Hi there!

I’m slowly working towards some simplicity within the home, but hey! It’s a lot of hard work!

I love having a go at growing my own veges and always use herbs fresh from my garden. I try to plant from seed whenever I can and have learnt to save and share my own seed for the following year. I make Award Winning preserves and pickles; and my husband brews Award Winning boutique beers as well. I love to stockpile and try to limit quick trips to the shops. I dabble in bread making and enjoy making my own stocks too.

I enjoy feeding my family good hearty meals, nothing like those tiny restaurant stacks you have to look for on the plate. My husband maintains our vehicles and machinery and we both enjoy fabricating on a small scale mostly relying on metal & timber recyclers for any materials needed.

While I don’t always have time to reply to comments, I love reading them. I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you learn something new because I love sharing what I learn, and I'm always looking for another new skill myself.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Preparing for Honey Bees

We've been thinking about getting bees for a few years now...and Chris has seen me in his office more than once...but late winter I decided to go for it. I ordered my first batch of bees. I had initially been thinking of getting stingless native bees for the garden just to pollinate. But once I found out that it's not really wise to harvest any of their honey I decided on honey bees. You see, natives don't like to come out of the hive if there's a big drop in temperature, and they only produce about 1kg of honey a year, so if you take it from them, you are in fact starving them of a supply of food if you have a cold snap and they don't want to go out that day foraging for 'extra food'.

I'm a firm believer in being stocked up myself...If someone took my stockpile away from me, I wouldn't be too happy. With the endless possibilities with honey bees, natives just aren't for me.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that native bees are being used in gardens, they are becoming very popular for extra pollination. I recently learnt that a local organic school garden has introduced native bees to their garden. What an excellent opportunity for the students to learn.

Yep, they sting, (I haven't been stung yet, touch wood)  but they do much more than that. I'm already gathering honey recipes...and soap recipes and even cosmetic and candle recipes.... It's endless. Even hubby has his eye on some to experiment within his brewing shed.

Building the beehive - Stage 1
I sourced my beehive kit from Chris at Parker Beekeeper Supplies in Dunmore. Chris is a lovely gentleman, full of information and shares what he knows willingly. He's helped me out a few times even over the phone.

He also makes and sells plastic beehives on his property. They are interchangeable with the timber hives too. If you don't have time or don't want to go to the trouble of soaking it yourself you can always invest in the plastic version.  But for my first hive, I wanted to learn more, so I chose the timber kit.

Firstly you have to soak all the hive timber in a 1:4 solution of Coppernapthanate and Mineral Turpentine. This is a long soak of usually around 3 to 4 days.

Once soaked, then you need to drain and allow all your timbers to dry. Leave this timber layed out undercover for a good week depending on the weather.

After soaking and drying all the beehive timber you need to assemble the beehive. 

Flat packed beehive kit after soaking and drying
Screw every joint.

Assembling the base of the beehive

Assembling the lid of the beehive
Once you have the whole beehive put together, then you have to paint it. 
Use a good turps based paint, and white is the preferred colour.

Painting the beehive. I used two coats.
Building the beehive - Stage 2

All that soaking and drying takes some time...so if you like you can use this time to build your frames. There's plenty of YouTube videos online to help you along the way. 

First you need to build all the frames. I have chosen a ten frame hive, so I had ten frames to build. Glue and nails worked perfectly for putting the four outside pieces together. 

Once you have all the timbers made into frames, you then need to wire them up, using stainless steel wire, which is supplied in your kit. I found a great tutorial video on YouTube that saved me loads of time.

Once you have all your frames wired up, then you place a sheet of wax in each frame. Weaving the wax sheet into 2 or more wires helps keep them in place. This wax and wire should be part of your initial kit.

With a battery charger you can also melt (gently) the wax to the wire. This doesn't take much time at all, and be careful you don't melt all the way through the wax, as it will cut it.

Clip one terminal from the battery charger on one end of the wire and quickly but gently strike the other end. This creates the heat needed to embed the wax to the wire. There are electric embedders out there on the market, but they are very expensive.

