This does not look like a good day to work outside.
We did anyhow. Paulo got a truck ready for wrapping and then pulled some thirds off the home yard until it got too cold again.
Dennis and Dave moved boxes around and got the feeding trucks ready to go out again.
I went to Calgary in the afternoon to pick up the wax press and to get some engines for blowers.
Today..A few flurries changing to showers this morning. Wind
northwest 30 gusting 50 km/h diminishing to 20 this afternoon. High 4.
Dennis helped me set up the Fager and then went feeding. He was out until 8PM. We have fed almost all we can until we get the last thirds off. That part is going slowly because Klarence was away, and because the weather has been variable. Moreover, the thirds are so full that the frames are fat and and blowing them is a chore. We also can't carry as many on a truck as we do when they are lighter. Last year we were finished just about now, but we have at least 5 days left this year.
We set up the Fager in a temporary fashion to begin, since I had never seen one working. I bought it sight unseen after talking to a number of people, all with varying opinions. The Fager press consists of trapezoidal trough with an auger feeding part way up the centre from a hopper. Tracks like the treads on a caterpillar tractor form two sides. The trough is wider (about 10 inches) at the hopper (filling ) end and tapers toward the exit end which is only 2 inches wide. The auger carries wax up the trough and then the treads compress it. The honey oozes out along the treads and a solid block of wax is extruded from the small end. There is still some honey in the wax, but a lot of the honey comes out. The amount that comes out depends on how dry the material is when it goes in. If it is too squishy, some wax squeezes out the sides a bit too.
We were quite delighted with the Fager, but also have some reservations. We are feeding it the skimmings off our settling tank, and it seems to me that a bit more compression would give better results -- not that the results are bad. The wax is at least as dry as we got from the whirl-dry and there is much less work, waiting and fuss. I can see that we can also run our burr comb and the comb from broken frames through it, and should get lots of honey out.
We got a half drum or so of of honey out of the fairly dry-looking skimmings we put through and the wax output amounted to less than a half drum, so it is making money. We ran some of the wax through again a second time and got more honey the second trip, so I can see we need to learn more. One thing I noticed is that the track runs about twice as fast as I intuitively think it should, since honey needs time to escape from the pressed wax and the whole thing seems to run a bit fast; honey is still squeezing out right at the exit end. I wonder if the drive has been changed. Anyhow, I haven't had time to study it yet. Maybe there are some enhancements possible.
Paulo and Klarence went wrapping and did four yards. It was windy and cold, but they returned in a great mood. They moved a few hives around, put on entrance reducers, put on blue shop towels for menthol, refilled some feed drums and wrapped hives.
and I mounted a new
Honda GC 135 engine on one of the Dadant blowers and repaired the Stihl,
which had broken two bolts holding the rotor. The Honda GC 135 mounts
right up in place of the Briggs and Stratton, but is much quieter and rated a
bit higher too. The GC 135 is a home duty engine, though and has about
1/10th the rated life of the
GX 120, which costs only
$120 more. (Added later) The guys also report much reduced fuel consumption
compared to the Briggs engine.
Today..Cloudy. A few flurries developing this morning.
Becoming sunny this afternoon. Wind north 20 km/h. High minus 1.
Dennis went out to feed. He checked yards that had already been fed and topped them up. The hives are coming up to weight nicely, but there are still some light ones. We're just a week later this year and the weather is marginal for feeding, but just the same, the bees are emptying the drums.
I took the day off and -- between FRS radio conversations and phone calls with Dennis -- did some playing around at the computer. I got a CDRW the other day and now I did some backups that were long overdue and worked a bit on this site, changing some absolute references to relative ones so that I can put the site on CDROM (or move it to a new server). It runs much more quickly from a local copy, for those of us who are on a slow phone connection. I'm going to be speaking at the BC meeting in a little over a week and thought that this might be useful. Although I do always have a local copy with me on my notebook, any absolute references could embarrass me if I am running without internet hook-up.
Today..Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High 9.
