Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Nothing Sweeter Than Honey

I'd like to introduce O X & I.

A friend sent me an ad for beehives for sale and it seemed like a good deal, so I bought three. Six boxes high (two brood, two full of honey for winter food for the bees, and two for expansion in spring). We picked them up from over at Shearwater (near Devonport) and they were stopped up nice and tight for transport thankfully !

Arriving after dark we positioned them quietly on brick plinths and were just getting the third one level when we heard an agitated buzzing coming from the first hive ... one of the kittens had pulled on the cloth that was stopping the entrance and had managed to open one end ! Luckily a quick restuffing served to head off disaster and the three hives were unstopped just on dawn so that they didn't come out in the dark and get lost.

They are in the greenhouse, where they will be protected from the wind and kept a bit warmer in winter. I've removed some panels from the back section of the greenhouse so they can come and go freely. The markings on the front (O, X & I) are a nod to the theory that they might need a little extra help at first to pick which hive is theirs as they return.

Over winter I need to get a bee suit, smoker and hive tool for my own use. I also need to set up a couple of extra boxes and frames so that there are spare parts for any breakages.

Hopefully the bees will enjoy the orchard, vege garden, flower garden and 1,000 melaleuca and blackwood trees that have just been planted (well, a few years from now when they flower anyway) and help make sure everything is pollinated well. And a little honey to share with us would be great too !

On the windy days we've had lately they have stayed inside and all is silent. As soon as there is still warm weather they are out and about, exploring and cleaning. It's reassuring to see movement after days of silent hives.

This is Roger Wilson and I checking the on the bees, the hives seem to be healthy and active. They also seem to be relatively calm as the kittens were chasing bees down at floor level and we were opening boxes up top and no-one got cranky and no-one got stung.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Red Dirt Musings

The red soil of Scottsdale is amazingly productive. Drawn from basalt rock, you can grow just about anything in it. On white animals like sheep, chooks and maremma dogs it produces an orange stain jokingly called "scottsdale rust". It does make gardening a real pleasure.

One surprise was that the old cherry tree down by the loafing shed fruited this year. I was waiting for the cherries to ripen and was losing hope when a friend told me they were white cherries and this colour was as red as they were going to get. By this point the birds had been much smarter than me and there was only a couple of kilos left, but it was a nice bonus.

I planted ten varieties of potatoes this year. A commercial potato area, the red soil is ideal. I lost alot of spuds when the soil washed away from the roots of the potato plants, allowing the top layer of spuds to turn green. Next time I will make sure to re-mound. I still managed to harvest about 40kg of  a large variety of spuds.

Sapphire, red rascal, pink fir apple, kennebec, dutch cream, kipfler, royal blue, red royale, pentland dell & burgundy blush.

Added to the range this year should be moonlight, sebago, russian banana, purple congo, russet burbank and up-to-date.

Plenty of fish in the river down at the bottom of the farm, a previous catch was a blackfish, this one is a trout.

Prepping the garden now for winter veges, adding mulch in the form of waste hay and manure from the dairy.  I'll be forming the beds up with wooden edges over the next few seasons as the weeds are just as keen to grow as the veges are.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

No Such Thing as Free Kittens

One afternoon I was working my way through the sheds looking for a hen that had gone to ground on a clutch of eggs. Standing in the middle of the hayshed I was scanning for crevices among the hay which might shelter a hen when I heard squeaking ... It was so unexpected that it took me a few minutes to realise it was ... kittens !!

Tucked at the back of some bales was a litter of four kittens, with their mother dead nearby. We suspect a snake bite or bait. A quick health check at the vet and we were the proud guardians of four 5 week old squeakers who have to be the luckiest kittens alive. If that chook hadn't hidden her clutch I wouldn't have been down to the hayshed for a month or more ...

Remember, you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here they are the afternoon of discovery (Nov 27, 2015). Love those little pointy tails !

 About a month later at nine weeks old (15 Dec, 2015)

Ten weeks old (20 Dec, 2015)

Twelve weeks old (4 Jan, 2016) with some peas, they love raiding whatever produce I bring in from the garden. Small potatoes are a favourite because they roll well !

And six months old now (24 April, 2016) and from left to right Dusky (m), Sarge (m), Possum (f) and Hoot (f).

They are all vaccinated and desexed and very social. They were young enough not to have developed a fear of people and hungry enough to be very glad to see us. Life has turned out pretty well for these little barn cats.