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Monday December 1st 2014

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This is our last day here in Aliso Viejo.  It's 0822 and nobody is up, so I am wondering if K & K are going to school after all.  I've been up for over an hour.

There was talk of going to Sea World today.   The drive down there and back tends to be stop and go early in the morning and around suppertime, so if we go, it will be around mid-day.  Without traffic, the trip is only an hour and a quarter.  I see it is mostly cloudy and 68 degrees in San Diego.

As it turned out, we went to Knotts' Berry Farm.  By the time I figured out the tickets for Sea World and parking, the cost came to almost $400 and I figured that we would only be there for four hours, tops -- and have to fight traffic both ways.  Besides, the day was cool and breezy and such a day might be better spent inland.

Knotts' turned out to be a good choice.  I'd never been there although I'd been to the other main attractions in the area during the almost three decades I've come to LA.  The name does not suggest what the place actually is.  I had no idea that Knotts' is an amusement park with a variety of roller coasters or I'd have come long ago.

The kids rode everything from gentle rides to the Supreme Scream.  I went on a few, but as much as I love roller coasters, I was not in the mood for roller coasters today.  Nobody was up for the Xcelerator, though.  I was a bit tired and had a dull headache. 

I sat for a while at an outdoor cafe and observed the people walking by. 

Most were very casually attired and it seemed that I was almost formally dressed in my long sleeved shirt and cotton slacks.  Most were in tee shirts and old jeans.

I also noticed that at least half those -- young and old -- passing by had idiosyncratic gaits and difficulty walking well.  Some limped, some shuffled, some waddled, and some were noticeably splay-footed.

I found this very interesting as this venue requires a lot of walking.  We must have walked at least two miles, plus diversions here and there -- on hard surfaces all the way.  I was glad I wore walking shoes.

The Park closes at 1800, but we were done by 1745, so we walked back to the car and drove back to Songbird Lane.

The drive to the Berry Farm and back surprised me.  I had expected at least one traffic jam running home from Buena Park at rush hour, but the traffic on the 5 flowed smoothly at 65 to 75 MPH, with only a few slowdowns at ramps. 

With few exceptions, Southern California drivers are good drivers and co-operate with lane changes and space out well, unlike many Canadian drivers, many of whom crowd, tailgate, bunch up, refuse merges, and generally tend to be inconsiderate.

All in all, we had a great time and were home for supper at 0800.

It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.
Peter De Vries

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Tuesday December 2nd 2014

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Today, Mckenzie and I have to leave here by about 0930.  We fly at 1343, so should be at LAX by 1143.  Two and a quarter hours should be enough time to drive to Inglewood to drop the car and get to LAX.  The maps say about an hour, without traffic, but who knows for sure what to expect.

Checking at 0320 (left), I see the furnace is getting low on coal.  It has warmed up to minus thirteen at home, but it seems to be going down more quickly than expected and needs more very soon.

Looking, now, at 0800 PST (right), I see the job is done!

We left at about 0915 in pouring rain headed for the car rental return.  We encountered only one slow section along the route and returned the car without a hitch. Then we realised that we were an hour early and walked over to the nearby JITB for a second breakfast.

It was still raining, when we we caught the shuttle to the airport. arriving at our gate two hours and one minute before the scheduled flight. 

Terminal 2 at LAX, which I very much liked exactly the way it was is now under reconstruction and so the facilities are crowded and the food concessions are almost all closed in behind construction walls.  Slim pickings.

Our flight was delayed an hour, but we boarded and were out of customs at YEG by 1920.  I slept for the second half of the flight, so time passed quickly.

Chris was waiting for us in the hall and we drove back to Birch Meadows. 

I was too tired to watch video and went right to sleep.

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.
Edwin Schlossberg

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Wednesday December 3rd 2014

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This is not the warm weather EC predicted a week ago. See Rick Mercer's take on EC's forecasts.  Notice how the current forecast (above) promises a warming five days out.  Look at the forecast from a week back.  Today is the 'Wed' at the right end of that strip from the past (below).

I slept right through until 0430 and dozed a while, then joined the others in the kitchen at around 0630. 

Chris and Mckenzie are off to school before 0700.  Jean and Nathan are home for the morning.  I'll be leaving before lunch.  Things look bright and sunny at home.

I drove home, stopping on the way to buy groceries and also a portable power pack for my phone to replace the one I left in my van in Ontario.

Along the way, I stopped briefly at The Mill and then came on home.  Everything is looking good.

We hit a high of minus eight, not zero as predicted a week back.  Seems the forecasters are pretty good at predicting the present and even better at the past, but pretty spotty when predicting the future.

It was a bright, sunny day -- the kind that make winter living here in the north tolerable and even attractive.  I would have liked to be outside, but had a job to do for friends that kept me at the computer.

