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Looking south across my pond

Thursday April 10th 2014

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I'm home and not tired, so am catching up.  I'll go to bed soon.

The plants are dry, and the tomato plants are wilted.  They should recover, but it will take a while.  Stress tends to encourage root growth and that can be a good thing, but too much stress can do long-lasting damage.   I can see that summer will be a challenge unless I can find someone to water more often. The plants use much more water at fifteen or twenty degrees C than at ten and summer is coming.  In summer temperatures can reach 30 degrees indoors.

The house has been at ten degrees most of the time while I am gone in winter and spring since that is where I set the thermostat, but soon the daily ambient temperatures will rise, the furnace will not run much at all, and with the longer days, the plants will suck up a lot of water.  I was already using ten gallons every day or two before I left with the house at nineteen degrees C most of the time.  I can see that I will have to make some decisions soon or lose my plants.

I'm up again now at 0800 and watered the plants.  I see all the snow is pretty well gone from the fields, so spring runoff is over for the year.  There was less than I expected.

Last night, I discovered the reason for the dead surveillance camera as soon as I looked.  The wall wart that supplied just this one camera had a poor connection where it was plugged in and the camera lost power.  Wiggling it fixed the issue.

It seems my fears of an overflow were overblown.  If there had been an overflow, now that I look closely, I doubt it would have caused a washout.

My weather station has had a broken wind cup for some time and replacements came while I was away.  This afternoon, I replaced the broken part and now the station works properly again.

It was warm in the afternoon, and I walked over (barefoot and short-sleeved) to the quonset to look into a few hives.  I only lifted three lids and retreated.  I had not taken a veil or smoke, and one hive was happy to sting me, then follow me a distance.  That is a sign of good bee health, but a discouragement to further peeking.

On the way over and back, I noticed a lot of disturbed grass (left), the result of mice tunneling  under the snow on the surface of the lawn during the winter.   There are also some mouse holes.  Amos is getting old and does not hunt as aggressively as when younger.  The snow cover was deeper and lasted longer than usual this year and there was a surprising amount of area involved.  This makes me wonder how many mice there were/are out there.


Two of these hives above need more patties soon.  We can see that they have consumed the patty material closest to the brood and that the remaining patty should be moved closer to the brood and/or more patties must be put on the area where the patty was eaten.

Later, as the brood area and populations of young bees expand, the bees will eat all the remaining patty anywhere under the lids, but for now, much of the remaining patty on the hive at right above is too far away from the brood centre to be consumed quickly.

Young, nurse-age bees are the bees that eat protein.  Older bees usually do not, and these pictures show how the young bees tend to be concentrated in the brood area. 

Varroa are present on young bees at as much as ten times the rate that they are found on the older bees.  Older bees are typically found nearer the periphery of the cluster.

To kill the most varroa most quickly and effectively, and to make best use of the Apivar, we need to ensure the strips are where the young bees will encounter them.  They will not be likely to encounter strips located outside the brood area.

Therefore, in the next few days, I need to verify that the Apivar strips currently in the hives are, indeed, in the area where the patties are eaten.  If not, I should move them so that they are.

In the pictures above, we can see only the top surface of the patties , but the bees tunnel through from the bottom and what looks like a lot of remaining patty may only be a thin remaining top layer and paper. At right is a bottom view of two partly eaten patties I turned over to show the tunnels.

One hive (above centre) has obviously eaten most of the two patties I put on two weeks ago and the one at right has eaten at least half of the five patties I gave it, but the one at left appears to have plenty left.

I don't see a lot of bees around the edges in that hive like in the other hives but I do seem to recall that it had large populations two weeks ago, and that there was a lot of honey up top resulting in the brood being lower in the hive -- and therefore not as near the patties as in the other hives.

Regardless of appearance from the top, this colony may have eaten out the bottom of these patties, and have therefore consumed much more than what we can see from above, but they do appear to be slower consuming patties than hives that have brood right up to the top bars.

This hive needs to be examined for a laying queen (a quick brood check) since failure to consume patty can mean queen failure. 

The third hive is the one that chased me away.  I'll go back better prepared later and check more closely today.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
Lao Tzu

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Friday April 11th 2014

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Today promises to start off nice, but turn colder.  I can get out and move patties and Apivar and add more patties to hives that need them, and adjust the position of feed frames but should be careful not to stress the colonies, especially with the colder nights and daytime weather coming.

At this time of year, the colonies are starting to take risks in expanding the brood area to the limit of their resources and are more vulnerable to cold than they were earlier or will be later when they have more young bees.  Without thinking, it is easy to add enough additional stress to cause chilled brood and stress diseases.

