Uncapped combs coming out of Termeer's Dakota Gunness
We've had nice sunny days and warm nights for most of the last two weeks and seldom had to close the windows at night. Nonetheless, granulation is getting to be a serious problem with the honey from some yards. We're still projecting about fifty pounds, but there may be a second round in some yards.
El & I drove the truck and camper to Calgary to do a little shopping.
Sunday..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to west 30.
Labour Day Holiday
El & I drove to Rolly View and visited Julie Termeer for an hour in the afternoon, then drove to Wetaskiwin and took in a bit of the Harvest Festival at the Reynolds Alberta Museum, then dropped in at Jean and Chris' for supper.
The purpose of our trip was mainly to see Termeers' extracting operation running, and this was the last day before their regular (student) crew returned to school. We shot some video and took some stills. Barrie was out pulling honey when we were there and was not expected home until 9:30 or so, so Julie showed us around.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind southwest 20 km/h. High
This morning we blew bees out of the supers that still had not abandoned and pulled the home yard again. This yard has been robbing the granulation and broken combs and get filled up quite quickly. Then Paulo headed out to Pages North.
Paulo returned late -- 8:15. He had gone to the wrong yard and gotten 86 boxes, not the 48 that I thought he would be getting. He is the kind of guy who likes to finish, so he stuck it out and worked until he did the whole yard, even though he was very late. He had taken a Swinger along today, and found it a big help.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming west 20 km/h.
Actually our extractors are not DC drive, but use a simple friction drive similar to the ones on Hodgson units. I showed a picture of the drives back on Wednesday July 25th, 2001 and discussed them a bit on the 22nd. I reckon they cost about US$50 for the sprockets, pulleys and chains. The motor is a 1/2 or 3/4 HP AC capacitor start ball bearing type capable of running in a vertical position.
We did have a Dakota, and sold it to go to the Cowen, which proved to be a disaster for us. The Dakota is particularly good if the frames being extracted are a variety of shapes and sizes or missing tabs. The age of a Dakota does not matter, but if a Dakota is too noisy, simply changing the bearings on the flails to a higher quality quiets them right down.
As far as which honey house was more impressive, I would say they are equally impressive and that there are advantages for both, Meijers requires some expert operators, while Barrie's can run all day with only high school kids. Otherwise there is nothing to make one better than the other. They both have about the same capacity.
The east bathroom sewer is plugged again. Dennis and I took the Sawzall to the pipe and soon discovered that the pipe was not only badly corroded, but also that the four inch pipe had reduced to about 1-1/2 inches due to deposits. See picture on right. The plug that stopped the whole thing up was washcloth that someone had flushed down the toilet. We have very good idea who did it, since she demonstrated a bad attitude the whole time she was here and -- as it turned out -- also left stacks of partially filled supers and broken combs that we discovered only after I finally convinced Ellen to fire her.
She had been hired out of hope. We were short of people -- it always happens at Labour Day when the kids go back to school. When we are scraping the bottom of the barrel, Ellen gets to hoping that any unlikely person will become a good operator and will attempt to train anyone who can walk in the door unassisted. On the other hand, I insist that we only hire people who have a chance of becoming good, and who can demonstrate good attitude and an understanding of all the intricacies in reasonable time. Our policy is to immediately release anyone who is not shaping up during training, but sometimes we waver a bit if no replacement is in sight. This always proves to be a mistake. Past experience has shown that any potential will be evident within the first 6 loads and usually lack of potential is apparent long before that point. We have some scenes about this, since if we are short of operators, there is a tendency to try to 'make a silk purse out of a sow's ear'.
We'll replace the entire run of sewer pipe -- thirty feet horizontal, and seven feet vertical, with new ABS. I went to town and got the pieces we'll need in late afternoon
Meijers came for supper, since they needed some Bee Repel and I had gotten some from Willy at Medivet when I went to Calgary. I found that 2 litre pop bottles work just fine. It is extremely important to label the bottles very obviously, since we use the same bottles for carrying drinking water sometimes -- and the n-butyric anhydride is as looks just like water. I don't know id I ever mentioned here about the time I took a good swig of regular gasoline thinking it was ginger ale in a two litre ginger ale bottle. Someone had picked up a bottle that and put it into my motorhome refridgerator. That was bad enough, with much vomiting and -- a while later -- an amazing amount of intestinal gaseous activity plus a severe case of the 'dire rear' and exhaustion, but a swig of n-butyric anhydride would be much, much worse.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud with a 30 percent chance of
showers. Wind north 20 km/h. High 16.