Some time back, I mentioned that Joe and Oene had tried using 4.9 foundation by shaking some bees off normal foundation onto both Dadant 4.9 and some prototype plastic 4.9 that Dee Lusby sent us. The bees drew both types, but made uneven work of it. Here are some pictures of the wax foundation drawn as well as some plastic 4.9 foundation supplied by Dee Lusby.
Jean and Chris came for Thanksgiving supper and arrived for lunch. Chris and I went out and fed a few yards in the afternoon. We took the 4X4 with a 5-drum tank We also took along a pump, since draining by gravity is very slow, and I realize now that Dennis may have been using gravity alone. We did a loop east and down to Entice and found that the most yards had used their syrup and also that several yards are still quite light. Metzger's had not even touched its drum, so we poured a little syrup into each hive to -- hopefully -- get them started.
Nonetheless, the weights at Metzger's were quite okay and that's what we've found in the past; well-fed hives show much less interest in open drums of feed than the lighter ones. We also know that if one hive in the yard finds a drum of syrup, soon all the hives in the area know about it. They aren't much different from people that way.
The four of us -- Jean, Chris, Ellen and -- had a turkey supper and a quiet evening.
I've been working on this website and found that it has at least 50 broken internal links and who knows how many external ones. That is to be expected with a site like this with almost 2,900 files in it, but it is a lot of work to repair.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to northwest
30 km/h. High 10.
Jean and Chris left for home around nine.
Dave flew to Regina with his brother and Paulo went to Foremost for (Canadian) Thanksgiving. The weather looks good and hopefully we'll get some more supers off. I'd have like to take the day off, but Klarence is only available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and we are now behind where we were last year and the year before.
Klarence and Dennis came in today. They did The Carraganas and Gordons and got about 100 supers. Dennis reports that the syrup drizzling that Chris and I did at Metzgers on Sunday did the trick. The yard was very active in the feed drum when he checked on the way by.
I went to the Mill for supper.
Today..Sunny. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 9.
Weather looks promising for the next few days, and, if the forecast can be trusted, to the end of the week. I met the guys at the door this morning and said that we have to get the lead out. We'll be working non-stop until the last super is off and all the hives are fed. If that means working Saturday and Sunday, so be it. We've run past the deadline and there are still 932 boxes still to come in.
I've been nice and very patient, but the time for that is over. No more Mr. Nice Guy. We've missed some really nice days on weekends and good evenings because I'm too easygoing and I let the guys off easy. As a result, they have worked in less than ideal weather, then gone home just when the weather got nice. Beekeeping is simply not an 8 to 5, 5 day a week job.
We have only a few good feeding days left, and then it will be too late. The bees don't forage much when the days get short and the nights cold. Although bees will forage in drums that they already know about in temperatures down to 10 degrees C, and lower, a drum of syrup can sit undiscovered in a yard for weeks once the bees settle in for winter. We can drizzle some syrup into entrances to alert them, but that is a hassle and, for that matter we could get a surprise two-week cold snap that would really cook our goose. It's not that we don't usually get some very nice, warm weather this late -- we almost always do -- it's just that we cannot count on it.
Everyone took it well and got going with great enthusiasm. They know their bonuses -- and time off --are riding on getting the bees to bed in time. Dave, Paulo and Dennis headed out together to get as much done as possible. I told them that I expect a hundred boxes a person a day as a goal. Maybe we won't get that every day -- blowing bees out of heavy thirds can be slow -- but that we should aim for that number.
I got another article off to Bee Culture, ordered another load of syrup for tomorrow, set up another Honda powered blower for the guys and did some banking. That was my day.
The guys brought in 232 boxes, including only 11 that were completely empty. They visited 8 yards to get them. That's 8 more yards we can feed. Four had feed sitting waiting in closed drums, so I assume Paulo opened them for the bees.
We now have 701 supers left to bring in. At this rate, we have three more days' work and will have Saturday off. We'll see. The rest of the boxes are in 10 yards, so they are concentrated an less time will be lost moving from yard to yard.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind
increasing to northwest 20 km/h. High 11.
While Dennis stayed here to handle jobs around the place, Paulo, Klarence, and Dave went north. They were eager to get away, but I held them up a bit making sure that the blowers were both OK.
