bee keeping, Homesteading

New Year and first honey harvest!

Well I have lots to catch up on and once again writing gets away from me.

Life is so full and busy these days especially with all the summer garden and homesteading chores.

Ember is now 6 months old and trying to crawl. She loves watching her older siblings play. Having three children at home and homeschooling full time is full on all the time and crazily I’ve applied to have a stall at the Tasmania made markets in Hobart next June which means I need to push myself to create more stock. It’s a big market running over two days but I’m hoping it will be good a good way to promote my Etsy store.

We’ve been having lots of home days recently. Dane is back working at the orchard Cherry picking. He was offered a supervisors role but turned it down as after the picking season he’ll need to concentrate on finishing his Diploma in Agriculture.

The garden is looking lovely and lush. We’ve just picked our cherries and frozen some for winter but mostly we’ve just enjoyed eating them fresh. Especially Banjo who’s given himself the nickname John cherries.

We’ve got growing pumpkins, zucchinis, beans, eggplants, capsicums, nectarines, peaches, lots of tomatoes and a experimental watermelon.

I’ve taken an greater interest in flower gardening this year since we got bees. The chamomile is going crazy and we are looking forward to our tea parties in winter.

The bees have been feasting on a fire thorn near the orchard and lots of delicious native tea trees and gums. Our hive is thriving with a very strong colony and we’ve been doing inspections every 10 days or so to prevent swarming and are looking for signs to split the hive. They are such calm lovely ladies and this weekend we took 4 frames of honey.

We were very nervous about taking the honey expecting them to be really angry with us but they didn’t even blink!

How we collected the frames

We took down a plastic storage container with a lid and smoked the hive.

We took off the hive lid and removed the honey super then closed up the hive.

We shook the bees off a frame then brushed any remaining off and quickly popped the frame in thebstorage box with the lid on. We did this for the remaining 3 frames then closed up the hive and double checked we weren’t taking any bees with us and went inside to start extracting.

None of our harvesting tools had arrived so we extracted the honey using a baking tin, metal spatula , kitchen colanders and muslin cloths. Not your most sophisticated set up but it was low cost and worked!

Using the metal spatula we scraped the honey out of the frame on each side being very careful not to break the foundation. The honey was then tipped from the baking tray into a muslin cloth over a colander on top of a 5litre food grade bucket to drain out.

We popped the lid on the top and weighed it down with heavy jars. We’ll leave the rest to drain out in a warm spot indoors and from time to time squeeze the muslin cloths to get more honey out.

After this with strain again over a fine sieve and pop them in the jars!

We probably got just under 10litres of honey from 4 frames in a deep 8 frame hive. We are expecting a few more frames but are making sure that we leave a full ideal of honey foe the bees over winter.

Considering I was expecting the worst with lots of angry bees and sticky mess this was a pretty successful harvest in my eyes!

Homesteading, Uncategorized

Beeswax lipbalm

A few weeks ago on instagram I posted about rendering down the old wax from our beehive to have on hand for making home products.

This was a messy but not difficult process and quite easy I just had to make sure we did it very early on a cool day before the bees got too interested.

We used a bucket , old electric frypan and a muslin cloth.

I wrapped the old comb in the cloth and secured with a rubber band then filled the frypan with water and put the comb filled cloth in when the water was boiling.

The bucket was filled with cold water and when the cloth had emptied of wax I poured it off into the cold bucket and left it to set.

Once set I remelted the wax disc to clean it from any let over dirt and then poured it through a coffee filter into the paper cup moulds to set.

We were all in desperate need of new lip balm the wind and hay fever season chapping our lips.

After much searching we decided on doing a simple coconut oil, beeswax and essential oil balm.

  • 2 tablespoons grated beeswax
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 20-30 drops essential oil
  1. Melt beeswax and coconut oil in a double boiler stirring constantly until melted.
  2. Remove pan from heat
  3. Add essential oils
  4. Once you’ve added the essential oils fill your containers. We used some old empty lip balm tubes and small glass jars.
  5. Let tubes sit at room temperature for several hours until cooled and completely hardened before capping them.

If you want a  thicker lip balm use more beeswax during the melting process.

Happy making

Uncategorized

Possum proof plants for bees

We’ve been discussing our future here and what we’d like to do. We are in a great rental and we have decided we would like to sit down with our landlord and make a 5 year plan to ensure we are safe to establish things and build infrastructure.