I installed QuickBooks 2002 and paid bills this morning. I hate Intuit and their attempts to get as much money as they can from me, but have gotten somewhat hooked, since my accountant uses QB.
In the afternoon, Dennis and I did the sewer repairs. I had to run to town a second time for a few remaining pieces before we could start. We decided to do just the vertical section, since the horizontal run was working passably for now. We have the material and we'll do it when there is less pressing work in the field and extracting.
Today..Rain. Wind north 20 km/h. High 8.
Paulo and Marvin went east to Metzgers and the Carraganas to try tipping up the supers above the thirds with a brick to see if the bees will go down. Blowing bees is slow and sometimes it is too cool and wet, so we are trying new tricks. Escape boards would be a good idea, but we would need hundreds and putting them in is a bit of work. Thus we wind up blowing the supers out when we can.
I joined them at the Graveyard and we started blowing out the supers. All was going nicely when a funeral procession showed up across the road at the graveyard, a few hundred yards away. We stopped blowing for the duration of the ceremony, since I imagined that the screaming of the Stihl would be rather annoying to the bereaved. The cars left after twenty minutes or so, leaving only the backhoe and a dump truck, so we resumed our earthly toils.
Extracting continues, albeit slowly. It seems matched to our field work capabilities though, and we have a new crew to replace the students who are now gone. We need another person or two, and hopefully the pace will pick up.
It looks as if we had a late flow in some yards, so the crop may be better than we had thought. We put the supers back on, even though it looked hopeless and many are full. If there is one thing I've learned over the years it is this: if you don't put lots of supers on, you won't get a crop -- or even know that there was honey to be had.
Now it is just a matter of getting it off and extracted. For a few days we hit serious granulation and were worried that all the honey would be hard. It turns out that that problem may have been limited to a yard or two, since the honey now is mostly liquid and the moisture is a bit higher, which is good since it allows the extracting to go faster.
We always look at our northern neighbours and think we should be finished sooner than we can be. We are never done extracting until October.
We have a load on hand ready to ship, now, but are waiting to se what the market does. I phoned around, and apparently Billy Bee is offering $2.06/lb Canadian ($US 1.32) for bulk honey. Other buyers are offering prices at least that high.
Friday..Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers. Risk
of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming southeast 20. High 14.
It's raining again this morning. The drought is over and we've been getting lots of rain over the past three weeks. We've had over an inch in the last few days. It's making getting the boxes off the hives difficult, since we are not getting much weather that would permit using repellant boards. Moreover, the bees are not flying much and therefore will not abandon. If we tip supers and the weather is good, they do not know where to go if they do leave, and they just return and sit on the supers, so we are using blowers. Blowers are slower, extra work, and noisy.
We are working today. Paulo and Marvin will be going out to pull honey with a blower, assuming the rain stops. Yesterday they got only 108 boxes of honey and about forty empties, but they pulled three yards down to doubles between eleven and six-thirty. I'm hoping we can get a longer and more productive day in today, but the weather does not look good.
We have Ruth and Bonnie and Dennis on extracting.
Well, its 4 PM and we did not go out. The weather was wet all day, so I let Paulo off. He called from Red Deer at noon, and since it was still raining, I said he might as well stay there. Marvin came in for an hour or two in the afternoon, but left just as the sun came out to pick up his new washer and dryer in town before the store closes.
It is clearing now and I am very tempted to go out myself and get 50 boxes or so, but I'd have to get a truck ready, and besides it's Saturday night. The grass is wet and I'm afraid that blowing bees onto the ground would kill too many. We do use gunny sacks for the bees to land on when it is cold or wet, but I don't know -- I just have just felt a bit under the weather all day.
I spent the day catching up here at my desk, tidying up downstairs, helping in the extracting room, etc.
