I’m still coming down from the high that the annual meeting gives me. I love the atmosphere, I love learning new things and meeting new people. And when all of that involves talking about bees I am on cloud-9.
To show my support for the Pensobscot County Beekeepers and their northerly venue at the Hampden Academy, I volunteered to help out in the preparations for the conference, and so I left home at 5:30 in the morning in order to get there around 7am. It was cool and dark when I walked down the driveway with my gear–camera, notebooks, pens, water, travel thermous full of hot coffee, and the candle-making set that my own Somerset Beekeepers had purchased for the big raffle.
It was a one-and-a-half hour drive eastward toward Bangor and Hampden, and I watched as the sky brightened from blackness to graduating shades of lighter blue. As the land became illuminated by the early morning sun I could see the rolling fields and farmlands where fog hung low over the fields or corn stubble. Thick mist rose up off the ponds and waterways, and the trees who are beginning to look more and more naked as their leaves fall away reached up into the sky as a blush of pink crept across the horizon when I entered Newport.
In moments like these I feel truly blessed to live in Maine, and fortunate to be able to live the life that I have always dreamed of living. It is a long, hard road that I have chosen–for sure–right now we are faced with insurmountable hurdles and we are struggling to overcome them (and THAT is an entirely different blog-post!)–but I am exceedingly thankful to be here, to have the opportunity to live in such close connection to this land, to nature, and to the bees. I’m grateful to be among those who are working to find solutions to the problems that our world is facing, and proud that I have found it within myself to step up and make a stand alongside these other farmers and beekeepers. We are the change that the world needs. We welcome new-comers with open-arms, so feel free to step up too, and join us!
As I drove toward the meeting location, feeling blessed and grateful and so happy, a wave of sadness washed over me, as I remembered my late father, who had always supported me in these trips to the annual beekeepers’ meetings. Daddy always encouraged me to go, made sure I had enough gas money and a little spending money. He was happy for me to be able to do something that I love so much, and he was always eager to hear all about it when I got back. I’ll be honest with you–I shed a few tears as I drove along remembering Dad. But he would have wanted me to go and have a good time. So I picked myself up and I did just that.
Upon arrival I was put to work inducting the numerous raffle items alongside several other beekeepers–mostly from the Penobscot and Penquis chapters of the MSBA. Donations of smokers, hive components, bee-themed oven-mits and baby costumes, numerous beekeeping-related books and magazines, entire hive set-ups, packages of bees to be picked up in 2015, beekeeping gear, and even a shiny new extractor–were all lined up on a series of tables along one wall of the cafeteria. The halls were fairly buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm.
More than two-hundred beekeepers came from all over the state, and the Cumberland County chapter, which I believe is the state’s largest group, even organized a charter bus for beekeepers in the southern part of the state.
We had some fabulous speakers and presentations, including the young Abigail Sennet–perhaps sixteen or seventeen? who had recently undertaken an independent research study on virgin Queens. There was also the notable Dr. Frank Drummond, a University of Maine scientist who has focused his research on native bees and the pollination of bluberries here in Maine. Dr. Dewey Caron who is now retired, but formerly worked with the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. We were priviledged to have Matt Scott with us, a retired auquatic biologist and one of the original founders of the MSBA. With fifty some-odd years of beekeeping experience Matt is a treasured gem in Maine beekeeper community. And the day was concluded with a presentation by our own former MSBA president Erin Forbes, regarding her SARE-project–a study on the efficacy of local Queens compared to those from the southern part of the country, where so many packaged nucs come to Maine from.
You can bet I will be going into each of the presentations in more detail, so check back soon–but for now I will suffice it to say that each speaker was fantastic, the topics were thoughtfully chosen and eloquently relayed.
Despite the distance, there was a pretty good turn out, if not somewhat less than we would have seen in Portland. I’m beginning to recognize many faces (though I may not always recall their names!), and I am gradually earning a place among my colleagues.
Runamuk’s raw honey took 3rd place in the honey-tasting competition, and out of forty or so entries from across the state, I’m pretty darned proud of that! My girls worked hard this summer, and we’ve got great locations for each of our two apiaries. People rave about my honey and keep coming back for more. If all goes well with this writing competition (and we may soon know what’s going to happen with that so stay tuned!), I’m looking forward to investing in more nucleus colonies and equipment to expand the apiary.
By the time I arrived back at home Saturday evening I was tired, but elated. What a great day among new and old friends I’d had–and a yellow ribbon to boot! Check back soon for more info about the talks and presentations that were given!