Monday, 27 October 2014

We’re back babe-bee!

I couldn’t help myself, I had to somehow work the word “bee” into the title of this week’s blog! Hehe!

A small section of the bee food flower, vegetable and herb garden
Last week I received a phone call from an unknown phone number and the person never left a message. I thought that it would be one of those awful calls and you all know how they go: “We know that you have nothing better to do, so we thought that you’d like to participate in a survey”. As they didn’t bother leaving a message, I didn’t bother finding out what it was all about.

Then the following day at about the same time they phoned again. I thought to myself, not again, so I steeled myself to deal to them thoroughly and send them packing on their way. What a surprise to find that it was Robert from Bee Sustainable in Melbourne* calling to let me know that my new bee colony was ready to pick up. Glad I took that call, and I quickly arranged a time to pick up the colony.

There is a general rule which seems true to me that states that you have to kill a plant or animal at least three times before you can actually say that you know something about that particular plant or animal.

European honey bees have been a complete disaster here. Actually they’re a bit of disaster everywhere across the planet as humans have made a right mess of that species.

Anyway, my story with bees began about two years ago, when I purchased a hive from a commercial producer. My first mistake was that the commercial producer sold me a hive with an old queen, although this was unbeknownst to me at the time. I did originally read lots of books on bees, but the reality is always – like everything else – a little more complicated than that.

The second mistake I made was that all of the books that I read at that time advised me to place the hive in a sunny spot. In the meantime a local guy that I know gifted me another colony and things were looking up for some serious honey production at the farm here. Honey is really good because not only is it the major source of sugar in cool temperate climates, but it also produces the tasty drop “Mead” which over the past few years has become something of a production line here.

To be completely honest, the old queen was lacklustre, but the colony was still going strong and with another colony on hand I was feeling on top of the world. Over confidence possibly led me to thinking of myself as King of Bee Mountain! I was thinking to myself: “this bee stuff is 100% too easy”.

Then last summer it all went horribly wrong, with one heat wave after another, culminating in 3 days in a row in excess of 40’C (104’F) degrees with the final of those just shy of 45’C (113’F) degrees.

It was feral hot that January and I’d had enough of the heat by then too. However, during that time, the bee colonies, which were in the full sun fared far worse. The colonies didn’t die, they just went: “stuff this for a joke”. They then swarmed which is a process whereby they head out to cooler parts of the forest in order to continue their happy existence.

Just to taunt me, they still return whenever the sun is shining to assist with pollination and also sup on the nectar and pollen here at the farm. Yay for them!

I’ve since learned that many commercial bee keepers in this part of the world lost their colonies too as the wax and honey in the hives literally melted during those extreme heat days killing the bees and destroying the colonies.

Back to here though and even after the bees swarmed, all wasn’t lost and the bees in their wisdom left a small but active colony in one of the hives which possibly would have re-established themselves slowly over time. I was completely distraught though and sought advice both from local contacts and also on the Internet. A general consensus was formed that I had to feed the bees a half sugar and half water syrup so as to give the remainder of the colony the best chance at survival. They kept telling me that the bees didn’t have enough food. I’d suggest to readers though to have a second look at the photo at the top of the blog page…

So I fed the bees and that was when I finally killed the remaining colony. The reason for that was because the original bees from here which had swarmed off into the nearby forest decided that they could use that sugar and water syrup much better to facilitate setting up their new colony. The original bees simply turned up and killed the remainder of the colony in my hives to get at the easy and weakly defended awesome 100% too good food source. There is certainly a lesson in there for all those nutty prepper types out there!

Incidentally, after these disastrous incidents I had nothing to lose so I then proceeded to read every left of centre books about bee-keeping that I could get my hands on. They hooked me in early on because in one of the first books that I read, there was a bit of advice that said that if you were in a hot environment: keep your bees in the full shade. I had a serious “Doh” moment!

Fast forward to more recent times and a brief and chance conversation ended up with the phone call about the new bee colony.

Well the new bee hive is now in place. Here is how it happened:

The new bee colony was sold to me in a nucleus:

Opening the bee nucleus hive and leaving them for a day to get established at the farm
A nucleus is just a fancy name (I do hate all of these technical names that people like to use as it is just one more thing to have to remember) for a small hive. Instead of the usual 8 or even 10 frames, there are just 5.

A day later the nucleus frames were transferred into the new 8 frame hive box
You take those frames out of the nucleus box and transfer them into a larger standard 8 frame hive box. I’m truly grateful for the bee suit as the photo shows just how many times I would have been stung without it. Moving them out of their existing hive just makes the bees angry and when they’re angry, they sting. Nuff said. They seem to have forgiven me now.

