Thursday July 6th, 2000
The trucks rolled at 4:35. The weather here is foggy and cool at 7 AM and the sun can be seen burning its way through.
I called Rob, and everything is okay down there: no rain. The bees go to Mel's fields today. Tomorrow, Stankos and Belgian Farms. Rob says all the crops are blooming, except Belgian Farms. Rob says that the fields have all been in bloom when we moved in except McCallums which was our first one, and a practice run.
So far we have not needed farmers on standby to pull us into fields this year. I hope we are not too complacent. All it takes is a big convective storm at night to make a field unreachable. The mornings can be hot, and I do not want a truck sitting waiting for a tractor -- even for a half hour in the sun.
Matt and Gareth punched out at about 12:20 last night. The driving I did makes a big difference. Ideally pickup needs three people if more than two units are to be loaded in out-yards. Shuttling the trucks back and forth is the most time consuming part of the job.
I don't like to have the guys out much after midnight, because tiredness can become a risk. For the same reason, I don't like to have drivers running before dawn. I know that from the many times I have set out before dawn that staying awake can be difficult until daylight breaks. The young guys don't mind being out even until dawn -- especially if there is a full moon -- but I am uncomfortable with that. Jonathan hit several deer on the roads, and it was always around 2 AM. I had a near miss in Lomond one night at about the same hour.
We have the capacity to load four units, either with two separate crews, or with one crew, however, we have not needed to do so this year. If four trucks run south, unloading can get to be a problem. Unless the trips are staggered, trucks could be lined up waiting on the forklift down there, so if we were running four we would have to have two go down at night or earlier in the morning, possibly staying over at Vulcan so that they could unload at 6 or so -- before the others arrived. This approach presents problems if there is mud, because it means having the farmers -- or Rob checking the fields very early.
I took the transmission to a repair shop and found that it had been practically new before it was run without oil. The cost will be around $1500. The technician could not figure out the cause of the damage. He thought initially that a ball from a bearing must have run through it, but could not find any chunks of steel.
The only damage was a missing groove of steel running right around the centre of both the countershaft drive gears. I took a glance and pointed out that the steel had actually melted and been thrown off at the centre where the heat was concentrated and could not escape. The sides of the teeth were still like new although a little blued. The groove around each gear was packed with metal as if it had been spalled, since it was packed back in by the pressure from the other gear.
All this from 8 miles without oil, and for lack of a minute's attention.
Matt and Gareth loaded Hansens East, Metzgers, Halsteads Carraganas, Gordons S, and Kirkwolds last night and took 40 from the home yard to make 240. They punched out at 12:30. I don't know what took so long, since the yards were all close to home and I did run one of the units out to them around 10. I guess they were a little late starting, since the yards did not have catch hives and also there was a little setting up of brakes to do that Matt was not aware of until the last minute.
The trucks rolled south again at 4:30.
The students resumed their cleanup at ten and Matt and Gareth came in at 1. El & I did some planning, then ran to town to drop off the D4 which is getting the window crack fixed. We stopped at the bank to sign papers and ran a few other errands.
Matt finished repairs on the Red Dodge hive loader truck, so we now have one more truck ready to use. We'll need the hive loader on it next week for splits. The transmission guy phoned to say that the tranny will be ready Sunday or Monday, so maybe D3 will be running by Wednesday. Matt may be taking a few days off then for a trip with some buddies to BC and back.
There is no loading tonight, so we can quit early. Rob did, however call for bees on Monday, so Matt and Gareth will be loading Sunday night. Steve, Ryan, and Ken will be driving Monday morning. 480 left to go, then we are done. In a week or two, we can start hauling bees back, since the early fields will be finished.
Why not haul the bees from the early fields that are finishing to the late fields, one might ask? It is just too hard on the bees to be crowded into a small area for very long. We must haul them home to make a honey crop and to recuperate from pollination.
Matt and Gareth checked several yards that had rated lowest on the inspection earlier and found that they now rated above pollination minimums. They also combined down and supered the hives in the nurse yard where all the weak hives were dropped. We wound up with twenty decent hives.
El & I had supper in town with Walt and at the same time, recovered the truck that was at the glass shop. Jean & Chris arrived around seven and lit a bonfire to roast marshmallows.
Went to a wedding. Came home. Went to bed.
The Meijers and Doug came at seven and after supper we chatted and went outside to look at the loads of bees that Matt and Gareth brought back.
In the picture, the camera is pointed north and the time is about 11:15 PM. Here in the north, the sun sets in the northwest in mid-summer and there are only about 5 hours of darkness as the sun disappears in the north for a few hours.
Meijers left around eleven-thirty. Doug and I called it a day around 1:30.
