Wednesday, November 25, 2009

garden update

Trying something new this year. Black Russians and Black Krims growing in a hot house. Keeps the howling wind out a treat.

Gladalans - almost ready to harvest. These are short day onions - so they will be the first to harvest. They are starting to bulb up OK. I reckon once we have finished the bag of onions in the pantry we can start bandicooting these.

See! I can post about other things than bees.

In other news, Winky has hatched out one little Andalusian chick with what looks like a welsumer to go. I am surprised we even got one given the broken mess of gooey eggs that arrived in the post from Adelaide!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

an embarrassment of riches

Still too soon to tell if the girls have accepted the new queen. They have been MOST UPSET since last Friday - you know, the regicide day. (Forgive me Bruce) And then I went back and stole a box of honey.

The hot weather probably hasn't helped.

I will wait until Friday to go back in and see if Queen Malina of the White -Dot-On-Her-Head clan from Bathurst NSW (the peace maker) is still there. Then my darlings, I promise - no disturbances for as long possible.

The honey is divine. no, it really really is. And I should know - I have eaten about a liter of it already. I have paid off the neighbourhood with jars of honey and slabs of capped honey comb to make up for a week of suicide bombings and general anti neighbourliness.

Example 1 - Mr Duck Herder stopped on the street next door to say hello to the new neighbours who were just moving in. They were under the Cherry Tree. Whilst chatting, a bee landed on his thumb and promptly stung him. "Oh yeah", he said - holding out his thumb, "My wife keeps bees.............."

Guess I'd better give them a bottle too.....

Friday, November 20, 2009

goodbye Mrs Thatcher hello.....?

Well. It is done. Mrs Thatcher has been located and dispatched. That nice girl from Bathurst has been introduced. Fingers crossed she will be accepted.

Body Count - quite a few squished bees and three stings (none on me!)

In other news, behold the FIRST HONEY HARVEST. While performing open heart surgery in the hive looking for Mrs Thatcher I could not resist pinching one frame of honey.

Here is a picture of the capped honey. Because I didn't use foundation, all the wax is freshly made and chemical free - so it is immanently suitable for eating. The little dark cells have pollen in them.

I cut of some strips of honey comb and popped them in jars. I know Pa Duck Herder is especially fond of honey comb.

The rest I mashed up into a strainer so the honey could separate from the comb.

And here is my high tech honey harvester - a strainer held over a bowl in a saucepan.

Golly Gosh. Yum Yum.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

no vampires here

Behold the gargantuan garlic harvest. These are mostly the Australian variety called "glenlarge" and they are HUGE - all 97 of them. I am especially proud because they are third generation duck herder. I bought the parent bunches from Garlic Farm Sales three seasons ago - always keeping the largest best keeping cloves for planting the next autumn and each year they just get bigger and bigger (and purpler and purpler). Even though they are a hard neck variety they keep very well. If you eat the smallest first, and then all the ones that threaten to sprout first, then you continually improve your stock. love it.

In other news, Mrs Thatcher has had a reprieve - her behaviour has improved considerably when the weather changed. Eric the Bee Yoda and EVERYONE at bee club thinks she should get the CHOP but I must admit I don't feel good about it one little bit. I kinda like having a stoppy queen around - she fits right in with all the other stoppy queens around here. I really don't know what to do.

I know that as a complete newby I lack confidence and experience and only have my gut and my very learned friends to go by - and frankly at the moment they are telling me completely different things.

I played bees yesterday and had a bit of a poke around in her hive. I think that soon there will be some honey to harvest - there are some frames that are almost fully filled and capped. The hive seems VERY FULL OF BEES - most of them gentle but some of the stroppy. Some of them got squished - I am so clumsy and sorry! As I sit here I can smell the sweet lovely aroma of ripening honey wafting in the window. They are HARD at it. They tolerate my stupid clumsiness (mostly). They work ALL NIGHT ventilating the hive.

We also opened up Queen Aprilia's hive - they are going great too.

And I found a new and amazing blog: Top Bar Bees

Most of my bee boxes are kinda quasi topbar frames - with only little starter strips of wax. mostly the bees have been GREAT at drawing out the comb perfectly however sometimes not so much. There is one box that is going to be the biggest mess to harvest. Anyhoo - because the honey and the comb is harvested in these frames - it makes harvesting simpler and much more low tech and cheaper - crush and drain. The Top Bar Bee fellow shows this perfectly.

AND, my neighbour is going to help me make a topbar hive all of my own. (In exchange for honey that is!) So that is VERY exciting.

Anyway - enough about bees.

