- March 3rd to March 14th, 2000 -
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Friday March 3, 2000
I've intended to write a diary for some time, and now I've made
a start. We'll see how long this inspiration lasts.
Spring is getting near. The pond is showing signs of melting
and we put away the hockey sticks today. The snowmobile is next, although we
have often had good dumps of snow even into May. Hard to say, the weather
varies so much from year to year. Be that as it may, we usually see run-off
from the fields filling the pond within a week of March 17th -- St. Patrick's
day -- and our daughter's birthday.
The sun is getting much stronger and higher. We now have light
from 7AM until 6:45PM or so. Not too long ago, it was dark from 8 in the
morning to 5 at night. We are getting more light and heat in our east and west
windows, and less from the south. In mid-winter, though, we get a lot of warmth
in the south windows, since the sun only gets up 16 degrees off the horizon on
Dec 21st. In summer, the sun never shines into south windows; it is so far
north that it shines on our north exterior walls in early morning.
The bees? Well, we haven't been out to see them for about a
month now. At that time, we looked at one yard and visited several others. We
opened two twenty packs of singles to check them and to give them some fondant
that we are testing. Frankly, I was disappointed with the singles; they were a
bit weak, and losses were higher than they should be. The singles in question
were hives that had been run as singles all season under excluders.
Singles vs. Doubles:
We found that we got considerably more honey in the past several seasons from
singles than from doubles, but also that they were harder to manage spring and
fall than the doubles we normally run. The problem is one of either
starvation or plugging, and the problems associated with putting pollen patties
or grease patties onto the hives. In the spring, a super is needed much
earlier than with doubles, and there is no room for patties under or over the
excluder; patties need to be adjacent to the brood to work. At both
times, it is hard to get enough feed in the form of syrup into a single and
still, have room for bees. Needless to say -- but I will repeat -- under
no circumstances does one wish to get syrup into the supers.
The doubles in the same yard, on the other hand looked much
better and had few losses. We noted some shortage of feed and will have
to get out earlier than some years to tend to them. they may be okay for
now, since they consume little feed when not rearing brood, but once the
weather warms, they eat a lot . we've been investigating using fondant as
an emergency bee feed. I fed sugar syrup to a few yards really early
(March) one year and decided that it was a waste. I could not see any
difference between the yards I had fed and those I had not, except that I had
spent a few hundred dollars on the ones with syrup. We're hoping that
fondant will provide subsistence feed for those hives that need it without
burning them out.
The fondant is like stiff creamed honey in consistency and is
fed in plastic bags immediately above the cluster. We have verified that
the constituents are not toxic to bees, and have reports from other beekeepers
who have tried using it.
Saturday March 4th, 2000
The weather is mild today, around 5 degrees C. It's been
nice lately, running above average. We really only had one cold week in
the minus twenties and touching minus thirty this winter. We're promised
a bit of snow, and Lake Louise reports 4 cm new; I'm wrestling with whether to
go snowboarding tomorrow or not. I've been out about ten times this winter.
That's more than last year, but nothing like when I was a Ski Patroller or
doing my instructor's courses for skiing and snowboard.
It's Saturday, and a day without interruptions. During
the past week, we have been doing yard cleanup and working on installing the
repower kit into one of our Swingers. The new Kubota diesel looks good,
but there is still at least, optimistically, two days work to get things
ready to roll. We also have the engines out of two of our diesel trucks,
so reassembling them will be the next mechanical task. Not only that,
Steve bent the ram on the Swinger we use to remove snow and move dirt, so that
will have to be fixed too.
Meantime, the date approaches for our first check of the bees;
feeding may be required in some cases. We still have extender and pollen
patties to make, but we have syrup on hand ready to go, and fondant ready to
use. We have five people working plus El & me, but we could use more, but
I hate to think of the demands on my time that each additional helper adds and
am reluctant to hire until we have to.
There is also the small matter of the books to finish from last
year and cash flows to prepare. I got started on that last night, and I
may get some more done this weekend. The T4s are out, and that's a
relief, but I updated to QuickBooks 2000 Pro just at the time I was doing the
final payroll figures (I know better) and I must say that it has not been a
smooth transition from the previous version. Hopefully the worst is
I guess it's time to stop procrastinating and get back to the
books... (later)... Well, I did get some of that done, but
then I found the photos Lloyd sent, and got to working on the
site and then Don Turner, a former commercial beekeeper neighbour called and
asked if I'd like to go flying. I said 'Yes', and there went the rest of
the afternoon. We flew over to Drum and back. Then El & I drove
down to Turner's for supper.
Sunday March 5th, 2000
Well, I got off to a good start finishing off the Ross Rounds
site -- at least for now -- and then got to cleaning up accumulated debris from
years of deskwork. Sorting paper is always a precursor to getting the
books done: there is always something missing that is at the bottom of some
drawer or pile of paper that is essential to finishing the job. It's
obvious how enthused I am about the books. I hear there is a half foot of
powder in the Rockies and they are saying on the radio the highways are bad.
May have to go to Fortress mountain in the morning to help pack down that fresh
It's amazing how long it takes to clean up. I don't even
remember having made this mess.
Tuesday March 7th, 2000
What happened to Monday? I don't know. This
bookwork is like wading through mud. I got some more cleanup done, and,
yes, I did get some cash flow work done.
Sunday night, we got the snow alright, and now we have at least
six inches of soft white snow on the ground, so the outside work has to wait a
bit and we are all working indoors. I hear there is lots more in the
I did not go snowboarding Monday, and at the present rate, I
doubt I will -- for a while at least in spite of the best snow of the entire
season so far. It's almost Wednesday, and the week is slipping by.
