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Geoff Wilson speaking at the IPM Workshop in Edmonton this week

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Friday February 10th 2012
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We're seeing more seasonal weather today, with minus seventeen outside at sunrise today.

Jean and Mckenzie went for a skate, but found it pretty nippy out there.

I spent the morning tweaking and repairing the report page for my mite drops to date.  There are two versions, one for fast Internet connections and one for slower connections.  Between the two, the fact that time has passed since I wrote the intro, and the fact that the purpose of the page has changed, it is amazing how much writing and re-writing those few paragraphs required.

There are a number of oversights, one of the most notable of which is the fact that the charts I have posted do not yet show the resumption of brood rearing. 

 Absence of emerging brood and the beginning of broodlessness was inferred by noting the point where immature mites ceased to be observed in the daily drops.  This point was quite distinct. 

However, looking for immature mites in the drops was not a useful method for inferring resumption of brood rearing since the method requires a significant level of mite reproduction and also only shows emergence of mites, not the beginning of brood rearing which would have to commence at least twenty-one days previous to emergence.   In January, several square inches of sealed brood were noted in one hive, but due to the very low level of mites in the hive, no evidence was seen in the drops.  This is shown in the Excel file, but not yet in the charts on the drop pages.

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Saturday February 11th 2012
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It's minus twenty again this morning.  Minus twenty is cold enough to make being outside for more than a short while uncomfortable.  I need to get out and get some exercise, and the next few days look more tolerable.

Being here in Alberta during the winter was not in my plan and the climate is not good for me.  I need warm weather and ocean.  Fortunately the darkest days of winter are past, and the days are growing longer quickly.  Soon it will be spring and then summer.

Getting active helps, but the mountains are two hours away, so going skiing is a bit of a drive and I don't have anyone to share the ride or the expense.  It works out to four hours of driving for about four hours of skiing, and about $50 in gas plus a $50 afternoon ski pass.  I could go for a full day, I suppose, but a half day is about right for me these days.  I ski pretty steadily and get around ten runs in of 1,000 vertical feet each.

I have lots of work to do around the yard and the house, but that is far down my list of fun things to do.  Seeing as I am stuck here for the foreseeable future, maybe I had best get with it if only to keep in shape.  I have some old equipment to burn but we have no snow cover and I'd hate to start a prairie fire, so I maybe I'll pile some things up and burn them some day later when we get some snow.

Joe and Oene came by for supper.

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Sunday February 12th 2012
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The weather is warmer today and the coming days look to be moderating.  Snow is forecast and I'm thinking it is time to go skiing soon.

I'm doing a little bill-paying today and I see our electricity cost (left) is the highest it has been in all the time I have been tracking it.  At 27.8 cents per KWH, including tax, this is almost twice the lowest amount in my chart and I can see that the trend is up.  The average over the time I tracked it has been 19.2 cents. 

Last time I checked the prices elsewhere, Manitoba and British Columbia were paying 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour.  I'm sure that must have increased a bit, but I doubt it is half what I am paying.  Please take a glance at your power bill and take the total cost including delivery and taxes and divide by the number of kilowatt hours -- or send me both numbers.  I'll be fascinated to compare.

Our Alberta government deregulated electrical generation and distribution a few years back, claiming that competition would moderate prices and now there are more hands collecting $$ between the generator and my meter and the prices just go up.  I'm hoping this will turn out to be a big issue in the coming Alberta election.  I'm OK, but wonder how many on fixed incomes can afford the cost.

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Monday February 13th 2012
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We are back up to the freezing point this morning.  Good thing, too, since I noticed a gear problem with the furnace transmission last night.  I shifted it into another, higher, gear which works fine, but I should do a repair today.  Running in a higher gear makes a hotter fire which is less efficient and could, over time, damage the steel liner.  I imagine the steel gear shaft has worn again.  That has happened a time or two over the forty years since I built the coal stoker setup from a Kirks system.  Warmer weather means that if I shut it off for an hour or so to change components, that the house will not chill much.

Here is a power price report sent by a reader in Virginia (Thanks!

$276.53 for 2839 KWH works out to 9.7 cents per KWH.  Not too bad from where I sit! The US dollar and the Canadian dollar are roughly at par right now.

Here is what i pay in US dollars for electricity in VA. At one time we were de-regulated and then it was found it didnít work to keep prices low, so now we are back to the regulated side... de-regulation also didnít provide grounds for continual improvements in the grid as there was no return, so the customers got worst outage times and higher bills. Now we have returns built into reliability based projects, these are the riders you see on the bill. This was set up by FERC. The projects have to be approved by the Reliability Coordinator, in Dominionís case this is PJM which answers to NERC which answers to FERC. These projects are called RTEP projects or Regional Transmission Expansion Plan which is posted publicly at PJM.com.