I have heard that my contact form was no longer working, so I rebuilt it.  If you have anything to say, try it out

I see my weather station is working properly again. The temperature reading was always OK, but my wind speed indicator was jiggered until I fixed it yesterday.  You can see my weather here anytime it is turned on.

At 0950, the temperature is suitable for bee work and I had better get out there before the predicted cold arrives.  I see the south wind is picking up already and the barometer is falling...

I went out around 1100 and by 1140, I had done the eight hives in Quonset West.  I replaced the patties that have been eaten and, since I used to have a frame feeder in every brood chamber and seeing as I have lots of feed on hand, I decided to put one into each top box this spring.



Guessing which hives will need the most patties is difficult on the first round, but that becomes obvious after a week or two.  I can see that I am early for some hives, but very late for others.  The hives should never be allowed to run out the way the first two above have.  Running out can compromise brood rearing.

I came a cross a drone layer (left).  It had a decent population of healthy bees, so I combined it with a neighboring hive.  Note the stubs of beginning queen cells, and larvae occurring only in drone cells. 

Even if I had a queen, introducing her would be impossible due to the weather and the age of the bees.

I was working south of the quonset, sheltered from the northwest wind and unaware of an approaching weather change.  Unfortunately, just after I shook the bees in front of another hive, the wind suddenly turned cold and gusty and I had to quit for the day.  I smoked the bees (right) to chase them in.

Placing Apivar in the cluster does affect the brood.  With ten-frame spacing, there is only a single bee space between combs, and when a strip is inserted,  bees cut down the cells on either side of the strip to make bee spaces on each side.  That reduces the cell depth and leaves a noticeable dent in the comb on either side (left).  We can see young larvae on one side of the strip, so it seems that the Apivar is not very toxic to bees.

After I came in, the weather turned nice again, but by then, I was too tired to go out again.  I don't know how many hives I worked today. I would guess fifteen. 

If it's true that our species is alone in the universe,
then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
George Carlin

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Saturday April 12th 2014

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Before dawn today. the temperature is minus five and the wind is gusting to twenty miles per hour.  That is pretty nasty for opening hives, but the forecast is promising:

Today: Cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries this morning. Clearing this afternoon. Wind north 30 km/h gusting to 50 becoming light this afternoon. High plus 4. UV index 4 or moderate.

There appears to be a good chance of at least a few hours of weather good enough to work another 20 hives today. 

I estimate that I have 45 live hives, so that means three days of fifteen hives a day should get the job done.  I'd like to feed syrup, too, but am not set up to pump it.  I can use pails, but that is messy.

I have meetings and a flight Tuesday, so the time available between now and then is limited.  That may be a good thing as it inspires me to get the job done.

I'm catching up on things today.  In clearing out my inbox, I came across the message below.  I fixed the web form recently, and now I'll attempt to answer this question.

Hi Allen,
I received an error message from your website when trying to submit my question there. So here goes....

I'm down in Calgary and just starting with a couple hives this year. With perfect timing I caught your talk at the Calgary Beekeepers meeting and am now the proud owner of some extruded brood boxes. Had my wife and I made the decision to jump a little sooner we might have already owned wood boxes. Maybe procrastination isn't so bad after all! :)

FYI the pricing is now $21.90 + GST.

I had a question about venting these boxes. You suggest either a 1" hole or a screened bottom. I would be more comfortable using the screened bottom approach until I have a little more experience and understanding of how the bees move around in and out of the hive.

So if I used a screened bottom board, is there anything particular about the design to add ventilation? I see the design as a debris trap under a screen with the same opening as the standard bottom board. Is the ventilation just a by-product of loose fitting slots for the mite counting boards? The volume of air space in the trap area below the screen?

Maybe I'm just over-thinking it all, but your clarification would be much appreciated.

Actually, I don't recommend screened bottoms except for monitoring varroa mites, and there are ways to do that with non-screened boards, too.  Screened bottoms can provide more ventilation than needed, especially for small colonies managed by inexperienced beekeepers.

I use the 1" hole because it provides an upper entrance and does not require the bees to walk all the way down to the entrance.  It also provides a vent hole they can control.

Bees naturally select cavities with small openings, and IMO, due to influences from far south of us, northern beekeepers tend to provide too much ventilation, especially for weak colonies. 

Nucs, packages and colonies with fewer than three pounds of bees have problems conserving heat in spring. Spring is the time of year when colonies are attempting to expand their brood nest and are easily set back by cold, windy weather. Such colonies do much better in limited spaces with limited entrances and ventilation.

