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I've cut out the rotten part of the transom

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Saturday October 1st 2011
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If you are here about bees, the bee-related content should resume next weekend, when I return home and check my hives.  At present, I am in Muskoka, repairing a 40-year old mahogany runabout.

In the meantime, there are plenty of past bee adventures chronicled in the diary back pages.

*   *    *   *   *   *

I heard rain on and off during the night and, periodically, the shot-like impact of green pine cones falling  onto the roof from 100 feet up.

The wind is blowing hard from the north and west this morning, churning up the normally tranquil River and pushing Carpe Diem against the dock, but her oversize fenders and a taut spring line to the shore hold her off.

This 111-year-old cottage is un-insulated and draughty.  The fire in the fireplace does what it can to hold off the chill, but this place was built for warm weather, not days like today.   Nonetheless, I slept well under an electric blanket and rose to see patches blue sky and fast-moving clouds.  The forecast has improved somewhat and there is hope that today will be warm enough to spend time in the boathouse again.  If not, I have plenty to do here, putting away the bedding and preparing to abandon Pine Hill for the winter months.

The sun is out, but the cold wind is blowing still.  I'm browsing the 'net and putting off getting started on the jobs I have lined up.

1984 has finally arrived.
GM Is Watching You…

China Daily has interesting opinion pieces.  Here's one:
 Looking at history from a different angle

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Sunday October 2nd 2011
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Today, I am starting to close up Pine Hill for the year.  The job will take me two days, with breaks for other activities.  The weather is cool, overcast and breezy, with periods of rain, so working inside is probably the best use of my time today.  The promised 19 degrees has not, so far, materialized.

Tomorrow or later this week, I'll load my boat onto the trailer and maybe do some more work on Cloud 9 when hopefully it will be nicer outdoors.  If I load up carpe Diem, I'll, have to figure out what to do with it until I am ready to go north.  I can bring it down here, but after my experience last year, I am thinking that there could be issues if it rains when I am ready to go and the the pavement is wet. 

I don't ever want to have to back down that hill again with the trailer behind.  See October 16 - 18, 2010.  In reverse, on a hill, the trailer surge brakes do not activate.  Due to the slope, the trailer is pulling, not pushing, on the hitch.  The brakes only apply when there is forward pressure on the hitch.

I'm quite certain that there will be no problem making the hill if I balance the trailer better and also remember to take a bit of a run at the hill instead of trying to just crawl up the way I did on the first, unsuccessful effort last year.

Last year, I had too much weight on the back of the van.  In the time between these two pictures -- one taken at the bottom and the other at the top of the hill -- I had removed the heavy rudder and the motor and stored them amidships inside the boat, and also loaded a heavy log splitter into the very back of the van. 

More hitch weight is supposed to be good, right?  Wrong!  The combination of increased hitch weight from transferring weight forward from the transom  and loading the van rear overhang, reduced the weight on the front wheels of the van.  The front  wheels are the drive wheels -- and the steering wheels, too.  Good traction on all wheels is essential for  staying straight when braking.  The changes from my usual weight distribution resulted in reduced drive traction, and when I encountered a few leaves on the pavement, the wheels spun and I came to a stop.

Then I had to back down.  That is when I discovered that the increased weight at the rear also caused the front wheels to lift a bit and break traction and slide perilously to one side or another whenever I braked, even slightly, as I was backing down. 

Modern, well aligned trailers need very little tongue weight to track safely.  The important thing is that there must be some weight on the hitch, and no lift.  Even a little lift can make a trailer very uncontrollable.  These days 5% preload on a hitch is considered adequate.  5% of 3.500 lbs is 175 lbs, and I think that half that would be OK.

I've pulled the boat up that hill at least eight times and only once had an issue and that was due to changing the trailer and van loading.  I don't want to have to back down ever again, but if I ever have to, the job will not be as dicey if there is less weight on the back of the van, and I think I've learned from that error.

Looking back, I note that it is now almost a year since the troubles with Cloud 9 began.  At that time, the gas tank leaked, and that may have been what rotted the shifter cable boot. Of course, we did not discover that until this spring.

I notice that I've owned this black Plymouth Grand Voyager for a little over 6 years now.  At the time I bought the van it was 7 years old with 246,000 km on the clock.  It is now about to turn 299,000 km and shows little sign of its age.  I spent twice the money buying that van  -- $7,000 including tax -- than I spent on the 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan bought 7 months ago.   I hope the 2002 unit serves as well as this one has.  The red Dodge came with 224,000 km on it and is now showing 241,000.

