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Friday March 3, 2000

I've intended to write a diary for some time, and now I've made a start. We'll see how long this inspiration lasts.

Spring is getting near. The pond is showing signs of melting and we put away the hockey sticks today. The snowmobile is next, although we have often had good dumps of snow even into May. Hard to say, the weather varies so much from year to year. Be that as it may, we usually see run-off from the fields filling the pond within a week of March 17th -- St. Patrick's day -- and our daughter's birthday.

The sun is getting much stronger and higher. We now have light from 7AM until 6:45PM or so. Not too long ago, it was dark from 8 in the morning to 5 at night. We are getting more light and heat in our east and west windows, and less from the south. In mid-winter, though, we get a lot of warmth in the south windows, since the sun only gets up 16 degrees off the horizon on Dec 21st. In summer, the sun never shines into south windows; it is so far north that it shines on our north exterior walls in early morning.

The bees? Well, we haven't been out to see them for about a month now. At that time, we looked at one yard and visited several others. We opened two twenty packs of singles to check them and to give them some fondant that we are testing. Frankly, I was disappointed with the singles; they were a bit weak, and losses were higher than they should be. The singles in question were hives that had been run as singles all season under excluders.

Singles vs. Doubles: We found that we got considerably more honey in the past several seasons from singles than from doubles, but also that they were harder to manage spring and fall than the doubles we normally run.  The problem is one of either starvation or plugging, and the problems associated with putting pollen patties or grease patties onto the hives.  In the spring, a super is needed much earlier than with doubles, and there is no room for patties under or over the excluder; patties need to be adjacent to the brood to work.  At both times, it is hard to get enough feed in the form of syrup into a single and still, have room for bees.  Needless to say -- but I will repeat -- under no circumstances does one wish to get syrup into the supers.

The doubles in the same yard, on the other hand looked much better and had few losses.  We noted some shortage of feed and will have to get out earlier than some years to tend to them.  they may be okay for now, since they consume little feed when not rearing brood, but once the weather warms, they eat a lot .  we've been investigating using fondant as an emergency bee feed.  I fed sugar syrup to a few yards really early (March) one year and decided that it was a waste.  I could not see any difference between the yards I had fed and those I had not, except that I had spent a few hundred dollars on the ones with syrup.  We're hoping that fondant will provide subsistence feed for those hives that need it without burning them out.

The fondant is like stiff creamed honey in consistency and is fed in plastic bags immediately above the cluster.  We have verified that the constituents are not toxic to bees, and have reports from other beekeepers who have tried using it.

Saturday March 4th, 2000

The weather is mild today, around 5 degrees C.  It's been nice lately, running above average.  We really only had one cold week in the minus twenties and touching minus thirty this winter.  We're promised a bit of snow, and Lake Louise reports 4 cm new; I'm wrestling with whether to go snowboarding tomorrow or not. I've been out about ten times this winter.  That's more than last year, but nothing like when I was a Ski Patroller or doing my instructor's courses for skiing and snowboard.

It's Saturday, and a day without interruptions.  During the past week, we have been doing yard cleanup and working on installing the repower kit into one of our Swingers.  The new Kubota diesel looks good, but there is still at least, optimistically,  two days work to get things ready to roll.  We also have the engines out of two of our diesel trucks, so reassembling them will be the next mechanical task.  Not only that, Steve bent the ram on the Swinger we use to remove snow and move dirt, so that will have to be fixed too.  

Meantime, the date approaches for our first check of the bees; feeding may be required in some cases.  We still have extender and pollen patties to make, but we have syrup on hand ready to go, and fondant ready to use.  We have five people working plus El & me, but we could use more, but I hate to think of the demands on my time that each additional helper adds and am reluctant to hire until we have to.

There is also the small matter of the books to finish from last year and cash flows to prepare.  I got started on that last night, and I may get some more done this weekend.  The T4s are out, and that's a relief, but I updated to QuickBooks 2000 Pro just at the time I was doing the final payroll figures (I know better) and I must say that it has not been a smooth transition from the previous version.  Hopefully the worst is behind.

I guess it's time to stop procrastinating and get back to the books...  (later)...   Well, I did get some of that done, but then I found the photos Lloyd sent, and got to working on the Ross Rounds site and then Don Turner, a former commercial beekeeper neighbour called and asked if I'd like to go flying.  I said 'Yes', and there went the rest of the afternoon.  We flew over to Drum and back.  Then El & I drove down to Turner's for supper.

  Don & His Cessna (He rebuilt it, himself)   Landing at Three Hills   Ellen

Sunday March 5th, 2000

Well, I got off to a good start finishing off the Ross Rounds site -- at least for now -- and then got to cleaning up accumulated debris from years of deskwork.  Sorting paper is always a precursor to getting the books done: there is always something missing that is at the bottom of some drawer or pile of paper that is essential to finishing the job.  It's obvious how enthused I am about the books.  I hear there is a half foot of powder in the Rockies and they are saying on the radio the highways are bad.  May have to go to Fortress mountain in the morning to help pack down that fresh snow.

It's amazing how long it takes to clean up.  I don't even remember having made this mess.

Tuesday March 7th, 2000

What happened to Monday?  I don't know.  This bookwork is like wading through mud.  I got some more cleanup done, and, yes, I did get some cash flow work done.

Sunday night, we got the snow alright, and now we have at least six inches of soft white snow on the ground, so the outside work has to wait a bit and we are all working indoors.  I hear there is lots more in the mountains.

