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Monday April 20th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

 Today: Mainly sunny. High 19. UV index 5 or moderate.

The wind expected in Environment Canada's predictions yesterday is not mentioned in the forecast today. WindAlert (right) shows light winds starting up around noon.  We'll see.

I still have deskwork to do, but am itching to get outside.  It's minus eight Celsius now at 0731, but a high of nineteen -- room temperature -- is expected, so I'll try to get out.

The next few days and nights are expected to be warmer than usual, so this is a good day to make changes like reversing a few strong hives and other otherwise risky manipulations, if indicated.

It takes a while for colonies to recover from even conservative manipulations and if such operations are done immediately before a cold snap, significant harm can be done.  Even working too late in the day before a cold night can do damage.

I went out and worked through the remaining hives in the Quonset Yard.  These are not my best and I eliminated two more drone layers by combining them with good hives that needed more bees.

I also did a bit of reversing and moved things around a bit.  At the end, I was a bit careless and the last hive I moved was a strong one that had been gathering lost bees.  When I moved it, the bees were already agitated from the disruption and as soon as the hive was in place I decided to leave, go into the house, and remove a few stingers.

I made a bean stew, had a cup of coffee and lay down for a nap,  I had a great half-hour nap and awoke ready to get back at it.  Lately, I am appreciating my sleep a lot more.

By then, the temperature had topped 20 degrees and the wind peaked around ten MPH, which makes for very comfortable beekeeping.

I have been spending time writing on the Calgary Beekeepers list and wonder if I am spitting into the wind.  Unfortunately, hobby beekeepers are fed a load of baloney in beekeeping lessons and worry about fumigating for nosema, and obsess about a whole raft of unimportant things like sterilizing hive tools and gloves, and that distracts them from the basics.

They are also taught to destroy good brood comb on the hope that it might do some good, when having good dark brood comb is one of the most basic secrets of good wintering.

I wanted to address a lot of that baloney in the Myths presentation, but I am realizing more and more that people love to be told stories and actually prefer fantastic and difficult tales to the simple and observable truth.

I am getting to be a grumpy old man with little tolerance for BS.

That's why I am not back out with my bees at this moment.  I just spent an hour spitting into the wind.  I hope someone appreciates it.   Grrrrr.

Okay, I am going out now.  I see the bees are robbing empty brood boxes on the truck.

(BTW, doesn't this page look great!!??)

I went back out and moved the rest of the hives onto pallets. Again, I goofed with the last hive in this bunch.  This time I dropped two boxes and had to leave a while until they calmed down.

They were very very displeased. 


There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is
a willingness to contemplate what is happening.
Marshall McLuhan

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Tuesday April 21st 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

We are now one month into spring and my hives are well into building up.

It is 0300 and I am awake for the third time tonight.  Usually, I sleep through, but for some reason, I woke up repeatedly tonight.  I'll try sleeping again shortly.

The next few days are promising to be warm, but snow and near-freezing temperatures are predicted for Saturday.

Fortunately, no strong winds (above) are predicted to coincide with the coolest coming weather.  Nonetheless, I'll have to reduce the entrances.

I don't reduce entrances in winter, but I do at this time of year.  In winter brood rearing is not to be encouraged and some controlled ventilation is a good thing.  At this time of year, the clusters are vulnerable and must keep large areas of brood warm.

Warmth throughout the brood chamber is beneficial since warmth softens honey and wax, allowing the bees to move feed around and build or alter comb. 

Maintaining the correct moisture is important, too, to help liquefy honey and to maintain the ideal brood humidity.  Like us, bees are mostly water and managing water and humidity is very important to them.  Bees need water in the hive at all times, but do not store water.

Drops of condensation in the less occupied areas of hives are a water source at night and during confinement due to wind or cold.  Some beekeepers find any water at all a concern and an indication to increase ventilation. That may be true in damp regions, but where I live, water drops outside the cluster are beneficial, not a problem -- as long as water is not dripping or excessive.

Bees can raise their metabolism as much as ten times normal to produce a great deal of heat, as anyone who has transported package bees knows.  Colonies can withstand short periods of stress from low temperature and/or wind and maintain a large cluster to protect brood, but doing so requires ten times as much feed and also wears them down.

Under stress from low temperature or wind, the small amount of liquefied feed in and near the cluster can be used up quickly.  Moreover, excess ventilation will take a way the moisture they require to liquefy more.

On a typical spring brood comb in the background picture, look for open cells of diluted honey and observe the capped cells of granulated honey.  It is clear that the colony does not have a huge reserve of ready feed and would be stressed -- and even starving -- if the cluster had to contract  drastically. 

They have lots of feed, but must uncap and liquefy it before use.  If times get tough, they will have to give up on the open brood and the development will be set back.

If the colony does manage to maintain the brood through a wind and cold challenge, some brood may be chilled and the adults will be stressed.

Many of the diseases beekeepers consider to be big threats are actually stress diseases or diseases enabled and exaggerated by beekeepers unknowingly stressing their hives.

Brood can withstand chilling, but any time spent below the ideal temperature of 95 degrees F will reduce the viability and the quality of the bees that emerge.  The manner and degree that chilling affects a larva or pupa depends on its age at the time.

My work yesterday was somewhat drastic, with reversing triples and moving hives around.  I decided that with the new floors, grocery pallets make the best stands, rather than using rows on slats.

For one thing, I can move pallets with the forklift, if I ever get it going again. That allows me to rotate or switch pallets and padgen hives easily with the forklift. 

When a strong hive switches position with a weak hive during a flow day, hordes of returning bees build the populations in the formerly weak hive suddenly with amazing results.  Weakening a strong hive a bit this way can help forestall swarming.  The strong hive will have lots of brood and that will quickly replace the lost bees.

For another, when splitting, if I need to set splits down for side-by-side splits, there is room beside pallets, but not necessarily enough extra room in rows.

After my work yesterday, with the moving of hive to pallets from rows, I have concerns about drifting that could leave some hives weak.  I will have to watch, and equalize if that becomes apparent.  The winds are calm right now and the night temperatures are moderate -- 8.9 C at 0310 -- so there is no immediate worry.

I did not go back out to close up auger holes and put on reducers or pick up scraps after I came in for supper.   The extra ventilation should not be a problem unless it gets windy, but scraps on the ground containing larvae could train skunks if they are around.

