I was asked weeks ago to man a bee stall at Frampton fete, 3 miles down the road. When I was asked I had no honey left so, at my suggestion, they invited Penny Gostelow from up the road at Godmanstone to bring some honey along to sell.
I had tried to locate the BKA’s model hive with all the photographs of bees and comb to exhibit but nobody knows where it is so I took along an empty National and sat a skep and hat and veil on it. I also had a display of large (A3?) framed coloured photos and lots of unread BBKA News, BK Quarterly, and An Beachaire, also my list of Questions Beginners Ask and answers. As I was about to leave the house I stumbled on a bag with a couple of natural combs of ivy honey that I had forgotten about, so I brought it along. I cut up one of the combs for tasters, placed on a borrowed plate.
Apart from the tea ladies, there were only 2 other stalls in the hall; one was full of second hand books and the other antiques and collectable bric a brac. Some things were happening outside: a display of elderly tractors; a troupe of junior dancing girls and the Wessex Morris dancers. From the hall we saw and heard very little of it. The acoustics in the hall mean that people chatting or rattling tea cups drown any noise from outside.
I was all set up before Penny arrived. We hadn’t previously met. She has 14 hives in her woody, sloping garden of over an acre and has masses of rape honey. She brought along about 40 lb and put some out alongside my half dozen jars of ivy honey. She sells hers for £5 a lb. I have been selling mine a £4 since 2008 so maybe it’s time to inflate my price also. I did for the occasion.
There was a trickle of people through the hall, but also plenty of quiet time when I could catch up with my reading or talk bees with Penny. She was the only person to show an interest in my skep and would like to make one but thinks she would need to go on a course. However, she has masses of willows and does basketry so I suggested she does a wicker version and clooms it. I demonstrated the technique for driving bees from a skep and described driving irons.
Nobody showed any interest in the bee pictures or in the hive. I might as well have not bothered. What did get some interest was the plate of bite sized chunks of ivy honey, which went down well and helped to sell all my honey. I think Penny sold about as many jars of her rape, some runny and some set.
One lad was chastised by his Ma for helping himself to several chunks. I got chatting with her: she’d like to keep bees but can’t in her small garden or allotment, so I made a few suggestions and gave her my card in case she wants to get in touch. Her main reason for wanting bees is their wax as she is a soap maker. I happen to have a minor mountain of wax about the place so maybe we could do business!
A chap paused at the stall and told me that he has a small wood at Misterton (just over the boundary in darkest Somerset) and, now he’d retired, might like to keep bees there. I gave him my card also.
Although the fete was meant to go on until 5, the other stalls started packing up soon after 4.30 as it was so quiet so I followed suit. I gave the lad the sticky plate to lick.