Strong colonies are not much affected by excess ventilation, but excess ventilation may result in reluctance to store in supers and energy wasted attempting to control the cavity humidity and temperature. When there are boxes of frames below the active brood area, the cluster is protected from wind at the bottom by the baffling effect of the frames below, and in that case, a screened bottom will not make much difference one way or the other.

Screened bottom boards can result in chilled hives or hives being blown full of drifting snow in winter if the hives are not well sheltered from wind. Single boxes on screened bottoms are over-ventilated IMO.  Doubles not so much.  Triples are unaffected by the air currents down there.

We need to be careful about how much entrance or other openings we supply, especially in exposed locations.  Except on very hot days, insufficient ventilation is not usually a problem in Alberta.  Due to the winds, the wide and sudden temperature fluctuations, and our dry climate, over-ventilation is more likely to be an issue most of the year. 

So, what I am saying is be careful when using screens.  The standard hive floor is perfectly adequate, and even that 3/4" by 15" slit often requires reducers for small colonies.

And here is another question:

Hello Allen:
I am a new beekeeper, I started last year by catching a couple of swarms. Unfortunately they were too small and didn't make the winter. But they gave me some experience, drawn comb and the confidence to order 2 packages for this spring. I have been studying all winter and it seems the more I learn the more confused I get. I signed on with beesource.com but because of the different locations it becomes very confusing because southern methods don't work in northern climes and vice versa. I'm starting to feel like a frog in a blender and there is no bee club in the area to join for mentoring to turn off the blender. I was reading your diary entry for Thursday April 10. You mentioned that the Apivar should be placed by the most eaten pollen patty. Is it placed under the Pollen patty or beside it? I'm going to try to figure out how to register with your website so I can join in the discussions.

There is some good info on Beesource, but also a lot of misinformation, imaginative speculation, and opinions based on interpretation and reading too much into other such opinions and sparse facts.

Apivar goes in first and then patties go on top since both need to be near the brood. 

You can see the Apivar in the pictures I posted yesterday where the bees ate the patties and before I replace the eaten pollen patties. Here is one again at right.

BTW, how many frames of bees do you think you see in this picture?  Answer in the Honey Bee World Forum.

By mid-afternoon, the wind dropped enough and the day warmed enough that I could work on the bees. 

I worked through all the remaining hives located around the quonset area.  When I was done, I counted twenty-nine remaining viable hives. 

Some of them are large and a few are marginal, but all the bees look healthy and I have high hopes for them.

As can be expected when working so many hives, I found another drone layer (right).  There is something about them that I instinctively sense even without pulling frames to check.  When they frame is pulled, it is obvious to anyone. Note the small patch of drone brood and the queen cells around the edge.  If there is anything in the cells, it will be drone brood. These duds have gone drone layer recently and the bees are still young and useful for boosting other hives. 

I came back in around five.  The weather is beautiful now, but I don't want to overdo things and I like to give the bees a few hours at the end of the day to settle before the temperature drops.

I now have a lot of deadouts to sort.  The bees did not mess in them much at all.  The combs are clean and just need sorting and a bit of scraping to be put back into service.  I'll need them soon when I begin splitting.  Right now, I do not have the ambition to get started on them, but I will have to do something by mid-May.  I expect to split as many as forty hives by May 15, so I will need forty brood chambers ready to go under the splits.  I'll also need floors and lids ready. Actually, I may not need quite that number since I have some hives in triples and I'll make them into two doubles, requiring only one extra box .

The ice has not melted yet, but the ducks are back.

After checking my email and noticing an email reminder from Westjet that points out that I fly Tuesday afternoon, not Wednesday as I had thought, my priorities came into sharper focus.  I realised that I only need to replenish the patties and count hives, and can put off the other work I have been doing, so I went out and put patties onto the remaining hives. 

There are ten live hives in the North Yard and eleven south of the hedge, giving a total of fifty survivors out of the sixty-seven that went into winter.  That works out to a 25% loss, and I can see there are several that will not amount to much, so we could call it 30%.

I attribute the higher than expected loss to having fed far fewer patties last year, late spits, and not feeding syrup last fall.  I am happy, though, that I don't see any dysentery or other obvious disease, so have high hopes for good splitting in May.

I found that some hives I had thought would be big eaters ate very little and some I figured were weak ate everything I gave them, making me happy I did not delay feeding them patties again.

Winnie the Pooh was right.  "You never can tell with bees".

