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Hives wrapped and ready for winter

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Sunday October 20th, 2002
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"Hi Allen , I would just like to say how much I enjoy your diary. It give a great insight into a completely different way of operating with your climate and additional problems with mites, than is practiced here in Australia. One thing that has interested me is crop insurance. Grain farmers here have used crop insurance for many years and I understand how it works, but have never heard it applied to beekeeping. Can you give us a run down on how you insure your crop and the how you would estimate your insurance coverage etc.

It's pretty simple. We declare the number of hives we are operating for production by June 20th and pay a premium based on our experience and the crop expectations for our region.  The inspector comes and verifies the number and our management. At the end of the year, we declare our crop and the agent verifies this to his satisfaction (and subject to possible investigation and/or audit).  If we are short of the area average or our historical yields average, they pay us a percentage of the shortfall.  The value of lost crop is based on the previous year's price.  The crop can only be insured to 80% of the expected yield and the first 40% is not covered in case of an exceptional failure. (a deductible) 

El & I went to Red Deer today and I did buy a new computer.  I paid $999 for a AMD 1800+ with 256 megs and a 266 front end.  Included is a 17" monitor, DVD, CD burner, Windows XP, ethernet, serial and parallel ports, 6 USB 2.0 ports and a printer.  The graphics are integrated and the modem is a Winmodem, the HD is 5,400 RPM and it's obviously not quite in the same league as the 2.4 MHz Intel box with 19' monitor, 64 meg graphics board, 33 MHz front end, 512 Megs and hardware modem I was drooling on yesterday, but it is 40% of the price and it is set up and ready to go -- when I pick it up tomorrow night, hopefully.

"I was reading your news and noticed you were pulling a Swinger behind what looked like a 1 ton in one of your pictures. Moving from a hobby beekeeper to a small commercial operation we purchased a forklift and are now looking for a truck to haul both Bees and trailer with forklift. With the forklift weighing close to 5000 lbs plus trailer do you have any problems with the dept of highways as when you add skids of bees on truck I would think their is a chance of being overweight, and in BC they love to ticket. I started looking at 1 tons but with weight have changed to a 3 tons. 

That has been a concern to me.  I covered the matter of road bans several pages back.  I had been afraid to broach the topic and awaken the authorities, but when they slapped a 75% ban on our only access road, I decided to investigate.   I had to phone my way through the bureaucracy to learn what I needed to know, because it isn't written anywhere I can discover, and even the guy who issues permits did not know the following:

We discovered that, under Alberta rules, we won't have a problem.   There is an axle exemption weight that no one would exceed with a one ton for long without breaking something on the truck.  Alberta ratings go by the tire size, and not by the manufacturers GVWR sticker.  Moreover, the trailer for the forklift would be under that exempted mass, too, even at full load.  In other words, even at a 50% ban, we are okay.  If we were running three tons, I'm not sure we'd have a much larger legal payload.  Our favourite forklift trailers are single axle, and made that way for easily handling.  We also have a double axle trailer, and that works well, too.  

For that matter, in BC, I believe that if you modify a truck and get an engineer's approval -- or some such thing -- that the manufacturer's ratings can be superseded.  A two axle trailer can have less tongue weight than a single axle and would not be a problem unless there are towing weights enforced.  I have no idea exactly how they rate trucks and trailers in BC.  I'm not even sure that the government knows.  I enquired once, but decided to stay away.

In our experience, one tons are economical and also large enough to carry all the stuff two men need in a day.  No special license is required to drive one.  The one exception that came apparent this year is that -- even though our one tons are built up with extra rear springs and air bags in the front, plus large tires all around --  a larger truck would be very handy at harvest when the boxes get heavy and teams larger than two men go out.  We can carry about 150 full supers on a truck, so we need to make several runs a day or send out several trucks when the going gets heavy. Our neighbours use Dodge dually 4 X4 s with gooseneck trailers when they need a big payload and they can carry a lot.  The trucks have stood up well.  We used to have a large truck, a 5 ton, but did not like it because of the maintenance, and the height.  

There are, on the market now, three tons that are getting older and cheaper that have the small tires and can have a low deck.  I might look at one as an additional unit.  Nonetheless, we'll continue to use the one tons as our main trucks. 



of the Day:

Today..Fog reducing visibility to less than one kilometre dissipating this morning then mainly cloudy. Wind light. High 9. 
Tonight..Mainly cloudy. Wind light. Low plus 2. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 3. High 11.