Now we have bees we really want more bee friendly flowers but as we only have the netted orchard area at this stage and we are using that to grow food and herbs it means space for ornamentals is limited due to the rampaging local wildlife.

I’ve been trying to think of ways around this and in my googling ‘plants that possums don’t eat’ I found some results through a PDF file from town and country gardens called ‘Possum proof plants’

Some of the plants listed are already thriving in our garden but not all are safe for bees.

The Rhododendrons are a worry as the flowers can create ‘mad honey’ once used in wars to take down enemies through poison and hallucinations but from what I read the bees tend to avoid it when they have other options and we should be safe (stay tuned!)

White Lillies, lilacs, Iris and daffodils are some ornamental thriving in our garden but what else could we add?

After going through the list and checking which of the mentioned plants are safe for bees these are the ones I’ve chosen for our garden.

My only concern is that some are not safe for any future livestock. I’m not worried about the poultry as they avoid most of the poisonous plants here already naturally (They even eat the foxgloves leaves a little for self worming!).

If we do get goats in the future they won’t be in the areas the ornamentals are so hopefully everyone will be safe!

After we’ve spoken to our landlord we’ll start making a plan for a ornamental garden surrounding the house.

Bergenia cordifolia

Perennial growing approx 30cm high and spreads to 1m. White or pink flowers in winter, it is
excellent as a ground cover, rock garden or border plant. It is easy to grow, and will tolerate a wide
range of conditions, however it prefers semi-shade and moist, rich humus soil.

Acanthus mollis (Bears breech, Tasmanian angel)

Evergreen, soft wooded perennial which grows in an upright clump to approx 1m x 1m. The dark
green, glossy leaves are lobed and toothed. Purple and white flowers appear on tall, erect spikes
from November to January. This plant has weed potential, so should be planted where it can
spread. A great ‘filler’ in a large garden.

Viburnum opulus (snowball tree, cramp bark, Dog berry, guelder rose, )

Viburnum opulus is European cranberry bush. This viburnum shrub grows roughly 10 feet tall and wide. Like many viburnum shrubs, it grows well in full sun or part shade and adapts to many different kinds of soil. Viburnum opulus grows even in consistently moist or wet soils. Once established, this viburnum also shows good resistance to drought, heat and pollution.

Multi-season interest is a hallmark of Viburnum opulus. White flowers up to 3 inches across appear in late spring and early summer and resemble lacecap hydrangea blooms. The blossoms fade to form pendulous berry clusters that ripen from green to bright cherry red by late summer. Typically berries remain on the shrubs through fall and winter until birds eat them the following spring. Green leaves turn shades of gold and red-purple in fall.

Hydrangea

The most commonly grown hydrangeas are a must have shrub for shade – planted in the ground or
pots. Flowers are mainly blue, pink or white and are ball shaped or lacecap form. You can change
the colour of the flowers by altering the pH – pink in alkaline soil, blue in acidic. Pinks and blues can
be intensified using chemicals resulting in mauve, purple and red blooms. They like a fair amount of water

Chaenomeles speciosa (japonica, flowing quince) we already have these here so will propagate them from cuttings

This drought tolerant deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub grows 8 – 10ft with equal or greater spread.
The ‘Flowering Quince’ has a very dense jumble of spiny branches and has white, pink or red
flowers in late winter / early spring. They make a good bonsai specimen. These are the first flowers to bloom after winter and provide food for the bees.

Snow in summer

Great in hanging baskets, this evergreen, drought tolerant, fast growing ground cover spreads to 60cm
in a sunny well drained position. It has furry silver green leaves with masses of white flowers living up
to the common name ‘snow in summer’. Grows well under roses, and looks great planted with
succulents.

Crataegus laevigata ‘Pauls Scarlet’

Image result for Crataegus Paul’s Scarlet tasmania

Deciduous tree, 5-20 ft (4.5-6 m), low branching, rounded top, dense thorny (to 2.5 cm long) branches. Leaves alternate, simple, glossy green, rounded 3-5 lobed, serrulate, of variable size. Flowers double, scarlet with a tinge of rose, very showy

Other plants I’m interested in

Salvias

Crepe myrtle

Daisy, natives and other varieties

Poppies

Native Sarsparilla

Fairy fan flowers

Correas

Grevillis

Pin cushion tree

Bottle brush

Banksia

Sedum

Butterfly bush

I’ll add more as I come across them but that’s all for now 🐝

Homesteading, News

Spring 2018 -Goslings, gardening, busy bees

Lots has been going on here in Judbury.

