Category Archives: Houston Local Honey

Raw Honey now available at The Barry Farm

Honey is now available at the farm

We know it has been a long time coming, so thank you for your patience..  There is not much fan fare that the daily workings of honey production so sorry for the lack of regular updates, but hooray here it is!

Honey can be picked up at the farm in Needville, Tx or orders over 50.00 can be delivered on within a 50 mile radius of the farm (77461 zip code)

The price is 11.00 per pint and 21.00 per Quart Jar.

Never heated nor pasteurized and of course Fully Raw

We have partnered with Sean and his family who own and operate http://www.mindfulhoney.com.  He has relocated  bees to our citrus orchard that have been rescued from homes, structures and properties all over the greater Houston area.  The Barry Farm farmers have been incredibly grateful for this partnership as our garden, fig trees, Pears, Satsuma, Kumquat, Lemon and Grapefruits have surely benefited from all the pollination assistance.

 

If you have questions or would like to place an order email us at thebarryfarm@yahoo.com

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Late night Honeybee adventure

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Renee and I have made some pretty amazing friends along this journey we call the Barry farm. Each enterprise that that we are involved with has a back story that always has mentorship in it. With sheep we lean on Alan McAnally and John Hodge. For red wattles there is sweet melissa parker and for bees our dear friend Jenny Scott. Jenny makes her living doing what she lives to do. Saving honey bees and helping home owners. Jenny does and specializes in honey bee extractions. When bees move into houses , businesses, trailers and the like she cuts them out and removes the bees alive with a bee vacuum. Once removed she finds a new home for them (most hives end up back at her home ) but some lucky friends she shares her bees with.

Last night Jenny and I rehived 5 new hives for us at the farm. Not only did we bring bees home to the farm, but I’m grateful for all of Jenny’s patient teaching. Each time I’m with Jenny I learn so much. Passionate people can’t help but teach. It is a common character trait of passionate talented people.


Our First Honey Extraction!

Well, if you didn’t hear, we extracted honey last weekend for the very first time here at the barry farm homefront! We really had no idea how much honey we would get. I’m here to tell you we were amazed & thankful as the honey kept flowing in the buckets! We got over 15 gallons. It took us a long time to get this point!

Man, what a journey beekeeping has been here in houston! Lost hives due to last summer’s drought, small hive beetles, which are prevalant here in the great south, and being rookies all added to our struggle with beekeeping. I can’t tell you the amount of time, money, hard work & sweat our family has put into bees with the hopes for extracting! Mostly geoffrey as he is the one who wears the bee suit in the family! :) and of course, spring/summertime is when the bees need the most attention and well, this is texas, folks! Its mad hot! he says there is another bee suit coming for me in the future as he learned the hard way he needed more help pulling the supers (full of honey). I’m ok with that…i think..

While geoffrey and i worked extracting on sunday afternoon and had rather sticky hands so, we let layla use my iphone for pictures & videos. She does such a good job at 8 years old.

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Ready for the first frame!

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The cappings cut off exposing the liquid gold!

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Going into the extractor…

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Coming out the extractor where it meets its first filter. We use the strainers you can find at a place like home depot. Painters use it over a 5 gallon bucket. It works great!

We then had a handy dandy stainles steel strainer we used after that. (thanks jay!)

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All the cappings that had to cut off both sides of the frame were put inside a tote that had the bottom cut out with a strainer over it. There is honey is those cappings and we let it sit overnight over another tote. Boy, did we get a lot of
honey from them. Partly due to big chunks of honey comb like pictured below…instead of trying to uncap we just scraped it off and enjoyed eating some! Crushing was the last step. Then we just let it drain.

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See they way they built out the comb (pictured above)? That’s the way they built the comb on all our plastic frames. A bee expert told geoffrey one time she didn’t like his plastic frames. She said the bees didn’t either. Well, she was right! Thankfully after that we switched to the wax frames and we found the comb was near perfect on all those frames. Lesson learned.