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.
Aldous Huxley

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Thursday December 4th 2014

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I was up at 0535 and turned on CBC Radio Two. The topics were depressing, so I turned it off again.

I generally listen to the local CBC station throughout the day because there are no commercials and generally good content.  There are exceptions, and the early mid-morning content after the local show has become increasingly concerned with depressing subjects, but generally, the content is informative.

Before 0600, CBC plays depressing material from foreign stations.  Invariably the topics before 0600 are atrocities, abuse, misery or disasters.  I don't know why they do this except that the content is free. 

Maybe somebody listens.  I don't. Pondering such topics when there is nothing I can do about them is terrible way to start a day, so I generally find myself streaming tunein.com through my phone or computer until the local CBC daily programming resumes.  That way, I can time shift by listening to eastern stations.

It's good to be home.  I have some catching up to do today and company for supper tonight. 

The first task is deskwork.  Then I have to reassemble the reverse osmosis filter. 

I don't really need RO water since I have good municipal water, but have gotten used to RO water for coffee and drinking.

The RO filter sprung a leak before I went a way and it turned out that there is a crack in an elbow fitting. I searched online and in stores for a replacement and getting one is not easy. 

*   *   *   *  

I drank some tap water and decided to kick the RO filter job to the top of the list.

I wound up welding the defective piece with a soldering tool.  The repair is makeshift and I hope it works. Welding solved the pinhole leak, but it took me a while to finally get a shark bite seal on the tubing.  These quick-connect fittings can be troublesome, even when new, but as they age, they get fussy.

My cat did not make the job easier.  He took advantage of my vulnerable position on the floor to crowd, purring, in front of me everywhere I was looking, but I got the job done.

I'm thinking, though, that I will have to buy new fittings, new tubing, or a whole new reverse osmosis unit.  This system is probably twenty years old now and in addition to the problem of leaks whenever the tubes are disturbed, I discovered that my RO system seems to be discarding water even when the tank is full and it is not making RO water, at a rate of a gallon or two an hour.

The wastewater flow should stop when the tank is full, but seemingly does not.  I'll have to check later after everything settles down.

Two gallons an hour is 24 gallons a day or 720 gallons a month or ~9000 gallons a year.  Nine thousand gallons is 200 drums, 40 cubic metres.  I pay $3/cubic metre for water, so that is $120/year literally down the drain. 

The actual water is not lost.  It comes out of the river, is treated, pumped up here, runs into the sewer, is treated and goes back into the same river.  Money is lost, though, and energy wasted.

Note: Later, I verified that the unit only uses water when replenishing the supply in the tank and cuts off when done, so the above fears are groundless.

*   *   *   *  

These days I am contemplating what I want to do for the next five years. I have received some advice in the forum and appreciate it.

I try to have a five-year plan and although I don't force myself to follow it slavishly and I stay open to opportunities, having a roadmap makes small the decisions easier as they come along.  All the small decisions add up to a large decision over time.

Although this is a fabulous home and grounds, it is isolated and I am more isolated here than some of my other 'homes'.  I'm a social person and like cities for the choices of nearby activities. 

When in Sudbury, Sidney or Aliso Viejo, I can go out and be at stores or many different sorts of venues within minutes.  When I go out here, or at Gull Lake, I am a half-hour from any large centre. 

There may be activities in the local towns around Swalwell, and at one time, I was involved with some of them, but nothing local interests me much anymore.

Nonetheless, I like it here.  Swalwell is a good home base.  I just don't want to be here all the time.

Alberta Bee News* arrived today and there are several items of note in the resolutions passed at the recent convention. 

The first and most significant item was the series of well planned resolutions addressing objections to package bee imports from the continental USA.

Ever since border closure, the authorities and the apologists for trade restriction have used the health of bees in Canada -- however few or how many are left in any particular operation after our winters -- as the major argument for forbidding the importation of packages from our natural supplier, the continental USA.

Additionally, slim fears of Small Hive Beetle (SHB) and Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) have been mobilized to to fortify their disingenuous and self-serving FUD campaign against importations.

These fears have been used in a deliberate and successful programme to divert attention from the real issue: economics.  Misdirection of attention is the main secret behind magic tricks and the central mechanism used to manipulate populations by astute politicians.

The real question is how bad these imported package bees could be since we know that the Southern US producers have enough surplus bees to sell us packages at half the price of offshore bees at a time when we can keep enough of our own alive and are desperate to buy bees -- and when offshore suppliers are struggling to supply?

And, we have to ask, how much less would we worry if we lost some of these purchased bees after the season but could replace them cheaply and reliably?

People have forgotten, but the Alberta bee industry was built on cheap package bees.