The bee hive with the second brood chamber positioned
 As the hive that I purchased was so active, I added another hive box for the Queen to lay her eggs into. There was even honey in the hive already, but I left it for the bees to eat as they’ll take time to establish themselves fully.

Burn off over Macedon and Bullengarook
 You can tell that the state government is facing an election next month as they’re undertaking burn offs with a seriousness that I haven’t seen for many years. The farm has been covered in smoke for a few days last week from this particular burn off which covers almost 1,000ha (about 2,500ac).

Water tanks with two pumps covered by steel covers. You can see just how big the trees are here!
Speaking of bushfires, in the past week I’ve built rounded steel fire covers for the two pumps which are now installed on the new water tanks behind the shed. The steel pump covers were built using recycled and down grade steel and they have the added bonus of keeping the sun off the pumps themselves. It is hard for people in other part of the world to comprehend, but at the bottom of Australia the UV from sunlight is incredibly intense, so even cool days can feel far hotter than they actually are. As a fun fact, tourists from cooler areas often end up looking like lobsters after only a few days. Oh yeah, check out those new rocks in the photo too!

In farm news, it has been an excellent season for apricots and they are swelling nicely. I look forward to eating these exceptional fruits later this year or early next year.

Some of the apricots ripening at the farm
In the past few days, I spent half a day clearing up a huge patch of remnant rainforest at the farm here. A favourite under storey tree for me in this patch is the musk daisy bush which is a broad leaf long lived tall under story shrub of the daisy family (Olearia argophylla) which also forms dense thickets. Essentially it is a big flowering daisy bush. They’ll happily live in the shade and drip line of Eucalyptus trees too. However, dead timber from this shrub which is not in contact with the ground becomes highly flammable as it dries so they need to be cleaned up to reduce the long term fire risk and their ultimate survival. You can also see in the photo below one of the local ferns (a mother shield fern) happily living under the shade of these broad leaf daisy bushes.

Musk daisy bushes with a mother shield fern
 This week has been much warmer than any previous week since autumn. However, with warmer weather here you get subjected to thunderstorms and sudden downpours and last night was no exception. The temperature outside here at about 9.15pm is 7.8 degrees Celsius (46’F). This is half the temperature it was last night! So far this year there has been 666.4mm (26.2 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 655.0mm (25.8 inches).
*I received no discounts or freebies for mentioning Robert’s business on the blog. He’s just a good bloke with a good bee business.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Looks like you're ready for bees in that suit. Or, a local Ebola outbreak. :-) . Boy, you have had ups and downs with you're bees. Pretty steep learning curve. I mentioned there's going to be a series in a magazine about bees. I'll see if they mention siting of the hives in the shade. If not, I suppose it's rubbish.

One of my favorite books is 'A Country Year" by Susan Hubbell. She's a bee keeper down in the Ozarks. Just a round of her year with an emphasis on the bees she keeps.

Could you perhaps mention the titles of a couple a' three (now, where did that little bit of language come from?) of those "left of center" bee handbooks?

Prehistoric daisies. Who knew. We have quit a few field daisies, around here. Not enough to be a "problem". There kind of like background noise. Always there and pleasant to look at when I notice them. Lew

Stacey Armstrong said...

Hiya Chris,

That's quite a few new land-mates this week! It's cool that you are willing to give bees another try. Where abouts on your farm map are the bees located now?

To answer your questions from last week....

Kale chips are pieces of kale leaf tossed in a bit of oil and seasonings and then dehydrated or baked until crisp. Kale is oddly fashionable here right now. I have seen whole cookbooks devoted to it. It is one of the greens I can grow fairly reliably all year round. I tried making the kale chips as a crispy seaweed substitute. They were eaten with varying levels of enthusiasm....but they all did get eaten.

The rain did bring the creek level up quite a bit. We re-dug and fixed a bunch of our drainage a couple of years ago so we can handle four inches of rain, especially after a fairly dry summer. It drains away from the house and into the garden now!, but gumboots are back out for daily wear. The great thing about this much rain is that the buttercup is easier to pull.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Glad to hear that the storm was a non event. Eventful and memorable storms are rarely pleasant experiences!

37mph is not much more than a stiff breeze! hehe, just kidding ;-)!

Seriously, that is quite a strong wind. The strongest gusts hit about 60mph here and a couple of months back it was so windy I put the storm shutters over the windows as the windows were making strange sounds despite being toughened double glazing. I'm glad that I took the wind turbine down permanently as it would have been spinning like crazy during that severe storm.

