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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Silton, Chocolate, Saurkraut, Peanut Butter, Coconut Yogurt and Indian Runner Ducks

Woke up this morning to rain. That means we can work on some outstanding indoor tasks. Yesterday evening milk was collected. Only a few litres were bottled and the rest is sitting in the spare fridge letting the cream rise. Jean needs cream to make cultured butter as our stocks are a bit low.

Stilton is the next cheese on our schedule. The first change to the recipe is the fat content. Stilton normally has a higher than normal fat level but as a large portion of the cream is gone it seems it won't be a true Stilton. The next modification (accident) is the starter is to be added and left for 30 minutes. Being in a rush to go and feed our cattle their morning hay that little step is overlooked. An extra 30 minutes is added to the rennet time as compensation. Stilton is a slow cheese, 100 minutes here and then a 100 minutes there followed by a long draining period and pressing before crumbing and re-pressing.

After our cattle are fed their half bale of Lucerne their afternoon meal of sprouted grain is prepped. Put the overnight sprouted grain from the colander into a bucket and add some molasses and leave that in the kitchen so we don't forget. Empty the soaking grain from yesterday into the washed colander, rinse that bucket and add the carefully measured quantity of fresh grain cover well with water.

Back in the kitchen to make some chocolate. A big batch of plain dextrose, coconut oil chocolate to be used to make some fudge and other various morning tea delights. Dextrose provides sweetness but doesn't fool the system into believing you are still hungry. Today for a change the coconut oil is melted so that some exact measurements can be taken. In the past it has been a bit slapdash just scooping out large chunks of solidified oil.

5 parts coconut oil
3 parts dextrose
7-8 parts cocoa powder ( usually best to this to taste, we like a more dense chocolate flavour)

The oil and dextrose first and stir a long time. Dextrose is slow to dissolve.

Stir in the cocoa powder until the mix is smooth. Van Houten's cocoa powder is our flavour preference. Then into moulds to set.

After making the big blocks it was time to make some thin blocks with roasted peanuts and another batch with fried coconut chips and some desiccated coconut. These blocks are made very thin for better mouth feel.

The raw peanuts with shell were roasted in the oven at 200 C. Two kilograms worth. Only a small quantity was used for chocolate and the remainder was ground into peanut butter. Some will go into sate and some just spread on toast with honey.

A week ago the last of the cabbage was harvested and it has just sat in the refrigerator for lack of time to process. Today, one was put aside for cooking and half of the remainder went into sauerkraut. Having tried all types of recipes our favourite is a coarse slicing, a little salt to aid juice extraction (done to taste) and a generous helping of Caraway seeds for flavouring. We keep the processing simple. A few minutes of scrunching in a big stainless bowl then stuffed into a clip lock jar. The stuffing is where most of the bruising occurs. The end of a wooden spatula is used to drive the cabbage firmly into the jar. A jar of water is used as a weight and this is left on the kitchen bench for a week before refrigeration.

The coconut yogurt is set up next.

3 x 375 ml jars of 100% coconut milk. Careful here most of the brands have additives. Ayam and A&T brands are the only pure ones found so far.

3 table spoons of Tapioca starch as a thickening agent

1/4 teaspoon freeze dried yogurt culture

Mixed well and poured into small clip lock jars and immersed in water at 40-43 C for 24 hours. Yes it cools down during the night with no one awake to keep up the temperature but just maintain the temperature the next day to compensate.

The Indian Runner ducks started hatching while all this kitchen work went on. As they dried off they were transferred to the nursery in the bath tub.

A busy day with baby chicks. The mother and three from the first incubator batch were transferred to the main pen of chickens. She is a ferocious mum and this task was not simple.

The four chicks from the second incubator hatching did not have the good fortune of a handy broody hen. They are feathering up well and are transferred to the now empty pen of the first batch. This will be the first night outside for these four but they have been spending their days outside during the day and only nights in the bathtub.

The newly hatching ducklings now have a spare container into which they can reside.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The day after

Talk about a hectic life style. We have another full day out and about. Our cattle had a paddock change this morning. The cattle across the river need to be fed. The weaners are getting some rolled oats with their hay and the cows and calves are on hay. A tedious process.

The fish frames collected yesterday are still in their containers and are in the spare freezers. We learnt a long time ago never leave fish frames to warm up overnight they begin to stink very quickly. Looks like it will be the weekend before they can be put through the mulcher and packaged for the chickens omega 3 supplement.

It has been a week since we last exercised and we're down at the pool just after 8 am for a serious session. I don't know if it is the affect of fasting but we both feel energetic and do 500 metres before a solid aqua session on longer time spans. Back home for breakfast and then off to Raymond Terrace for the monthly shopping and library visit. It all goes quickly but still we are away for nearly 4 hours.

The last stop was at a large format liquor outlet to pick up a gift for Jean's mum who is coming for Christmas. The inexpensive Argentinian wine we were familiar with looks a bit odd. A closer look and we realise the shelf packer has put the very very expensive similar labelled version of this wine in the place allocated for its cheaper cousin. The expensive version is normally kept on the other side of the store. We are familiar with the expensive bottle as it is mentioned in "The Wine Diet" as one of the highest in anthocyanin and every now and then we purchase a bottle as a treat.

We round up an employee and inquire if this means we can purchase these few at the lower price. After some thought "yes you can". I put all five expensive bottles into the trolley. A nearby customer overhears the conversation and says "I'll have some of that". She reaches past me and grabs two bottles off the shelf but not knowing the brand doesn't realise it is the cheaper version and not the bargain. Jean explains the situation to her and she starts to put the bottles back.  Jean continues to explain that even the cheaper bottle has higher than usual anthocyanin. She buys the two cheaper bottles. Possible job opportunity for Jean?

Strangely, we leave the store both feeling guilty about taking advantage of an honest mistake.  Even now as I type this I feel a twinge of regret. Why is this? Obviously an ethically bad choice. So maybe if you feel bad about something then it is bad. It won't happen again.

Home for coffee after 2 pm. While we were away the incubator blew both lights and the eggs have cooled. We hope it doesn't have a serious effect. Two eggs are already starting to break open and some pipping emerges.

Then Jean drops me at the work farm across the river because I need to change their paddocks and set up feeders for the weekend. She keeps going to Karuah to collect some oysters and picks me up an hour later. It rained and I didn't have any wet weather gear. Home just in time to put on a dry shirt and head off again to collect milk. Jean gets on with the afternoon chores. It's 6.30 again before we are sitting down to a meal.

This self sufficiency life is just too hectic.

