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Tuesday February 10th 2015

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I awoke at 0500, realised that I will not get back to sleep, and got up.

Here is my day, laid out for me (at right).  This programme promises to be educational. 

I have said that we have learned nothing in the last decade that is actually actionable when it comes to practical beekeeping.  The rules for managing colonies and producing a crop are -- AFAIK -- the same as ten years ago and maybe twenty.

I haven't been to meetings lately and quit BEE-L over a year ago, so maybe I've missed something.  I was at the BCHPA in September, though and saw nothing new there.

Scientists have learned a lot, but when it comes to managing bees, nothing much has changed.

It would be nice to be wrong on this, but I doubt it.  Today, I'll find out.

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right;
but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
G. K. Chesterton

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Wednesday February 11th 2015

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Today is the second day of the meeting.  I took some pictures yesterday and may post some slides here when I have time.

Did I learn anything?  I learned the new head of Pest Management in Alberta (Bees come under 'Pests') is quite defensive about the 'right' of the chemical companies to keep the research studies they reveal to the regulators effectively out of public reach.  He compared that 'privacy' of 'proprietary' data -- the work that establishes and defines the effects on insects and the environment --  to my right to not reveal my financial data.  I said that my financial data is not widely distributed in the environment. 

Nothing was said of the studies the chemical companies may not choose not to reveal to regulators.  It seems reasonable to assume to the extent that they can only reveal studies they believe will further their ends, and abort, bury or spin studies that might work against them.

I also learned that there appears to be an association between neonic exposure and nosema.  Nobody would say anything definite one way or the other and when I asked the direct question of the panel -- fairly clearly I thought -- the answers given were to another question I did not ask.

Observers are also finding detectable levels of neonics in the environment in macro samples of water, soil, pollen and honey, and I still have to keep asking: "If we are seeing detectable amounts in what are quite large samples by a bee's perspective, what are individual bees experiencing on their micro level"???

My analogy is that is we scraped all the full plates in a room of 100 diners into a pot, mixed them up and checked for a poison and found a low, sub-lethal level, could we be sure that one specific diner -- or several -- had not been about to eat a lethal dinner?

Does that matter?  IMO, it does.  If one percent or ten percent of the bees in a colony are being killed or weakened, that can be a significant enough influence to decide whether a colony builds up or declines over time, especially in times of stress.

My questions seem to be too tough for anyone to dare try to answer.  The rule in civil service is to never ask a question out loud that could prove embarrassing if answered honestly, and our scientists and regulators are civil servants.

I left the meeting at 1330.  I'd have liked to hear Reece Chandler speak on his experience cleaning up AFB without drugs, but the other talk did not seem compelling and as it was warming up and windy out, I figured to get to Gull Lake for a kiting session in the afternoon.

The drive to Gull Lake went well, but I have been feeling a bit poorly -- weak and head-achy for the past several days and by the time I got to Orams', I was dead-tired and decided I would be better off taking a nap.

I slept an hour and a half and still felt groggy, so stayed in and visited.  It's a shame because we don't get many good kiting days, but as it was minus eleven and overcast, I might not have had a good session. I'll never know.

I was half thinking of going home tonight since I had arrived early, but Jean and Chris needed a babysitter this evening, so I decided to stay and keep Nathan company.  It's been a while since I read a Robert Munsch book to a youngster.

I'm glad I went to the meeting.  I'm not sure I learned much, but it is always nice to see the gang.

I'd have liked to hear Reece's talk since, I guess I can say now, that I had discovered the problem when inspecting a few years back and mentioned it to him.  Inspectors have to respect confidentiality and I do, but now that Reece is announcing his issue publically, I don't feel compelled to be silent.

Reece is a bit of a hero to me.  He bought the biggest outfit in Alberta from Ed Willms, knowing almost nothing about bees at the time.  He was a house painter AFAIK, and maintained the business without missing a beat. 

He is also the man who told me the secret of controlling varroa cheaply and effectively by using one strip of Apistan in spring, not many strips in fall as was the rule then.  I was very happy to be able to return the favour and am doubly pleased to see he is sharing his experience.