I didn't get around to working on the furnace.  It seems to be running well, and I was distracted with a trip to Three Hills and then making supper for Ellen and Ruth, who dropped over for a visit.

In the evening, I watched "The Unusuals" and some "Republic of Doyle".  I finished off "Life" the other day.  That was a fairly short series, but one I enjoyed.  I also watched an episode of "Lie to Me" that I had seen before.  Oh, and I watched an episode of "NUMB3RS".  That's a lot of TV.  I was uninspired to do anything else, though.  I've been a bit sore lately, with a bad foot and a hip/thigh pain. 

The other day, I finally traced my pains and lethargy back to the Avodart I have been taking for BPH.  I had previously figured out that an arm pain was related to taking it, but after being off Avodart for a while and consulting my urologist, I had decided to take it again, and to be sure to take it daily. 

These new and different pains sneaked up on me over a few months and I just figured the foot was plantar fasciitis, which had cleared up promptly the one time I had it before, but each pain only got worse over time. to the point where I was finding it debilitating and my ambition seemed to have diminished considerably in recent weeks.

Previously I had decided to take the caps every other day and that reduced dose seemed to reduce side effects, but this time I decided to take them daily for the three months required to prepare for a PSA blood test requested by the urologist.

This drug is persistent and effects build up over time -- and apparently the side effects build too.  Interestingly, my side effects are not listed under the normal drug specifications, but on searching, I have found that there are number of forums and websites where people have related their experiences, and guess what, my pains and other observations are not uncommon.  Anyhow, I have quit taking it for a few days and the fog is clearing and the pains are going away. 

Avodart cleared up the worst of the BPH years ago, and I am not bothered by it at all, but remain concerned about possible prostate cancer.  According to this site "Based on rates from 2006-2008, 16.48% of men born today will be diagnosed with cancer of the prostate at some time during their lifetime."  This one agrees.

In the past decade, I have had a couple of biopsies and nothing has been found in spite of high PSA.   Some men just have high PSA and large prostates, it seems.  Nonetheless, I keep an eye on things and see an urologist periodically.

In the years that I have taken Avodart, experience has accumulated and, although the drug is found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, when cancer occurs, it has been found to be more malignant.  This was not known when the drug was first released.

All drugs have side effects and affect each person differently.  Some people receive nothing but benefits from a drug but others may experience severe difficulty or even death from the same medication.   Using a drug is a trade-off and every person has to decide if the treatment is worse than the disease, and it is worth researching anything prescribed, then watching for unexpected changes.

As I have mentioned, I only watch using Netflix.  I simply cannot stand the ads that interrupt normal TV programming and if I see something interesting on a TV channel, I usually end up turning off the TV when the first barrage of ads appears.

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Tuesday February 14th 2012
Valentines Day

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Locally, it looks like a nice day.  I'm looking at the Nakiska webcams and things don't look so sunny, until I note that the date stamp is from last night.  I guess they turn off the cams at night.  Seems dumb to me.  When I am making a decision to go or not, I want to see what is going on now, not yesterday.  

I see that Sunshine Village have their webcams running.  I'm not about to go there, though since it is an extra hour of driving each way plus a long 20-minute gondola ride to get to the Village, and also requires a Banff Park vehicle pass which costs $19.60/day or $136.50/yr --  $8.30/day for one senior.

If I am going skiing today, I'll leave around 10.  That gets me to the hill in time for an afternoon ski and I can be back by supper.  I see that the Nakiska cam is now online and things are looking good. 

I think I'll go.

I left around 9:15 and stopped in Airdrie to visit with Mike and Liz.  From there I drove to Nakiska and bought an afternoon senior ticket and was on the hill just after 1.  There was two inches of new snow and conditions were wonderful (right). 

By 2, I had made five runs and took a break.  After, I did three more runs and called it quits.  By then I'd one a little over 11,000 feet of vertical.  My biggest day ever was 50,000 feet in 7 hours to earn a Gold Pin at Norquay twenty years ago, so this relaxed 11,000 feet in less than two hours was a lot of skiing, especially for an old man.

I've learned to quit when my muscles get tired.  Pressing on after that is just asking for an accident and at the high speeds on the steep hills I prefer, a mistake could result in injury or worse.  A good skier is alert and can recover from a slip, but a tired skier is not as sharp and could hit another skier or a tree or fall badly.  The trick to prevent ski or snowboard injury is to know how to fall properly, if it comes to that, and to be alert to the surroundings to avoid collisions.

I stopped for a few groceries and a dozen roses in Airdrie on the way back, and was home by 6.

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Wednesday February 15th 2012
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Minus nine at 5:30, with a promise of plus two later and sun.  My legs are a little sore from the day of skiing, but not too bad.  I only notice it when I walk downstairs.  I think I quit at just the right point yesterday.  I've been getting out of shape and need to get more exercise.

