Monday, November 13, 2017

Traveling Cowboys: Two Birds Doing the Two Cowboys Production Van Fit-Out With Reclaimed Barn Wood from Alberta, Canada

Cabin In A Van

How many people can say that they've built a cabin in a van and that they did it with wood that is a hundred years old?

Clinton Pigeon and his team at Two Birds Furniture in Okotoks rose to the occasion to help the Traveling Cowboys with the final step in the build of the Two Cowboys production van. The brief was to create a comfortable work and living space within our Ford Transit that can accommodate our travels in all-weather circumstances. We want to take our studio on the road as we crisscross North America to feature destinations, communities, makers, and entrepreneurs all over the continent. The van is an essential item in our fleet that includes a Sprinter van from Leisure Vans, and an A-Class RV from Holiday Rambler that we purchased from Guarantee RV.

The objective of the construction of our production van was that it should allow for enough storage for all the production gear. It should be comfortable for long trips away from home. Ultimately, the project should showcase some of the best of Alberta's craftsmanship and the rich history of our area. We think the Two Birds succeeded in doing it!


The Two Cowboys production van is a project that's been in the works for most of 2017. It started with the support of Cam Clark Ford helping us to procure a Ford Transit 350HD van in the early parts of summer.

The next big task was to install the required solar and battery power for the studio's equipment. Bucars RV stepped in to install solar, controllers, inverter, batteries and ventilation for charging our high-end camera gear and for operating our sensitive computer equipment, while on the road.

A business' vehicle is an ideal billboard for advertising. Spy Designs in Okotoks helped with an eye-catching branding design and applied the vinyl graphics so that everyone can identify the van on the road.

Canada throws all kinds of weather at you and the van needed to be insulated and heated for weather that can go between extremes of -35C and +40C. The insulation task fell on the shoulders of resident Cowboy, Braam Compton, who spent weeks researching the ideal solutions and several weekends installing it over the hot summer months. A vital part of the insulation journey was getting the required window coverings to trap heat inside or keep the hot sun out. We sourced custom window screens from Solar Screen in Australia.  The Espar Airtronic gasoline heater installation was done by Polar Mobility Research in Calgary.

Once all the "invisible" installations were out of the way, the Two Birds had a chance to work with us on the layout. Wood framing provided the structure for the arrangement. The framing was then clad with reclaimed timber sourced from an old Alberta barn. The design accommodated a work desk, fridge, shelving, closet, drop-in storage and a single bed for when a day gets too long.


A van is an invaluable business tool for our line of business. A well-designed and properly-constructed vehicle makes our day easy and allows us to reach the many destinations we cover and to work on the road while away from home base. We learned a lot with the build of this first one and did not doubt that there will be subsequent projects with improvements in our design and construction approach.

The most significant lessons we've learned from our project is how valuable the people are that committed to helping us with it. All of the businesses that contributed are patrons and supporters of the Two Cowboys mission. We gladly promote them at every opportunity we get. We appreciate their help to keep us on the road for telling the stories of our people and inspirational businesses in our local communities.

We are extending a sincere word of thank you in particular to the Two Birds for putting in days, nights and weekends to finish the project before winter finally arrived. We can now look forward to many miles and many more inspirational stories on the road.

If you want to know how exactly it was all done, then please consider becoming a friend of ours on Patreon. We will give you all the details of what to do, and what to avoid if you contemplate a similar endeavour. We may even help you with your project if you ask nicely.

Hendrik van Wyk
Van Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to help us gain from our work. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other stories.


It starts with a plan...

Insulation Done

Framing Done

Stress Test!


More Cladding


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Two Cowboys: Connecting with Our Food at the Olds College National Meat Training Centre in Olds, Alberta

Where's the Beef?

What we eat and drink determines who we are. It is a big part of us and integral to what we do each day. Throughout our evolutionary journey, as it is for every other animal on earth, our food ultimately determined and enabled our species, homo sapiens, to claim its place and standing on this planet.

For humans, our involvement with food goes a little further. It also plays a large part in determining our identity. It defines our relationships with our environment and our fellow man. One can deduce a level of cultural and moral sophistication from civilization's connection with its food. It plays a pivotal role in defining a society.