Trip to the city

Every 12 months we go to a skin cancer clinic, strip off and have ourselves examined. By having two of us at the same time it saves some waiting time for the practioner while one is being examined the other undresses etc. Our regular examiner is always jolly and upbeat, we're sure he must be on something as no one can deal with the public be that happy all day. A really nice guy and very thorough with his examination. The problem this time was I had to unload hay on the day scheduled so Jean went alone and I rescheduled for a week later.

Rather than waste the hour's drive I built in a host of other jobs on the way. Pick up oil and filters for the tractor service, A new battery for the ride on mower. Amazing how batteries fail to work when the grass starts growing. Picked up some beer making supplies at a new homebrew shop. Being enamoured by the German purity laws and their beer flavours I went for the Lager, Dark Ale and Dark Wheat. Jean likes her Guinness and that was added to the pile.

Then to the hardware store for a new rain gauge. Our 20 year old was decapitated in a hail shower earlier in the week. Decided on the monster size in case we get another 300 mm downpour. A few other stop offs for incidentals.

All clear at the skin check. "Don't want to see you for another year" and a handshake.

Being 4 pm it was perfect timing for the real reason for the late appointment. Fish Frames. The nearby fish processing plant starts to fill its rubbish bins with the leftovers from its filleting bench after 2 pm. I'm in luck and one bin is nearly full. We keep a bunch of 20 litre lidded containers for this task. Two and half containers worth and out comes one of the fillet makers who I know. He offers to top up my last container from inside the building. Another nice bloke to finish the day.

Head down and the focus is on getting home. I've had enough of city life. By the time I've unpacked the car and poured us a drink we realise it is nearly 24 hours since we had a meal. A perfect fasting day. Too busy to notice the hunger.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

General Update

Went through the Orchard today and tidied up some of the paper bags protecting fruit. The Tropical Nectarine did its best to provide fruit but the night bats stripped it bare just leaving torn paper bags hanging like handkerchiefs from the branches. What a shame these nectarines grow quite large and taste delicious. The Peach tree faired better and we obtained a few meals of the most juicy ripe sweet fruit for our evening desserts.

Next year it will be cotton exclusion bags on all fruit.

We are busy planting seeds and seedlings and opened our last NZ compost which triggered the need to rapidly build another. There was no shortage of material. The weeding in advance of planting produced lots of material and the cows are in the paddock next to house which provided some additional input. The mulch hay bales we used as one wall on a previous compost had been used twice and were beginning to fall apart after the heavy rain. They also added material and of course the old trailer was full of partially broken down sawdust from the chicken run. Some of the green material came from just running the hand mower over the lawn where there was ample clover.

Having finished one it was time to get a second ready and it is now in progress. You can never have enough compost.

The Climbing bean seeds we ordered more than two weeks ago finally arrived. This seed supplier is incredibly slow and expensive $5 for a packet of 10 seeds. Must be part of the slow seed movement. Because it had taken so long to arrive all the beds were ready and waiting and it didn't take long to finish planting and watering. Normally we don't buy from this supplier as they are slow and expensive and there have been some quality and chemical issues in the past but varieties of climbing beans suitable for dried bean use seem to be difficult to source. This will be a good reason to save seeds.

Re-using baling twine for the beans

On the other hand some suppliers have an incredible service ethic. I've been making cheese almost twice each week and our supplies of some ingredients were running low. We placed a big order last Sunday online. The postage is quite steep and restocking a number of starters and rennet as well as some cheese wraps made it palatable. Well it arrived on Wednesday. A complex order packed and posted Monday and delivered Wednesday from Victoria. Incredible service. As opposed to three lightweight seed packets stuffed in an envelope taking 15 days also from Victoria.

But the slow seed supplier looks great when compared to a USA supplier. In September we took a trial subscription to an amateur winemaking magazine which looked promising. Our first issue was published in mid September. After waiting a month an email query was sent and the response was that the first issue to a new subscriber takes an extra month and it would be here November 23. Well it still hasn't turned up. Most frustrating. Our past experience with USA magazine subscriptions has been that anything outside the USA is another planet.

Our cattle have really taken to eating their sprouted grain. We've more than halved their hay ration as the paddocks start to green up and increased their sprouted grain ration. After this week we will start reducing the grain again and hopefully they will be on pure grass in two weeks time. This has been a good exercise. It means we will not need to stock as much hay as backup for the dry times. In future when grass runs short they will get a ration of some roughage in the form of hay and sprouted grains from the chicken feed. More nutritious and cost effective.

Just the smallest of sprouts appearing before feeding out

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bees, Small Hive Beetle

We had the final amateur bee club meeting for the year on Sunday. Very good  turn out with a lot of new members as a result of the training course held recently.

There was a reminder of how important it is to have the beehive in a sunny place. Especially morning sun so that the girls get up and out to work at first light. The clubs hives at the Botanical Gardens are surrounded by trees and don't get as much sun as they should. Their nectar gathering time is shorter and coupled with a slow nectar flow means there probably won't be any excess for robbing this year. Some hives are being moved to another site just to ensure survival.

The NSW agriculture department has changed the way it charges for hive registration which looks as if it will cost more for the amateur with only a few hives although they do offer a good discount for concession holders. That Seniors card or pensioner status makes a big difference.

A few good questions popped up at the meeting. One was about what caused a small mass of bees to form just below the hive entrance during the day. The good news is that this a sign of a healthy and busy hive and part of the ventilation process on a warm day.

There was some discussion about Small Hive Beetle (SHB). I've listed my own observations and some points made at the meeting.
  • SHB numbers are fewer in a hive set in the sun than a hive that is predominately shaded.
  • I use what is called a migratory lid i.e. it is the same length and width as the box. In the past my lids had large gap inside and I used a hive mat to stop the bees building comb in the vacant space. This was a haven for SHB. I've now filled the gap and only left the standard space between the inner lid and frame and negated the need for a hive mat. When the lid is lifted I usually find no or only a couple of SHB.
  • My lids also have small mesh covered port hole on each of the four sides. This provides ventilation and prevents a build up of moisture. SHB love humid environments. If the bees feel it is becoming too cool they can block the vents easily with propolis.
  • I also use a SHB trap built into the baseboard called a Beetltra. It is filled with diatomaceous Earth. DE is affected my moisture and a crust can form in high humidity. This is checked weekly and when ever the hive is to be inspected it is fluffed up before opening. The act of opening the hive drives the SHB into the trap as they don't like light. Having the vents in the lid also allows light into the hive.
  • Whenever assembling a new hive I use gap filler to make sure that there are no gaps in the joins to allow SHB to hide. The gap filler is also wiped along all joins to form a rounded corner making easier for the bees to grab the SHB. The other hiding place is the frames. I've started filling the slot in the top and bottom of each frame with molten wax to prevent SHB using those slots for hiding.
  • SHB pupate in the ground. Another good practice is to lime the ground below and around the hive during dry times to try and make as an unpleasant environment as possible.
  • There is a good article by the NSW DPI on SHB control options.
  • There was also discussion about using Apithor a trap which houses insecticide and does not contaminate the hive or effect the bees.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Survivalism, Preparedness or just Planning - Part 3


A rarely considered subject until it hits you in the face. What happens if all the income earning members of your family lose their jobs. What is the backup plan? How long before your mortgage and credit card debt catch up with you. How will you pay the energy bill, the water bill, rates, fuel or buy essential foods.