The second item of interest is Medhat's article concerning bee health.  The entire point of the article only makes sense if you are willing to accept that bees should cost twice in Canada what they do on the south side of an imaginary line along the southern edge of Canada.

He asks, "What can be done for reducing vulnerability to increasing bee losses?"

To most of us the answer is obvious: Open the border to package bees and remove the administrative burden on imports.

The third item is that the Commission has decided to look for outside help to keep the website up to date since the series of beekeepers who were  supposed to be maintaining the site have proven over and over that they are either not able to do it, or not able to deal with lack of timely co-operation from the office.

This never had to be, and hiring outside help will change nothing.  The problem is lack of content and clear direction.  I should know. 

I started an ABA website back before anybody knew what a website was or how important it would come to be.  I asked for guidance and contributions and nobody could decide anything.  Further, I was asked to take the site down because the board and office wanted control and needed to think it was their idea.

They registered a domain, put up some lame content on a site that never approached what I had built for them.  Although maintaining site content is a  trivial task these days, requiring office skills of the same order as letter writing, the ABC business manager is unable to do the job, but wants control.  Each successive webmaster starts off with enthusiasm, then gives  up, and the site grows stale. Then the process repeats.

ABC can hire a webmaster, but the simple fact of the matter is that the webmaster will be exactly where I was almost two decades ago: without material or authorization -- and no clear vision, direction, or co-operation.

Let's face it: running a website is dead simple, but few organizations can do a  good job of it.  Too many cooks.  Too many egos.

*   *   *   *  

* Alberta Bee News was my idea, too, decades back when I was on the ABA board.  I pushed for a monthly newsletter and met a lot of resistance since the board thought it would cost money.

I insisted ads would cover the expense and that having something of substance to offer beekeepers who lived to far away to attend the annual meeting would also draw new membership.  ABA Membership was very low at the time -- less than 50% of the provincial beekeeper count --  and providing something of value would encourage joining. 

A monthly newsletter finally took off under the name, SkepTic and morphed over time into what it is today. 

The horrible bee that has wasted space on every cover for many years was not my idea, and I have no idea how it is decided what articles to include.  Some of the articles lifted from other publications are pretty sketchy and really make me wonder.  B.C., on the other hand, has a quarterly magazine that really knocks the socks off this one.

*   *   *   *  

I was meaning to get more done today, but here it is -- 1445 -- and I have to start supper soon.  We're up to minus three outside and the sun is shining.  I think I'll have a stroll, then make supper.

*   *   *   *  

I did not get outside, other than to test the snowthrower.  On my way out, I realised that I had not completed that job and that I'll need it soon.  I figured the fix would take minutes, so I cleaned the main jet and screwed the carb back onto the engine.  A quick test showed that the problem remained, so I pulled off the carb again and blew it out with compressed air, reassembled it, and put it back on again.

When I connected the fuel supply, gasoline spurted out everywhere and I realised the needle valve was not sealing.  On disassembling the carb again I discovered that I had blown out the needle seat.  The seat is a tiny neoprene donut and I had no hope of ever finding it on the floor, so I gave up until I can get a part.  A call to Three Hills located one, so I should have it tomorrow night.

I then made supper and seven friends arrived around 1800.

I served frozen pre-prepared chicken pucks with bacon wrapped around them I had bought, together with cooked carrots, turnip, and cauliflower, and a bean salad.  Ice cream was the dessert.

The pucks were to be oven-grilled and that went well except that I was distracted and forgot to turn them half way through the cooking.  They were okay, but rather brown and dry on top.

We had a good visit and everyone left at 2100.  I cleaned up and watched video, then went to bed at 2400.

I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.
Abraham Lincoln

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Friday December 5th 2014

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I woke up at 0555 this morning, feeling great.  I've been dreaming lately, perhaps because I have been taking ibuprofen occasionally for a trigger thumb and some slight join pain recently.  Ibuprofen works well for joint pain, but tends to cause some strange dreams before waking.

That's right.  I have what I decided is a repetitive stress injury from -- I assume -- using my smartphone. 

The nexus 4 "on" button is located such that, when the phone is held in my right hand, activating the screen requires bending my thumb.  Then, scrolling requires further thumb movement and all that bending seems to have  stressed the thumb to where it clicks when I bend it.  I had trigger thumb once before and associated it with handing ropes on my boat, but I have not been on a boat lately.

Jean said the other day that she, Chris and the kids are going to Banff today to pick up skis they leased for Nathan, and then to Nakiska for some skiing.  I may join them.  We'll see. I have a season's pass, so my only cost is the two-hour drive -- each way.

I'm home now.  I drove to Nakiska, leaving at 1100, arrived there at 0320, met up with Jean and family.  I skied about 10,000 vertical feet in two hours, with a twenty-minute timeout for a beer included.