For a person, food is nourishment. Without food, famine is inevitable. If we don't eat well, we face disease. For a group, it is also a source of expression that influences and displays cultural convention, ritual, and perception. Families come together for celebration meals, heads of state dine together, and a nation's geopolitical and economic welfare is determined by its food production abilities. Food is security. Competition for resources to produce food is the principal source of revolution and of war. For eons, individual, tribal and national identities have been recognized through uniquely crafted dishes, ingredients, and meal preparations. It is fair to say that as humans, we have a fascinating love affair with what we eat.

Humanity now produces more food than ever before in history. Unfortunately, we are also more disconnected from our food now, than we've ever been.  Food manufacturing and industrialized levels of production have slowly been eroding our link with, understanding, and the role of our food, beyond the simple provisioning of sustenance. As a result, we may also be losing our sense of who we are, and in large part, of our societal identity.

We are also losing our ability to recognize and work with our food.  The art and production of food through baking, butchering, brewing and cheese making are falling by the wayside as our butchers, bakers, and cheesemakers depart, to be replaced by corporations with large processing facilities and factories focussed on a uniform, compliant output contributing to the bottom-line.

Even our chefs are spoiled by these companies, with pre-prepared manufactured products that merely requires heating and plating. The elementary art of cooking is under threat in the average meal preparation facility in North America. Fast Food is not food in the true sense of what it could and ultimately should be.

To illustrate my point further, we should only take a look at the degree of effort we put into making food unrecognizable. Celebrity chefs are beating a path to creating mouses, gels, pearls, pills, and pellets that is entirely void of resembling source ingredients. Meals come ready-made. Molecular Gastronomy, which should have remained a fascinating experiment, now trailblazes a departure from the familiar in favor of concepts such as multi-sensory cooking, modernist cuisine, culinary physics, and experimental cuisine.

The result is that we can now eat a perfectly looking, uniform, sterile, mostly synthetic, manufactured sandwiches containing the resemblance of meat, bread, and condiments, that is morally and culturally acceptable and available to the masses, across the planet. This is now our idea of "food"!

Should we be loving it?

Because food has always been closely linked with who we are, losing its origins and our linkages to what we eat have the inevitable result that we just succumb to also losing our sense of identity.  We mistakenly claim a false pretense of cultural "progress" and moral high ground when misguidedly people succumb to disorders, become vegan, or allow vegetarianism to take hold.

Human evolution did not result in equipping people to only eat plants, and unfortunately, no amount of moral or spiritual convention will change our biology in the short term. Maybe it is time again that our children know that milk comes from cow's teets? Chickens lay eggs. Renin and bacteria make cheese and meat come from dead and butchered animals. Substances like blood make for great sausage!

When we rediscover food, we may find our true primal selves again void of pretense, and stripped from our delusions of civility. When we have the pleasure of eating what we always ate, the way we did, with the people we treasure, we may then also have the joy of re-discovering who we truly are.

That is why we seek out great food, places to find it, and why we celebrate the stories of the people and producers connecting us with ourselves - with our true primal being - homo puretus!

The Last Butcher School

The Olds College Meat Processing Program is one of only two remaining in North America that offers an educational certificate in the whole process stream of meat, from slaughter, processing, preserving to retail. Where big plants once dominated the industry, we are glad to say that the revival of the art is back in Alberta!

Olds College teaches hands-on practical techniques and age-old science of meat processing for the highest premium quality cuts. Successful graduates gain the experience needed to start their own entrepreneurial business ventures or take their skills to Canada’s third largest industry.

Olds College is the National Meat Training Centre for Canada. Three times a year its program takes in a wide range of students from all over North America and as far away as Africa. They teach techniques for professional meat cutting, trimming, boning, breaking, wrapping, sausage-making and curing with professional sanitation and food safety applications, including HACCP. It is Alberta’s training site for humane handling and stunning, and the only program in North America that teaches slaughter skills and techniques such as skinning, eviscerating and carcass preparation.

