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 May  2016 





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Background Image: Bees on the top bars of a three storey overwintered hive (taken May 10)

Tuesday May 10th 2016

Today A mix of sun and cloud. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 15. UV index 6 or high.
Tonight Partly cloudy. Becoming clear this evening. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this evening. Low minus 1.

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Environment Canada
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Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I woke up at 0600, but managed to doze until 0745.  The antibiotic seems to be working, but makes me a bit tired.

I have a doctor's appointment in Airdrie at 1315, so my plan is to drive to Airdrie around noon.  I have several other errands to do there as well.

Airdrie is 80 km away, compared to the 22 km to Three Hills.  That is an additional 60 km, and another hour of driving and ten litres of fuel, but doctors  and other services are available in Airdrie that are not in Three Hills.  Prices for groceries are also much less in Airdrie, and selection much better.

This goes to show how a small town depends on as many services as possible to be available and also competitive.  Lacking one or two crucial services, customers drive to larger centres for that service, then do as much of their other business there as they can, returning to the small centre only for small items that are not worth the drive.

This is presents a conundrum since the loss of customers results in business closures, further reduced services and fewer customers...

I drove to town, saw the doctor, did a few errands, and returned home. As I came up the walk, I saw the tail of a large skunk disappear under my front doorstep.

A neighbour has been wanting to talk over some business and so we had a chat.  That took me to suppertime.

I had supper, then went to work on the bees.  I was not too enthused, but found that, unlike the last few tries to get started, I was getting into it.

I took along some Apistan I have had around for a long time and mixed up some oxalic acid syrup drizzle and went through the North Yards.  There were four hives left of the twenty-two.  The dead-puts are heavy and I think some hives plugged out in September.

I did not do anything much on bees in September after my episode, but had my friends send a crew to pull honey and place Apivar.

From there I went to the quonset yard and found that five of the first ten were alive and two were occupying three boxes top to bottom (left) and showing at the entrances.  I split one and reversed the other.

By then it was 2100 and the sun was going down, so I called it a day and went in.

*   *   *   *   *

I have avoided working on the bees so far this spring.  I just have not felt like it, but tonight I was in the mood and it went well.

Contrary to what most people think, good hives do just fine without any interference right up until mid-May and the much of the spring work some beekeepers do is often more harmful than helpful.

By mid-May, some hives will be thinking of swarming, like these two.  If I had not worked on them one or both might have thrown a swarm by the time I return.  I have lots of swarm traps around in the form of the deadout hives I have not yet picked up, so odds are they would not go far, but just the same....

Varroa is another matter, though, and I see some in the drone brood between frames in some hives.  My hives are extremely well fed, so feeding is not an issue.

*   *   *   *   *

I wonder if I have been feeling un-ambitious and low on account of the urinary infection.  Even though I had the energy to do the voyage, sailing does not require the kind of physical exertion that beekeeping does.

I went to a doctor two months ago about urinary discomfort, but the tests came back negative I was told when I phoned days later.  Nonetheless, symptoms came and went over the past two months and now that I have taken three pills, I can see a real difference in energy.

This doctor yesterday had results in five minutes and I had pills an hour later.

*   *   *   *   *

I also wonder if my bee reluctance is partially due to the concern that my heart episode happened the day after the "Bee Day" and while I was working my bees.  I have wondered if the smoker was partly to blame.

I got an email the other day from a customer from last year saying her two hives had died from AFB.  She sent one very poor picture (right) that seems to show some roping on a toothpick testing one cell.  The rest of the cappings looked okay considering that the frame is from a dead hive and molding.  Hard to tell. Could be AFB in the early stages.

Anyhow, she said, "According to everyone in the bee community that we have talked to, said since we are first time bee keepers it could only have come from your place and we should let you know as soon as possible." However that is the only such report I have received and I am not seeing AFB here.

Nonetheless, people need to believe there is reason for things, place blame, and start rumours.  There are reasons hives get AFB: AFB is widespread in some places and strong colonies will bring it home.

Bees are like kids.  They pick up whatever is around the neighbourhood.

It is seldom possible to know with certainty what the source was.  AFB just happens and rather than looking for causes, the smart beekeeper looks for solutions and there are solutions -- hygienic bees and/or tylosin.

There are some local areas that seem to be especially bad.  Airdrie is one, for some reason.  Regardless, good bees will resist AFB and maybe show the odd cell, but there are bees that can be given AFB scale and clean it up and thrive. I've seen them.