Losing employment is more likely than losing power for two months and but it has the greater devastation and is the least thought about.

Stop spending money now. Reduce debt and put some money away for an emergency. You do not need to treat yourself by going out to dinner because you saved a $100 on food this month. This is plain silly. Every cent counts and you should resist rewarding yourself at every turn. You are an adult making sure your family is taken care of. Think about the longer term not the immediate gratification.

The smallest less visited treats are the most delicious. Treats are like Heroin. The more you take the more you need to take to get the same level feeling as the last time.

Saving money before you lose your income is easier than after. Don't buy that coffee each day make it at home and take it with you. Make your lunch at home and take it to work. Its not hard to reduce your telecommunications bill by calling fewer people and spending less time online, Cut your energy bill by keeping lights off, using more efficient lighting and making sure your refrigeration equipment is working correctly. Don't grocery shop without a pre-written shopping list. Grow your own food. Each day loose change goes into savings. Make a detailed budget and either stick to it or try to go lower. Pay off the credit card and leave it at home. Pay a little/lot more off your mortgage each month. Don't carry much cash or credit/debit cards with you. Don't buy anything without prior discussion with your partner. Leave acquisitions for a week before reviewing your need for them.

When you are debt free and have a pile of money in the bank then by all means celebrate your success - in moderation.


List down the things that might happen and the then the probability they will happen. You will see that nuclear war, Zombies, invasion by a foreign power are all pretty well down the list. Some things will happen but not for decades so push them down the list and work on your most immediate issues first. Focus on the obvious. Lost my job, storm blew the roof off, no power, I got run over by a bus on the way to work.

Everyone will have particular circumstances. Think about yours a bit more than 5 minutes. Reading a blog and saying "Yeah I should be ok" doesn't really work. Don't become a victim through inaction.

Having a plan is the cheapest and best insurance you will ever take out.


A lot of web sites exist for the survivalist, the prepper and the self sufficientist (just made up that word).

People like Jack Spirko in his TSP podcasts cover every angle of preparedness. There are aspects in some of his programs which don't appeal to me but that doesn't stop me listening to him and gleaning some comprehensive and well thought out information on all matters of self sufficiency. Be it financial, Permaculture, gardening, food preparation, health, livestock etc. The topics seem endless as do the variety of people that come on the show.

His program has led to finding out about people like:

Darby Simpson – Livestock and Farm Management/ Homestead Consulting

Chef Keith Snow – Cooking

Stephen Harris – All things Energy

Paul Wheaton – Permaculture

Ben Falk - Permaculture

And these are just the expert council that answer listeners questions or speak about their subject matter. There are dozens of other interviews with very interesting people practising self sufficiency.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Survivalism, Preparedness or just Planning - Part 2


What are we doing about staying healthy and out of the doctors surgery. Are we controlling our weight, eating the right food. It doesn't matter which diet you go on as long as it helps keeping your weight respectable, your body healthy AND can you stick to it for the rest of your life. There are plenty of options: Paleo, Atkins, CSIRO, 5:2, Mediterranean, Weston A Price etc. Each one offers something different. Their common denominator is getting you off eating rubbish.

Pre-packaged, pre-processed foods with a list of ingredients so long it has to be in a font size of 4 are definitely a mistake to take orally.
Remember that if you stick too much food in your gob some of it will stay with you. A little restraint is needed.

The best food is the stuff you grow yourself, pick fresh and prepare into a meal - all the time. Healthy eating is having a garden no matter how small. The more you cook from scratch the better at it you become, the easier it is and the more enjoyable.

Don't make excuses. If you can find time to breath you can find time to grow and prepare meals. What is more important, a healthy life or something else you had in mind to do rather than grow and prepare food. Get off Twitter, stop checking your email more than once each day, stop texting, get off Google and don't look at Facebook every 30 minutes. Your time will be consumed by the most inane comments or searches rather than focusing on health. The internet is a great tool. Exercise moderation.

The mobile phone must be one of the greatest productivity killers for the average person. Constantly checking for messages, taking calls in the middle of doing something else and phoning home from the supermarket to see if someone wanted the Frosties or the Coco Pops. Write a list or do without and don't buy sugared breakfast cereals which is pretty much all of them. And turn the bloody thing off when you're working.

I won't even mention television.

And staying slim by keeping your calorie intake low does not guarantee you immunity.

Exercise is mandatory. You need strong bones, muscle tone and a functioning mind is aided by exercise. A variety of exercise to cover muscle building and aerobic activity is necessary. And it gets worse here. You have to keep increasing the exercise as you get fitter. Yep, sorry about that but its your choice, make an effort or not you only get back what you put into it. That 30 minutes a day for three days each week they try and sell is not the end point. It is the starting point because they don't know how unfit you are can't have you doing a fetlock or dropping dead. Heavy breathing and perspiration are good signs.

While on the subject of health there is the matter of medical prescriptions. How many people never question what they are prescribed. Asking why and what are the alternatives and where is the evidence and seek a second opinion. It is so easy to take a pill and not examine the underlying cause. And with pill taking it is so so easy not to make any life style changes. Once you start on the pills it is a hard road back.

Being healthy gives you a chance to cope with life's adversities be they physical, mental or emotional.

Part 3 the final part will cover WealthEvaluation and Resources

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Survivalism, Preparedness or just Planning - Part 1

There was an ABC TV program some time ago about the resilience of primitive cultures. Maybe because they have so little they don't have much to lose? No it turns out because they don't have a dependence on anyone other than themselves, they just get on with it. Recover, rebuild and survive.