Initially, skunks can be a good thing (as long as they don't squirt the dog) since they clean up dead bees, scraps and mice, but later in the season they get desperate and begin scratching and tearing at hives.

I slept until 0830 and plan to get outside again today.  At 1030, it is already 14 degrees C and the wind is at ten MPH.

The temperature dropped to plus four for a few hours last night, but it appears I picked a good day to do the reversing.  The colonies have lots of time to recover before the coming cold snap.

I still have paperwork to do, but that can wait until later today.  I managed to get quite a bit of that done last evening. 

Usually, by evening, I am tired and un-ambitious, with little inclination to do anything except watch Netflix, but the longer days and outdoor work have increased my energy level, it seems.

We have ten weeks now until the main flow in July.

I went out and transferred hives to floors on pallets in the South of the Hedge Yard.  The first four are variable in size.

Dawn from my boat charter company phoned in a panic looking for the keys I mailed her last Saturday after I deplaned.  She had not checked the post office.  Panic!  She could have checked last week.  No big deal.  It is $350 for a replacement set, but if that is what it costs, I guess that is what I pay. I'm responsible since I borrowed the vehicle and left with the keys.  I imagine she will find they have been waiting at the PO for a week by now.

By 1230 it got hot enough outside that I decided to go in for a while.  It is only seventeen degrees, but in the sun, with no shade, that feels hot at this time of year.

Solar noon here is at 1335 today, so it will get hotter before it gets cooler.  Siesta time.

I did not hear back from Dawn, so I imagine the keys were there all along.

I called her.  They were.

I went back out and I am having fun.  I love working on hives.  The other work, not so much.

These are my bee working shoes.  They keep my feet cool.  The job is too hard on my Birkenstocks.

The chatterboxes on CBC are now saying we can expect two degrees on Saturday.  That is what happens: beekeepers see some beautiful weather and get out and disturb the hives, spreading brood, reversing, splitting, then winter comes back.  We all do it.

I finished all twelve hives in the South of the Hedge group.  They were variable, from several frames of bees, up to hives occupying all four boxes.  Getting them into four packs is going to make them much easier to work when the time comes.

I'm trying to figure out a schedule. I have plenty of work here to keep me busy all day every day for months, but I am wanting to get back west and down east.  I have jobs that must be done, and many that don't.

After supper, I went out and mowed some grass.  I also put on entrance reducers and plugged some auger holes.  That hardly seemed necessary judging by the activity I saw in almost every auger hole.  It is probably a good idea, though, since the bees are stimulated and the clusters will contact when they calm down for the night.

I was out until almost 2100 in the yard tonight and that is a switch from my somewhat sedentary mode over winter.  I took a good shower and flushed my nose in hopes of avoiding allergies during the night.

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.
Helen Keller

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Wednesday April 22nd 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I woke up at 0405.  That is almost exactly six hours after I went to bed last night.  It seems my autopilot is set on six hours.  I'd have liked to sleep in a bit.

I see that the weather forecast has improved considerably and the cold day Saturday is now expected to be less so by six degrees Celsius and that is a relief, but the night is expected to be four degrees colder than the previous guess.

Weather men and economists make a good living being wrong on a daily basis.  Neither manage much better than dice at predicting the future much of the time, yet we believe them and make important decisions based on their advice. (For that matter, many people believe -- against all evidence -- that dice can accurately and reliably predict the future.)

They are somewhat competent at 'predicting' (understanding) the present, but the farther into the future they project, the more probable it is that they will be wrong -- and I am talking hours and days, not weeks and years.  Yet people believe them.  I know I do, sorta.

A popular quote on that theme is attributed to Yogi Berra: "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.", and this is just another instance of what is becoming increasingly obvious: everything we think we know is wrong.

From The perils of prediction, June 2nd | The Economist:

"The quote comes from a question and answer period during a seminar in Copenhagen where Danish Physicist Niels Bohr laid out the fundamental nature of quantum physics for the public. Included was the description of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which basically says that you can't predict where a particle will be at a specific place in time, or vice versa. The question that triggered the answer was: What do you predict the influence of Quantum Physics will have on the world in the future?" and Niels Bohr said, somewhat tongue in cheek due to the prominence of the principle, that "it is exceedingly difficult to make predictions, particularly about the future" (because we can't even know what the state of our situation is NOW, much less in the future). Yogi never said it and Sam probably stole it if he ever uttered the phrase.

Weathermen are right or close just often enough to keep us coming back.

There is something in the human psyche that demands certainty where none can be had. 

People consult priests, ancient texts, oracles, Ouija boards, horoscopes, and pay for worthless predictions -- then make critical life decisions on that 'advice'.  Wars have been launched, won and lost on the flip of a coin or the word of a seer.

Oftentimes, we simply use such devices to confirm to ourselves what have already decided, consciously or unconsciously, but such confirmation by an "authority" adds dangerous certainty to what is often a doubtful enterprise.  I have seen several people slowly destroy their lives by following their own interpretations of divinations using The Book of Changes.  Needless to say, the world is in chaos today, largely due to hard positions based on beliefs originating and supported by non-objective and non-verifiable sources.

In our modern world, we are not immune to confident advice from unknowing or corrupt advisors posing as experts. Our economy is managed on the basis of advice resulting from theories and theories are the basis of the current panic about climate.

Last night, I did not sleep as well as some nights and wonder if the bee work is affecting my sleep. 

Beekeeping can trigger allergies or sensitivities in a number of ways. 

  • People can be allergic to bees themselves, either alive, or dead, and the dust of dead bees in hives can be full of moulds as well.
  • Stings can cause a number of reactions, both toxic and allergic and possibly sensitivities as well.
  • The honey and pollen in hives can affect us and the outdoor environment affects some people as well. 
  • A bee smoker can burn quite a few different fuels and all give off smoke.  The constituents of that smoke are generally unknown.
    Smoke is known to be hard on the lungs and the entire respiratory system, and the lungs are direct route of introduction of those chemicals into the body.
    I burn burlap (hessian) that I get from a wool processor.  The history of those bags is unknown.  It is possible that some bags were treated with anti-fungals or worse, or held less than desirable contents at some point of time. 
    There is so much we do not and cannot know, yet we carry on anyhow, confident in our 'knowledge".  We have no choice.