The honey has been since jarred and is waiting labels & pricing. If you are interested in purchasing some, stay tuned and we will post here when its ready.

Here are some other photos that layla took that are sure to make you smile and crack up!

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Now, unfortunately when i went to the farm to do chores on monday morning (2 days after geoffrey took the honey), i found this…

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This is definately not what we wanted to see! Sigh…we sure hope they get it figured out. We aren’t really sure why they did this. I’m afraid one of the hives swarmed and left which is so rough on us as we again lost a hive. Praying the other hive doesn’t do the same. But, we press on and move ahead and don’t give up!

We are enjoying the sweetness of geoffrey’s beekeeping labor. The day after we extracted honey i made my gramma’s homemade biscuits and we ate them warm out of the oven with butter and barry farm honey! Yummmo!


Barry Farm’s Honey

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Well the hard work began to pay off for us tonight. Yesterday I pulled the supers to extract from tonight. It was a deliciously sticky job to do and with overcast skies not too hot either. Best thing of all was we did it as a family. I love being the father and husband to this beautiful and wondrous farm family. I am blessed


The Barry Farm’s Worst day yet

In a bit of irony the meeting on monday night at Harris County Bee Keepers Association was on Small Hive Beetles.  I had seen Small Hive Beetles or SHB from time to time when I opened our hives, but I had heard that every hive has them in the south and as long as the bees were keeping them in check not to do anything drastic.  Well my delay proved costly today.  For a few days now we have noticed increased activity near the hive with what I thought was robbing behaviour.  Robbing happens when a hive becomes weak and another hive steals its honey.  It is encouraged when there is a lack of nectar and pollen for bees to feed on and when there is good opportunity to steal.  It is a bad thing!  It means your hive is first of all weak and second of all putting it’s energy into defense furthering its weakness.  I spoke to my friend at the beekeepers association and he gave me some tips to discourage robbing and yesterday when I went in the morning for our weekly chores I set out to reduce the entrance and to stop feeding them for a while.  When I opened the feeder it was full of larva from SHB and it was a slimy gooey mess.  My heart sank and I of course feared the worst.  I began to take apart the hive and removed the top deep super which was mostly untouched by the beetles but when I got to the bottom super it was a different story. Slimy smelly, no brood, no sign of the queen or baby bees and everything was this sticky honey mess. Only one thing left to do……destroy this hive.  We probably spent 500.00 or so in this hive let alone countless hours of our time.  So what happened?  Why did they get weak?  Well it was a lot of factors all coming together at one time.  The biggest was my novice.  I did not act when I first saw adult SHB and with my desire to let the bees handle themselves let the beetles get out of hand.  The bees will handle this invasion, but i will not be happy with how that turns out.  Their response will be to fight until their home is no longer acceptable and then they will swarm and find a new home.  They will survive but will no longer be with us at the farm.  The second factor is the drought.  No food, no flowers, no water makes even the bees predatory.  They were unable to keep up strength because they were focused on survival not on thriving and building.  The last factor was also a by product of my first year in that we got the bees very late.  May was to late to start even in a normal year as flowers open and peak in feb-march and into April.    We took a few pictures so every one can see.  But be gentle as it is humbling to reveal my failures.  I just hope other young and aspiring beekeepers can relate and learn from my mistakes.


 

 

 

 

In this picture you can see a few thing that are tell tale signs of not only Small Hive Beetles but of their damage.

First there is small hive beetle larva!  The little white/yellow worms coming in and out of the cells.  They are feeding on stored honey.

Second notice how slimy it looks even for honey.  Capped honey does not look slimy but instead looks more waxy.

Also that webby looking stuf at the bottom is another pest of the hive the wax moth.

This frame should be filled without all these uncapped and empty cells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a picture of an angry and frustrated beekeeper.  On the ground is a deep super that we did salvage some honey from.  We crushed and strained it as we were not really prepared to extract honey.

