Monday, 15 August 2016

Bees, Bees, Bees


"BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS WORKSHOP @ Jembella Farm
Sunday September 18th 2016
Learn how to; Set up a bee hive, Catch a swarm of bees, Maintain your bee hive health, Extract Honey, and loads of information about keeping a beehive.
9am until approx 3pm-4pm.
$100 per person includes morning tea and lunch.
Please register by sending a text message to 0473 493413
Include your email address so we can send you an email to confirm your place.
This will be a fun day with an opportunity to get close up with bees, (depending on weather conditions), network with other budding beekeepers, learn years worth of information from Brian, the bee Guru, ask questions and participate in lots of discussion."
(The write up in our local Facebook classifieds page.)

Bees, bees bees.
So.... this is what we're up to at the moment. There's a bit of planning to be done, emails to respond to, deposits to be received, a menu to be decided, and a schedule to be written up.
The shearing shed will be spruced up to accommodate participants, the "functions" cups and plates will be retrieved from the cellar, the urn cleaned and a general tidying up will happen. The grass will probably get mowed too!
So many folks have been asking us about bees and how to get started, it's time to do a workshop.
You may not see me very much over the next few weeks, but I'm here, busying about happily planning an event. What fun it will be.
Cheers!


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Stock piling and consolidating

After a few warmer spring like days, we've returned to wintry weather, rain and cold winds, much to my delight. I'm dreading the hot summer days, so these days of loading more wood onto the fires, drying the washing by the fire, gardening without flies, and stockpiling the freezers with baked goods, are heaven to me.

There's a one year old steer walking around the paddock which is booked in for butchering next week. I was losing sleep over how I was going to fit all that meat into the remaining space in our three large chest .freezers. Yes, I really was waking in the night and worrying about it!
So, in for the challenge went I.  With head down and bottom up, there were packages of meat, frozen tubs of cream, vegetables, and curious bits of jetsam (from flotsam and jetsam?)  flying from the freezer into the washing basket.  Everything was moved around, many bags of frozen "stuff" was cooked or used up, and I'm pleased to say that nothing was thrown out.  Well, actually, there was one bottle of Daisy's colostrum in the depths of one freezer, from two calvings ago. Kept to raise brought in calves, but never needed, so that got tipped into the compost heap.
The numerous plastic bags of bones labelled "bones for making bone broth" were tipped into my biggest stockpot with a splash of raw apple cider vinegar and Himalayan pink salt to simmer on the wood stove for a day and a night to make a fresh stockpile of Bone Broth. that I wrote about in a previous post.
After straining and putting in containers, the space required for storing it in the small fridge top freezer was far less than all those bags of bones, and I'm fully stocked up with tasty stock for another few weeks.

And all of those little containers of Lavender's cream that I've been saving to make big batches of butter, have become butter.  Many batches of butter!
Now that we have only one cow, I need to think forward to the two months that Lavender will not be producing milk during the weeks leading up to her next calf due in December.
So I'm making a stockpile of butter to get us through those weeks.
It keeps well in the freezer if it is packaged well.

Don't ever try to vacuum seal freshly made butter. You will end up with flat pats of gooey muck oozing from the vacuum sealing machine. A little like that lovely fresh cake I tried to vacuum seal once before... it went as flat as a pancake with all the air sucked out of it.   Oh well, we live and learn. So, place the packs of butter into the freezer in airtight bags until well frozen.

Once frozen, seal the butter in vacuum seal bags and put back in the freezer.  These bags had been used before for freezing something, washed out well and are perfect for using again.
Butter stored like this will stay as fresh as the day it was made for more than six months.
I don't want to buy shop butter during the time we're not milking Lavender.
Here's how to make butter that I wrote about some time ago.
All that moving stuff around, and making into produce that takes up less room to store I was able to squeeze everything into TWO freezers. Yes.... one freezer has been emptied out, turned off and cleaned out..!!
OK that may not be as exciting for you as it is for me, so I'll restrain myself now.

Still having lots of fun playing shops with the farm gate shop.