Lawn mowing is another obvious suspect.  I know that mowing  turns up all sort of moulds and dusts at the best of times around here where it is dry most of the time, and at this time of year dry and dusty dead grass and leaves are in with the new growth.

The normals for this date (left) are one thing, and we could plan on them, but the long term climate history (dotted line at right) indicates that the extreme lowest recorded temperature for the current date is currently minus fifteen C. 

Although that number is rising daily, and quite rapidly at this time of year, I have to keep in mind that a hard freeze is a known possibility, although quite unlikely, when managing my hives.  Not doing so is like play Russian Roulette.

After breakfast and coffee, I went back to bed for an hour.  I dozed off and on, skimming the surface of consciousness for an hour and a quarter.  I'm still weary.

Enough fiddling with words and ideas!  ... It is time to do something real and physical.  Let's go outside, Zippy.

I'm doing yard jobs today.  Fuelling the mower, Fueling the yard truck...

I'll have to go to town today, too.  I'm running out of a few things and Meijers are coming over for supper.

Today, I began cleaning the swimming pool.  The water has a lot of algae and it'll take a while to settle and filter it. I had to clean the filter about six times and added algaecide and chlorine.

I went to Three Hills mid-afternoon, and was shocked at the prices in the IGA.  I have been buying groceries in the Caribbean and thought the prices were high there, but on returning home to Alberta, found the prices in Airdrie and Drumheller more like what I expect.  Prices at Three Hills IGA, however are over the top.  I crossed the street to buy a bottle of wine for supper and found that I paid $13 for the same bottle I bought in Airdrie the other day for about $9.

Meijers came over for supper and the topic of Acorn frames came up.  They have ordered a truckload. I asked if they ordered single or double-waxed. 

Most people don't know that double wax is an option.  It costs about 20 cents extra per frame, but that is roughly the cost of the extra wax, and of course that can be recovered eventually when scraping the combs off the frame.

I dug out the picture from last summer showing how much comb the bees can draw out -- without having to make wax -- on foundation areas with various thicknesses of wax applied by the beekeeper or factory. 

The shot at right is of a frame that was accidentally over-waxed on one section and the area where extra wax was applied is drawn out much further.

I also showed how I protect my phone in the beeyards using zip-loc snack bags.  The bag allows full use of the phone, but protects from wax and honey -- and accidental drops into a syrup barrel.

If I had used this trick when I took an unexpected dip into the bay a few weeks back, it would have saved me quite a lot of trouble and expense.

The shot at left is taken with my phone through a bag.  The phone shown is Joe's, and the fit on his is not a slick and snug as on mine since he uses a phone case, and you know I do not. 

I had thought he picture would be better than this one is since the bag is transparent.  Maybe it is the light.  Anyhow, if and where it matters, the phone can be liberated temporarily from its protective bag, then zipped back in after.  However, to check texts and to talk, the bag stays on.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
Alan Kay

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Thursday April 23rd 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I had a good night's sleep and woke up at 0655.  The day is sunny and I see we had a freeze again last night. The predictions for Saturday and Saturday night keep changing.  Now the day is predicted at plus eight and the night minus five. 

Expected winds for the next few days (right) don't look too bad, but I am putting on entrance reducers anyhow.  At this time of year, conserving heat helps the colonies maintain and expand their brood nest.  Each small increment in brood area pays off in large differences several generations in the future.

I really must get the papers together an off to the accountant today. I have things to do in town again an anyhow as I forgot my gas card yesterday and the bank had closed five minutes before I got there.

I spent the day shuffling paper and am headed to the accountant's office, then on to Oram's' for supper.

I dropped off papers at the accountant, then drove to Orams', arriving in  time for supper and went for a walk to the beach.  Chris arrived shortly after and we had birthday cake.  I was extremely tired and a bit hoarse.  I'd had a slight headache occasionally during the day, so I went to bed early, at 2030.

It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.
T. S. Eliot

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Friday April 24th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I slept right through to 0600, rolled over and slept another half-hour, then joined the others for breakfast, visited with Jean for a while and headed home.

On the way up, I had called a dealer about a van that was sitting on their consignment lot in Linden, ten miles from home.  I had made a phone offer earlier after  driving by and walking around it, but been refused and I thought I'd stop and take a closer look if they still had it.  They did, I I swung by on the way home.

The van is a 2009 Chrysler Limited Town and Country.  That is the model with every imaginable option.  I like machines like that.

I'd have preferred a 2011 or newer as they improved the chassis and the ride in 2011, but the newer ones are pricey and I hate to spend money on rolling stock.   Most people spend heavily on vehicles.  I don't. The reason I can afford a yacht is that I drive beaters and do my own service when it pays to do so.

I stopped in, took it for a drive, made a slightly higher take-it-or-leave-it offer and waited a few minutes while he phoned the owner.  The owner was going to counter-offer, the dealer said, but he advised the owner to take my offer before it expired in five minutes.

My offer was accepted.  I drove to Three Hills, got a bank draft, drove back, loaded everything out of my red van -- dog, skis, kites, boots, etc. --  into the new one, left the red van at a shop to be safety-checked for sale and drove home.

I see that tomorrow's weather is looking better all the time, with a low now of plus nine and a night dropping to right around freezing.  Bonus! 

I'll be reducing entrances anyhow.

Gee, now I feel like teenager wanting to go for a ride anywhere, just to drive in my new van.  I was considering going to the mountains, skiing today.  Maybe I'll go tomorrow.  Everything is loaded up and ready.

Right now, though I am going out to screw on entrance reducers.

I did.  I had put them on a few times already, but I don't know if a reverse draft blows them off, if a skunk comes along, or maybe a mouse, or if a gang of bees give them the old heave-ho, but I find some of them on the ground again and again.

Right about now, I want these hives as warm inside as possible.

Entrance reducers come in all shapes and sizes.  If I were going to make new ones, I'd make them differently, but these are what I have.  One screw holds them where I want them.  The condition of the hardware does not much matter.  Some of my best hives have been in ratty looking equipment.  In fact, I think bees prefer weathered wood and dislike paint and new wood.  It is hard to convince people of that, since people's preferences are opposite.

I came in, had supper and watched Veronica Mars on Netflix.  I then began on season one, episode one of Grey's Anatomy but the Internet faded. 