Wow, that is one serious storm in Vancouver. I checked out the area on Google Earth and you'd sort of think that it would be protected from strong winds. Tornadoes are reasonably random events though and disappear almost as quickly as they appear.

Is a tip up concrete slab what we call here a prefabricated concrete panel building? Those building are like giant lego construction sets and are usually reserved for small factories here? Dunno.

Thanks for the art lesson. Interesting too. Did you notice that the wife has virtually no discernible expression, whilst the children look quite animated. Poor chook - it's days are numbered, the dog and cat look like they may have done alright though! In 1929, I believe from memory that Kansas was heading into a prolonged drought period. It is a tough school being in the middle of the continent with mountain ranges either side. My understanding is that a lot of farm land was abandoned during that time. The footage and photographs from that period are mind boggling.

Art history is fascinating.

Thought that you may enjoy this link to a guy that moved to the other side of this mountain range back in 1901: Frederick McCubbin. It is only a short drive from here to the guys house. He paints the bush as it is, because when you are in a forest here you rarely see a horizon and everything is visually enclosed. I went to the Bendigo gallery last year (?) to see his exhibition.

haha! Yeah, you're a disaster junkie for sure. Mate that is one big wave - Point Break style (dodgy 1980's film reference)!

It is fascinating just how many parallels there are between here and up your way. By mid January - the fruit will still be ripening but the herbage will be yellow and dry. A friend of mine from New Zealand says that Australia's colours are red, brown and yellow. Who am I to argue?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

hehe! This is serious too. I was planning that if the neighbours were out walking when I had the bee suit on, I was going to run at them shouting get back: "Ebola, run for your lives!". Not entirely convinced that they would have found it as funny a situation as I would have...

I'm running the wood heater tonight, whilst over in Marble Bar in Western Australia, they've averaged a maximum temperature of 41'C (105.8'F) degrees for the month of October. Ouch, it hurts even reading about it.

Thank you for the book review. High praise indeed. A copy is now on its way to my small country post office.

The three books are:
Top Bar Beekeeping: Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
The Thinking Beekeeper: Christy Hemenway
The Barefoot Beekeeper: PJ Chandler

If I had to choose between the three I'd probably go for the The Thinking Beekeeper, but there isn't much to separate them in terms of quality.

Yeah, how cool are the daisy bushes here. And, they can get to 20ft tall too. The one in the photo was a medium sized shrub - it is hard to take photos here because the Eucalyptus trees make everything else look small by comparison.

PS: Stumpy broke the top off my oldest (about 7 years old in full fruit too) Cherry (Stella) fruit tree today - we are not friends today... I set the dogs onto him just to say thanks. He happily bounced away is now back again munching away with the dogs lined up in front of the wood fire...



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

Thanks very much. The bees really need all of the help they can get. I think I've hooked up another colony today too, although it will take a month or so before it is ready. The new bee colony is doing very well, happily buzzing around - and they haven't stung me yet which is a good indicator of their general happiness levels!

The bees are now located south of the chicken enclosure. It should have been obvious, but as the chickens require shade from the sun, so to do the bees and they are on the shady side of the orchard.

Interestingly too, the nut trees on the shady side are doing much better this year, whilst the larger stone fruit is enjoying the full sun. Check out the apricots in the photo, there are peaches too over there.

Thanks for the description of the kale chips, I'd never have thought of cooking them that way. Kale is promoted in this part of the world as a super food de jour at the moment which is sort of weird as it is just another green growing here.

Excellent. Glad to hear that you are winning the war against buttercup! I do the same thing for bracken fern here and a local lady was laughing about it, but I'm winning as they don't turn up here much anymore! :-)

I picked my favourite quince recipe too: Candied quince:

Reaching to the Sally Wise book, "A year in a bottle" and going all metric this time:

1.5kg quinces
1kg sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Strip of lemon rind
7 cups of water

Wash quinces to remove fur (keep the skin). Cut the quinces into eights and core. Place them into a pot add sugar, lemon juice and rind and water. Bring to boil stirring often. Boil gently for 2 hours, remove lemon rind and discard (worm farm or compost heap?).

This recipe gives you quinces that you can eat as a dessert or breakfast fruit, plus, the juice you can bottle up and when it cools, it produces the most beautiful quince jam.

Have I mentioned how much I like quinces. YUM!



Stacey Armstrong said...

