I have found a farm part supply store (JR Bearing and Power, Winkler MB.) that has everything I need to fix up my extraction equipment including SS 40 chain. Im going to start putting the place back together next week.
As I work towards my honey house facility registration so are many other beekeepers throughout the Canadian Beekeeping industry. I do believe the writing is on the wall as many packers already insist on facility registration as is BeeMaid within the next year. I’m not much for government regulation and control, though I do believe government is essential in many places and this is a perfect example of the optimum balance between industry driven initiatives and government backed regulation. None of this is mandatory, yet the industry is pushing for it and producers are climbing aboard.
Many beekeepers have contacted me in regards to my CFIA Registration Manual and Supporting forms. I have created my registration manual by reviewing many other beekeepers registration manuals and then personalizing one to fit my operational needs. I’m all about practicality and making programs that work proactively within my daily work routine. To make a document that is not useful only adds to the work load of the day.
One thing about this blog which I would not have expected is that it has provided me with a connection to beekeepers local and foreign all looking for some kind of a sounding board to bounce their beekeeping observations and thoughts off and to help make sense of what is happening in their operation. I do the exact same thing with a select few beekeepers in the area, and that little bit of feedback I get from these producers help clarify my issues.
I know a beekeeping couple from Treherne to which we regularly compare notes through out the season. Like me they are members of the MCHP and working towards the registration process. They are one step ahead of me as they have already been given the green light with their manual and facility inspection. I asked if I could provide their documents here and they were more than happy to share. This is there Treherne Honey Farms Honey House Registration Plan and two of my favorite Supporting Documents #1 and Supporting Document #2 . I have provided my documents and Jeff and Brandy have provided their documents for beekeeper review and reference as many have done for me, themselves and others in the industry. These documents are not a cut and paste function. These programs all follow the same format and guidelines, but each program has to be customized to suit each individual beekeeping operation.
Minus 30 degreesC here today and with the wind working outdoors was unbearable. How anything survives weather like this I dont know. Rest assured my bees sit warm and cozy away from the cold and wind inside the wintering room. The only thing these hives have to endure is time. Yesterday terrible winds swept across the country side bringing us a good old January blizzard. I heard reports of wind gusts up to 100 km in places, but not here. Though, the wind was pushing in the top end of my north facing winter shed overhead door… I quickly reinforced it, crisis averted. School was cancelled today and for good reason. There was no way those buses would of been able to run in this cold. I can say that in certainty because two of our three chore tractors refused to work today…
I got at the extractor today and started disassembling the entire machine as I prepare to refurbish it. New chains, new bearings, new switches and new paint. This machine is due for a once over and its going to look brand new after I’m finished.
Many blog followers have contacted me in regards to how I set up and manage my processing facilities, so this winter as I work through my programs and while I install all my equipment I`m going to talk a bit about what I`m doing and why it’s being done. I’m doing this for your interests sake, so take it for what it is :).
Last week I had been working on my CFIA Registration Manual and the supporting forms, tailoring the programs to suit the new honey facility. Now that my written programs are complete I can start implementing them as I resume my work on the honey house. Cost restraint was a major deciding factor when designing and building the honey house facility. Working under a restrictive budget forced me to focus on the basic requirements and I built my facility around them in a cost effective manner.
Within the 3750 square foot honey house facility I designated 450 square feet of space (D) towards an employee common room with a bathroom, office and utility room all built within the area.
The employee common room (D) centralizes all the processing work operations within the facility. All employee and visitor traffic must enter into this area, where this traffic can be managed accordingly. As for the employees, it gives them a place to go, put down their things, change and sit down. As for visitors it prevents entry directly into the extraction room and gives them a place to mingle as I can manage their traffic more appropriately.
The washroom is located off the common room which has no entry from the extraction facility. I included a washer and drier in this room because of the available plumbing. The washer and drier will allow me to clean beekeeping clothing within the facility keeping it all out of the house. (This is one thing my wife insisted I include in my plans!) The washroom provides my staff with convenience and improves personal hygiene. Toilet, sink with a soap dispenser, mirror and a paper towel dispenser at the users immediate convenience.
The Utility room is where I manage my water works. The town water service comes into this room which is then plumbed outward into the building. My honey house is equipped with in floor heating which is hooked up to an electric boiler on the utility room wall (to be installed). Shelving is installed on all four walls right to the ceiling where I store my beekeeping suits, supplies, medications and pest control products. This room keeps all the clutter neatly tucked away in a manageable spot.
I built an office into the corner of the room. I wish it were a bit bigger but it serves its purpose. My neighbour lent me his old elevator desk and chair which has given me a place to organize all my beekeeping paperwork and other office type fillings. The office also gives me a place where I can conduct any type of business in a private setting.
As I had mentioned earlier the honey house was built under budget restrictions and because of that I designed my facilities using space as efficiently as possible. If I had the opportunity I would of doubled the square footage in the common room but I feel the space I have provided is quite adequate. Where space really counts is in the production facility and that is where I built in surplus space to work in.