As far as I got before the Internet failure, Grey's Anatomy looked promising, but it is hard to tell so soon. 

I tend to like happy series with interesting situations and strong, positive women protagonists. I also watch 'Chuck' and 'White Collar', so that is not exactly a rule.  Netflix apparently can't figure out what I like, judging by what they push at me.

It is raining here tonight and the rain is welcome.  Maybe the rain killed the internet.  We are 11 miles from the tower.

I saw a dandelion today!

Be the chief but never the lord.
Lao Tzu

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Saturday April 25th 2015
Eight more months until Christmas

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I woke up after midnight and decided to sit up a while, so I wrote in the forum.On my first save, the browser failed to save the message.  I re-wrote the message and posted it. 

Immediately after, the Lenovo presented me with the BSOD That is the second time recently for this fairly new machine.

I later decided to delete another post I had made last evening because I said it all before here and in my Myths presentation and was not satisfied that I expressed myself clearly there.  In a nutshell, I'm frustrated with the amount of bee-related misinformation out there and the difficulty overcoming it without stepping on everyone's toes.  The topic was/is I Don't Care Anymore, but obviously, I do.  Oh well. 

A lot of my time at this keyboard is spent trying to figure out what I really think. I'm not sure it is perfect substitute for meditation, though.

I woke up again at 0400, got up and had breakfast.  I checked the conditions at Nakiska and see that the prediction is iffy.

Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers this afternoon. Snow level 1600 metres. High 6. UV index 3 or moderate.

The Nakiska base is at 1500 metres altitude, so any rain should fall as snow above the base of the Silver Chair.  That is the theory.  You know what I think about weather guessers.  They are fairly good at predicting the present and I figure that guessing the next twelve hours or so with acceptable accuracy might be within their powers.  Worst case, Nakiska has a pleasant lodge and it is a nice drive.

The current day's forecast for my home locale concerns me though:

Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries or rain showers changing to 30 percent chance of rain showers this morning. Fog patches dissipating this morning. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 7.

I don't like fog if I am driving. 

Anyhow, my plan is to go to the Rockies, but have a few more hours of rack time first.  I don't need to leave until mid-morning to get there in time for plenty of skiing.

Time was when my family and I were up and out the door, lunches packed, at five AM to make it to Sunshine or Louise in time for breakfast.  Then we skied pretty well non-stop until the lifts closed.  Those days are gone.  A late start and a few hours on the slopes is enough for me these days.

I have now sold the expected increase I'll make this year and any further sales will reduce my hive numbers -- I hope.

I smartened up this year and decided to take $100 deposit for each hive. That way I know for sure what the market is and can plan.  Otherwise, people change their minds.  People email the money and that works well.  No need to find a cheque, an envelope and a stamp, then mail it.  A few clicks and the job is done.

I learned to require deposits before booking an order when we were in the comb honey business.  Without money down, people change their minds, and usually at an inconvenient time for me.

When I was beginning comb production, I had a contract, but from there on out, I produced for a while on verbal requests, but soon learned to ask for money up front.

The problem was that we were the only producer of any size and anyone who wanted comb would phone around to everyone who might have some and then they all then phoned me, hoping to get in the middle and make a few bucks. As a result, I got a distorted idea of the real demand. 

When I began asking for 30% down (that covered the supplies), suddenly many 'customers' lost interest.  I also learned to never sell on consignment.

I went out to photograph the dandelions this morning, and the flowers are closed up from the cold. I see that the duckweed is growing on my pond already.

Hmmmm.  Last night's rain equals muddy roads, and I have a new white van.  I'll have to either drive slowly or stick to the pavement.

Things look good at Nakiska now, at opening time.  Gotta go!

I was there by a little after noon and skied two runs on the Silver and three on the Gold, then left for home at about 1415.  The snow was icy at the top and heavy at the bottom.

The webcam page (above right) now shows only the best snow and not the base or the bare spots.  Earlier in the year the webcam page showed a panel with the base area, too, but I guess they decided to conceal the truth.  IMO, that is a bad plan because when people get there, they are disappointed.  If the base is shown, people know what to expect.  At this time of year we know that snow is scarce at the bottom of mountains, but ample up top.

Seeing a picture like the one at left would not have stopped me from going, but it would have caused me to respect the management, rather than wondering about their honesty.  It might have let others make an intelligent decision, though.  A family with two toddlers parked next to me had driven up expecting the bunny hill to be available and it was not.  They had no warning.

The entire areas in the pictures above are normally under a cover of snow, but there were plenty of slopes with good coverage.  However, there were no easy slopes anywhere that were skiable, so beginners would have been disappointed.

On my last run, I was a bit tired and the ski-out was narrow and rutted.  Only 200 yards from where I expected to take off my skis and walk to the van, I managed to catch an edge and fall into the mud alongside the trail.

So, I had to clean myself up and wrap my muddy boots and equipment in my ski clothes in order not to muddy the pristine interior of the van and drive home in my long underwear.  Fortunately it is quite stylish-looking and did not embarrass me when I stopped to fill up with gas along the route.

 Wouldn't you know this one time that I did not take a change of clothes, I could have used them.  I also have not yet put a tarp and ropes in this van.  I could have used them, too.

As for this van, it is a huge improvement over the red van and seems reasonably easy on gas -- better than the red one, so far at least.  It is a quiet ride, and the dash display with navigation and backup camera is great.  The Bluetooth works well and I was able to have long phone conversations as I drove. 

I notice the maps in the navigation program are out of date, though, and found I appeared to be driving off-road when I took the new Calgary bypass.  I see an updated map on CD is $149 +$30 shipping.

On this trip, mostly highway, with some mountain driving, the trip computer reports 9.8 litres per 100 km.  That is about 29 MPG (Imperial) or 24 MPG US.

On arriving home, I found that I was a bit chilled, so I had a hot shower, and took it easy for the rest of the day.

Instant gratification takes too long.
Carrie Fisher

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Sunday April 26th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

This looks like a nice day for working outdoors.  I have lawn to mow, buildings to repair, junk to pick up, and hives that need patties.

I see a 26 degree day (79 F) coming and that is the sort of weather that gets even the weaker hives brooding up.  Of course, after they make that investment, maintaining the cluster temperature becomes even more critical.

