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Friday September 1, 2000

Mainly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers. High 18.

Sunrise: 6:50 AM Sunset: 8:21 PM : The Moon is Waxing Crescent (13% of Full)

Matt is off for the day.  He worked Monday to get off today, since it is along weekend and his buddies are heading to BC.  I got to skim the tank and fill drums this morning.  We are close to 75 drums now and must call for a truck. 

We don't sell our honey, we send it to the Alberta Honey Producers Co-operative, and they pack and sell it for us, then return the proceeds over the year.  This return generally does not quite equal the market in price, but is extremely convenient and comfortable, since drums are supplied and insured, and we can always get a payment as soon as we have any honey.  This helps cash flow a lot, since we put out a lot of money over the year and are running low by August.

Tonight: Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Wind easterly 20 km/h. Low 8.

Normals for the period: Low 6. High 20.

Saturday September 2nd, 2000

Periods of rain with a few thunderstorms this morning. Rainfall amounts up to 20 mm. Wind northeast 20 km/h. High 12.

Ellen dropped me at YYC and I was in YVR in a bit over an hour and Ron met me there.  After picking up some garden plants, and picking up a car I was planning to drive to Alberta, we headed to his place.  On the way back, we stopped to look at some jackets and when we came out, the car I was driving would not start.  I rode with him to his place and we planned on coming back later to get the car.  It had done this before, and had previously started nicely when allowed to cool.

Ron and his wife were working on the garden as a weekend project, and Mairin was painting the trim on the house.  I found their computer and enjoyed the speed of cable internet access. 

We had a pleasant afternoon, and in the evening, Ron and Joan and I went to see the play, Speed-the-Plow at a theatre nearby.  It was excellent.  We went to get the car. It would not start at all.

Tonight: Periods of rain. Amounts near 20 mm. Wind northeast 20. Low 8.

Normals for the period: Low 6. High 19.

Sunday September 3rd, 2000

Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Wind northwesterly 20 in the afternoon. High 13.

Sunday was a similar sort of day.  Ron and family worked on the house and garden.   At one point, we made a foray to Home Depot for more plants and I went shopping for a digital camera along the way.  I'd seen some ads in the morning paper and thought I'd see what there was available I was in the big city.

Of course, I fell in love with the Nikon CoolPix 950 and CoolPix 990, but I doubt I really need all those features and I want something small.  

Monday September 4th, 2000

Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 6. High 14.

I lounged around for the morning and toyed with the idea of a trip to Victoria for the day and night, but decided instead to go to Jericho beach and look into windsurfing there.  At the beach, I discovered the Starboard GO, (another link) a large and floaty short board that is intriguing.  My short boards are sinkers under my weight (250 pounds) and a larger volume (190 l) might be nice.

I also looked at some more cameras and decided the Fuji FinePix 4700 was what I really want.  It's $1100, though.

Hmmmm.  I decided to wait to see how badly I want it and also to research it in the web.  It is also cheaper to buy in Alberta, since there is no sales tax.  Besides it is a bit more than I need for what I usually do with a camera.  My Olympia was just fine until it got squashed.  The only thing I need that it did not have is an optical zoom. 

I don't want less than a 3X zoom because unless I can frame exactly what I want in a picture, I wind up cropping off up to 3/4 of the picture and thus get a low-res picture in the end.  For this web work, I usually degrade the picture quite a lot anyways in the process of reducing its size to where most people do not find it too large to download.

Tuesday September 5th, 2000

A mix of sun and cloud. Low 5. High 17.

Today I flew home.  I had made the return reservation for late today since I had expected to be driving the car back to Alberta and had planned that I would throw away the return part of the ticket. I had made the reservation for as late in the day as I could so I could use it as a as a fallback if necessary. 

It turned out to be necessary.  Unfortunately the car again refused to start when I was to start home Monday and we decided that it needed professional care -- so I had to wait until today to fly on my reserved return flight.  I was slated to fly at 9 PM, but got out at 2PM. 

Ellen picked me up at YYC and we went shopping on the way home.  I bought an Olympia D-460, which is an improved version of the camera I had last -- and half the price of the Fuji.  I'll buy that one later when it has come down in price.  Maybe.

I took a few pictures with the new Olympia and found it a quantum leap up from the old one.  But I'm still learning how to adjust it.

What do you think? :)

Tonight: Partly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind light and variable. Low 4.

Normals for the period: Low 5. High 19.

Wednesday September 6th, 2000

Becoming sunny. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 17. 
Normals for the period Low 5. High 19.

It's 6:22 AM, and the sky is bright in the NE.  It is light outside, but the mornings are now about two hours shorter than in the middle of summer.

Gareth phoned as we returned from the city last night and reported that he would not be in today.  He had agreed to work three 10-hour days a week minimum but is now welshing on that.  His wife has a business and he has been helping out with that when she has a volume of work.  I'm afraid of the effect of his unreliability on the rest of the staff and am thinking we will have to replace him soon.  Too bad, since he showed a lot of promise and has lately started to understand the job here very well and was in line for considerable advancement.

We started a new hire yesterday, but will need another person ASAP if Gareth is not going to be available.  We have 3,900 hives to reduce to doubles, feed and wrap.  There are also maintenance and tidying jobs and extracting.  The work is pretty routine and at this point does not require help with a lot of experience, although we do count on those who know the job to train and lead others. 