The College boasts an extensive multi-purpose facility that is fully equipped to teach the value-added skill sets and knowledge for the meat industry. Its services are expanded to cater to large and small industry, from sausage making and dried, cured hams to the installation of an industrial canner. It also boasts a favorite retail counter where students learn applied retail merchandising and customer service skills in explaining the attributes and benefits of various products and cuts.


We are saddened by the fact that Olds College is one of only two remaining programs of its kind in North America. On the other hand, we are encouraged that it still exists, is more popular than ever, and a mere hour's drive from our home base in the Rocky Mountains. The retail shop is a favorite stop for our monthly meat purchases.

Alberta is famous for the quality of its agricultural produce and its rich heritage in producing quality feed for animal husbandry. We are convinced that Alberta boasts the best tasting beef, pork and, dare we say it, lamb (sorry, New Zealand)!

What we need now, is a supportive regulatory food production climate and consumers that invite our producers back to rearing fantastic animals and our butchers again into our towns. The Old-World fostered an appreciation for its producers, and the food that resulted for our ancestors were just incredible. In the New-World, we have the opportunity not only to re-rediscover this rich food heritage but cherish it more than ever. It is where we come from, what we can do, and who we ultimately are.

We are meat-loving Cowboys.

Hendrik van Wyk

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to help us gain from our work. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other stories.





How It's Made


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Two Cowboys: Discovering Alberta's Own Cheese at Sylvan Star Cheese in Red Deer, Alberta

It's the Cows

There is an old saying that money doesn't grow on trees. It also doesn't sprout when you put it in the ground. In today's age of mass food production, processed and manufactured produce, we sometimes forget where food is supposed to come from.

At places like Sylvan Star Cheese, we are reminded of the principles of quality food production. It is as simple as this. Good seeds are planted in fertile soil to sprout beautiful fields. Fields feed happy dairy cows. Dairy cows produce delicious milk and milk make fantastic cheese. Happy cows eating well is the key to world-champion winning cheese. It all depends on the cows according to John Schalkwyk, who's been making cheese for over fifty years.


When the Schalkwyk family from The Netherlands wanted to start a farm with more space and more of a future, they decided to take a look at Canada. Dairy has been in the family for generations. However, it became too hard as small entrepreneurs in The Netherlands to survive in the restrictive regulatory climate that favors large corporations in the European Union.

The Schalkwyks traveled all over Canada and found that Alberta has space and scope for dairy. Quebec and British Columbia may be known for dairy production and Alberta for its barley and oil. However, what Alberta lacked were a few healthy and happy dairy cows. According to John, you can make cheese wherever you can produce dairy, and there are not many places in the world where you cannot milk a cow.

In 1995 they found a nice place between Sylvan Lake and Red Deer where they settled and started their dairy farm with a herd of Holstein's. It sounds idyllic. However, within Canada's restrictive supply managed dairy environment it is probably one of the hardest business in the country to start and grow. Alberta doesn't have many dairy farmers. Not because it is cold. Because someone in Government decided that Canada has enough dairy and new entrants to the industry are discouraged.

While launching their dairy farm, the Schalkwyks had a hard time finding an excellent piece of cheese in Canada, so they decided to go back to an old family tradition, making good Gouda cheese. John has a long history of Gouda making which he inherited from his mother. He's been making cheese in The Netherlands for 30 years prior to coming to Canada. The next natural progression was to add value to the dairy they produced, and in 1999 they ordered equipment from Holland and started Sylvan Star Cheese.

Now 16 years later Sylvan Star Cheese is renowned for its farm-made Gouda. They have won numerous Canadian awards as #1 Gouda, Extra Aged Gouda and smoked Gouda. Their extra aged gouda, also known as "Grizzly" because of its bite and power, is ranked #4 in the world. Clearly, John followed in his mother's footsteps. In 1952 she also won first prize in The Netherlands with her Gouda for which she received a prize from princess Wilhelmina!


Today the next generation is taking over. Son, Jeroen runs the dairy farm with a herd of about 240 Holstein's, while John and his wife are devoted to making cheese.

Regardless of their success, you will find John at the local Farmers' market where he sells directly to his customers. As a small producer and entrepreneur he continues to survive and grow because, according to him, it's all about happy cows.