The bees were quite jumpy today and although I worked all day with no veil, I had bees all over me and often in my face.   I used smoke and they did not sting much, but they got into my open neck and up my sleeves and crawled around under my shirt.  I should really suit up a bit better.

I found one hive where I had placed the Apivar entirely outside the brood area and moved it into the centre. In most cases I had guessed right.

I see that most hives still have only a small patch of brood on two or three frames, judging by the patch of patty eaten in those hives.  See the picture at right.

That picture also illustrates how very important it is to get the patties right near the brood in spring. In the picture, you can see exactly where the brood is located without pulling frames. The bees simply ignore patties that are more than a few inches away from the brood at this time of year. 

I have heard it said that colonies will eat patties pushed into the entrance in summer, but  wonder if they actually eat the patty or just throw it out.  I do know that young bees range further through the hive in summer, and particularly during honey flows, so maybe...

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love.
This is how the whole scheme of things works.
All good things are difficult to achieve;
and bad things are very easy to get.

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Sunday April 13th 2014

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Today looks like a beautiful day, but breezy.  Tomorrow will be warm enough that the bees will be flying in numbers. 

There are things to do outdoors, like feeding syrup and stacking boxes, but I have plenty to do indoors as well. I have been letting the housework slide and even though I have been away a lot, the work accumulates.

I have two more full days to deal with things here before I go to the coast again.  I have done the most important bee work, but should do some tidying and pick up the dead-outs before I go. There is lots to do, but my ambition is limited.

It was cold enough last night that the pond re-froze, except where the bubbler kept it open.  The ducks are sticking it out. 

I don't know how they can walk around barefoot on the ice and swim happily in the ice water.  Bees amaze me too, since I see them fly around naked on days when I have to wear a sweater.

Even when days are warm, the nights are still cold and that is a challenge to the bees, especially if the wind blows.  Cold, breezy nights are when winter wrapping and entrance reduction pay off, and when screened bottoms chill small clusters.

Strong hives can handle such insults much better than small clusters due to the greater metabolic heat generation, greater volume to surface area ratio, and better ability to manipulate resources due to their greater populations.

 We need to remember that the limiting factor in colony development -- or survival -- can be one single adverse event, even if that event only lasts for a relatively brief moment in time. 

An obvious and extreme example is having a hive upset by cattle, but flooding, or a particularly cold, windy night can be just as harmful, but much less obvious.

I only went outside to move the vans to their proper parking spots and to burn trash.  With the breeze, the day felt chilly and I had nothing pressing. The vans were still in the middle of the driveway due to snow and mud earlier. Otherwise, I stayed inside, did the wash and chores around the house -- and I began bagging up Ellen's clothing again.

Since she died, I offered her clothes to various friends and family who are around the same size, but there are still plenty of clothes left. And there are shoes, lots of good shoes.

Ellen picked out quality clothing and was fussy about her dress, so bagging her wardrobe up and and putting it into the donation bin is difficult for me.  It is not the monetary value, as she picked up many items from Value Village.  It seems fitting they will likely return there. It seems to me that since they are all of a consistent size and taste that they should be ideal for someone.  But, who is that person?  She has not shown up in eight months.

Actually, this job does not bother me much. It is just a job, but going through her desk and disposing of lists and notes unexpectedly threw me into a funk that lasted weeks and is just ending now.

There are now only four months until the memorial, so I had better get going on the plans and invitations for that event.  In a way, I am sorry that I committed to the memorial since it prolongs the 'mourning period' and will keep me busy for weeks in summer.  It also means putting off decisions about what to do with this place.  Not only that, but, having been a school, the place is large scale and maintenance means large scale work.  I could be busy full time, just maintaining it.

For the last eleven years, since we retired from beekeeping, I have been living here because Ellen wanted to stay here.  She loved the place.  I do, too, but I love lots of places, and find this place isolated.  Just to buy anything means driving for fifteen minutes.  When I have friends over, many drive as much as an hour to get here.

Swalwell is not actually the end of the Earth, but on a clear day, I am quite certain we can see it from here.

Forty-six years ago, we bought this place in an auction with every last dime we had and then could not find appropriate work, so developed our own businesses.  We did a lot of different things before we settled on beekeeping.  Beekeeping kept me challenged for forty years as commercial beekeeping is really an 'impossible' occupation, sorta like tightrope walking over Niagara Falls.  I'm the sort that needs a lot going on to keep from getting bored.  I found lots to keep me occupied over the years, but at this point, it is a  case of "been there, done that".

When we retired, I had thought we agreed we would be looking towards downsizing and moving closer to shopping, medical, and other facilities in anticipation of aging, but she made it clear she planned to live out her life right here, and she did, but the end came twenty years earlier than anticipated.

