October 20th to 31st, 2003
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Enough about the bee import prohibition. (See previous page). I have other things to do. Thinking back about such matters, and building a case is an interesting project, but, for me the outcome is not particularly important.
Now that Thanksgiving is over and Jon & Sarah and the kids are back in RI, we need to focus on upcoming events.
This week, the BCHPA meeting in Kelowna is on Thursday the 23rd through Saturday the 25th, and I have been planning to attend. I'd also like to spend some time on the West Coast, but, the Alberta Convention is coming up on November 3-5th, and that is one meeting not to miss, so we'll see.
Alberta meetings have been well run for many years now, but that has not always been the case. Years ago, little attention was paid to who voted, and I recall seeing, from my vantage point at the back of the room, what appeared to be more Californians than Albertans voting for the commission when it was formed back in the 1970's. The commission was formed, but was then subsequently voted out of existence, amid much rancor. There were also meetings where a few would shout, "Question!" and stampede the chair into calling a vote before everyone had a chance to speak. Such behaviour cost the organization a lot of credibility, and, in recent years wise leadership has made sure that proper procedure is followed.
Otherwise the meeting goes quickly to hell. I've seen that happen from time to time in different places at different times, and for different reasons. The result is never pretty. Any time that an organization allows one contingent to hijack the proceedings, speak out of turn, invoke closure on debate, or heckle dissenters, the association goes into a period of decline. Groups of disaffected members and former members desert the meetings, and instead lobby against and denigrate the organization. We've seen that in each of the prairie groups in turn, over the past several decades. Over the past decade or so, Alberta has managing to respect all camps, and, although discussion gets heated at times, everyone parts friends. B.C. also seems to be able to maintain a balance, from what I can see, but I have only been to one meeting. This will be my second.
After the Alberta meeting, Manitoba has a business meeting on the 17th of November, apparently to resolve their constitutional dilemma, then Saskatchewan meets at the Travelodge in Yorkton on the 20th November, for no apparent reason. This latter meeting does not look like a convention, even though it is described as Sask being an "annual meeting". The web page says "November 20, 2004" while the newsletter says it is this year, so maybe they are confused? I wonder what is up... I see that they also advertise an "Annual Meeting & Conference" February 4 to 6, 2004 at the Sheraton Cavalier, Saskatoon, SK.
It is now only two months until Christmas. After that, there are the two US meetings and the CHC Annual Meeting, January 27-31, 2004 in Winnipeg, MB. Apparently the Manitoba group will have a meeting in conjunction at that time as well.
I haven't quite figured out what is happening in Sask and Man, with the extra meetings they are holding. I have a good idea, having examined the material on the Manitoba site, that their meeting will be to elect directors and get in compliance with governing law, but I have no clue about the Sask meeting. I don't see agendas. I read the newsletters, but AFAIK the content of the meetings was not explained clearly anywhere there.
Seems that a lot of the information in some provinces flows via the grapevine and not official, public channels. In my eyes that is dangerous and leads to manipulation of the truth, and of beekeepers. Nothing sterilizes like sunshine. I'm noticing that too many bee organizations, including the co-ops "manage" the facts, rather than promoting openness and discussion.
Speaking of all these things, I got my copy of the Saskatchewan newsletter, and was pleased, and a bit surprised, to see a well-written, cogent letter by John Hilbert pointing out that many Saskatchewan beekeepers are suffering under the border prohibition, just as beekeepers are in other provinces, and that the border must open. I also got an interesting perspective today, by phone, on why Ontario is so set against business as usual with the USA. They have been quoted as saying they would never vote for border opening, no matter what, so that has had some of us curious. My caller said, "Follow the money". Apparently, a number of well-positioned and influential large beekeepers are making their money selling bees to the many hobbyists who lose their bees every winter. If US packages came in, they would have to go back to making an living producing honey. Sounds hard to believe, but that's what I heard. Could it be that simple? Anyhow, I wasn't going to carry on about the border...
Skiing starts right after convention, but the mountains are usually pretty rocky until Christmas. Time to get into shape. Last year at this time, I was weighing right around 230. This year, I have been at 244 for quite a while. That is quite a difference, but I'm quite comfortable at this weight. What happened? Well, I didn't stick to avoiding alcohol, and also I did not get as much exercise as I did when running the bees. Moreover, this summer we traveled and spent a lot of time away from home, eating too much and sitting a lot. Driving a car, rather than a motorhome, I didn't have my toys along. No windsurfers, etc. I'll have to do something, I suppose. I liked being a bit lighter, and carrying less weight makes a huge difference in sports like snowboarding and windsurfing. Maybe I'm getting too old for that stuff, now that I'm 58? Dunno. Seems a bit harder to get enthused about these things.