There are no SES volunteers to put a tarp on the roof or Red Cross, Salvos and others to bring food parcels, clothing and shelter. There is no free hospital and medical care. There is no government to accuse of a slow response or not doing enough. It's a hard life and full one and surprisingly they are happier on average than we are.

In one way we live in a fortunate society where there is a support mechanism. But how many of us then become complacent, lazy, not interested, soft and prepared to leave it to someone else. Taking no responsibility for own actions? Setting out to be a victim?

Gavin Webster in Greening of Gavin and Farmer Liz in Eight Acres recently touched on the preparedness issue. This blog from time to time mentions an item of preparedness. The subject is much more complex than the first thoughts of food, water and power.

When we think about being prepared it is most usually about the short term i.e. can you survive for a few days while the power is out, the taps don't work and the shops inaccessible.

But the subject is much broader. It is not just about the immediate what to eat, how to cook it and where to find the next glass of water. We don't always think about that tree outside the kitchen window being in the house or getting that surprise redundancy notice.

It is about Knowledge, Society Health and Wealth.


What skills do you have? When the roof comes off can you nail together a shelter or tie the knots to hold down a tarpaulin? Can you cook simple meals from basics? How up to date is your first aid? Do you know CPR? Do you even know what to do in the event of a disaster?

Rather than that racy novel how about making every second book you read something practical or a DVD/youtube of some basic skill.

Remember there are only a small number of emergency service volunteers. There is not one for every household. The more we do for ourselves the more these people can attend to the really serious cases sooner. You will appreciate this when you are one of the serious cases.


How well do you know your neighbours? In the event of any adverse scenario being able to work with your neighbours is something you will need to do. Make sure you know your neighbours and their skills and that they can rely on you. Be familiar enough to know who may have what. You can't afford a chainsaw but they may have one ready to cut that tree off your car.

The best way to understand your neighbours is to give them a hand with something. Pitch in and help them next time they have some onerous task. Got any surplus produce? Take them a sample. When they taste how good it is they may want to buys some? Say “Look whenever I've got some surplus you are welcome to it”.

Some people build their neighbourhood spirit by holding street parties others hold a harvest BBQ. Getting to know people means you won't be a stranger in trouble.

Part 2 covering Health will be out tomorrow.

Feel free to chip in with ideas and comments.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day old Rhode Island Reds and their orthopedic repairs

Still seeking to increase and improve our flock of poultry Jean ordered 6 day old Rhode Island Reds. These are from an old strain known for their egg laying. This is one of the few breeders we found who provide sexed day olds. Specialty breeds are not cheap and they can become very expensive coq a vin. We have a fine looking RIR rooster "Rocky" who we hope will allow us to continue increasing our stock.

This morning we were heading off to Kirkwood Produce in Maitland where the parcel was to be dropped off. Just before we left home they phoned to let us know the parcel had arrived. This is exceptionally good of a store who didn't know the parcel was coming and makes no money from being used as a central drop off point. As it was we needed some produce and were able to repay the generosity by shopping at the store.

While we were out we completed a number of other tasks. Every hour or so we needed to stop while Jean took out each chick one at a time, made mothering noises and fed them some water.

One stop was the Dungog Dump Shop. We are hatching Indian Runner Duck eggs in the incubator and will need some form of shallow bath for them. The hope is to find a discarded baby bath or pool. Something that is shallow and lightweight which can be emptied and refilled easily. No such item as yet BUT there was a 9 litre bucket full of right angle steel brackets - for $2. This is a great find. Our pergola is in need of some repairs as the nails holding the cross beams have failed. My solution was to manufacture 90 odd brackets from Aluminium. This bucket load will save me hours of work.

So home to unload the chicks into their temporary residence in a container in the bathroom. The bathtub is getting crowded as there are the 3 week olds we hatched in another container.

As it turns out we were sent 7 not 6 babies but one of them has crooked toes. The toes are curled. According to Jeans chicken bible this is a problem probably caused by a too low incubator temperature or too much activity soon after birth. A solution is proffered. Using first aid tape or band aids the toes are tapped straight. We don't have any band aids - never use them. There is some sticky bandage in the first aid kit but it has lost its stickiness. Its only 25 years old, nothing lasts these days.

We do have some sticky tape in the stationery draw. This is fiddly work. Jeans holds the baby while I try to apply some orthopaedic repairs. The first attempt lasts about an hour before the tape falls off.

But never give up. After some though and a glass of wine another idea pops up and we give that a go. The toes are not only straighter but it stays on. Apparently it only needs a few days to fix the problem. It won't be perfect but it will be pretty good.

Quite a few years ago while catching a Guinea Fowl I broke its leg. Never catch Guinea Fowl by the leg it is their weakest spot. Using a couple of chopstick like pieces of wood and gaffer tape a patch up was instigated and six weeks later removed. Complete success. Just a reminder to give it a go.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's not just the the daily routine but there is the maintenance

After there heavy rain at the beginning of the week we went around and inspected the property for damage. Not a lot of issues but enough to add several items to the project plan.

One gutter on the hay shed had a pronounced bow in the centre. Being a distance from the nearest stored ladder it wasn't just a 5 minute job. Not just leaves weighing it down but a broken gutter bracket. Back to the workshop for a made up bracket and a power tool. All fixed but there's 30 minutes out of the day.

The wine cellar eventually drained. The solution is to slow down the ingress of water to enable the pump to keep up. This is a bit more than 30 minutes and requires mixing some cement. That will be next weeks job.

There was a small pool of water in the cave. This was tracked down to the water tank outside. the overflow volume was so severe that the water on the ground rose above the slab height and a little seeped in. A little filler will fix that.

The bitumen driveway is 300 metres long. Most of the neighbours have similar length driveways but they are gravel. Their driveways now have deep ruts and the main road is covered in gravel deposits. But ours is an aging bitumen covering and one particular area is in a wet spot and requires regular patching and keeping the gutter clear. The torrent of water had gouged out a few potholes which need attending to before they worsen. Regular maintenance keeps this task down to an hour or two at most rather than an all day job.

And that is the sum total of more than 250 mm of rain in a short period. It seems that by reviewing the outcomes every time there is an event and listing down the weak spots and then attending to those issues promptly you reduce the impact of future events. It is so easy to put off doing something and then the next time the impact is more severe. We always keep a list of repair jobs and their priorities to ensure that eventually we address any shortcomings.

It's not just about the regular mowing or weeding it is also about the ongoing maintenance of infrastructure and modifications to weak spots.