I had always figured I'd check out first -- my Dad died at 65 -- and Ellen would outlive me by a decade or two, and have to bring in trucks and dumpsters to cart off my junk, but now here I am with all her collection of things and the art studio and I have to decide what I want to do.  My Mom is 95 and still going strong, so I really don't know what to expect.  It's hard to plan.  They say the good die young, so I could be around for a while yet.

*   *   *   *   *

I decided today to copy my files off my old netbook and install Windows 7.  I bought the Acer Aspire One at Ellicottville in New York when I went to EAS there and it was my main computer for a while, but got slow and I replaced it.  Physically, it is in good shape and I want to use this efficient, low-power machine to run my weather station so I don't have to keep one of my other machines running 24/7/365.

I copied most of my archived files from it to the replacement earlier when setting up the new machine, but had not copied them all.  Later, I had 'upgraded' the netbook to Windows 8 preview back before the Win 8 final release and that turned out to be a dead end.  The netbook ran progressively slower after the upgrade and got so slow that it was useless, but it still had many of my historical documents on it, so it just sat around.

Although the GUI was dead slow, I found I could network to it and get normal response and transfers.  Today, I copied the files off and installed Windows 7 (the best Windows that M$ ever produced) this afternoon.   Now I am running thru a series of updates.

While I do this, I am listening to ham radio.  The bands are poor today and yesterday, but I have been hearing Los Angeles, Colorado, and now Alaska.  I can receive, but do not have a transmit antenna set up.  I could probably get a signal out anyhow, using a tuner, but am too busy.

*   *   *   *   *

While in Sudbury, I bought Harri's radios, and probably paid too much but they cleaned up pretty well and work just fine.  The tobacco smell is fading a bit.  I'm ten feet away and only get a whiff now and then.

Harri loved his 'Indian smokes' that he got in bulk from a nearby reserve.  He had had a heart attack a while back, but that did not stop him from smoking, and now he is gone due to another heart attack, I am told.

At one time I smoked also, and quite heavily decades back, but I lost interest over time to the point where I did not even think of smoking for months at a time and only had the odd cigarette socially. 

I never did really "quit".  I just progressively did not smoke much at all any more.  At this point the idea of smoking repels me.

Oddly, doctors and society don't have a concept for someone who may have an occasional cigarette.  There are only two check boxes, it seems: Smoker and Non-Smoker. 

To my mind, this lack of flexibility in thinking locks people into thinking of themselves in black and white, and that is not helpful for those who simply want to cut down or stop.

Personally, I totally lost my interest in smoking after watching Ellen die from lung cancer (she never smoked) and watching friends with COPD.

Over time, often in just a matter of months, COPD reduces people to a state where they have little strength, even with supplemental o.xygen, and have to lug around an oxygen bottle just to function.

From the U.S. National Library of Medicine: "There is no cure for COPD. However, there are many things you can do to relieve symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse".  Persons with COPD MUST stop smoking. This is the best way to slow down the lung damage.

What I find amazing is that I often see people with the disease smoking, with an oxygen bottle beside them. 

Lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance of the law is not punished.
Jeremy Bentham

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Monday April 14th 2014

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Today promises to be warm and I have things to do.  I'd like to feed some syrup, but I am not inspired by the effort required.  I either have to rig up the pump or carry the syrup in pails.  Neither seems appealing and I may just not feed right now.

I was up in the middle of the night for two hours and worked on the notebook.  The iso I used was very old and the O/S kept downloading updates and being rebooted.

Eventually, I discovered I could not get into my profile.  Explorer crashed immediately on login, and task manager crashed, too, when I got it up.  I tried various workarounds and always came back to the same place as soon as Windows began loading my personalization settings.  I went back to bed.

This morning, the same problem was there and there seemed to be no more updates.  I suspected some software conflict or such, so I tried various ways to get into the controls.  Finally, I used msconfig to get to a stable GUI with admin privileges, and I created and other Admin account, then deleted the original admin account.  Bingo! Bob's your uncle.

Then I began looking around and found that this new, clean install had not blown away the old directories.  All the files I had worried about losing are still there and accessible!  I could have done this a year ago and use the netbook computer a remote storage.

At 1830, the netbook continues to download and install updates. 

*    *    *    *   *

I spent the day doing odds and ends, another wash, and applying for Canpass and Nexus cards.

The GOES website is intended to make the job of applying for Nexus easy, but it does not understand rural Canadian addresses and the error trapping wasted a lot of my time while I figured out workarounds.  We'll see if the system spits the application back to me.