Bad news, poor Amelia lost her nest of eggs before they hatched. I think while she was off the nest having a break a naughty chook dug up her nest. Poor darling - she has reassembled some sort of nest but most of the eggs got crushed. I will give her another couple of days and then clean the nest out. Sorry EM!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mrs Thatcher

This comic has been stolen from first dog on the moon who is my hero and I hope will forgive me one day.

Despite my internal resolve to stop blogging about bees and return to gardening antics, it appears we have reached our first ethical beekeeping dilemma. There is great suspicion that the lovely Queen Atalia has been usurped by the furious Mrs Thatcher who has changed the general visitors policy. The end result is that we are no longer welcome in a 10 meter radius of the hive, which poses some logistical problems given they share our front deck. Mr Duck Herder, my sweet self and Ziva the cat have all been recent victims of un provoked attacks.

Now on the one hand, replacing strong and cranky queens with sweet natured ones is a long term recipe for disaster for bees in general as crankyness translates to strong and defensive - just the kind of characteristics bees need in the wild. These same characteristics are not so good on one's front deck and in such close proximity to the gas meter, innocent well meaning duck herders and small children (and cats!).

In response, we have taken out a contract on Mrs Thatcher, and her replacement is in the mail as we speak. (A nice young lass from a good family in Bathurst) The whole sordid transaction is scheduled to take place tomorrow. sigh. Lucky I have Eric to help me thought all this, I don't think I could squish a queen bee on purpose - even Mrs Thatcher.

In other news, I have progressed to 2nd Year Apprentice Bee Swarm Collector after removing a quite feisty bunch of girls from a nectarine tree in Weston ALL BY MYSELF! The lady of the house was called Alice, so of course, the hive has been christened Queen Alice. She is now located at the community garden as well. She is not mine - but it was good learning experience and my how my little heart was pounding.

Its all happening man.

In other news, the Issai hardy kiwi is flowering, and Mr Kiwi has just started. Miss Kiwis are not far behind. The peaches are growing well, and the apricots are sizing up nicely as well. The huge cherry tree on the nature strip has a small but still lovely crop of sweet cherries this year which is forgivable after the bumper crop last year.

The community garden had a working bee and BBQ last night which was very well attended. The garden is FULL of brown snakes which is causing quite a lot of discussion. We have decided to keep two compression bandages in the shed just in case although the shed is where quite a lot of snakes have been sighted so that definitely adds an additional challenge factor.

How would one stay calm if one was bitten? I have no idea.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today is so beautiful. Not too hot. Sunny. I cracked at lunchtime and went for a quick mtb ride. Good opportunity to check on the pine nut seedlings I planted yesterday. They all look very happy with the situation and not too shocked after their first night out of the glass house. One day when they are big they will help to protect the community garden from the west wind.

And here is a piccy of Queen Aprilia. They are going very strong. I really need to put another box on both hives. I can hear Queen Atalia and the girls humming along outside the window. They are spilling out onto the front of the hive - hopefully because they are happy and warm and not because they are planning on swarming soon.

Now I am worried. I'd better go and assemble those extra frames!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

lotions and potions

Time that WASNT SPENT EATING DELICIOUS BACON (thank you very very much for that little present Mr Bredbo Valley View Farm and The Cook!) included the making of another batch of moituriser.

In the interests of elegant frugality I have done away with the whole double boiler thingy and now heat up the oil component and the water component in separate stainless steel saucepans. It seems to work well and creates a lot less mess and stuffing around.

Basically this is what I do:

  • 4 parts water or tea or rose water
  • 1 part your favorite base oils (eg olive, macadamia nut, apricot kernel oil or a mixture)
  • 5% vegetable emulsyfying wax from here (ie if you have a combined oil and water total of 100mls, then use 5gms vegetable emulsifying wax)
  • Place wax in saucepan and melt gently. Add rest of oils.
  • Add water in separate saucepan
  • Heat contents of both saucepans to 75 degreees c
  • Add water into oil pan, whisking gently. Continue to whisk untill mixed.
  • Turn off heat. leave to cool, stiring accaisionally.
  • When mix is below 45 degrees add essential oils and preservative if you want to use it. (I don't)
  • Poor into clean jars


As for the Hair Conditioner - this one is even easier and it is just lovely on long hair.
Recipe for Hair Conditioner is HERE


In other news, the bees have been CRANKY.
I dropped in to visit the lovely BVVF folks and got to make friends with George the sheep AND taste The Cook's cooking and let me tell you I will be a repeat customer!
I bravely planted out the tomatos - Black Krims, Black Russians, Beams Yellow Pears, Siberians, Swifts, Sweeties and Romas. Stay back FROST!

that is all.