Friday June 16th,
Gareth came in today. His wife is fine now, thank goodness. Ryan is still sick.
Steve headed north to Hustons' yard and phoned in that he was stuck, I think he would have liked some help, but it is an hour's drive up there and I had discussed tire chains with him that very morning. He had not taken a set along. I told him to let down the tires and drive out. He did, but returned at the end of the day muddy and tired.
He also returned with supers on the truck -- which is forbidden. We absolutely prohibit a driver who has driven 50 miles up the road from returning with any portion of his load which is needed in the region he visited, especially if we are going to have to make an extra trip on that account later. The rule is to unload the extra in a yard where they will be needed. I decided against taking the matter up until he is rested.
Ellen is off to Kenora to visit her university roommate tomorrow early. Ryan and Gareth are coming in to make up for lost time. I get to hold the fort. I'm a little overworked. I can tell when I start to worry too much and get picky about things that are really okay. I hope the weekend is relaxing. Usually I don't relax unless I get away. Staying here, I see unfinished or unstarted projects everywhere I look.
Writing gets low priority this weekend. Perhaps I'll fill in later.
We went out this morning at 6 AM (on the way to the airport) to find frost on the windshield. There was no weather warning. That's just how it happens here in central Alberta. Ten months of winter and two months of poor skiing. Only those in the East think this is the year to prove Global Warming exists. For those of us out here, things have been running at least two degrees Celsius below normal. We're expecting another Ice Age.
I drove Ellen to the airport and stopped at Glen Bishell's fly-in breakfast. I was in a car, but had a chance to see the guys I know from Indus, Edmonton, and the Calgary club. Makes me want to put my plane back together.
On the way back, I stopped at some bee yards and looked things over. The hives look good for the most part and are ready for pollination. The bees were flying from both auger holes on most. I see some bees in the top boxes -- and the hives are four high measured from the pallet. We want them all the same height for the move. Some have two supers and some have three, since some are double brood chambers and some are singles.
We keep a few inches of feed in the drums to give them some stimulation and to gauge the flow conditions. I noticed that the bees were now interested in the drums, although they had ignored them for the past few weeks. I gather the willow, carragana and dandelion flows are now completely over. The alfalfa is still at least a week off, although volunteer canola is blooming some places.
After that I ran up to Three Hills to get some 2 x6s for my steps. I forgot my wallet and realised it only when I went to get a snack at the convenience store. Fortunately the lumber yard knows me and just wrote the purchase down for billing later.
That's the nice thing about a small town. My wife can drive into the gas station and say "Fill'er up", then just drive away when done, knowing they mark it down and bill monthly. It surprises city friends though when there is no mention of payment. Unfortunately, the people at the convenience store turn over constantly and no one knows me there, so I said nothing and went away hungry.
I worked some more on my deck, the steps and the windows and visited Flo and Maurice for supper, then watched a movie or two on satellite TV in the evening. The place is much different with Ellen away.
Adony called to say he is coming out to finish looking at the hives in his experiment. He brought along a book on statistics and also some software to look at. It is extremely important to understand Stats in today's world, since all knowledge these days revolves around studies. Untrained human intuition is simply not able to grasp the kind of truths that come out of science.
I remember how calculus and linear algebra changed my world many years ago. These tools opened new doors of understanding and analysis. I got a a spattering of statistics at that time, but never fully understood the subtleties.
Over the years I have carefully gathered data from fairly large tests, such as in wintering treatments, but was never confident in trying to extract the message from the data due to the variations in success rates (noise) that may have come from outside factors. Hopefully I can learn to use these tools. I am always astounded to see how trained scientists can extract knowledge and trends from data that would make me scratch my head and say that the data is just too random to mean anything. It's either Black Magic or Science. I'm gonna find out which.
Adony is on his way to start work at Beaverlodge tomorrow, but took time to finish measuring the hives and hopefully we will have some results analysed soon. Currently, the dark foundation seems to lead the white foundation and black Pierco, but trail the drawn comb hives. The foundation hives are now showing more chalkbrood.
I received my first swarm call today, and fortunately it was along Adony's way north, so he took some brood chambers and plans to catch the swarm for me, since it is 50 miles north of here.
I have wondered if we will see much swarming since it has been such a cool spring. There's my answer -- maybe. Actually the bees are looking really good. The reason is that they have had enough good weather to get pollen and nectar, but not enough to wear themselves out chasing poor sources.
Ryan and Gareth were supposed to be at work this morning, since they lost some time last week and have not made their 40 hours. Neither showed, but at least Gareth phoned and will be in later. I called Ryan and he was of the opinion that we had agreed to his taking the day to get new glasses. We did not. I think he has a listening problem.
