Goldenrod was blooming and Dad and I once again attended the annual fall meeting of the West Virginia Beekeepers Association (WVBA) held at the beautiful Jackson’s Mill facility. Each year beekeepers from across the state gather to glean a wide range of helpful information from the speakers, not to mention the exchange of ideas with many other beekeepers.
Yet this year had a very new theme for us: learning how to participate in a honey show! As part of the criteria for becoming a certified WVBA beekeeper, I needed to receive a blue ribbon quality score on two items. The three main categories in the show were honey, beeswax, and baked goods (that is, baked or non-baked goods using honey for at least 50% of the sweetening, excluding frosting). I must admit it was not something I really looked forward to because winning ribbons didn’t seem very practical or profitable toward keeping my bees healthy. It is by itself a whole world of knowledge and experience that I frankly didn’t have time for. But I must also admit that it was more fun and interesting than I had expected.
At last year’s meeting I knew I would be entering the contest at some point, and was thrilled to receive some very helpful tips from Janet Clayton, a very experienced contestant and winner of many blue ribbons. I would have liked to enter some beeswax items, but our honey and wax harvest was late enough this year to “render” that impossible. However, things fell into place in the nick of time so that I was able to submit two entries of liquid honey. Since we bake bread all the time, and since everyone seems to like it, I thought it would make a good entry too.
The morning of September 24 we started making the bread at about 4:30 in the morning so that it would still be fresh at judging time. Mom and Jonathan and David, the professional bread-makers in our house these days, were up too, giving me all the latest tips. At one point we were all standing around nervously debating because the dough just didn’t seem right and we just didn’t know what to do. I finally had to just decide it was done for better or worse and took it out of the bowl. A few minutes later we were all amazed over how perfect it was!
The bread cooled on our way to the meeting and everything went smoothly submitting them to the contest. Then to the sessions. We would have to wait until the next day to discover the results!
My biggest prayer was that I wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of continuing to have to enter the shows to try to earn the required ribbons. How relieving when I learned the next day that the actual requirement was a “blue ribbon score” – so even if my entry did not win first place, if its score was high enough, it would still count toward certification!
What happened? My expectations were certainly exceeded. Both honey entries won 2nd place, and one of them received a “blue ribbon score” (and won the highest score in its color category!) But the real shocker was the bread: it won a blue ribbon with a score of 99 points out of 100! Everyone said that the bakery judge was a very tough judge, and the judge said that she thought it was the best loaf of bread she had ever judged in a bakery contest! THANK YOU EVERYONE for your encouragement and advice!
As for the rest of the WVBA certification process, I had plenty of public service credits and passed the written test with a very high score. I failed the lab test however, due mostly to inexperience with honey bee diseases and the use of pesticides (which, when you think about it, does have its advantages! :)) I praise the Lord for the results of the whole event. He is the one Who gave me the desire to be a help to other beekeepers when I can – and the desire to do a good job taking care of a few of His amazing bees.