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A picture I took of Ellen in a bee yard last summer

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Friday 20 December 2002
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Paulo and Dennis were off yesterday, but came to work today.  Dennis did cleanup jobs, while Paulo moved hives with a buyer who had purchased  32 of them.  This was the last day of work until January.  The guys are now officially off for Christmas holidays.
Friday..Sunny. Wind light. High minus 3.  Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 20.

Saturday 21 December 2002
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We stayed home and did desk and tidying.
Today..Sunny with morning fog patches. Wind light. High minus 6.  Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 18.

Sunday 22 December 2002
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I rearranged the living room and fought with Windows XP.  What a dog.  I had thought Windows was finally going to be a stable, reliable O/S, but I'm finding XP as bad as Windows Me.  I had a few problems with Windows Me, but nothing like this.  The conversion to the new system has caused me over a month now of difficulty interfacing my various machines and I cannot easily get pictures off my camera.  XP does not recognize my Olympus 460-Z camera and apparently has no generic camera setting  (unlike Windows Me).
Sunday..Sunny. Wind light. High minus 4.

Monday 23 December 2002
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Jean and Chris came after lunch.  They are staying until after Christmas sometime.  We spent the day visiting, tidying and decorating the tree.
Today..Sunny. Wind light. High minus 2.  Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 11.
Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 3.

Tuesday 24 December 2002
Christmas Eve
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We have our Christmas dinner today.  That leaves Christmas Day itself free of all the usual hassle and conflicts.  We like to go skiing on Christmas, since the hills are usually quite empty.  Boxing Day tends to be a zoo on the hill; all the kids go out to try out their new toys.

Oene, the Landymores, Ruth, Jean and Chris and El and I had a traditional Christmas dinner supper in late afternoon, visited in the evening and then we all called it a day.
Today..Sunny. Wind light. High zero.  Tonight..Clear. Wind light. Low minus 9.

Wednesday 25 December 2002
Christmas Day.  
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Jean, Chris & I went to Sunshine Village for a day of skiing and snowboarding.  The snow was not too bad, considering how little they have, and the coverage was very adequate.  The Angel Traverse, however was awful -- worse than two years ago.  The crowds were much larger than in previous yards, but the hill was by no means crowded. 

Chris wrenched his knee, so we quit a bit early, which was just fine with Jean and me; Jean is expecting and this was my first day out since spring skiing.  I have not been exercising much over the past few weeks, and I hate to overdo things the first day out.

We called our relatives to chat on the way home.  Cell phones are amazing.  I can remember when even getting a phone line on Christmas could be difficult.  The lines were busy all day.  Now there is never a delay in calling anywhere.

Apologies about the lack of bee content in these pages lately.  I'm off for the winter.  I'll add ideas as I deal with them, but for now, I'm on vacation.   Nonetheless, Here is a reply to a note I got a while ago.  I reckon the answers are of general interest.

> Hello. I have enjoyed reading your diary.

Glad to hear you enjoy it and find it useful.

> With your palletized operation I am surprised to find what seems  to be a standard hive top that telescopes down on all four sides. Am  I seeing the pictures wrong?

Nope. That's what they are. We found that they keep the bees drier in springtime.

> Have you seen any of the plastic pallets? These look like the way to go. Any comments?

I did see a plastic grocery pallet, once, but am not sure if we saw the same thing.

> If I ever came to Canada do you offer tours in exchange for free labor? I have 2 years experience on my own and 2 days experience with a commercial man around here.

Well, we are retiring, so we'd have to see. Generally I turn down free labour since I can't afford what it costs, but I decide each case on its own merits.

> You post lots of links, have you seen Garden Web? http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/bees/

The site looks pretty good for the beginner/hobbyist.

> How did you get into beekeeping?

Nothing else to do. I started up, and grew.  I am just now getting around to quitting. some thirty+ years later.

> It seems some of your hives have frame spacers on the frame rests. Do you use these on all your hives?

Some have some don't. It's a bit of a nuisance, but we live with it.

> As a windsurfer (you not me) have you ever been to "Canadian Hole" on the Outer Banks of NC? It is supposed to be one of the best spots around. If you ever come this way for it, my wife and I are 3 hours from there, could give you a bed.

Thanks for the offer. I've been nearby (in January) at the ABF meeting several years back, but never sailed there. My cousin and his boys have, though.