Mentioned in an earlier blog is the annual "what annoys me" list. These are all the things that are irritating and time consuming that would be great if they weren't there. We used to have a number of chook pens scattered about the orchard making evening lockup a long exercise. Now we have one pen and keep it to a 5 minute job. Some things on the list can't be addressed easily but we have reduced the list gradually and made life a little simpler and easier. It is a worthwhile task to sit over coffee and list the inefficiencies of your life and then apply some lateral thinking. What seems to be un-addressable can sometimes have a simple solution when two heads are put together.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dried Beans and progress on various projects

We made the decision a few weeks ago to grow beans for drying. We use a lot of dried beans in our meals and have relied on purchasing them from the supermarket. Time to grow our own quality organic beans. There were a number of sections of our house garden set aside and both bush and climbing beans planted. Wanting more variety we looked at the Diggers catalogue and found three climbers that looked interesting (Haricot, Christmas Lima and Scarlet Runner) and were suitable for dried bean use. But where to plant them?

There was a little bit of irrigation pipe remaining in our paddock bed and with the use of the modified metal frame we had a climbing frame and a long section for bush beans.

The recycled metal climbing frame with height extension

Reused baling twine for the beans to clamber up. Note the pumpkins and squash doing well

A section for the bush beans
The beans are taking an inordinate amount of time to arrive. Diggers quotes 7-10 days for despatch plus travel time. They must be very busy or only do orders sporadically as most online suppliers despatch in less than half that time. Anyway it did give us plenty of time to build the bed with lots of cow and chicken manure and a layer of compost.

The Pooless project is just over one week old. I automatically don't reach for the shampoo or soap any longer. A brisk rub with finger tips and rinse of the hair and then the soft bristle back scrub brush rubbed all over the body. The scalp rub with the finger tips also cleans the finger nails. No negative body odours have appeared and I feel quite clean and not greasy. Less time in the shower as well.

The cattle are eating the sprouted grain with gusto and we have started to slowly increase the ration while decreasing the hay. The change in mix is miniscule but steady. With the rain now refreshing the pastures ahead the plan is to sprouted grain feed for a month and then wean them off it (depending on condition of pasture. This should lift their condition a notch higher.

The tomatoes are doing reasonably well but not as good as past years. The suspicion is that the chicken litter applied from our chook pen was not as rich as in previous years because of fewer birds. This is being addressed with the addition of more birds. Three hatched a month ago in the new incubator. Then four more two weeks ago. We have also ordered six sexed, old style laying day old Rhode Island Reds from Barter and Sons Hatchery. They arrive on Friday. This must be one of the few sources of sexed chickens.

The Tomato Bed

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Final notes on drought feeding cattle

Firstly an update on feeding sprouted grain to our three cattle. They (or at least one) is licking the feeder clean).

They did this overnight and we couldn't confirm if they all got involved or if it was just whinging Warren who is the most vocal every morning. We are continuing with the diluted molasses over the grain.

Hector with Martinique in the background

The following notes are just random but they do contain some interesting pieces of information.

  • Cattle start to use up muscle after their fat score goes down to 2.
  • Once the fat score falls below 2 it takes 2-3 months for the animal to recover even when using good grass, hay or silage and grain. There was some discussion about Selenium as a supplement aiding the recovery if calves are removed.
  • Calves take 6 months to recover
  • Cows with calves really get pulled down quickly in dry weather and dairy breeds even more so. Genetics plays a big part.
  • Calving at 2 years is too young as it sets the mothers back permanently
  • Calf pellets are well formulated but expensive
  • Mineral licks are good in these conditions
  • With protein supplements you need abundant grass as they drive intake of food
  • A calf in poor condition will cost $65/month to bring back to good condition
  • Calves should be weaned if the mothers fat score drops to 2
  • The problem with low quality feed is that the animal feels full, constantly chews, does not gain nutrition and loses weight
  • 5 in 1 needed at least 10 days before change in diet to prevent Pulpy Kidney and death. Even for things as minor as going from dry feed to irrigated feed
  • Cattle will eat things they shouldn't when feed is low and may become ill and die
  • "Maintain" is not the best option. It is better to fatten up to a saleable condition
  • If cows are fatter you run fewer head but require less energy to put weight back on
  • If the ideal carcass weight is 300 kg and that reduces to 160 kg it becomes the "tip over point" and then that animal will need a diet of 10 MJ to recover. It will need to be able to eat 1% of its body weight each day
  • Don't bare the ground out
  • The more grazed down the slower the pasture is to recover
  • 50 mm of cover is the minimum
  • Fireweed and Giant Parramatta grass thrive in low pasture
  • In this part of the world November to February is the most difficult time
  • The last time there was no rain in February was in 1965
  • Rye Grass going to seed is poor quality feed and best left alone.
  • Kikuyu is good feed.
  • Too much fussing with Summer crops, get Kikuyu
  • Ideal drought feed is 15% hay plus supplements
  • Start preparing for the next drought 3 months after the last flood.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flooding Rain

So much for attending the Drought Feeding seminar. It must have been the catalyst for the downpour of 250 mm we received in 48 hours. It started in the middle of the night and while I snored Jean ran around the veranda moving vulnerable items out of the way. It kept up all night and part of the day coming in waves.

The wine cellar has a sump pump but it couldn't handle the volume.

Notice the high tide mark

Fortunately apart from some label damage the wine will be unaffected by the submersion.

After lunch the sun came out and the so did the bees. It looks they had do perform some catch up.

Today we tested the sprouted grain feed on the cattle. They were unimpressed. We added some molasses and water to the grain and then mixed it with some Lucerne. Although they consumed some of the grain they really weren't interested. It may be the strange smell of molasses that is throwing them off. Tomorrow we will try without molasses.

The grain mixed with Lucerne
We attended our work property across the river early in the morning to make sure the cattle were ok. The weaners were stranded in a corner of a paddock above a flooded internal creek and we were able to move them to high ground with plenty of food. Access was only from the neighbouring property.

The cows and calves were fine but they were also moved to high ground with additional food.

The Williams River was up and the paddocks adjacent the river had already gone under. These paddocks will be out of order for a couple of weeks at least with mud covering the foliage. Although the drought has broken for the moment we will still be short of feed and whichever paddock we put the animals into will suffer pugging.
The river encroaching as I sit in the RTV

The gates lead into the paddocks the cows and calves were due to be in this week.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's raining outside

It is raining outside, continuously and gently. Having collected milk this morning we bottled half a dozen litres and proceeded to make a batch of Havarti. Being in the kitchen and being too wet to work outside it was an ideal time to knock up a batch of chocolate bars in between cheese making steps.