Although people probably think I tell a lot of secrets, I don't tell even half of what I know, and do keep real secrets and respect confidentiality.  Although I speak controversial truths (as I see them, anyhow) and ask questions that need asking, I try not to be mean or ever try to get others into trouble.

Here are some shots I took of slides during the presentations.  They are slides that interested me during the moments I was awake.  Some of the presentations were quite riveting, but I confess to dozing through others.

If you want to look at them all, here are the full-size slides on one page.

One thing that I learned at this event was that whatever else I do when presenting, I never want to bore people by moving too slowly.

Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance.
William Shakespeare

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Thursday February 12th 2015

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I woke up early and had breakfast with the Orams before Chris and Mckenzie left for school, then visited with Jean and Nathan for a while.  I had hoped for wind, but there was none, so I loaded my toys into the van and left for home.

Zip and I left Birch Meadows at around 1000 and drove to Sylvan where I bought groceries, then continued on to Red Deer.  I stopped in Red Deer  to look at vans for sale and then decided to get an oil change at the south Wal-Mart as I was leaving town.  I had intended to do that in Sylvan, but there is no oil change bay at that store.

When I arrived at the store, I discovered they had a tire clearance and some discontinued tires were 60% reduced in price.  I have been needing tires and this was my opportunity.

I told the fellow that my tires were sixteen inch as they are a factory upgrade, not the fifteen inch he saw on the door jamb, but he had pulled a wheel before he realised I was correct, and then discovered that they did not have my size.  Another employee called the north store and they did have them.  I drove all the way back to where I had been earlier.  Driving between stores, though, a truck moved into my lane and touched my van lightly.  I saw it happening in my mirror.

We both drove forward a bit, stopped in the middle northbound lane of busy a four-lane divided avenue, got out to check for damage.  His truck was fine, being a four by four with a large, high chrome bumper.  My van had a crease on the rear left panel below the taillight and above the bumper.

 "I'm not going to worry about it," I said, "Are you?"

"No," he replied, "Thank you".

And off we drove.

I bought this van for $3,500 almost exactly four years and 29,470 miles ago.  I have spent almost nothing on it besides occasional oil changes and new spark plugs when I bought it.  I did the front brakes once, too.  That took me an hour or so.  I replaced a wheel bearing at that time also, unnecessarily, as it turned out the noise was from the tires, not the bearing.

I also replaced a sliding door for cheap with a matching one from a wrecker after Jean's neighbour bashed it in while clearing her driveway.

There is some rust showing around the wheel wells, but for the most part, it looks respectable.  It does not owe me anything.  The tires on it were still legal, but down to 4/32nds in spots.

Tread depth on most new tires is 11/32nds.  A tire performs best while it still has 50% of its tread.  After that, the ride gets rougher, the tires noisier, flats happen more often, and traction is much reduced.  These days, too, the word is that after six years of service the rubber gets hard and traction suffers regardless of the amount of tread left.

The van is still worth $1,500, so has provided good service for $500/year.  That is not bad.  Many people pay that much a month for a car they will never really own, and which costs them a lot to operate.

I arrived at the north store and had to wait forty minutes for the tire job to begin, seeing as it was lunch time, but two hours after arriving, I drove away with new top-quality tires all around for less than half of the best price I had been quoted every time I had priced them previously.  I bought $169 tires for $59!  After taxes and fees, the total came to $324.45.

I arrived home and turned up the heat, put away groceries and thawed the chicken for supper.  Fen, Betty, Maddy and Elijah were expected for supper, and I planned to stew some chicken thighs I had in the freezer.

When thawed, I trimmed off the excess fat and skin, placed the thighs into a large casserole, added two cans of Italian-spiced diced tomatoes, ten garlic cloves chopped fine, crushed chilies, some sea salt, black pepper, a medium chopped onion, some chopped red and green peppers, sprinkled on some dried 'Italian' herbs and nuked everything for fifteen minutes before placing it into the 350-degree oven.  I was short of time before the guests were expected at six.  I also put on some brown and red rice and a pot of carrots.  A purchased kale salad rounded out my plan.

As the chicken went into the oven, I heard Amos calling and found him lying at the foot of the basement stairs.  He was convulsing but lucid.  I knew right away that he was dying.  It was only a question of how soon.  I considered taking him to a vet, but did not think he would last the trip and I also knew that there was little they could do.