Today : Increasing cloud with a 30 percent chance of afternoon showers. Wind becoming south 20 km/h this afternoon. High 13. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 6. / Normals for the period : Low minus 3. High 11.
I went to town in the morning to see the accountant and have the car checked out. Turned out the car needs about $900 worth of work: two front ball joints and a rear, plus alignment, plus two tires. Since the car is an 1986 model, getting up there in kilometers (300,000) and has some rust, I have to decide whether to get another car or fix this one, or both. I priced the parts and they are about $300, my cost, plus another $195 for the tires and about $40 for alignment. Even then, the remaining two tires need changing soon, there is a small crack in the windshield that will soon spread -- another $250, and some minor oil leaks. They did not check the brakes. If I have the shop do all that, the total will likely wind up around $2,000, if I am lucky. I've been looking in the Bargain Finder, and there are some pretty nice looking ~1995 luxury models with half the kilometers on them for $5,000 +/- $1,500.
I promised Frank and Mike that I'd drive down to Airdrie to work with them on their pollen patty project this afternoon, but fell asleep and napped for and hour and a half when I got home from town. This cold still has me pretty tired -- . I finally made it to Airdrie around 4:30, had a meeting, then went grocery shopping.
At Global, the guys decided that they want to give away lots of small boxes of patties at all the beekeeper meetings, starting with the B.C. meeting this week, so my job is to come up with labels and instructions, then deliver the patties to Kelowna.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind west 20 km/h. High 21. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 2. / Normals for the period : Low minus 3. High 11.
I spent the day writing up labels and instructions and documents for Frank at Global Patties.
I had helped Global get started in patty making a few years back when we were looking for someone to make patties for us. We started by making patties ourselves, and developed a formula and method, but it was a huge hassle and I never did get good production out of hired help. Our staff made a mess, kept us busy, and accomplished little. Finally we, along with Meijers, hired a Hutterite colony to make patties for us. That worked okay, but the ladies were not always accurate in sizing the patties, and we wound up sourcing and delivering materials to the colony in multiple trips back and forth. As it turned out, we never had exactly the correct amounts of anything. When Frank and mike got interested, we were pleased to find that they did everything right and for a low price. We had very little hassle to get what we wanted and the final bill was less. Naturally, we decided to share the good news with other beekeepers, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Frank continued to borrow trucks and our forklift at first, but now has a new shop, a huge machine they built themselves, and a new forklift, so they are 'loaded for bear'. Frank asked me to help him promote and to refine the formulas, so here I am, working on the project.
I finished around midnight and went to bed. I'm still stuffed with cold and have trouble sleeping.
Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h near noon. High 19. / Tonight : A few clouds. Wind southeast 20 km/h becoming light near midnight. Low 8. / Normals for the period : Low minus 3. High 10.
I got up early, packed, and drove to Airdrie, where Frank had 15 sample packs of patties ready to go. We'd decided to provide some for door prizes and some for the silent auction. The patties were in boxes of ten, and the load filled my trunk.
I drove through a windstorm, then it began raining hard, but after a few miles, that ended, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. About now, the salmon should be running in the Eagle, but it was splitting rain as I approached Craigalachie, and I drove on past. Funny, actually; years ago, we drove all the way out to Adams River to see the run, and this time, I didn't even stop the car to look when the creek beside me was full of fish. Such is life. Been there, done that. On to something new.
I stopped in Vernon to see Jim and Kristy's new honey house being built and to offer a few suggestions, as I had been asked to do, then drove on to Kelowna, arriving around 5:30. I walked into the hotel and immediately was surrounded by familiar faces. There was a wine and cheese, and it was well-attended since the CHC had just had their special conference there. Apparently they had had a love-in and everyone agreed. That is all nice and good, except that, apparently, they did not go back to first principles, but rather just cobbled something together based on the distorted understanding that comes from being cut off in a backwater for a decade and a half.
Today : A mix of sun and cloud. 60 percent
chance of showers this morning. Wind increasing to west 40 gusting to 60 km/h
near noon. High 14./ Tonight : Clear. Wind west 30 km/h. Low zero. / Normals
for the period : Low minus 3. High 10.