Sadly, she had ordered packages, then cancelled because she was worried about the equipment.  Someone had told her she should burn everything.  I have to wonder.  Two hives?  Both broken down badly enough to burn?  I have not heard back.

There are some well-meaning but uneducated people out there.  Do you burn your child if he gets sick, or treat him? 

Don't answer that.

The trouble with jogging is that, by the time you realize you're not in shape for it, it's too far to walk back.
Franklin P. Jones

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Tuesday May 11th 2016

Today Mainly sunny. Increasing cloudiness this afternoon. Wind becoming northeast 20 km/h this afternoon. High 17. UV index 6 or high.
Tonight Overcast. Wind northeast 20 km/h becoming light near midnight. Low zero.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I have lab tests to have done today, so am fasting and will be off to Three Hills as soon as the lab opens.

My weight is getting back on track.  Eating at home and working on bees definitely help, as does not drinking wine.

I drove to town early and was at the lab ten minutes before it opened, expecting an early morning lineup of fasting clients.  I was surprised to find I was the only customer, so with very little waiting I had blood drawn and an EKG, then drove home.

*   *   *   *   *

I have a lot to do today.  I have the bees to attend and some cleanup of things that have blown around the yard, then I must pack for BC.  It will be a full day.  Good thing I am feeling better.

Tomorrow evening, I will be on board with companions I have just met once.  They seem like a fun bunch, but I worry that I will be influenced to eat and drink more than I should and be served foods that are outside my ideal range.

Refusing foods and drink offered is not easy as many take a refusal personally. Sometimes it is because they went to effort to offer items they especially like and assume others do, and sometimes it is because a refusal reminds them of their own resolve to avoid such 'delicacies' and that they are not doing so. 

Regardless, it is not easy to refuse without drawing attention or causing offence.  I saw an article online then other day suggesting ways to do so.  My excuse right now is my medication.  That works for drink, but I need a good excuse for food.

I am now listening to Salt, Sugar, Fat. Previously, I listened to The End of Overeating and Always Hungry, and the inescapable conclusion from listening to all three books is that processed foods and snack foods are behind the obesity epidemic.

As a result of the industrial battle for shelf space and 'stomach share' and the consumer preference for taste and 'mouth feel' over healthy nutrition -- and ignorance -- sugar, salt, fat, and refined starches far in excess of what is healthy are found in almost all packaged foods today.  That means many, if not most of the foods served in restaurants and, to a lesser extent, homes, are not going to help me lose weight or maintain optimal health.

*   *   *   *   *

I waited until after lunch to get out to the bees.  Usually afternoons and evenings are the best time for that work and I had things to do around the house.  I got out around one and worked through the rest of the Quonset Yard.

*   *   *   *   *

I now have twelve live hives and of that twelve, four are huge and four are small.  I have told people I have no hives for sale this year, but have promised a few and will meet those orders.  When I am done, I figure I may have about twenty and they will almost all be splittable when I return.

What I am finding is that there was a huge flow after the honey was pulled and strips put in and many hives just plugged right out.  I'm seeing a few hives with varroa on the pupae between the boxes, but as many or more without.

I expected a cool day, but it is getting hot out there, so I worked and hour and a half, then took a break.  I have another thirty or so hives to check and figure that maybe eight or ten will be alive.  I'm just letting the deadouts sit for now.  They will be useful when I split.

My big problem is finding empty comb.  Hives cannot build up if the queen has no room to lay and all my combs are plugged with honey.  I had been counting on getting more foundation last summer, but my supplier unexpectedly ran out.

My best hope is for a year with no honey.  It happens, and now would be a good time for me, but I would not wish it on my friends.

I'm realizing there is really nothing too pressing to do with the bees themselves.  They are doing fine and maybe I save a colony or two, and maybe by reversing the strong ones I assist build-up, but basically the bees can take care of themselves, other than coping with varroa.

*   *   *   *   *

Once in the house, I ate a package of Mr. Noodles soup and some taco shells.  Big mistake.  The carbs made me sleepy, so I had a nap and after was not too ambitious, but went back out.  I did work through the remaining hives, finding only two more alive and did some tidy-up and decided to quit.

I was energetic working the bees last night, and not too bad on my first trip out today, but was uninspired and logy the second time out.  I attribute that to eating snack food on my break.  Although fast carbs are recommended during exercise, my experience is that they make me feel fatigued.  I recall when skiing for Gold at Norquay, requiring me to ski fifty-thousand feet of vertical in a day, I was full of beans until lunchtime when I consumed some carbs.  After that, I was sluggish and barely finished the test. 