His eyes were clear and he was frightened.  He looked to me for help and  and I had to tell him that there was nothing I could do.  As I stroked him, his eyes became foggy and he stopped moving.  I was glad that it was over so quickly, but shed a few tears.  He was a good cat and a friend.

Zippy was concerned and needed reassurance.  I think she wondered if she was next, but got over it as soon as I told her not to worry.

My friends came by and we had a good supper,  The chicken was every bit as good as I hoped.

After they left, I loaded the dishwasher, watched an episode each of Chuck and Veronica Mars and went to bed.

So ended a strange day. 

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
Galileo Galilei

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Friday February 13th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

When I opened my eyes, the sun was well up into the sky and the clock read, "9:05".  The thermometer shows plus one.

At 1110, I have only had breakfast and caught up the diary, plus had a short QSO on 146.970 and .82 with a ham out in Coronation who was plowing his driveway.

What will I do today?  I have some bills to enter and tidying to do.  The temperature outdoors is up to plus five and I really should go out to see my bees.  I also have a lot of junk to pick up around the yard and I should get back to getting the forklift operating.

We still have some spells of cold weather ahead and spring storms, but the back of winter is now broken and I can worry less about my home when away.  Minus forty is still possible, but increasingly unlikely.

Download this image as PDF

Canadian Climate Normals 1971-2000 - Trochu

Canadian Climate Normals


 

Alberta Family Weekend is here and there is talk of going skiing tomorrow.

Elijah came over and we took out drums of ashes the old-fashioned way, the way we moved full drums before we had a forklift.

One drives the van and the other runs the barrel truck behind, pulled by a rope.  It works amazingly well and at one time, we would use this method to take 65 drums out to load a semi.  We hoisted the drums with the hive loader.

Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy"
Isaac Newton

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Saturday February 14th 2015

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The weather has moderated now and the days are lengthening quickly.  The morning began with fog, but now has cleared.

This is Family Weekend, and I have to decide what to do.  Jean spoke of going skiing, but figures that the hills will be crowded and decided against.

I have thought of going back to Gull Lake to spend time with Orams and with hopes of finding enough wind for kiting, but I also have things to do here.

I checked the forecasts, including specialized wind sites; they look promising, but are not in agreement. It's a long drive there and back.

I did drive to Orams' and there was wind, so Chris and I took Jean's 4X4 out onto the lake and I got a few rides.

The wind was weak and gusty, though, and insufficient to carry me back upwind, so  was glad that Chris accompanied me and could drive down to pick me up, saving me a potentially long walk.  Of course, I would not have gone very far down without knowing I had a ride back.  When alone, I try to make sure I come back to my start on each tack.

Everything that needs to be said has already been said.
 But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.
 André Gide

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Sunday February 15th 2015

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I had strange dreams last night, but slept well.

There is wind, so Jean, the kids and I are headed out on the lake. 

I set up the small kite (Rush 450) for Mckenzie and got her going well enough she could go downwind on the toboggan and then put on my skis and set up my 8.5.

The wind was marginal, but I was able to ride down as far as Aspen Beach.  I was glad Jean followed me with the truck, though since I did not have enough wind to go back upwind. My legs also were growing tired.  Low winds are more work than good wind.

Be yourself, not your idea of what you think somebody else's idea of yourself should be. Henry David Thoreau

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Monday February 16th 2015

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I'm headed home today.  Zippy and I packed up around ten and drove south. 

At the Bentley intersection, I decided to check out Medicine Lodge Ski Hill.  The hill has snow, but looked skied off and the day is gloomy.  I texted jean, but they did not want to come down, so I continued on homeward.

At Red Deer, I decided to take the 791 and visit Mike Darazs, my friend who owns Global Patties.  He and Liz have moved out to the country, not far from Custom Woolen Mills. I stopped in and found him home.  We had a good visit and coffee. 

From there, I went to The Mill, less than four miles away, and found Fen, Maddy and Betty sitting around.  I had a coffee with them, too, and continued home.

When I got home, the wind was strong enough to kite, but I had enough skiing in the past two days and decided to get inside and catch up on my chores.  I have quite a bit on my plate right now.