 

I am taking out the frames and inspecting and each frame tells a story. This story was defiantly a tragedy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

More evidence of a hive to be destroyed.  Slimy honey and the wax moth present with his web.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Update on Beekeeping at The Barry Farm

Beekeeping has been much more of an adventure than I thought it would be.  Most likely it was arrogance that made me believe that Bees survive without intervention all the time in the wild and would therefore be easy to keep.

So far there has been no tragedy but to say they are thriving is also not true.  The lack of rainfall has taken its toll on our environment here in gulf coast region of central texas.  There are no flowers that are not irrigated by home owners and the is little growth. To make matters even worse we flirt with and have broken records for our daytime high temperatures commonly reaching 98 degrees or higher already this year.  A better beekeeper or one that has more experience would have intervened earlier and more aggressively but I was trying to be hands off. Of the two purchased hives on is much stronger than the other with 2 brood chambers filled almost completely.  This week I added the first honey super to this hive.  The other one has yet to fill out the second brood chamber and significantly lags behind in growth.  I added entrance feeders 2 days ago to attempt to boost them up a little and with the lack of anything else to eat I probably should have done this a month ago soon after I got them.  Much to my dismay when I opened the hives last week it was very obvious that I had small hive beetles.  Some of the older guys at the Harris County Beekeepers Association meetings say every hive in Texas has hive beetles.  A strong hive can guard against them and their destructive nature.  They lay an enormous amount of egg and when the larva hatch they feed on the honey and the comb destroying it as they go.  If an infestation is too great the bees will abscond from the hive.  From what I hear the best defense is a good offense with a strong hive.  The Bees actually chase the beetles out of the hive.  I added A.J.’s beetle eater to both hives this week also.  It is a tray filled with oil that the bees chase the beetles into and the beetles then drown.  I hope this helps them.

 

Last thing.  Apparently the property management and the irrigation company was pleased with me as I was invited back to relocate 4 more hives this week.  I went last night to do these cutouts around 7:30 or so.  3 of the hives were already destroyed but the biggest was left untouched probably out of fear.  Most valve box cutouts are pretty straight forward but this was different.  It was much bigger than I had expected.  I really needed the bee vac but I have yet to build one.   The valve box was 3 times as deep as a normal box and 20% wider.  I didn’t know until I opened it that it went way down into the ground.  It was also hidden in the landscaping in a mass planting of knockout roses and while I was working the sprinkler system came on……..awesome.  Just imagine a hot sweaty beekeeper with stuff spread out on the lawn bees flying everywhere and here comes the sprinklers.  I scrambled to move comb, the hive boxes and all my gear.  Valve box cutout (bee removal) have so far had the same problem, when you lift the lid off the combs break and fall into the bottom and knock the bees off the comb.  This one was so massive that the box did rip off part of the comb, but they had no room to fall and were already touching the base of the box.  I pulled out each sheet of comb, took it out of the roses to my hive box, cracked the lid, and used my brush to brush the bees off the comb into the box.  I repeated this process for 13-14 sheets of comb.  Valve boxes can be frustrating because you can do all this hot, sticky work and if you do not get the queen all these efforts are just elaborate hive destruction.  The result for Telfair is alright as the bees will leave the irrigation boxes but we want these bees to survive not just be destroyed.  It can be difficult to find the queen in the masses of bees and when comb falls to the bottom of the box and knocks the bees off she is impossible to see.  Well I got lucky and she was attached to comb that I pulled out, matter of fact I saw more than one queen.  One looked much older than the other and my novice beekeeping self suspects that what I saw was either  a queen becoming replaced or a hive that was preparing to swarm and split in two.  Renee says I am crazy for doing this.  She is right and I do kind of feel like I am trying to bottle lightning.

