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Our meeting place in the orchard

Friday August 31st 2001, 2000

There are 675 boxes in the honey house awaiting extracting, and we have four people lined up for extracting this morning, actually five if we count a new trainee coming in the afternoon.  I'm a bit surprised because we normally have a lull around the long weekends.  I guess the difference is that we have all adults on staff now and not school kids.  school kids are spoiled and expect things to be done for them and to get short days, to be able to miss work when they please and to have long weekends that start around noon on the Friday.  this crew wants to work on the weekend and since we cannot find any bargain fares to go somewhere interesting, we may well work ourselves.

This was Kenton's last day, so we will have to realign our field crew next week.  At this point, we have to clear out he honey in the honey house before we can accept many more full boxes.  We also have a truck coming Tuesday to take another 74 full drums away, and that takes a morning  we are pretty well ready now, but there are always a few last minute things to do..

Mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20 gusting 40 km/h this afternoon. High 27.
Clear. Wind west 20 diminishing. Low 12.

Normals for the period: Low 5. High 20.

Thursday August 30th 2001, 2000

'230.5'.  Wow! This amazing.  Must be false fat I'm losing.  I hope I am not boring any readers I might have with this new fascination that has nothing to do with bees but after all, it is my diary.

Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to southeast 20 gusting 40 km/h. High 27.
Partly cloudy. Wind diminishing to light. Low 12.

Wednesday August 29th 2001, 2000

I saw '231' on my bathroom scale this morning.  It's been about 15 years since I saw that number between my toes.  I weighed again and saw '232'.   The weight loss continues and I have not cut down on my meals, I've just started avoiding carbohydrates.  I don't avoid them strenuously -- I had squash for supper with a pork chop --  but rather just choose meat or cheese or something else for snacks and don't eat much bread or potato.  I don't care for sweets much (strange for a honey producer?).  

I guess I am eating less, but I am not particularly hungry.  I have no idea what eating more meat and probably more fat is going to do to my heart and vascular system, but in the meantime, I am much happier and am more perky and active.  I wonder if all the studies about vascular damage assume a large carbohydrate component in the diet?  It would be hard to find North Americans who don't eat a lot of potatoes, bread, and sweets.  

When it comes to nutrition, I really don't know what to believe.  Last week, I stumbled across http://www.notmilk.com/   What can I say?  I have been falling back on cheese, cottage cheese, and milk more as I avoid carbs for snacks.  I have decided that I can't believe everything I read.  I'm now convinced that no one knows more about what I should eat than me -- if I just observe my mental and physical state.  I have to fall back on Ellen's advice: Eat something and then see how you feel, immediately, then later.  If you don't feel great, then don't eat it again -- or be careful.

Here's a shot of a corner of our tank room.  The sump is a 300 gallon dairy tank with circulating hot water in the jacket.  The pump fills drums via the green 2" hose and is controlled by an automatic float switch moved from drum to drum. The cord for the switch hangs from the ceiling and the extractor drains can be seen, as can a yellow water hose with a spray nozzle for keeping everything clean.  The floor was new several years back.  The walls are white poly sheeting of the type that is used for covering silage, attached to studs and held on by lath.  It is very cheap and very clean.

The normal high and low temperatures for this time of year are dropping rapidly and frost is not far off now.  We are still bringing in quite a bit of honey and some yards are surprising us on the second pull.  AD&D returned boxes that were 95% full yesterday.  Kenton has three more days until he leaves for school.  He has turned out to be a real asset.  When he first hired on, he looked pretty unsure about the hot, heavy, responsible work, but was determined to make a go of it.  He has, and has kept his word.  He's worked long hot hours, learned the job well, and is now looking confident and comfortable.  We're going to miss him.  

I tell people that this job separates the men from the boys.  It does.  It also separates the women from the girls.  Jody was only 16 and we had doubts when she signed on to extract.  She was the one who stuck it out full term, never missed work, and always did a great job when older women could not cut it.  She also volunteered to go that extra mile without complaint.  Some of the others weren't quite as strong, and with some we had some problems with the flu -- again.