I did not go snowboarding Monday, and at the present rate, I doubt I will -- for a while at least in spite of the best snow of the entire season so far.  It's almost Wednesday, and the week is slipping by.  The work keeps getting done, but I'm planning to go to the Ontario pollination meeting next Monday and have to get everything out of the way, since I'll be away for a few days.

The front shaft on the snowmobile is broken.  We got the SkiDoo in case we need to get into the bee yards, but so far haven't needed to.  I remember years when the bees starved in remote yards because we got a late snowfall that kept us out until April. So, we run it around to practice the necessary skills, and  I guess someone hit something.  

The Swinger repower is still not together, and the wiring burnt out on another Swinger the other day.  Seems someone left a pipe nipple on top of the engine and it fell, shorting out the alternator stud that connects to the battery.  The resulting short burnt the harness.  There is no fusible link in these machines.  We had noticed that and rewired another of the units with breakers in that same lead, but had not gotten to altering this machine in time.

The neighbours were over for supper last night and we had a good visit.  they have some bees in BC and are heading out there later in the week to check and feed.

So far there isn't much in this diary about bees, but this is beekeeping the way it happens -- around here anyhow.

Wednesday March 8th, 2000

Another dull day.  Temps are around freezing and below. 

 Outdoor work has stopped.  Matt & Ryan are fixing the snowmobile and the Swinger with the bent ram is now okay and ready to push snow again. Shannon continues to assemble frames -- about 4,000 done so far, I guess.  6,000 to go.  Steve is repairing supers and rewiring the Swinger with the melted harness.  

Gareth is working with DaVon making the 2 new trailers.  The axles are late coming.  We're going with the rubber ride type this time: I'm told they don't throw the load around the way that springs do.  Hope not.  

Me?  well, I'm running around and getting the cash flow done.  Slow work, and oh, yes, the man from AFRD came today to get financial data for the statistical analysis that the economists use to show the governments that the farmers are broke.  Or not.  There went pretty well the entire morning.

I got my ticket for Toronto today and a car rental for the pollination meeting coming up in Simcoe Ontario,  I've never been that far south in Ontario unless you count a quick trip through Windsor & Detroit on the way to Texas one rainy night many years ago..  I grew up in Sudbury and almost moved to the Simcoe region (Port Coburne) when I was a kid, but my dad refused the promotion, partly due to the lack of enthusiasm from the family.  Too bad, maybe, in retrospect.  There are nice beaches down there on Lake Erie and the area is actually south of the northernmost part of California.

I hope to get the planning done this week and order some package bees.  We've decided that we can't always count on splitting in the spring to get our numbers back up after winter loss.  Some years it works, but others we find that it affects the crop too much.  Pollination has been good to us, but hard on our bees.  After the first year we've found that the bees are not nearly as good as if they had been on good pasture.

The trick to keeping numbers up is to make many small splits that build up in time to overwinter in large numbers to ensure adequate numbers the next year.  That can be tricky, since the idea is to make splits that are big enough to survive, but not so large that they produce honey the first year and plug up. 

We need packages this year to ensure that we don't weaken our hives too much.  We'll split up the worst hives to make increase, and also take a bit of brood from the strong hives around swarming time.  That does not seem to set them back at all, in fact it will sometimes make them come on faster since the queen lays all the cells in the replacement frames as fast as she can at that time of year.  

We have a fair bit of foundation to go in, and this can be the time to put a few frames right into the middle of the brood nest where they are drawn instantly -- if we call the game right.

Thursday March 9th, 2000

Well, I got quite a bit done on the differential cash flows, and it's still pretty clear that we need to buy 300 to 400 packages this year to avoid splitting too drastically and ensure the best use of our resources.

The crew spent most of the day repairing the snowmobile and doing general cleanup.  I got the finalization on my ticket and car rental for the pollination symposium in Ontario Monday.  Also finally got the internet phone answering service installed by Telus.  Now when I am on the net and someone calls, I get an indication and ID, and can choose to either answer, send the call to voicemail or forward the call

Friday March 10th, 2000

More of the same, except that Adony dropped by this afternoon to get started on some experiments he is doing this spring using some of our bees.  adonyThe picture is of Adony holding some AFB frames that some neighbours donated and which will supply the spores with which he will try to infect some of our colonies.  We would supply some ourselves, but since we started using extender patties, we have seen no AFB at all.  The boys started on some pollen substitute feeders like the ones Philpotts have been using, and also repaired a lot of supers.  We have 1000 or so sitting around not in use and we have to either repair them and use them, sell them, or burn them. We're using some for the pollen substitute feeders and the rest are being sorted and repaired.


Saturday March 11th, 2000 & Sunday March 12th, 2000

Flew to Toronto early this morning and drove out to see my cousin Don at his farm.  His brother Peter came by for a visit too. Stopped to see Aunt Ev on the way over to John's.  Visited John & Jill Holditch and their family.  Had a good visit.

Monday March 13th, 2000

Went to the Pollination Symposium.  Found it very worthwhile. Went to my cousin Jack Dick's place for the evening and stayed over.  Got there in time to celebrate Barb's birthday and to see Hugh and Ilona's new house.  Visited a bit in the morning and decided to fly home early. Had been feeling a little 'off' for the past several days.  Bit of a ticklish throat, and feeling dull.

Tuesday March 14th, 2000

Got home and found that the warm spell was over.  It was minus eleven at the airport and the car was covered with snow.  Got home about four.  Matt had finished the Swinger diesel conversion.  Sorting the old supers is going slowly.  I gather the guys are hoping that if they don't get it done, something else will come up and they will be spared.  Not so, I'm afraid.  It must be done, even if it means weekend work. Still feeling poorly: sore throat and groggy.

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