Sunday, March 29, 2009

Duck Herding Sunday

Ma Duck Herder had a birthday this week (twenty two again....) So these photos are for Bellie the missing sister! We went to our FAVOURITE cafe - the Outsider Cafe at Captains Flat.

Who is this good lookin' rooster? He looks like he could run VERY FAST. Fast enough to win me a wollomi pine me thinks!

And could this be a duck herder with her dad?

And could this be Ma Duck Herder with her dear friend Cathy?

And what ever happened to that nice bottle of bolli we were saving for a special occasion?

And was this the Duck Herder's community garden plot this morning in great need of weeding and tending and digging up of the taties?

And is this more of her neglected but still generously productive garden?

And is this proof that the raising of seeds in toilet rolls works most excellently?

Well, thats all for Sunday.

And hello new people! Hello Cheryl and Em. Welcome to my little blog. I love your blogs! I look forward to reading about your lives.


Friday, March 27, 2009

look what I got

Some of you know Mr Duck Herder is very fast. He spends lots of time running and cycling and swimming and even more time roaming around aimlessly in the mountains.

WELL, Mr Duck Herder ran so fast at the Arboretum Open Day Fun Run he won me this:

A wollomi pine. My very own. I am glad he is so fast.

Hooray. I have always coveted one of these, but always thought them outrageously priced and way too trendy.

In other news, I harvested my first pumpkin today. It isnt a great crop this year.

Tomorrow I REALLY need to dig up the rest of the potatoes, and prepare some garden space for some more autumn plantings.

I bought some ginger today, and realised I haven't bought veggies or fruit for months and months. We are starting to run low on onions - perhaps enough for another couple of months or so. Next spring I will need to remember to plant at least twice as many. We are still harvesting lettuce, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, herbs, silver beet, zucs and cucumbers.

I still have plenty of garlic - should be enough to last until November. (hopefully) We also have heaps of potatoes. I don't really have a good place to store them here. One day I will have a root cellar. That would be very cool. (no pun intended)

I still suck at getting carrots or parsnips to grow. I just don't understand. I have tried EVERY trick in the book.

The new silver beet and beetroot plantings are looking great. Will try and get a photo tomorrow. I have proper English spinach coming up, as well as some Italian broccoli and some late peas, snap peas and sweetpeas. These are all in the glass house doing the toilet roll thing.

And here is my pride and joy - my 4 year old kiwi vines. Hayward are the latest flowering and latest ripening variety. I think it will be at least 4 or 5 weeks until these babies are going to be ready. They just look fantastic.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

gap in the fruit supply

So like, the whole wild apple thing was especially special because we are in our first fruit gap of the season.

I like to supplement our home grown fruit with wild fruit (like wild weed blackberries and roadside peaches) so that there is always something fresh. I love the whole seasonal merry go round ride that happens - eat 1 million strawberries then move onto mulberries and then once they have finished, move onto the early cherries from out the front and then the mulberries are having their second flush right about when the raspberries get started just before Christmas and then wow, look here comes the white fleshed nectarines closely followed by the yellow ones and hey thanks for the plums and yummo here come the peaches and yay look at all the blackberries this year and well, kerthump! Here I am in March with no fruit. The kiwis are still perhaps a month off. I have a very early apple (vista bella ripens before Christmas) and a very late apple (sturmer ripens in June) which even when they are old enough to fruit will be no help to me now.

Looking at the young orchard, well, the nectarines, peaches, peachcot and apricots are all going to be finished fruiting by now as well. (once they grow up that is)

So, it must have been FATE when Woodbridge Fruit Trees announced they are taking orders again for this winter.


I have ordered three pears:

Burre Bosc (my all time favorite)

Burre D'Anjou

Burre Hardy (also known as Gellerts Butterbirne)

They all ripen in March.

Little fruit gap - consider yourself filled. Well, eventually anyway.

wild apples

Mr Duck herder and I headed up to the mountains this weekend for a party in Jindi and a sleep over with Ma and Pa Kettle (aka Mr and Mrs Cougar or Mountain Man and Mrs Mountain Man) at the Windy Ridge. On the way back we stopped to pick apples. Between the ACT/NSW border and Michaelago there are some old apple trees growing alongside a dry creek bed and the old railway.

Apples - free and wild - my favourite kind!

Any guesses as to the varieties? The larger ones are from a HUGE old tree with the thickest trunk I have ever seen.

Lets hope they taste as good as they look. Thank you wild apple trees.

Friday, March 13, 2009

lacuna sabbath

Reprinted with kind permission from:

Bee Club last night. I didn't stay for a cuppa, but I learnt HEAPS about preparing for winter which will become increasingly relevant in the next few weeks. Bee folks are lovely folks, that's for sure. And apparently, Mr Bredbo Valley View Farm was there also. I wonder who you are???!!! Wow - we were almost outed from blogworld.

I am pleased to report the lacuna Sabbath has been reinstated. This morning Mr Duck Herder and I headed up to Black Mountain for a run which was just lovely. If I ever had a spiritual home, it would be Black Mountain. I love it up there. I miss not being able to run up there every day.