 

 

 

 

 

 


A rescued bee hive adventure all to woo a woman


A Rescued Bee Hive at Telfair in South West Houston

Well the adventures of beekeeping at the Barry Farm have taken an accelerated curve.  A wise friend taught me a simple slogan that has stuck with me “your network is your net worth”.  I wont take time here to unpack what that lesson has meant to me but part of my new farming network is a yahoo group called Houston Raw.  One of the members posted a request for help from a beekeeper to save a feral hive on the property she manages.

So after much e-mailing back and forth I agreed to embrace the label beekeeper and to give this crazy task a try.

I’m not sure that I am a beekeeper. Yes I have 2 bee hives and am learning how to care for bees but my learning curve is still steep and I as a lot of questions of my friends at the Harris County Beekeepers Association.

So not that it is a real problem, but I don’t really know how to do this.

I know how the equipment works.  How to put on the suit, fire up the smoker, build frames and put them into a hive box.  But my knowledge of ‘cutouts’ is limited to reading a handfull of books and watching videos of other doing it on Youtube.

So the process is kind of a simple one, as far as this new beekeeper can tell and the real goal is find and capture the Queen Bee.

Sounds kind of easy huh? Well this is where my novice is a problem.  She is not always easy to find and if you find her you need to protect and keep her safe from injury.  I think I screwed this part up.  When I pryd up the to cover to the valve box the honey comb broke from the lid and fell into the box.  Bad news!  All the bees except for those you see on the lid fell into the box.  Crap!  Shaking the bees off into my Nuc box was the plan but now 3000 bees are all 2 inches thick in the bottom.

This is me lighting the smoker.  An essential tool for beekeeping.  I use newspaper and pine straw for fuel and it smells so good on my clothes when I am done.  Because I am not patient I also use the torch to get it going.  The bees when exposed to smoke crawl into the hive and begin to eat honey in preparation to evacuate the hive.  The smoke also confuses and keeps them from sending signals to each other.  A disorganized group of bees is one less likely to be an upset group of bees.

This is what the inside of the smoker looks like after an evening of bee work.  I wish this was scratch and sniff.  Smells like  camping in East Texas Pineywoods.  Or hunting under a pine tree in the warm evening.

So the white box in the middle picture is called a nuc and short for nucleus and hold 5 frames.  This one is from Wabash Feed and Antiques on Washington.  It was easy to use and is mostly used to start hives or rear queens or capture swarms.  The valve box below is not the one with the bees in it but a safe one for my wife to take a picture of.  The hive was right near the pool which is what caused them the most concern and in the left picture I am taking pieces of comb and putting them into frames and holding the comb in place with rubber bands.  
This is what the comb looks like.  In this picture is a piece of comb and contains brood or young larval bees, pollen and honey.  The shiny parts are honey and the small yellow/orange cells contain pollen.  The cells that are capped contain baby bees yet to hatch from the cell.  If you look carefully you can see 3 distinct areas of capped cells like a rainbow and each is surrounded with honey and pollen.  The bees do this so that the bees that grow out from the cells have honey and pollen to sustain them and so that the workers can feed the larve while they are in the cell.  Thats right worker bees feed larval stages of bees while they are in the cell.  How often and how long they are feed determines if they will be a worker, drone or even a queen..

To tell the truth most of what I do in life is to still impress Renee.  I dive into hive with her watching to show her how macho I am and to remind her why she should be with a guy like me.  I’m not sure if my motivations or my efforts reach the intended target but what you see in the picture helps.  Not all the comb can be saved.  So some to the broken edges that just contain honey I asked my beautiful wife who was standing near by with the sun to her back by a lake if she wanted to taste some honey fresh from the comb.  You would have thought I offered Kim Kardashian’s 25 carat ring.    I brought her a few slices while I am a sticky sweatty mess in the bee suit her ear to ear smile over raw fresh honey was priceless.

It may be the title of a book I write, to be published posthumsly.  “I keep bees to woo a woman!”  a memoir.

