Canoeing on the Red Deer River
Friday June 23rd, 2000
Steve and Ken took down another 160 south this morning. The trip was mostly uneventful and we filled up McCallums' location completely. There was bit of rain just before they got there, but although Ian was there to help, a tow was not required.
Matt and Gareth are still working on getting some last minute things done such as fixing an exhaust leak on one of the forklifts and getting the last diesel on the road. We were concerned about the one that was smoking. It also was down 4 quarts on oil, so we may have to retire it if the tuning Matt did does not do the trick. We need to have its replacement ready. Although we could deliver very nicely in 160 hive trips using only two trucks and trailers, we like to be able to deliver twice that on demand if necessary.
Matt and Gareth have been doing the loading in the evenings so that the trucks are sitting ready to roll at dawn, or before. We are very careful to keep the hours reasonable and share the tasks. We don't want anyone dozing at the wheel.
Jean and Chris arrived in the evening and we watched a movie on TV.
J&C wanted to get an apartment in red Deer during the summer while the demand is low, so we all headed up to Red Deer. El & I took the pickup so we could do things on our own while the kids searched.
They were lucky and found a really nice one that accepts pets. Jean is a cat lover, as I guess we all are.
We were going to have supper in town, but decided we liked our own cooking best and headed home for ribs and a huge baked potato each, along with a bottle or two of French merlot. We don't often buy wine since we have so much good mead on hand, but thought it might be a treat. It was okay, I guess.
We still do not have the report from the inspection, so I spent some time writing a letter. In the afternoon, I did some tidying around the house while Ellen gardened and Jean and Chris visited with us. The weather went from hot to cold and back several times with sun then showers. We have the furnace running and have all month with only a few days exceptions. Most nights we close the windows. It is a cold year here.
Matt came in to work on installing the new diesel engine into the last truck. He didn't have to come in, but just wanted to. The guys are really putting their hearts into the pollination.
Jean and Chris left at four and then Meijers and the Purves-Smiths came for supper . I barbequed and lit a bonfire but we sat inside and enjoyed it through the new windows since it was cool and rained intermittently. I guess if you consider that we often barbeque and sit outside in December, it says something about this 'summer' we are enjoying.
Observation Location: 51.12 N,
We're off to get Ellen's eyes checked first thing this morning. Her vision is improved, but there is still redness and it is time for the scheduled check-up. I did not go to Edworthy Park as before, but went to Canadian Tire to look for a temperature sensor for the diesel.
We received the report from the inspector at long last this afternoon, and found it very worthwhile. He had visited quite a few yards and although his report agreed with ours in most respects, there were a few yards that showed a considerable divergence, both high and low.
Most yards were within one frame of our estimate, but several were off by four or so, making me wonder why. A number of explanations come to mind:
I was very pleased to get the results, even if they were a bit late arriving, and appreciate that good measurement will level the playing field so that those who give good value get recognised and those who are short will know it. The second opinion also helps to catch any oversights and reduce complacency.
I managed to get the books caught up a bit this afternoon, and we started on the payroll.
I had my lunch packed and was ready to go to load bees tonight with Steve and Ryan, but Matt and Gareth seemed eager to go, even after working on the truck all afternoon, so I let them go in my place. The job is pretty easy and the three trucks will be ready by 11 PM, I should think
Rob called and said the canola is awfully slow coming and that we needn't rush this week. We proposed a four day July 1st weekend: Friday, Sat, Sun, and Monday, with possible loading Monday night. He said that should likely work. We pulled out the records of the last two years, and can see now that the need for heavy deliveries is usually after July 1st, not before. We don't like to get complacent though, and try to act as if the rush is a week earlier than it really is.
It is easy to forget this. In the heat of the moment working on pollination we lose accurate recollection of exactly what happened around us. That is exactly why I am taking the time to write this so I can read it next year and correct for misperceptions. I know my memory will be distorted.
As I am going to bed now (at eleven), I see that two of the three highway trucks are back and looking good. I also notice that the back rows on both trucks are a bit jumbled with the supers having gotten crooked due to bumps along the way. That is one of the concerns I had about disturbing the hives for inspection at the last moment, but I think the real problem is either in the design of our trailers or the driving -- or both.
Last year we put a couple of tires on top and used a load strap to hold them down. It is a few minutes extra work in a system that is otherwise slick and simple, but may be necessary. Another alternative is to reduce tire pressure, but there is a limit to how far we can go with that.
I awoke at 5:15 and the trucks were gone. The crew is on top of things. I put Steve in charge of the run south. Rob has a great deal of confidence in him and he has a good mind for location and numbers.