> Do you drink your own mead anymore?

I seem to have gotten sensitive to it, and I have cut back on drinking, generally.  (The last few weeks are an exception to that though).

> Do you have links that describe your honey house layout?

Nope, but in July, I've shown pictures of the upstairs, and in fall some of the downstairs.  No layout, though.  Not yet, anyhow.

> I am planning a metal building/shop that could start as large as 40 x 60 and I trying to think about layout for a decent sized operation.

State and other governments in various countries offer drawings and recommendations. I can't remember which ones, but ask on sci.agriculture.beekeeping or BEE-L where to get some. These plans are usually free, AFAIK.

> Initially I think I would start with adding used equipment a piece at a time or perhaps something like the Cowen 28 frame system that is nice and compact. I have toured some nice places of some large people with thousands of hives and these have helped to shape my ideas, I'd like to see how you do things. How much space have you had dedicated to beekeeping?

Not much. We use 45 x 45' north end of our school building, plus some of the basement there. That is one reason I am quitting. I'm too old to build a new facility and also too old to put up with what I have been using.

> One of the comments from a beekeeper I heard was that if he was starting over he would go ahead and set up some kind of a wax processing system. How is your wax handled and what do you do with it?

Earlier this fall or winter, I described the Fager press I got this year, and, this year we also ran some drums of tank skimmings through a neighbour's Spinfloat, but mostly we have sent them for rendering.


The custom renderer salvages and buys both the wax and honey and this approach has been cheaper than doing the work myself.  The honey is darkened somewhat, though.

> 5/4/2 diary page has a picture with what looks like the middle of the top bar cut out. What is this?

A frame feeder, made of wood and Masonite.

> Some of your pictures show stacks upon stacks of barrels in your yard. Are these strictly for feeding or do you barrel honey in them also?

The silver ones are honey drums. The others are for miscellaneous jobs and open feeding.

> Do you use liner bags for the honey in drums?

Nope. They are a good idea that turns out in practice to be a very bad idea.  If water gets between the liner and the drum, the result is disgusting.  It is also impossible to keep any junk that is between the liner and the drum out of the honey on a reliable basis.  There are always tears and other accidents.  Moreover, honey is lost in the bags.  Good drums are cheap, and in today's world, anything that should not be in honey must be kept out, and away from honey.

> Does anybody test honey for drug residues? Do you test yours?

Our co-op tests regularly, and thoroughly.

> Would beekeepers pay for such a thing or would anonymity be important?  I think of such things as one who got a degree in Chemistry.

Beekeepers can and do pay for testing.  I saw something recently where a well-respected California beekeeper was recommending that all beekeepers do so.   Anonymity?  I doubt you would get any business unless you guaranteed absolute discretion.

Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to west 30 gusting 50 km/h. High plus 3.  Tonight..Mainly clear. Wind west 30. Low minus 5.
Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 3.

Thursday 26 December 2002
Boxing Day.  
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We slept in, had lunch, went to Global Grounds to meet up with Robinsons and Purves-Smiths, then returned home.  Jean and Chris carried on to Calgary to have supper with his sister and family. 

Ellen is still a bit sore from whatever virus she had.  I cleaned out our coal furnace in late afternoon. Today was mild and it had been off for a few hours.   Starting with a cool furnace makes the job easier.  The grate gets choked with ash once or twice a year and it takes me an hour or two to clean out the firebox and re-cement the grate

We skipped supper, watched a movie -- The Man with the Golden Arm -- and went to bed.  There is no snow anywhere around, but the forecast is for some tomorrow.

I'm weighing around 240, and my dress pants were tight when I put them on this afternoon.  They were comfortable just the other day.   Time for some self-discipline -- and some exercise.




 the Day

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to west 30 gusting 50 km/h. High 7.  Tonight..Clear. Wind west 20. Low minus 8.
Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Friday 27 December 2002
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This morning, in my inbox, this report from Skiing Louise:

Good Morning... A couple of centimeters of fresh snow at the Lake.   Nakiska reports 10 centimeters in the past 24 hours.  More snow tonight and tomorrow!   http://www.skilouise.com/snowreport/

I worked at my desk all day.  Ellen is still not feeling well.  I'm not quite 100% either, but maybe it is just staying inside so much.  Matt came by in the afternoon and planned to patch the roof, but when he got to looking at it, he found more holes than expected and so I went up to look too.  We decided that it needs a complete recovering.  It is currently tar and gravel, with a pitch of 2 feet in 30, but I'm thinking the new roll roofings look pretty good and are reasonably easy to put on.  I have some men with not much to do, so maybe this is it.

