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To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man.
--- Oliver Wendell Holmes ---

Dave quickly shows me one of his breeder nucs on a rainy day. 
This is the queen rearing yard for his operation.

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Friday 20 June 2003
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The Field Day began at 9 and ran all day.  Although it rained outside and the temperature dropped to 8 C, the program was inside the station, and thus unaffected by the adverse weather.

Here are photos of some displays from the filed day.  Click to enlarge.

A method of marking frames

A box with screened bottom and top for collecting frames of brood to make up nucs.

A dead bee trap designed so that bees cannot remove dead bees from the hive without having them fall into the trap in front.  this is useful for measuring mortality due to treatments, manipulations, pesticides, etc.

Friday : Periods of rain. Risk of a thunderstorm late in the day. Amount 5 mm. Wind becoming north 30 km/h in the afternoon. High 12.

Saturday 21 June 2003

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At the Beaverlodge meeting, Dave Tegart invited me to drop up to see his operation , so I drove up to Fairview today to visit. 

Tegarts have been leaders and innovators in the bee business in Alberta for decades.  They have developed a very successful two-queen system that has given them a long term average crop of very nearly three hundred pounds.  They also developed the Styrofoam nucs that are becoming popular across North America.

On the right, Dan, Gwen and Dave's son who is taking over the operation, shows me a wine press they use to press honey out of broken combs in the extracting room.  Even though I was there on a Saturday afternoon, Gwen was making foundation.  A stack of beeswax they render for neighbouring beekeepers is shown at bottom right.  It's obvious that the whole family loves what they do, and do it well.

I spent several hours with Dave and his son, then drove to Grande Prairie.  GP was along the way home, and has grown a lot since I was last there almost three decades ago.  It now has all the same big box stores that can be found in any sizable town, and I spent an hour in Future Shop, before heading for Edmonton. 

I am thinking of buying a new camera, a new laptop, and a new cell phone as soon as I can find what I'm looking for.  Is it just me, but are all the manufacturers missing the mark?  I want a camera with at least 3X optical zoom, a good range of features, easy download, a compact size, and a good price.  As for the notebook, I want a large display, good performance, long battery life, and reliability in a light, thin unit.  Cell phones are the most annoying of the three.  Cell phones should be simple, work anywhere, carry data at at least 28.8, and the plan should not be complicated to figure out or charge for 'long distance'.  I've been shopping for a year now, and I see no hope in sight.  The marketers have given up on offering service and features, and instead are selling ring tones and stupidity to tattooed and pierced wage slaves.

My trip to the North reminded me how huge and separated from the rest of the western prairie, the Peace region really is.  The Peace is a huge and fertile farming region located north of a vast belt of forest, and extends into British Columbia.  The access from the south is primarily via highway 43, a ribbon of mostly four lane road running through mile upon mile of muskeg and dense bush.

I found a motel in Edmonton, and planned to spend Sunday at the Mall.

Saturday : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Low 9. High 17.
Sunday 22 June 2003
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Sunday : Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Low 9. High 19.

Monday 23 June 2003
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I've been away at Beaverlodge and I have a lot of catching up to do and will be filling these last few dates in as I have time. 

Watch this space for pictures and stories, coming soon...

In the meantime, why not check back on what was happening at this time last year and the year before, or even the year 2000?

of the Day

The Western Apicultural Society Conference at Simon Fraser University

Today : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h in the afternoon. High 11. UV index 4 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 5. /  Normals for the period : Low 9. High 22.

Tuesday 24 June 2003
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Dennis checked the hives today.  Two more styro hives have dwindled to the point where they are goners, but three other styro hives are splittable, so we will be able to hold our numbers.  Of the wooden hives, we have about twenty ready to split again, so I ordered another 25 queens.  We want to keep the hives below honey producing strength so we won't have to extract.

I try not to be too political.  I try to stick to issues and to stay friends with the people I find opposite me on any particular issue.  FWIW, I confess here, that I was the ABA director who, many years back, started the ABA down the road to re-examining the border closure in a rational light.  There was a great deal of fear mongering at that time, and what resulted was a clearer idea of what might actually occur when the border re-opens, as it certainly will, someday.  Barrie, a strong CHC supporter, and former president of CHC,  took the results of the study to council, but was surprised to find that he was shouted down. 

That was about the time that many of us started to realize that the opposition to opening the border has little, if anything, to do with facts and a lot to do with keeping bureaucrats, civil servants, and a lot of small-time beekeepers busy, and safe from competition.  Those may be worthwhile goals, but the arguments used to support keeping the border entirely closed are strictly a diversion, and a smoke screen.  What is amazing to those of us who have examined the issues carefully, objectively, and over time, is that many believe those bogus arguments passionately.

I wrote the following in response to a private note, and thought it good enough to share.  This is about why, at this point, the Albertans working on getting the US/Canada border (with a few exceptions) open to queens and packages are straightforward, and friendly, and not catty or devious.