Roasted peanut chocolate and coconut shred topping

Three small rounds of Havarti

With time on our hands we managed a brief visit to the pool for a little exercise. The temperature was 23 C and the sessions was very rapid and brief but useful.

The last of the coffee fruit was harvested this week and the dried beans all processed. It was only a matter of running the beans in the food processor with the plastic blade for another 30 minutes just too make sure all the husk material was removed. The roasting took place in a saucepan. It is a slow process and requires constant stirring but eventually the beans are dark enough in colour. After cooling the grinder was cleaned of the shop bought beans and a sample of our own processed and coffee made. Result was excellent. The bulk of the roasted beans (and there aren't that many) will be stored for 3 weeks to see if some aging changes the flavour.

Not much volume but they are ours
The Oats and Barley that have soaked for 24 hours are now draining. They should start to sprout in the next 24 hours and then we will see how the cattle will react to this new food.

We've been enjoying the odd beer as a pre dinner drink during the hot weather and stocks are running down. It seemed like a good time to start a couple of kit beers fermenting. European Larger and a British Bitter.

Some notes on different cattle feeds

These are just some rough comparisons of price per Mega Joule which highlight that although feeding hay maybe simple and easy it is not the best solution. Beef cattle don't need much protein as it deprives them of energy because they use energy to process and excrete. Poor quality hay may fill their rumens but provide little benefit.

Mouldy feed is dangerous to both people and cattle and if it has heated it will drop in feed value dramatically.

The reference sites at the end of this blog provide much more detail on feed requirements and a comparison of options

  • Cow Hay small rectangular bale@ $6.50 = 6.8 cents/MJ
    • Below maintenance, not satisfactory intake
  • Lucerne Hay round bale @ $120 = 4.7 cents/MJ
    • "Just another feed"
  • Wheaten Hay round bale @ $260 = 3.7 cents/MJ
    •  may be too low in protein
  • Silage round bale @ $100 = 5.83 cents/MJ
    • A "lucky dip" for quality
    • Best made and fed on the property
    • If you make it then use it as it deteriorates
    • 4 wraps is standard, if being kept for 12 months + use 6 wraps
    • Carting silage is expensive. The wrapping damages easily and the contents will deteriorate rapidly when this happens
    • Once opened should be consumed within 3-4 days as it will heat up and go mouldy
  • Molasses 2.7cents/MJ
    • Maintenance feed, best through Winter
    • There must be dry feed with it
    • Various formulae exist using it with water and Urea where it is a taste carrier for the Urea
    • Slows down weight loss in lactating cows and maintains dry cows
    • Urea must be used with caution excessive use will bring down a cow
    • Blackstrap molasses better than Mill Run
  • Dry Distillers Grain 2.7 cents/MJ
    • May contain antibiotics
    • Must be served with roughage
    • High Sulphur, no more than 2.7KG/cow
    • Darkens meat colour
  • Rolled Barley 2.8 cents/MJ
  • Cottonseed has become expensive and in short supply
  • Various other premixes exist of mixed grains or pellets. The formulations are good but expensive

More detailed information at Feeding Cattle DPI Victoria and DPI NSW

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Some new projects and more on feeding cattle

Last Tuesday I forgot to mention John is trying an experiment. No shampoo or soap just water in the shower. As of today no strange smells have developed and none of the dogs have tried rolling on him.

He has commented that his towel may need replacement more often.

But to be fair because of the tick problem across the river we shower and change cloths as soon as we get back. Sometimes for John that can be twice each day and in addition there is the shower at the end of the day. Add that to an hour several times each week in the chlorinated water of the swimming pool and the cold water rinse off afterwards means he is reasonably clean.

Why? Just curiosity. Some links below.

Mark's Daily Apple

Permies Forum

Paul Wheaton Podcast

After the drought feeding seminar we performed an assessment on our three cattle. Sometimes when they stand at different angles some ribs show. Probably ok but just in case we have decided to sprout some grains and slowly modify their diets to include these for a while to make sure they are receiving enough energy food until the green grass returns.

Today as we collected chook food grains from a local bulk supplier we also bought a small amount of Oats in addition to the other grains which included Barley. The trial will be on two different grains Oats and Barley to see which if any they prefer. A kilogram of each will soak overnight and then be drained and sprouted. As soon as the little white nodule of the sprout emerges we will try feeding it out with a little molasses as a sweetener.

Some Drought Feeding Notes

  • Cattle graze for 14/15 hours each day
  • Protein is secondary to energy content of their food
  • Manage the grass cover of your paddocks by not letting the coverage get below 50 mm in height so that it will recover quickly. If the paddock is bared it will take longer to recover after rain and also promote weeds.
  • If necessary use a sacrificial paddock rather than flock the entire property.
  • Green pick is next to useless. This is the famous green pick referred to that pops up after burning off or a bared paddock after the first shower of rain.
  • Lock up paddocks for about 2 weeks after rain to allow regrowth. 2 weeks assumes reasonable nitrogen levels and grass coverage i.e. improved country is very important for recovery.
  • Poorer country must be rested and given time to recover

Friday, November 15, 2013

Drought Feeding and Management Field Day

We attended this field day put on by the Dungog Gresford Hoof and Hook Group.

A very interesting and enlightening day and well organised with some of the states most knowledgeable presenters and cattle producers.

The areas that were covered included:

Pastures, pasture management and feed value and options and hands on examination of pastures.

Different feed options in drought conditions. There were examples of all the feed types on display with the costs per unit and more importantly per mega joule. This was a real eye opener.

Open air and conference room discussions covered animal metabolism, nutrition and feeding methods. Especially important was the need to be aware of the effect of sudden feed type changes.

Animals in differing condition were examined in the cattle yards and strategies going forward covered in detail.

Setting and adhering to goals going into dry conditions and in dry conditions and not pinning hopes on weather reports. Set a date for a particular action and stick to it be it purchasing feed, early weaning or disposal.

Monitoring animal condition and decision points. A thorough look into judging an animals condition.

Animal welfare and the responsibilities of owners was emphasised repeatedly. Not taking good care of your stock is no longer an option.

Such a lot of information to digest and so complex. It isn't possible to summarise in a single blog.

Anyone running cattle really should get involved in a seminar of this nature. The just "feed out more hay" solution really doesn't stand as the only or best solution. There are so many other options, strategies and issues to consider.

Here is a pertinent formula. 30 mm of rain will in effect be 25 as 5 mm is lost to evaporation. With good grass cover on good land you can expect 30-35KG of dry matter per hectare. That is 750-875 KG. Each lactating cow will need 12KG per day. So how many cows can you feed for one day or how many days can you feed one cow.