I had taken more pictures at the ski hill, but somehow, they did not show up on the phone.  My Nexus 4 has been acting up.  It has been freezing and rebooting spontaneously lately.  I'm thinking that one of the many recent app updates brought me a corrupted app. 

I subscribed to a new VPN  -- Unlimited VPN -- yesterday and installed it, and I see it wants to run all the time on the phone and eats battery, so maybe that is the issue.

Unlimited VPN was featured on StackSocial at $19 for three years on five devices, and is a great deal -- if it works.  So far it seems to, but as with all such software, there is a learning curve -- and incomplete documentation.

I spent the evening updating some client webs, watching video, and working on my ham radio station.  The new programming cable I bought does not seem to work.

My way of joking is to tell the truth. It is the funniest joke in the world.
George Bernard Shaw

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Tuesday February 17th 2015

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Good Morning. Outside, snow is drifting down and the temperature is minus eight point five.

I have resolved to clear my desk today.  Faint hope.

Faint hope, indeed.  A phone call and an email piled on more tasks. 

Well, I am just about where I started this morning.  I managed to get the work that came in today off my desk.

In the afternoon, there was enough wind to kite and the temperature was not bad but I wanted to get the jobs done and it was dull out, so I did not.

Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things,
and small people talk about wine.
Fran Lebowitz

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Wednesday February 18th 2015
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I slept well, but woke up with strange dreams.  Medhat was visiting and it happened that, at the same moment, CFIA was also inspecting my honeyhouse without notice and without my being there.  (I have not had a honeyhouse for years).

My home and honeyhouse was a schoolhouse alright, but from the view out the window, it seemed more like my grade nine high school building.  The honeyhouse was an ad hoc sort of one-person set-up in the back of the basement. 

The room was clean, bright with the sun shining in the east windows, but was in a disorganized mess.  I recall open one-gallon jars of liquid white honey sitting, open, under a window.  There were no bees visible anywhere.

The whole back side was wide open to the outdoors and no back door was apparent.  When I looked, I did find a door, but it was blocked up with odds and ends and did not seem to have been closed, or even accessible, for a very long time. Even then, it would hardly have covered the large opening in the west wall.

In the dream, the CFIA inspector was not actually inside the building, but poking around outside one of the east windows at the time I became aware of him..

Oddly, the first thing I heard on the news on getting up today is the report of a new Alberta case of BSE.

On awakening, I also realized that I am not seeing or hearing trains.  A while back, it seemed that there was a train going by every hour, but I can't recall noticing any in the past several days.  I am sure there have been some, but not many.

The number of trains passing is an indication of economic activity.  When things are good, there are lots.  When things cool down, there are fewer.  Trains passing here are not oil trains for the most part, but mostly containers of goods.

I know the Alberta economy is cooling, and assume that oil shipments continue, but wonder at the drop in traffic.  I do know that Canadian Pacific (CP) had a short strike, but this line is Canadian national (CN).  I also know that the Port of Los Angeles is backed up badly due to labour issues, and that there have been bad storms in the East, but I would not expect either of these things to have a drastic effect here.  This is February, though, and maybe the Rogers Pass is blocked by avalanches and avalanche control, slowing traffic from the West Coast.

I am contemplating a drive to Edmonton (OK.  I have pretty well made up my mind) to attend an Alberta Offshore Sailing Association (AOSA) meeting.  It's a three-hour drive each way and not practical really, but the topic is the Baja Ha ha and there is talk at Cooper Boating of doing that next year.  I also want to promote the Bluewater Cruising Association upcoming April event and this is a good excuse to go.  If I go, I have to leave here at 1500 if I want to have supper there.

After the meeting, I have to decide whether to drive to Jean's (1-1/2 hrs) go home (3 hrs), or stay over in Edmonton (1/2 hr).  I suppose my decision will depend on how tired I am -- assuming I go.  I'll have to check the weather in advance.

This appears to be a nautical-themed day.  I noticed a call from Austin last night and missed it until it was too late to call back.  My phone had frozen up again and didn't ring.  I called him back this morning and it seems that the keel fell off his boat, "Saga", moored at Maple Bay.

I used to sail the boat occasionally.  Saga is an older wooden boat and has been sitting unused for a while.  Anyhow, he wants to trailer the boat home and keep it in his farmyard and was looking for suggestions, and maybe some help.

