Saturday, 1 December 2007

The Honey Drippers

Extracted the first lot of honey and it was fairly labour intensive. Would love an extractor, but can't justify the cost. However the next extraction, due this week should be better, this time I'll have my technique down pat. The taste of the unfiltered honey is exquisite and with all the local pollen in it I hope it assists with inoculation and my hayfever is 'organically' treated. As the bees have been on apple blossom for some time I like to think it tastes like it. Though I've never chewed on blossoms it has a really light sweet taste that's great in tea, in bread, on bread, on just about anything come to mention it.

Amazingly enough the average Australian hive manages 67kg of honey a year, with commercial beekeepers anywhere from 200kg to 250kg per hive. With 600,000 hives across Australia.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

The Loner Builder

Trev is working hard, and it shows. It's all ebb and flow with weather, wood (availability) and willpower. It's starting to look like a house. By Christmas we should be on the roof (not quite dancing). I've appealed to Trev to write his version of events in this post, but according to him there's not much to say. Which doesn't match the number of conversations between the two of us regarding various decisions. I want straight crisp lines and he thinks that's very 'Romanic' of me, considering he's more 'Celtic' in design, with lots of wavy lines and bits of bark hanging off. "if you wanted a house with straight lines then why decide on strawbale!', it is a seriously good question. I am determined to have as many straight lines in our house as possible, none of this wavy 'hippie' stuff.

(Now I think I should be able to entice a response out of Trevor).

But I don't entice a response out of Trev...
I wrote this on the 16th of November and have let it lapse as we've had a few steps 'back' with Trev not being able to step forward when he ruptured a disk in his back a week or so ago. He ended up in the 'back' of an ambulance. It was quite frightening as we didn't know what was causing the pain. Trev describes it as the worst night of his life. The only position he was able to lie in was on his stomach arching back with his arms stiff in front of him. Not a good position to be in for 10 hours straight. He didn't think it was possible to be in so much pain and not be dying. The end result was having a CT scan and finding the ruptured disk, and being diagnosed with lumber stenois. This is the reason behind the chronic back pain he's experienced for years but we've not had a name for. The bone canals in which his spinal cord travels have degenerated and are pinching on nerves. He has an appointment with a neurosurgeon coming up.

I know men are difficult patients, Trev probably none more than any other. But guilt, shame and feeling like a 'wuss', meant he didn't really rest up as much as he should of, and is out there now with the whipper snipper. Not to say I haven't been trying to make it easier on him, but he baulked at his 'invalid' status after a week and is pushing himself, but so far has agreed that house building is out of the question.

We're wondering what the long term picture is. Lifting and twisting are the two worst possible movements , both of which are impossible to avoid. We can't afford to have a builder do it, and Trev can't sit down longer than five minutes, so a desk job is out of the question. We're going through a low spot. Lots of questions, not a lot of answers.

We'll get there.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Birth of the Chickies

Didn't get a chance to photograph the 5 wee chicks crackin' their eggs. We woke on Friday 9 November to find they had already arrived and were cheeping gently from under their mother. One chick failed to make it out of the egg, and had broken through and then died. I wonder if they smother, it wouldn't be hard considering mum is sitting on your head.

They're hard to photograph as mum is very protective and we have them under lots of netting to try dissuade hawks from a 'cheep' breakfast. Caleb managed one quick hold before school and has to resign himself to looking from a far.

We've been wondering what happened with the colouring in the chooks. Though Mum is black, she actually has only ever been a surrogate mother. She didn't lay any of the eggs she sat on, I deliberately gave her Isa Brown and New Hampshire chook eggs (both of whom are orange), and the father, Gus, is a pale fellow. Yet 2 of the chicks are black or dark grey. There have been local theories that some breeds you can sex by colour at birth, in which case we will need to watch closely to see if this occurs. I've also heard that you can tell at the egg stage, a pointy egg (phallic?) is male and a rounded egg, is female. Sounds dubious to me and considering the person who told me this also believes that snakes bite the end of their tails and roll down hills like a wheel ... hmmm, but, from curiosity will give the theory a whirl next time round.

Anyone know the best way to sex an egg or a chick?

The birth of a Bee

Only stung once in the last week, and again, it was my fault, not the bees. I discovered a few drowning bees in the chook water, and figured they weren't accessing the goats bathtub water or water from the dam and I might need to situate some a bit closer. I didn't think I needed to dress up just to serve them drinks, I'd just go over there in my white shirt and black jeans and not hang around long. But 'long' is not a concept for bees, and one was quick to take exception to my black panted leg (bees hate dark colours) and, cartoon like, it whizzed past my face, arse first and impaled itself on my knee. It hurt a bit, but I don't really mind the initial pain, it wears off in a couple of minutes, it's the swell to twice the size and develop a hot beating heart of its own part that annoys. This time my knee bruised yellow from all the swelling.