I checked the report from last night and everything was done according to the instructions. Matt noted that a power steering hose blew on the fourth truck which accompanies them to pull the forklift and pick up odds and ends on the loading run. Could it be just one of those things or could it have been someone turning the steering on a loaded truck when it is sitting still? I doubt the latter since Matt is our mechanic and sensitive to these things.
Trucks that are off-road and loaded should be rolling slightly forward or back whenever any effort is put on the steering since the wheels may be restrained by soft ground and intolerable stress on the steering may result if the load is heavy. When this consideration is combined with the need for care on the clutch, it seems that the ability to rub one's stomach while simultaneously patting one's head is a skill that should be tested at time of hiring.
Ryan checked out at 10:20, Steve at 10:45, Gareth at 12:02, and Matt at 12:35 last night. That makes sense, since they went north at about seven. It was warm and sunny so they had to wait to load. It was about an hour's drive each way and there was forty minutes' loading time per truck and trailer of eighty supered hives. That gives a turn-around time of about three hours. Allowing a few minutes for checking the the supplies and refuelling after returning, things are running right on cue.
They started with Getz's yard where there were some hives being left behind. This allowed them to start loading earlier than if they were taking the entire yard, since the few bees flying around dusk would have homes. They then did Huston's which required two trucks since it had 112 hives, then Hainsworths' and then came back. The forklift truck brought back a full load too and these were put down at home.
Sometimes I have good reason to complain about my co-workers, but patience, fairness and forbearance at such moments is almost always rewarded by moments like these when I can be very proud of them and the wholehearted, professional job they do when it counts.
I talked to Rob again, he said the canola is very slow this year and we should probably move back our schedule. After talking to him, I decided to chart our deliveries over the past few years and the planned deliveries for this year.
This years' deliveries are projected at about the same times as last year. Actually when I look at the chart, I can see that we have projected the later deliveries a bit earlier than last year and can cut back quite a bit.
The other conclusion that I reach is that the first hives really did not need to be delivered until around June 27th. If, in the future, we were to delay a bit over what we have done in past years, we would have almost another week to feed and super before going south. That could make quite a difference. We always start delivery a bit early to ensure that everything is working properly, but do not need to be quite so energetic moving in.
Every year we have been right on time for pollination - never late. In 1998 we delivered 'just-in-time', but last year we were consistently early -- at their request. This year we are trying again for 'just-in-time' delivery to avoid the sprays that are used before we go in and also to avoid starvation of the bees. It looks as if we are planning to deliver too early. That's better than too late, because we can always slow down. In fact it looks like a four day long weekend coming up.
1998 was an unusually warm, early year. Last year was slow and cool, and this year is even worse that way, so it looks as if we have been away ahead of the bloom last year and are away ahead again this year.
Normals for the period: Low 9. High 22.
Sunrise:5:23 AM Sunset:9:55
I awoke at 5 to hear a truck start, followed soon by another. They rolled out at a few minutes after. I only heard two. I took a look and saw that the third was still here. Apparently it had not been fuelled up the night before and also needed some more tying down. It rolled out a few minutes later to catch the others at the corner where they do a last minute walk-around before hitting the highway.
Matt and Gareth had finished loading around 11:30 last night . This is earlier compared to the night before when they ended after midnight. It only took two of them to load since they visited local yards, starting with Billy's Coulee. They loaded several yards there. They left a pallet of catch hives for the first several pickups since there was still a bit of flight. The yards were not in even forties and are close together, so we made an exception here. We'll be returning anyhow. They then did the two Boese yards and loaded the last trailer from home, having loaded the forklift truck at Billy's.
Today they are completing the tire changes on the hive loader truck and also getting that last unit, D3 ready. We thought we had a good wiring harness for the deck, but it turned out to have a number of shorts in it. I don't know who made it, but the supervision and testing left something to be desired. So, Gareth spent a lot of time repairing it and then installing it. They talked of taking the truck out with them as the forklift truck tonight, but it is still sitting there, so I guess they overestimated its readiness.
160 Hives rolled out this morning at 5 AM., Steve and Ken driving. The hives were loaded last night by Matt, Gareth and Ryan from the five Elnora yards. They left at 7:30 to start pickup. It takes about an hour to get there and ready to load.
They left a catch hive group at Woods location since there were still some bees flying when they started. Gareth was back at 10 PM, Ryan at 11, and Matt at 11:30.
I think we are loading just a bit early in the evening. Sunset is 9:55 and dusk is about 9. Unless there is rain or cloud, we probably shouldn't start loading until 9 at the earliest unless we are loading from a yard where we will be leaving hives -- which we have been so far. Even then, I don't want to weaken the hives going to pollination. The number of bees left behind by loading at 8 or so should not be very significant from the pollination point of view, since we smoke the bees before loading, but it is too many for me to feel comfortable abandoning.