According to me, it is because of the hard-working pioneering and persevering spirit of someone that wakes at four in the morning to take care of his first love, his cows, regardless of what some bureaucrat, lawmaker, and tax collector, somewhere in the doldrums government decide about his future.

Makers have no choice. They are compelled to continue to produce. If it becomes too hard in one place, they will move elsewhere. We have no choice but to keep telling their stories. We are proud to support the Schalkwyks, and we enjoy our Sylvan Star cheese.

Hendrik van Wyk
Dairy Cowboy

We earn our livelihood from producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to help us earn from our work. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other stories.


Making Cheese 
Poutine Ingredients


Everyone Helps


Spicy Cheese

It's the Cows

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Two Cowboys: Cracking Claws at the Inaugural Lobsterfest at Big Sky BBQ in Okotoks, AB

Lobsters Beware

There is a time of the year when every Atlantic Lobster should run for cover. It is Fall in Alberta, and Rob Bolton launched the inaugural Big Sky BBQ Lobsterfest.

No one told the lobsters. Before they knew it, almost 1,000 of them made the airplane trip to the Prairie town of Okotoks. It is the beginning of what is to become one of the largest events of its kind. You can mark our words. Rob is not going to hold back this time. He already has plans to double its size next year.


He served the lobsters boiled, with lemon butter and bacon wrapped smoked corn on the cob to 420 hungry local folks. It was the second of two jam-packed entertaining evenings. Many of the guests made sure they got their tickets almost a month in advance. The ones that didn', lost out, or had to bootleg it from a local Okotokian on the Lobsterfest black market.


If you know the quality of BBQ at Big Sky, you will also know that Rob is a perfectionist. He will not relent until he's done it all perfectly and until every guest is thrilled with their experience. We were just excited to have an invite from Rob and to show you how it gets done at Big Sky BBQ.

By the way, the Lobster was delicious! You should have been there.

Hendrik van Wyk
Atlantic Cowboy

We earn our livelihood from producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to help us earn from our work. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other stories.


In the Sun

In the Smoke

Lobster Grooming



My Precious!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Two Cowboys: Taking the Cake and Eating It With Coffee at 94 Take the Cake in Okotoks, Alberta

The Perfect Little Coffee Shop

If you had to detail the ideal setting for a little coffee and cake shop, what will it be? How will it look?

For me, it should remind me of my Ouma's kitchen. I had my happiest childhood days taking in the sights and smells of freshly baked bread, cake and her famous pastries. Helping her knee the dough and mixing the icing was a favorite. Sometimes, I was allowed to lick the frosting bowl if there was any left.

My Ouma was the prize-winning baker at the local County Fair with her "soetkoekies" (biscuits), "terte" (Pies) and moist Chocolate Cakes. She set the standard, and aspiring bakers worked year-on-year to try and match it. Few ever succeeded, and even less managed to exceed it.


If I had to design the ideal coffee and cake shop, then it should be a place where the kitchen is the centerpiece. At 94 Take the Cake in Okotoks, Alberta, Robyn and Sherry built their ideal and perfect coffee and cake shop, and we were there for the "grand opening."

According to the ladies, they "Take the Cake" when it comes to delicious and beautiful home baking. Sherry catered before to special occasions with custom cakes and pastries. The new shop now provides her with more space, more capacity and more scope to meet the demands for her unique and beautiful cake creations. According to her, "There is no love more sincere than the love of baking."

She also shares her passion for baking through classes that are hosted at the new shop. Young and old can now learn to bake and decorate cakes with her. She believes that she can even teach the Two Cowboys to bake and decorate!

Robyn is passionate about the coffee. Her friendliness and smile are contagious as you walk in and smell the fresh roast. Fratello supplied the beans and provided some guidance to help make 94 Take The Cake's coffee a welcome companion to the baking from the kitchen. We challenged Robyn to do a Two Cowboys Flatwhite, and she had it spot-on perfect the first round with an excellent crema and smooth, creamy milk. We have our new favorite coffee spot in Okotoks.


Ultimately the setting of the little coffee shop reminds you of a fairytale. There are ample garden spots where you can enjoy the sunshine and read a favorite book amongst flowers and birdsong. The shop has several comfortable rooms where you can work, do a business meeting or share some time with a good friend. From every angle, you can see how Sherry bakes in the kitchen and Robyn makes at the front desk.

