We have plenty of beeswax!

Posted on Updated on

 

IMG_7946
Pure, sweet-smelling beeswax 🙂

This is what 2.5kg of pure beeswax looks like.

One of the many advantages of Warré hives is that the bees draw new comb each season, meaning the wax is harvested as well as the honey. This produces a lot of lovey chemical-free wax!

(If you’re wondering about the strange patterns, this is the byproduct of pouring the filtered wax into containers that have water at the bottom, to stop the wax sticking.)

IMG_7947
Nothing but beeswax, which produces a lovely honey smell when lit

We do a variety of things with the wax, including hand lotion, home-made fire lighters and candles (of course!).

We still have plenty of wax left over, so knock on our door if you’d like to buy some for your own projects 🙂

 

Advertisements

Growing your own lilly pilly from foraged seeds

Posted on Updated on

This is the season for lilly pillies (syzygium and acmena) to flower and fruit. And if you want a lilly pilly in your own garden, it’s easy: just find a local bush that has fruit you like the taste of.

The outer flesh of the fruit prevents germination, so eat that off. Then plant the seeds in some seed-raising mix. Wait and watch them grow!

IMG_7882

We’ve found them to strike very easily and to grow vigorously. Once they get bigger, divide them into individual pots. Then transplant them into the garden when they’re ready.

IMG_7887

These particular plants are Syzygium Leuhmanii, which have a crisp cinnamon taste. We’re growing a whole hedge of them down at the farm, from Lewisham-collected seeds 🙂

IMG_7889

Rescuing bees from a compost bin

Posted on Updated on

A week ago I received a call from someone just the other side of Lewisham, saying they had a bee problem. What I found was pretty funny!

Apparently a swarm of bees had taken residence in the backyard compost bin. In an effort to discourage them, the property owners removed the lid. Despite the difficult circumstances, however, they bees kept soldiering on.

The process of rescuing the bees is relatively straightforward. Going in with a knife and hands, the pieces of comb are carefully removed from the hive. They’re then rubber-banded into empty frames.

(You can see a mix of brood — baby bees — on the right, and partially filled honeycomb on the left.)

To encourage the bees to move into their new home, I placed the hive directly on top of the compost bin. Later that night, they apparently all moved into the hive without any complaints.

What’s amazing is that it’s possible to do all this without getting any stings! Despite me literally attacking their hive with a knife, they were relaxed throughout. Phew! (It doesn’t always go this smoothly.)

Last night, the bees were sealed into the hive, ready for their move down to the farm, joining the three hives already in place.

Once they were unsealed, the bees rapidly spread out to ‘re-map’ their new location. Within a few hours, they’d settled down, and this afternoon I did the final clean-ups of the hive, again without any angry bees.

Beekeeping always throws up interesting surprises!

Planting as we go

Posted on Updated on

Too many properties are landscaped as an afterthought, with plants going in long after all the other work is done (or not at all). This is not how we’re tackling Lewisham Farm.

IMG_7716
Planting the slope above the barn with natives

We’re intentionally planting as we go, entirely with Australian natives. This includes a wide mix of callistemons (‘bottle brushes’), grevillias, banksias and leptospermums (‘tea trees’).

There are good reasons for these plantings:

  • Most flower heavily, attracting native birds and feeding the bees.
  • They will flower throughout the year, providing Priscilla with cut flowers.
  • They will screen things like the shed and water tanks, blending them into the landscape when viewed from the house or road.
  • They help to define ‘garden rooms’, breaking up the acres into smaller spaces with their own character.
  • When planted densely, they will keep down the weeds, at least to some degree.
  • They will be beautiful, making the farm a lovely place to spend time.

By planting them early, they get a head start in the disturbed soil, before the grass and weeds have had a chance to reestablish themselves. It also means that we’ll get the benefits sooner!

IMG_7719
Plants that will screen the water tanks from the house

By largely using tube stock plants, the cost of plants for a given area is only $50-100, which is nothing in the scheme of things.