Not all the runs are open yet, but the skiing was excellent.  We burned up the slopes.  Now I don't feel quite as old as I did this  morning, but I wonder how I'll feel tomorrow.  I pulled a few Gs with these old legs today.

Even though the slopes were packed powder, I could not resist wearing the fat skis I bought for kiting.  My new skis and boots performed well, but I found that they performed best with the boots worn loose.  Must be my boarding experience.  I don't like to edge the way I used to.

This was Nathan's first time on real skis at a real ski hill.  His mom spent the whole time with him, except for the last runs.  She has the patience of Job.  Of course she is a level two instructor who taught ski kindergarten at Sunshine a time or two, so she has to.  (I was only level one and never taught kids other than my own). Chris spelled her at the end of the day so she could catch a few runs.

I left the hill at 1600 and drove home, stopping at Airdrie for groceries. I arrived in Swalwell after 1930. 

This was the kind of day that makes living up here in the Great White North look better than being in the Caribbean - IMO.  I just have to remember to get out of my chair and get out there and hit the slopes more often.

The long drive to the mountains is a disincentive.  I drove for four hours yesterday to ski two, and Nakiska is the closest mountain resort.  Canyon, where I was on ski patrol for years is closer, but offers much less terrain and it is still over an hour away.

I should mount my camper on the 4X4. Then I can stay overnight in the parking lot at the hills, the way I did years ago in my motorhome.  Two problems, though: my old diesel truck hates to start below minus ten unless plugged in, making getting home problematic if the temperatures drop, and one camper jack is screwed.  Excuses. 

Another option is the Ribbon Creek Hostel nearby. (Right)

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.
G. K. Chesterton

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Saturday December 6th 2014

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I got up at 0615 this morning, wondering if I would be stiff and sore from skiing and I don't seem too bad.  Walking down stairs is the acid test on the day after skiing and when I tried the front stairs, I found that, yes, I did stress some muscles. 

That's good.  This is how muscles build up.  As they say, "No pain, no gain".  Interestingly, my trigger thumb seems to have cured itself.

We are now looking forward to a week of milder weather, including -- if the weather guessers are right -- a stretch of days well above freeing.  Maybe I'll get some outdoor work done, and maybe I'll go skiing again.  I should wait a day before doing so, though, to let my legs recover.  The skiing I did yesterday in two hours was more than a lot of younger people do in a whole day and one fifth of the biggest day I ever did, the 50,000 vertical feet required to earn the gold pin at Norquay.

I received a text last evening that I can expect a load of coal this afternoon.  Everything is ready, except that I need to move the bee truck out of the way.

I see that my RO filter is working properly and not wasting water once the tank is full.  I should change the filters, though. 

Rather than wasting water, I see that it is not even discarding one litre of water for each litre of drinking water produced, and that is very good performance.

Recommendations are for a change every six months and I have now gone a year.   Some RO systems specify a filter change for every 500 gallons of drinking water produced.  Do I use a gallon and day?  Probably. 

My excuse is that I am away a lot and only one person on a system designed to a family.

On the road, I listen to Audible talking books, and my most recent series has been The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World, a fascinating and listenable series of lectures.  In one of the lectures, Alexandria was mentioned, and also the fact that the city is submerged under the Mediterranean.  (The city was only rediscovered in the 1950s!)

I found that fact most interesting since whenever I hear the current endless and largely ignorant blathering about "climate change" and how humans are responsible, and how unusual current weather events are caused by man, I have to laugh, remembering my ancient and mediaeval history.

Anyone who has even a smattering of education in history going back further than the year 1800, knows at least a little about the many, many civilizations that have been ended by climate change, going back as far as 10,000 years, a time when the seas were reportedly 130 feet lower than today and the evidence of the travels of the Vikings and other seafaring peoples who ventured far and wide during some of the warm periods, then withdrew during the colder times.

Granted some submersions were caused by earthquakes and land subsidence, but as many cities as were submerged, an equal or greater number were abandoned or destroyed by the upheavals, encroaching deserts as the glaciers receded and rivers dried up , and troubles brought on by drought or cold periods.

Here are some interesting links.  Enjoy.

All this makes me want to go back and read Latin authors again and feel sorry I never studied Greek or Greek authors more than superficially.  Maybe I should read The Satyricon or Metamorphoses of Apuleius in translation?  I wonder if I have the patience.

I hated Latin in school and was given an 'A' by my teacher for promising to never take Latin again.  The reason I hated Latin so much was that it was largely concerned with war and fortifications.  At the time, living in a peaceful country (or so I thought), such matter were repulsive disturbing.  Now, being older and having observed humanity longer, I understand, regrettably, that war is the natural state of human civilization.