We love the coffee. The cakes are outstanding. We have no doubt that this is a winner.

What actually stands out for us is the enthusiasm of two entrepreneurs, Roby and Sherry, that are realizing their dream and allowing us to be part of it. That is why we gladly share their story and eagerly track their progress to becoming Okotoks' next favorite little cake and coffee shop.

Hendrik van Wyk
Cake Cowboy

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Two Cowboys: Fiesta with Casa Hogar Los Angelitos Dancing Away with Ballet Folklorico in Okotoks, Alberta

The Rhythm

Music and dance have a way to transcend culture, time and place. Even more so on a Monday evening in Okotoks Alberta, as a school theatre is packed with spectators witnessing and clapping to the pumping Latin rhythms from Mexico's Ballet Folklorico.

The spectacle was courtesy of the touring dancers of Casa Hogar Los Angelitos of Manzanillo, Mexico, on their tour through the Canadian Prairie towns. The Two Cowboys was lucky to get an invite to the Okotoks performance.

We cannot stay away from people that create things - music and dance in this case - and people that care for each other.


Baile folklórico, literally "folkloric dance" in Spanish, also known as ballet folklórico is a collective term for traditional Mexican dances. It puts the emphasis on local folk culture with ballet characteristics like pointed toes and exaggerated movements, that are highly choreographed.

You will find folk dances in the villages during fiestas and not on stage. Each region in Mexico, the Southwestern United States and Central American countries is known for a handful of locally characteristic dances. On Monday 18 September, we were treated to the Mexican folkloric journey by Casa Hogar Los Angelitos students (CHLA).

CHLA is an orphanage that is providing for the needs of the homeless and forgotten children of Manzanillo. The facilities and the not-for-profit organization that supports it was founded by Nancy Nystrom and her husband, David. Their clear mission is to help develop the young people of the city that would otherwise have been destitute.

The focus is on education. Children that would otherwise not have had opportunities are given a chance and is supported to develop into skilled individuals, ready to contribute to society in Mexico once they become young adults. Since inception, CHLA has succeeded in helping several young men and women go to universities and technical schools. All activities are funded through individual sponsorships and donations by generous patrons.

What sets CHLA's approach apart is the Ballet Folklorico. Nancy Nystrom had the idea that expressive arts may help some of the children deal with their sometimes complicated pasts. It worked. Her idea has gradually progressed to where many of the children in CHLA and even some from surrounding communities have joined the Ballet Folklorico Casa Hogar Los Angelitos.

The next step was to share it with the world by taking the show on the road. This is how people in Alberta and other communities across North America are getting to see the rhythmic enthusiasm of these outstanding performers. At the same time, we all learned a little bit more of Mexico and of ourselves as we too contributed as spectators to the opportunities for these children.


The dancing was world-class. The stamina of the performers was exceptional considering they perform almost daily while on tour. The costumes were breathtaking and the rhythms contagious.

For a short while, we were all in a Mexican plaza during fiesta. Vibrant colors were everywhere. Mariachis and their songs were thumping away in a tranced tapestry of familiarity as they sing of love and heartbreak, happiness and success. People danced. Viva Mexico!

For a moment we forgot about our pasts, and we shared in the music and dance present of the students of Casa Hogar Los Angelitos. What a present it was!

Hendrik van Wyk
Fiesta Cowboy

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Yes, He Came




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Traveling Cowboys: Soaring with the Eagles at the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation in Coaldale, Alberta

Soaring with Eagles

Where can you feel the wind from a fully grown Bald Eagle's wings on your face? Even better, where can you give a Golden Eagle a shower on a hot summer's afternoon?

The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is the place where I realized a childhood dream of being up close and personal with eagles and other birds of prey. Colin, the proprietor of the facility allowed us to give a Golden Eagle a cooling shower. I also saw how accurately a fully grown Bald Eagle land on his arm, between a group of people. I felt the wind from the birds 85" long wingspan when he swooshed by, during the performance.

It all happened this summer during our visit to the foundation's rescue and conservation center in Coaldale, just east of Lethbridge.