I'm afraid I am just too good to these guys and now they are taking advantage of my good nature. What can I do?
Here's what. I drove down to Drum to get the tarps and on the way I got to dreaming. My horoscope yesterday says to go ahead and dream, so I'm doing just that. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of horoscopes, but this particular web horoscope has been interesting and I have found it to be eerily 'on' 95 times out of 100 (wink). I sometimes visit after a particularly trying incident to confirm my decisions, not make them. It it is really nice when I call it up and see that I have learned one of Life's lessons after a particularly trying experience - or not. Mostly, it councils moderation at times that a younger me would have nuked someone into rubble.
Here's what I dreamed (It's an ad).
Everyone showed up for work this morning looking good. Matt, Ryan, and Steve went out and finished supering and straightening all the yards. Gareth continued working with Marcus to get the truck and trailer tarps ready to go.
To answer my own question of yesterday, I think maybe I am asking too much, but then that is why we rate high on the scale. Fortunately, I think I know when I am getting to close to the edge and can usually back off without causing permanent damage to relationships. There is a thin line between being an inspiring boss with high standards that earn respect and bring out qualities that employees did not know they had, and becoming a Captain Bligh. It is not hard to cross that line under pressure, but it is very hard to recover from such a mistake. Memories are long and unforgiving.
As it turned out, Ryan had scheduled a doctor's appointment and discovered he has a mild hernia that will require surgery soon. Knowing that prevents his overexerting and doing damage in the meantime. He is still able to work, but now lifts one empty super, not two. We are also able to shift him over to lighter tasks like driving. I think, though that a little more communication would have helped here. He had never advised us that he was experiencing any pain or we would have sent him to a doctor immediately. We regularly discuss lifting and the dangers of overexertion in safety sessions. The workers Compensation Board states that for young workers the two most common causes of injuries on the job -- even in offices -- occur from attempting to lift too much and from falling objects.
Apparently, Gareth had not been home taking care of the kids or sitting by her bedside grief struck as I had been led to believe during his wife's illness, but rather running her business in her absence. I am certainly not favourably impressed by that, since it appears he let my business suffer and fall behind at this critical period. Fortunately, we have learned over the years not to rely on anyone too much, and although we are one day behind, we are close to being on track and could even suffer more absences and get the job done on time -- and right. Moreover, he did come in on his scheduled days off to do what he could to make up lost time and came close to making his quota. He'll take a hit in his bonuses for the shortcoming, but he is satisfied with that, we did not suffer any irreparable setback, and we did get the matter resolved to both our satisfactions.
We never penalize anyone on base wages, however there is a performance bonus paid hourly for following instructions, being on time, and not missing work during critical times. There is also a production bonus pool based on loads of honey produced, hives wrapped for winter, etc. For the latter bonus each employee accumulates Eligible Bonus Hours. After the season, these hours are totalled and each person's share is figured on his portion of the total eligible hours.
These EBHs are only calculated on hours in days where there are no lates (not even one minute) or unauthorized absences, and on weeks with forty hours or more, or months with sufficient hours to equal the total expected if every week had forty hours. This encourages everyone to put in a full work week or make up the time promptly.
That is important, since we have learned we are much more efficient using a minimum number of different people a on each job to minimize the amount of time we spend bringing one another up to speed. With long work days and fewer people, we spend a lot less time in meetings and supervision and get more done. We also are able to pay higher wages due to the efficiencies of having committed, knowledgeable staff with defined responsibilities. Except for repetitive jobs requiring little skill, part-timers are not worthwhile due to the management, training and communication burden per hour worked.
I got a call today from the bee inspector from our major pollination customer announcing that he intends to come by and evaluate hives tomorrow. His stated intention is to open 10% of the hives to count frames of bees and brood. I am not at all happy to hear that since we just put all our supers on and are hoping they are being glued together prior to moving. Moreover our hives are spread over 100 miles of country and I have not the time to accompany him to all of them.
The day before moving is already about the most stressful
of the year. I had scheduled the day for dealing with all the
tiny details of switching our focus and our equipment over from working
locally on hive management to highway travel and efficient delivery,
and for loading the first loads to shake out any bugs in our system.
It promises to be along day even without the visit.
Besides... the strongest hives will be in the Lomond
sites in several days -- within a few miles of one another and available
for easy evaluation. We are also not at all happy with the fact that
we have not been present at or received a report of our status immediately
after each inspection in the past. Last August, we heard vague
and unquantified references to several possible deficiencies.
That was long after the time we could have determined their cause or
rectified them, and I am still sore about that.