The work keeps getting done, but I'm planning to go to the Ontario pollination
meeting next Monday and have to get everything out of the way, since I'll be
away for a few days.
The front shaft on the snowmobile is broken. We got the
SkiDoo in case we need to get into the bee yards, but so far haven't needed to.
I remember years when the bees starved in remote yards because we got a late
snowfall that kept us out until April. So, we run it around to practice the
necessary skills, and I guess someone hit something.
The Swinger repower is still not together, and the
wiring burnt out on another Swinger the other day. Seems someone left a
pipe nipple on top of the engine and it fell, shorting out the alternator stud
that connects to the battery. The resulting short burnt the harness.
There is no fusible link in these machines. We had noticed that and
rewired another of the units with breakers in that same lead, but had not
gotten to altering this machine in time.
The neighbours were over for supper last night and we had a
good visit. they have some bees in BC and are heading out there later in
the week to check and feed.
So far there isn't much in this diary about bees, but this
is beekeeping the way it happens -- around here anyhow.
Wednesday March 8th, 2000
Another dull day. Temps are around freezing and below.
Outdoor work has stopped. Matt & Ryan are fixing the
snowmobile and the Swinger with the bent ram is now okay and ready to push snow
again. Shannon continues to assemble frames -- about 4,000 done so far, I
guess. 6,000 to go. Steve is repairing supers and rewiring the
Swinger with the melted harness.
Gareth is working with DaVon making the 2 new trailers.
The axles are late coming. We're going with the rubber ride type this
time: I'm told they don't throw the load around the way that springs do.
Me? well, I'm running around and getting the cash flow
done. Slow work, and oh, yes, the man from AFRD came today to get
financial data for the statistical analysis that the economists use to show the
governments that the farmers are broke. Or not. There went pretty
well the entire morning.
I got my ticket for Toronto today and a car rental for the
pollination meeting coming up in Simcoe Ontario, I've never been that far
south in Ontario unless you count a quick trip through Windsor & Detroit on the
way to Texas one rainy night many years ago.. I grew up in Sudbury and
almost moved to the Simcoe region (Port Coburne) when I was a kid, but my dad
refused the promotion, partly due to the lack of enthusiasm from the family.
Too bad, maybe, in retrospect. There are nice beaches down there on Lake
Erie and the area is actually south of the northernmost part of California.
I hope to get the planning done this week and order some
package bees. We've decided that we can't always count on splitting in
the spring to get our numbers back up after winter loss. Some years it
works, but others we find that it affects the crop too much. Pollination
has been good to us, but hard on our bees. After the first year we've
found that the bees are not nearly as good as if they had been on good pasture.
The trick to keeping numbers up is to make many small splits
that build up in time to overwinter in large numbers to ensure adequate numbers
the next year. That can be tricky, since the idea is to make splits that
are big enough to survive, but not so large that they produce honey the first
year and plug up.
We need packages this year to ensure that we don't weaken our
hives too much. We'll split up the worst hives to make increase, and also
take a bit of brood from the strong hives around swarming time. That does
not seem to set them back at all, in fact it will sometimes make them come on
faster since the queen lays all the cells in the replacement frames as fast as
she can at that time of year.
We have a fair bit of foundation to go in, and this can be the
time to put a few frames right into the middle of the brood nest where they are
drawn instantly -- if we call the game right.
Thursday March 9th, 2000
Well, I got quite a bit done on the differential cash flows,
and it's still pretty clear that we need to buy 300 to 400 packages this year
to avoid splitting too drastically and ensure the best use of our resources.
The crew spent most of the day repairing the snowmobile and
doing general cleanup. I got the finalization on my ticket and car rental
in Ontario Monday. Also finally got the internet phone answering service
installed by Telus. Now when I am on the net and someone calls, I get an
indication and ID, and can choose to either answer, send the call to voicemail
or forward the call
Friday March 10th, 2000
More of the same, except that Adony dropped by this afternoon
to get started on some experiments he is doing this spring using some of our
bees. The picture is
of Adony holding some AFB frames that some neighbours donated and which will
supply the spores with which he will try to infect some of our colonies.
We would supply some ourselves, but since we started using
patties, we have seen no AFB at all. The boys started on some
pollen substitute feeders like the ones Philpotts have been using, and also
repaired a lot of supers. We have 1000 or so sitting around not in use
and we have to either repair them and use them, sell them, or burn them. We're
using some for the pollen substitute feeders and the rest are being sorted and
Saturday March 11th, 2000 & Sunday March 12th, 2000
Flew to Toronto early this morning and drove out to see my
cousin Don at his farm. His brother Peter came by for a visit too.
Stopped to see Aunt Ev on the way over to John's. Visited John & Jill
Holditch and their family. Had a good visit.
Monday March 13th, 2000
Went to the Pollination Symposium. Found it very
worthwhile. Went to my cousin Jack Dick's place for the evening and stayed
over. Got there in time to celebrate Barb's birthday and to see Hugh and
Ilona's new house. Visited a bit in the morning and decided to fly home
early. Had been feeling a little 'off' for the past several days. Bit of
a ticklish throat, and feeling dull.
Tuesday March 14th, 2000
Got home and found that the warm spell was over. It was
minus eleven at the airport and the car was covered with snow. Got home
about four. Matt had finished the Swinger diesel conversion.
Sorting the old supers is going slowly. I gather the guys are hoping that
if they don't get it done, something else will come up and they will be spared.
Not so, I'm afraid. It must be done, even if it means weekend work. Still
feeling poorly: sore throat and groggy.
- March 3rd to March 14th, 2000 -
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