The Silence

I woke up late and fairly tired yesterday morning. The previous night I moved the back hive to my parents place. In many ways it was a triumph as no bees died in this move (which means by default I didn’t get stung). I am getting the structure of the hives down pat and managing the bees is becoming easier in some ways.

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On the other hand the movement of the bees is a complete disaster. We had a complaint late last Sunday that our bees where attacking our back neighbour. Threats ensued of calls to the council and pest exterminators so we made a decision even though we are flat out and it is five our round trip to get them out of Dodge City for a while.

From what we can tell the neighbours had a swarm in their compost. Dug up the compost got stung looked over the fence and saw the hive which has been there for three years with different bees in it. Freaked out and became very, very, very irrational about it. (Quite scarily irrational to be honest) and started yelling and screaming.

It is a great shame as this is a very urban friendly hive. If they had one fault they were so indifferent to humans that they would fly near them and not flee. This lead people to believe they were being attacked, swatting them and getting stung.

Our 5 year old is devastated, my wife is devastated and I am far from happy. This is a swarm we got as a fist of bees and just filled the hive to the point we needed a new box on top.

So the last two mornings I went up to open up the chicken run and went past the location where the hive used to be, had a quick look to check if any had been left behind (nope all clear) and noted the absence of them in the flowering kale, again I noted it in the lavender out front.  Thursday in far less sunny and warm day the back yard and front yard hummed with bees.

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And today? Silence.

The neighbour’s husband while I was talking to him was raving at his almond tree and the productivity of his vegetables last year. Well not now. And this is the big debate that needs to be had in a culture where a person get to reach into another’s back yard and be irrational about something well with that comes a responsibility.

The person in question invoked the ‘I am worried for my children’ comment for her own fears. Well I am worried for my kids future but not because of a few bees which they know about but because this very same rational if taken to its extreme (and that is something humans are good at) will lead to my children having a poorer future.

‘I will get arguments about well as a community we all need to respect each other’s views’. Having grown up in a small community YES you do and they will not be your views so you need to suck it up and move on! A community of like minded souls is not a community it is somewhere between a cult and self-validating support group.

A. ss annoyed as a scientist she wants a rational conversation with people and that is simply not happening with people these days. It is not just the urban folks it is also parts of the alternative community and permies. The bigger picture is hidden as everyone want their ‘personal rights’ to supersede everything. Everyone is getting into their own bunkers and not even bothering to look at empirical evidence or each other’s views.

On the upside there a small number of feral bees around and at some point we will likely move the bees back and put them in a private location where people cannot just look over the back fence (mind your own business people) and away from this neighbour. We will be quiet about it and work on our desire to get people to realise the value of these beautiful creatures in a way that allows us not be target by this type of person.

It is the old flying under the radar vs. getting things done argument and on this occasion low flying looks like the option.

I still cannot shudder at a world that our children seem to be destined to inherit!

Enough for one day I have swarm trap to setup in the hidden corner of the chicken run !

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This is why you do not get a real post tonight…

Sorry all.  It is 11pm and I have just finished bottling 6 liters of elderflower cordial after foraging a few items of hard waste I noticed on my walk home for a new wicking bed.

So the photo below will have to do for now. More interesting stuff tomorrow.

And the taste. One of my best batches according to A. 🙂

elder-cordial

Elderflower cordial

So now the equinox is gone and daylight savings will not start till the end of the week I am finding I am up at 5am and it is light enough to see and move around the garden in.

For those who do not know the best times to pick elderflowers is early morning and dusk. The perfume of the flowers is at its best and the flavour as well. Although I have picked them at other times and the flavour seems fine I try to go by this tradition.

This morning I found myself awake and wandered out on the front porch and noticed the elderflowers had ripened and there would be enough to make a batch of elderflower cordial.

bowl

flowers

I started the kettle up and went out and picked about 30 flower heads and quickly put a batch together to start the infusing process. The cordial is great mixed simply with iced cold water or soda water it is a light refreshing drink in the heat of summer or a favourite is to add a shot Gin to the mix and then you have a great little mixer to sit back and enjoy looking at your garden in the evening.

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So the mix was done in a few minutes and then it was the daily chores of cats and chickens and then off to work.

bucket

There is something satisfying to me that I can do this before heading off to my corporate day time job. It somehow makes me feel more alive, even though most of my day will tied to this work culture  just a little bit of me is still out there enjoying the path less trodden.