Good Day Chris,

I think Lew and I are both seeing the tail end of tropical storm Ana here. The wind has been gusting and I am really hoping Santa received the note about the weather station I have my eye on! Did you mention a wind turbine at your place? Is there a story attached to it?

Bracken ferns are an amazing prehistoric creature! We have many find specimens here. I tossed a fern root ball into the chicken yard here a couple of years ago as an experiment and a good portion of it is still there.

I too am a fan of quince. There isn't a time in the year that I don't enjoy looking at it. Up to now, I have put the three or four quince we harvest a year into apple sauce or other jams as pectin. This year I have a crop. I attempted a small batch of candied quince in the oven yesterday ( different recipe). I will give the one you posted today a try. Many thanks.


Varun Bhaskar said...

Hey Chris,

The story about the wild bees killing the domesticated bees for their goods gave me a good laugh. It is too good a story to go unwritten. :)



LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Stacey - What's with the buttercups? I've wondered a couple of times. I've got buttercups, but they're pretty localized to the north of the house. But, most of them will go, next spring. It's in an almost total shade area and I'm going to put in a woodland garden. I even put buttercups in a vase on the table, from time to time ... :-). Well, I suppose we each have our own nemesis. You have buttercups, Chris has the fern and I have the blackberries!

Yo, Chris; Yeah, sounds like your concrete panel buildings are the same. Here they use them for small factories, warehouses ... and shopping centers. Ugly architecture. If you can call it architecture.

Yeah, that tornado painting ... puppies, kittens, chicks and children. Ken Burns did a multi-part documentary called "The Dust Bowl". Probably available over at YouTube. There was also a companion book to go along with it. The Depression and the Dust Bowl were a double whammy that deeply scared the American psyche.
Some of the stories ... the dust created enough static electricity to fry vegetables in gardens!

Thanks for the tip off on McCubbin. I really like his paintings. I also found a picture of his house. The lay of the land is so much like yours. Slope, trees in the background. According to Wikipedia, he did some fairy paintings at Mt. Macedon. Quit the craze at the time he was painting. Are there "Fairies at the Bottom of Your Garden", Chris?
:-). Old English music hall song.

I know what you mean by "everything visually enclosed." Being born in this part of the world, anytime I get out in the great wide open, it makes me feel a little ... exposed. Vulnerable. Like I'll be blown off the face of the planet.

I'm sure Haze Mat suits will be quit the thing, this Halloween :-).

I hope you like the Hubbell. I find her quit a lyrical writer. Woman alone on a farm, raising bees and selling honey. Her odd and interesting neighbors. I have another of her books on the shelf that I haven't got to, yet. Thanks for the book recommendations. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

PS: Stumpy had better watch it. I'm sure there are good recipes for Wombat. :-) .

I've started counting chicken eggs, again. The "girls" laid 5 and a half dozen, last week. Still a bit on the small side, but getting bigger. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

The Internet links to Vancouver buzz stated that Tropical storm Ana would dump 50mm to 75mm (2 to 3 inches) in the area. What a welcome to autumn weather!

Yeah, I have a digital weather station here and if you like numbers, then it is good stuff. Mind you, I also maintain the older plastic rainfall gauge and an old school alcohol thermometer too.

When I was young, my mum used to have a mechanical air pressure gauge on the wall and they're surprisingly accurate at predicting changes in the weather conditions. It has taken a few years to calibrate the digital weather station too as it has a 24 hour predictive display.

I hope Santa brings you that weather station!

The wind turbine was a sad tale of woe which should probably be told in full. The steel mast for that thing took me days to make. Wind turbines are a fickle beast here as the conditions are gusty and unsuitable.

Yeah, they are amazing and ancient plants here too. There are a few varieties some of which are soft and some hard. They're very handy plants as they accumulate phosphates in their root systems – often appearing after fires - and that is a good thing here as the soils here are old and worn out. The mountain range here is relatively young at 6 million years old and that is young. In Western Australia, I stumbled across a place that had a sign that said that the rocks in that location were 3 billion years old! Yikes, the soil here is a Johnny come lately sort of soil compared to that. We have the third youngest volcanic plains in this part of the world and you don't have to go far before you spot an extinct volcano (maybe?). There wasn’t much glacial action here either during the last ice age and the mountains are small. You can easily walk to the top of Mount Kosciuszko which is the highest point on the continent at 2,228m. The Aboriginals used to use exudations of this plant as a cure all for insect bites, whilst over in New Zealand, the Maori's used to eat the root systems as a staple crop.