I went outside and prepared for a coal delivery later today.  The weather is around freezing and it is pleasant working outdoors. 

I drove over to find some empty drums for ashes and took a look at the hives.  I see the birds have been enjoying the dead bees around the hives and that some small animal has been walking along in front as well. 

Skunks should be hibernating by now.  Maybe it was a cat looking for mice. 

Maybe I'll pay some attention to my hives and equipment, both of which I have been neglecting if the nice weather continues, and I may even finish the forklift job.

Cool Stuff: Do Crows Mourn Their Dead?

The coal came. 

A coupla months in the laboratory can save a coupla hours in the library.
Frank Westheimer

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Sunday December 7th 2014

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My legs are still a little sore from skiing on Friday.  This is nothing unusual after the first day out for the year. 

I'm aware of the fact that it takes a few days on the hill to get them back in shape for skiing and deliberately plan for a short day the first few times out and expect a bit of soreness for the days following.  By the end of the season, I ski full days and experience no soreness, even after big days on the steeps. 

On this day in 2013, it was minus thirty-seven.  Right now it is minus three.  We have wide variability in weather here.  The present forecast, if it holds, promises ideal winter weather for outdoor work, and for skiing in the mountains although the prairie ski hills like canyon will lose much of their snow.

Currently, we don't have much snow here in the yard -- maybe five inches -- and I expect that we'll lose much of our snow if both days and  nights are above freezing for a little while as predicted, and especially if we have wind. 

I could not get into my driveway when I returned from California in 2013.  At left is what I faced.

We had deep drifts by this time last year and I had already blown out the driveway at least once by now, including once in the middle of November.

So far this year, I have not needed to blow snow, and by the looks of it, I may not need to for a while. 

Some years we have very little snow that stays, and other years, we have huge accumulations that stay all winter.

I gave up on Mouse Without Borders a while back due to the fact it crashed some of my programs randomly when I copied images, and went back to using Synergy to run my various computers with one mouse and one keyboard. 

Synergy has been under continuous development for many years, runs on many operating systems and now seems to be flawless.  I had a few minor issues with Synergy in the past due to difficulties configuring it on occasion, but apparently now they have designed in auto-configuration.

I am about to download the latest version.  I doubt I will see any difference because my machines already configured, but new users may find the setup process less mysterious.

Installation went flawlessly on both the machines I am currently using.  The only tricky part was that I had to use the Windows task manager to stop the existing instances of Synergy since Synergy was already running on both machines and files in use had to be replaced.

Speaking of mysteries, my phone still has issues with Lollipop and Lollipop is still sufficiently new that I am not finding solutions when I Google my issues.  The issues are fairly minor and do not much impact my use, but annoying.

Looking back to this time last year, I see that I left BEE-L about this time in 2013.  Reading through, I also see that many things that seem far in the past happened only twelve months ago.  This has been a long year.

Bob Hack got me thinking along new lines some time back -- phablets and organising my thoughts and notes. He gave me a few links that led to more links...

I had already been thinking it is time to get a new tablet and that perhaps a phone/tablet combination would be ideal.  I'm happy with my nexus 4, but my tablets are at the end of their lifespans and no longer can be updated.

I want a tablet with a very bright screen -- for outdoor use on my boat for navigation and in the yard to fly my drones -- and am attracted to the 12.2 inch Samsung Tab that can access apps on my desktops remotely, but also realise that this is just one more thing to carry and to charge.

I am still researching the points he brought up and I have no answers yet, just more questions.  My thoughts are scattered; I have fifty-some tabs open in my various browsers and notes in storage.  I do this sometimes -- get spread over too many topics --  and have to stop myself and force myself to close some files.

Bingo!  I solved the Google Play problem on my Nexus 4 that plagued me after the lollipop OTA upgrade.  I Googled the problem and finally found that the solution was to disable Google Play Services, clear the cache and re-enable it.  Now my location services work and so does Google Play.  These were the only real issues I encountered and they seem to be solved.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln

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Monday December 8th 2014

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Here we are.  It is December the 8th already. 

Time files and I still have no plans for Christmas.  I have a number of options, but have just come home from several travels and am enjoying the warm weather and prospects of going skiing.  In fact, I was thinking of going skiing today, but want to do some work around the yard while it is warm.  Maybe tomorrow.

This came in this morning.  It perfectly illustrates my comments, made previously about why people vote against their own best interests.

 Hi Allen,

...I read your post from a few days ago regarding the resolutions brought forward at the recent Alberta beekeepers AGM. I was hesitant voting against them, but learned others were also thinking an open border to US package bees might not be the best option.

I never ran bees pre 1987, and admit I am envious of a time when one could dump a package, install a queen and wait for a honey crop. But I don't believe those days would return even with access to US packages. Varroa, tracheal, SHB have changed the landscape of be health across the continent.