I had just changed second Dadant over to a Honda engine, and wanted to be sure that both newly modified blowers were AOK before letting them drive the sixty miles. With three guys, two good blowers are essential. We have had one thing after another go wrong with the blowers under heavy usage -- the Stihl broke a throttle cable yesterday and is out of commission temporarily -- so I wanted to be certain. I had Dave torque the bolts and he found one of the handle bolts that turned too easily. It turned out to be stripped in the aluminum head and we lost a few minutes while we re-tapped the hole for a larger bolt. Fortunately the hole went through a cooling fin, not into the combustion chamber or some such sensitive spot.
At any rate, they Dave and Paulo were gone by ten-thirty and Klarence followed shortly after. Around noon, I went feeding and did the remaining yards in the Linden area. I did follow-up visits to some locations that Dennis fed earlier and was pleased to see that the drums are empty and weights are now mostly good. As it happened, I forgot my veil and had to work without one. Just the same, I could not resist peeking into hives and removing drop boards, so I got stung at least twenty times about the head and took at least ten on the face. Fortunately, I don't swell much.
When I returned around four-thirty, Frank and Mike were waiting. We had an appointment at four, but I had to finish the feeding run and they understood. Ellen kept them entertained until I got back. They are planning to set up a production line to make pollen patties this year and are hoping to get the business of many of the large commercial beekeepers in Alberta. I got them started in the activity last year and they did patties for at least seven operators and turned out tens of thousands of patties. They make very nice, consistent patties for an affordable price. The picture from last March, at right, shows patties stacked on pallets, but they also sell patties in boxes.
Klarence got back around five-thirty and announced that they were having a big day. The other guys got back around six-thirty and had a total of 307 boxes. They had been working some yards that were still four high. I had discovered on my tour today that Taylors is already down to two boxes, not three high as I had written in the notes, so that leaves only about 385 boxes to go in the next two days.
We got another truckload of syrup today and I'll be out feeding again tomorrow to ensure that the yards all get fed before the weekend. The forecast ahs improved and we can expect some relatively hot weather locally over the next few days.
I spent the evening removing all direct links to my email address on this site in hopes of reducing the amount of SPAM I'm getting daily. I replaced all the 'mailtos' with scripts that should still let people write me, but which should thwart address-harvesting robots.
Today..Sunny. Wind light. High 13.
Today looks great for feeding. I hope to get out of here early and do as many yards in the north as I can.
I did get away - about noon. The day turned out to be cooler than predicted, but the bees were still active in the drums and many were empty. I fed 17 drums, all told, and visited 10 yards or so. I was hot on the heels of the crew, but never saw them. I could tell they had just been there though, since the bees were just finished cleaning up the drops of honey around the yards. It was a perfect time to put out feed, while the bees were still active and robbing a bit.
Some yards were quite heavy, and others were light. On the whole, it was mostly the former singles that were underweight. We added a second brood chamber recently and they had not filled it. I 'baptized' some yards with a bit of syrup splashed into the top entrance to get the yard aware of the new supply. In cool weather the bees may not be foraging and might not notice the feed. Around home I had seen bees carrying yellow pollen at most yards yesterday, but in the northern region, I didn't see any such signs.
I drained the tank at Osguthorpes' and returned home, arriving after dark -- at seven-thirty.
One more day should get all the boxes in and then we will concentrate on wrapping. Half or more of the hives are already wrapped, since we did not unwrap hives this year unless we were were taking off the top brood box. It is a bit strange to go out and find the hives already wrapped, but the hives look good. The wraps don't seem to have had much effect one way or the other during summer. We still have entrance reducers to go on and some floors to change. We'll have to make up more blue shop towels too. We're putting one towel on when we wrap.
We're not seeing many mites from the natural drop counts we're doing. We leave the boards under the hives for several days and never find more than three or four mites. Most often, we count zero. Multiply that by what? 20, 30, 50? 100? I don't know, but counts this low should not be a threat.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 30 km/h diminishing
to northwest 20 this afternoon. High 17.