So... the next time I approach the hive I have 3 layers of clothes on, including Trev's light grey overalls, the crotch is below knee level, so my knees are safe. I have a queen excluder, at last! For some reason Tasmanian beekeepers don't use them, so you end up with brood scattered throughout the hive, which means extracting honey with pupae and half developed bees in it. Not a good look, or I imagine, taste. So I haven't been able to rob as yet, waiting for the queen excluder to arrive, and trying to find the queen, who is somewhere in the hive (if you have an excluder you know she is in the supers below it). I've still to find her.

I also have a bee escape board, only Trev misheard that as a bee 'skateboard'. 'Haven't they got enough already, now you're buying them skateboards!'
The theory is that you place the super you want to extract on top and then place the bee escape board under it, the ingenious device allow bees to leave, but few of them are smart enough to figure their way back in. But of course mine haven't figured out how to leave! I went to nab the super today to discover they're all still there and feeling aggro, because they're trapped. Back on goes the lid and off I go again.

But the big news is that I have had a swarm. I went into the hive a few days back and realised that it is just chockers with bees, not a good look, they need room to move, and if overcrowded will do a runner. A friends bees had done so only days before. Bill described it as looking like Heathrow airport one day, and Hobart the next. He'd had a call to say someone had a swarm of bees, he didn't think they were his, but they were, and by the time he realised they were gone. Mine, well, they didn't swarm close by, they took off in a great tornado up and into bush, I didn't have a chance to reclaim them. Of course they all had as much honey as they could carry with them. I had a new super arrive in the mail the following day, I, belatedly, made it up and put it on the hive.

I've removed a few ideals of honey, and have taken photos of 'the birth of a bee'. They really are fascinating insects. I don't think they are taking too kindly to my over intrusive visits of late and I understand that the complete novice I am, I must be a trial to them. I'm hoping that I will not become overly-sensitized to future stings. Because they will happen. Maybe I should do something safer, like take up snake handling.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Week One

Trev healed quickly from his run in with the chisel and is back to work, with no ill effects. You can see some of his chisel work in the 4.5 metre post that he and neighbour, Tony Dunshea, have just erected, a 3.5 metre one was quick to follow. Then Trev is back to laying out joists and inventing his latest 'help for the loner builder', to assist him to put the 10" X 2" ring beams that will surround the house and the mid section supporting the clerestory windows. Of course I'm creating the right climate for a catastrophic accident because I dare to discuss the kinds of ways this may occur (By discuss, Linda means go on and on ad infinitum about the the number of ways in which I could die or be horribly injured, until I get to the stage where I'm really tempting fate by being forced to say "it'll never happen" - Trev) . In so doing, I must be aligning stars, moons, or altering the bearing abilities of differing elements in order to 'make it happen'. I'm told to shoosh. Here was me thinking that women were superstitious.

Caleb is doing well, he had a haircut recently (it was getting long, but apparently the girls at school liked it that way, but eventually it was going wool blind and was sick of it. He looked in the mirror when he arrived home to discover something that we have long known, 'Oh my God, my ears are huge!'

I've been having some great days running around weeding, mulching, planting,
whippersnipping, watering, digging over ground. It's around 1/2 an acre of ground to weed now.

I've planted out thousands of sunflowers, two 30 metre rows of chickpeas (I love my hommus) 3 X 30 rows of soy beans (we love our tofu), blocks of corn (for better wind germination), strips of alfalfa for bee food and eventually hay for winter goat feeding, plus about 12 X 30 metre rows of wheat, for making our own bread. We think...

In the orchard the chooks are starting to bare root some of the trees, so I watered them well, surrounded them in mulch, then chop up 1 X 1 metre squares of chook wire and chop a 'neck' and a 'head hole' into the wire and then peg it down, with Trev's u-beaut designed pegs (small pieces of wood with a downward pointing nail on one side).

Planted out hundreds of potatoes, eggplants, zucchini, broccoli, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins really buzzing with the whole thing. Planting out 200 square metres of sunflowers, I figure a good pollen crop, oil seed to see if we can press enough to be useful to us, and the rest is an addition to the goat bucket. We grew them in small amounts last year - dried them in the greenhouse, unfortunately birds ate every seed out of the drying heads before we realised. Hopefully this year we'll get in first.

One clucky hen, progeny due on the 9th of November. I just happen to have that pegged as a day off Time in Lieu. So will be around the event. Camera will be in hand.

I'll leave you with a photo of Trev, end of day, contemplating house building, life in general and the quality of his home brewed beer.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

First Ever "real blog"

Well, it needed to happen, I wasn't looking forward to making a big change over to blogging land, as I thought it meant hours of going over the old site and try integrate it into the new. But if I can find a way around it... I will. So over the next few weeks I'm going to try integrate this in with

It will certainly be good to become a little more interactive.

I'll set up a few different topics and say -

over to you...

But for now I think we'll just say, general comments please!