What is interesting is that in the same time that I could have accomplished very little of real value at home, I can drive to town, visit or shop, drive to the mountains and have a good ski, then drive home.  There is a difference in cost, however.  I spent $41 in gas and $45 for the ski lift.  At home, I'd have spent nothing.

I was feeling energetic today and did some cleanup and chores, then made quiche for supper.

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Thursday February 16th 2012
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My legs are still a little sore from skiing.  That seems odd, since I didn't feel them much after skiing at Christmas and I made more runs and skied more vertical feet that trip.  Of course, I was skiing with the kids and others that day and maybe was not skiing as hard or as many steeps (double blacks).  It could also be the several months of relative inactivity since then -- or the Avodart. 

I discontinued the Avodart several days ago and my foot and hip pains seem to be fading.  I can walk normally again.  I also have more energy.

Today we have three appointments in Calgary and we have to leave around nine-thirty.

*   *   *   *   *   *

We drove to Calgary for the three appointments and came away encouraged.  Things are looking up and Ellen seems to have stabilized.  We stopped at Lowes on the way home and I went in for a few minutes.

Once home, I realised that it has been a week since I pulled the drop boards and I went out and exchanged them fro fresh board.  I noticed that bees are less apparent at the auger holes and wonder how they are doing.  The populations are likely dwindling a bit, but they are also probably sitting on more brood now and that will keep the cluster tighter than before when temperature regulation of the cluster was less of a chore.

I counted the drops and they came in at 0, 0, 0, 4, 0, &1.  I'll be updating the drop page and the charts soon, but have grown a bit tired of the task now that there is not much to observe.

As previously mentioned, details of the varroa oxalic acid treatments, the subsequent observations and my learning experiences are on the drop summary page and in this diary beginning in mid-October.  The Excel 2010 file with all the data and charts can be downloaded for closer examination.

We are now about a month from the beginning of spring and the days are getting longer.  It is passably light out until six now.  There is little snow around and the days are often shirt-sleeve warm.  Winter is still here and we're certain to experience a few more cold spells, and maybe a foot or more of snow a few times before the trees bud out, but the spring-like interludes are growing longer and stronger.

I have been watching an hour or two of old TV episodes on my LG Smart TV in the evenings lately.  I find that I am fast running out of shows that I enjoy on Netflix.  I'm good for a while yet, but I can see that the selection is limited unless I want to watch "90210" or a number of really dumb series. 

Speaking of dumb, I am increasingly finding even the ones I like to be transparently stupid and contrived.  It seems they throw in a particularly unlikely episode in from time to time just to test the audience's patience and intelligence.  Jumping the shark on "Happy Days" was just one such farce.  Maybe it is done just to remind the audience that they are watching fiction.   (Dan Quayle had to be reminded that "Murphy Brown" was fiction).

Of course, stretching credulity is the part of fiction, and all television, if we are completely honest, but I can usually manage to ignore that fact unless it is showed in my face.  

I'm watching largely because I am stuck here at home for the duration, and run out of ambition after dark, but spring will change that I expect.  It usually does.  I love bright light and don't enjoy gloom.  Also, it seems Ellen is getting better and may be less reliant on me soon.  I hope.

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Friday February 17th 2012
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Today is Nathan's birthday.  He is now one year old.  Jean and family will be here tomorrow for a little celebration.  My legs are no longer sore, but it looks as if I'll be busy today with errands and chores at home.

Every day I check a few websites.  One is the Sailfeed.  Today I saw this.  I've wondered about this mess, since many sailors in small craft sail at night, mostly blind, across the Pacific.  What if one were to encounter this in the dark? 

I spent many hours sailing in the dark, up to 1,000 miles offshore in the Atlantic, on a 45-foot sailboat.  Sometimes we had moonlight, and sometimes not.  We saw occasional objects such as buoys and mats of sargasso, , but no debris of any size.  We know there are things out there, though.   There are stories, of occasional almost-submerged containers floating around, nearly invisible, having been washed off container ships in storms.  Sometimes boats just disappear without a trace.

> What do you look for and how do you decide when to start feeding pollen  substitute to your hives?

I know that the first reliable pollen comes in the last week of April and begin patty feeding three to four weeks in advance, max.

> I live in central Indiana...high 45 low 25  about now.

We are running a bit cooler than that, but having a very warm winter.

> I was thinking about walk-away splits for any others that look > good.

That has been the easiest and most reliable method for me if I wait until there is a good flow on, bees on the bottom of six frames in the lower box in the afternoon on an average day when I tip the double standard hive forward to look, and make sure there is young brood in each box.