Power outages are becoming more regular in our area, and just as I was telling a friend that, so far, we haven't been affected, the power went off. 
Fortunately the milking had been done an hour earlier, and with our wood heater and kitchen wood stove, we weren't impacted beyond living in darkness for three hours. 
I made banana pancakes and we ate them by candle light with honey and fresh cream. 
I hope all is well wherever you are, and thanks for visiting.
X

Sunday, 31 July 2016

July update 2016



I'm trying to write about this subject light heartedly, but if you know me you will realise, it was quite a traumatic event for both of us.
For some months we had become more convinced that we don't need to own two house cows. The initial idea of two cows was sound, to have a continuous supply of milk all year round by staggering their calving at different times. However, the reality was... an over supply of milk, the costs of feeding, both financially and the toll it takes on our fragile land. The wear and tear (compaction) on our land, and at this wet time of year, the boggy ground.
Having an extra house cow does not mean we have just one extra cow. Usually it means there are an extra three of four cows depending on how many calves she is fostering, to use up the milk.
So the decision was made to keep Lavender, being the youngest  cow and the breed that we want to go on with into the future.

I had tossed around the idea of loaning Daisy to a suitable family, and planned to bring her back home for each calving so I could look after her special needs. That idea was soon squashed by the realistic one of the partnership.
I had to realize that there ARE people out there who are perfectly capable of looking after a specially loved cow with "special needs". Any good person who is going to make the effort, financially and intellectually, to purchase a cow, is going to know how to deal with her massive udder after calving.
One would think!

 So I wrote an advert to put on Gumtree, extolling the virtues of Daisy and her beautiful heifer calf. Within an hour the first inquiries started to roll in.
I had in mind the perfect situation for them to go to so I just had to sort through all of the people, which is not easy to do when they all wanted to come and look.
The planets must have been in alignment for us all when the first person due to come called to say he was held up. I already had a feeling that he was not the right person for Daisy and Paisley, so I felt great relief.
Meanwhile others were texting and phoning, but I took a liking to one texter called Josephine, so I asked her to come and look as soon as she could. Within two hours she was here, and when I met her I knew that Daisy was going to be in very good hands for the rest of her days.
Tears of joy!

 Daisy walked onto Josephine's trailer like she had been doing it every week. She had never been on a trailer, living here on this property for all of her six years.
Paisley followed without any problems at all.
Josephine and her family of four children will make short work of all the milk that Daisy will supply them and she plans to keep heifer calf Paisley as a breeding cow and future house cow on her property in the Adelaide Hills.
Her family have lots of experience with house cows, having grown up with them, so she was not daunted at all when I explained Daisy's "special needs."
And how much more luck could we have had?
Mulga Bill returned from his latest "working engagement" for one week before he was being moved onto his next "job."
Ideally we wanted to sell Daisy with calf-at-foot plus being in-calf;  Daisy came on-heat mid way through the week so she was mated by Mulga Bill.  !!! Planets were in alignment.

Our original loading ramp is situated in the middle of a paddock, which makes it boggy and impossible to move stock when we've had any rain. So  Brian whipped up a whole new loading ramp with drafting yard close to the gate and drive way.
With plenty of stock movements lately, we don't know how we managed for all these years.

A few more loads of gravel is needed though, as we found out when trying to pull out the trailer with Mulga Bill on board.  So with Brian on the tractor and me in the ute, we slowly got out and onto the  road, heading for Clare.

Mulga Bill was clearly not fussed. I think he knows that good times are ahead whenever he gets loaded onto a trailer.

I got a little bit crafty at the beginning of the month. After seeing lots of these continuous scarfs being worn lately, I thought I'd try my hand at making one for myself. It's all straight knitting, couldn't be that hard, even for a craft challenged person such as I.
In the Barossa we're very limited in our choice of some things, unless you want to take out a mortgage on the house! So off to the Op-shop I went in search of some wool.
Sometimes it's more economical to buy a woolen garment and unpick it to re-use the wool, but when I found this woolen garment in a colour I liked, it turned out to be an already made up scarf. One end was unraveling though, and I got it for $2.
It sat on the dining room table for a couple of weeks before I got myself psyched enough to attempt the big fix-up.
Wearing my strongest glasses, I sat at the table and carefully unraveled three rows of knitting from the end that was beginning to come undone. Then I carefully picked up the stitches, and very slowly cast off in rib stitch.
Using some of the wool that was left over I threaded some into the biggest sewing needle I could find in my sewing box, and sewed a flat seam.
I love wearing scarfs in winter, and hate the ends getting in my way, so this continuous scarf is ideal.

The Bee hive rental is taking off slowly, but the sales of Bee Keeping Equipment is becoming even more popular as we realise there are hardly any suppliers of fully assembled bee boxes and equipment in South Australia. 
So this is keeping Brian busy in his shed most evenings with the old gas heater cranked up.