I wanted so much to open the hive today, but it was cloudy and threatening to storm. Instead I spent some time wiring up some new frames for Queen Atalia. Eric's cool trick which I have stolen is to melt the foundation wax onto the frames with a 12 volt battery charger. Quick, cheap and BRILLIANT. Now the charger has a dual role. How permaculture.

Serendipitously at about 5.00pm just as the sun came out, Eric turned up to check on the bees. We opened the hive and well, one thing led to another and we put all the new full frames into the brooder, took out the short frames and put them up in the Manley super along with my newly constructed Manley Frames. No gear, just a smoker. At one stage I was holding a frame full of bees and brood and honey with bees crawling all over my hands and arms. They were so sweet and nice and soft and calm. AMAZING. Sometimes I had to remind myself to breath and be CALM.

They have been busy. Most of the capped honey is gone, but there is new nectar being put down, and new comb being made (below the short frames) and some drawn out from the foundation frames. Lots of eggs, lots of brood, lots of pollen. Lots more bees. They have made great progress.

I am most impressed with the comb that has been built below the short frames. One day I would like to experiment with the Warre Hive system and top bar frames or foundationless frames. I think some of the ideas could be adapted to standard langstroth hive components. So much to learn. I think with all the terrible problems folks in the US have been having with Colony Collapse Syndrome and Varroa, there has been a renaissance of more natural beekeeping. It is all so interesting. There are heaps of interesting blogs out there on more natural beekeeping.
Anyhoo, I had better get back to defrosting the freezer.
Goodnight my queen.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday in Pictures

Eric and I moved Queen Atalia and her girls to the new (old) hive. What do you think of the colours? The girls got a bit of a shock as they returned to the hive with their saddle bags full of pollen. We left the old landing board out the front to help them work out where the new entrance is, and I have just taken it away now that it is dark.

We also gave her another two frames of honey and about 4 half frames of brood in various stages of hatching. The honey frames are in the bottom brood box, along with everything that Atalia and her girls have been doing. There are two half frames of hatching brood from Eric's bees in the super. I will remove these and the super in about 5 days, once all the new bees have hatched and wandered down into the brood box with the others.

By this afternoon the ants had rediscovered the hive with a vengeance - so back with the moat idea. I am thinking I will replace the water for vegetable oil, as the girls are attracted to the water and end up drowning.

I didn't' see Atalia today, however I could see her new brood, and those little white grubby things seemed to be developing nicely. The girls are making lots of bee bread (pollen) and everyone is still calm and relaxed - even with the quite significant mucking abouts in their hive. I mean, some of those girls left a little one bedroom apartment this morning and came back to a 5 bedroom McMansion!

In between bee relocations, behold this delicious batch of cinnamon walnut scrolls. They taste as good as they look believe me.
The rest of the day was spent visiting Allsun Organic Farm at Gundaroo as part of the Canberra Open Garden Scheme. It was interesting to see a commercial size organic farm in operation. The Allsun folks supply a number of shops and restaurants and for 7 months of the year, provide fruit and veggie boxes to families locally and in Canberra. Everything looked pretty healthy if not just a little bit Italian with all those straight rows and no mulch. The whole farm is solar powered too. Looking at their movable meat and egg chook paddocks, it made me realise how spoilt my chookies are! All that shade and undergrowth and green stuff to eat.

Tomatoes in a tunnel plus mobile insect control.

Spinach and another tunnel

Potatoes and pumpkin

groovy Passive Solar glass house

Eggplants and Caps in another tunnel

Cool huh?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Queen Atalia & the Ants

My love affair with bees continues. I met the queen! And she looks just like this:

Queen Atalia was busy laying eggs. HOORAY. We could see them - tiny little white eggs (this will be important for later) . She is very pretty. Orange. No stripes.

Today I noticed tiny little brown ants on the outside of the hive and on the decking. I opened the hive (any excuse!) to see if they were on the frames stealing the honey but couldn't see any.

By the afternoon, there were more ants. I noticed the ones coming out of the hive were carrying little white parcels. I couldn't work out what they were taking from the hive, until I remembered THE EGGS! Those ants were stealing Queen Atalia's freshly laid eggs. This was going to require some assertive action.

So I did two things. Firstly, I filled a small container with a good squeeze of ant rid and made a small ant sized hole in the lid. This I covered with a toilet roll (because the instructions say don't use outside and don't expose to direct sunlight and I was doing both) and placed it against the hive with a small twig leading up to the hole in the lid. In no time the ants had found it and tonight there are 1 million dead ants floating in an ant rid soup inside.

Then, with the help of Mr Duck Herder's cunning smarts, we devised an ant moat. This lid of a plastic storage tub has a groovy little gutter all around the edge. So I moved the bees onto some pavers sitting in the lid, and filled the gutter with water.

Fingers crossed this will stop the ants from getting into the hive. It might even be nice for the bees to drink out of.

Ants really give bees a hard time in this area. Yet another hive belonging to someone else has been lost to ants down at the community garden. I always thought they wanted the honey but after today I think they are after the newly laid eggs which are small enough to carry away.

In other bee related news, I spent some happy time building some new frames and repairing and painting some old falling apart hive components from Eric. I now have a very brightly painted base, super and lid. Yay. I think Queen Atalia is into colours you know.

Good night my Queen. Good night my clever darling girls.