The house plants need water today, too, and I need to do some trimming and pot some cuttings.  I offered some of my plants to my friends recently and plants have been walking out of here ever since.  I'm glad to give plants away.  I was getting overgrown with house plants.

I began the day with organizing my bee sales, a bit anyhow.  I had email transfers to deposit and I have to organize all the various emails. 

Thank goodness I only take orders by email and, thankfully, people do not phone unless they have to, or just want to chat. 

Frankly, I cannot remember each and every person who phones and what was said, but I can remember the people who write.  Phone calls can come when I am driving or out in the bee yard with a bee crawling into my ear, and may not have my undivided attention. I am grateful that, these days, most eople do not just phone up and assume that I can talk, but usually text or email ahead to arrange a time.

If people want to order, I say to email me and send the $100/hive deposit by email.  Having written records of orders by email makes the job easier.

Working with bees is easier than juggling orders.The occasional person still sends cheques, and cheques are a bit of a pain to record and deposit, but, now at least I can now deposit cheques via the Internet.  Just the same, writing a cheque and mailing is slow and unreliable compared to an electronic transfer. 

When sending a cheque, people assume it will arrive by a deadline but electronically, we know and receive a prompt confirmation the order was accepted.

I have sold 65 hives now and if I split two thirds of my current 68 hives, that will give me 113 hives.  Selling 65 will leave me with 48, and after taking off 20% summer and fall losses, that leaves me with 38 hives.  That's a more manageable number.

Of course, that is a very rough calculation and if I only split 2/3, I will be producing at least 3,800 pounds of honey (38 hives X 100 lbs/hive), which would be a huge nuisance, so we'll see  Maybe I should split more or sell more.

There are more orders coming, I suspect since I went through my folder and emailed the people who asked early, before I was ready to take orders.  People panic in march, thinking that they may miss out, and that is before I know what my winter loss will be.  I don't take orders until some time in April.

*   *   *   *   *

I had a box of patties left, so went out to the North Yard and put them on.  In the process, I discovered some hives with monster populations and others with only a few frames of brood. 

Right about now, the overwintered hives are at their lowest populations of the year.  Pretty well all of the old overwintered bees have all died off and this year's bees are all that are left, sitting on slabs of brood.  That is why I have been closing entrances right down now.  Few bees and lots of brood presents a situation where a cold snap could do great harm.

Every day that passes reduces the risk, but until mid-May, we could get minus ten temps -- or colder.

At present, however, we are expecting plus twenty-six on Tuesday and that will be near the upper extreme of records for that date (+31 C.).

I should probably split the monster hives right away.  In my years of experience, large hives left un-split tend to dwindle a bit compared to more challenged hives.  Small splits struggle and tend to problems like nosema and chilled brood, but large splits prosper.

While my mantra is that stress causes many of our bee problems, stress can be good as well as bad.  It depends on the stress and whether it overpowers the hive's ability to manage it.  Splitting hives is a natural process and the bees have the resources to come back strong, as long as there are abundant resources available, both in the hive and out.

While the queenless half will be without a laying queen for three weeks, the bees will keep on working and accumulate pent-up resources, both in the bees' bodies and in the hive. When the new queen begins laying, this half will often overtake and surpass the half with the mother queen.

I don't have any queens, but if I plan to raise cells, I should start.  Today I saw lots of fresh cups in some of the hives.  Maybe if I look, I can find some cells already underway.  So far, nothing

Many advise against using cells from swarming hives, but Dave Green says, "Why not? These are obviously your best hives." 

I concur.  While consistently using cells from swarming hives might slightly increase the swarming genes in a yard, we know that it is very hard to breed any trait into bees and have it stay fixed.  To not breed from swarming hives is to deny oneself some of the best genes in the yard.

I could use Charlie Mraz's method and that is to put the queenless split on top and direct the flying bees from the top to the queenright lower part by opening and closing flight holes selectively.  That would mean finding the queen however, or making a guess. 

Not needing to find queens is one of the attractive points in making walk-away splits.  However, if the splits are made in the morning, after smoking only the entrance, queens are usually in the top box.

*   *   *   *   *

My mower won't start and I had counted on mowing.  Since the mower was filthy, I pressure-washed it, knowing full well that it won't start when wet. The starter spins, but not hard enough to engage the flywheel. I can't figure that out.  I'll have to wait.

While waiting, I made a bean stew according to my usual recipe, if you can call throwing things into a pot a recipe.

  • One large can diced tomatoes.  Italian spiced
  • Two or three cans of six bean mix, drained and rinsed.
  • One medium onion diced,
  • ~1/2 cup Red and yellow peppers diced
  • One can of kernel corn
  • Whatever mushrooms are around
  • Cauliflower diced
  • Carrots diced
  • Cumin to taste (big tablespoon?)
  • Crushed chilies to taste  (2 big tablespoons)
  • Black pepper to taste.
  • Salt
  • Crushed garlic to taste.

Simmer the tomatoes and throw in the onion, peppers, spices.  Then add the bean and other ingredients with a mind to how long they take to get to the texture you like. 

I add the carrots first, then mushrooms.  The rest go in when these are cooked and the whole thing simmered until the juice just covers the stew.  Then it is done.

I like my beans and veggies al dente.  Others might want to cook things to a mush.

*   *   *   *   *

I went out and cut grass for an hour or more, then sat down and watched three episodes of Veronica Mars.

Binge watching is not my usual style, but Netflix will withdraw the series May 6th in Canada and there were just 15 episodes left. I like this series and have trouble finding much on video that I enjoy consistently.

I am careful with my choice of people to spend time with and whom I let into my house and, to my mind, the TV is just another doorway.  I like intelligent, respectful, positive people, and suffer through the rest.  Why let people in through the TV portal that you would not invite through the front door?

I had a shower, washed my hair and flushed my sinuses before bed in hopes that the dust from mowing the lawn would not bother my sleep.

BTW, I forgot the garlic in my stew this time.  Does not seem to make much difference.  It is still great.

Never explain--your friends do not need it
and your enemies will not believe you anyway.
Elbert Hubbard

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Monday April 27th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I woke up at 0400 with my sinuses partially blocked. I have not been having that problem much lately, and I think this proves quite conclusively that mowing grass causes me nighttime congestion, and also that merely flushing my nose does not prevent it.  I wonder if a dust mask will help.

