One of the boxes of honey I harvested over the weekend shows what happens when bees “don’t follow the rules”. This is how they draw comb in the wild, in a space-filling organic pattern.
This is fine for the bees, but a bit of a hassle when harvesting. The only way to get it out is in one big ‘cake’ of comb, which is then cut away in pieces. Which actually proved to be fairly straightforward in practice, thankfully.
In total, I harvested a box of honey from two of my hives, generating a big honey harvest. 15 litres in total, divided up into 3 x 3kg tubs, 3 x 1kg tubs, 15 jars and 3 squeeze bottles.
Considering my 9 litre harvest from last weekend has already been sold out, I don’t expect this harvest will last long either!
At the end of last season, I moved some of my hives around, and I’ve now got a full complement of three Warré hives on our roof.
All of them are at either four or five boxes high, which is generally considered (in Sydney) to be a full-sized hive. And while the on-and-off-again rain has been annoying for Sydneysiders, it’s been great for everyone’s gardens. The result has been plenty of flowering, and busy times for our hives.
I’ve made our first harvest of the season, a full-box of honey from my first hive, yielding 9 litres of honey. I don’t expect this to last more than a week, with a pile of back-orders from friends and the local cafes.
But pictures speak louder than words, and this brief video shows how busy our hives are:
The one request from the nuns when I started the guerrilla gardening of the convent land was to plant a macadamia tree. Apparently at a convent they stayed at in the country they had a wide range of fruit trees, and fresh macadamias were a particular delight.
The tree I planted 4 years ago is still small, perhaps 3m high. It’s had a rough time, with kids splitting the trunk early in its growth, plus various periods of drought conditions.
Nonetheless, this year has produced a good number of fruiting spikes this year. So hopefully this year will be our first macadamia harvest!
(The good news is that the shell of the nuts is so hard that even the rats can’t gnaw their way in…)
On the back of our verge gardening, a neighbour from down the street asked if it would be reasonable to plant an olive tree next to their house. Of course I said: go for it!
Fast forward only a few years, and the small tree started producing olives. They sat on the tree, ripening, and eventually starting to fall onto the street. So you know me: I hate seeing something go to waste…
So we took a small ladder around, and harvested about half a bucket’s worth. Not a huge amount, but still quite a few.
Now olives can’t be eaten fresh, as they contain a very bitter substance that needs to be treated away. A bit of Googling found an excellent resources from the University of California titled Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling.
It outlines seven different methods, and I chose the kalamata-style approach.
This involves soaking/fermenting the olives in water for 20 days, changing the water each day.
After that, the olives were pickled in a mix of brine and red wine vinegar. (My home-made vinegar, by the way, created from left-over bottles of wine.)
Now I don’t actually like olives, but I’m assured that the results were excellent (a ‘very mild’ flavour, and ‘the best olives I’ve had’). Now I can’t confirm the veracity of these statements, but it was a fun process, and actually not very labour intensive.
All in all, it was a good proof of concept, and I think I’ll give it another go next season, if there’s a good crop…
I’ve always known that hollows in trees are the natural home for bees, but this was reinforced when several trees were cut down over the road.
The camphor laurels were lifting the foundations of the church, and weren’t in a great state anyway. So they had to go.
The pieces of trunk left behind demonstrate clearly how big a hollow can be within a tree. No wonder I keep finding wild hives in camphor laurel trees, including two in nearby Petersham Park.
The key to guerrilla gardening is to be indifferent to the survival of any one plant, while remaining passionate about the success of the garden as a whole.
In the year since I last blogged about our guerrilla gardening along the railway line, there has been plenty of progress, and a fair share of setbacks.
First the challenges:
- The railways folks decided to replace the electricity substation right next to the garden, leading to trucks being squeezed down the pedestrian pathway, crushing a pile of plants. (Their reworking of the security fence also killed off a bunch more.)
- Pretty much all of the groundcovers were wiped out by the big hailstorm.
- Local kids keep stealing the stakes used to hold the plant guards.
- Plants are randomly damaged, by dogs or passing people.
- Some plants simply don’t survive the harsh conditions.
But the good news:
- The garden has been progressively extended, and it’s now 10+ metres in length.
- The more established plants are now growing strongly, including all the acacias and callistomons.
- I’ve grown most of the plants from cuttings, so the cost has been minimal.
- Surprisingly few plants have been stolen.
The key is to keep planting each weekend, to replace the 2-3 plants that are damaged, and to then get slightly ahead. Over a year, this makes a big difference, and the pace should progressively increase.
I’ve had plenty of great comments from the locals, and it’s an enjoyable challenge. While it’s still early days, I think I’ve proved that one person can have an impact.
What can you do in your local area? :-)