Saturday, December 26, 2009

rain - can you believe it? (and bees)

Image Copyright David Hawgood. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

This crazy thing happened this Christmas. We woke up to RAIN. Gentle soaking rain that has lasted on and off for the past two days. The garden and the plants and the soil are so happy. Everything is moist and lovely.

Everyone is happy except Queen Malina on the front deck. I am not sure what happened but a few hundred bees were clustered below the hive entrance when the rain started and they are now all dead. I know that 50,000 minus a few hundred isn't much to worry about but it looks like a LOT. It is a HUGE STRONG colony but I am pretty sure there is enough room for them all in the hive. They may have been on fanning duty when the cold weather came in - leaving them too cold to move up into the hive.

Anyway I had a peek in there earlier in the week - there is another box ALMOST ready to harvest. Unlike the last box this box has CRAZY comb - the girls have ignored my starter strips and done a cool random thing so I will need to take the whole box rather than a few combs. The girls were calm and lovely when I opened the hive. Not buzzy at all and certainly not cranky. Yay Queen Malina. I am getting better at checking the hive without stirring them up at all. It helps not to have an psychotic killer queen for this though.....

I also checked Queen Aprilia down at the community garden. They have filled an entire full depth super with brood and honey and I am truly humbled and impressed. Just a few short weeks ago they were homeless and had nothing but the honey in their tummies.

They have also made a start on the other box I gave them a few weeks ago. I am trying something different with this hive - adding boxes to the bottom rather than the top, so they can continue to work downwards to establish their own brood areas just the way they like them. Next season when they are established enough to harvest, I should be able to take boxes of honey from the top (in 1 year old comb) and keep adding empty boxes to the bottom - sort of like a bottomless tree hollow. This will be good for honey but perhaps not good for honey comb as the comb would have been used to raise a few generations of bees.

This is based on the idea that given a choice, the bees prefer to raise brood in new comb and to store honey in old comb. This theory falls down a little when I also read that bees build small comb for brood and large comb for honey may be that when a big nectar flow is on I will need to put boxes on top as well and let them build larger combs as well. So much to learn but luckily I wont have to worry about this untill next spring.

In the meantime I will continue to run Queen Malina in a semi conventional way - leaving her three Manley sized boxes for her brood and honey storage with additional boxes on top during spring/summer/autumn for me! I am using a queen excluder between the third and fourth boxes. I have mixed feelings about these as well....but hopefully three whole boxes is enough for her to feel like there is enough space to do all the things she wants to.

I have been truly inspired by the folks at Backwards Beekeeping. This style of beekeeping feels intuitively right to me. My instincts dislike commercially made foundation, and I hate disturbing the girls any more than necessary and suspect that bees have a deep NEED to make their own comb in spring and that not giving them the space to do this frustrates them on some level and I like the low tech no machinery crush and drain method of honey extraction.

And oh how I LOVE the crazy curves and patterns of their natural comb.

Happy peaceful Christmas to you all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

fermentation update

Was in Condobolin most of the week. It was very hot here (and there!) and while Mr Duck Herder was awarded top marks for keeping the garden alive, he murdered the ginger beer bug.

On the UP side - Brian the DEMIJOHN of ginger champagne is bubbling away nicely. I have become an emitter of CO2 - or Brian has anyway. Will I have to purchase removal units for the manufacture of alcohol?

And a short message for dear Mr BVVF who has probably been fighting fires all you mean the home brewy shoppee in KAMBAH or is there ANOTHER one is KALEEN? And I am wondering if the piggies will get any Michelago Wild Apples this year if you become the proud owner of a cider press.......

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hoochie Mama

Fact: I love the internets and I love the little men that bring me the things that I buy on the internets.

SO it starts with the decision to not buy a farm, which leads to the decision to buy a shed so that the bikes and bee stuff can go from inside the house to the shed which means I can carpet my office which means we will have more space in the spare room which means that there will be room for another big bookcase which means (obviously) that it would be OK to buy another couple of books.


SO the little men bought me this book by Sandor Ellix Katz and it is really really cool.

The kitchen has been taken over with an array of fermentations and fungal orgies. There is a little brew your own shoppee a few suburbs away where I found the most elegant thing....a second hand DEMIJOHN. Just the name is beautiful. A demijohn is the MOST ELEGANT glass bottle in the known universe with most pleasing curves. This one was second hand and a BARGAIN and is housed in a neato plastic basket for ease of carrying and to protect the glass.

Yesterday I batched up 10 liters of Ginger Champagne. "Brian" as this batch as been christened, is bubbling away nicely as we speak. I guess Brian can't sit here beside me for a whole year, so as soon as it cools down a little I will get the ladder and pop him up on top of our wardrobe.

Well, thats New YEar's drinks for 2010/2011 sorted.......

Friday, December 4, 2009

Raspberry Kisses

As spring turns into summer, our attention shifts from the cherries on the front nature strip (hmmm, delicious but all gone now ) to the raspberries up the back. (hmmmmm, delicious JAAYSUS theres HEAPS).

It is a particulary good crop this year.

There is something so opulent and decadent about bowls of raspberries for breakfast, a few more for afternoon tea and just one more handful on your way past to lock up the chooks at night.

There are some secrets to happy raspberries.
  • They like to be kept moist.
  • They don't mind a bit of shade.
  • They don't like hot dry winds.
  • They like a good dressing of rich compost, blood and bone and perhaps even mulch in late winter or early spring.
  • They are precious and special - they don't like competition or weeds.
  • They like to grow in a patch rather than strapped to trellis. This lets them get thick enough to shade out weeds and to keep the soil around the roots moist.
  • And lock those bloody chickens out! They have shallow roots.

The trick I reckon is when you first plant them, gather the first years canes together and tie them in bunches. Raspberries fruit on last years canes.

The annual maintenance is this: Each winter, removed any canes that are tied up in bunches. (These are the ones that would have fruited that year) Once the old canes are gone, gather up that years new canes and tie into bunches. These are the canes that should fruit the following spring. With the old canes gone, and the new canes bunched, this is the time to spread a layer of compost, manure, mulch whatever. The topdressing will help protect the roots from frost and cold.

The good thing about this system is that in winter when everything looks dead and it is hard to tell what fruited and what is new growth to fruit next year, what ever is tied goes, and what ever is left gets tied up so that the canes are supported by each other and the fruiting happens in big bunches rather than spread across the whole patch.

This works for my spring fruiting raspberries. I am not sure if the same system would work for autumn ones.......

but my gollygosh they are yummi.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

that feeling

you know that feeling? when you finally get that big report in. And its on time? And its not even that bad.

good even.

Kinda euphoric and light and dangling in the breeze.

And you know that other feeling. When on Monday morning you find out you have not only sent your annual report and financial statements to you funding body, but somehow have managed to send it to every GIS user in NSW DECCW by accident.

I have that feeling too!

In other news, this morning I am enjoying freshly made almond milk in my tea and it is quite lovely. recipe is here.