Canpass was more simple, but paper-based, and I had to find an envelope and stamps.  I really have no idea how much postage to put on a letter now that Canada post has decided to commit sepuku by drastically raising rates and cutting service simultaneously, so I just put on $1.00. I recall when letters were five cents.

I somehow overlooked the fact that I have to get Zippy to Ruth by the time I leave tomorrow at 0900 and so I'll be driving her over shortly.  It is a 30-mile drive each way, but all highway.

*    *    *    *   *

I went out and looked at the bees and thought of feeding, but it is getting late and I have other things to do.  Most of the hives are OK and a few would benefit from feeding, but my time is worth something, too.  I could work constantly on the bees, but the returns diminish.  There is an ideal compromise between working too much and too little.  Unfortunately, that point is not always obvious until it is to late to go back and do things over.

I gave the plants a good watering.  That always takes fifteen minutes to a half-hour, depending on whether I find one that needs attention.

I see the Victoria weather promises wind and rain in the next few days, but a forecast is only that.  My experience is that lots of other weather happens  on the same days that rain is predicted and the forecasters just highlight what people find of interest.  Apparently, sunny spells rank lower than rainy spells.  So far, the Easter weekend looks good, but any day on Cassiopeia is a good day IMO.

I drove Zippy to Ruth's and returned, then went to bed early, around 2130.  The round trip took an hour and a half.  Before I went to bed, the netbook was installing more updates still -- a service pack.

If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company.
Jean-Paul Sartre

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Tuesday April 15th 2014

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Today, I'm off to Calgary and then Victoria.

I was up early, at three, then four and got ready to go and found I had an extra hour so lay down to nap.  Fell nicely asleep and Elijah texted me.  I replied and went back to sleep.  Ten minutes later he texted again,  I gave up and stayed up until 0830 and hit the road. 

I was right on time for my 1015 meeting with the lawyer and it went well.  From there, I met a beekeeper who needed some items from me and then went to the Zoo.  The parking puzzled me, so I went o Home Depot to look at antenna wire, had a nap in the van and returned to the Zoo.

This time, I parked and picked up the membership Jean bought me last summer, the week before the Zoo was flooded and closed down for months.

The Zoo is open, but the concessions are not for the most part, but I had a pleasant time in the Rain Forest watching the bats and the gorillas. 

From there, I drove to the airport to avoid the rush hour and arrived two plus hours early, so here I sit.  I'd be typing this somewhere, so why not here?

My plane left on time and I was on my boat at Port Sidney Marina two hours later.

My bed had been stripped and the enclosure was missing two panels, but Howard showed up shortly with the newly-repaired panels.  Rain was just starting and I walked back to the office with Howard to recover some bedding and then went back to the boat in the rain and re-installed the panels.

It turns out that the panels leak, so will need a sealer.  Otherwise they make a positive difference.

A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Max Planck

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Wednesday April 16th 2014

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Looking at the weather at home, I am glad I restocked the patties on my hives before I left.

Many beekeepers only put on one patty and assume that once fresh pollen comes in the bees will be OK.  That reflects a poor understanding of the situation and is a practice that can be harmful, rather than helpful.

IMO, it is better not to feed at all than to tease the bees with a mere snack. 

Putting on one patty just before pollen starts coming in then not adding more is almost like feeding wild birds daily all fall and right up until January, then going to Florida and leaving them without birdseed at a time of year when it is too late for them to migrate safely. Doing these things may be well-intentioned, but quite thoughtless and inconsiderate.  If you are going to feed, do it right.

Once the bees decide to ramp up their spring brood rearing, they are making a big investment that has to work out.  They invest resources from their bodies and their food reserves into new brood and heating the brood area. 

If they begin too early, either due to genetics, false weather cues, or beekeeper meddling, they risk losing some of that brood to cold, tearing it out, or having the brood develop, but under adverse conditions which results in inferior adults.  The stress of trying to maintain the expanded brood area through adverse weather and lack of incoming food depletes the existing adults' body resources and vigour, and encourages stress diseases.

Three weeks to the day after an egg is laid, a worker bee emerges.  If there was a large amount of brood started due to stimulation from feeding syrup and patties, three weeks later a large batch of young bees will emerge.  Over the next several weeks, they will be going through their protein-eating stage.  Normally, older bees do not eat protein.

If a beekeeper feeds one patty, three weeks later it will be gone and the need for protein will be greater than when it was fed.  At that time, the weather might be ideal and the colony may be bringing in plenty of food.  No problem.