This Plymouth has been a good value.  Looking back, I don't know how I would have managed without it.  I'd have had to rent cars or drive a vehicle down from Alberta, and I'd not be able to tow my boat, run down to Rhode Island or new York as I did -- or carry my tools around the way I do.

*   *    *   *   *   *

The weather turned more pleasant late in the day and I put away the outside furniture.  I was tempted to go for a sail, but by the time conditions looked promising, the hour was getting late.  The sun sets at 18:59 today.  For a decent sail, I need to figure on at least a three-hour window.  I could have worked on Cloud 9, I suppose, but by then I was too engrossed in closing up.

From this morning's forecast for Port Carling, tomorrow promises to be even better than this afternoon, but maybe I should re-check the forecast...  Uh! Oh! Wrong again.  The forecast now promises "Showers. High 12." for tomorrow and "Sunny. High 17." for the next day.  Environment Canada says we have ten degrees right now and that is quite bearable, so as long as the wind does not pick up, tomorrow should be OK.

Ellen sends the latest scale reading and I see that, in the six days since the 26th of last month, the four hives lost a total of around four pounds.  That's 1/6 of a pound per hive per day.  With six months until April, that rate works out to 1/6 lb/day x 30 days x 6 months = 30 lbs over the winter.  We know the consumption will be over twice that, so I wonder if some of the four hives are weak or dead, or if maybe the hives are getting some feed by robbing the stacks a bit.  I'll be home soon to see for myself.

I found the weight chart from the 2009/2010 winter posted back in March of 2010.  Here it is. (Right).

Closing up is now about half done.  I did the veranda, the end bedroom and Mom's room.  I can't finish my room or turn off the water until the last minute, when I am about to leave .

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Monday October 3rd 2011
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It is warm in Alberta, but continuing cool and wet here in Muskoka.  Ellen reports that the coal has not arrived, though, and the bin is empty.  Here, I  have the fireplace lit and some electric space heaters for warmth in the mornings.  The forecast for my remaining two days in Muskoka?

Tuesday: Mainly sunny. High 18. Wednesday: Sunny. Low plus 4. High 15. 

I'll load the boat tomorrow, I suppose.  Conditions look ideal.  I could wait until the last minute, but if I load ahead of time, I won't have last-minute surprises, assuming that I don't have a hill-climbing problem.  There is always the issue of turning the boat-trailer combination around in the confined parking area here at Pine Hill, but I have done it many times before.  I think this is my plan.  Closing will take another half-day and the boat will take the same, so I have a day to spare.


It's time to start thinking about my hives.  How many do I have?  I can hardly remember.  It's a good thing I have a diary page to consult, but it is surprising how often I find I have omitted recording some essential detail. I last worked them on Wednesday August 24th and my last appraisal was Sunday August 28th

When I left, I had 27 hives. I expect that I'll have to eliminate around five of them due to weakness if they have not done so themselves by now.  Maybe not.  I did eliminate all the queenless hives when I went through them.  All in all, this has not been a very successful expansion if I only managed to expand 9 hives into 22. 

If the number proves to be 27 going into winter, that is not as bad, but with a 20% loss by spring, I will only have managed to multiply by 2.4 and get some foundation drawn.  I did better the year I simply did walk-away splits.  Having a good spring is probably the key.  We did not have a good spring this year and the hives I should have been able to split early were over a month late.

The latest CHC b-TALK September 2011 email came in just now, mentioning the upcoming annual meeting at the reputedly coldest place in Canada on what well may be the coldest day of the year.  I don't have a lot to say about the contents of the newsletter.  As for CHC, a perpetual problem for the Alberta beekeeper population, the organisation has had a change of command, hopefully for the better.  Time will tell, but I'm guessing that almost anything will prove better than the former incarnation.  Will I be in Winnipeg in January?  I sure hope not.  I aspire to be somewhere warmer.

I see Medhat's website is now live.

I checked the Alberta Beekeepers Commission site to see what is up there.  I suppose I'll attend the convention again this year, but there is no agenda posted.  The "information sheet" offers only this: 

"This year’s keynote speakers are:

Now, I've been wrong before and hopefully I am wrong again, but this lineup seems to lack a beekeeping focus and cater to secondary management issues.  And I ask myself, how many "keynote" speakers can a convention have, anyhow?  My understanding is there is one keynote speaker and the he or she sets the theme of the meeting and may be called on for additional input.  See here for a definition of "keynote".  I summarize below.

At political or industrial conventions and expositions and at academic conferences, the keynote address or keynote speech is delivered to set the underlying tone and summarize the core message or most important revelation of the event.