I slept in and wandered down for lunch and took in most of the afternoon business session, then the banquet. The business session was pretty predictable, with some debate about the Island quarantine, which is, apparently, to be continued. I skipped out for much of it, but the parts I did see were run a bit fast for my tastes, with what appeared to me to be limited debate.
Friday : Sunny. Wind northwest 30 km/h. High 9.
Although I was up late last night, I was up early to see Steve Sheppard talk about the WSU-Cornell Honey Bee Breeding Program: implementation of family level selection and Jamie Strange cover Sucrose octanoate esters for control of V. destructor and the development of an IPM program for Northwest Beekeeping
After coffee, Lionel Garnery, visiting assistant professor from Versailles University, France spoke about honey bee population genetics and development of genetic conservatories of bees. Somehow, I had pegged this for a dull topic and missed the beginning. As it happened it was a fascinating, illustrated talk about the genetic identification of bee strains and the gradients of genetics over regions. I was glad I caught the last half.
Alison Skinner, Tech-Transfer Specialist for the Ontario Beekeepers' Association spoke on Breeding Parasitic Mite Resistant Honey Bees and after a catered lunch, she spoke about Organic Beekeeping Practices
There were other presentations, but after the main presentations, I decided I'd rather be with my family in Vancouver and headed west, arriving at my brother's by 8:30.
The BCHPA meeting was attended by people from across the country this year, partly due to the influx for the CHC meeting preceding it. In addition to the two US presenters, Alison Skinner was also featured as a speaker Her two excellent presentations gave us a very clear view of beekeeping programmes in Ontario, and made clear the reasons for Ontario's protectionist position and inability to understand the situation that prairie beekeepers are in.
It is very clear to me that each region of Canada has very distinct issues and priorities. After listening to Allison, I am even more sympathetic to Ontario's priorities, and even more convinced that there is no possible justification for a national one-size-fits-all imposed solution.
It is very clear that local problems need local solutions and that local legislation can do a much better job of protecting everyone's interests than a top-down federal prohibition. Each region must be able to develop regulations that suit its unique needs without imposing such rules on other distant jurisdictions.
As I understand it, Ontario, for all its size and population, has only about 75,000 (See here) hives and 3,000 beekeepers. That is less than 1/3 the hive count, spread over 4 times the number of beekeepers, compared to Alberta, and comparable honey yields with better markets. Obviously the styles -- and scales -- of operation are very different.
Of those 3,000 Ontario beekeepers, very few have over 1,000 colonies, and most have a ready retail market near their door. Ontario is located well to the south, compared to those of us in the West. The small size of operations and longer season makes local breeding practical for many there. Ontario beekeepers have invested a lot in a selection program and have had admirable results. Naturally, those who have been successful are afraid of having that success diluted, or having an influx of cheap, readily available, queens and outside stock dilute or displace their efforts. Additionally, in a profitable, but competitive, marketing environment, many do not wish to make beekeeping easier or more accessible to potential competitors and are quite happy with the hurdles we face.
Nonetheless, apparently Ontario has agreed to importation of queens under protocol.
Saturday : A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 2. High 15.
I spent the day in Vancouver, visiting with Ron and Joan and the kids, and with Jack and Barb, who were visiting there as well. We all went down to Stanley park and had a long hike along the seawall, from sunshine into fog, then Jack and Barb left for Victoria. Joan and I went down to Granville Island for a while, then Ron, Graham, Joan and I went to Joan's parents for a belated Thanksgiving supper. Joan left from there fro Victoria, where she works during the week, and Ron, Graham and I drove back to their place.
Their computer seemed a bit slow, so, before bed, I took 101 pests, a Trojan and a virus off their computer, using Ad-Aware and the RAV online scan.
Sunday : A mix of sun and cloud. Low 5. High 17.
In the morning, I ran Panda and found one more virus before catching the ferry for Long Harbour.
I arrived at Bruce's and we wandered around Ganges, then went to Fulford for supper and to take in a performance at the community hall. Garnet Rogers was scheduled to play and Bruce's lady friend was playing in the warm-up group, Rose Hip Jam.
Monday : Cloudy. Low 3. High 15.
I spent the day visiting and reading. Reports from Alberta were that a storm was on its way. We took a hike down at Fulford for the afternoon. Jane invited us for supper and a Scrabble game.
Bruce spent the day working on jewelry projects, seeing as he is a jeweler and I read and wrote and slept. Jane was playing at Moby's in the evening, so we went down for supper and watched the entertainment.