On the other hand, by that time the old bees that fed the larva may have died off and the foraging force may be small compared to the number of young bees to be fed.  A colony can compensate by sending out the young bees to forage, but this will impact the colony build-up and health status.

Additionally, very often the weather can turn cold and wet for a week, right at that critical time.

Even if the weather is ideal, pollen in the field be unreliable and is not accessible at night. Shortages can inflict damage and stress on the colonies.

Don't give your colonies false signals by encouraging them to start early by feeding them, then withdraw support.  If you are going encourage increased brood rearing by feeding, don't betray your colonies by failing them when they are most vulnerable with large amounts of brood, relatively few foragers, and fickle weather.

Make sure that patties are near the brood at all times until late May.  That is the best insurance of colony health IMO.  For that matter, I have found that colonies will consume patties even well into the summer.  For splits and weak colonies, patties ensure adequate nutrition while they develop balanced populations and become well established.

Today, I am on Cassiopeia, tied to the dock in Sidney.  My plans are in flux.  At present, I have no crew for the flotilla, and the area weather looks discouraging.

I don't really believe the forecast and expect that we will see some sun, some cloud and some rain, but many do.

The morning was spent replying to email, getting provisions, and talking to Cooper Boating staff.  It looks as if I won't have any paying customers this trip, but some company staff may come along to keep me company.

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
Maya Angelou

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Thursday April 17th 2014

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At 0732, I cast of from Fulford and motored out to Russell Island and dropped the hook.  I had problems getting a good set here previously, but this time I got a good set first try.

It is raining lightly here, with a 12-knot breeze, but I am snug, warm and dry.  The weather is perfect IMO.  Tonight, though, I will want to be somewhere more secure.

Today Tonight and Friday Strong wind warning in effect. Wind southeast 15 to 20 knots increasing to northwest 20 to 30 this evening then diminishing to west 10 to 15 Friday morning. Wind diminishing to light Friday afternoon.

My reasons for leaving the dock were several: the dock is near the ferry and noisy traffic, and I have no phone or Internet there.  Out here, away from  land, the signals are strong.  I have a phone conference at 1015 and am also communicating with potential crew for the weekend.

On the way out, I passed anchored boats and noted a Hunter 23.5, similar to my boat, Carpe Diem, which I keep in Ontario.

I hoisted anchor at noon and sailed north towards Prevost Channel.  My eventual destination is Thetis Island Marina.  The track is from last year is shown at left.  The zigzags are our tacks made under sail.

I was planning on going to Montague tonight to tie up to a ball, but decided to be adventurous and sailed east to Otter Bay where I am tied up at the marina for the night. 

Predictions are for a gale from the NW, so I want to be securely tied up, rather than anchored, and to sleep soundly without worry about dragging anchor in gale-force winds.

Speaking of sleeping, I arrived here at Otter Bay around 1400, tied up, cooked a lunch of wieners and beans, then slept on and off all afternoon.  I have not slept away an afternoon for a long time.  A rainy afternoon like this is perfect for doing nothing.

After supper, I hiked up to the Legion for a beer and back. The scenery on these islands makes walking a pleasure.

I see the weather at home today is dull and rainy, too (left).

Tomorrow, I carry on up Trincomali Channel to meet up with the rest of the flotilla.

Let your mind alone, and see what happens.
Virgil Thomson

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Friday April 18th 2014

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I opened my eyes and looked at the time on my phone: 0500.  I'm in the groove again.  Autopilot is working.

Today, 18 April: Mainly sunny. Wind west 30 km/h except 50 to 70 near Juan de Fuca Strait early this morning. Wind becoming light this morning. High 12. UV index 5 or moderate

I'd better go soon, before the wind drops.  Sunrise is at 0618, but the predawn light begins an hour earlier.

The wind was still up and from the west when I rounded the point and set sail up the Prevost Channel towards Trincomali Channel, but shifted, then died by the time I reached Montague.  At that point, the tide was carrying me back and progress was slow, so, at Fernwood Point, I anchored for lunch and a shower. 

I could hear the other flotilla boats talking on the radio as they left Vancouver, twenty-five miles east of me as they headed towards Porlier Pass to make their way through at slack water, predicted to be 1316 hours.

I arrived at Porlier first and hove to to wait.  They came through, right at slack, but did not seem to be very organised or responsive on the radio, so I went my own way, choosing the north route around Thetis Island. They went south.  I was expecting calm conditions, but the wind favoured me, and at times Cassiopeia exceeded eight knots, close-hauled.