I don't know how to plan for the flu.  I realise that what I am talking about isn't really influenza, it is one of the other viral problems that we tend to call 'the flu'.  Every so often -- every few months, it seems -- some malady hits and goes through our community.  Although illness may be a nuisance in other less demanding jobs, it is a huge problem in our business, since people have to be in good condition to perform, or the lack of performance is really apparent. The reason is often not so apparent to either the victim or his supervisor and and the resulting lack of energy and enthusiasm looks exactly like slacking off and the surliness that often accompanies the bug doesn't make things any easier -- especially if both parties are at less than their best.   

Beekeeping is the kind of job where things cannot wait a week or two, so there is pressure if everyone is not pulling their weight.  There is not much light duty work either.  Add to that the fact that these viral diseases seem to affect the victim's mental state and make people act out of character, much as rabies causes non violent pets to bite anything in sight, and there is a recipe for misunderstanding and estrangement.  I have often wondered if we need to make sure that we have more people hired than we actually require to do the essential work, so we have extra help when we need it..  The problem is that if we do hire extras, then we feel compelled to keep everyone fully occupied and we get drawn off the core tasks.  I suppose we could give some shorter work weeks when they are not in demand, but...

There are 575 boxes awaiting extracting today and we are on drum #211.  I expect to have a load ready to ship Friday.  Sherry started extracting this morning.  I am training her since Ellen is still a little less than 100%.  So far, Sherry has surprised me with how good she is.  Let's how that she stays good.

Well, she did several loads and then seemed tired, so I encouraged her to leave a bit early.  I realize how strange this job and environment must seem to someone on the first day, and it is easy to overburden a person.  As for me, I think I'm getting Ellen's virus.  One minute I am all full of energy and the next, I am tired and sluggish.  Drat!

Becoming mainly sunny this morning. Wind light. High 25.
Clear. Wind light. Low 9.

Normals for the period: Low 6. High 20.

Tuesday August 28th 2001, 2000

I spent the morning cleaning up the upstairs in our honey house, the extracting room.  As it happens, we have one fellow extracting who has been a problem.  He is a nice enough fellow, but has just been leaving a mess everywhere he goes.  Since the girls went back to school and since the mothers of school kids are not yet here, and since we need all the help we can get, we have been putting up with it an hoping things would get better.  Ellen is in charge of the extracting room, and has been unable to get him to work in an organized, tidy fashion, so things have been sliding.  She is ill today, so I inherited the mess. Cleanup is part of the extracting job description and I have better things to do than clean up after an employee who argues with everything I say.  I was hoping to add timer switches and brakes to the extractors today, but until everything is ship-shape again, I am occupied.  We must get it cleaned up since we will be getting new help tomorrow, and if everything is a mess when she starts, she will assume that this is the way it is supposed to be.

Management is a matter of style.  I always try to get things organised into a system which makes everything someone (else)'s problem, so that I can step back a bit and have time to plan, manage and strategize, and to maintain and improve the essential equipment.  using that approach, if a job is not done -- or not done right -- the responsibility is apparent and a remedy can be decided fairly quickly.  My wife, on the other hand tends to get immersed in a situation and take all the responsibility.  While many people co-operate, some people take advantage, and there is little that can be done -- since no one is responsible.  This is not likely to change.  We each have our own ways of thinking.

Anyhow, today I spent -- in its entirety -- cleaning up, and I also ran a couple of loads in the afternoon just for fun and to prove it can be done easily, well, and in jig time -- without making a mess.  We normally don't do the extracting ourselves, but we each have to run a load once in a while, to train new people and also to show the job can actually be done.  My wife can run a load in 50 minutes and that's about how long it took me, all things considered.  I took 25 minutes to scratch and load 72 combs into the extractor, and about five to unload.   The machine runs fifteen at this time of year.  While the machine was running, I started to load an idle machine and thus saved myself the waiting time.  The combs are very fat and full of honey.  If a person could keep up this pace, then he or she would be making $18 per hour and running 12 loads in 8 hours and doing the equivalent of 96 completely full boxes.  In practice that would be more like 110 boxes and about 5 to 6 drums.

