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Our spring is now a month overdue.

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Sunday April 10th 2011

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Today there is a baby party for Nathan.  Driving is expensive these days and I checked the gas prices at AlbertaGasPrices.com .  The best  price shown for Red Deer is at Costco, but the report is a day old.  C'mon folks, lets get the mobile app on our phones and keep the prices current!

I've had problems with this diary page for the past few days and although I have been updating it, the changes have not been showing up on the pages displayed to users by the server.  Today I managed to get that fixed, so the missing entries are showing up and there should be no more problems for a while.

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We have some water on top of the pond ice, but there is a still a lot of snow up on the fields, so I doubt it will all run off today.  We should see quite a bit flowing into the pond today though.

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We drove to Red Deer and spent a little time in stores, then drove to Lacombe for the baby party.  That was a lot of fun and Zippy was a hit again when I took her for a walk and brought her to the door.  All the kids came out onto the front step to pet her.

On the way home, we fuelled up at Costco which was the low-price seller, according to www.gasbuddy.com .  I reckon I sometimes save as much as $12 or 15 per fill up by consulting Gasbuddy and using that info to decide where to buy gas.  That and other things that my Tab and cell phone can do justify the cost easily and save time as well.

This van runs well, but is not getting the fuel economy that I get in my other two vans.  It also needs a transmission oil and filter change before I decide to drive to BC and pull a trailer home.  These Dodge products are very fussy and although some put cheaper tranny oils into them, the buzz is that this is the reason that these Mopar transmissions  have a bad rap.  They require ATF+4 and many shops save money by using Dexron fluid, which has a much lower rating in many critical areas of performance and endurance.

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Monday April 11th 2011

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I expect that today we will see much more runoff and perhaps the pond will fill.  The temperatures stayed above freezing overnight and will get up to 11 today (Celsius) with sun, so that should result in a lot of snow melt, but I'd be surprised if it all goes.   I am waiting for the snow to go so that I can go clean up my beeyard.

Spring is now over three weeks late here in Swalwell.  I am buying 10 doubles of bees in BC.  The supplier there says that he is running a month late in terms of build-up, and delivery will be a month late.  It will be the second week of May before I can pick them up.  How late is your spring?  Comment here.

I walked over to look at my bees.  As far as I can tell they are all dead.  I'll know better when I clean up, but if there were any alive, I would expect to see bees on the snow and lots of brown snow.  I don't.

I see that there are quite a few nucs for sale now in the Alberta BeeNews.  This is a new trend and maybe we have finally reached the goal that was imagined back in the seventies and eighties and the industry is becoming more self-sufficient.  We are not nearly there yet, since we depend heavily on imported queens for replacement and for introduction into spring splits, and only a small percentage of the Alberta commercial outfits are self-sufficient or find themselves with surplus bees in spring.

Some beekeepers are adopting plans which reduce or eliminate the need for imported bees, but to do so, they must raise about one nucs for every three colonies the year previous, and winter them successfully.   That is not terribly hard to do, but it takes time and resources and the first time is the most difficult due to lack of experience and the pressures of all the other work that comes on right when splits need to be made.

If beekeepers find themselves with too many of colonies the next spring, then spring management is simple.  Rather than coddling weak colonies and/or replacing queens, or buying package bees, management is simply a matter of combining or shaking out or doubling up the weak colonies and equalizing uneven yards  Any excess colonies can be sold or doubled up to make two-queen colonies.

That was what I was planning on doing, but also was given false confidence by the talk of those who do not use any  treatments.  I had been using one oxalic treatment in fall with good success, but this fall the mite levels got far too high long before the time to treat. 

I should have taken mite samples earlier rather than depending on examining drone brood.  I had planned on using mite drop, but with as many hives as I had, that became impractical with the set-up I use.  When I ran commercial bees, my hives were only two boxes high in September and I was able to tip them a bit to place the screens under.  With the EPS boxes and three and four brood boxes, that was impossible, so it did not get done.

Here's our run-off ...finally. The stream is growing and the pond is filling.

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Tuesday April 12th 2011

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We had a good start at run-off yesterday, but the flow stopped overnight and today will be cooler, without the warm winds we had yesterday.  The pond is within a few feet of overflow and overflow looks inevitable this year.  It does not happen most years, but when it does, we get a partial change of water in this otherwise landlocked pond and also a good high water table to start the season.

There has been quite a bit of buzz about Jeff Pettis's comments regarding pesticides and larval death. Here is a link: Top level laboratory research showing that low levels of systemic pesticides are impacting honey bee health are not being repeated in the field.

I went to Three Hills in the afternoon and did a few chores.  The P-Ss and Meijers came for supper.