We’ve had family visit which was lovely but it’s always nice to get back into our routine after. Little Ember has been to the paediatrician to make sure her skull hasn’t fused early which would mean surgery. Something we’d really like to avoid since I worked so hard to have a natural birth after two cesareans. We’ve been doing regular cranio work with the chiropractor which seems to be helping so we are remaining positive at the moment it’s all watch and wait until she’s two.

She’s nearly four months now and is looking so much like her big sister at that age.

Our landlord took his bees away which we all decided was for the best as the hive was neglected and it was too much for newbies like us to take on.

Instead we went out and found our own year old colony and hive from a local bee keeper and it is very healthy and buzzing away. The orchard has just burst into flower and the bees are happily helping pollinate the cherries. We will do a thorough inspection on the weekend and soon after harvest the honey. I’m really excited about our veg garden this year and becoming amateur bee keepers.

If there’s no queen cells found during the inspection then we are going to put a extra super on top to try and prevent swarming but we are also planning to set bait hives up around the property to catch swarms so we will have more hives next year.

We’ve had some other new additions with our goslings hatching. Only two are out so far and unfortunately they have splayed legs which we have bandaged to try and correct. We watched a great YouTube video by a Australian farmer https://youtu.be/cF86DffddXc and I highly recommended watching it if you have similar problems. The Goslings are now looking great and waddling around.

Dane has been working hard getting the goose yard ready he’s brush cut all the thistles, taken down a old garden net and started building a gate for easier access.

The garden is looking wonderful. Dane’s been building some beds in the ground to give the garlic more room and have the beds free for summer veg. We plan to have a flower garden at one end of the orchard and plant out some of the lemon balm and apple mint we have in pots.

It’s hard having having possums destroy everything outside of the netting as it means we have to plan more and restrict what we plant in the ground.

The netting at the end of the orchard needs a lot of work to repair but the long term plans are to fix it up and have berries growing in it.

I’ve been dabbling in wetfelting and found a new passion for making hats

I’m really enjoying learning about the process and will be putting my early creations on Etsy to try and raise the funds towards better equipment. Eventually I’d like to be able to make farm hats.

I’ve been busy at night making cheese after a generous gift of milk from a friend. It’s been fun refreshing all my cheese making skills and we are reminded of our time with our old Jersey. We won’t get a cow again for a long time but we would like goats at some point. For now we have our hands full and we will keep happily busy enjoying all the promises of spring.

Foody things

Tiny steps towards a zero waste life.

We’ve never had a huge amount of waste. Frugal shopping budgets mean that buying in bulk is more economical for us so our bin is rarely full full rubbish collection but I know we can do better.

Having young children and a new baby being low on time to make as much from scratch that I’d like means we’ve been eating a lot of rice cakes and this leads to a lot of waste.

I really dislike how much unnecessary packaging there is especially for the fruit and vegetables seconds. We want to support the farmers and show that people will buy ugly produce but at the same time we are forced to buy plastic if we make this choice. It’s a area of much conflict for me.

We know the best way to avoid this is grow our own and buy locally but while the veg garden is being built and we are a long drive from a good local produce shop we are more limited with our choices. To shop better we would use more fuel so you can’t be perfect when your rural.

Many rural communities have big waste problems an irony when many have moved this way for a ‘Greener’ way of life.

Our local supermarket have started a soft plastic recycling service and as this is a lot of our waste we’ve begun saving it to take there.

We buy our wholefoods in bulk online to get couriered from another Tasmanian homeschool family, we use cloth nappies, grow what we can and make what we can from scratch. I long for another dairy animal to reduce this contribution to our waste but right now it’s not a option.

I find making a small change every week helps us towards a goal of eventually being a zero waste household.

Our most recent changes have been baking bread more to avoid plastic packaged bread and making our own peanut butter. It does take a far amount of more time and effort but I feel it’s important to teach our children food shouldn’t come easily and we need time and effort to nourish ourselves properly.

Below is the nut butter recipe I use. I have based it on the one from The river cottage everyday cookbook. I often double it to save making it every week and I’ve been thinking of making a super spread variety by adding chia, almonds, cacao and coconut oil.