Elderflower Cordial

  • 5 litres boiling water
  • 30 Elder Flower Clusters (I don`t wash them – aroma gets lost)
  • 3 kilos sugar
  • 10 lemons
  • 125 grams of citric acid

This amount makes 6 litres of syrup. You only need about 1 – 2 cm per glass.

Put all the ingredients in a clean bucket, cover it with a tea towel and stir it every day with a sterilised spoon so that the sugar dissolves with time. I cut the lemons in half, squeeze them out and throw the peels in as well. After one week, sieve it through a cloth and fill it up into bottles.

That`s all. Have fun.

The original recipe I got from my family is to use cold water but as the elderflowers have natural yeast (handy for making champagne) that ferments I try to kill this off with hot water. It saves the bottles exploding or getting a hard liquor version of syrup.

A trick to fix the cloth in place over the bucket is to take enough twine to almost go around the bucket then tie both ends to rubber bands. That way I can easily remove the string no nots nothing to worry about and makes sure the towel or cloth stays in place.

rubber bands

Resilience

We had major storms last night here in Melbourne. These are starting to get all the more common and while our place survived without any apparent damage a lot of places where hit pretty hard. We lost power for an hour and some places lost roofs and had trees fall on power lines etc and are still out of action.

I did a look around our garden and it stood up pretty well. The trees in the food forest are starting to work to shelter each other and this was shown by the few fruit I lost off the plums and other fruits. When I checked the neighbour’s tree while checking up on their chickens (they are away) I saw the effect of lone tree in the wind. Lots of fruit lost so the harvest off that tree is going to be far from spectacular let alone when we get another 4 -5 days of this weather which is forecast.

As I said my garden stood up well and I am happy with the way it is going and will continue to build on it.

One of the effects of climate change will be greater variability in the weather. If it is hotter or colder but consistent then you can work around it. But the reality is we are going to have great climate variability and this is harder to work with

 More storms, late frosts, thunderstorms, heatwaves and out of season heat/cool events. To me this reinforces that we are all going to need to work towards a higher level of self reliance and to build systems that can operate under these stresses.

It will have some challenges. A classic method of passively reducing energy input is to have deciduous or even evergreen trees around to shade a building summer and or shield it from the wind in winter. Harder to deal with when you have storms that can tear down trees and  large branches. If these become not one in 30 year events but every year it is going to need to be planned for.

My food forest will be kept low at the back and I use fruit trees that are low and not big enough to cause any damage if they come down. Being on a slope I am hoping that I will get a cooling effect dropping down to my house in summer and warming in winter even if only a little bit it will help.

 The shade sail has made a huge difference and allows us to drop it in winter for the best effect of light and heat and then put it up for effect in summer and is an easier safety issue to manage than large trees.

In addition I have smaller trees in large pots I can move around in summer to shade things and act as heat sinks, then move the away in winter. I also have lot trees acting to reduce some of the heat load hitting the house.

The protecting effect of the food forest on all layers and addition of perennials will aid us in great resilience in our food production. We will still have annuals.

Lots of annuals but the forest can act as can be bedrock of our production.

The changes in weather patterns will have an effect on the rest of what we all do as well. The power was off for an hour that was the third 1 hour plus outage in our area in the last 3 months due to weather and one of those was 12 hours. Friends in the USA 20 miles out of city of a hundred thousand lost power for a week last year in mid winter of 20 below.

So while we are in no way preppers as well as helping our budget and to be more sustainable we are adding a wood fired cooking stove to the house to heat it and also to cook. In outage it also will be handy.

I plant to dry as much of my food as I can this year and can/bottle as well. Freezers need power and while it is a very good thing to have I have seen my parents loose a full freezer of food not a good thing to have happen. Think it can’t happen. 98% of the power lines in Victoria are above ground. Poles and lines are very susceptible to big storms and high winds and that is not even thinking about the higher rates of bush fires.

Makes me wonder though when I grew up we had candles and torches ready now our neighbours have said they had to burn the decorative table candles for light when it was off all night 6 weeks ago. We had some solar desk lights and a bunch of candles, not very expensive to keep and very handy.

I suppose we had all better get used to being a bit more prepared and resilient on ourselves and those around us hadn’t we? Appears our government is going to do little to reduce the effect of climate change so we had all better start dealing with it and it s effects ourselves.

Elderflower Season

We often look at harvesting as autumn pass time. Laying down goods for winter.

To me this is a lot less important in the temperate location I live as there is regular growth in all but the worst of mid winter and even then greens are available, but there are times during the whole year when a particular food comes around.

Some like asparagus are enjoyed as part of the cycle some like mushrooms are both enjoyed and stored for the rest of the year.

