Friday, 31 October 2008

Asparagus Brag

The bees seem to have settled in nicely now, so I can tell you about the asparagus. I harvested some last Saturday morning and thought I'd weigh the harvest - 800g - and take a photo. This doesn't seem like much until you realise we are picking this amount every 2-3 days! Just thought I'd have a little brag . ..

love and light

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

First Lesson in Beekeeping

Last night I had to put the remaining four frames into the hive, so duly put on my veil hat and gloves and headed for the hive. Feeling lazy, I had decided that my white top was enough and that the black trackpants wouldn't matter. Wrong!!!

Six stings later, I was feeling like the worst bee-mother ever. I didn't really care about my own discomfort, more that some of the bees might have died while defending their home. *sob*

Then my darling man found an article on beginning beekeeping I wish I'd read before being so cavallier with my new friends . . .

Finally, why are bee suits white? Well bees have odd memories. They cannot remember their owner from one day to the next but they do remember that their natural enemy is the brown bear. White is the colour least like their old adversary from way back. Conversely, dark clothing rings warning bells for bees. So be warned. If you approach a bee hive looking and behaving like a bear, never mind that generation upon generation of Australian bees have NEVER set eyes on a brown bear, the bees will regard you as a bear and attack!

So stupidly, I became a bear last night and even though there were only six stings through my clothes, I cannot be sure that the bees escaped unharmed. I can only hope that they were able to retract their stings from my clothes and that they were OK. Note to self: NEVER do that again!

The good news is that this morning they seemed to be back to their old selves, with the scary bear of last night having disappeared. And I can definitely smell honey now emanating from their hive . . .

love and light

Saturday, 25 October 2008


Yesterday evening I went to empty the compost bin and on my way back to the house, noticed a swarm of honey bees in the pear tree.

Mega-excited, I rang the owner of the local beekeeping supplies place. He told me they could stay there for a few hours or a few days. Since it was late, we decided to leave them bee for the night and see if they were still there this morning.

They were!! So my darling man and I went to the store this morning and bought our first beehive box and some protective gloves. I used an old net curtain last night to make a veil for my straw hat and it looks simply elegant, darling! Well, more like sonething out of a C-grade 1950s sci-fi movie, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? :)

We came home and constructed the box, then I rubbed the inside with some lemon balm (to help the bees settle in). We placed the box in the wheelbarrow beneath the tree, gave the branch a quick jerk and the bees dropped down into the box. On goes the lid and hopefully (fingers crossed), we got the queen bee in and have started our very first bee hive.

Things are looking hopeful, as the bees are no longer clustering on the tree, but buzzing around the hive instead. Tonight I need to go out after dark and move the hive to the ground. After they settle in for a couple of days, we need to put in some more frames (you leave some out at first). After a week, we need to move the queen excluder from the bottom as she should have settled in by then.

I have been wanting bees for a while now and actively researching, etc for the past few months. Well, it looks like they finally came to me. And, when the fellow with the two hives rings me back to tell me they're ready, I'll still be getting them. After all, three hives in a back yard isn't too many.

love and light

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ramblings and a Challenge

I can hardly believe it's a week since my last post. A combination of being busy during daylight and tired after dark! Apart from my usual work and study, I've been digging up weeds and laying paths in the garden, as well as digging holes for some sturdy posts to make an excellent grape trellis.

I've also been contemplating the challenge set by Belinda and already taken up by a few. It's the Back to Basics Challenge and here's what you have to do. Report weekly or fortnightly on:

1. Sowing seed or Planting

2. Planning for The Future - meal planning, the next seasons garden plan, working out storage plans or more long term goals and projects like plans for digging root cellars

3. Working for the Future - storing food, managing stores, preserving, building that home made cob or solar oven, adding house insulation, saving for manual grain mills etc

4. Building Community - volunteering, donations, joining an existing community group, forming your own community group, taking a cake to a friend having a hard time, calling someone you just let drift out of your life, etc

5. Learning a new Skill

So here's my first report:
1. Not much on this front in the past week, as I'd already done a bit of planting the week before, but can report that the seedlings are emerging.

2. Have been contemplating the amount I'd need to plant to supply our family for a year, given that we tend to have a shortish main growing season here. My conclusion was that I should go the way of the Shibaguyz! I've also spoken to a tree butcher about the cost of getting a truck load of mulch for the garden. Still pondering whether this would be a good thing to do or whether I'd be better off saving up for hay/straw. {Comments welcome!!}

3. Been paving between the garden beds to help keep the weeds at bay and to encourage others to go out into the garden more often. Also, been building that trellis and all is ready to go for concreting the posts in the ground.

4. Signed up to be a Climate Project Connector. Am awaiting my package of goodies to help spread the word.

5. Well, it's not really a new skill, just getting rid of the cobwebs on an old one - I've been walking more and actually walked to class yesterday (~6km) (against the wind, I might add!) and almost halfway home again. I want to increase my fitness level and to explore other forms of transport. I regularly use the bus, so this is the next step (tee hee :))

Have a look at Belinda's blog and take up the challenge. The more we all do our little bit, no matter how small, the more we'll all be working together for a sustainable future.

love and light

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Telling The Inconvenient Truth

At long last, I procured a copy of Al Gore's The Inconvenient Truth and my beloved and I sat transfixed two nights ago, watching it. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to view it (I'm hoping we're not the last ones on the planet!), please do. It is a great watch.