Monday October 21st, 2002
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There is a bit of snow on the ground and we are expecting cool weather all day.  Paulo and Klarence went wrapping.  Dennis took the Buick  to be inspected.  He's buying it, and the insurance insists on a safety on anything over ten years old.  It costs $70 and the time to take it in, but it is a good idea.  Dave is doing odd jobs.

This will be Klarence's last day.  We hired him to pull honey and that is done.  He's a bit behind in his studies, so he will now have some time to catch up.  Dave will stay for a week or two more.  Extracting should be over on Wednesday.

"Looked at quite a few bees this last Saturday & was some what impressed at what I saw for frame count of bees. I always like to see 6 to 8 frames of cluster on November 1st. Also like to see nice fat well feed bees. Never fails always seem to have 1 or 2 light ones in each yard. All a guy can do is mark them and put a candy board on in January. How many frames of bees do you like to see this time of the year?

About the same as you.  Bees on six to eight frames on a cool (around freezing morning) is pretty good.  I saw yellow pollen coming in the other day.  That is good to see.  It means that the bees are getting protein.

One year (a long time back) in October we blew out bees into packages for a buyer in Arizona and we averaged over 8 pounds of bees per hive, as I recall.  For some reason the other fellow involved averaged about two pounds less.  That seems pretty small.  Maybe we had ten pounds and he, eight.  I can't recall.  

Anyhow, we like to have one full box of bees on a cool day, with bees going into a second box.  Usually they are down on the bottom board at this time of year, and also are up into the top box a bit.

"Installed strips & looked at some bottom boards at the building & found very few mites if any on them. Allen, you might want to take a look at your mite drop real close & see if any of the mites are missing any of their legs. I have been watching this for years. High mite drop may not be a bad thing if the mites are missing 1 or 2 legs. 

Yeah.  I'm less worried about varroa than I used to be.  Initially we expected that they would balloon out of control quickly, with disastrous results.  Seems that so far -- for us -- that nature is managing quite nicely, with a little help from Apistan® once a year.  Not everyone is so lucky though and we remain vigilant.  Maybe the bees and varroa are striking a balance.

I went to Red Deer in the evening and picked up my computer and returned the CDRWs I had bought and some clothes that did not fit, then went home and assembled the system.  It looks okay and XP seems quite nice.  Just the same, this old P2 266 on Windows Me runs just fine.

Today..Periods of rain changing to snow near noon. Snowfall amounts near 2 cm. Wind light. High 5 this morning then temperature falling. 
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind light. Low minus 10. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 3. High 11.

Tuesday October 22nd, 2002
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The morning dawned sunny, but cool at minus 9 C.  Paulo is out wrapping and Dave and Dennis are working on lidding drums and such. 

Well, the Fager just broke off a couple of cast iron teeth. I'm not sure why, but I seem to recall, being warned that they have to be changed to bronze.  I guess I'll have to do that.

Today..Flurries ending this morning then becoming sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High minus 2. 
Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 11. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 3. High 10.

Wednesday October 23rd, 2002
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I took care of a myriad of little matters and headed for BC in the Olds.  I reached Kamloops around nine and spent the night.

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High 4. 
Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 6. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 3. High 10.

Thursday October 24th, 2002
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Today I'm off to Quesnel to attend the BCHPA meeting, where I am scheduled to speak.

I arrived around three and checked in at the Ramada, rested up and went to the convention centre.  I was one of the first arrivals, other than the association officials who were meeting in private, but soon others began to filter in.  After supper there was a mead and cheese reception.  That was over by ten.

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High 6.
Tonight..Becoming mainly cloudy this evening. Wind light. Low minus 3.
Normals for the period..Low minus 4. High 10.

Friday October 25th, 2002
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The business meeting took up the day and the banquet was held in the evening.  While the banquet awards and speeches were underway, the mead judges -- myself and two others -- sequestered ourselves in a back room.  Our assignment was to rank 16 bottles of various styles of mead and one beer, and assign prizes.  It was a very tough job.  At first we tried not to swallow, but it is hard to get a complete impression without actually drinking some of the beverage, since part of the effect is in the swallowing.  By the time we had tasted each one at least once, we were getting a little tipsy, so we went to supper.  The banquet was an excellent buffet with a huge and excellent baron of beef at the end which we enjoyed thoroughly. 