I've been dithering about when and how to fly to Antigua.  Today I decided and made a reservation. All said, the figuring took all morning -- and more.

It's 1400 and I am off to Edmonton. 

Now that I am watching, I've seen two trains today.

I arrived at the Norwood Legion in time to help set up and have supper.  The presentation began at 1900 and was over at 2045.

I drove to Gull Lake for the night.

As I drive, after I finish mulling things over and get bored, I listen to an Audible talking book.  My current listen is "The Circle".  I am told that it is a dystopian novel about transparency, but so far, things are going fairly well and I am into book two.

BTW, my daughter's first book, Champagne and Lemon Drops is available on Audible now.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream
and he sometimes wondered whose it was
and whether they were enjoying it.
Douglas Adams

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Thursday February 19th 2015
Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I'm at Oram's this morning.  Chris is off to the teachers' convention. Jean is taking the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's in Edmonton.  I'm going home -- unless the wind picks up and I go kiting on the lake, that is.

Now that I have settled on a departure date, one week from today, I have a week to do the various things I imagine I need to do before going. 

One of those things is to attend to my bees.  I need to check them for food, take off any unneeded boxes, possibly rearrange feed frames (only if absolutely necessary), perhaps close a few of the extra vent holes, and put on more pillows.  Maybe I should put in some Apivar on a warm day. I won't be back until late in March, although that date is still undecided.  It is a bit early to do that, but early may be better than late. 

This the time of year when heat conservation becomes critical, especially for smaller colonies.  For the huge colonies, it matters less.  Up until February, keeping the colonies cool and ventilated is preferred, but now that the clusters are smaller, the bees older, patches of brood are larger, and the remaining feed is harder to reach and liquefy, even a little extra heat enables the cluster to expand out further over honey frames and can mean the difference between building up, and dwindling miserably to nothing.

I am wondering about putting on patties, but think maybe not.  It is too early to stimulate the colonies and the patties I have on hand are last year's.  I am wondering how good they are.  These patties have been stored out in the cold all winter, but were ones I got early in the fall. 

Old patties can be worse than none, and even do harm to colonies.  I hate to not use what I have on hand, but the only waste worse than throwing them out or feeding them to pigs is to put old patties onto my hives and set back all my colonies.  Are these too old?  I have no way of knowing.  I just do not know, and the prudent thing to do is to discard them and get fresh patties.  Anyone have pigs?

A box of patties is worth $67 (Canadian) and has enough patties for one patty on each of 40 hives or two patties on each of 20 hives.  The bees in 20 hives are worth (very roughly) $$4,000 in Canada right now (20 X $200 [the approximate price of a package]). 

Should I risk $4,000 to use up $67 worth of feed?

Note: A reader was worried about patties he had just bought, so I spoke to Mike about this and the answer is here.  No worries.

I see that Global is now offering 25% pollen (based in dry weight) patties now.  (US prices) (Canadian prices).  I think I will get some.

After a lot of whooping and hollering about new miracle bee feeds, it turns out that natural bee pollen is still the best feed for bees.  How about that?

In interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I currently provide consulting, testing, advertising, and data services to Global Patties and have been associated with other bee feed projects in the past.

I'm sitting here in Jean's kitchen watching for wind.  The predictions are for kiting weather this morning, but so far, I see little evidence that will come to be.

Ten knots  (11.5 MPH) is enough for a good ride and I need at least that much.  I need strong winds to get back to where I start from if I go kiting, since Jean will be away and can't come to retrieve me.

At 1030: If there is wind out there, I am not seeing it, so home I go.

I stopped in Sylvan and bought groceries, then headed south.  I was almost at Red Deer when I got an email that required a prompt reply and I figured I needed my laptop to answer properly.  When I stopped to get it out, I remembered that I left the computer on the kitchen counter, so I drove the 30+ km back to Orams'.

Once there, I noticed that the breeze had come up enough to kite, but had work to do.  I sat down to deal with that email and several more that demanded attention. By the time I was done, the wind had dropped and Chris arrived home.

Again, I headed home, and arrived at 1730.

I invite everyone to choose forgiveness rather than division,
teamwork over personal ambition.
Jean-Francois Cope

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