There is also a study guide, downloadable from:
The guide is primarily aimed at teachers and students, but there are lots of things in there that you could work through with your own children or even friends, family or colleagues.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) is now calling for people to participate in the next phase - being a Climate Project Connector. These people will be asked to screen Telling The Truth, a documentary showing the experiences of the original presenters of The Inconvenient Truth. The aim is to have 1000 screenings of Telling The Truth by December 08 and to have 1209 connector projects by December 09.

They are hoping to create a grass roots movement of people with projects designed to help fight climate change. These projects can be whatever a community group decides, eg, a solar panel buying cooperative or a lobby group for more public transport.

If this interests you, please have a look on the ACF website:

Hope to see lots of you Telling The Truth.

love and light

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Economy = Ecology

Isn't it interesting that at a time when we are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainable living, that world economies are also beginning to collapse? Coincidence? I don't think so!

We humans have been living far beyond our means, both ecologically and economically, for far too long. Over-consumption has replaced the connectedness we have with Mother Earth and spirit and is rapidly driving us towards ecological and economic bankruptcy.

Many people today have hungry souls and instead of using spiritual food to feed their souls, they are using physical food and rampant consumerism. The trouble is, that by using the wrong sort of fuel for our souls, we are constantly looking for more and so the problem continues.

So, what can we do to address this issue?

Well, I garden and try to grow as much of my food as possible, even though it would undoubtably be easier for me to buy it in the supermarket (especially with my current work/study/home juggle). The reasons I try to grow much of my and my family's food are many - I
  • enjoy eating good quality food
  • like to know where my food came from
  • want to reduce my "food miles"
  • believe that those to whom much is given (and we in Australia have truly been given a lot!) have a responsibility to look after those resources
  • wish to preserve and develop the knowledge-base of sustainable living skills
  • want to show others they can do the same
  • love the connection it gives me to Mother Earth, nature and spirit
Apart from this, consciously choosing what we consume has led to a reduction in consumption. I am not content to mindlessly shop for things I do not really need. I am not happy to leave lights or appliances on merely for convenience and I choose to handwater my garden and re-use as much water as possible, rather than use convenient systems which consume much more water.

I am by no means perfect and still have a larger environmental and economic footprint than is sustainable - we live in a residence that might house a few families in other parts of the world and I still enjoy indulgences such as chocolate and television.

But I will continue on this journey. Once you start on a journey like this there is no turning back. Once your consciousness has been raised, you cannot become "unconscious". There are many of us taking a similar path - thank you for your company on this journey.

love and light

Monday, 6 October 2008

Solar Food Dehydrator

Many of you are dehydrating food in order to preserve it. In a conversation recently with the Shibaguyz, I promised to post pictures of my solar food dehydrator. I bought it about fifteen or sixteen years ago from an advertisement in Earth Garden or Grass Roots (I can't remember which). It is called a Solar Safe and is manufactured in Euroa; the address is RMB 2317 Euroa, Vic 3666. I do not know whether or not they are still in production nor how much they would cost.

I'm thinking that a handy person could probably construct one of these. In deference to the intellectual property of the person(s) that designed it and also because they have a "Patent Pending" sign on the side, I'll just list a few of the measurements. You'll need to work out a detailed design for yourself if you want to make one. There are plans for various solar food dehydrators on Mother Earth News, but all are different to mine, so I thought I'd add it to the melting pot.

Here is the front view. The cover appears to be polycarbonate (laserlite) sheeting. It is held down by battens on the top and sides and by capped screws along the bottom. It seems to be pretty good at keeping any moisture out. There is an overhang of a few cm at the bottom, which shields the bottom vent.

As you can see, the bottom of the drier and the back panel are covered internally with black plastic.

This is the side view. Again, the side is covered with polycarbonate sheeting. The height of the side panel is 24" (61cm) at the apex and it is 28" (71cm) long on the base.

Because of the triangular side design, shelves are staggered and so each shelf gets a bit of direct sunlight. Food placed on the top shelf tends to dry fastest, so I often shuffle the food upwards, as the top layer dries.

I forgot to take a photo of a shelf, but they are basically rectangular wooden structures with plastic mesh attached. The bottom three measure 22" (55cm) x 12" (30cm). The top shelf is 22" x 8" (20cm). The shelves rest on wooden runners and are easily removed or fitted through the open back door.

Here is the back panel. It is 24" (61cm) high and 25" (64cm) wide. It consists of a top meshed part (the back vent), a door and a bottom support. The back vent is about 2.5" (6cm) high and extends across the entire back.

The door is held in place by wing-nut type catches. There should be a knob in the centre top of the door, but mine has fallen off (note to self: replace knob before next drying season!).

Here is a close up of half of the back vent.
Here is a close up of half of the front vent. It is about the same size as the back vent, only positioned at the lower front, under cover of the polycarbonate sheeting.

The principle employed in this drier is that the air is heated by virtue of the sun and the black plastic. Because warm air rises, cool air is drawn in at the bottom, warmed, and expelled at the top. This creates a nice air current for drying the food.

The dehydrator is virtually vermin proof, as everything is fairly tightly fitting. The only issue I have ever had is with ants, but that was solved by having a moat around each leg, so that the ants can't crawl up. The way to do this is to get four average sized tin cans (or similar) and turn them upside down inside larger tins cans (or ice-cream containers or similar). Rest the dehydrator on top of the four smaller tins and place water in the larger vessels. This way, you have water which the ants cannot cross and the wooden legs (which are about 6" (15cm) long) are not sitting directly in water.

Hopefully this is enough to get you started on your own solar dehydrator project. I like this design because it is simple and compact and can be carried by one person. Food dries in a day or two (depending on original moisture content, thickness, etc) and of course, it uses free energy and lowers our impact on the planet.

love and light