"Keynote speakers are often selected to raise interest in a particular event, such as a conference or large meeting sponsored by a corporation or association, and draw attendees to attend that program. Selecting a keynote speaker who is well known for his or her expertise in a particular field, or who has wide name recognition due to other accomplishments, will probably raise enthusiasm among prospective attendees for a meeting or conference.

"Typically a keynote presenter speaks for anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes.

Disregarding the apparent lack of one specific "keynote speaker who is well known for his or her expertise in a particular field, or who has wide name recognition due to other accomplishments", and in spite of the fact that the convention is only a month away, the ABC website provides no background, to convince us that the lineup is relevant.

Out of curiosity about these obscure (to me at least) guests, I did a little digging and the links below are my best guess.  If anyone knows better, please let me know.  Finding information on the speakers and a clear understanding of why they are invited proved harder than I expected.  Here is what I found so far.

  • F.A.R.M.S. appears to be an Ontario organisation.  FARSHA is apparently centred in BC.  Both seem to be involved in farm labour and worker health issues.  These matters are of some interest to members, so I hope the talk is focused on Alberta needs.

  • True Source Honey is basically a honey promotion and lobby programme AFAIK, and probably asking for, or getting ABC money.  The idea has some merit, but I dread the thought of having to suit through more than five minutes on the subject.

  • WeatherFarm appears to be a weather monitoring and reporting project that may have some interest for us.  Their relevance is not immediately obvious from their website, but can be inferred.  I note that apparently they do not have an Android app, but do serve Blackberry and Apple devices for a fee. They are also part of the infamous Weatherbug operation as far as I can tell.  I downloaded their desktop program, then uninstalled it. 

Do any of these speakers deserve more than ten minutes of our time?  Which one of the above is the actual keynote speaker?  Is there a convention theme?  I guess we'll find out.

I hope the beekeeper chosen to profile his/her outfit does a good job.  That one presentation is always a huge hit and is be the one presentation that fills the room.

At least the CHC/Manitoba meeting offers some beekeeping meat.  Here is the Manitoba offering.  Again, they seem to have a problem with the 'keynote' idea:  Three "keynote" speakers?

  • Marion Ellis, Professor and Extension Apiculture Specialist, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

  • Jerry Hayes, Apiary Inspection Assistant Chief, Florida Department of Agriculture Services, Gainesville, Florida, USA.

  • Danielle Downey, Apiculture Specialist, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Hilo, Hawaii, USA.

Marion's students made an impressive presentation at the ABF last year, and Jerry Hayes is bound to be relevant.  Wasn't there a rumour of a new pest found in Florida recently?  As for the Hawaiian, I don't know what will be offered, except probably a forecast of the difficulty or lack thereof in obtaining an adequate supply of queens from that State.

I expect to attend the ABF again this year even though it is in Las Vegas.  I used to love Las Vegas around 1980 and often walked the strip from the hacienda to the Gold Nugget on Fremont and back, but Vegas was better under the gangsters.  After the banksters took over, it has become something different.  I used to spend weeks there, just walking around, but lately, I just get out of there unless I have an event to attend.  Our son lives a few hours west.

Here's what the ABF has to say:

"The 2012 ABF annual conference will be held in exciting Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, January 10-14, 2012. In true ABF fashion, this conference promises to bring you the most up-to-date information within the beekeeping industry and the latest products and services offered by our many exhibitors and sponsors. In collaboration with several international speakers, we will take a look a beekeeping around the world.

And then there is the AHPA Annual Convention.  I like their meetings.  This one is in Phoenix and unfortunately, it is quite soon after New Years, so good airfares may be hard to find.  There are few details on the website.

"The 42nd Annual Convention of the American Honey Producers Association will be held at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona,  January 4-8, 2012.

There is the California meeting, too in November in the wine country, but I am out of time for this...


I see the markets are continuing down again today.  Is this a replay of 2008?

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Tuesday October 4th 2011
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Today is sunny and promises to be warm.  I have plenty to do in order to be ready to go north tomorrow.

At eleven I went to see the local doctor about a recurring ear infection and then decided to start getting the sailboat ready for the trip north.  When I got to the boat, the sun was warm and the breeze pleasant, so I went for one last  sail instead.

The conditions were quite light, so after sailing up to One Tree Island, I jibed and ran back to the River, wing and wing.  At three-thirty, I began lowering the mast and preparing to put the boat away for the season.

Breaking down the rigging took about an hour, then I hooked up trailer and the drove to Hanna Park, where the boat ramp is located and left the van and trailer there.  I walked the mile and quarter back to Pine Hill and took the boat down the River to the locks.  There was no attendant, so I locked through the small locks by myself, motored on down the River and tied up at Hanna Park.

