On the weekend, I had the pleasure of representing our bees in the City at an Agricultural awareness day called 'Farmer on your Plate'. Organized by a group of country women from 'Farming Champions' , the aim of the day was to have the City and Country meet, so people can talk to the producers of their food, and gain an insight into getting food ONTO the plate! It was great to be invited along to represent the apiary interests. I put together some industry information with help from another beekeeper, and packed up my books and a frame of ladies in the Observation Hive and spent the day doing what I do well...talking!
I spoke to sooo many people, most of whom asked great questions. I had the obligatory 'are you the actual beekeeper' (because you know, girls can't be beekeepers apparently!), 'how do you make the honey?' (yes, I get asked that quite alot!) and the one I get asked every market day - 'do you ever get stung?'... But some of the better ones were 'I've heard that bees are in decline, is that true?', 'how do you know which honey is which?', 'are Australian bees transported around the world to support pollination in other countries?', and lots more. I am always amazed at how many people tell me that their dad or grandad used to keep bees, or some distance uncle or cousin was a 'beeman'. I rarely hear about 'beeladies' but I think that is a sign of the times a while back rather that anything else.
The stories that I get told about long lost relatives is lovely. One story I was told on the weekend went like this: a lady came up to tell me of her great-great grandfather (so I am guessing a gentleman who kept bees at the turn of the century perhaps) in England. He supplied many counties with hives and was a well loved man. In those days, as part of the tradition of keeping bees (especially since many people kept a hive in the kitchen garden) the hive was considered 'one of the family' and it was considered good luck to inform the hive of a birth, marriage or death within your family.It was tradition to give a hive when someone moved into their first house after being married.
Anyway, when the grandfather died, and before his widow could gather herself and head outside to tell the his bees that he has passed away, they swarmed to the bedroom window. Apparently, they stayed there for the next two days as the funeral was prepared, and then followed the processional from the house to the cemetery, flying after the gentleman as he was carried away by the horse and cart. No stinging or angry bees, just flying behind the processional and disbursing never to be seen again...how long this story is in the re-telling, I'm not sure, but it was a great story, and fantastic that it has been re-told in this family, keeping the memory of a great-great grandfather alive.
I met some chefs who were cooking up a storm, tried some yummy cider from The Cidery where I learnt from John, that Pink Lady apples are a WA bred variety, chatted about bees with the yabby farmer, Michael, which was just plain fun, and after talking to many, many people and shaking hands with our fantastic WA Governor and his delightful wife (Mr and Mrs McCusker), I told my ladies we were off home!