And there’s much more planting to come…

Putting in place the basics of farm infrastructure

Posted on Updated on

As you can see from the “before” fly-over, our farm came with a lovely farmhouse, but not much else! Certainly not enough considering we’re totally off-grid in terms of power, water and sewage.

So while we’ve started planting out the first few patches of the edible forest garden, the focus has been on getting the basics of farm infrastructure in place.

IMG_7715
The new shed, big enough for a tractor and all the parts that go with it

The centrepiece of these efforts has been the new farm shed (aka “the barn”). The local council required us to position it away from the road, so it ended up half-way down a slope.

Echoing the design of an American barn, the shed is 10.5m wide and 7m deep, with a big 3m x 3m central door for the tractor.

IMG_7721
The brand new driveway to the house and barn, surfaced with crushed granite

Since the barn is now in the middle of a field, a new internal driveway was required. Befitting the location of the house, we decided to go all-out to create a pretty road.

IMG_7723
The road down to the barn, with a large parking area in front

This meant a road surface of crushed granite (on a solid road base), with brick edging (on a concrete edge laid alongside the full length of the road). With Priscilla’s keen eye for aesthetics, we laid the road out with elegant “swooping” curves. We put a single car-parking spot in front of the house, plus a large parking area in front of the barn.

IMG_7717
Brand new plastic water tanks, with pipes running down from the barn

The final phase was the addition of two 22,000L plastic water tanks below the barn, to catch the run-off from the roof. This triples our overall water storage.

IMG_7714
The new tractor, which turned out to be a tight squeeze in the barn!

Oh, and with the barn in place, I was able to purchase a brand-new 46hp Kubota tractor, which will be vital in reshaping the property 🙂

This is, however, still just the start of more work needed on the basic infrastructure. Activities yet to be done:

  • One final water tank on high ground, which we’ll switch to using for the house, plus the garden. That will get us up to about 100,000L in total.
  • A water pipe laid from the barn tanks (at the bottom of the property) to the new water tank (at the top), with a solar pump used to get the water up the slope.
  • A power line run to the final tank, for a good-sized pump.
  • A vegetable patch and greenhouse, with a water line run from the tank.

Phew! Still, a lot of this can be done with the new tractor, and everything is more fun with a tractor 🙂

 

 

The “before video” of Lewisham Farm

Posted on Updated on

This video was taken a few months after we acquired Lewisham Farm, 22 hectares of paradise overlooking Nowra. The property is completely off grid (water, power & sewage), and the land is 2/3 rainforest.

In this aerial view, you can see:

  • The farmhouse, which is lovely, but requires a lot of little fixes
  • The new solar PV, which we had to put in quickly when the old system died in week one
  • One small water tank containing 15,000L, which ran dry at the beginning of Summer
  • The concrete pad for the farm shed (now constructed, photos to come!)
  • A single beehive, now kept company by two others
  • The first two citrus patches, starting our journey towards an edible forest garden
  • Plenty of open fields, some of which have been heavily eroded by horses
  • The beautiful Australian bush that surrounds our farm

A heap has happened since this has been taken, follow us on instagram for more photos and videos to come!

 

Discovering a hidden source of watercress

Posted on Updated on

One of the great things about acquiring a 22 hectare (56 acre) farm is that there are still many hidden corners and surprises yet to discover.

IMG_7549
The mini wetland at the top of the gully

One was the discovery of a small spring that feeds into the gully that runs beside the farmhouse. This has been running (slowly) even at the end of the recent very dry winter and spring, so that’s a good sign.

IMG_7551
One very happy patch of watercress

What we also stumbled across was a patch of watercress growing in the mini wetland at the top of the valley. The steady flow of water is exactly what it likes, and I can only guess that the previous owner must’ve planted some (?).

IMG_7554
Picked fresh, ready to eat!

Anyway, it tastes delicious on a sandwich, and we have every reason to expect that it will keep happily growing indefinitely…