After loading the boat and tying down, I returned to Pine Hill exactly three hours after I began the job.  Turning the rig around in the cramped parking area at Pine Hill took ten minutes.

That leaves the boathouse and the water system to do tomorrow.  I decided to not do any more work on Cloud 9 this season.

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Wednesday October 5th 2011
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Tonight, if all goes well, I should be back in Sudbury.  I have a lot to do between now and the moment when I am ready to climb the hill.

And, oh, yes.  I turn 66 today.

*   *    *   *   *   *

I beavered away all day and by 5:30, Pine Hill was closed up and I had climbed the hill.  I was Sudbury bound with Carpe Diem close behind.  I took it easy; the drive was uneventful, and I pulled into Mom's around eight.

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Thursday October 6th 2011
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Today, I visit Linda, then put my boat into storage in preparation for my return to Alberta, and in the evening, go to the Sudbury Theatre Centre to see "The 39 Steps"

When I started working on the boat, planning to tarp it for the winter, I discovered that there is some water in the bilge.  This boat should remain perfectly dry and any water inside the cabin raises the humidity and can cause mildew.  As a result, i removed all items that might mold and sponged out the water. I also discovered that i was missing the tie-downs and since I was running out of time, decided that I will tarp it when I return a month or so from now.

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Friday October 7th 2011
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I'm off to Alberta today.  The shuttle picked me up at 8and the flight to Toronto was uneventful.

In Toronto, I walked to Gate143 and boarded flight 173 on  Then we sat there.  We were told that we were waiting for two passengers who had checked baggage but had not made it to the gate.  Apparently the security screeners were working to rule or some other disruption was taking place, so this was not unexpected. 

A half hour after we should have pushed back, we were told there was a security breach and that we had to leave the pane so it could be searched.  We all got off waited fifteen minutes, then we all got back on, and we finally left two hours late. 

I just happened to speak to the man who figured he was the cause of the problem.  He was the first person I saw after I got off and when I sat down beside him he asked if I got had gotten off flight 173 and then what was going on.   He said had been held up in security and then forgot his carry-on bag there since he was in a rush and had been hassled in the security process., and had been required to remove his belt, etc.   He boarded the plane finally, then realized that he had left his bag somewhere and rushed to find it.  He said he was sent to lost and found and all around the airport and when he arrived back, he was in quite a sweat from running. 

At any rate for some reason, right about then, the planes' crew had decided that they had to search the plane,. even though he was back and ready to board again. Personally, I figure it was just a deliberate job action by the Air Canada crew intended to slow down the system in sympathy with the airport security staff, disguised as a genuine  situation, which it apparently was not. 

Anyhow, we arrived in Calgary two hours late and I was picked up by Ellen and Zippy in my red van.  We drove home and as we drove, I called a few people.  One of them was Joe and it turned out that he and Oene were just a few miles ahead of us on the same road, so we invited them for coffee.  Before we went in for coffee, we lifted a few lids and they declared that my bees are looking good.

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Saturday October 8th 2011
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I was tired today and took it easy, but did go out and place six drop boards under some of the hives to check for varroa.  I did not grease the boards and I wonder how important greasing or oiling the boards is. I realize that grease helps stop any living varroa from going back up, but don't really know if the grease is necessary to keep the dead ones from blowing around of being carried off.  I doubt it, but using grease may increase the confidence in the counts. I don't see any ants. so I guess my ant  controls earlier worked.  Ants definitely would be a problem and grease would help keep them away from the varroa on the boards.

I received word that the Fairview bee course is now ready to go.  This project has been in the planning stage since last fall and is now being advertised for enrolment.  Classes begin January 9th, 2012.


GPRC Bee Program Course Costs                 GPRC Commercial Beekeeping info

The Commercial Beekeeping Course page at the GPRC site

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Sunday October 9th 2011
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Around noon, Zip and I went out to look at the drop boards.  The bees were flying freely, but not bringing much of anything in with them or fighting in any obvious way.

I looked at all six drop boards and did not see even one varroa, and this is after almost 24 hours.  That strikes me as very odd.  There was not much in the way of debris on the boards, either, so I guess the bees are settling down.  I can deduce that they have enough uncapped feed or are finding enough that they are not uncapping right now.  One thing I noticed that seemed off was that there were a number of bee legs on the drop boards of several.  Does that suggest fighting?  I'll have to look more closely.0.4 lbs per day weight loss. Click the drop board image at right for a peek.

I also checked the hive scale and see that the weight has dropped from 17 to 6, or 11 pounds since the second of this month.  11/7/4 = 0.4 lbs per day per hive weight loss.

Jean and family arrived and we had Thanksgiving supper.  They stayed over for the night.

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