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Tuesday July 17th, 2001, 2000
We started getting ready for the extracting and managed to wash the floors upstairs and down. Matt D did not show for work and had told others he had permission to take the day off.. Not so. Dustin came in for most of that day and took the Cowan system apart. The recent car accidents and the resulting injuries and fatalities to local teens have resulted in disruptions that have cost us quite a bit of lost time.
We moved the Cowan out and got to work on the floor where it had been. The room looks big without it.
Wednesday July 18th, 2001, 2000
Everyone except Paulo was off for the day to attend the funeral in Three Hills, so El & I took the opportunity to go north to visit Jean and Chris at their new home and to later drop by to see Bill and Janie west of Winfield.
We stopped first in Panoka and spent several hours there. Jean and Chris were painting the house in preparation for moving in, and cleaning things up. We then left and headed west in mid-afternoon.
It was sunny at home when we left and cloudy in Panoka, but when we got to Winfield, it was pouring rain. Nonetheless, Bill packed us into the Red Dodge and we went out to look at hives. They are doing well, but it is apparent that the area is very different from ours. Whereas the hives at home are filling up well, he is still waiting for a significant flow. Since the hives under comparison were in the same yards in our home area before some were taken up there, it must be the difference in regions we are seeing. There is an abundance of forage where they are located, and if it gets sunny for a few days, the hives there will likely pass ours in production, since his area is known for higher yields than ours. They get a short, intense flow.
After a good visit, we headed home, stopping in Sylvan Lake for supper and to walk around. We spent many summer weekends in Sylvan with our kids when they were growing up. We then returned home and stopped at The Willows on the way to compare how things are going. So far, there is definitely more honey in our area. This has been an ideal summer here, which is quite unusual, since we usually are much too dry.
Thursday July 19th, 2001, 2000
This was a day of slow, tedious preparations for extracting. I never know how much to prepare or whether to just 'do it!'. We are setting up a new system (of old old extractors) and so there are holes in the floor to fill, and layout to determine, etc. We expect to start in earnest on Monday and run a few loads in the meantime to iron out the bugs.
We have advertised for help, so the phone rings and rings. We hired one new person for extracting, and another came to work for the first time today.
The lawn mowing service showed up, as did the farmer who hays our railway land, so things were really hopping. We are still a ways from ready, but I can see we will run a test load tomorrow and hope to have two or maybe three of the four machines running Monday. We've pulled a little honey already, but the crews will start in earnest tomorrow.
Matt K. came by tonight to look at the set-up and offer advice.
Friday July 20th, 2001, 2000We are now pulling honey with two crews and splitting as we go. We remove the bottom brood box from good hives and set it on a pallet such that the flying bees will return to the parent hive. Four days later we go and examine these splits for a queen and add a mated queen if the split is queenless. If not, then we put the queen into the parent hive which we can find, since we mark both halves when splitting. We are using Kona queens since they are on sale for $8.25 Canadian and are usually good queens. (BTW, the few remaining queens we held in the shipping box are now seven weeks old and we have lost only two of the 108. We don't know if holding them has affected them, but will find out soon enough, I suppose).
Adony and his girlfriend Sarah came by around 9 PM and stayed a few hours before leaving for his father's place in Calgary. Ellen and sarah talked plants and gardening, while Adony and I debated various bee tropics.We have a good crew this year. Things go much better when people have the right attitude.
We are still installing extractors and working on the honey house. we could be extracting by now, but the boxes are just now getting full enough that we can justify pulling. We'll pull a few hundred before we start the extractors so any bees have a chance to get out of the boxes and so we are not running out of work for the extractors.
We were talking to friends and find they are having problems with their Mexican help. They are having to send three more workers back. We were considering getting into the MEXSWP program, but are not eager to provide housing and transport or to have to cater constantly to their needs. I am also not impressed with the poor qualifications I hear about in supposedly experienced 'beekeepers' that are sent up. The program was good a few years back, but the program has apparently gotten too rich for the imported workers and they are becoming spoiled and taking advantage of the situation.
Saturday July 21st, 2001, 2000
We are working today to make up for the lost time mid-week. Everyone showed up by eight and we all went out on a training run to pick up the supers we pulled yesterday at a nearby yard. All except three supers of the fifty-seven pulled were free of bees and, on inspection, we found those three had brood in them (as expected). Those boxes we just set onto floors and left as hives. I'll be going out soon to check for queens in the splits we made and will address any problems that might be found in these hives. Since they are actually supers, not brood chambers, they may have the wrong spacing or or need some combs replaced with better brood combs, and they also will need a frame feeder.
This afternoon, we cut the headache rack off an extra truck deck we had built some time back and converted it into a dock for the honey house. After much thought, we have gone back to handcart pallets and switched away from the large pallets that require use of a forklift or pallet jack. Handcarts are easily handled by and women and girls in the extracting room and allow more flexibility and independent work arrangements.
With this system, which we used for many years, at any given time one person can be working or five people can be working, depending on the amount of honey awaiting extraction and the people who are available. Individuals can be deployed as best fits the needs of the moment. Work is much more relaxed and people are not forced into working on a dehumanizing production line. Each can take care of his or her own needs, work at his or her own pace and does not need to wait on anyone else. This system allows for staggered shifts or running when there is very little honey on hand. If a key person does not make it to work, the process can still proceed unimpeded.
All combs are handled individually. Thus they can be examined and poor ones rejected or they may be sorted to make brood chambers if desired without slowing down the extracting process much. Moreover, each person's work can be tracked and evaluated. Good producers are rewarded since pay is by the load, with adjustments for any flaws, and bonuses paid for meeting quotas. Poor performers can be moved to other jobs or discharged. On a production line such as the Cowan, work proceeds at the pace of the poorest worker and there is constant pressure. If there is a breakdown or jam, everyone is held up. We found the Cowan line we used last year and the year before placed a huge management load on us and gave many small problems that added up to huge costs in additional work during the process -- and later on.
Matt K. came in the afternoon and worked on Kelley re-drives. Jeff and Cody went out in the afternoon and picked up all the honey pulled the previous day and Dustin went an pulled Kievers North. He got just over two deeps per hive, but the bees would not abandon. It was getting late and I told him that her could leave them out for pickup later. In this part of the flow, there is no danger of robbing. I would not take this chance in August.
We are trying to have very few bees in the honey house this year, so we are having the boys check carefully before loading in the field, and use a blower if they see many. This is a new crew and very co-operative.
So far we have about 250 boxes awaiting extraction next week. There are almost no bees in the honey house, and we hope to keep it that way. The extractor drains still need to be hooked up and the wiring connected.
I drove some of the guys home and bought a few things in Three Hills. When I got home Meijers were there for supper and we had a good visit.