It seems I never learn.

I quit at six and came in, made several phone calls and am now about to pack.  I have to anticipate all the things I will need on this boat, without the supplies I keep on Cassiopeia since they are in Sidney and this boat is in Vancouver.

People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.
A. J. Liebling

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Thursday May 12th 2016
Thursday May 19 2016

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I got up early, packed and drove to Airdrie.  Mike dropped me at YYC and not long after, I was walking to the SkyTrain in Vancouver. 

I got off at the Village Station, and caught the Number 50 bus to Granville Island. When I arrived, my boat, Just Do It!, was still being cleaned, so I killed some time, then got on board and began checking out the boat. 

My crew were driving from Calgary, and had said they would arrive by car around supper. They wanted to barbeque, so I checked out the barbeque and found it was bent up -- and out of propane.  I spent the next several hours repairing it with the aid of Sam who was on his last day at work with the firm, but very helpful.  As a result, I did not have time to finish checking out the boat, beyond the obvious.

At six, the guys showed up with four wheelbarrows of food and drink and a huge cooler and jugs of ice.  We found space for the food in storage and the fridge, but the cooler could not go.  Big square-sided things just do not fit on a sailboat. Besides, we did not need it.

We barbequed supper in the newly-repaired barbeque and called it a day.  I like these guys

*   *   *   *   *

Friday 13: We were up fairly early and cast off for Nanaimo, where we were to meet the others at  the Dinghy Dock Pub at 1700. 

The trip across Georgia Strait was uneventful and along the way, we got to know one another better. I discovered that I had some teaching to do; Bruce has a smaller boat on freshwater and Gunther has little experience beyond sailing with Bruce occasionally.  Sailing in coastal tidal waters is quite a bit different from lake sailing but fortunately, I enjoy teaching and the guys are very positive types and glad to learn.

We anchored a few hundred yards off the Dinghy Dock Pub, mounted the outboard, figured out how to get it running -- It is brand new and the fuel supply valve was shut off -- and went in to meet the gang.

*   *   *   *   *

Saturday 14: We pulled up the anchor and motored out inside Newcastle Island, through Departure Bay and into the Strait, headed for Smuggler Cove Park. 

We had begun with the dinghy in tow with the outboard motor mounted on it, but decided the setup was too unstable and lifted the outboard off early in the crossing. 

At that point, I learned the value of the Nova Lift, which enables one person to safely mount and un-mount the outboard.  That simple device costs over US$500 and came with the boat.  Without it, the job takes two people,.  It can be done by one -- I've done it often --but it is very difficult for one person.

We had fair winds and sailed most of the way, arriving at Smuggler Cove in mid-afternoon.  We anchored beside Rick, who was already there and stern-tied, sharing a shore ring with Revelry, his boat.

Gunther went swimming.  The ten-degree water did not daunt him at all in his full wet suit.  Bruce went in, too, but with just a bathing suit.  I watched.

*   *   *   *   *

Sunday 15: We were the second last out of the anchorage and alternately sailed and motored along the way to Garden Bay.  The folks on the other boats wanted to do some sailing for the sake of sailing, but personally, I sail from here to there.  I don't just go sailing for something to do.  I've spent too many days and nights at the helm, I guess.

The weather was mild, but misty, not wet enough to require a full raincoat but we got damp just the same in this open boat with no bimini.

The fog and drizzle let up by noon and we threw over the anchor and stopped for lunch on the way into Pender Harbour.  By the time we got to the harbour, half the fleet was there.  We anchored and the guys went exploring.  I stayed on board and did odd chores. 

The group planned to meet in the marina pub at 1900 for beers, but my crew and I decided we did not enjoy the noise and high cost of bars and stayed home to eat and have our obligatory cocktail hour on board since we had lots of supplies and did not want leftovers at the end of the voyage -- and we are all frugal.

We got along well.

*   *   *   *   *

Monday 16: We motored out of Garden Bay, headed for Thunder Bay, with a lunch stop planned at Hardy Bay along the way.

We stopped for lunch at Hardy Bay and anchored beside Harturo.  We had to fend them off the entire time since the space was so limited and we had anchored too close.

As it turned out, our anchor chain had not been calibrated and marked and we had no clear idea how much chain we had dropped.  The manual said 165 feet, but when  I measured later, there was only 90.  We had to guess, and we guessed wrong.

