I found a 4lb Honey Tin
From Harry G Toop
R.R.3 Carleton Place
Mr. Harry Toop, well known apiarist, who is now located near Arnprior but who used to reside in Ramsay Township near Carleton Place, was surprised to receive the following letter from a stranger who was travelling to the Old Country aboard the Empress of France:
Dear Mr. Toop, It is a brilliant, sunny, warm day on the mid-Atlantic and just the correct atmosphere for thinking about bees and honey. I have enjoyed your honey so much during this last week that I cannot refrain from commending you. Your honey is used on this ship and its clear, well prepared packaging is a credit to your skill and business methods. The quality of the honey interests me even more. I am perfectly sure that the many passengers who are eating this product are doing so because of this good flavour.
In fact, I have taken the time to ask many of them why they eat it and the answer is the same. “It tastes good and it looks nice.” I am on my way to Britain and Europe to look at the foreign bees and apiaries, not as a scientist or commercial giant, but out of interest alone. My own apiary is at Bobcaygeon, Ont., where I find that flavour and appearance of honey sells more of it than price controls and bargain lots. With a lot of people aboard and all of them looking for something to do, it gives them fun and me too, when I talk of bees and beekeeping. It is astounding to find so many people who have heard little or nothing about honey. I People who have honey to sell | should note this. Good luck to you, sir, I hope you have a bumper season. July 1952 Almonte Gazette
So Harry Toop, renowned beekeeper for the last 62 years, how do those beastly little suckers make honey, anyway? “I could talk about bees all week,” says Mr. Toop, 80, while explaining the parts of a brood box in the wooden shed built onto his 1870s brick farmhouse on the Upper Dwyer Hill Road. “I’m still fascinated with bees. After all this time, I still haven’t learned everything about them yet.”
During the next four hours, he will show you samples of the nasty verroa mite, read pertinent verses from Deuteronomy, retell the biblical story of the prodigal son, inquire about your stance on angels, tell the story of his wife’s passing three year’s ago today, recount his vacation to Seattle, and explain what concession line he grew up on outside Carleton Place.
He will tell you about the man who filled a 70-gallon butter crock full of honey, then cracked it wide open on his trunk latch. “Seventy pounds of honey in his trunk,” says Mr. Toop, releasing a series of high-pitched “hee-hee-hees”. Or the contestant who cheated one year at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto by adding food colouring to darken his amber honey; or how it’s okay to be in a bad mood once in a while. “Even my mother-in-law got in bad humour on a windy day.” Or the guy who filled his expensive beeswax bars with cheaper parafin, wax, in an effort to cheat his dealer.
“Not all the crooks are dead, you know.” Right, so the bee flies up to the flower, Mr. Toop, and then what happens? “Do you remember how the refraction of light works?” And he is off again, demonstrating a device used to measure the moisture content of honey by measuring how the light bends through a drop of the sweet liquid. “Once the queen starts to lay eggs, she never has to be fertilized again,” says Mr. Toop, who once kept a queen bee for five years, which seems an awfully long time for a bug to live.
The queen seems to have something to do with the production of honey, as do other bees called drones and workers. “It’s marvelous. I’m amazed at these bees.” Harry (Honey) Toop, who has five daughters, learned about making honey from his father and grandfather and at one time had 800 hives. The fourth of 10 children, he still remembers the year when he harvested 96,000 pounds of honey, using it to supply more than 60 stores in a circuit around Arnprior.
When he started in the business, honey was selling for nine cents a pound. He still retails a little to his favoured customers, at $1.80 a pound. “In order to be a good beekeeper, you have to think like a bee,” says Mr. Toop, without elaborating on that particular thought process. His main preoccupation now is his beekeeping supply business. In a big workshop about 100 metres from his house, he builds wooden frames, foundation combs, big wooden boxes that house bees during the winter, and other stuff that seems to have something to do with making honey.
We still aren’t sure. – It is clear that Mr. Toop who is as sharp as a bee’s stinger knows everything there is to know about bees and honey. In fact, maybe he knows too much. Which could explain why he has such trouble knowing where to begin answering questions for non-experts. From a little office in the back, he pulls out a brown book with a gold embossed cover that reads All I Know about Beekeeping, By Harry Toop. Finally, we’re getting somewhere. He flips it open and the pages are blank. Mr. Toop is nearly doubled over with laughter. “I got you on that one … hee, hee, hee.”
Mr. Toop built the workshop himself and supplies dozens of products to small beekeepers in the area, ‘ “See that saw over there? I bought it in 1940. I’ve got to show you this.” From a cupboard, he pulls out a saw blade resting in a wooden sleeve and yanks out the end of his tape measure. “Now this blade was 10 inches when I bought it.” It now measures eight and five-eights, the wear caused by thousands of cuts and hundreds of sharpenings.
Mr. Toop, a tall man with blue eyes and neatly combed white hair, has a cross-cut saw on the wall that he remembers felled 2,600 logs one winter. It needs to be sharpened with a special file. “Would you be interested in seeing it?” And off he goes again, seeking out yet another drawer holding a tool wrapped in brown paper. It hardly needs to be said that Mr. Toop loves being a beekeeper, though he admits he is thinking of selling the business because of his advancing years. “A beekeeper has an opportunity to live so close to nature, God’s creation, and you have an opportunity to see so much of what’s happening.”
Alan Fox, 57, a part-time beekeeper from Dacre, stopped in to see Mr. Toop and pick up some supplies jars and things that seemed to have something to do with honey. “He’s been my mentor as far as beekeeping goes,” says Mr. Fox. He said Mr. Toop is well-known in beekeeping circles across Ontario, for longevity and depth of knowledge. Mr. Toop, a one-time farmer who “got busy with bees after I stopped fussing with cows,” was an apiary inspector for the government of Ontario for 40 years and has been a honey judge at fairs all over Ontario. “You have to understand the nature of the bees so you can work co-operatively with them,” says Mr. Toop. As late afternoon approaches, it is time for leave-taking. He was right after all he can talk about bees for a week.
Kely Egan Southam Newspapers
CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada15 Sep 1998, Tue • Page 29