomb (I just love doing that, it’s so lovely.) and at first I missed them. Do you see them? I put the frame back and then thought, “Wait. Was that what I think it was.”

Did you see the two bees emerging from their cells? Only to be caught frozen forever? Or until the 2012 bees pull them out to prep the cells for pollen, nectar, honey or another little bee. Fascinating isn’t it? Or is it just me? I have never seen a sight such as this and I wanted to share it with you. It’s pretty cool. [No pun intended.]

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Full shot of the newer hives at the Farm

After about a week of dreary weather, the sun shined brightly today and it turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day in the neighborhood so you know what that means – bee work! The picture above is the second of two locations of hives we have at My Father’s Farm on Highway 123. We usually just call it The Farm bee yard now for short. Mark and David picked this location for the fifty or so hives they brought back from East Texas last year. Then they move hives to other yards as they are ready. Hard to believe how different everything is this year compared to last year. They actually made up twenty new hives last week out of this yard. Very nice. We’re going to need more bees to make honey with all the beautiful flowers we have popping up everywhere!

I saw some really wonderful things today and I can post all the shots I would like to so I’m going to point you to the Flickr set for The Farm bee yard. You can see what I saw today. ๐Ÿ™‚ Meanwhile, let me hit the highlights for you here. The Bluebonnets are here! The Bluebonnets are here! Now, they are only just starting to come out, but it’s lovely to see them sprinkled here and here. I especially love that the bees are getting after the pollen on the blooms. I think that pollen is the red we see them carrying in. Speaking of which, they are carrying in a great amount of pollen – it’s so nice to see our bees gearing up for spring! Things are really just about to burst around here. Last year, Mark reminded me it was already about 90 degrees this time of the year. I’m so glad this year has brought us abundant rain to catch up from the drought and the temperatures have been very pleasant. No complaints here!

Bee on Bluebonnet 3

For a while, I watched Mark introduce his Big Island queens from Hawaii – he had about eighteen to do I believe. The caged queens have been in there two days now and so Mark took out the cork and put in a candy stopper for each queen. Now she and her assistants will eat their way out just as the hive bees will also eat their way in to release her. It’s so neat to learn the whole queen introduction process Mark goes through each time with each queen. You really have to be patient so that you don’t rush the introduction and in that way, the bees will have time to adjust to and accept their new queen. There was one incident of taking eyes away from the cage for a second or two to switch out the stoppers and then poof – she disappeared on Mark! Poor thing. We couldn’t find her but fortunately he had an extra queen.

Taking out the cork on the queen cage 4

Have you ever seen a bee come out of it’s cell for the first time? It’s really neat to watch and you have to be super patient (gee, beekeeping = patience I guess) because it just takes time to watch the frame of bees. I saw this for the first time at one of our past events where we had the observation hive. It was so fun to watch it happen with the folks who stopped by to visit our booth. I was amazed to learn that they know, as soon as they “hatch out” of their cells, that they are to turn right around and clean it out to prepare it for use again. My goodness – couldn’t ask for a better tenant and worker, right? Anyway, I got a real treat today! I got to see not one, not two…but THREE bees coming out of their cells at the same time. And drones at that – those big boys made me laugh and I felt like a proud parent cheering them on. Sort of reminded me of that scene from Jurassic Park (first one) where the park creator watched baby dinosaurs hatching out of their eggs. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, here are the triplet drones. They are in the center of the picture and their heads are sticking up – versus most other bees you see working a frame, their heads are often sticking down into the cell as they clean, store pollen, etc.

Drones emerging from cells

We had a wonderful weekend even though the rains meant we actually canceled our bee class for the first time ever. But the rain did not keep everyone away – we still had several visitors to the honey house and we really enjoyed meeting our new friends and future students (yes, they’re all coming back!). We also had some time to prepare some materials for our hive sponsors. We have to get things ready for sharing with the two schools sponsoring hives. We’re excited to take this journey with all the staff and students! Okay I should probably stop here or else this post could just go on too long. You all have a great week and we’ll keep you posted on all the things we are doing to gear up for what could be a great season!

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Medicine for the bees

This is HopGuard, a strip of cardboard soaked with a gooey concoction made from hops. According to the manufacturer, it is a natural product that will kill the mites in my hives, but will not kill my bees. One drawback is that it is messy, and latex gloves are a must. Just an FYI – bees can sting through latex gloves.

The cardboard strip straddles across a frame with the ends hanging down into the brood nest. I placed two of these strips in each brood box.

Here are the two installed strips. The good news is that the bees do not seem bothered in the least by the product. Unfortunately, it will only kill the mites that are on the bees, not the ones attached to developing brood inside the cells, so several applications may be needed. I placed a white board under the hives to catch the mites that drop from the hive. After about 30 minutes, I counted zero mites dropped from one hive and one mite dropped from another. Maybe my fall mite treatments with Apiguard were very effective. Or maybe I need to give HopGuard more time to work. I’ll check the white boards again in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, in the Elm Creek area…

Agarita, one of our best, early honey plants is officially in bloom. It’s interesting that the buds are red and the flowers, after they open are bright yellow. Agarita honey has a fantastic flavor and someday I hope to have some hives strong enough early enough to produce some that I can harvest. But not this year. The bees are doing well, but are still in drought recovery mode. They need all the nutrients they can get right now.

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Gonzales Yaupon with bee

Today Mark was a busy beekeeper – he visited four bee yards and restocked at Ta’s Coffee in Marion. Phew. And it got pretty warm today out there. I saw that tomorrow will be in the mid-90s already. Feels like summer! I need a pool. Luckily the bees seem to be well and picking up a bit of steam as they crank up the honey making activities. Made Mark very happy to see most of them progressing appropriately.

These are a couple of shots Mark snapped while at the Gonzales Bee Yard. This is a Yaupon plant and it is native to Texas. It has a sweet scent to it and the bees love it. We think it’s the key ingredient that gave the Gonzales Wildflower Honey that distinctive taste that we all liked so much. You could definitely taste a difference between last year’s Wildflower honeys from Guadalupe and Gonzales counties. We don’t see many Yaupons here in Guadalupe County, where we live, but I wish we did. I love the delicate flowers and it’s fun when we get to see the Yaupons in Gonzales. You can stand under or in front of the Yaupon and if you just watch and listen, you’ll see and hear the bees all over it. Very fun to watch them working the blooms. We did that last year I recall and I look forward to another opportunity soon to visit Gonzales with Mark.

Yaupon in Gonzales bee yard

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