After the meal, we again retired to our back room again to verify that our choices were consistent.   We re-tested the winners and made some minor adjustments in ranking.  We found that our opinions were amazingly consistent from one judge to another. Usually we were within 10 to 20% of one another in our marking.  Magnus had made out forms assigning points for each feature of the bottle.  We each filled out a form for each bottle, more or less independently, and then added up the totals.  We found the range in quality was what we would have expected.  Most were sparking clear and well presented.  While some meads were very pleasant tasting, and up to commercial standards, others were less exciting.   There was only one bottle that was distinctly off in flavour;  it had gone somewhat to vinegar.  We figured that it was likely just a fluke and not representative of the maker's work.

Entering a mead competition is a chancy thing, since only one unopened bottle from a batch can be entered, and the one bottle that is submitted may or may not be typical of the batch from which it came.  There is a always a chance that the one sample entered in the contest may be the only bad bottle in the bunch.  Maybe it was the first mead through the filter, was filtered when the pads were exhausted, or was filled into a bottle that somehow escaped proper disinfecting.  Whatever the reason, each bottle can be quite different.

Today..Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. High plus 2. 
Tonight..Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. Low minus 4. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 4. High 9.

Saturday October 26th, 2002
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Today was Educational Day and I was scheduled to speak three times. 

In the morning, I did a PowerPoint slide show about our operation, and how we do things.  It was very well received and I got lots of compliments, and a few pats on the back -- literally -- afterwards.  I certainly appreciated the feedback.  I am not one for stage fright, but it is a bit daunting to be on a lineup with James Bach and Adony Melathopoulos, both of whom I know to be very dynamic, well prepared and authoritative speakers, plus the several others who also proved to be very well prepared and excellent presenters.

In the afternoon, I was scheduled to speak on "New Age beekeeping with Computers and the Internet'  I wasn't sure exactly where to go with that one, so I did an on-screen show-and-tell, then fielded question from the audience.  That went well, too.

Then, at the end of the day, I did a bit alongside Bob Liptrot who is co-owner of the first commercial meadery in British Columbia .  He told about his operation and setting up to make mead commercially, and together we covered some of the challenges in home mead making.  I am told that this portion was a hit as well.

Following that we had supper and Magnus presented the mead prizes, with Diane and myself standing behind him at the podium. We had decided that he would do the talking for the three of us and he did a great job.   Then everyone had a chance to taste as much of the mead from the competition as they liked -- 2 ounces at a time -- and take a bottle home as well.

That was it.  The convention was over, and we all headed out.  A few came up to my room for a while; we had coffee and a bit more mead while watching some more of my slides on the computer, then, around midnight everyone called it a day.



of the Day:

Mead making

Craig's Fernie Report

Today..Flurries tapering off towards midday then mainly cloudy. Wind light. High minus 2. 
Tonight..Clearing. Wind light. Low minus 9. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 4. High 9

Sunday October 27th, 2002
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Today I got up at 8, checked out of the Ramada, and drove home.  I had considered taking the northern route, but by the time I was fully awake, I had already started south.  There was a little snow on the road and a damaged SUV was being winched out of the ditch a few miles south of Quesnel, but conditions got better, and the roads were clear for the rest of the way. 

I usually like long drives in good weather.  Long trips by myself give me a chance to meditate.  Nonetheless, I am wondering about the value of a drive that takes from the time I get up until the time I am overdue in bed, with only few quick stops along the way.   In some ways, drives like that seem like a waste of time.

As I passed the Enchanted Forest, just west of Revelstoke, I remembered that it is now late October, and that the annual salmon run should now be near its end.  One year we drove all the way out to Adams River to see the spectacle, but today I recalled that the Eagle River forms a ditch along the road at this point, so I popped out of the car and took a few pictures (right).  The Eagle is not the best example of the salmon spawning, but is right along side of the Trans-Canada highway and within ten easy steps from the car.  

In the photos, live salmon can be seem guarding their gravel nests in the shallow river bottom.  The nearby bodies of those that finished their task are shown in the third picture.  Some years, after a major run, the river banks are littered with dead fish at the end of October.  It makes a magnificent feast for bears that are fattening themselves for hibernation.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of flurries early this morning. Wind light. High 4.
Tonight..Increasing cloud. 30 percent chance of showers this evening and 60 percent chance of flurries overnight. Wind light. Low minus 5.
Normals for the period..Low minus 4. High 9.