We are now working against time to get ready for winter.  When it will arrive we never know.  Usually, we can count on good feeding weather well into October, but there have been wet, rainy autumns, and this is looking like one so far.  Sometimes we can get into our yards without problems until January, sometimes we have enough snow to make things difficult in November.

People have asked for pictures of our Cowan extracting line.  Here is what it looks like.

The Deboxer end of the lineThis is the deboxer end of the line.  The operator lifts each super onto the table.  The table can be fed from either side and has rollers. He then centres the super over the ram. 

The air-powered ram comes up out of the table and lifts the frames out of the box and through two flappers on the the uncapper arm extensions.  When the ram retracts, the combs remain on the extensions and are in line with the infeed chains.  After examining each comb and pulling out empty or distorted frames and removing any cross comb, the operator pushes them onto the uncapper chains. (Click to enlarge).

The loading conveyorAfter going through the uncapper, which uses chain flails  -- an adaptation from the original knife design -- the combs proceed up the loading conveyor and accumulate near the extractor. 

When the entire conveyor is loaded, there are sufficient combs to run one extractor load.  One operator runs the uncapper and another runs the extractor and the outfeed. A third person is helpful to move things around and to scratch any combs that were too shallow to get uncapped. This happens in ten frame boxes and with new combs. 

While the extractor is being loaded, the uncapper can begin to run again.  Thus the loading conveyor can always have combs waiting to load. 

The Extractor and outfeed tableThe extractor is loaded by the conveyor chain and an air ram.  As the full combs are pushed into the extractor, the dry combs are pushed out the other side onto the outfeed table. 

The outfeed table has two conveyors side-by-side to save space and shifts over when half the combs are unloaded. The outfeed operator scoops the empty boxes into boxes from the end of the table and the conveyor automatically advances more combs for the next box.

So far, the best we manage is two loads per hour.  This is just a bit less than what three guys can do hand scratching into standard 72-frame Kelleys.

Tonight: Clear. Low 5.

Thursday September 7th, 2000

Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to southwest 30 gusting to 50 km/h. High 21.

Gareth is here today, so we have two teams of two each out picking up honey, dropping off syrup and making doubles out of the singles.

I had to take a trip to Calgary to get some supplies.  We were short of bricks for lid weights.  If lids blow off, we lose hives, so we need to be sure to weight them down.  I also have a contractor here doing some siding and he needs supplies, so I headed off to Home Depot. 

A voulunteer observation hiveOn the way, I stopped in to look at a swarm I had heard about earlier and had not had time to get.  They were along the route, so this was a good opportunity.  By now they are well established, as you can see. I might mention that this window has a south exposure and must have gotten fairly warm during August days.  It is shown just as I found it when I walked up to it.  There was never anything covering it.  As you can see, the glass is intact except for the one pane where they have access. If anyone wants the original large image that prints nicely at 8-1/2 x 11", just Write mewith 'Send Picture' in the subject line.

These bees have volunteered to live in an observation hive.  I have been contemplating how to extract them and think I will just take the Sawzall and cut the whole window out of the wall -- frame and all -- and leave them intact, if the farmer agrees.

His wife said they don't care because they intend to put in a new window.   We'll see.  They are quite fond of the bees and want to see them thrive, even though she says she is allergic to bees. 

I'm not quite sure how I will winter them.  They look as if they need feed soon, since all the visible comb is empty.   I think they are also smaller in number than they must have been at one time, judging by the amount of comb built vs. the current size of the cluster.

Clover in the ditchesIn the blow-up (invoked by clicking the above thumbnail)  you can see they are still gathering yellow pollen very nicely.  At the sides of the road, I noticed lots of clover still blooming in the ditches.

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Wind diminishing to southwest 20 overnight. Low 6.

Normals for the period: Low 5. High 18.

Friday September 8th, 2000

A mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to west 30 gusting 50 km/h this morning. High 18.

I got home at  1:30 AM with all the supplies -- and a new printer. 

Our old HP 600C has been giving me minor problems, and I am finding it too slow when I need coloured 8-1/2 X 14 reports for each crew in the mornings.  The HP 600C came out about the time Windoze 95 came out and the drivers have never been quite 100%.  I get crashes and hangs from time to time due to their imperfection.  This usually happens when I have guys waiting for their assignment and the time is costing me up to $1 (CAD) a minute while they wait.

I bought an Epson 860 and so far, I am thrilled. There are some drawbacks to everything and this is no exception, but it is big step up.  Cost per page printed may be a bit higher than I am accustomed to, but speed and quality should be worth the price. Here's another review, too.

I have taken lately to consulting Deja before or right after I buy things.  I always buy where I can return things and if I think I have really goofed, I can recover my funds and try again.

Bees on the warehouse windowsWe are out again today pulling off the last honey, distributing syrup, and converting the singles to doubles for the winter and things are going well.  Nonetheless, we are only bringing in about 250 full supers of honey a day and there is a long way to go.  we have to extract soon, too.  There were 480 supers in the warehouse this morning.

The guys worked until 8 tonight, returning just before a thunderstorm hit. We're off until Tuesday again.  El & I had plans top see Jean & Chris Saturday, but some old friends showed up there and they are busy.  I think we'll just do some housework and alterations and catch up on things.

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Wind diminishing to westerly 20 overnight. Low 6.

Normals for the period: Low 5. High 18.

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