Reports from Alberta are that there is snow on the roads and that driving is bad. I'm not in a rush to get back. I delayed my reservation for the convention room until Sunday night. I had planned to be there Saturday, but I see no point in rushing back to frigid temperatures from these warm climes and driving through icy mountain passes any sooner than necessary. I'm hoping the roads will clear before I have to go..
Time to move on. I'm headed to Victoria today. I haven't made any plans or contacted people to warn them I'll be around. I figure to take my chances and not be tied to a schedule. I may stay there a day or two, or take the ferry back to the mainland tonight. I'll go wherever the wind blows.
|Here's an email that came in from a friend whose opinion I respect.
I'm short on time and will comment soon, but thought I'd share it now.
I cleaned up the text a bit, and it goes to show that you don't have to be a good speller or typist to be a great beekeeper, or to make it onto these pages.
I can't argue with this gentleman. For his situation, he is absolutely right. The problem is that I do not know of anyone else like him. Whether his secret is good luck, good management, good location, or all the above, when he was made, I think that the mould somehow got broken.
I kept bees for over 30 years and never managed to get over 180 pounds, and that was using every trick in the book, including some of the tricks he mentions. Whether the reason for this was management, luck, or location, I really do not know. I strongly suspect that it was largely a result of location. A few times, I had individual yards or hives that made 400 or 500 pounds -- or more, bur no matter what I did, I never had a high average. I did make a profit, though, and that was my goal. The writer speaks of yields and not profits; he has not sent me an indication of how much he makes (not that I doubt it is plenty). At any rate, I'm retired and he is not, so I wonder how profitable that approach is.
Making a comfortable living, not high yields or difficult work, is the goal for most of us. Most do not want to work 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, And most of us would like to know that someone could step in to fill our shoes if we were sick or injured. Simplicity is important to those ends.
I've studied what the above writer does and it makes a lot of sense, but it is very intensive. In this day and age, not many would care to do what he does, even if they could. I know people who can pole vault far above my head, but I know I never will and neither will most of the people I meet. Nonetheless, I think we all deserve to live comfortable, happy lives.
My point is simply that, if we want our industry to grow and survive, we must not make advanced management techniques so necessary that risk and difficulty become a barrier to entry and to survival, as they are now. Nor must we make the business dependant on having an ideal location, or much of the potential bee pasture in the country will remain unused. With ready availability of replacement stock, beekeeping becomes possible in more marginal regions, like mine, and profitable. To the extent that package or other replacement bees are available, pollination, which is very hard on bees remains a viable industry, especially in the tougher years of the weather cycle.
I am not saying that the type of situation described is not possible. I am just saying that it is relatively rare and costly for the majority of prairie beekeepers. We must also remember that this high price we currently enjoy may not last forever. I am acutely aware that if it were not for this recent price spike, I could have never sold out for a worthwhile sum, and I'd be trapped in an industry with few new entrants and high barriers to success.
I got off the ferry, had lunch, then phoned Eric. I was lucky enough to catch him in and dropped by to visit. Later, I managed to reach Jack (my cousin) at Gillian's and went over for supper. Jack and Barb have an apartment in Victoria for the month, and invited me to stay the night, so I did.
I awoke and realized that I had better head home. I had been putting it off as long as possible, waiting for the roads to clear and hoping Alberta would warm up. I phoned Ellen and learned that the temperature was minus 22. It was cold in Victoria -- around freezing -- but nothing like Alberta. I would have liked to spend Halloween at Moby's on Salt Spring -- it is getting to be a tradition -- but the trip home could take two days if all did not go right, and I have to be Edmonton, Monday morning. If I were to stay on the Island, tomorrow morning would be spent riding ferries to the mainland and fighting traffic; I'd not make the trip home in a day. I feel I'd like one day at home to catch up on things before my next trip, if possible.
I wandered down to the harbour downtown and spent some time poking around, then headed for the ferry. I arrived a few minutes late and had an hour to kill, so I did a U-turn and went exploring. Thunderbird Westport Marina was nearby, so I dropped in there. Eric had kept his boat there and recommended the place highly. I'd been there when we went out for a trip on his boat the day before 9/11. Anyhow, I did a bit of boat shopping and went back to the ferry and managed to get on. I drove to Ron's, taking the long way, and he and Joan and I went to the Club for supper.
"If I make a
living off it, that's great -- but I come from a culture where you're valued
not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away,"
-- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)
|Please report any problems or errors to Allen Dick
© allen dick 1999-2014. Permission granted to copy in context for non-commercial purposes, and with full attribution.