At this time of year, there is a lot of moldy dead grass and leaves in with the new grass and the mower stirs them up.  Any wind carries the dust back onto me on the riding mower.  I've always sorta known that mowing causes me sensitivities, but have put up with it never tried to mitigate the problem except with antihistamines.  Now, I am having some reservations about using antihistamines routinely, so maybe I will try prevention rather than drugs going forward.

*   *   *   *   *

Today is expected to be +19C and tonight +4 C. Tomorrow is a +25 C day with a bonus prize of a +9 C night, a +22 C day, a +3 C night and a +17 C day immediately following -- if we can believe the weather guessers.  Tuesday is predicted to be windy, but that is the hot day.

Of course, the forecast will be wrong, but at such close range, I'm betting it won't miss by enough to matter.

These are the days in spring when the queens really show what they can do.  This it he time to reverse or split the big hives as seems fitting when they are being examined.  It is a good time to make sure the queens have room to lay and are not constricted by too much granulated or capped feed -- or pollen -- next to the brood area or defective brood combs.

It is a good time to inspect brood for disease as well assuming it is not too windy. 

Wind is a problem for beekeepers.  Wind sucks the heat and moisture out of hives and makes inspections unpleasant.  Wind can also dry out brood removed from the hive for inspection.

When watching an expert many of us miss what they see and don't know that they are assessing each frame as they go and handle each frame appropriately.

Shaking frames can damage brood as well, by jerking the out of position or in the case of pupae, damaging wings or other developing parts.

Developing supersedure or swarm cell queens can be harmed by handling frames carelessly as well.

Most beekeepers lean combs up against the hive while working and this is okay as long as the sun does not shine in on larvae or winds do not dry them out.  Larvae are very vulnerable to sun and desiccation.  Only a few minutes out of the nest in wind and sun can kill or damage open brood.

Today looks like a good day to get outside and work on bees.  If I work through hives, I need patties, though, and maybe this is a good excuse to go for a drive. 

So far, I have only fed an average of four patties per hive and the patties are being eaten rapidly in most hives.  I have been slow in keeping patties on the hives, and many of the best hives ran right out once and I don't want that to happen again.  Bees eat Global's patties all spring, and unless the hive is plugged with pollen, it is wise to keep patties near the brood.

I don't have the numbers handy, but I seem to recall that a good colony can require a pound of pollen a day, so we cannot assume that a frame or two will last forever -- or through a cold rainy week. 

Nurse bees store protein in their bodies as a reserve and can raise and feed brood when no pollen is available, but it is hard on them and cannot continue long.

Hives that eat their patties quickly can be ignored for now unless I want to reverse or split them, but, of course any hive not consuming patties as fast as the others is a prime candidate for a closer inspection and remedial action.

I can see now that I have booked up my spring. I had plans to go east to see Mom and to go west to spend time on my boat, and I will, but I also have to be here to deal with the bees and to sell them, plus work on the property and equipment.  I have forklift to get back to or replace and two buildings with wind damage.

I drove to Airdrie and got ten boxes of 15% patties from Mike.  I would have preferred 25%, but that was what he had on short notice.   They are on my truck..  Now I have to feed them to the bees.

I also did a little shopping while there.  It was a good way to start the day and I was back by noon.  I usually don't get out to do much before noon, so I did not lose an yard time.

This new van makes the trip enjoyable, and I priced the cost of the trip by refilling the van -- $21.  Not bad.  That is, of course, approximate.

It used to cost me $6 to drive to Calgary back in the seventies.  Calgary is ten miles south of Airdrie, so basically the cost has not changed!

I went out and spent about two hours reversing hives ahead of the coming warm weather.  In that time, I managed to do 13 hives.  The progress is a bit slow since I am changing floors and scraping top and bottom bars now while the hives are not overflowing with bees as much as they will be in two weeks. 

I would not worry about that much except that I am selling hives and they need to have clean top and bottom bars for easy splitting and management.  Ladder comb between boxes encourages the queens to go up and down, and gaps discourage that movement, but these hives will be inspected frame by frame before they go out of the yard and it is easier to do that with clean top and bottom bars.  Scraping is easier now than later when  I am under time pressure.

Why reverse?

  • To estimate the feed left in each box and identify boxes plugged with feed (and put them below)

  • To spread brood vertically without moving frames

  • To get the brood spread between two or three boxes in advance of splitting

  • To get the bottoms of brood frames occupied and drawn

  • To stimulate the bees to rearrange the stores and make room for brood

  • To put the feed super on the bottom to get granulated honey out of the brood frames and moved up as liquid feed

  • To get down to the floors to change or scrape them

  • To move the hives onto fresh ground to inconvenience ants and allow the grass to grow

Note.  I always split onto a newly scraped floor in front of or beside where the hive presently stands.  I only lift each box once unless I have to shuffle them.

Note: I am using three brood chambers on most hives. Where I am using two, the same applies, but I am moving a heavy top box down to the bottom and not shuffling three. If the top box is light, there is less reason to reverse, but it still may be useful to address the other issues reversing addresses.

I'm headed back out to finish this group.

As I went out, Marshall, the consignment dealer, texted me to say that the previous owner had (finally) brought in the manuals and owner package. I said I had to finish some work, but might still make it over today.

I finished, and there are now 18 hives in the Quonset West group, reversed, and all on floors on grocery pallets.  One of the hives is in wood boxes and survived the winter unwrapped in two boxes.  It is of average strength.

I still had time to drive to Linden to get the package, so I did.  Driving around is a pleasure in this van, so far, and I am much less inclined to speed.  I am happy at the wheel and in no rush to get anywhere. 

I am discovering that Sirius satellite radio is less impressive than I recall.  Nothing has changed much in their programming, so I assume it is me, not them.

You can discover what your enemy fears most
by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
Eric Hoffer

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Tuesday April 28th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

The forecast for the coming week looks quite settled, so we can expect the bees to brood up and boom a month from now.

Today is the day I thought I should start queens if I was going to do so. Will I?  I have not prepared a cell builder or polished cells and found eggs, so if I do, it will be from a standing start.

I have been overestimating my ambition and find that I am averaging half of what I expect each day.  Some days are better, some not.