We all arrived at about the same time and tied up at Thetis Island Marina, then partied a bit until supper.  Some went to the restaurant, but I returned to my boat, cooked a turkey leg, ate, and went to bed early.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
C. S. Lewis

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Saturday April 19th 2014

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I'm up at 0630 today.  Then sky is overcast and the forecast is for rain and gloom.  We'll see.

We all head for Newcastle Island tonight, with slack water at Dodd Narrows expected at 1344.

I pulled away from the dock early and sailed by Chemainus for a peek.  I have not been to that dock for a decade or so.

The winds were fairly steady under overcast skies as I sailed west and into Chemainus harbour, then back out towards Dodds Narrows.  By then, the other boats were underway and ahead of me.  The trip was mostly downwind, at about four to five knots.  At one point, we had rain, but I was quite comfortable in my cockpit, sheltered by the enclosure canvas.

The others arrived at the entrance to Dodds before me and I arrived just before predicted slack.  The predictions are just estimates, so there is usually some current.  I snuffed the main and left the genoa flying, anticipating that I would need more control than I would have under full sail, but would find the foresail manageable with the engine providing power and additional steering control.

The others were milling around, and I just sailed up into the entrance.   I knew that tugs often came down with log booms just at the end of the ebb, so was ready when I met the first one.

In the south entrance, there is plenty  of room as long as the boom stays under the tug's control, but if the boom overtakes the tug, it can get pretty wide, and at the actual narrows, there is no room for passing, regardless.  Of course these tugs never announce their presence on channel 16, as is the practice of more professional and considerate captains, and just precede into the Narrows as they please at the end of the ebb tide and just before the turn.

I met the first tug and boom just before I reached the actual narrows and circled a time or two to kill time for it to pass.  With my foresail up, I was backwinded each circle and decided to snuff it, too.  All this is difficult for many sailors with crew, but I managed it nicely single-handed while circling in that narrow space.

The second boom was no issue and I was through in jig time and back under full sail running downwind wing and wing at up to eight knots shortly after.

The wind carried me to the first point and around to the second then followed me right to Newcastle, where I snuffed the sails and tied up.  Amaritha, a large cat under power had preceded me and went back to wait for the others since it seems all these folks are afraid to dock without someone on the dock to hold them off and tie lines.  I'm used to docking without help and, personally, I hate to have "help" since people grab lines and pull in unexpected directions, turning the boat unpredictably.  Unless conditions are very difficult, I prefer to dock without assistance.

It was ten minutes before the others showed up, and apparently one of our flotilla, Trident IV had grounded on rocks, right beside a cardinal buoy marking the danger.  Fortunately it happened right after low tide, so all that was required was to wait to float off.  Nonetheless, the Coast Guard showed up and made the whole matter a big event.

I had thought to warn the others in the group about those very shallows, but everyone was on 16 and not our working channel and I am not one to call constantly on a busy channel that is covering a 25-mile radius. 

Nobody has taught this group about dual watch or the fact that pleasure craft are not required to listen on 16 constantly.  Moreover, someone had chosen 72 as the working channel and some local business was using it as an intercom, making it noisy and unusable.

Eventually we were all docked, but not without plenty of drama, including at one point, my telling one powerboat captain to go and do something anatomically impossible.

He backed in just fine, but started drifting off the dock.  His crew handed me the bow and stern lines since they were too far off to disembark and I held the lines just enough to keep the boat straight as the skipper tried to get into place and nearer the dock.  My holding the lines apparently bothered him and he began was barking orders to me.  I was the only person on the dock and he was not near enough for his crew to get off. I was merely, holding his lines and keeping him from twisting and potentially hitting my boat directly downwind of him. 

He said to drop the lines, and I replied that I would gladly, but that was my boat behind him that he was about to crash into. He was so busy telling me what to do from the flybridge that he was not paying attention to the helm and I finally had to ask him if he was still in gear.  He admitted was and settled into neutral at which point the boat straightened, the crew disembarked and took the lines and tied up.

After he was tied up, he went down the dock and I saw him "helping" another boat by pulling lines.  The boat went sideways and it took six people to hold it off the dock and other boats.  He was the same guy who "helped" muck up my docking at Thetis.  Later I was told he was a chief instructor for Cooper.  Unbelievable!

Anyhow, everyone survived and I had to troubleshoot the electrical problems on Amaritha again.  The solution is simple.  Turn everything off, wait and turn the switches back on.

Stephen and his gang of kids and I went over to the Dinghy Dock Pub for supper in our dinghies.  When we got back, I realised that I had forgotten my life jacket there, but that insight occurred to me hours after I returned.

I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.
Stephen Hawking

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