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Wednesday April 13th 2011

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Tonight Cloudy. Snow beginning this evening. Amount 5 to 10 cm. Wind southeast 20 km/h. Low minus 2.

Thursday Snow ending late in the morning then cloudy with 40 percent chance of flurries or rain showers in the afternoon and evening. Snowfall amount 2 to 4 cm. Wind southeast 20 km/h becoming light near noon. High plus 3.

Snow is promised for tonight.  Altogether, we can expect up to four inches.  I doubt it will last long, but it will make things messy for a few more days and it seems that Jonathan will be arriving right in the middle of it.   I heard this morning that Jonathan and his kids slept in Cedar City last night and are now almost 1/3 of the way here from their home in California. (see map at right).

Our run-off continues, slowly.  The pond is still down about two feet from overflow and there is still plenty of snow cover up on the hill that feeds our creek and pond, so we may well see the pond full.  I had thought that there was not much change in pond level yesterday, but I see now that the back of our boat is submerged and it was clear of the water yesterday, so the water did come up at least a foot.

This cooler weather and predicted snow means that our main measure of the approach of spring is now almost one month late!  Normally we have run-off on March 17th.  We are now only 4 days from the 17th of April and the cool weather projected for the coming week almost guarantees we will overshoot that date.

Apparently the jet stream has been staying south of us over the past year and this partly accounts for the cooler than normal weather.  It may also be protecting us from the radiation that is showing up from Japan in drinking water and milk in a number of states to the south.

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Thursday April 14th 2011

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At 7:30 AM, I see several inches of fresh, wet snow on the ground and more is coming down.  I checked my email and see that Jonathan got as far as Strathmore and had his battery light come on.  He took a hotel and is resting up.  He had planned to drive straight through, but ran into a problem only 45 miles from his destination on the 1600-mile drive from Laguna Beach.

Compare this to the picture at the top of this page.

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Friday April 15th 2011

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Its' till snowy here and the roads are mud.  I drove to Airdrie for a meeting and then did some grocery shopping.

The kids are really enjoying the snow.  They don't see much in California.

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Saturday April 16th 2011

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Last night was well below freezing and we saw no runoff yesterday at all.  The pond is frozen hard and Ellen said she saw magpies playing on the glare ice.  They were sliding around like kids.

No sign of spring yet. Jean and Chris and family came for supper.

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Sunday April 17th 2011

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Jean Chris and Nathan left after lunch, but Mckenzie stayed to visit with the cousins. Then Jon and I pulled the kids around on the toboggan behind the red 4x4 for an hour or so.   We tired of it before they did.

The water has not risen in the pond for days now since the weather has hovered around freezing.  There is still plenty of snow that will melt when and if we get a hot day.  It is starting to look more and more as if we may be facing a year with summer.  They have happened before and brought on widespread hardship.

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Monday April 18th 2011

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There is still no sign of the end to this winter.  The snow is deep enough that we were pulling the kids around on the toboggan yesterday and the ice on the pond has frozen hard again.  I doubt that it is safe enough to walk on, but Daisy was on it yesterday and only went through right at the edge.  Looking at the forecast, the average temperatures are below freezing until Saturday.  We are now more than a month late for the end of runoff.  The way things are going, seeding will be very late.

Jon and the kids all headed off to jean's after lunch, leaving us some time to get a little work done.  Everyone will be back again soon and we'll all be here for Easter.

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Tuesday April 19th 2011

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Today shows little promise for a melt.  We still have ice covering the pond and snow on the ground to the extent that working in the bee yard is not practical.

Ellen went out to see if she could do any garden preparation, but decided there is too much snow.  I went for a one-mile walk down the property and back up the tracks with Zippy in the afternoon. 

I had been working on the books, getting accounts reconciled all day and was almost back to where I was a week ago before I discovered the file was corrupt, but was getting weary.

Quickbooks 2002 has a habit sometimes of carrying on working without any warning until a verification check shows that there is an irreparable error.  The file seems just fine, but cannot be trusted -- or repaired.  The only solution is to go back to the last good backup and re-enter all the data from that point on.

I still use QB2002 since there has been no really good reason to upgrade.  I've looked at newer versions and they have been complicated and/or dumbed down to the point where they do not appeal to me.  I like a straightforward double entry system that has good reporting and do not need fancy features.  When I examine them, which I do from time to time, I give up and take them back to the store for a refund. This program has its quirks -- they all do -- but I know most of them by now.

As it happened, I had done a whole day's work with no new backup during that time, and so it took me more than a day to get the file back to where I had been at the end of that long day.  The second run at making the entries is not a easy as the initial effort, since the source docs have been checked and filed, and so it is necessary to run a journal report and an audit trail report for the new and old files and add the missing entries manually.  I had also done the reconciliations and they all had to be redone.

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