Elderflowers are one of these. They are only around for a short period of time but to me they are well worth putting down a store of for as long as they last.

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I have a number of sources but there is one in our court that I get to and hit pretty hard in the flower season knowing that this will impact on the berries I get. I do this as my experience is that this one tree is flogged by the birds and few elderberries are left for me to pick. My source of elderberries is up country and well worth the trip to collect them when I need to get them.

Elder has some great properties. The flowers and berries when properly prepared have antiviral properties and this year I had elderberry syrup each day over winter and avoided the usual bout of illness.

So the first batch of the season went straight into the dryer. Elderflower fresh or dried with a little honey makes a great tea and if you are feeling a bit like something is coming on it is seems to help to avoid it turning into something serious.  This will keep me going till the berries are out and I can make up a new batch of elderberry syrup.

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The second batch I will pick tomorrow morning and make 4 -5 litres of elderflower cordial. Then onto the good stuff the champagne J

All through the season this year I will really be focusing in on these little harvests getting the larder ready and keeping things stocked. Each year I try to get a bit further off the stupid go round and this is great example of that.

Elder flowers are also easy to find in most places so start to have a look around and learn to identify them from a good resource. Start to work out where your own larder and medicine cabinet are to be found before you actually need them.

Good luck foraging.

Are we all making it easier to do nothing at all?

So I have been quiet again… nothing new there … (or NO news there 🙂 )

And have been contemplating why?

I had a think on father’s day as sick number 2 child was sleeping in the sun next to me and came to the conclusion I have been my own worst enemy in a number of ways recently. I have been looking at what I have been doing and going well that is not blog worthy, that is not environmental ‘enough’ and worst of all comparing. I think that other person is doing everything so much better than me. Look they are living in a yurt made of their own hair and fuelling it with their own dried dung while living entirely of raw foraged food…

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Perfection is a dangerous, dangerous thing. It can easily paralyse us and make us look at what we are doing and says I can’t compete with that and simply give up. It is something those of us interested in a better world need to consider. Often near enough is a damn side better than not at all!

I think looking back on it that has been an issue with me over the last 6 or so months. Recently however I have had a couple of the shining examples that have held themselves out as the saviours of various parts of the world and I have been comparing myself to start to look not so perfect after all.

They don’t look bad, not even poor, quite good actually but not perfect.

It has made me consider that we all do what we can and judging yourself to harshly is counterproductive. I lost sight of why I am doing what “I” do and lost my own direction. So I am going to get back on the horse and live by the old motto below.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are, when you can!

Now amusingly as we speak of full circles. Sunday was father’s day and strangely enough I had a ground hog moment when I realised that last father’s day I worked on my mini seed raising hot house and again I did the same thing this year. 

The unit last year worked ok but had a few serious faults and lead to some losses so I wanted to do something a bit different and easier to use this year.

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So it has had an upgrade with recycled windows replacing the builders plastic and it now has much better access as the two windows at the front are hinged which will mean I can see everything and easily access the seedlings to manage them and check on them (which is a major cause of failure last year).

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I have moved it so it is not in the way but close enough and easy to get to keep an eye on it.(we live in this house it can’t just be my green playground)

I was lucky and have been harvesting the hard wast for a while and it made of repurposed material,  an old shelf I found, some old shower screens for the ends, and windows I picked up as hard rubbish, even the boards are from a pallet I found. Only some of the screws are new.

In the end I like making stuff up from what others in our society perceive as no longer useful the environmental aspect is important but anyone using a cheap commercial mini hot house from Aldi or Bunning’s is still doing more for the environment than those who poo poo the purchases of such items on environmental grounds and do nothing.

Again do what you can with what you have! If I worked out all the environmental background noise of my cordless drill I used to build my mini hot house if I had only bought one for occasional use then the cheap plastic seed raising hot houses looks very good in comparison (no Congo gorilla parts for a start in the battery components or slave child labour to mine those materials)

To me not wasting that is the primary driver. Not spending $60 or $100 is a good thing as it allows me to utilise that money in a far more environmentally effective ways in the rest of my life style.

But as I don’t get to make stuff in my challenging white collar job it is kind of cool to make it myself which is as good a reason as any.

As you can see I still need to seal a few gaps and add some latches but it is a working unit now and will be for a number of years if I look after it.

Even without those steps I can now start to plant up some seeds and get into the doing what I can part for the coming spring.

A quick question. When was the last time you read about a complete failure on a blog by the blog poster? Something I need to rectify myself on this site from now on. I screw up recipes and other projects all the time and learn from them.

Expect to see some failures documented in the future. 🙂