We spent the day as planned, changing oil and filters, getting new tires, installing the tarps, and eventually loading. There are presently four trucks sitting outside ready to go tomorrow morning. Two have 40 hives each and pull either the holiday trailer or the forklift and two are full units with a truck and trailer carrying 80 hives each. The total is 240 hives and that is 80 above the number requested for the day. So, we will start off ahead of schedule -- just the way I like to be.
Allan came by and did a professional, job of checking the hives, using a frame counting system that returned results that were consistent with our own rating, and the operation did not disturb the hives excessively. After a few yards, I was delighted to find that our ratings matched his -- actually we were a bit more conservative -- and I gave him my maps and our internal rating sheet and my blessings and sent him on his way. We have been promised his result sheet immediately when he is done, and I am pleased. As you can see by the fact that you are reading this, I like level playing fields, full disclosure and transparency where possible. I hate secrecy, codes, and deception..
Of course it started to rain as soon as we were ready to load. That is good, since we can start early, but it also presents muddy or soft conditions which can get us stuck. In each of the last two years, we have had problems with deep mud in Lomond, a normally dry area. More on this later. As I write this, it is 2:53 AM Thursday morning and we start rolling at 5:30.
Everyone is excited and it was hard to decide who got to go on the first trip. We settled on me, Steve, Ryan, and the new guy, Ken. (Ken showed up a day early today and we put him to work on servicing trucks. He did well).
We promised the others a chance to drive later if all the various preparation tasks are complete. For some reason, no matter how long we had to get some basic things done before pollination, we still have a few things that have did not get finished in time. The CB radios are one, and they are very important when moving. Another is the last truck, a truck that represents a $13,500 investment so far, and still requires three days work to get on the road.
We headed south at about 6 AM. Everyone showed up promptly at 5, but by the time we sorted everything out and found the cell phones and got the CBs working, it was 6.
We got the corner 3 miles east and stopped for a walk-around. As I got out I noticed the holiday trailer was lurching as it came to a stop behind the last truck in the group. We discovered that the trailer brakes were wired to the truck turn signal wire. The guys had checked it out at home, but not thoroughly enough. Ken just had to avoid using the signals. No problem. we just put him into the 'rocking chair' between the rest of us.
We start off slow and speed up as we get used to the rigs on the first day. I was driving the truck with the newly installed diesel engine and had to watch the revs and temperature. It got up to the 'a' in 'Normal' once or twice on grades and I thought that was plenty warm and backed off a bit.
When we passed the Gleichen turnoff, I got a call from Steve that he had just blown a trailer tire and was uncertain if he could roll up to where we stopped. I fortunately was at a cross-over between the four lanes and looped back to see.
The tread had all stripped off the back trailer wheel, but the casing was intact. We checked for spares and found we had none. I said to just decrease speed to 80 km/hr or less and lead us. we'd see how it lasted. We had about 75 miles yet to go.
The morning drivers have only limited control of what is on their trucks, since they are running against the sun and have limited time until the bees start to fly. Although I had insisted on spare tire carriers and spares for both trucks and trailers, spare tires for the trailers somehow did not get mounted the night before. The night crew is supposed to ensure oil and fuel and tires are checked and that in the morning a turn of the key is be all that is necessary to get on the road.
The tires we use are 10 ply and very tough. This one was getting near the end of its life. We strip the truck tires periodically and use them on a trailer when they get down to 35% tread or so. Losing a trailer tire is no big deal, since the trailers are only running at half rating and also the suspension is such that the wheels do not hit the pavement if the tire strips away entirely. Not that we want to lose a tire.
Just before we got to Cluny, the road got rough. The Trans-Canada needs work and this is one spot that is pretty bad. Steve's tire was holding out, but even at 50 MPH, his back row shifted a bit and some bees hit my windshield periodically from then on. We did not lose many, but since the day was breaking a few did fly out. I'm considering some netting at the back, but don't care for nets since the bees that come out are often dead when they arrive anyhow, and those that are not are extremely mean.
Our travel was a bit slower than usual but we got all the way to the pollination location on the bad tire. By then it was 9 AM and the bees were starting to fly. We parked the trucks on the spots where they were to unload and then returned to unload them one by one. It was 11 by the time we were done, and warm and sunny, but no harm is done, since the bees were on their locations before flying started in earnest and all go into hives when they are put down.
We drove back via Vulcan and on the way I noted that one of the diesels was smoking heavily. They should look like coal burners when labouring, but not when they are running empty on the level.
All in all the trip took about ten hours, since we fooled around a bit and stopped at Badger Lake to drop off the holiday trailer and spare truck there. I have since reconsidered and think we should keep the trailer nearer our pollination fields.
We delivered 240 hives using four trucks and two of our big trailers. We also took down the green forklift and the holiday trailer.