Here is what is on my plate between now and July 1st.

  • enjoy life

  • entertain friends

  • repair two buildings

  • manage and split bees

  • sell bees and assist the buyers

  • work on the yard

  • haul junk to the dump

  • deal with my older vans

  • oil change for truck

  • do basement work

  • do housework

  • spend another week on Cassiopeia

  • visit Mom

My timeline is vague.  I never did have a good sense of time and right now I have given up on trying to fit things into boxes on a calendar.  With a mind to deadlines, which I seem to always meet, I have decided just to live each day as it comes. 

My philosophy has always been to stay open to changing circumstances, rather than to try to impose my schedule on the flow.  When opportunity knocks, I say, "Come on in.", not, "Come back later." and as a result I make sudden turns and reverses.

This van purchase was one such opportunity that broke the flow.  I have wanted a T&C Limited for years now and they don't come along cheap very often, especially with running boards and every option. I wanted a later model, but I did not want to pay the additional $20K to move up a few years.

At any rate, at this point, I'll just keep going in the right direction and do what seems to make sense at the moment.

I just did a spreadsheet on the new van and found that it appears the trip computer lies about fuel economy.  It was indicating about 10 litres per 100 km but from my fuel purchases so far for the same stretch of road, it looks more like 15 litres per 100 km.  That is a huge difference!  This will bear watching.  I wonder if the previous owner was using premium fuel?  Bill says that makes a difference.  It did not on my other vans.

I thought I'd be outside by 0800 today and almost was, but there is always some little thing that holds me up.  It is now 0915 and I am going for a walk to see what is up out there.

Well, I got out for a few minutes, but not shortly after, the wind was gusting up to 22 MPH, making outdoor work unpleasant. 

This may be a good time to do some housework.  I really need to vacuum again and do some wiping and floor mopping here and there.  I also have to figure out how to pay three different taxes online.

I could not resist and went out to straighten out the Quonset Yard.  I had moved the hives onto pallets and in the process, reversed some of them.  After finishing, they looked higgledy-piggledy and also needed to be moved a bit more to allow access to the Quonset when I work on it. 

At the time, I could not move them in one move as far as they need to go without totally confusing them.  As it was, I took some risks, but no harm seems to have come of it.

Today, I set up level pallets close to each four-pack and moved the hives across box-by-box onto fresh floors, re-reversing them. I added lots of patties, too. 

What is coming clear is that the previous reversing did no good--  and no apparent harm -- and I found that the boxes were easy to handle because I had scraped them on the previous move.

I stated earlier in the forum that there are few good reasons to open hives and I am increasingly coming to see that the best beekeeping I did this year was going away after August and not touching them until April, then being on my boat this spring instead of being here molesting my colonies.

Such work disturbs the bees considerably and they were getting a bit cross, so I came in to give them time to reorient and settle.

I was only out an hour or so, and I did eight eight hives in that time.  It seemed like hours (pleasant hours) while out there, but the clock disagrees. I attribute this to Einstein's Theory of Relativity. 

(After all, Internet scuttlebutt has it that Einstein knew about bees and linked human survival to the fate of the bees and if it is on the Internet, it must be true.)

On the radio, they are saying we may have beaten a ninety-year-old high temperature record for today's date.

I went out again and finished the yard.  All that is left is cleanup. 


Current Hive Count

Quonset West Yard - 18 hives

Quonset Yard - 23

North Yard - 16

South of the Hedge - 12

Total - 69

While in the Caribbean, Frank's dinghy outboard was acting up to the point where it would barely run.  He had tried fuel stabilizer and it did not help.  Stabilizer is supposed to prevent such problems, but has no cleaning action.

I recommended a carburetor cleaner and helped him pick out the right one. The motore then ran better and improved continuously.  After the first half-hour it was back to normal, and stayed that way.

My yard truck has been running really badly lately and I was thinking I'd have to change spark plugs, but I happened to think of adding some carb cleaner, so i got some Wynn's Gas Treatment on a faint hope.  It was not my first choice as there are products better targeted to the job, but that was all the Wal-mart had.  I added soem to the fuel, and today, the truck is running much, much better. That truck sits unused a lot and never goes o the road, and maybe the gas is old.  Anyhow, it is much better now, all for $3 worth of additive.

I am quite delighted.

Anything free is worth what you pay for it.

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Wednesday April 29th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

The last two nights have been warm enough that my furnace has been off.  That is a good sign that the bees are not struggling to keep warm, and that means that even smaller colonies will be booming soon.  Three weeks from warm weather, brood emerges and can double the colony size almost overnight. 

The fresh yellow pollen coming in makes a big difference, too..

From now on we will have a succession of pollens.  The weather, though, will vary and a cold snap is almost certain before summer.

We are moving up the curve to warmer averages and less bitter extremes, but anything can happen, and I can recall going to the Calgary Stampede in July wearing ski clothes, not the usual shorts and tee, and I recall 3" of snow on the road near Cochrane on one August long weekend.

I don't really have any pressing work to do on the hives today.

We are now eight weeks from my target delivery date for the hives I am selling and nine weeks from the normal beginning of the main flow.

I could try making queens or just wait a week or two and let nature handle things.  By then, at least a third should be ready to split.  It would be nice to have some cells to use, but...

I do have the long-neglected forklift to try to resurrect and the mess in the south yards to deal with, and I could be making up brood chambers.  With 60+ splits to make up, I will need some.  I could split the triples and doubles into singles, but splits always do better with more room under, especially if they are heavy.

I also have the buildings to deal with, grass to cut, and the garbage trailer to hook up and load....

*   *   *   *   *

I've sold a lot of hives and it will be interesting to see how many I have left after supplying my orders.  I hope I have not overdone it.

I have been wanting to get out from under all the bee work, though and this is how to do it -- have fewer hives.

I've been scraping the back of my mind trying to recall the slick trick I mentioned here last year for splits.  I have 'turtle recall' but it finally came back.

The trick is to graft into cell cups, but then insert one into each new split to ensure the bees start a queen, and that she is from selected stock.  I may try it. 

Doing things this way, you also know where the cell is and won't wreck it pulling frames looking for cells as can be the case when walk-away splits are made without adding a cell.

Another method that predetermines the cell location is to find a frame with hatching eggs and break down the bottom of one or more cells to encourage building there.