Around four-thirty, I got antsy to pull some honey and headed to a nearby yard, Metzgers, where we had tried raising the top boxes with a brick to see if the bees would leave them and go down. As I arrived, the weather was foggy, but the rain had stopped.
Within an hour of leaving home, I had 16 supers on a pallet and the job was going well, but, as I worked, over the roar of the blower I heard a loud rumble. Looking up, saw a thunderstorm headed my way. I continued work, hoping it would pass, but as soon as the rain started, the bees refused to budge from the boxes.
At any time, bees can be harder to blow off combs with open cells, but suddenly they held tight even on capped combs and became impossible to blow loose, even with high velocity air at close range, so I loaded up to go. I was wet, and the bees were not willing to move out. Even with the light rain, the bees on the ground were just fine and climbing back into the hives nicely, but the ones in the boxes were hanging on for all they were worth. My policy is to work with the bees, not against them, and they were adamant, so there was no sense sticking around.
Thus far, it had only been raining lightly and I had been hoping it would taper off, but, rather than lessening, the drizzle turned into a cloudburst, first with heavy rain, then hail. In was ready to go, but the grassy ruts in the trail leading out of the yard quickly filled with water and the surface got slick. Even though there was hardly any slope, the tires loaded up with mud and spun without gripping, and I had to leave the forklift and trailer in the yard.
I'd have used the Swinger to tow the truck out, but in my hurry to go out to work, I had taken Paulo's vehicle -- as-is -- and it turned out that he wasn't carrying a logging chain. We have a standard list of items to carry, but the guys get into a rush and cut corners. There was a lot of useless junk in the side boxes, but no chain.
Today..Cloudy with occasional showers. Wind light. High 11.
I've grown a bit tired of BEE-L and some of the persistent troublemakers that are pests to the moderators. I get tired of trying to decide who is trying to bait whom, and of one particular fanatic who insists on replying to every post about bees in Arizona to expound his unsubstantiated theories over and over. I've decided to take a break from moderating BEE-L. Maybe I've outgrown it. Who knows? I worked very hard to make it a good environment for discussion. At any rate, I was looking back to the last time I listed my BEE-L posts here and it appears to have been March. Since then, I have logged 166 BEE-L posts -- too many to list here, so I'll just give the URL to a listing of my posts on the BEE-L server.
I've been considering using 'wind boards' and Bee Repel®. I notice that Jim has a page on the web describing his version of the boards and calling them 'breeze boards'. Has any reader here used these boards, and how well do they work?
A fun experiment: Lots of people from all over the world are telling me (in conversation, by phone, in person or by email) they are reading these pages. Some time back I gave up on hit counters and I also made my ISP take away the visitor tracking cookies they added without my permission when I discovered them, BUT, I'm curious. How about sending me a quick email -- even if the message body does not say anything -- with the subject line "I read the diary page". Just click here, type in the subject, (I read the diary page), and hit 'send'. I won't keep the emails or track anyone in any way. I'm just curious. I'll count them and report the total here, not that I expect that everyone or nearly everyone will send an email. Many like to just lurk, undetected and anonymous.
BTW, if you read this after the end of September 2002, please do not respond. I don't want to keep getting these emails forever :)
While writing on this: I should mention that I do appreciate the personal notes I receive from readers, and although I use some of them in these pages, I never reveal who wrote them without prior permission from the writer, and without a good reason, such as giving credit where credit is due.
At eleven, I went out to get my forklift, and to pull the rest of the honey. I know it's Sunday and I need a day off, but I just really felt like working. I got another 37 boxes in about three hours total and brought everything back. The yard is now reduced to doubles. Although the supers were not plugged, the hives seem heavy. I wonder how much I'll have to feed.
When I got back, I made a web page for a friend with cattle for sale, then drove a load of broken combs to one of our robbing yards to get it cleaned out. Dennis had gotten it ready; he came in today to do some odds and ends of jobs.
I've concluded that -- in spite of my projections -- I really don't know how much honey we have left out there until we visit all the yards again and pull the supers. The drought knocked the stuffing out of July's crop, but there were flows in some yards in August.