What is interesting about the whole experience is that the culprit straightened right up and began to perform much better and to work quickly and neatly in an organized fashion as soon as I began doing the job he was doing.  We all know example often works better than anything else, as it did in this case, but who can afford to do the work he is hiring someone else to do?

Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Clearing this afternoon. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 22.
Mainly clear. Wind light. Low 5.

Normals for the period: Low 6. High 21.

Monday August 27th 2001, 2000

Another bright warm morning. All the house windows were open all night, and it is not at all cool inside this morning.

Two new people showed up to extract and they are both really good right from the start.  Our set-up lets each operator work independently and is nice and quiet.  Usually there are few bees in the supers and the honey house, but for a few days a while back there were too many and, as a result, we lost one of our best operators because she was getting stung and not mentioning it.  When her hands swelled, she decided that she could not work anymore.  If only we had realised at the time...

Dennis and I spent the morning in  the basement, lidding drums and tidying.  

I seem to have lost my PDA and can't figure where it might be.  I suspect (hope) it is in the truck I used to go to Red Deer last Thursday and that it has fallen behind the seat.  I'll have to look.... Ahhh. I found it.  It seems that some days I use it a lot, and then for several days I don't.  That is what happened this weekend and I had to go back in my mind until I could visualize having used it -- all the way back to Thursday afternoon around 4PM. 

Today I got the tank room whipped completely into shape, did some paperwork, and checked some queens in nucs, along with getting the wipers working on D3 and all the other things I do every day.  I trained a new guy on the extractor, he had said he wanted to work for two days, but after a load, he said he had wanted outdoor work.  I thought about that and decided that unless I wanted to supervise him personally and continuously, I had very little for him to do, so he went home.  Our jobs are all pretty technical and I want them done right.  

The guys brought in almost 200 boxes, most of them pretty full, and were done around 5.  It was a hot day and Ellen felt the heat.  

The neighbours are combining the crop in the field east and south of us as I write this at 10 PM with the doors and windows open.

Sunny. Wind increasing to west 20 km/h. High 30.
Increasing cloud this evening. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind light. Low 12.

Normals for the period:  Low 7. High 21.

Sunday August 26th 2001, 2000

Days are shorter and the nights are cooler, but the weather is holding.  We haven't had any appreciable rain for a while now and things are drying out, but it appears we may have to have the grass mowed one more time before fall.  We've been using the blower since we are a bit afraid to use abandonment this late.  Nonetheless, we may be able to abandon this coming week.

I spent the day at the desk catching up on paperwork and Elliotts came by in the afternoon for coffee.  At six, Meijers came for supper.  I cooked since Ellen was down at the hall working on the mural again in the late afternoon.

Mainly sunny. Wind light. High 27.
Clear. Wind light. Low 9.

Saturday August 25th 2001, 2000

Four more months until Christmas!

Working on the muralEnlargeLast year, Ellen began working on a mural on the east wall of the Swalwell curling rink.  Today she and some of the local ladies worked on several more panels.  She does the design and the underpainting and the ladies fill in the large areas.  After they have done their part, she finishes the surface.  Jean came down from Ponoka for the day to help and stayed overnight.  Chris stayed home top prepare his lessons, since school starts again next week.

Ellen has some of her more serious art work available for viewing on the web.

I spent the day working in the tank room and at my desk.  I also did some vacuuming and general tidying in the house.  I also took out the bees from the windows and made some small nucs to use up some extra queens we still have on hand.  I figure we can use them to combine with poorer colonies we come across as we finish stripping the hives.  From the number of supers still on hives, I figure we are about 10% finished stripping.  It will take another round after this, since we like to leave a box on the hives until mid-September to ensure that the bees have adequate room.

Mainly sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High 25.
Clear. Wind light. Low 7.
Mainly sunny. Wind light. High 27.
Mainly sunny. Low 7. High 28.
Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 7. High 25.
Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers. Low 6. High 24.

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