Ahh, you don't see quince here outside of autumn and winter. Yeah, they're a very rich source of pectin. Quince jam is really good stuff and I reckon much better than apple jams. I'd be interested to hear how you go with the quinces? My pleasure to swap recipes.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Varun,

Many thanks and I'm glad that you are enjoying the blog.

Yeah, the wild European honey bees are now very well established here in the nearby forest. So far, they seem reasonably gentle.

I hope your news accumulation site is going well.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, I could add the local Eucalyptus trees to that list too...

Architecture in this country has lost its way as it is unaffordable and they have a really hard time coming up with building concepts that people can fit within their budgets. You should try watching an episode of Grand Designs UK one day. In 14 years, I believe only a single project has come in on budget. Not a good track record, but that does make it good viewing.

Yeah, I have seen a documentary on the dust bowl and it may well have been one of those episodes. The film footage of people abandoning houses and outbuildings whilst sand was blowing across the ground are sort of hard to forget.

It inspired me to leave no soil exposed to the sun here - I cover it with either vegetation or mulch / compost. Even dead vegetation holds soil together and shades it better than ploughed soil. The sun's UV here is sort of extreme (the hole in the Ozone layer extends over this part of the continent during different times of the year) and it kills all of the soil life within weeks. It is hard on the skin too.

The static electricity would have been something to see. Yikes! Didn't most people predominantly head west to the coast during that period?

Yeah, he's on the northern (sunnier) side of the mountain range whilst I'm on the southern side (a bit shadier). It is a really attractive house and block though. It is sort of weird because there is just a caretaker looking after it and you can sort of drive up close to the house - although it is a very narrow road.

I sincerely hope that there aren't any fairies down at the bottom of the garden. You know, I'm old school enough that I read the original fairy tales as a child and they don't mean you any good at all. The current stories people tell children about fairy tales are washed out of any serious mishaps and adventures. The old ones were full of mishaps and just bad stuff happening to people who crossed their paths.

You do get fairy rings in the forest here though. They're areas where people in the past have had a small camp fire or burn off and the ash produces a fertile bed so you get these strange rings of really lush plant growth in all sort of odd places. The Aboriginals believed the forest was full of spirits - all of which had to be appeased in one way or another with the correct ceremonies and practices at the correct time. I'm starting to understand the real world benefits of such ways of thinking about the activities that have to be undertaken in managing the forest here.

Exactly, distant horizons in forests are rare beasts, so you get used to eventually not seeing the far horizon and instead concentrating on what is around you.

One of the magpies here has had a small brood and the chicks have been screeching for food for most of the past few days...

Funny stuff. Many years ago, someone sent me a link to a photo on the Interweb where someone had been mucking around with a roadwork’s sign, but changed the display to read: "Zombies ahead, run for your lives" ;-)!

A facetious observer of the publishing industry here described such books as "chook lit" - a pun on the descriptive "chick lit". I'm seriously looking forward to reading it. I picked up a second hand hardback copy of the classic "The Art of War" for $8. Score.

Annie Hawes (an English author) was an outstanding author too along a similar vein, but in Liguria, Northern Italy. Very enjoyable.

It is a four wallaby night tonight! I don't know which one did it. I had to cut the 8 foot fruit tree with ripening cherries back to about 2 foot. Oh yeah, I was grumpy about that one. The tree is in a cage now and looks like it will make a recovery.

I found two English Oak trees growing today too from seeds I chucked about the farm a couple of years back. They're now in cages as well. There may be more of them about the place, it is hard to remember all of the details here. Photos are good though.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Thanks for the tip about the Hawes, book. Turns out our library system has one copy of "Ripe for the Picking" that I put on hold. I'll probably get it next week. It's in one of our branches out in "East Jesus" so it will take awhile to wend it's way from there, through our administrative center and to me.

Yeah, a lot of the refugees from the Dust Bowl headed for the West Coast. They were called by the not-so-nice name, Oakies. For a really nice snapshot of the era, take a look at John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." Either the book, or the movie. I watched the movie (again) not long ago, and it really held up well. I think it was made in the late 30's. There's also the WPA photographs.

Oh, yeah. Fairy tales in their original form had a lot more grit to them. They were really cautionary tales or, moral lessons. Kids could really use a dose of them, instead of the Disney stuff that passes for fairy tales, these days.

Speaking of road signs, probably next year they are going to be doing work down on the highway, and our quit loop road is going to be used as the detour. Not looking forward to that. I asked my landlord if they were going to put in some speed signs (low) or caution signs. They are.