CFIA has done the risk assessment (more than once I believe) and the major concerns are SHB, Africanized bees, resistant AFB and Apivar resistant varroa.

One could argue SHB already exists in Canada and that it is of little consequence to hives in a northern dry climate. I fear that bringing in thousands of packages will allow it to go from being in a few pockets to widespread in a matter of months. And although it doesn't seem to be a problem in the colder northern US, we all know these things constantly evolve. I know SHB thrives in colonies with weaker populations. Just like a lot of what comes through winter in Alberta.

I don't believe Africanized bees are suited to survive in cold climates, and I think those genes would have been passed on through California raised queens by now anyways so it's a non issue.

Resistant AFB is present in Canada, another non issue.

Apivar resistant varroa, like resistance to Apistan will probably come to Canada shortly after the us, although a closed border might buy us a little time.

My biggest concerns are none of the 4 above.

With a greater demand for packages in the US, the price will not be what is currently being offered in the us. It will be higher. And a $65US package, converted to Canadian dollars, shipped to Canada is going to cost a lot more than $65.

Would greater demand create a shortage, allowing only some beekeepers( probably those with contacts to the US producers) access to packages.

It would be pretty tempting for US beekeepers to produce a crop in Canada themselves. For an American beekeeper coming from almonds in March and apples in may(?), shaking packages to ship North and make a large crop of good white honey would be pretty profitable. Probably more than selling a $65 package. I don't want any more neighbours.

If we do actually get access to these cheap packages, hive numbers will surge in Canada. Value of hives will drop. Looking to sell and retire?

Hive numbers have only dropped twice, once immediately after the border closure, and after Apistan resistance. Otherwise they have steadily risen.

Just a few thoughts that came to mind, can't support an open border right now.

I appreciate the letter and know it is sincere, but it is the same old story.  No amount of evidence or logic will convince some people not to be afraid of the dark.

US beekeepers are getting along just fine, 100 yards south of the imaginary line that marks the lower limits of Canada.  In fact, they are prospering.

People are just naturally afraid of unfamiliar things, and that inborn fear is probably a survival instinct since what is right here, right now has not killed you yet, but whatever is out there in the wild might.

I have to admit that I was taken in by all the fearmongering at one time, but made the effort to go to the US and see what is really happening.

As for the fear of US beekeepers coming to Canada, that is a totally bogus fear. and I can't believe that anyone still gives the fear any credence. US businessmen and women are subject to the same rules everyone else is.

US beekeepers were largely responsible for establishing beekeeping in the Canadian prairies and were/are good citizens here.  They trained a lot of a whole generation of Alberta commercial beekeepers.

We have more to fear from the Dutch invasion than Americans. (Just kidding.  These people add to our industry and improve it, not take away.)

The Alberta beekeepers Association investigated the whole question of US beekeepers coming up to produce in summer in detail many years ago and Barrie Termeer took the results to the Honey Council meeting.  He was shouted down.  That is the sort of rationality we see in the protectionist group.

The argument that hive numbers have recovered is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.  Border closure destroyed many businesses and placed hardships on others.  The advent of pollination  and the income it supplied aided recovery and masked the harm done by the closure.

Moreover, with improved roads and equipment and education over the past three decades, our industry should have doubled if it had continued at the rate it was growing before border closure.

Sure, the mites have had an effect, and resistant mites caused some setbacks, but the inability to access cheap replacement bees made the problems far worse.  Southern US beekeepers have often told those of us who speak with them that they could supply any amount of packages required if there was a certain market and if there was not fear of interference from regulators. 

As for price, that would be subject to competition and initially might be high as the first producers took a chance on a market that has proven to be capricious (Canada), but prices would soon come down as more producers got involved.  Many southern US beekeepers are far better set up to produce bees than honey and would switch to package production.

What would the price be?  Initially, I expect they would start considerably lower than what we are paying for offshore packages and continue to drop down to as low as US$60 in 1,000+ quantities, plus trucking, and depending on honey prices and delivery dates. Honey production competes with package production for marginal supply beyond the base production from beekeepers located in poor honey areas.

I have heard of numbers as low as $45 in quantity.  Nobody remembers, but beekeepers drove entire semitrailer loads of bees north in reefers and distributed them to all at very reasonable cost.  That could easily happen again.  Fear and ignorance is all that is holding us back.

For those who doubt me, consider the current price of oil.  Doomers predicted that we would not have any oil at any price by now, but the high prices in recent years brought huge supplies to market.

The same will happen with bees. Imagine you were a US package producer selling small quantities of packages to US beekeepers and taking checks and promises in return, and you had a chance to sell semi-loads to Canadians who are accustomed to paying $150 for a package, and cash money.  You'd sharpen your pencil and ramp up production.