BUT if the pasture is eaten down or the country not improved expect 5-10 KG dry matter per mm i.e. 105-250 KG dry matter per hectare.

Jean and I both took notes separately and then compared them to  ensure some accuracy. There are some useful bits of information which will appear over the next few days in the blog.

Teamwork and the art of hay stacking

Organising a small team to unload and stack the hay isn't all that hard once the players have nominated themselves. The only concern would be to ensure everyone arrives roughly together and there is no wasted sitting around time. With volunteers their time is valuable and making sure you value this is important. Also the truck driver's hours are valuable to him and minimising unloading period needs to be taken into account.

So yesterday the schedule for the event was confirmed. The truck was to be loaded at 1 pm and the truck would be onsite at 5pm. The message is passed to all the players. No problem. 5 pm is cooler but the retired dairy farmer needs to be at tennis by 6.30 pm. The young dairy farmer will milk earlier. I will be there for the duration and the boss says he is coming.

Acting as the team leader I arrive at 4.30. The hayshed was been setup this this morning. Pallets sitting nearby, old loose hay raked out of the way, the pallet of fertiliser moved and the old hay stacked to one side.

The boss arrives 15 minutes later followed by the retired dairy farmer and then the young dairy farmer. Team ready. The truck which is always the weak point arrives only 15 minutes late. Perfect beginning just enough interval for the team to complete introductions and catch up briefly on current news. A final adjustment in the hay shed and agreement on roles and methodology.

We assist in removing the tarp and strapping, folding the tarp and rolling up the straps. The driver is going to man the truck and throw the bales down onto a bale on the ground aiming to roll the bale into the hayshed. The retired dairy farmer will be the stacker and the remaining three will pick up carry and pass.

At the half way point we are going well but the stacker calls time out. What we haven't taken into account is that the three carriers touch every third bale but the stacker has to manhandle every single bale. The driver is youngest and having done this every day is moving at a steady pace and not raised a sweat.

These bales are supposed to weigh 25 KG each but they don't. This is old hay which has been in storage for a while and is lighter and a bit grassy not the top grade Lucerne. But when you have to lift it vertically continuously  it is like being in the gym doing weights.

The young dairy farmer takes over as stacker and we continue. The whole task takes less than an hour and we settle down for a beer and a chat. The driver has soft drink as there is a long drive back to the depot.

An interesting aside from the driver. He has spent the last ten years at a desk in a mining company and quit recently. "I wasted a lot of years chasing the big dollars and now I'm doing what I have always loved doing. The big house is on the market and I'm down sizing"

We talk about hay, bale sizes, pricing and the amount of hand feeding occurring in the Greater Hunter Valley.

The boss is happy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pitfalls of Rain

Yes there is a downside. The grass grows rapidly and out come the lawn maintenance tools.

We have had so little rain for months that there has been no need to use the mower other than to collect a little grass for the chook pen. The edge trimmer has remained silent for so long I'd forgotten how unpleasant it is to use on a hot muggy afternoon when encased in protective clothing.

Edge trimmers are great gadgets. Before they existed you needed hand shears on your knees to neaten the edges. Now you can wander past waving the roaring apparatus and clear away dense growth in seconds.

In the dry weather you work in a shroud of dust and in the wet you get coated with wet grass clippings, snail remains. And you really know when you hit the dogs fresh droppings.

But two hours later its all done for at least a couple of weeks and looks great.

Never did get to clean up the workshop but at least almost all the wet weather jobs are complete. Might be some rain in a few days which would be a good follow up and a chance to sweep up the mess on the floor of the workshop and tidy up the benches.

A bit untidy
This is what it should look like

Forgot all about the Coconut Yogurt that was made a few days ago. It has set firmly in the refrigerator and tastes great. There is still some experimenting to complete. The firming agent was Tapioca starch of which three tablespoons were added. In the next batch we'll try to reduce this. Also we want to see what the minimum time is to produce a tasty batch. This last lot sat on the stove for 48 hours. The instructions say 12-24 hours.

The Tomato plants are racing ahead but they still look a way of ripening. Fortunately the self sown bushes in the Sweet Potato bed are supplying a goodly quantity each day for the evening salad.

The melons are a long way off producing fruit as are the pumpkins but the vines are looking healthy despite a little nibbling from the night creatures.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Changing Community

This coming Thursday a truck will arrive across the river at our work farm carrying 300 bales of sight unseen hay from the Denman area. At $10.50 it is sort of cheap seeing as how the last hay we bought for the boss was $12 cash. The $12 stuff is just amazing in its quality. It was going up to $14 cash because of the cost of irrigation. And we have to load and unload.

Well $10.50 is cheap but then it's $3/bale additional for transport and loading at the other end. I hope what turns up isn't complete rubbish. I've noticed that when you feed out rubbish the cattle not only look at you like your an idiot but manage to spread it about and the waste is enormous. A bit like pushing food around your plate. Of course when you feed out the good stuff they can smell it coming and run to the feeder. And the ground around the feeder is spotless. The plate gets licked clean.

Paying for quality is the best investment. Being frugal doesn't always mean buying the cheapest.

Then of course its a mid week delivery and the boss can't be there to help and nor does he want to unload 300 bales after doing 150 bales the other week. And there is the memory of the 400 bales he ordered that arrived on New Year's day a couple of years ago. 40 C was not a good temperature to be unloading.

But he also doesn't want me to unload 300 bales as that would be unfair. Not that I mind, it's all good character (muscle) building stuff. So he says get someone else to do it and he'll pay. Simple.

Well not that simple anymore. The community has changed.

When there were lots of working farms in the area (not hobby farms) it was a simple matter of calling a couple of neighbours and they would turn up at the appropriate time and pitch in. And some time in the future (or the past) you would also receive a call for assistance. And there were always a few local lads around who could be tempted with a little cash. These guys would not be fully employed just doing a little casual work here and there.

So there aren't that many working farms anymore and many of  those that do exist are owned by old timers who are starting to get past their hay stacking days.

The first port of call is the former dairy farmer for who I worked for 7 years. He always knows who is available. Well he doesn't but volunteers his time and gammy leg. He will be useful as he learnt the art of hay stacking as a young boy and knows how to get it from the truck to the stack with minimal effort. He will check out another likely candidate but university demands  might be a barrier to attendance. A couple of months ago this former dairy farmer urgently needed a hand with some fencing and I responded to the distress call. A reminder to put the needs of others first. You don't always have to wait to get to heaven to be rewarded.