I got to thinking ... years ago there used to be a cartoon strip here called "Bloom County." One of the major players in the strip was a penguin called Opus. When I worked in a bookstore, I managed to snag a bit of promotional material. It is a full sized caution sign (yellow and black) with a penguin silhouette on it. In other words "Caution - Penguin Crossing." :-). I thought about putting it up, but the strip is so old now that only one in a hundred would catch the cultural reference ... and the joke.

Not only are we closed in here by forest, but also by the mountains. They are comforting, at least to me.

I read the article I mentioned on bee keeping. The first of the series. The guy's been a beekeeper for a number of years, has belonged to a lot of the associations and was even a government inspector, at some point. So his background is good. He mentioned that you can ask a question of 5 beekeepers and get 6 answers :-). He also nattered on quit a bit about how it was both an art and a science. How some people have an affinity for it, and some do not. I think I fall in the later camp. But, I'll follow the series with interest. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I hope you enjoy it. The book was good fun and a great insight into life in that part of the world. She tells an entertaining tale.

Makes you wonder if there is a West Jesus or even a Central Jesus? I hope that the residents aren’t competitive or anything like that? I can't begin to imagine what they were thinking when they named that town. Mind you, Australia was colonised by convicts and never do wells so the culture is a bit irreverent.

The Grapes of Wrath is a bit of a classic, which I should probably add to the reading list. I've read "Of mice and men" and enjoyed it thoroughly. The characters and story stuck in my mind to this day so they were very well written.

Yeah, too true. I heard that in the latest iteration of the Little Mermaid, instead of the mermaid having to walk as if on knives, the whole concept was watered down and she lost her ability to sing. Big deal, so did Julie Andrews and she didn't die. Walking as if on knives would make me hesitate!

Actually, whilst the editor is not around, I thought that I might mention the unspeakable topic of the author Jack Vance who it should be said writes an outstanding fairy character. The Lyonesse trilogy is well worth the time, although the first book Suldrun's garden was a bit slow, but it moved along at a crisp pace once it got past that tragedy.

I'm on a dirt road here and it is a bit of a blessing because it stops the hordes of tourists and competitive weekend cyclists that would otherwise take over the area. Being the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, with a public holiday to boot, a lot of people are taking a long weekend, so I'm sort of hiding out on the farm waiting until all of the dust settles and people go back to work.

It is shaping up to be an epic shed building weekend anyway!

Thanks for the Bloom County reference - they even had Star Trek references. Very funny stuff.

I like the mountains too. All of the different folds in the Earth provide change and interest. There are so many different micro climates here, plus it is just cooler at altitude than way down below. Comfort is an excellent descriptive.

Mind you, it is still 26'C (78.8'F) degrees here at about 7.45pm and the chooks are happily scratching around under the fruit trees. The fruit is continuing to ripen and swell too with all of this hot weather. There has been much talk about drought conditions on the Eastern half of the continent here this season. Here things seem to be dry and slightly below average, but mostly OK.

Yeah, exactly - bees are both an art and a science. The bees are so active during the day in the flower garden at the moment that you can hear the buzzing sound. I don't really like disturbing the hive very much as they get very grumpy and I'm also in the later camp too. I love books on bee keeping where the photos are guys going all alpha male and not wearing gloves with bees crawling all over them. That might look impressive in a photograph, but I reckon all of those stings hurt!

Both the weather station and a very large huntsman spider have let me know that a storm is coming through here tonight. It would be good to get some more rain here - although things are looking very green. There is a good quantity of ripening cherries and apricots this year.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; LOL. "East Jesus" is, I don't think, an actual place. It's just a saying for "the ass-end of nowhere." I also hear "the back 40." The speaker may not have a "back 40" (acres), but it just signifies that's it's a long way away, and maybe, hard to get to.

Oh, yeah. I know about laying low. I don't like to stir off the place on week-ends. Just too much people driving around with no particular destination in mind. Or, so it seems. I also try to avoid any spasms of civic pride, vintage car shows, local festivals. Seems like every little town around here has some kind of "..... Days." Morton has the Loggers Jubilee. Winlock has Egg Days. Toledo has Cheese Days. There's a garlic festival. There's a Bear festival in one small town. I figure Elma must have been late to the game. All the good festivals were taken, so, they're stuck with a Slug festival.

The worst is the STP. Seattle to Portland bicycle ride that happens every summer. And, comes right through Lewis County. Thousands of bicycle riders. On two lane black top roads. It's so bad I mark it on the calendar, just to remind myself not to leave home on that weekend.