Perfect gardening weather as I'm filling in a few bare spots.

But it seems like for most of this month of July, I've been living in a fog of illness. My first cold for four years that turned into a sinus infection, that went on and on, and when there was a glimmer of recovery, kept coming back with a vengeance.
I think I'd rather get a small cold every year thank you!  Not this monster thing that has wiped me out for four weeks. Oh dear, not used to being ill, I'm not a good patient. 
After trying every means of natural remedies, plus help from my Naturopath and Homeopath, we finally gave up and turned to anti-biotics. I feel like such a failure, but it seems that sometimes we just have to go in with the big guns. There are plenty of gut bacteria restoring supplements going in as well, and I think I'm starting to turn the corner towards wellness again.
My goodness, how we take our health for granted. I think this has been a little nudge to remind me to be a bit more grateful for my good health.
So as I write this, still feeling like my head is stuffed full of stewed apples, please forgive me for any errors or gaps.
Goodbye July, it wasn't your fault that I was so contrary, and Hello August, I think you and I are going to be great mates.
Cheers, X




Thursday, 21 July 2016

It's worth the wait

When we bought this property in 2004, it was in need of lots of work. The house had been empty for two years, so you can imagine what a sad state it was in.
We didn't even own a camera and the few photos taken by friends are buried in a cupboard somewhere, so I can't show you any before pictures.
In fact, it didn't come onto the market, instead we approached the owners, and they were pretty amazed that we weren't daunted by the task ahead of us as they showed us through the house.
After selling our homes, Brian's and mine, we needed a small mortgage to fill the gap and we wanted to become mortgage free as soon as possible. That was important to both of us so we knew we were in for some hard work in front of us to get this old home livable and the property running productively.
You might think that the house was the priority, but making the land productive was first on our minds. We needed to be producing food as soon as possible because this was what was going to save us lots of money.
Trees were planted, a vegetable garden was established, fences were built and shelter sheds were erected to house the stock that we needed to bring in.
In our spare time we worked on renovating the house, room by room. At first we lived in three rooms, the others were unlivable.
We had no bathroom for one entire winter as we renovated and were forced to bucket wash in the outside laundry that had only two walls. I still appreciate our bathroom every single day.

To save money, we did most of the renovating ourselves. Brian became a master builder, plasterer, carpenter and Jack of all trades.
I became very fit shimmying up and down the high ladder to paint our 14ft ceilings. I learned to be the queen of "cutting in" on the paint work, polishing floors and Jill of all trades.
We employed electricians to do the electrical work, a stone mason to re build parts of the house that had collapsed, and a kitchen company to fit part of the kitchen.
Brian made the bench tops out of some discarded timber that we found,  and I lime-washed the cupboards, to save money.

I had plans of more built ins for the kitchen and living room, but we "made do" by using these lovely (in my eyes) old bits of collected furniture for the next thirteen years.


This year, instead of going on a long holiday, we had the same kitchen company build some more cupboards. I let them do the entire job, but I lime washed them to match the other part of the kitchen.
More storage space, and there seems to be more space in the overall kitchen.  Through the hole in the wall you can see the living room built-ins that were fitted on the same day and waiting to be lime washed.

We recently acquired a new flat screen TV from friends who had no use for it. They wanted no payment and were happy with some honey and preserves from the cellar.
Previously our TV was a really old square box thing that I was able to camouflage by sitting a plank of wood on the top to extend beyond the TV on both sides. Onto this I placed books and a lamp to detract from the TV taking over the room.
The new TV, as you can see, was impossible to camouflage, so my long time dream of built in shelves and cupboards came to fruition.

 I waited fifteen years for these shelves, so my appreciation of them is immeasurable.
I know I'm going to sound really old now, but I'm gobsmacked at the size of the mortgages that people take on these days.
I wonder if it is really necessary to have everything all at once. I wonder what happened to the anticipation aspect of planning and saving to buy and then that enormous sense of achievement and appreciation of the item that we waited to have.
There will always be different priorities among us, but I guess I'm one who enjoys the anticipation almost as much as the ownership.


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Can You Hire a Bee Hive? Yes you can.

Have you ever wanted to have a bee hive in your garden?
Are you unsure if bee keeping is really for you, too much work, too expensive to get started?
Do you have a yearning to learn about keeping a bee hive but you don't know where to start?


