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?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Spelt n Sweet Potato Scones

Spelt n Sweet Potato Scones

These were super yummy....super light AND delicious!  
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius...

In one bowl add...
2 cups of spelt flour
1 1/2 cups plain flour
7 tspns baking powder....and sift 3 or 4 times
add to this 55g of softened butter and rub butter into flour.
add 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or other sugar) and blend.

In another bowl mix the following...
1 egg
1 cup (preferably cold) steamed sweet potato flesh..... (I usually fill the steamer with either sweet potato or pumpkin, then bag it into 1 or 2 cup bags and pop in the freezer...For a quick defrost, lay your bags flat to freeze, then store them upright in the veg basket in your freezer....it takes no time to defrost when some scones are on the planner)
1/4 cup yoghurt
1/4 cup milk

Now add the wet mix to the dry mix and blend until combined...
Roll onto floured board, the mix will be rather wet....keep floured so it doesn't stick.
Cut rounds using an inverted glass, dipping the glass in flour with each cut.
Place on baking tray and cook until golden brown, usually about 18 to 20 minutes in hot oven.

Do you ever make sweet potato scones? If you try making this recipe, do come back and tell me how they went. I'd love to hear your feedback.

I'm off to Jamberoo today for the Jamberoo Weekly Artisan Markets...I hope to buy some lovely Blood Limes grown locally at Jamberoo Valley Farm.......you can read about the Blood Lime Orchard here.

What's your plans for today?

Friday, June 28, 2013

PB Choc Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Thanks for all the wonderful words for my last post, It was a true joy to hear from you all....and yes, I was right....He was a rooster, (he proudly began testing his voice just yesterday), but he got kindly and quickly dispatched today and popped in the freezer. I'm picking up two more roosters from someone else tomorrow and I'll do the same with them.


I've been trying to go a lot healthier these days....We have bad hearts, diabetes and kidney troubles in the family just to name a few....
So I figure the healthier I eat, the healthier I should be.
(If I can just keep away from all the Quick Fix-Processed Foods, I'd be fine)

I recently discovered a cookie dough recipe on my facebook page that was reasonably healthy...and I know that although I'm trying to be grainfree at the moment, I also know that they have choc-chips in them, but I do want the rest of the family to enjoy them too! I'll just need to go steady with how many I eat.....
Did I mention there is ......
No Flour !
No Oil !
No White Sugar !

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Cookie Dough Bites....Yummm!

For a triple batch which I made; see the red adaptions....

1 1/4 cups canned* chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel 

2 full cans, rinsed and dried quickly
2 teaspoons vanilla extract  6 tspns
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (165 grams) natural peanut butter 495grams
1/4 cup (80 grams) honey   3/4 cup
1 teaspoon baking powder**   3 tspns
a pinch of salt if your peanut butter doesn’t have salt in it  3 pinches 
1/2 cup (90 grams) chocolate chips  3/4 cup

* My can was a 400 gram can, 240 grams without the water, and I used all but a few tablespoons

** If you need grain-free baking powder, you can use 1 part cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda + 2 parts arrowroot.

Preheat your oven to 350°F / 175°C.

If your making a triple batch I suggest blending the chickpeas smooth first, then transferring to a mixing bowl (electric as well at this stage would be even better)...then continue by adding the remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth, then fold in the choc chips.

Combine all the ingredients,  except for the chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides and the top to get the little chunks of chickpeas and process again until they’re combined.

Put in the chocolate chips and stir it if you can, or pulse it once or twice. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

With wet hands, form into 1 1/2″ balls (I used about 3/4 of a tablespoon per ball). Place onto a piece of parchment paper. If you want them to look more like normal cookies, press down slightly on the balls. They don’t do much rising. Bake for about 10 minutes. I thought they took much longer than 10 minutes, more like 15 to 20 depending on your oven.

Yields about fourteen 1 1/2″ cookie dough balls.
*** Don't even try with regular peanut butter! They'll come out oily. You MUST use natural peanut butter. 

Remember....they are Cookie Dough Bites...so they aren't as firm as a cookie, rather doughy inside...but they ARE delicious....
I enjoyed 3 for desert tonight! What a treat!                                  

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We've got chickens...

and ducks...and rabbits.....

It all started with me wanting chickens for my birthday...a dear friend offered me his pets if I had the space....so for weeks I worked furiously on getting my yard to accommodate for them.
I tell ya! My life has changed in so many ways since having the extra animals in the back yard. Yes we live in town, yes we have 2 dogs that would love to eat them....but it's working!

Here's our adventure so far......

We began by converting Mum's shed into the chicken coup...with panels removed for ventilation.....

 and a viewing hole in the door so we can see if there's any escapee wannabees before going inside....

Roosting and nesting ....Plan A.....

Dividing the yard....

Please note that all our resources were on the property except the wire mesh which we sourced at the local recycling center connected with the tip.

That fancy door....was for my purple runner beans......After hubby halved it; it's now converted into the main gate. We decided it best if we followed the path of the pavers...that way our 2 four legged hunters (Rusty & Cindy) couldn't dig their way into the chicken pen....It's working so far....

All hands on deck getting the wire mesh installed...thanks boys!