Well, somethings up down in the woods. I think I mentioned they're doing some logging, back there. It really IS the back 40. About an hour ago, two county disaster wagons (ambulances on steroids) tore down there with their lights flashing. Followed by a clearly kind of lost man and woman in a car.

An injury or fatality in the woods. Happens a lot around here. Logging is one of the most dangerous professions. I can only hope and pray it isn't anything too bad. And, hope that no liability is cast upon my neighbor / friend/ landlord who is having the logging done.

Tonight is Halloween. I doubt I'll get any trick or treaters out here. Even in town, there's not much action, these days. More organized events for the young'ins. All that "razor blades in apples" paranoia has pretty much put an end to door to door.

Ah, the good old days. I was raised in North Portland, so we covered a vast expanse of territory. Forays to the cardinal points with stops back home to empty out shopping bags of loot. Much of it to be frozen and dolled out over the year.

But, even out here I'll kill the lights and cower in the back office. A low profile is the best profile on Halloween! :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Too funny! I thought that you meant that place name literally ;-) A great saying, anyway. Here they say, "Beyond the black stump". There is actually a black stump that this refers to, and the town is in the middle of nowhere too.

Makes you wonder what they did - or whom they annoyed - to achieve distinction for a slug festival? Apparently it is described on the Interweb as the zaniest of festivals in the north west. Makes our spud fest and apple fest seem positively tame.

Incidentally apple fest here was the location of the notorious apple cake incident where the local Country Women's Association accused us of cheating as we added sultana's to an apple cake entered into the local show - and won. Apparently this was a no-no, but the cake event was judged by the ex-state Premier (who had a farm in the local area) and he liked it so much he went back for seconds. Fortunately for us, he cared more about taste than rules, so we took the prize anyway. There are however, always unintended consequences to such matters and it seemed that we'd somehow managed to get a local orchardist offside whom I knew reasonably well, but they had a friend who had also entered the competition. Politics always does my head in. Still, it was a mighty fine bit of cake!

I hear you, man! The bike ride thing here goes on every weekend as MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) pit themselves against the mountain climb. The main road (which is thankfully nowhere near the farm) is a 600m (1,800ft) climb in elevation to the summit where they turn around and then coast back downhill reaching speeds that are likely to lose your driver’s license - but they're on a push bike. I avoid heading off farm on a weekend for the exact same reasons.

I hope that everyone is OK? Felling trees is one of the most dangerous things that you can do. I once had a very large tree felled by a guy that had on his business card "Champion axeman". He charged me $600 to fell one very dangerous tree and he said to me after it was safely on the ground: "You might think that that was a lot of money to fell that one tree, but it kept me awake half the night".

As a post script to that particular tree, when I later cut it up (which was a massive job in itself) about two thirds of the way up the top of the tree, there was a hollow nest that termites had made and the top third of the tree was held in place by paper thin timber. The tree was very close to the house. The funny thing was that I'd had a local arborist inspect the tree and he proclaimed that all was well with the tree. It wasn't until big chunks started falling off the tree that I started to get nervous, but by then the house was in place and the chunks were falling onto the house.

Interestingly too, the guy that felled the tree was actually reasonably old – despite the status of the champion axeman - so I took that to be a good sign. Many years later, I've got a group of Pacific Islander dudes that come up here every year to help me with trees. I trust them as they know what they're doing.

Yeah, there are no trick or treaters out here either. I used to get them when I lived in the inner city. The whole stranger danger thing is a bit weird - it is usually family and familiars that are the real dangers, but that is an uncomfortable reality for people to swallow.

Man, that sounds like an awesome haul of loot! I used to go to the Melbourne Show every year, which always has lots of good stuff (loot!), but now find that I've substituted that show for the agricultural shows. They have really great nick-nack and farm stuff sales - plus livestock can be bought and sold too. I may take the camera this February so you can see what it is like.

Cherokee Organics said...


Good on the kids for giving you a scare. Well done them! Hehe! As a side note I used to nick-nock with friends as a kid. That involved pressing the bell on a household or knocking on the door and then running away like crazy before you were caught. hehe!

Speaking of crazy, the weather here has been almost straight off the Antarctic. It is now 5'C (41'F) degrees outside and it has been raining off and on all day. Meanwhile, in the state to the north of here - New South Wales - they've been having bushfires at Katoomba. The state to the North West of here - South Australia - they've been having Ferocious storms swept through SA. 130km/h = 80.8m/h!

What's going on?



thecrowandsheep said...