Would you like to be eating honey that your own bees have made from the flowers in your garden and your surrounding area?

 Hiring a bee hive is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the art of beekeeping, without the need to buy all of the gear up front.
Setting up costs can be expensive, so here is a way to get involved for a year before shelling out your hard earned cash to set up. You will also have the opportunity to interact and observe with Brian when he checks your bee hive regularly.

Terms of Hiring a Bee Hive (Plan 1)

*Lease is for 12 months.
*First visit to your property to discuss and plan where to position your hive.
* Delivery of the hive in late winter/early spring for best chance of summer honey production.
*Minimum of 12 maintenance visits per year.
*You may observe and ask questions at each visit. (Bee suit is provided for you to wear)
*You will receive a "brood box" followed by a "super" when the time is right to extend the hive.
*Extraction of the honey is performed by us here at Jembella Farm where we have the equipment.
*You will receive 10% of honey extracted from your hive. (Average 2-4kgs)
*Some hives will perform better than others, so some of your honey may be given to other hive renters who's hives have not been as productive. Or the opposite situation may arise with your hive.



Bee keeping is a year round project, but here in South Australia the honey flow season is from mid spring, (October), until late summer (February).
Some honey flow seasons are better than others. The 2014/2015 season was a bumper, but the following year of 2015/2016 was dismal. We collected no honey during that season.
Bee hives can only provide honey where there is an abundance of floral growth in the area.
Pesticide usage in your area will kill the bees.
If you are keen to rent a hive, we need to have your hive in place, in your garden by August/September to give you the best possible outcome for honey in the first year.

Enjoy watching your bees pollinating the plants in your garden.
Eat some of the honey from your garden and surrounding area.
Learn the art of beekeeping in your own backyard with one on one lessons with the "bee Guru".
Grow better vegetables and flowers.
After 12 months, you will be armed with the knowledge and confidence to purchase and manage your own hive.

Cost... $40 per month. Minimum hire is for 12 months = $480 per year.
To be paid at time of delivery or
in two installments of $240 on delivery of the hive and $240 six months later.
Bond of $100 is refundable at end of lease term.


Terms of Hiring a Bee Hive (Plan 2)

Smaller breeding hive "Nuc box" for pollinating orchards or gardens.
Minimum term of 2 months
Includes all of the above service but excludes honey share.
Minimum of 1 maintenance and observation visit per month.
This service is for gardeners and small orchardists who require bees to pollinate their orchards and vegetable gardens. Most will hire the Nucleus box for 3-4 months during the Spring and Summer growing season.

Cost... $30 per month
Bond of $50 is refundable at end of lease term.


For inquiries contact us via the email address of this blog jembellafarm@gmail.com

Happy beekeeping, and we're hoping for a good honey flow for this coming season.

Bee hive rental is available to properties situated within the  Barossa region.

 

 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Stubborn Cow

Brian mowed the lawn grass on Sunday and now the house yard is looking quite tidy and lovely in a wintery kind of way.
We bought a new mower last year and, as yet, I haven't used it. I suspect he wants to maintain the blades in good shape. ;)

While the sun poked through the clouds, I wandered about snapping photos. We're having a very wet winter and every drop is most welcome.


The leaves of this little Finger Lime tree were completely eaten by something the first time I planted it two years ago, so Brian dug it up, put it into a pot and placed it in the glass house. There it recovered and we planted it out in the open again in Autumn. It was covered in delicious little Finger limes which we ate with fish meals. I confess I wasn't very adventurous with them, but I'll try making more dishes with them next time they fruit. Practically all of the recipes I looked at were for sweet dishes, which I didn't want to make, or eat, so any suggestions for using them would be appreciated.