The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is Alberta's first privately licensed raptor rescue and conservation organization. It's been operating since 1982. The facility is located two hours south of Calgary in the heart of Canada's wild prairies and 10 minutes east of Lethbridge. You can visit the center during the summer months to get a closer look at the magnificent birds and to learn more about the work that goes into rescue and conservation.

Although Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is Alberta based, the organization's environmental contributions extend far beyond the province of Alberta. It released offspring from their Burrowing Owl breeding program in all four western Canadian provinces. At the facility, they've also cared for injured birds from locations ranging from Ontario to British Columbia, and even Canada's Arctic.

The Foundation is a non-political organization with a simple strategy. According to Colin Weir, the founder, the focus is to initiate hands-on practical solutions which directly benefit wildlife and our environment. Colin mentioned that although it sounds idyllic to be amongst these majestic birds every day, they do not receive any government or operating subsidies to help them in their work.

He calls it his happy place and his biggest liability. The Foundation relies solely on donations in addition to people generously donating their time. It makes the work of the organization so much harder. They spend 100% of all donations on programs and projects that directly benefit the wildlife and habitats they strive to conserve.


There are no words that can describe the experience we've had with Colin. Look at the video and photos below. We highly recommend the visit.

The highlight of the day was when Colin released a rehabilitated bird, and we could film the action with our cameras in slow-motion.

If there is such a thing as a spirit animal, then the Golden Eagle is mine. The majesty that is part of these birds is breathtaking. Even more when you see them up close, and you realize how big they are, how fragile they are on the ground and understand the power they exhibit when you see them in flight. You can experience all of this in a matter of minutes at the center.

The visit to Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation was not only a highlight of our trip to Lethbridge. It was a special day I will cherish for the remainder of my life.

Hendrik van Wyk
Spirit Cowboy

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Two Birds




Where's the Barn

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Two Cowboys: Fresh, Pure, Liquid Gold from the Alberta Prairies Courtesy of Forever Bee in Okotoks, Alberta

Purest of Honey

In 2010 I embarked on the crazy journey to perfect classic Italian Honey Nougat. It is an ancient celebratory confection with only four ingredients - honey, egg white, cane sugar, and nuts. Nougat is a major industry in the old world of Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, and Morocco where it was typically served to royalty and as present at weddings, christenings, Christmas and birthdays.

It is also one of the most difficult confections to make. The soft, white, melt-in-your mount textured candy has broken many a chef's resolve. Only a few people in the world know the secrets of perfect white soft honey nougat and most of them only impart it to close family members on their death bed, who is tasked with perpetuating the legacy.

It took me three years and five tons of failures to finally unlock the secret of honey nougat perfection. None of which I am prepared to divulge in this post. What I did discover during my struggle is that most of the honey that we buy in stores are either not honey or of such low quality that it may as well be regular cane sugar syrup. For a start, it contains abnormal amounts of water, and it is pasteurized. As we know pasteurization kills all pathogens - the good ones with the bad. The bottom line discovery was that store bought honey cannot be used for making Honey Nougat.


During my journey, I met Matt and Annanie. They own of Forever Bee. It is a small apiary they started in February of 2012 while on their own search for a better quality honey.

Forever Bee began as a tiny business that managed to sell a few jars of honey here and there at farmers' markets. They've been bootstrapping the business since and have managed to build up a strong fresh honey supply to many loyal customers in Southern Alberta. Their products include raw honey, flavored honey (they do a fantastic cinnamon honey), honeycomb, beeswax, candles and more.


We spend a lot of time around farmers' markets in Southern Alberta, and inevitably we run into the Forever Bee clan again and again with their fresh honeycomb and jars of pure, unpasteurized honey.

The honey is terrific for all the good reasons they mention in the video above.

What stands out for us about Matt and Annanie's business is not so much the honey they produce, which is fantastic. It is the success they have starting from nothing five years ago and building a simple, successful business with a very loyal customer base. The business is in its fifth year, and it is allowing them to have their entire family involved in growing it. It is only with passion and an outstanding product that they can continue to succeed.