Modern anchors are basically a hook, not a weight, and need a sideways pull to hook on the bottom, the more horizontal the pull, the better, and a vertical will dislodge them. The length of chain and rope required -- scope -- to get a decent angle to set and hold in the bottom is decided based on water depth, sea conditions, and whether there is anyone awake and watching in case of dragging.  For lunch stops, three times the water depth is usually adequate, but for overnight or windy conditions five or even seven is indicated.   Chains, being heavy, naturally sink and pull sideways and need less scope, but ropes float, allowing a boat to swing around more.

Early on, I had set a routine whereby one or the other of the crew were "captain of the day" and just watched over them and instructed where a lesson arose.  They did most of the sailing and steering when not on autopilot and kept watch for hazards.  Of course, I was usually alert and handled any navigation near shore or where any hazard could be expected.

After lunch I went below for a while to nap.  Gunther was captain for the day today, but went swimming, leaving Bruce on the foredeck and, I assumed, in charge.  When I happened to come back on deck after my rest I discovered that the anchor was no longer on the bottom and that we were drifting perilously close to the rocky shore. Bruce was still on deck, but talking on his phone and not paying attention to where we were. Gunther was off swimming hundreds of yards away. 

We had taken in the anchor chain a bit earlier to reduce the swing towards Harturo, and we were getting alarmingly close to where we would touch bottom. I immediately took over and motored deeper.

Touching bottom is fairly harmless in itself, unless it happens at high tide.  If that happens and nobody notices and gets into deeper water before the tide goes out, the boat can be left high and dry and lying on its side.

Not only is that embarrassing, but damage can result, and in the best case stranding results in a twelve-hour delay -- assuming the next tide is as high as the one that left the boat stranded and that is not always the case -- as can be seen at right

When Gunther came back, we left for Thunder Bay and arrived there mid-afternoon after a good sail with Gunther at the helm.  We anchored for the night with the other boats.

Tuesday 17: From Thunder Bay, we sailed and motored up to Powell River. The others booked into the public south marina, but we tied up at my spot on the dock at the private north marina. As we entered our marina, the autopilot acted up, dragging on the steering, but we were able to steer as we got to the dock.  I'm glad that did not happen earlier.

We borrowed the company car to run uptown for a few items.  The guys went grocery shopping, and we picked up a 3mm allen wrench for the autopilot, which I adjusted, fixing the problem.

Wednesday 18:  In the morning we fuelled up, then the group straggled off to Comox, with some diverting to Lund along the way.

We were curious how much fuel we had used, but did not know for sure the boat had been full before we left, so this was a chance to top up.  We took about 50 litres, so I think the tank had been down a bit at the start.

Once on our way to Comox under sail in light winds, and confident that the guys were capable and well briefed with standing instructions to stay a half-mile off shore unless I was on deck, and no hazards around, I went below for some reading.

After only what seemed like moment later, I happed to glance at my GPS chart app on my tablet to see we were quite close to Texada Island.  I went up and was told that the wind had shifted and they were trying to pinch the tack.

I was not impressed.  This was in direct contravention of the standing order to notify me if closer than a half-mile.  Lake sailors don't realise what the currents can be out on the coast and a boat can travel a few hundred yards sideways quite quickly if there is a breakdown or a distraction.  Moreover, although the charts did not show shallow water there, the currents can be tricky off the tip of a long island.

I took over, but we soon ran out of wind and motored the rest of the way.

We arrived at the Comox bar right at low tide, and the crossing requires careful attention.  There is no real risk of hitting anything as the water is at least a metre deeper than our draft in the marked channel if there is no swell, but once again, currents can be tricky, even at slack and there are shallow spots to either side.  We draw six feet nominal and need at least a metre more depth to be sure.   The bar at low tide is not a good place to have an inexperienced helm, especially one who, for whatever reasons, has proven to not follow orders faithfully, so I took the helm.  Overconfidence in a crew is worrisome.  A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

We arrived at the Comox Municipal Marina breakwater dock and tied up.  We were the first in. The others came along later.

Tonight was the FACS potluck supper, but I was invited out for supper by Turners, so the guys represented our boat at the FACS supper.

Thursday 19: The guys wanted to get more sailing experience, so we left the dock mid-morning, crossed the bar, and and went sailing for the day.   At first we had good wind, but it died and we ended up motoring back over the bar to Henry Bay on Denman Island to join the others.


It's not whether you're right or wrong that's important,
but how much money you make when you're right
and how much you lose when you're wrong
George Soros

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