I think I'll try them. I find blowing works well -- I've done it for years when necessary -- but repellants are faster and do less (immediate and obvious anyhow) damage to the bees. When we blow, bees always get stepped on and confused. Repellants just drive them down inside their own hive. The excluders slow and complicate the use of repellants when we get down to the thirds, but the thirds are a problem with the blower too, since there are so many bees in the thirds that the bees can jam up between the combs if the operator is not deft at blowing.
Now I'm looking for the easiest-to-build and most rugged wind board design. I've been thinking that I might use some extra standard supers we have around and use wood 3/4" X 1" strips screwed inside about 1/2 way up to hold the burlap. I'd use plywood screwed to the top with a hole large enough to hold a 4" ABS elbow, maybe with a stub of pipe for the elbow to sit upon to rotate.
Robinsons came for hamburgers outside and we had a nice barbeque. Maurice stayed home, but Flo, Wendy and David came and they brought fresh fruit from BC -- and three tiny kittens that had been abandoned by the mother cat and needed feeding every few hours.
Today..Sunny. Wind increasing to west 30 km/h. High 18.
It's still too early in the morning for the weather forecast. I'm up at 2:30 AM writing because I had two small glasses of mead last night. I seem to be sensitive to this batch. I've pretty well given up drinking, but have experimented a bit lately. I don't like what I am seeing. I suspect that I am best off without drinking any alcohol due to what it does to my immune system. This morning, before awaking completely, I had some rather vivid and interesting dreams; I then woke up, a bit stuffed up and wide awake. I took a Claratin and hopefully will get tired again soon so can resume my night's sleep.
I suppose that this comment about repellant dripping through makes my idea of using the burlap suspended inside supers look like less of a good plan. I'm just trying to find the easiest way, and using what I have handy would save a lot of carpentry.
7:30 AM: I awoke, dead tired, and my hands are stiff and sore -- probably from lifting heavy standards yesterday, but also quite likely from effects of that small amount of mead. That mead just isn't good for me any more.
It's a gorgeous sunny day and the rest of the week looks good, if only the forecast proves out. This year the weather forecasts have been unreliable for even a few days into the future. Some years they are dead on all the time. Not this year.
Eight more feedback emails for a total of 25 and most say they read here daily! I had no idea.
I wonder how you handled all those cappings. As I recall, I used to put everything into one tank, then skim the cappings wax into drums and send it for rendering. I'd get a slightly reduced price for the honey and full payment for the wax, all for a $40 per drum cost. I've continued to do this to this day, but last year, I think some of the honey disappeared and I never got to asking about it. I think I need a better way to handle wax. The two operations I visited recently both use spin floats, and for all their troubles, I think they may still be the best answer.
We had four people extracting today and we are into some very heavy supers. There were a few yards that did not get a first pull, and they are plugged. As a result, we upped the piecework price a few dollars a load and it is amazing how that improves morale -- not that there was a problem with this bunch before, but rather that we wanted to ensure that we were paying fairly. It seems that there is a psychological target wage in peoples' minds and if they are too close to that number, or below it, they are vaguely unhappy. Above that, they are suddenly quite content. This number changes over time and with t economic conditions and it is hard to guess when it has made a quantum jump, or what number will ring the bell. I think we just crossed that line. With the high and ever increasing price of honey, we feel more confident paying more and sharing the wealth, but we also remember the many years -- most years -- where we had to watch every penny to stay above water Of course we may not sell at the top. We're in a spot. We have a co-op quota and are putting honey into co-op drums, but we are looking at the spot market which is currently $1.00 above what the co-op is projecting. If the price continues up and stays up for the next 8 months or more, we will get a market top price, but if it recedes, then we will wind up with a blended price that may be much lower than the peak. Should we sell outside the co-op, or stay inside? I hate to give honey to the co-op and have them use it to drive down the market price and beat up on honest competitors who are paying top price when the co-op actually has no set cost for its honey intake.
I didn't make any wind boards today. Paulo and Marvin went to some west yards and the butyric is working just fine with solar boards. I'll have to get to this project soon, but I was kept busy all day with odd jobs and a trip to the doctor to have my broken finger checked Did I mention that? Back in August, it got hammered when we were repairing the quonset and it has been in a splint ever since. Three more weeks, then they will x-ray it again and make a pronouncement.
.Today..Sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 19.