I got some movies in town and some groceries, not that there is much room in the fridge after Christmas.  Unfortunately what is filling the fridge is sweet stuff that I don't eat.  Ellen loves to buy/make these things to serve at Christmas dinner.  She doesn't eat the cake and sweet leftovers, either, so they have to stay in there until they are old and green enough to throw out in good conscience.

Heather had asked me to write a few words for Hivelights, due today.  I had agreed, but regular readers of this diary will know I have been choked lately when it comes to writing, and that I (shame!) actually missed a magazine deadline or two.  Somehow, today however, this 600 word article came right out and it sure felt good to write again.  It was 11 PM when I sent it, but I got it done on time.

Regular readers of these pages will know that I have been suffering from writers' block for several months. 

I've been analyzing my problem with writing for magazine publication and concluded that I can, and do love to write, but only as long as I write what I like, when I like.  When I am given an assignment, the fun turns into hard work.  When  confronted with an assignment or deadline, sometimes I'm not inspired, and sometimes I don't really know what I need to know to write a really good piece.  Failing facts, sometimes I don't even have an opinion that is entertaining.  My thoughts are half-formed and I have to strain to write and I dislike what I have done when I am finished.  Very unsatisfying. 

Magazine pay is okay.  Actually, the pay is great -- if I can dash off an article and it arises spontaneously.  The pay is lousy, however, if I have to struggle to write the article, and feel vaguely uncomfortable with the finished work it when it is done.  In such cases, it takes three times as long and the work is much less pleasant.  I much prefer to write when I am inspired, and I think I know what I'm talking about.

It's thrill when a magazine wants your work.  I've written published articles off and on for thirty years and it always gives me a buzz.  Just the same, I'd rather not write, than write something that does not give me pride.  I had to learn that the hard way, though, now that I am thinking of getting serious about being a pro -- after all, I just did six monthly articles in a row.  That's no longer just fooling around.

Going in, I guess I knew what I am finding out now , but I just had to prove it to myself.  I had see how it feels. After all, I'd love to make some retirement beer money writing.  Actually, I'm sure I will -- I've had lots of offers --  but I have to test the bars on my cage, and learn about myself too.  One thing I've long known -- and pondered often -- about professional musicians, the kind that we hear on the radio: they are professionals first and musicians second.  Many, many people can play music just as well as them, but few can handle the ups and downs, the abuse, the adulation, the repetition, and the travel over the long haul. 

Making the choice to do anything professionally is a commitment.  Being a true professional means putting aside personal feelings and getting the job done regardless of feelings and personal discomfort.  Many very talented people choose to keep writing, music, baseball, beekeeping -- or whatever -- as a hobby or avocation, rather than making it into a vocation. 

In my life, I've changed many hobbies into businesses.  Should I be doing that to my writing?

Well, it's 11:59 and I think I'll call it a day.

Allen's Links of the Day

What is Outfront?

Today..Increasing cloud this morning then occasional snow developing this afternoon. Amounts near 2 cm. Wind light. High minus 4.  Tonight..Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of evening flurries. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h. Low minus 11. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Saturday 28 December 2002
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I spent the day getting the Queens Mailing list set up and running right, had supper and watched a movie.


Today..30 percent chance of flurries early this morning then becoming mainly sunny. Wind light. High zero. Tonight..Increasing cloud this evening then 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. Low minus 15. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Sunday 29 December 2002
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I spent the day cleaning up around the desk and cleaning up the files on my websites. 

Ellen is still sick.  I have been okay, but sometimes wonder if I am getting what she has.  Actually, however, I think I may have had it in Rhode Island, Niagara and thereafter, but not as acutely as she.  She is tired and aches all over, has digestion problems, goes to bed early, and sleeps in late.  This is putting a cramp in our visiting, since she does not want to go out or have company and we also don't want to pass it on.

Email from a regular correspondent

...We had 60+++ temps yesterday. I shot my limit of pheasants but it was too warm for our dog with this high of temp. Bees are already stating to sit on brood. My cousin has a sawmill in town & the bees were going nuts with the fresh sweet pine saw dust he was making. Looks like we have had little or no winter loss at this point. Should be 60 again today.