For what it's worth, I think that the bees that we do leave behind by loading early tend to be older bees. Unless the hives are moved onto blooming fields these older bees would not be around long enough do much, if any pollinating. Moreover, they are the ones that will be the first to leave the load in transit and would be lost along the way.
We don't like to just have a few hives left here and there as catch hives or leftovers because it is so inefficient to visit them later. For yards with good prospects for honey production, maybe we should plan to have 52 per yard and take away 40, leaving 12. That way we can load earlier and still leave a decent sized honey yard. We did not have enough hives beyond the number committed for pollination this year to do that and still have allowances for yards that might not measure up and which must be left at home. We had a few yards with 44 or more just so we can load early, but I think we should expand that plan.
In each of the two past years, we had planned to make a lot of small splits for increase and leave them in the yards, but both years were cool and slow. We felt the parent hives could not spare the bees and brood, and moreover, we ran very close to the moving date in finishing all the other jobs. We are still completing the last truck and some of the last minute forklift repairs. Supering was barely completed by the 22nd beginning date.
I revised the delivery schedule to more closely mirror past deliveries so that we won't get too far ahead. Spraying of the fields for weeds or pests should be done ideally a few days before delivery, and we don't want to move early off good pasture to a crowded region with no nectar or pollen available until canola bloom.
Since we have been planning on delivering earlier than necessary, I can see now that we have been setting the deadline for completing supering too early. We do not really need to move the first load until the 27th of June. If we had set the deadline a bit later, we would have had another week for feeding -- which really pays off -- and splitting. Just the same, I think we could have been cutting things too close. We'll make the small splits later when we have more time. And, we like to be a bit early, not late. With the new variety of canola, we were not sure when the bloom would start.
The phone did not ring all day. When I called Rob around nine, we agreed to call off deliveries until next week, since we are catching up with the spraying which takes place before we come. We called Matt and Gareth and Ryan to say to come in earlier since they did not have to load. We left messages to call us, and to come in early.
No one called. Finally Gareth showed up and mentioned that when he had phoned he only got an answering machine. I checked, and all my calls were being forwarded to my cell phone which was turned off and which now had 23 new messages. Sometimes the phone provider's (Telus) system crashes and they restore from a backup. If the backup was made when call forwarding was on, then call forwarding turns on without your knowing. I've had this happen more than once. I've also had deleted messages appear again, no doubt for the same reason.
Today's delivery was uneventful except that Rob had thought we were not delivering today -- or until next week for that matter. I had understood that he had shown Steve the spots for today. They both called in a panic around 8 in the morning. I learned that later when I unloaded the messages in late afternoon. By then I had talked to Rob and Steve had returned happy and without comment. Everything had gone fine, so-- maybe ignorance is bliss. I was blissfully unaware of the moment of concern until they worked it out.
D1 has a leaking injection line. The driver companied of lack of power. Matt found the leak. It's minor and we will have the part by the time we start next week.
D3 is still not finished. Gareth and Marcus worked on it for about another 4 hours today, but there were a lot of little things to deal with such as an exhaust repair and the fact that the tool boxes were installed too high and would not open. It's always interesting to try to guess how ready a unit is when I'm told it is done, and to see how long it takes after that before all the little things are finished and it is actually useable.
As for how long something will take -- I just double the time I am given and add 2 hours. That comes close for most people.
We decided to pay a new bonus for the work accomplished this month, seeing as things are running so much better lately. The four day weeks are much more efficient, and instructions are being followed better. We are maintaining good contact by cell phone and thus responding to changing conditions and new problems better.
Two people got small raises in pay as well. However, we are now penalizing lates and absences without exception by withholding bonuses on late days or unauthorized short weeks.
The psychology that accompanies being a few minutes late for work translates into being a a minute late and a nickel short in other activities too. I don't think it is a coincidence that in the past we have been constantly about a week behind the ideal state of preparedness. We always have the bare essentials done, but the cleanup and organization chores always suffer and equipment is often not quite ready. It takes no more effort -- usually less -- to be on time or early and to be prepared. It takes real effort to be behind by a a precise and constant amount. This to me indicates strong (although unconscious) will. I firmly intend to break that pattern and harness that strong will to be consistently on time -- or ahead.
Tomorrow is the first of four days off for all of us unless Rob calls us in for a Tuesday delivery in which case two of us will have to load Monday night. I don't know how well I'll keep this diary up. I had thought to get a flight somewhere, but there is nothing good that I can find to fit my timetable, so maybe I'll stay home or go wandering with the old Winnebago.
"If I make a living off it, that's great--but I come from a culture where you're valued not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away," -- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)
© allen dick 2000. Permission granted to copy with attribution and in context .