...They are more like bulldozer types. They are businessmen putting in a subdivision, and the CHC is a dilapidated and outdated structure in the way. Most of us see these issues as a simple business matter, and not a personal vendetta, and work with whomever we can. Those who get stuck on personalities, turf wars or procedure, miss the point utterly. Most Alberta beekeepers consider the CHC to be a hobbyist / Luddite organization, dominated by small and largely irrelevant operators, and by CAPA, which has an interest in complicating beekeeping, and consider CHC useful for some matters like establishing MRLs, but incapable of compromise, and hopelessly off-side in the border issue.

Frankly, I personally think that the current CHC/CFIA position on the border is blatantly protectionist, and has little or no grounding in science or reason, and that the confiscations played into the open border group's hands. These actions have polarized the industry, and all those who have been quietly importing and saying nothing are now in the Peace camp, and (quietly) determined. These are not the sort of people who say anything at all in public, or to the CHC, but they are not without influence. I think they will go over the top this year, and possibly wipe out all controls, and possibly damage the CHC's credibility in the eyes of government. The closure of the US border to Canadian beef has created a public consciousness to the pain, distortions and dislocation that such arbitrary and thinly justified protectionist measures create.

This issue is not about testosterone nor is it a game. These people are mature and respected businessmen with the bottom line in view and a determination to use all means available to achieve justice. Remember, also, that several of the people at the centre of the opposition to the CHC's position on the border have been movers and shakers in the CHC.  Barrie was once president.

These people all voted against me for many years when I annually presented a motion that the ABA pull out of the CHC because CHC has been working against the best interests of Alberta commercial members for many years. They all believed in working within the system to change it. They now believe that the CHC is an obstacle to doing business, but Albertans still buy CHC membership. What you need to understand is that these memberships do not indicate support of all CHC positions. Au contraire; these memberships and participation in CHC simply indicate a mature approach to dealing with an oppressive regime.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of afternoon showers. High 17. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low 5. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 22.

Wednesday 25 June 2003
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I took the transmission to town to get it checked, and a new torque converter.  I took it to a transmission shop that was recommended by a friend and they were very good, nonetheless, the torque converter cost me twice the price they had figured on the phone.  The last time I had a transmission done, at another shop, years ago, they had quoted a firm price, but the torque converter had cost an extra hundred.  Is this a standard practice at tranny shops, or was this just coincidence?

Dennis split the strongest colonies and fed them.  He ran the battery down in his truck, running the feeder pump, and called me for help.  Then he realised he had the forklift with him and boosted himself.

Bert came for supper.  He wants to buy 2 of the hives we currently have on his saskatoon patch.

Today : Sunny. High 23. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Clear. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light overnight. Low 11. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 22.

Thursday 26 June 2003
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We got the tranny into the motorhome and test drove it.  The problem was gone, so I guess the torque converter was the problem. 

We were expecting queens to arrive in Red Deer, but the bus depot did not call by 9 PM, so I guess they will be in tomorrow.

Meijers came for supper and borrowed our Swinger, a trailer, and a truck.  They are moving into pollination these days and have a tight schedule.  The growers are spraying Lorsban, so there is a wait before the bees can be brought in, then there is a rush.  Lorsban should never be used near bees, and sometimes a crop with bees already delivered is close to one being sprayed, so I'm very glad I'm not pollinating this year, but I do miss the excitement a bit. (A very little bit, though).

The seed companies are having trouble attracting enough beekeepers.  No wonder.  They have stripped out some of the protections in the contract, barely adjusted the price for inflation, raised the standards, and now they are spraying lethal chemicals around the bees.  A few years back, after a year or two on pollination, we had big problems maintaining our hives up to strength, and suffered higher than normal losses.  Beekeepers going into pollination in Southern Alberta are risking a lot, in exchange for a low return, and risk of hive damage this year -- a year when honey prices are looking good and weather is promising.  They could very likely make twice the money sitting on home locations, and with little risk -- unless the grasshopper and other spraying gets going strong in their home districts.  In that case they would find themselves between a rock and a hard place, and pollination would look like a more sensible decision.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h this afternoon. High 25. UV index 6 or moderate. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers. Risk of an evening thunderstorm. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light overnight. Low 10. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 22.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday 27, 28, 29 & 30 June 2003
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We took a long weekend and drove to Ponoka, picking up our 25 queens at the bus station along the way.  The motorhome is running better and we are also getting used to it.   The one thing we have not worked out is where best to sleep.  There are several options, but none seems very comfortable yet.  It takes time to figure everything out and set things up the way we like them.

On Sunday, Chris and I drove to Red Deer, then Sylvan and Gull Lake exploring.  Ellen gardened with Jean.  The baby is now at term and is growing well and healthy, but still sleeps a lot.

We stayed at Jean & Chris' until Monday, then returned home via Red Deer and Carstairs.  In Red Deer, we picked up fixings for supper and stopped at the Mill for a barbeque.  Bert came over, and we all wound up sitting in the motorhome, planning to meet in Nova Scotia in August.

Saturday : Showers ending early this morning then becoming sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h near noon. High 25. UV index 7 or high. / Tonight : Clear. Low 11. / Sunday : Sunny. Wind becoming southeast 30 km/h in the afternoon. High 31. / Monday : Sunny. Low 14. High 29. / Tonight : Clear. Wind southwest 30 gusting 50 km/h becoming northwest 20 this evening. Low 8. / Normals for the period : Low 9. High 22.

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