Using a battery charger to embed the wax to the wire.
Once you have all your frames built, wired and waxed you can then put them in the hive.
I've found it handy to number each frame, as you have something to refer to when making notes each time you enter the hive.

Store your hive indoors or in the shed until you get your bees, this will prevent a wild swarm taking over your fresh new hive. It's unlikely that this will happen, but prevention is better than cure. 

Some people collect bees this way, even adding a queen pheromone to the 'bait hive' to attract a swarm. But 'collecting' bees in this manner doesn't guarantee you of a disease free hive of bees. It's far better to buy your bees from a reputable beekeeper like Chris. 

It's important to decide exactly where your bees are going to be in your yard
Because once you place them, it's very difficult to move them and can take months. 
I was told that East Facing is particularly important too.
It's handy to know that you may have trouble with a Varroa Mite that likes to hide up in your hive. Apparently the bees toss the mite out of the hive every chance they get, but the mite just climbs back up into the hive. Nasty chemicals are often used to stop this from happening.

If I ever get mite in my hives...I have employed my chickens to help with this problem. 
I moved the chookpen fence in, but left a step or shelf for the hive to sit on. It sounds very complicated so a picture helps heaps. You will see from this photo that my chickens have access to beneath the hive. 

You can see here the view from the front of the hive which is accessed by the bees via the chicken pen. If any mite get into my hive, then are kicked out..the cycle wont repeat itself. Win Win for the bees, Win Win for the chickens...and Win Win for me too. Happy bees make more honey!

This photo was taken the morning I picked up my bees. (stay tuned)

Here you can see that I have complete access to the hive without entering the chicken pen. Everybody wins! 

I've been sprinkling a little bit of food there to 'train' them to look for goodies beneath the hive. If I ever get the hive beetle, and the bees toss them out, the chickens will gobble them up in a heartbeat. Ingenious! 

Say hello to Daffy scratching around near the hive. (the photo WAS taken after I introduced the bees)

It's all very exciting!....
Stay tuned for my next post .... Bringing Home the Bees!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dehydrating Eggs for Winter

There's no point apologising for the vast gap in blogging....let's just say I've had other commitments within my life.....

I've recently discovered that having many chickens, you often have a surplus of eggs.... (Although this didn't happen overnight, as most of them were hatched by myself)

I also know that when you rely on those eggs, your guaranteed to have your girls not lay as well that day. This especially applies during winter when chickens hardly lay or shut down egg supply completely. This is where my Winter Egg supply comes in.......

Yep, you guessed it...
I'm dehydrating my surplus eggs for winter stock. Why not!

All you do is blend...pour...dry...crumbled and store.....
It's that easy!

Dehydrated Egg

Dehydrated Egg ready to crumble or blitz
And it's that simple..... 
I will have a stock of my own eggs all throughout winter. 

If you're wondering how to use this egg powder...It's just as simple....
For every egg needed use 1 tablespoon of powder to 2 tablespoons of water. Mix thoroughly into a bowl...and allow to sit for a few minutes to reconstitute.

Then use as you would any other egg.

Here's how I used some to make scrambled eggs....and it tasted just the same.

1. Make sure you have good plastic sheets to pour your egg onto. I'm not sure if parchment paper would be sturdy enough. My dehydrator comes with liquid trays which I also use to make fruit leather.

2. Make sure you blend your eggs well. Preferably with an electric mixer of some sort.

3. Take the mix TO THE dehydrator trays... THEN pour it on the trays...(spoken from experience). Don't try to move the trays or the dehydrator once you have poured....It just makes an awfully huge mess.

4. Ignore the oily feeling of the egg powder once it's dried...although it looks and is really dry...it feels really oily...and that's normal.

5. Once the dried egg is blitzed into a (large grained) powder.... allow to cool in a large bowl before decanting into your storage container. (Blitzing can generate heat that will make your powder sweat in an airtight glass jar...which will compromise and probably waste all your hard work).

6. Reconstituted egg can be mixed quicker in a blender....but just sitting it on the bench for a few minutes for a couple of eggs is fine.

Do you have surplus eggs AND a dehydrator? 

What will you be doing with your extra eggs next time?

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