It started with 2 rabbits from my mate Richard....which we had been keeping in a cage in the front yard...I named them F1 and F2 (Fertiliser 1 and Fertiliser 2)

Then we thought one got out...but turns out he was only visiting.....
so he went in the cage too.
After 3 days...we now had 3 rabbits....and the cage was getting smaller and smaller.....
Meet F3...

Soooo...then Richard asks me "If you want my chickens and ducks too, you're more than welcome, I need to clean up my yard!" .....I knew it could work, because apart from F3, they had all lived together rather happily.
And that's how all this construction began in my backyard....

Headcount: 5 humans, 2 dogs, 3 rabbits & 2 ducks.....
So here are the ducks.... 

and here are the chickens....all reunited again.....
Headcount: 5 humans, 2 dogs, 3 rabbits, 2 ducks & 4 chickens...

I then decide to source some fertile eggs from two local schools....and incubate them using a friends incubator.....from 36 eggs, we get 10 chickens hatched healthily....
Headcount: 5 humans, 2 dogs, 3 rabbits, 2 ducks & 14 chickens...

One chicken is born with what I think is brain damage, so quickly put to sleep....
and then there is Daffy.... Daffy had clubby curled up feet and I knew that this would definitely be a problem if he/she was to get older and become heavier...Daffy couldn't walk properly and I couldn't see any perching future for the little one either....so with internet at my ready...I researched the possibilities.....after all, Daffy could be an egg layer, I'm thinking it's worth the research....

So...Daffy got new shoes (double sided sticky tape) for a week or so...changed regularly when they fell off....and it's worked...

Apart from one toe, Daffy is growing up to be a lovely hen.....
Apart from one toe being curled sideways (which you can't really see, because she is stepping in poop)....Daffy keeps up with the rest of the crowd, you'd never know she had to wear special shoes when she was tiny.....hehehe

Oh...did I mention that Hubby thought it would be good to buy some older birds....not much older, but 2 to 4 weeks older than our babies....so a road trip bought 10 chickens home...apparently they should all lay blue eggs....I was told they are Golden Blacks...

Hubby named this one Moe.....cause it has a mohawk on its head....lol

Headcount: 5 humans, 2 dogs, 3 rabbits, 2 ducks & 24 chickens...

Moe is also growing up to be a fine looking lady....She also wishes she could get back in under my passionfruit vine...No more scratching Moe !

We've been lucky so far not naming any boys....as the boys will all be despatched quickly and put in the freezer....I'm thinking this one is a rooster, cause I seen him mounting a hen the other day...

Am I a rooster...I think I am...
Another road trip brings us 6 Welsh Harlequin ducks (left) from my cousin in Bundanoon....2 female, 4 male....the boys were dispatched a few days later and put in the freezer.

Headcount: 5 humans, 2 dogs, 3 rabbits, 4 ducks & 23 chickens...
Yep...1 chicken missing, because it decided to go for a day trip over the fence...and Rusty got her... The chicken is now buried under the apricot tree.... Naughty Rusty :(

Early days; we also got offered this lovely little bantam and her boyfriend from a local school....We named her Jenny, but had her boyfriend for dinner....He was way too noisy to even keep just one night.......
See how Jenny only has two tail feathers in this picture....That's because she decided to go for a holiday over the neighbor's back fence....lucky he was home to remove Jenny's butt from their dog's mouth....She hasn't gone on holidays since, and her tail feathers are all grown back now. 

Headcount: 5 humans, 2 dogs, 3 rabbits, 4 ducks & 24 chickens...

Of Course anyone who has Silkies knows that they are prone to being clucky and broody....so Miss Bad Hair Day decides she's going to sit on a clutch of eggs...
I was kindly donated 8 eggs for her to hatch from my mate Ross...these eggs being Isa Brown chickens.....Thanks Ross!

Meet Miss Bad Hair Day and her 5 babies out on the town....(one is hiding under her)
I've been told that Isa Brown day old chicks can be sexed by the colour of them...
I've got two red chicks and 3 white chicks...so I'm thinking I have 3 more boys for the freezer when they start to crow loudly.

You can also see in this photo that the chicken run is almost the full width of our yard...lucky chickens!

Headcount: 5 humans, 2 dogs, 3 rabbits, 4 ducks & 29 chickens...

Update on Plan A with the chicken roost and the nesting boxes....
I think were settled with Plan D and E now.....
The roost was built from dowel stands that DS21 brought home from work...we now have lots of dowel.

The nesting boxes were built from two sets of steel shelving that were in the shed originally.
I simply laid one on its side...cut the shelves from the other one in half and pop-riveted them in place to make the middle shelf for the upper nesting boxes.
The timber slats to keep the straw encased...that's from an old timber blind.


....and when the weather fines up and I'm not building extra garden  beds....I have the nursery/sin bin in the making.....
I have enough steel mesh to enclose this area, the frame is made, I just need to work out a door/frame and its all set.
Soooo sorry, for the life of me I cannot get this photo to rotate....
Pffft, never a dull moment in blogger...and I thought it was going to behave itself today

That's it for now...just wanted to catch you up on all the goings on around here.
I'd love to hear what you think of my new additions .......
I know I have too many for my block, but remember I'll be culling the boys as they grow their voices...

I'll be back soon to show you my garden bed expansion....off to have some breakfast then do some serious dirt relocating....
Happy blogging!

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