Nut butter recipe

Makes 200g

200g nuts of choice

3-4 tablespoons of oil (sunflower, coconut, rapeseed but veg oil works too)

1-2 teaspoons of runny honey or sugar

Salt to taste

Put nuts in the food processor and pulse until fine

Add remaining ingredients and process until desired consistency

Store in a airtight container in the fridge it should keep a few weeks if you don’t eat it all.

Enjoy

Peanut

News

Winters End

I thought I was due another post seeing as its almost been a season. The truth is I’m finding it hard to find time for the blog these days with a newborn, homeschooling a six year old and three year old, running my Etsy store not to mention all the other homestead chores starting up so I will likely do a seasonal update and occasionally throw a recipe up here.

I am most active these days on Instagram where I post almost daily you can follow us @huntergathererforager you don’t need a account to see the posts online but you do to comment. We also have a facebook page where I occasionally share instagram posts.

We are feeling more settled in our new home up in the hills of the Huon Valley. This time around we are taking things slow watching the land and resisting the urge to get lots of animals.

We were going to get some lovely Ryeland sheep from another homeschooling family but decided after our new baby girl Ember was born that we needed to hold off. It was a good thing too as the paddocks got VERY boggy after a big rain so it’s enforced the plan to get to know the land.

Embers birth went very well. She was born at home after a quick labour and our birth team arrived just in time to help her arrive safely. Banjo and Nyah had been emergency cesareans so this birth was very very special for us. She’s a beautiful happy baby and at 10weeks old is smiling and cooing. It’s been a big adjustment going to three children but we are all very happy.

We have a netted orchard here that Dane has been preparing it’s essential as there’s quite a few mobs of possums here. The bloody bastards ate my lavender and have nightly parties on the deck so everything will need to be planted in the orchard. Lucky it’s very big and we have plans to build a floppy fence around a small paddock for pumpkins.

This spring and summer will be dedicated to growing as much food as we can. Dane has enrolled in his Agriculture Diploma and is hoping to get a good job locally so we can stay in this rental until we can buy our own land. If he can’t then we will consider moving to North West Tasmania where there is more variety in Agriculture work but ideally we want to stay here where we have established a supportive like minded community.

Today he’s off to collect his self chosen fathers day present. Dane and I have a tradition where we buy ourselves gifts for special days and he has chosen some long awaited Guinea fowl.

He has wanted Guinea’s since we started this journey but everyone has advised against them. He doesn’t tend to listen to others opinions so was excited to see 4 become available.

The plan is to keep them in a coop a few weeks and then let one out at a time per day so they don’t roam too far. We are hoping they keep snakes down and don’t shit in the water tank!

That’s all for now I will update again in a few weeks hopefully!

Uncategorized

Homemade crumpets

The weather has turned and now we are out of town we need to be more motivated to have creative breakfasts ready for the morning.

For years I’ve been attempting to perfect crumpets at home and have tried a variety of recipes that always ended up more like English muffins until I found this recipe from Marj Conners in Tennant Creek NT in a old issue of grassroots magazine.

I swapped out the store bought yeast for sourdough starter and combined the sourdough starter and flour the night before and added the rest of the ingredients the following morning. I’ve found the best way to cook them is in butter and they do take some patience but once cooked they can be stored in the fridge or frozen and reheated in the toaster.

Crumpets

Ingredients

4 level teaspoons dry yeast (or a cup of sourdough starter)

1/2 Tsp Sugar

1/2 cup warm water

4 Cups plain flour

1 tbsp Bi carb soda

1 tablespoon Cream of Tartar (I used Baking powder)

1 Tsp Sugar

3 Cups water hot enough to make bicarb bubble
Method

Mix together instant Yeast , 1/2 tsp Sugar and warm water to activate yeast in a small bowl add flour

(If making sourdough do this part the night before with starter do the next part the following morning. If you are using instant yeast do the next part right away)

Add remaining ingredients and stir until it is pouring consistency.

Grease a heavy pan – I use butter and do not use egg rings as Marj suggested in her original recipe but it’s up to you .

Pour desired amount of batter into pan that is on high heat.

Wait for Crumpets to get a lot of holes on top and brown on the base then turn down heat until the top is mostly dry on top.

Now you can choose to flip them over but I prefer not too as it keeps them softer and more crumpet like.

remove to plate and start the next one.

They do take time so best to cook on a slow morning!

Enjoy!