Monday October 28th, 2002
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First day home.  I weighed myself, and see I put on over 10 pounds since last Wednesday.  I recall looking in the mirror in my Kamloops motel room Wednesday night, and noticing that I was getting so much  slimmer that my clothes were falling off.  I was thinking that I'd have to start buying a size smaller.  After sitting in the car for more than 24 hours, total, eating muffins for breakfast each day and donuts for snacks, and consuming mead during the contest, plus a few beers as well, I have managed to disrupt my system.  The weight gain is (hopefully) mostly water, and will (hopefully) go away quickly, but I am amazed at how instantly I can put it on by eating carbs and drinking booze, while not exercising much.  At any rate, my clothes fit much better today.

The guys came into work this morning and got the trucks ready to go wrapping, but it was dull, snowing and windy, so we all decided that they should take the afternoon off.  Tomorrow is going to be cold too, so these two days are good days to do personal things.  We have 750 hives wrapped, plus any that are already wrapped from last year.  We only count them when the yards are done, since adding entrance reducers, cross-over sticks, mouse poison, and moving hives around takes time.  Only when a yard is finished completely, do we add it to the wrapped total.  By this reckoning, we are about 1/3 done wrapping.

Meijers came for supper.

Today..Periods of snow. Total accumulations near 5 cm. Wind north 20 km/h. Temperature falling to minus 6. 
Tonight..Cloudy with a 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. Low minus 11. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 5. High 8.

Tuesday October 29th, 2002
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The day started off quite cold, at minus 13 degrees Celsius, but warmed up during the day.  Paulo was keen to go wrapping, so off  he went, and Dennis and Dave worked around the yard, loading granulated honey onto a truck and trailer.  I worked at the desk and got caught up a bit.  By late afternoon, the temperature was up to plus two.   The sun was shining brightly, and the outdoors was quite pleasant by mid-afternoon.

Paulo came back early and Dave was riding with him, so they left for home.  Dennis finished the load and went home.  It is his birthday today.

Today..60 percent chance of early morning flurries then a mix of sun and cloud. Wind north 20 km/h. High minus 10. 
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Clear overnight. Wind light. Low minus 19. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 5. High 7

Wednesday October 30th, 2002
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Paulo headed out again to wrap.  The rest of us are moving drums around and loading supers with granulation onto trucks.  We have an accumulation of granulation in supers that has built up over the past few years, starting when we were pollinating, and plan to heat it for a while and then run it through Meijers' system.  Hopefully their Bogenshutz will cut off quite a bit of it.  They also have a mixing tank, so we think we can salvage quite a bit.   I'm not sure how much we can salvage, but we'll see.  It's worth a try.

Dennis wasn't feeling well, so we sent him home for the afternoon.  He was well enough to go to town, and got the Buick registered in his name.   

I drove the first load to Meijers.  It took a long time to get going, since the tires were low.  the tire shop always sets them at 55 lbs and we have to remember to blow them up to 80 before we load fully.  When there are 10 wheels to do, at five minutes or so each, the job takes an hour. I got there around four-thirty and unloaded, then had supper with Joe and Oene, returned home by eight.

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High minus 7. 
Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 18. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 6. High 7.

Thursday October 31st, 2002
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It's minus 18.6°C.  this morning, but the forecast is for zero by afternoon. I notice that last year on this date we were 90% done wrapping.  This year we have 1,132 of 2,357 wrapped and ready for winter.  That is about 50%.  Of course, there are about 400 to 500 that are wrapped, but still lack the extra pillow, entrance reducer and mouse poison and are therefore not counted.

The sudden increase in my estimate over the number reported several days back  is not due to any sudden flurry of wrapping activity.  It is due to my noticing that I was only totaling the hives that Paulo actually wrapped each day, and not counting the hives on the same site that were still wrapped from last year.  Errors creep into our notes if assumptions and spreadsheet formulae are not constantly checked and reconsidered.  

We're finishing off about 100 hives a day, so another two weeks for one man should finish it.  I could put more men on it, but we have jobs to do around here, and I like to get them done while I am around to consult and supervise.  The wrapping is not a high priority, as long as we get the hives all wrapped and settled down before December, and while we can still drive into the yards.  Next week I'll be in Edmonton.

We'll have to move some yards into wintering locations, too, but that can be done after they are wrapped.  I always wonder about the disturbance if we leave it too late, but over the past two years, we have noticed much better survival when we move the exposed yards into sheltered locations.  Moreover, even with hundreds of hives in a yard with little forage nearby, we still also get better spring buildup than on exposed locations.

We had visitors this evening, and sold the Cowan extracting line

Today..Becoming sunny early this morning. Wind light. High zero. 
Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 12. 
Normals for the period..Low minus 6. High 7.

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