Talked to a good many of my farming cousins & high school friends & all agree that a black Christmas usually spells water trouble for the next crop year. You can not begin to believe all the CRP ground in the county that has been re enrolled in the program. Some has been 100% inter-seeded with clover/alfalfa.

Time to get a shave & head to church. What's new up north?????

We've been around freezing here and got some snow last night -- 2 inches, maybe. The ground is dry, and the pond is almost empty, but we never know what to expect. We count on the rains coming when we need them and so, even if it starts dry, things can change in a day. 

Farming is very much like religion. We act on faith, often in absence of any evidence that our acts will be rewarded.

Today..Snow tapering off later this morning. Total accumulations near 8 cm. Wind shifting to north 20 km/h. Temperature steady near minus 7.  Tonight..Clearing. Wind north 30 km/h diminishing. Low minus 16.  Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Monday 30 December 2002
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The year is drawing to an end, and there are a few small matters to deal with.  Our fiscal year ends January 31st, so that puts it off somewhat, but there are questions that need to be dealt with before then, and getting an accountant's full attention when it is needed is not always possible.  It is wise to start early.

I went out for for mail this morning, and discovered that we actually have about four inches of snow on the ground.  That's enough to go snowmobiling - carefully. 

Kevin came by and we wrote up the agreement for his taking over 500 hives on location.  We're now officially down to 2,000 hives, or 1,800, depending on how you count.

Counting hives and reporting production per hive can be very confusing -- confusing enough to make beekeepers look like liars.

For number of hives operated, some count up the amount of equipment on hand, then figure how many hives it would make at five standard boxes per hive, regardless of whether there are bees in the boxes or not.  Some take the same box count and reckon how many hives they would have, figuring on four or maybe six boxes per hive.  Some just count the live hives in spring, some count after splitting, and others just count the number going into winter.  Others yet go by the number of hives that are actually supered for a honey flow, and others by how many fill those supers.  Pollinators may go by the maximum number of hives that they can put on pollination.  These could be single brood hives with only a super or two and the limiting factor here may be floors and lids.  A queen producer may count all the mating nucs as well as the large hives, and a nuc producer may count the total number of units at the peak season -- large and small -- or count only the large hives.

Who's asking -- and why -- may have a drastic effect on the answer.  If it is the tax man, a land owner or an estranged spouse, the beekeeper may chose a very conservative number.  If it is a few beekeepers sitting in a bar late in the evening, a far more liberal -- even imaginative -- estimate may be considered appropriate.

To add to the confusion, often a beekeeper will very honestly use one number for one purpose, and, several minutes later, a completely different count for another purpose.

When calculating the yield, the amount of honey extracted should be fairly obvious, but unless it is all put into drums, the drums weighed and lined up in one place and time for counting, higher mathematics may be necessary, and some uncertainty can creep in.   Where the honey is placed in pails and sold or given away as the season progresses, the opportunity for counting the same honey several times arises.  Some beekeepers count it once when on the hive, again when extracted and again when placed into buckets. 

Thus we can see there can be some amazing elasticity in beekeepers' honest estimates.  Even if the exact amount of honey extracted and packed is logged and computed correctly -- and often it is, especially by commercial beekeepers -- there is always the amount that is left for feed or not extracted due to granulation, or left in cappings and a possibility of stretching the numbers in any useful direction.

If the amount produced is open to interpretation or even (gasp!) manipulation, and the number of hives cannot be ascertained in any consistent and objective way, how then can we compare yields reported by beekeepers?  After all, yield is calculated by dividing the production by the hive count.

Allen's Links
of the Day

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind light. High minus 3.  Tonight..Clear. Wind west 20 km/h. Low minus 9. Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

Tuesday 31 December 2002
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I went to Three Hills and did a bit of shopping, took back movies and headed home.  I arrived just when jean and Chris did.  In an hour, we're off to the New Years dinner theatre in Linden.

My daughter did a web site for her school.  She said that starting out, they formed a committee.  She figured that that was so she wouldn't know she had to do all the work.  I said, "That way, they can be sure you won't get all the credit, either".  She laughed.

Allen's Links
of the Day

Today..Increasing cloud this morning then 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. High minus 3.
Tonight..Partly cloudy. Wind light. Low minus 10.
Normals for the period..Low minus 16. High minus 4.

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