Friday, December 23, 2011

It's begining to feel a lot like Christmas!

The decorations are up! The pool is crystal clear. The weather promises to be fine. "Hark the herald angels sing" is playing on the CD. Aaahhhh..... It's finally time to sit back and reflect on the year that was. 

 Yo yo's, gingerbread, mince pies and chocolate fudge. Mmm.....

And this is how we will hopefully spend our Christmas. Outside in the shade of the willow tree. This pic was taken a couple of weekends ago when we had our friends Martyn and Eugenia, Richard, Crochie and Doris down for lunch.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Menagerie update

Our little chicken flock was depleted about a month ago by two chooks, thanks to a fox. We then had a hen that decided she was feeling clucky (yes, I know it's a bad punn) and started sitting on her eggs. We swapped her eggs for some fertile eggs from our neighbour. She has been sitting on eggs now for what seems like forever. We have had a number of storms in the past few weeks and the story is that eggs can go off when there is a storm. We don't know if this is the cause, but most of the eggs that "Stew" has been sitting on have either dissappeared or exploded. Yes, exploded! And let me tell you, the smell of an exploded rotten egg is vile! It really does smell like that stink bomb my brother and I stomped on when we were kids! We have given her a second batch of eggs to sit on, but there has been no success. In fact, yesterday Frans found her sitting on the plastic eggs that are put into the brood boxes to discourage the hens from pecking at their own eggs. So it seems that we will have to force the hen from her nesting box and cool her down. Hopefully she will forget about the eggs and start laying again.

In the meantime, we have purchased another five pullets. When you want to buy chickens here in the country, you have to keep your eyes on the local paper. When the notice goes in the 'for sale' column, then you have to act swiftly. The chicken man pulled up outside the cattle sale yards one Tuesday a couple of weeks ago in a big truck. We were surprised to find a queue of eager chicken enthusiasts waiting with their boxes and home made chicken transport contraptions. So we joined the queue with our cardboard box.

Waiting... .waiting....

Then it was our turn. Five chickens shoved unceremoniously into the box. "That will be $70 thanks mate".

Back in the chook palace, the girls were set free to explore their new home.

And then we have the ongoing duck saga. We have three ducks. Well, our neighbour Graham says they're all drakes. So there is not much point in keeping three boy ducks. We could eat them I suppose.... However, Graham has come up with a plan. He has taken one of our drakes and given us THREE Moscovie female ducks in exchange. The idea is that we will hopefully have a crossbreed of Moscovie/Pekin ducklings soon. So now we have two drakes chasing the ducks around with wild agression! I think we may just knock these rambuncious boys on the head after all! They are mean and horrible to the girls. The poor things are pecked and featherless in places. We've had to separate them.

Graham taking a drake home with him.

And some cow news..... We have a temporary visitor. He's BIG. A load of bull you could say. It's time for our cows to be covered again. If we can get them to fall pregnant now, then we will have spring calves next year. The bull belongs to our neighbour. He's a good bloke. Always helping out and keeping an eye on our stock.

Here's looking at you...

And all the signs are good..... We have some luuurrrvvveee action happening in the top paddock!

Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Robbing the hive

Before we even contemplated robbing our beehive, much research was done. Not to mention many ebay purchases. There are things that need to be bought. A bee suit, smoker, hive tools, strainers .... the list goes on. Being total novices in the beekeeping world, we needed to find someone who would help us get started. We found a beekeeping club in Geelong, about an hour away. The club meets once a month on a Friday evening under a freeway overpass. Classy. However, the timing has not worked out for us and Frans has had to venture into the hive on his own.

First you have to get into the suit. No easy task! It's a tangle of zips and velcro!

Then you have to light the smoker. Pine needles go into the main chamber. This design must be a hundred years old. I guess if it's not broken, why fix it?! The smoke calms the bees down. Well, it's supposed to.

Give the bellows a few presses, and out puffs the smoke.

Ready for action!

Let's hope the bees are afraid!

The best thing an audience can do when the 'bee man' gets going is to stand far away. The best way to get pictures is to have a friend over with a powerful zoom lens! Thanks John! And then lastly, the main aim is to avoid being stung. The sting tally was as follows:
Frans aka Bee Man: Two. One on the hand, right through the leather gloves, and one on the arm through the suit. Cheeky buggers!
Sara: One on her left cheek. Ouch.
John aka Cameraman: One. On the arm. One was enough!
Nala the dog: Two. Poor puppy! She didn't know what hit her!
Ami: Nil. Great achievement.

Then starts the long task of capping each frame (slicing off the outer layer of wax) and then gathering the honey and putting it on a double sieve. We tried this method for a while but found the honey needed to be warmed. So we switched from a bucket to a big pot and put it into the oven.

This gloopy mess is honey mixed with wax. Left long enough the honey seeps through the double layer of the sieve into the bucket or pot below. An easier method of extracting the honey would be to use a centrifuge. Yes we can get one on eBay, but they are pricey. So we'll see if we can borrow one from the bee club next time. 

Beautiful honeycomb.

Our first jar! Otway Fields Farm Honey.

Did I mention that this is a sticky business? I think we used almost every bowl and container in the kitchen!

This is the leftover wax. Some day soon we'll melt it down and make a bunch of candles. Or some furniture wax. Any more ideas? 

And here is our final result. 31 jars of pure honey. No additives or preservatives. No flavour enhancers. Perfect. The sad thing is that we cannot sell it. Too many rules and regulations. We can only consume the honey ourselves or give it away. So if you come and visit us on the farm, you'll probably be sent home with a jar of this golden liquid.

Recovery in progress

It's hard to believe that four weeks ago Sara was flat on her back in the trauma unit of the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She had multiple injuries. The most severe were four fractured vertibrae and a torn glute. Amazingly, she walked (ok, hobbled) out of rehab 2 weeks later. It is now two weeks since she came home to the farm. Every day she gets stronger. She still needs lots of rest and is still in quite a bit of pain, but she is managing it well.

Sara will need to wear this back brace for 3 to 6 months. If she's not wearing it then she has to lie flat.

Part of her physio is to take short walks a number of times a day. She walks to the gate and back. Always with company...

What a picture! A smiling girl!