I always place a more-or-less empty brood chamber* under each half when splitting and make sure the two new hives occupy the same location as the old hive so that the returning bees split equally between the two. If they don't, I rotate one a bit or lean up a lid and watch to make sure they do. Having auger holes in all brood boxes seems to help make sure that hives stay equal.

There may be ways to get more splits from the same hives, but I have not found a more reliable, easier method of splitting. If there are cells available, adding a cell to each half can speed up the recovery.

> Enjoy your web pages. Great information. (the coal furnace -- wow you  are good)

Thanks.

* if the split is light, I choose a heavy box from extra boxes in storage to go under.  If the split is heavy, I choose a lighter box to go under.

El and I went to Three Hills and did a few things.  Ellen had more blood tests, which took almost an hour since the techs were unfamiliar with some tests that had been requested and had to research to make sure they followed procedure properly. 

I've noticed that medical staffs are very careful these days and all matters of any importance are double-checked for correctness.   I have to say that I am very impressed by the quality of care and the attention to detail on the part of the various medical personnel and the empathy they show for patients.  Ellen's treatment has been very time-consuming and involved some very costly talent, equipment, and expensive drugs, at a cost to us of only the time and gas for driving in and out of the city and a very small small co-pay for some drugs, totaling less than $250.

While Ellen was busy at the lab, I went over to UFA and bought a 20 lb propane bottle.  In recent years, the type I have used over the years have been superseded and it is now time to upgrade.  I have quite a few bottles since I use propane for many things, including running the forklift.  The new connectors that replace the traditional POLs look more sensible and easier to use, but the guy at UFA says they are subject to failure since the new ones are plastic and degrade in the sun.  I bought a new pigtail anyhow and plan to change over to the new system completely soon.

After the trip to the lab we bought groceries for an "At Home" we are planning for for Sunday afternoon.  We're expecting ten to fifteen people, and good weather.  We haven't had the "Usual Suspects" over all at once since early fall.  Ellen has been feeling better the past few days and we are hoping that she has turned a corner and hoping she'll be able to stay up for the four-hour reception.  She's been up pretty well all day over the last two days.  Before that, she had found it more comfortable to stay sitting in bed much of the time.

Shirley and Grant came by for coffee at three.

I still have not finished updating the mite drop data.  There is not much to report, but I should go out and lift some lids to see how the clusters look.

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Saturday February 18th 2012
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The forecast has changed and we are expecting snow today and cloud tomorrow.  I had hoped for a warm sunny day for Sunday and a nice afternoon for a barbeque and bonfire.  We'll see.  It seems that one cannot count on the forecast for planning further into the future than a day or so.  Even then there are surprises.

If nothing else, this weather should provide more snow for skiing next week when, hopefully, I can get away for an afternoon on the slopes.  I don't see any specific amount predicted for the Mountains, though.  We're approaching March, however and March is known for heavy and unpredictable snowfalls on the hills. 

My legs have recovered completely from Tuesday's trip and I have decided that I should be sure to get out more often to keep in shape.  Once a week would be nice, but I'll be doing well if I get out twice a month.  At one time, if I did not get out 30 days a winter and do 30,000 vertical feet a day, I felt I was slipping.  That as in my Ski Patrol and ski & snowboard instructor days. 

I haven't been boarding for a while.  My family skis and since I bought shaped skis, I have found that skiing is as enjoyable as boarding again.  I also fit in better with the others on skis since snowboarders look for different terrain and travel at a different speeds than skiers.  When going alone, though, and especially on a powder or chopped powder day, maybe I should be boarding again.

Jean and family will be here for lunch today to celebrate Nathan's birthday, and I have to get ready for the party tomorrow, so my day is pretty well committed

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Sunday February 19th 2012
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We are expecting ten to fifteen guests this afternoon, so I have some chores to do this morning.

There was a question about high school beekeeping courses on BEE-L recently.  In 2004, I wrote the Beekeeper Technician Manual for the Alberta Green Certificate Programme.  Only Level One was contracted and published, but at the time, I wrote all three levels, seeing as it was difficult to determine what skills fell into which level without outlining them all.  After I finished, my formatted work went to committee for editing and printing.  At that point, I lost touch with it and it was years before I actually received a printed copy.  By that time it had been in use for several seasons.

I spent the morning vacuuming and getting ready for company.  Our friends arrived at two and we had a good afternoon, visiting.  We had burgers at around five-thirty and everyone left except Bert and Fen.  We sat around talking until about nine.

Meijers arrived a little earlier than the others and lifted a few lids before coming into the house.  They confirmed that one hive was small, but the other two they opened looked good.  The weak one was test Hive One, a hive that I had previously noticed to be small, but with brood, so we'll see.

I still have to finish updating the charts from the recent mite counts.

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"So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else."  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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