We packed up the truck and left Telfair to take the nuc full of comb and bees to The Barry Farm.  By the way soon to be The Barry Farm L.L.C.,  the hard work for this new group of rescued bees now begins.  Only time will tell if they are able to thrive in their new home or will this whole adventure end in dead bees.


A Barry Farm Bee Video

I couldn’t resist the temptation to shoot a quick video.  Doing my best to help you visualize the farming dream. Notice the bees still coming and going at the entrance and how they quickly run from the smoke back into the hive at the end of the video.


The Barry Farm’s New Bees


This has been an incredibly long week.  I have worked 3 extra days this week to keep up with managing a farm.  The Harris County Beekeepers Association had planned to meet in Shepherd Tx on saturday at 6:00 pm.  Yeah…one small problem I was scheduled to work on saturday.  Well a kind night time charge nurse agreed to come in early for me so I could go pick up the bees.  Thanks Susan.  To tell the truth I was just a little nervous about going to a bee yard where there are hundreds of hives.  I’ve never kept or had bees before, and have no idea how to act.  Not only do I not want to screw something up I also want to not stand out in the crowd of all these beekeepers.  There is this recurring fear of me with a mess of gear, bee suit on incorrectly running from a swarm of bees with 40 old men shaking their heads in disappointment  at me.  The good news was my fears were only partly founded.  I still did not know how to act but there were no looks of disappointment to be had.  Chris from Golden Valley Apiaries, the owner of the bee yard was an excellent host.  He showed us around the hives, gave education specific to russian bees, and taught me how to act around bees and beekeepers.  Here are some pictures of the bee yard and his hives.

      Some of those head shaking old men I talked about.  There are 4 hives per pallet in the picture.  I would guess there were maybe 200 pallets spread all around.

The picture on the right is a closer picture of a hive.  The interesting thing here is that these bees have made a lot of burr comb.  See those wax bridges between the frames.  They are ambitious wax builders.

 This is chris from Golden Valley Apiaries.  He is removing the top cover of the hive and has removed a frame on the left.  No suit no gloves.  He says  “the bees are calm tonight”  Uh…..really thats all you got.  There calm they better be.

These two story hives contain his breeder Queens.  He has selected strains to Queens for temperament, color and production.  Oh by the way breeder queens sell for 500.00 bucks. 

Here he has pulled a fram from the breeding stock and is pointing out the queen

Finally back at the Barry Farm.  These pictures were taken with the headlights of the truck as it was almost 11:00pm.  I was exhausted but a little proud of our family.  As I was sitting in traffic on 59 and 610 with 2 bee hives in the back of the truck, I laughed out loud.  Im sure if you were next to me in traffic you would have thought I was insane.  I thought ‘is this farming?’  Here I am in my early 30′s in traffic after working all day with bees in my truck.  What the heck am I doing here?


A foraging bee video I shot yesterday

Tonight is the Harris County Beekeepers Association Meeting.  I am a member and will be attending.  Some of you may know that I am also a Harris County Master Gardener Intern.  That means I am still in my first year of being a master gardener and if I get my required hours in then I will be certified.  Im close to getting all my hours in but with working 2 jobs, starting a farm and maintaining some home balance volunteering my time is seldom an option.  However I spent the day in Pasadena at the Precinct 2 Garden.  I was assigned weeding the orchard.  for 6 hours I weeded and weeded and weeded.  Such an awful job, no wonder why they cant get people to volunteer there.  Not glamourous but someone has to do it why not me right?  Anyway while working there I was taken at the beauty of the blooming Prickly Pear Cactus.  As I got closer I saw foraging bees (italian honey bees to my beginner beekeeping eye)  Enjoy the video.  For the non beekeeper. what you are seeing is how pollination happens.  A beautiful cycle the bee is gathering pollen and drinking nectar from the flower and then passes that pollen to the next flowers female reproductive parts.  Gods handiwork displayed right there during my awful job.  Seeing the world through his lens is a beautiful thing.


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