Cold cold -27 degreeC weather has increased our livestock feed consumption putting us further into our feed stocks than anticipated. Our excellent corn crop this year supplied us with ample amount of feed which will actually carry well into next year.
150 calves and counting… about a third done. This cold weather has been challenging but nothing our facilities cant help us manage. Looking for warm weather…
Today I finalized the details on my winter bee equipment order. Im bringing in another large order of boxes and frames to further increase my honey super inventory. My strategy is to keep ahead of the hives production with space, a strategy that I will never win as I keep growing my operation. One of these years, I will have more comb than I actually need, I will not be building out large amounts of foundation and I will truly see the full honey production potential of my beekeeping efforts. But to get there, Im again drawing out another 1000 boxes of foundation…
I now buy all my beekeeping equipment through Adam, Dale and Murry Lewis from Austin Manitoba. To finalize my order I paid them a visit to talk face to face on some minor details in regards to the equipment I was having them build for me. These guys are busy busy with stacked rows of sold inventory filling the yard and orders calling in constantly through my visit. I’m glad I placed my order before Christmas. Seems to me that every time I leave their yard those guys have me thinking about one, two or three things about honeybee management that pretty much takes the place of the radio on the way home!
On Sunday I made a visit to the wintering shed to show the new facility to a beekeeping couple from Treherne who had stopped by for coffee to talk beez beez beez. The temperature outside was quite mild hovering around -3 degreesC which lead to the winter shed temperature increasing to 9 degreesC. The hives were a bit more active than what Id like to see them and with quite a bit of bearding out the frount entrances. We are months away from spring but I’m already starting to wonder how the heck I’m going to keep this shed temperature down as spring gets closer.
This new facility provides me with a few more options to help manage these mild days. I have built in lots of space which gives me a larger air volume per hive ratio and has allowed me to space the hives further apart allowing for better air flow between the rows. I have ten industrial ceiling fan (set on half idle right now ) which will purge the air when set on high to make a “windy” environment which helps keep the bees in the entrance. I have two 10′ by 12′ over head doors placed on opposite sides of the room when opened at night the natural air movement through will instantly cool off the shed. Also with the doors and the extra space I can quickly pack snow into the shed while keeping the room dry as the floor gutter drains away the snow melt. With all these options now at my fingertips I can manipulate my air flows and create a cooler effect during these mild days. All the while having the ability to crank on the air exhange fans and change out the air within minutes.
In my wintering room I have a wash gutter running the length of the room. The gutter is equip with plumbing which allows me to wash out the gutter clean of debris. While sweeping the shed today I stumbled upon a brilliant idea. Instead of sweeping and wheel barreling the bees out of the shed I`m going to simply flush the dead bees down the gutter into the sewer. I’ve just turned sweeping bees into an effortless 5 minute job and Ill let the honey wagon do the rest!
This persistent cold is making our farm work very challenging. Today’s high of -32 degrees C accompanied with a ridiculous wind chill is hard enough on the animals, but harder on our equipment and facilities. The cold stress and our daily demands on the equipment is starting to show its wear as this relentless cold is causing breakdowns almost on a daily basis. Everything that is going on right now is manageable but as our calving season starts, we would welcome milder weather anytime now….
Today I escaped the cold and snuck into the winter shed to sweep the floor and check up on the hives. As I had mentioned in earlier posts, I decided to try to increase the RH in the wintering room. With a forced air humidifier I have been able to increase the RH from 25-30% to a targeted 40%. This increased humidity has become quite apparent as it is frosting up my air intakes. I think I’ll keep it at this level for now and see how the hives respond to it.
I also decided to climb on top of one of my hive stacks and open up a few hives. I was looking for cluster size, food stores and condensation within the hive. I don’t like disturbing my hives too much, so I keep my assessment to a few random hives which helps me understand what I’m seeing through the hives entrances. This mid winter hive assessment is critical to my spring planning as I place equipment and feed orders. About this time of year I can get a good handle on the condition of my stock as by now all the summer bees have drifted out, which leaves the winter bees that will take the hive into spring. Some years during this “new year” random hive assessment I find problems which gives me the opportunity to order replacements before there is a run on the stock. If you go back into my Blog a few years back in Jan/Feb, you will find postings where I’m fretting already with concern. Planning is KEY to everything I do on my honey farm.
From what I observed during my assessment, the hives are heavy with stores with the bulk of the cluster still hanging on the bottom side of the box. This is what is making my hives look so big from the entrances. Up top the hives look smaller as the cluster spheres upwards. Perfectly centered and modest sized clusters, exactly what I want to see. As I pealed back my inner covers I noticed slight droplets of condensation around the clusters edges. Again exactly what Im looking for. My target RH of 40% seems to be enough to allow for a limited amount of condensation to collect within the hives chambers. What I did not want to see is excessive interiour moisture or mold. None was found through my random hive assessment.
With this information from looking atop a few hives, I am able to understand more of whats going on inside the hives by pearing though the entrances. Walking around the shed surveying 25% of my stock suggests I’m entering spring in good shape. But as any farmer making such assessments would say, “time will tell”.