Today, picking a supplier at random, Rossman is advertising 3-lb packages for $81 in 100 quantities.  That translates to 2-lbs for $61, and that is a small lot from a retail supplier.

Oliverez is charging $95 for 3lbs including the cage in quantities of one!

Koehnen was charging $52 for 2lbs in 2014 in 100+ quantities.

These are facts and unfortunately, those who promote fear uncertainty and doubt quote the wrong end of the horse and convince others who do not bother to check facts for themselves.

Bullshit baffles brains.

The price of hives is artificial here in Canada due to years of oppression by regulation.  Yes, if the border opens, some will lose some of their hoped-for capital gains, but at the same time, they and many others will be able to make far more money in production. 

Moreover, the value some ascribe to bee equipment is artificial and unrealistic, and additionally, with an open border, prairie beekeepers could shake bees out in fall and sell them into the US.  I've done exactly that back before the oppression began and before the US retaliated by excluding Canadian bees and hives from moving south.  I sold both packages and hives south in fall.

It seems no one really reads my articles, or if they do, understands them.  Nonetheless, I'll address all these points one more time later when I have time.

As for my own position, I benefit from the artificial price on bees and equipment and would lose money if the border opened, but have to speak the plain truth for the benefit of the industry.

Here is my response in the meantime:


Thanks for taking the time to write.  I'll address your comments in the diary.

Keep in mind that fear is healthy, but that it is important to go an find things out for yourself and not just believe the self-serving people who promote fear of the unknowns.

I know lots of US beekeepers and spend time in my friends' yards when I can.

I have seen no justification for any of the fears that are bandied about in Canada.

As for CFIA, CFIA is a joke as it has proven repeatedly in the past and is highly political and influenced by others in the civil service, rather than the public.

At any rate, I encourage you, rather than believing me, to go find out for yourself.

Northern US beekeepers! How about addressing this in the forum?  Are Canadian beekeepers justified in their fears of AHB, SHB, Apistan resistant varroa...?

Are these 'threats' realistic in the North?  Are they sufficiently worrisome to justify paying more than twice what US beekeepers pay for package bees and cutting off a supply of cheap replacements??

Here is the opening post in the forum:

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)
by Allen Dick Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:12 am

For years now, Canadian beekeepers have been cut off from supplies of cheap replacement package bees from the continental USA. The Alberta beekeeping industry was founded on annual supplies of California package bees and beekeeping in Alberta has been very much more difficult since border closure since the climate varies widely from year to year and in some years, production must be sacrificed to rebuild hive numbers or large amounts spent to purchase offshore packages at double the price US beekeepers pay just minutes south of the border.

I was there at the board meeting where we in Alberta endorsed a temporary precautionary border closure back in the mid-eighties. None of us ever thought that protectionists would seize on that concession to permanently close off access to the lifeblood of Alberta beekeeping.

The closure has been a bonanza for civil servants and disaster for many beekeepers.

We have a number of norther US beekeepers on this site, and I ask: Would what you have seen of AHB, SHB, and resistant varroa in your own yards justify giving up access to cheap southern US bees? Or are cheap replacement bees part of the solution, rather than being a problem?

That used up a few hours this morning and it is probably a total waste of time.

I see that several regulars responded and in depth, and that AHB and SHB are not considered to be problems.

I'm glad I did not go skiing.  I was suddenly tired mid-morning and lay down for a one-hour nap.  Maybe I just got up too early today, or maybe I have a bug.

The day is dull and foggy.  Temperatures are hovering around minus ten C.  Visibility is poor and I can hardly see the railway tracks from here.

Samsung cell phone batteries are in the news lately and it seems to be only Samsung.  Samsung claims the battery in the latest report was not their original battery, but the owner claims otherwise.  ...And I was thinking of buying the Galaxy Note 4?  (I still am).  Be careful out there!

Safety Concerns with Li-ion Batteries Battery University

The original writer responds. I'm not sure, but I think I detect a note of sarcasm, but maybe not...

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my email.

On second thought, I change my mind. Let's open the border.

I guess I am just afraid of the dark. If US beekeepers say they can provide the packages, we should put total faith in them. We should assume they won't come to Canada armed with packages, seeking a honey crop that is double what they could get in the US. Prices surely won't go up, even though Koehnen apiaries already warns to "book early, supplies are limited".

That's assuming a lot.

I do try and do my own research. Fact is, there isn't a lot of facts to check. Quoting package prices is great, but that's the only solid evidence you provided, and it's subject to change. The rest is predictions. Just like oil prices, nobody can predict.

As much as "bullshit baffles brains", so does pining for the good old days. The industry has evolved. It may have been built on cheap US packages, but it continues to exist on good beekeepers taking priority on bee health. If we are going to compare 1987 to 2014, let's start with honey prices.

