Thursday, February 19, 2009

Clovermead Apiaries' Bee Beard Competition

Some events you attend alone. Others you know are going to be interesting and educational.

So when Clovermead Apiaries was having their annual Bee Beard Competition last summer (2008) I booked the family to attend.

After all, we all love honey and we came from grandparents who were involved in farming and agriculture so I knew most of us would appreciate a trip to the country.

The family had listened patiently to many of my bee facts and tidbits. They'd even read my book and given me feedback. So I felt it was their due to have a trip to Clovermead.

Henry and Anne Heimstra started Clovermead (http://www.clovermead.com) many years ago and they still enjoy active participation today. Their son Chris and his wife have taken over the daily operations.
The Heimstra's have an awesome set-up created to educate individuals, groups or bus loads of people about bees and beekeeping.
They have a few animals in pens too and some sport related interactive areas for the teenagers.
There's several heritage buildings to enjoy along a boardwalk. My favourite room was the historic beekeeping room. In that building I could look over the tools of the trade from times past and the piece de la resistance is the largest observation hive in Canada. This hive must have about 40 to 50 frames of bees.
They also have a regular size deep hive box with a plexiglass top. I took a couple photos and I think I actually got a photo of the queen although I didn't see her sitting there when I took the photo--I don't see attendant bees around her so I'm not sure if it is the queen.
Outside was a netted area with hives so you could safely walk around it on a boardwalk but also get some closeups of the bees. There's even a large hollow tree stump with a hive inside.
The kids enjoyed seeing the sheep, goats and hens and pigs. There was even a peacock. Then they discovered the hay bale climbing and paint ball and I lost track of them.
Of course, there were bee related Olympics. Various beekeepers competed in a hive tool toss and speed agility with dressing in a bee suit the fastest, lighting a smoker and collecting bees.
I got to compete too (the family failed to take photos) in the honey comb squeezing contest. The goal was to squeeze the most honey from a comb the old fashioned way.
I did resist for a bit licking all that honey off my hands. I placed second and a photo was taken by a reporter in one of the small town newspapers.
The highlight though was the bee beard competition.
The beekeeping volunteers stood inside screened areas while the bees were gently poured on them by a bee wrangler.
Unfortunately a little rain storm blew in which disrupted things temporarily and the bees weren't super happy with the weather.
There was a really good crowd out for the event and none of us left when it rained - we just went inside to wait it out.
Once covered in bees, the competitors were weighed to determine who was carrying the most bees. Paul Kelly from Guelph University placed first and Allison Skinner from the Ontario Bee Association Tech Team placed second, I can't recall the name of the gentleman who placed third, except that he was a beekeeper.
We all bought honey and honey comb in the shop and I got some candles too. I just love the smell of beeswax candles. They really add a special ambiance to any event that paraffin candles just can't compare with.
On the way home in the car I asked the teenagers what they thought of the day. Being teenagers they agreed to come, but mostly because their Mom and I were telling them they had to go.
On the drive up to Clovermead, Codie had been worrying about bees, saying he didn't like bees and he didn't want to get stung. He was pretty concerned (one of the main reasons why I wanted the whole family to have this experience).
He imagined all kinds of events involving terrible bee stings. Of course, none of his fears were realized and people found they could stand right next to the competitors covered in bees and the bees didn't care.
I asked the kids if they had been afraid of the bees that day at all. The replies were a resounding "No!" It did really help Codie to overcome his fear of bees.
I asked Codie to comment on what he thought of Clovermead and he said, "That place kicks ass!" That, coming from a teenager, is a great compliment.
Everyone wants to attend this event again in 2009. Maybe one day I'll be the one to wear the bee beard.
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