This morning I was collecting milk and asked the father and son dairy farmers if they knew of any likely candidates in their area that might be able to help. Yes, said the younger I'll give you a hand. Not that he really wanted to but the family has a tradition of helping friends and neighbours (and strangers). This is the family that will put up a livestock carrier overnight on a long run down the coast to give the cattle a spell. And unloaded the stock and feed them and if they were dairy cattle milked them. The carrier now never goes by now without calling in for a cuppa. These people may be frugal with the money but very generous with their time.

So it looks like we have a good crew, shouldn't take long.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Another beautiful day with rain coming and going in waves. Looking out of the kitchen window the back lawn is almost completely green again after months of dry brown.

Across the river we put out hay for all the stock which they loved as there is little grass now. The boss was up at the weekend and fertilised a number of paddocks. With this rain we may get some decent growth in a couple of weeks and get back to normal - maybe.

Over at HHF we had purchased some bags of pelletised chook manure with seaweed and blood and bone a few weeks ago. The break in the showers allowed me a chance to spread some of this by hand in a couple of paddocks. Just a little bit to give some of the better stands of grass a lift.

We have been eating more and more dried beans (after they are cooked) and have planted extra beans this year to try and harvest our own. I prefer climbing beans for easier cultivation and harvest but had some trouble finding suitable varieties to plant. Finally got on to Diggers who have a big selection and purchased a few different climbers suitable for dried beans.

Back in the workshop again I'm gradually cleaning up outstanding jobs. All the pallets are dismantled and stored for some future project. All the bee frames are cleaned and put away. We have a car jack without a handle which cost a dollar at the Dungog dump shop. Its allocated to the trailer and today I started fabricating a handle. There are only a couple of jobs remaining. One is to service a borrowed jackhammer which is due for return and the other is a rollup awning for our outdoor dining area which needs some brackets fabricated before it can be installed. A good clean-up in the workshop is also due. Hopefully another day of rain will assist.

It's so relaxing pottering around in the workshop with podcasts playing in my headphones and creating practical things. I always feel a sense of relaxing peace and accomplishment as I go from job to job. The podcasts are mainly from Radio National which has such a diverse set of programs many of which are so educational as well as entertaining.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Plastic Bags a real problem

 Having mentioned in yesterday's blog that our pressure pump was having trouble reaching full pressure it was disconnected this morning and lugged down to the workshop. The first thing to check was the none return valve. It was fine. Then off came the impellor housing and there sat the problem. Not a broken or loose impellor but the remains of a plastic shopping bag. About time all the supermarkets joined Aldi in not throwing them about like confetti.

Being on a winning streak and with rain showers coming and going it was time to clean up some outstanding jobs lined up in the workshop. Firstly the horizontal support for the Passionfruit trellis was completed and installed. Pretty simple solution.

Then the height extension tubes for the mobile climbing bean stand were finished.

Add a 200mm length of tube to each end

And now to increase height slip in a star picket into the tube

Last week we picked up some pallets from a friend's building site which had a sheet of really thick Masonite as a top layer. Started deconstructing these and harvesting the Masonite and the supporting timbers.

A pair of work boots had the soles coming loose. Ripped off both soles, cleaned and abraded them before gluing together again. And finished the day cleaning and storing some bee hive frames.

Very successful wet day in the workshop. I always look forward to the rainy days as a chance to spend some quality time with my tools.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Collecting Manure, Bees and wax, Garlic, Mulberry Pruning

According to the Bureau of Meteorology the rain is on the way. We shall see.

The vineyard was in need of a splash of water and we used the opportunity to feed the vines with some seaweed and carp mix from Seasol. Although we drip watered for 2 hours it would be good to get some real rain to soak into the ground and give the vines a good drink.

As it is the pressure pump is playing up. It won't come to pressure it can't get more than 50% of the way. The suspicion is that the impeller may be loose or damaged. It will be dismantled in the morning now that everything has had a water. If it rains it will be even better if parts are needed to ordered. What do they say at The Survival Podcast - "two is one. one is none"

The morning was overcast but warm and we took the time to go to the pool and get some real exercise as opposed to just working hard. The water was beautifully refreshing.

Yesterday afternoon two hours were spent bent over putting cow poo into bags. Almost every spare bag was used as the cattle had been in that paddock for two weeks. This afternoon it took two trips in the tractor to bring it all to the top of the hill - over 27 bags.


Over coffee we read that it was a good time to prune Mulberry and force it to lay on a second crop. And so it was done. Conveniently the cattle were now on top of the hill and became the beneficiaries of the green leaves. Apparently it is very good for them. They must think so as they demolished the lot.

The sun finally came out making the weather even more oppressive but you can't keep a bee keeper down. The safety gear was donned and the smoker primed. Some more sugar and water was put into the feeder and just as well they aren't getting all that much nectar judging by the small amount of honey in the top super. However the brood chamber looks good and the hive is very active. The hive opening forced another batch of Small Hive Beetle into the death trap. A satisfying sight.

Before smoking
After smoking

Back in the kitchen it was time to perform another melting of the harvested wax from earlier in the year to get it even cleaner. It's a simple procees. Put some water in a container you don't plan to use for anything else. Put in the wax and heat gently until it melts. Pour it into an appropriately shaped container via a sieve to cool. The slower it cools the more time impurities have to settle out. Gavin Webber from Greening of Gavin was talking about Soy candles because of the cost of bee wax. Maybe his solution is to get a hive or two. Bee keepers don't get all that much for their wax when they swap it for new foundation. I'm sure it wouldn’t be that difficult do a deal for cash.

An old saucepan for wax melting, note the impurity in the top right quadrant

Plastic container for moulding and the filtered and slowly cooled cleaner wax
The finished product
An inspection of the garlic stands showed that two more varieties were ready for harvest. Allsun and Purple Glamour. These two had excellent sized bulbs. We usually grow six or seven varieties although sometimes up to a dozen. Each year is different for the varieties and some do better than others depending on the conditions. Our main variety is J&M named after the people from whom we sourced the original stock. Well now its not a main variety as it had a disastrous year. We will be lucky to get enough for seed stock. Hopefully J&M didn’t have the same experience and we can get some more.

Allsun and Purple Glamour

We have this little brick paved area in front of the cave which has a clear Perspex roof. It is used  to process grapes, Apples and Pears during all the messy operations as it is easily hosed out. It is also perfect for drying Garlic and Onions. They'll stay here for a week or so before having the roots and stems trimmed and the dirty outer rubbed off.

Purple Glamour