I liked the way you worked bee into the title there. I was also thinking about your naughty rats: you could tell them to beehive.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Oh, I just think they were late to the game and all the other good festival subjects were already taken.

Well, I found out what was going on down in the woods. There was a fatality, but it wasn't the usual grisly accident. An old guy who was driving one of the logging trucks was halfway between the logging site and the road. He apparently knew something was up. Pulled over and died of a heart attack. It was some hours before the loggers realized he had been gone an awful long time and hadn't come back for another load.

Funny. The day before, I was talking to my landlord/friend/neighbor in the yard when he went by with a load of logs. My friend commented that he was an old guy who still drove log truck. We both waved, he waved back. Glad I waved.

Oh, yes. Politics. I think I mentioned my friend who moved to Idaho who does wall hanging "quilts" out of scrap metal. Well, there was a local quilters group that had a contest and she entered her hanging. According to reports, she won. But, the old biddie who runs the group with an iron hand and has won for many consecutive years, disallowed her entry as it "wasn't really a quilt."

Well, she entered her hanging at the local county fair and won several ribbons. Also in the fair at the next county over. Again, ribbons. She's thinking of entering the State Fair, next year.

Oh, I have a "rotten tree, narrow miss" story of my own. When I was a kid, and we lived in Portland, there was an enormous fir tree in the back yard. My father wanted to build a garage, so he had it taken down. It proved to be pretty much rotten on the inside. That was the summer before our infamous Columbus Day Storm ...

Wow. Brushfires already? Pretty early in the season. Looks like we're in our typical fall weather. Rain on and off with scattered clearing. Still no frost. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Crow,

Bee-have you, or else! hehe! Very funny. Thanks for the joke. I mentioned this one to Lewis many weeks back - I think he called it a groaner: What do you call bears without ears? Bees....

Hi Lewis,

Man, the epic shed building long weekend has continued and apologies, but I've run out of time to reply to your comment and early to bed is now calling.

Not to leave you empty handed though, I spotted this article in the paper and thought that you might enjoy it:

Urban Legend: Alive with artistic passion



thecrowandsheep said...

Hi Chris,

Could you also reverse that joke? What do you call bees with ears?

I have a newbee question: where do your bees get their share of water? Is there a reservoir around or something?

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Looking forward to pics of the "epic shed building weekend."

Thanks for the article on the Victorian Artist's Society. Interesting stuff. The Portland Art Museum has had an art school associated with it, almost from it's founding, way back around the turn of the 20th century. What's really interesting is that they have also had a film school associated for a number of years. They also screened a film almost every night of the year. And, had mini-festavals on different themes. Say "Every Hepburn film ever crated." or "Post Revolutionary Russian Films - The First Ten Years."

Portland is a great film town. Lots of little "art houses", too. Portland is the place to go for foreign, classic and experimental films.

I'm just grumping around the place, today. Grump, grump, grump. It's the twice yearly time switch. Hopefully, the Australians have more sense.

We go from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. The mnemonic device is "Spring Forward, Fall Back." So at 2am last night, it suddenly became 1am. In the spring we shift back, again. Along about March.

I really haven't looked into why we have this madness, but I think it had it's roots in "War Time." During WWII they shifted the clocks so there would be more daylight hours for war work. Some places didn't shift back for years. Back when I was a hippie :-) I "had my chart done" and the astrologer had to do some adjustment, as, I guess, Portland was still on War Time in 1949.

The only half baked reasons for this twice yearly dislocation that I have seen that make any sense is 1.) Gives farmers more daylight hours (Did anyone ASK the farmers?) and 2.) The "little ones" won't have to stand around in the dark waiting for the school bus.

So, I'll be spending a chunk of my day resetting clocks. The microwave (which I have instructions for), the stove (which I don't have instructions for) and the nightmare of resetting the timer for the chicken house. Don't know what I'll do about the sundial in the garden ... (that's a joke. I don't have a sundial in the garden. If I did, I suppose I'd have to pivot the whole thing?)

Thanks for letting me vent. My twice yearly tizzy. I feel much better :-). Well, raise high those roof beams. Lew

PS: Started reading the Hawes, last night. A delightful book! I really liked the part where she's talking about ... well, you move to the country and are imparted some little bit of "country wisdom". Is it really country wisdom, or is it just superstitious nonsense? Or, are the country folk putting you on to make fun of the outlander? As I told my landlord / friend / neighbor when I moved out here "I'm sure I'll provide you with hours of comic relief." And, I have! :-). Luckily, I have a fairly easy time laughing at myself.