Queens are raised in vertical cells and otherwise, to use a larva in a horizontal worker cell,  bees have to float the larvae out of the horizontal cell on a bed of feed. When, instead, the lower side of the worker cell is broken down by the beekeeper, the bees will build a vertical cell right there because they can build straight down without the bother of building outwards first.  That is the story.  I have not tried it.

*   *   *   *   *

Right now, I am looking back over what I did last year on this date. I had just returned from the Easter Flotilla on the West Coast. 

I see that if I want to use my boat before the end of June, I have to go out soon.

Here are some high points:

  • I had 53 hives at this time last year.

  • We did not have the hot weather of recent days last year.

  • I was thinking or reversing and this year I have already reversed quite a few hives.

  • I was also looking at a backlog of housework, just as I am now.

  • I was trying out CPAP.  By now, I have decided that I usually do not need it.

  • I was thinking of fixing the forklift.  Still not done!

*   *   *   *   *

To Calgary beekeepers today:

We always just nailed our boxes. Screws may be better, but only if you plan to drop the boxes often. Otherwise, nails hold just fine and the vast majority of boxes in commercial (heavy) use are nailed. Screws are comparatively expensive and slow.

Galvanized nails are best. Drilling is wise if the pieces are dried out, and especially in the thin wood at the rabbet. As mentioned, clamps can help, but are not usually necessary. As well as tube clamps, bar clamps work well. http://www.lowes.ca/search/bar-clamp.html?linkloc=sbar&iterm=bar-clamp

One big problem with wood boxes is that wood expands and contracts across the grain quite a bit, especially when new, and that affects the bee space between boxes. EPS boxes do not have that problem. EPS does not expand and shrink, just one more reason I recommend EPS for brood boxes.

A standard frame is (or should be) 9-/8" high and the vertical space between frames in a stack of boxes should be between 3/16" and 3/8", but various manufacturers make boxes as much as 3/4" too tall, resulting in a huge gap, which discourages the queen from going up and down, and lots of burr comb unless the boxes are trimmed to 9-1/2".

(Different manufacturers make the rabbets (frame rests) of varying depths causing varying gaps if different box makes are combined on a hive even if the boxes themselves are the same height.)

Trimming wood boxes to height requires a table saw and the quandary is knowing if the wood will shrink more after assembly since the parts often arrive damp. If in doubt, it may be best to wait until the box has been in service a while before trimming if necessary.

I have been feeling crappy this past week, with headaches and mind fog.  I blame the wine I drank at last week's supper.  I didn't think I drank that much, but it really hit me and I still don't feel myself almost a week after. I should try to find that bottle and take a good look at it.

We worry about the ingredients in the foods we eat and read the labels carefully, but with wine and liquors, the ingredients are not on the label and we take it on faith that nothing noxious is in the recipe.  From time to time, we have heard horror stories about what is incorporated in these products.

I think I should restrict my drinking to coffee and water.  Maybe I will.

I'm cleaning the entry and working through the house. 

Halfway through the entry, i was tired, so I lay down and had an excellent afternoon nap.

I am feeling better tonight.  I vacuumed after supper and am making progress in my housework. 

It has been quite a week, beginning last Friday  with a sore jaw, then visual disturbances and a foggy mind. As the sore jaw faded, I noticed a slight sore knee. 

During the whole time, I experienced a lack of ambition and what I can only describe as vagueness, and as the knee got better, I noticed a slight sore back today. 

I did manage to get a few things done this week, however.

Nonetheless, I can see that this week broke my stride and that my plans are a bit vague.  If I am going to go for another week on Cassiopeia, I had better go next week.  After that, come home and split like crazy, then head east for a while and let the bees recover.  Then come back and get ready to sell the bees.

Life is an unbroken succession of false situations.
Thornton Wilder

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Thursday April 30th 2015

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

We had rain last night, but not a lot.  If we believe the forecast, there is good bee weather expected this week.  The winds we have been experiencing recently , however, continue. 

Too bad I am not into kite surfing.  My friends have been having end-to-end fabulous kite days at Keho.  For me, it is a three-hour drive each way and I don't have aboard.  I do have a big kite, but no experience on water.  Snow, yes, but not water.  I doubt my dry suit still fits, too, and the water is cold these days.  If I do go, it will have to be in summer.

I woke up early at 0525, and got a good start on the day, but by 0830 I could not keep my eyes open and went back to bed and fell into a deep sleep.  I slept an hour.

Tonight, I have company for supper, but a small group this time, and today I still have to figure out how to pay those taxes online.

There is quite a bit of participation among the regular in the forum these days.  However, for some reason, we are not getting a lot of new posters. 

I decided that maybe folks are intimidated and set up a new section in the forum especially for beginner questions the other day.

Please consider registering and joining in if you find it interesting.  When doing so, though, please use your real name.  It makes conversation much more natural than using pseudonyms and is much more likely to result in real friendships.

People need to know where you live to understand your beekeeping.

Pseudonyms and skip handles are suited to outlaws and people ashamed of themselves or hiding something.  That should not be the case here. 

At one time, usernames were restricted to a few characters and some still use abbreviated IDs.  I have several legacy usernames, but use my full name where permitted these days.

If you do choose to use a pseudonym as a username for consistency with your identity elsewhere, please put your name real details in your user profile, (unless you really are ashamed of who you are and where you live.)

I cooked supper and my friends came by.  Joe had been in Calgary to pick up queens at the airport and they turned out to be Saskatraz queens raised by Olivarez.  He had lots, so left me 18. 

That really changes my plans. 

My friends look out for me.  I think I got carried away and sold too many hives this spring to be able to count on just splitting and walking away.  If I want to have any hives left over, I will have to split early and use queens for the early splits, and these queens make that possible.  Looking at the weather predicted for the next few days,  I should be able to split fairly ambitiously.

We had eight at the table, plus a 18-month old.

The meal was

Wings (a honey garlic recipe I found on the 'net in 2011)

Chicken legs in tomato and mushroom sauce


Brown rice

Buttered cabbage

Steamed mixed vegetables

Bean salad

Ice cream

Fruit salad (canned)

As often is the case, I cooked too much.  I am never sure how big appetites will be and I always hedge in case some dish turns out to be a failure.

Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur
Latin proverb

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