I awoke at 4:20. I hadn't heard the sounds of people coming in. Steve is usually fifteen minutes early when he is driving. I dressed. Then Ryan and Ken drove up. I checked the time cards. Steve was not here. I went out to talk to Ryan and Ken, and we started the diesels to warm them up. El, meantime made me some sandwiches while I gathered my kit.
By 4:50 we were on the way. Steve had not appeared and I was not about to go looking for him -- or even phone around. Dawn comes early. When you are running bees down the highway hoping to beat the sun and the heat of the day, every minute counts. Drivers must be wide awake and in good shape, and oversleeping is not to me an indicator of alertness.
We got to Lomond in good time and Rob met us which was a good thing because only Rob and Steve really knew where all the hives are supposed to go. I had called him and left a message as soon as we were on the road, and he called back as soon as he was about, around six. Rob is a very enthusiastic, attentive and hard-working agrononomist and he is a s likely to be in the fields as at home any hour of day or night.
I knew where the hives were supposed to be going, but was not sure that a last minute change had not been arranged between Steve and Rob. Sometimes things are changed a bit from day to day and I did not know for sure where to find our forklift, since it is left at a different location each time in expectation of the next planned unloading . I guess Ryan and Ken might have been able to say, but Rob had concentrated his instructions on Steve, and when you have three trucks with 240 strong hives moving on back roads, you do not want to be guessing -- or take any wrong turns.
We make our living by managing information and making sure it is correct is vital. We never guess if we can possibly know for sure, and we cross check information constantly.
We made the 222 km by about 8 AM and Rob directed me to one location while he led the other trucks to their unloading sites. Once they are on site, there is no rush to unload, since any bees which fly out will find a hive to return to. On the road, this is not the case, so we try to drive in the dark, in cloudy, rainy conditions, or early in the day when it is cool and the bees are accustomed by their internal clocks to being at home. The tarps on our trucks help by providing shade, and few bees fly before about 10AM, but we are always worried until we get onto the unloading site. At least, I am.
Rob, picked up Ken, then me and dropped us at Ryan's site, then was on his way. He is a busy man, and we are very grateful for the time he takes to ensure that we get into the right spots.
If he is not around, our little caravan must travel from spot to spot dropping a unit at each location and leaving it sit loaded for the time being. We pick up each driver and take him along, since the drivers are needed to help untie and unload quickly as well as to straighten the hives if they have shifted. A brick must be centred on each lid, or the Southern Alberta Chinook winds can be counted on to blow most of the lids off..
Our sites are often the dryland corners of irrigated fields as shown in the pictures above. Often these plots are stubble, or a stunted crop. Other times, they are all worked up and rough or a piece of rocky pasture that makes the unloading tricky.
Here's a shot of the arrangement we use to transport the forklift short distances at low speed on fields and back roads or trails. The forklift trailer tilts, so the only work loading and unloading is driving on or off and pulling a pin or putting it in place to hold the forklift on the trailer.
The last stop when picking up the drivers must be planned to be at the location where the forklift was left the time before. After that unit is unloaded, then the forklift trailer is tagged onto the back of the empty truck and trailer, and the route retraced until all trucks are empty and the drivers can return home.
Today we prepared for the last load to Lomond and the beginning of the dividing we have planned to provide increase and also to replace poor queens by two-queening.
We had to do some repairs on the hive loader to adapt it to lift what we are planning to lift and Steve and Gareth went out and practiced on some hives locally to get an idea what we can accomplish in a day. We only got 22 divides from a yard of forty hives in the two hours they were able to actually work, since the switches on the loader acted up, but we are all loaded now, and ready to take off in the morning.
There will be five of us and we plan on staying until we are done at least 500 divides. We have a lot of cells coming. We have contracted about 675 from Kirk McLaughlin and our friends the Meijers have offered to give us about 100. We'll need cells for the divides and also for any hives that are not up to standard that we come across in the process of dividing. The weather promises to be hot, so I hope we are able to take the heat. Lomond can be really hot, and we may be forced to take siestas.
Matt is taking a few days off to go to B.C. with friends. It's a busy time, but he has worked hard, and we think he deserves the chance to go. He got unlucky diesel # 5 running and even put transmission fluid in this time, plus he has just about everything around here running smoothly. The extracting line is the next challenge, but we're hoping he will be rested up when he returns on Saturday.
Our four day weeks have kinda disintegrated into chaos these days, but everyone is happy and we are doing what needs doing. People are getting time off when they need or want it and morale is high. We'll get back on schedule as soon as the divides are over -- I hope.
Matt and Ryan load tonight. After that Ryan is off for an unknown time, since he is having surgery in the morning.