Being at farmers' markets is hard work. It may appear idyllic or romantic to the casual bystander. There is a lot of time and dedication that goes into producing products the whole week and then still doing markets at the same time. For many, it is a seven day week affair. Often these small producer businesses cannot sustain themselves with only one market, so they are typically serving several markets per week. The season is also short, so every market day counts.

We find Forever Bee at these markets in the Foothills. What stands out is their dedication to a fantastic quality product. What sets them apart from other honey vendors is their willingness and commitment to educate about the virtues of fresh honey and the love and care they put into making their honey taste as good as it possibly can.

The honey from Forever Bee is the perfect honey for my classic soft Honey Nougat.

Hendrik van Wyk
Sweet Cowboy

We earn our livelihood from producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. We use Patreon to help us earn from our work. Please become a patron at if you want to see more of this and other stories.


Lethbridge Market

Okotoks Market

Canmore Market

Honey Gold

Happy Beez

Monday, September 11, 2017

Two Cowboys: In-depth Investigation Into Custom BBQ Use at the Annual BBQ on the Bow Competition in Calgary, AB

Custom Big

We are told that people can't find the tools they need to become prize-winning BBQ pitmasters.

That is why we did an in-depth investigation into the phenomenon of custom BBQ design and constructions at this year's 25th annual KCBS BBQ competition, hosted by Alberta's (possibly, even Canada's) oldest BBQ Society.


BBQ on the Bow is an annually occurring Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) sanctioned BBQ Competition and outdoor festival.

It takes place at the Montgomery Community Association (Shouldice Park) during Labour Day long weekend. Their mission is to spread the love, passion, and joy for “southern style” BBQ while simultaneously celebrating and promoting local products, businesses, and musicians. Now you know why the Two Cowboys took an interest. They had us already at BBQ. We also share a similar passion for products, the people that make them and the people that sing about them.

The association was founded in 1993 which, according to Bernie Kenney (VP of the Association) makes it one of the first of its kind in Canada. The BBQ on the Bow was created to jointly promote “Southern BBQ” and Alberta agricultural products of pork, beef, and chicken.

This year it celebrated its 25th year. The event has endured everything mother nature threw at it over the years, be it floods, snow, winds and other storms. It has evolved from a small competition with a  handful of teams to one of Canada’s premier competitions with over 35 teams competing annually.

Forty-five teams competed this year, in spite of a Province wide fire ban, which makes it an event for the record books. It may also be because of the fire ban that so many teams grabbed the opportunity to do some BBQing in a controlled and permissible environment before BBQ withdrawal sets in.


We are amazed at every competition to see the number of home-grown, self-built BBQ's that make it to competition. The people that take the plunge into constructing a custom smoker machine are seasoned pitmasters or very adventurous engineers.

Big brand name smokers, which are usually in ample supply in such a competition, are often associated with newbies or with teams that managed to get that all elusive sponsorship from a well-known brand or manufacturer. We've heard that some teams are even bribed into merely displaying a big brand name smoker (not necessarily cooking with it) for a small fee. You know who they are because the smokers are all clean, shimmering in the sun and brand new.

The more salted pitmasters have their go-to smokers customized and seasoned over time to meet their particular need or style of cooking. We are told that these smokers have personality. "She's like a woman. If you treat her well, with respect, she will make a BBQ champion of you", a pitmaster proclaimed, which will remain nameless.

One way you know that custom machines are worth their weight in smoke and iron is that they are the tools that show years of wear and tear. These smokers worked and will continue to do so. The meat-fat, grease, and caked on carbon from weeks, months and years of use serve as one-of-kind seasoning that provides a unique and unduplicatable taste to the fare. That is why these smokers end up with names and their teams with the medals.

What makes a BBQ Smoker, good?

If you listen to the champions, some like even heat in the cooker. Others want different temperature profiles on the same machine so that the machine becomes multi-purpose. Some smokers are suited to the purists that cook and smoke with wood. Others are "cheaters" with computer controlled pellet feeders and convection fans.

One fact above all distinguishes a champion pitmaster and his team. It doesn't matter what tools they use. The machine helps, but it is their experience and finely tuned palate that separates them from the rest. They are also the ones busy cooking while the rest are looking.

Hendrik van Wyk
Smoker Cowboy

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