TGIF, and Thank Goodness we're done! -- Almost, anyhow. With any luck, we'll get the last supers off today and the last yards fed. According to the notes, we have 234 boxes to go. The guys got only 160 yesterday, but there were only two men and all the boxes were thirds. Thirds are harder to take off. We have four yards to go and one of them is off at an angle and in a different district from the others, so I doubt we'll get them all done.
Temperatures are running around the minimum for bee flight. I'm assuming we'll get a few more warm days here and there, or a warm spell, but as November approaches, the odds diminish -- and there is always the chance of a cold snap instead. The weather near Red Deer is cooler by several degrees these days On the right is a link to a map from a presentation made several years ago showing our area, stretching from the Red Deer region on the north down to east of Calgary. To illustrate the difference in weather between the northern end and the southern end, two forecasts are shown below:
We are now running 2,500 hives and we no longer do pollination. Also, we have abandoned the southernmost part, due to pressure from beekeepers who, for a while, somehow managed to obtain all the most novel diseases and pests, but we still maintain hives in much of the rest of the territory. There are only patches here and there in our area where anything is grown besides grain, so we tend to operate locations in clusters in districts throughout the region where the flora has proven to be suitable.
I spent the morning getting the guys ready and gone -- we're sending the feed with them to save an extra trip -- and trying to start the yellow diesel forklift that was run out of fuel.
El and I went to Three Hills for our annual flu shot in mid-afternoon and also picked up some sample jars, drums, filters for the Swinger and groceries. When we got back, I started right in on the Swinger.
Meijers showed up while I was still working on the forklift, and when I finished, we looked at the Fager and then had supper. The $27 worth of new filters did the trick, or maybe it was the fact that I carefully bled the entire fuel system, but the Swinger started up again and runs very nicely. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems smoother than before.
The field crew returned around nine, after a twelve hour day. I had told them that I did not want them working too many hours and getting tired and dangerous, but they insisted that they were fresh and they wanted to get the last boxes in by tonight. They did, and we are now -- finally -- done pulling honey off and finished the feeding. Setting a deadline seems to have picked up the pace. I'm glad we got it done, since Monday's forecast has now changed to possible snow.
Lately, the forecasts seem to change from day to day; the weather guessers never seem to be able to get it right, even a few days ahead. Some years they have been dead on for months. Not this year.
BTW, call the Honey Line. The recording has changed: 763-658-4193
Finally. a day with no worries. We're caught up and just the wrapping remains.
No, wait, that's not quite true. I have to get supplies, assemble two loads of honey, come up with a plan for handling the granulation, deal with the staff and winter plans, arrange insurance, do a payroll, meet with crop insurance reps, get the books up to date, and probably a few more things I'm forgetting -- all before I drive 600 miles to the BCHPA meeting in Quesnel in the middle of next week. Oh, and I have a magazine deadline coming up soon too, and a visit from my mother in November and a trip to see the granddaughter (and her parents) on US Thanksgiving.
I think I'll go to Red Deer for the day.
We're at drum number 311 today and that means we have extracted 87 pounds per hive on the basis of the 2,250 hives we considered 'producing hives' for crop insurance (or 81 lbs basis 2,400 hives we actually supered). We'll have a bit more and will likely wind up around 90 pounds for crop insurance purposes.
Actually, I went to Calgary. I had buying a new computer in mind and came very close to picking one up. I'm using a P2 266 with 256 megs and of RAM and 26 megs of HD and have noticed lately that I'm processor-bound a lot of the time when I run the system montor to take a look at what's happening. I typically am running around 42 processes when ZoneAlarm, virus checker, anti-caps lock, popup killer, graphics card manager, OpenOffice.org and all the other misc background processes I use plus Opera, MSIE, FrontPage, MailWasher (leaky), Metapad, Outlook Express are all active. Once in a while, if I am not careful, I run out of resources, so it would be nice to have a faster machine and be able to put to use the copy of XP I bought a year or so ago. I've been afraid to use it on this machine for fear of screwing it up.
I looked, but did not buy. I decided a 2.4 machine would be nice, but know I won't get around to installing and setting everything up for about a month now, since I'm pretty well booked up.
Today..Mainly sunny. Wind light. High 14.