Yesterday morning, right at the end of milking the two cows, the milking machine motor threw a fit. It sounded like it was about to blow up and Brian was summoned from work. He confirmed my diagnoses and the only thing for it was to buy another motor from somewhere... in a hurry.
A quick look at suppliers of motors on the computer, and number one step-son (who happened to be on annual leave) made a quick trip to the City to make the purchase for us as neither of us could get away from work.
They both toiled at fitting the motor well into the evening, until it was running smoothly and I was confident to use it for milking this morning.
All was well early this morning, the milking shed and machine were all set up and ready to go. The cows were lined up in their regular order. Lavender is always first, so I opened the gate for her to walk up to take her position in the bales, but she got to the gate of the shed, stopped, sniffed, snorted and refused to walk into the dairy.
"Oooohh..... I'm not going in there," she said, "a stranger has been in there. I can smell him and I can smell his oil. Nope, definitely NOT going in there!"
She backed out and stood in the lane.
I tried to cajole her with bread.
I got behind her and used my gruff voice.
I picked up the "waving" stick.
I tapped her on the rump with the "waving" stick.
She walked a short way in, just enough that I could close a gate behind her.
That was a mistake!!
She turned herself around, saw that she was confined and took a flying leap over the gate.
She cleared it beautifully, except for her hind feet, which took the gate with her.
It was poetry in motion, but the gate is no longer a gate.
So Lavender got off without being milked, and must have been very uncomfortable with a full udder all day.

Daisy was too interested in the food she was about to eat, to bother about any stranger smells.
This evening after work, and with some temporary repairs to the gate, we both coaxed Lavender into the dairy by putting her halter on and leading her with a rope.
So I wonder if she will forget about stranger smells when it's milking time tomorrow morning?



Monday, 4 July 2016

Weekend in Winter

Daisy's calf Paisley, is (suddenly) ten weeks old and now is the time to start her training to become a quiet and well mannered house cow in the future.
Last week Brian put a small halter on her and tied her up for short periods of time each day. Of course she didn't like it at first, and even though she's still really young, she has a lot of strength. Those hind legs can give a powerful and swift kick too.
Yesterday we put her into the "baby bales" specially built for training young heifers. This small shed is situated in the calf yard where the calves are fed a mix of chaff and molasses into a feed bin for each calf.  Some of the feed mix is put into the feed bin behind the bales, so all of the calves get quite used to putting their head through to eat the tasty food, so it's no real shock for Paisley. She was not too keen when the bar was slid across to restrain her head though, but quickly settled when she heard our reassuring voices telling her "Good Paisley, good girl."
We will repeat the exercise each day at feeding time and calmly run our hands all over her body, talking to her all the time to show her that she is in no danger.



A tasty chaff and molasses mix is reward food for standing patiently and she quickly settled and started eating.

This is Daisy in the milking shed with her head in the real sized milking bales. The baby bales are exactly the same, but on a smaller scale for young heifer training.

Last month Brian found a new place to "stand" our bee hives. It's a perfect location and situated within easy distance of the town, as well as plenty of access to various types of flowering native trees.

The colored discs are to make it easier for the bees differentiate their own hives.

A large water drum is surrounded with wire to prevent kangaroos from getting too carried away with the water. The corks are floats for the bees to rest on while drinking, and the shade cloth prevents algae growth from too much sunlight on the water.

We've had so much rain, some of the broccoli heads started to rot. I've been picking the damaged ones first, cutting off the slimy sections, and cooking as normal. Broccoli every day. 
I love it lightly cooked in butter in a frying pan with lid on so it's still a little crunchy.  The stems are just as tasty as the heads and I don't understand why people throw them away. The really tough part of the stems I save for making our green vegetable juices.

New cabbage seedlings growing between celery on the left and cauliflowers on the right. Brian is brilliant at succession planting, growing everything from seeds germinated in the glass house, before planting out when large enough. 
The white barriers are protection from earwigs, and the cage is protection from sparrows and one rogue hen that flies over the fence.
When I was the chief vegetable grower here, we always had a "hungry gap" between seasons, but that no longer happens. Now I need to get out of the habit of freezing enough vegetables to see us through the hungry gap. One of the freezers has bags of beans, sliced zucchini, and broad beans, but the garden is so full of a huge variety fresh vegetables, I don't know when I'll get to use the frozen stuff.


More cabbages and beetroot. On the other side of the glass house is mature beetroot for picking, and plenty of it!

The hens enjoyed the leaves after I picked a cauliflower. 

Lemon Verbena from the prunings I cut off in April, and dried in a cupboard, will make refreshing tea and add fragrance to some soap.

The silicone cake thing came cheaply from an op-shop, and the milk cartons are saved and donated by friends. They make excellent soap moulds. When the soap has set peel off the milk carton and discard.

I made this soap yesterday from beef tallow, (saved from our last beef that was butchered here on farm) coconut oil and olive oil. Then added some lemon verbena at trace with a few drops of fragrant blend essential oil.
For our own use, rustic is the way it is. ;)


Winter weekends are my favorite. How about you?


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