For some reason, quite a few people don't use the forum and I often wonder why since it is far more convenient for open discussion.  Is it too hard to register, or is there some other impediment to reaching the forum to write there?

Anyhow... I'll continue this in the forum where others can comment.

One of the cups on my weather station wind meter has been broken off for some time now, possibly by hail during the summer and and I finally went out and took it down today.

It was covered with hoar frost and the rain meter basin was full of ice, so I can see why it does not always tell the truth. I changed the cups and put it up on the peak of my house this time (right). 

It had been on a garden shed until now, but I feel that the location was sheltered from prevailing winds and not always giving accurate reports.  Of course the new location is better, but not perfect.  It is only a foot above the roof and in summer deciduous trees will cause turbulence.

Never underestimate the power of ignorance

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Tuesday December 9th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Today promises to be warm.  It is plus three here now. 

Nakiska promises to be very windy.  I'll put off the skiing for another day.

Today: Mainly cloudy. Wind west 30 km/h gusting to 50 except gusting to 70 through mountain passes this morning. High 11.

Wednesday: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning then light in the afternoon. High 10.

With these warm temperatures, they'll be losing snow, however and unable to make any, so I wonder how it will be in a few days.

I posted this in the Honey Bee World Forum today.  There are also some excellent remarks on other recent topics.

The general talk is that bees and queens from the south are inferior to locally raised queens from locally acclimated stocks. Is this true?

As with anything in beekeeping, pinning down the truth is difficult since it is hard to get comparable samples and the environment changes during the time observations are being made. There are many confounding factors and the history of any specific samples may be unknown.

In my own experience, I have had bees from southern producers that performed as well as or better than others. This is not surprising since many queen producers routinely add genetics from their customers or from tested stocks. For example, some northern breeders have sent breeding stock south for reproduction and distribution back to the north. Border restrictions have made this process more difficult, but in the past, Homer Park used to select queens from producing hives in Northern Alberta and take them south to use in production of the next years queens.

Queen producers in the south vary in their interest and scrupulousness in incorporating northern stock and disease resistance into their production and ability to control the mating of production queens, so this makes it hard to generalize. I hear that people see big differences between the Georgia producers, for example, and these differences may vary from year to year. My Alberta friends buy queens from some specific California producers and do not seem to find the resulting hives inferior to hives headed by locally produced queens.

Besides genetic selection, there may be other factors we do not understand in acclimation to a region. It does not seem to matter where the stock originated, but, according to anecdotal evidence, after a few years in a locale, bees may demonstrate better adaptation by better wintering, better temper and better production.

Personally, the best year I ever had was the year we brought in the surviving hives marked as "best" from the outyards the following spring, selecting only those with clean bottom boards and no chalkbrood mummies.

From those 80 or so hives, we used about a dozen for grafting and the rest stayed in the mating yard to supply brood and drones.

Our crop was the largest ever that year. Coincidence?

The weather station (see yesterday) is working properly again.  I'm seeing plus 5.5 C outside and 15 MPH winds from the NNW.  Time to take out a kite.

I see the winds have been gusty though (right) and prefer a steady breeze.  I wonder if it is just my location here and if the winds are steadier on hilltops.  I'm watching to see if the wind steadies out. It seems to be.

I went out and see that the wind direction indictor is wrong.  It says NNE and the wind is from the SE.  I gather it is in an eddy since it is so close to the edge of the roof.

I went out in the backyard and flew my 5m2 Albatross kite, the kite with handles instead of a bar.  It was one I have wondered about since it gave me a hard time last time out. 

I wondered if it was somehow damaged from crashing although I could not see any issues, but my session with the little two-line trainer kite in California must have taught me something.  I was I was able to fly this one well today and I had a good session before the wind died. Windspeed now reads zero.

The wind came back up and I went back out to fly kites again and drove around looking for a better spot.  I tried the dam, but it was calm, being fairly low.  I then went to a field at the crest of a hill and flew the 5 metre kite with some success, but found it would barely launch, then be ripped from my hands.  The problem was that I was over the hill crest and the wind up twenty feet was much stronger than on the ground. 

When will I learn?  That was a reason I crashed my plane: a tailwind coming over a hill after takeoff stalled me, causing a ground loop.

The kite also does not de-power smoothly and it seems it either pulls hard or drops from the sky with little control in between.  It is a cheapy kite that I bought by accident on eBay, but I would have hoped to find it more controllable.

Last night I tried to watch "Tears of the Sun" on Netflix and gave up.  I'm getting tired of fiction and decided tonight I'll watch kite videos on YouTube instead.

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness.
Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.
Rita Mae Brown

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