bee update

2012/11/28 deej 0

Sadly, one of our two bee hives didn’t survive.

In our wisdom as new bee parents, anxious to make sure our hives were safe and comfortable, we decided that we shouldn’t open up the flower-pot hive and cut the comb out to transfer the bees to their proper home until the weather was a bit better. We got them to the property late at night, and the next day was unseasonably chilly, grey and rainy. So we left them in their flower pot, inside the plastic crate we used to transport them.

The lid was open enough to allow for bee movement and ventilation, but partly shut to keep the rain out, so that it didn’t pool inside the plastic crate. And we drilled drainage holes at the bottom of the crate in case rain did get in. What we failed to consider was that a clear plastic crate is fine in cool weather, but as soon as the sun shines it turns into a miniature greenhouse.

A few days later, it was too late. A few sunny mornings had heated up the inside of the crate so much that the comb inside the flower pot had melted and detached form the pot. The entire hive stank of decay, and dead bees littered the inside of the crate. We tried, in a desperate last ditch attempt to save them, to move the remaining comb and bees to a proper hive box – but we failed.

By the following morning, the colony was dead. We must have missed our opportunity to save the queen and colony by only a day or so, maybe only hours.

We mourned. Now we know better. Do not leave your bees in a plastic box.

In brighter news, though, the other hive is doing well. They’ve been in for almost a month now, and they seem to be thriving.

earthbags, potatoes & bees

2012/11/07 deej 0

Our mandala vegetable garden, with its earthbag & hessiancrete raised beds, has been in the works for some time. We laid out the locations of the beds back in August, and built the first raised bed (of a total of 6) as a demonstration model.

 

On Sunday, we ran a workshop/permablitz to build the rest of the earthbag garden beds. In spite of weather reports predicting “scattered thunderstorms” (weird weather in November) we headed up armed with polypropylene bags, shovels, barbed wire, and enthusiasm. We did get rained on, twice torrentially and a few times lightly, but there was also a lot of cool, cloudy weather perfect for working on the garden. We had a great bunch of people come up for the day, so many thanks to you all!

 

By the end of the day, we had 4 of the 5 garden beds built. We didn’t manage to get to the hessiancrete (aka burlapcrete) rendering, so that’s a job for this coming weekend. We’ll also build the last of the raised beds this weekend if we can; that way we can start the hugelkultur process and get the beds ready for planting for the summer.

 

For those who are interested, here is the workshop handout we put together for the day: Earthbag Workshop Handout

We also planted all the seed potatoes we ordered from Tasmanian Gourmet Potatoes. Hopefully they’ll do well and we’ll have a real harvest this autumn. There are Dutch Cream, Pink Eye, Pink Fir Apple, Royal Blue, Up To Date, Russian Banana, and Kipflers, all planted in the first (‘demonstration model’) raised bed. Now we see which varieties do the best.

The other excitement for the weekend was the bees! Finally, bees. Two hives, as it turns out, because we had the opportunity to rescue a swarm which had lodged itself in a flowerpot at someone’s house in the same week that our pre-ordered nucleus hive fromĀ  Bees Neez Apiaries was ready. So we collected the swarm on Friday night, complete with flower pot, and pcked up the nucleus hive on Saturday. Neither colony has been moved into their final hive boxes yet because the weather was so cold and wet that we thought it would be better not to open the hives up, and just leave them in their temporary accomodation for a week.

 

I can see my house from here.

2012/11/05 kai 0

When we first thought about buying our property we did a lot of research into the area. We looked at the soil type, the lay of the land, types of native vegetation and generally wandered around to get the “feel” of the property before buying. As part of this one of the things we did was check out the property on Nearmaps.

Nearmaps is a little like google maps with a couple of important differences.

  1. It’s much higher resolution, so you can zoom in closer and see more detail. In our local apartment complex you can actually see someone sitting in one of the hot tubs in one of its images.
  2. It puts photos taken at different dates for the area on a timeline. This means you can go back and see what the area looked like a year ago, 2 years ago or just last august.


This allowed us to look at the property at different times of the year and over a long time. So we could see if vegetation was spreading, dying back or remaining static.In some of the earlier photos of our property just after winter you can see the gullies cut by rain runoff across the property. This shows the lay of the land and lack of soaking.

Based on this info we decided to buy the property and haven’t looked back since. However we’ve been so busy we forgot to check back on nearmap to see how things are changing since we started working on the property. We remembered it this weekend after a discussion with someone attending our earthbag garden bed workshop and decided to check back.

It’s really something to have the work you’ve done sharply show to you from outer space! I was amazed to see that our swales, even the ones in the forest are not only visible from space but show the contour of the land perfectly. Something else that struck me. The photo from the start of this post is from a similar time of year last year, note the extra greenery and growth between the swales that wasn’t there last year. It’s only one year, so it’s not anything conclusive, but it’s interesting to note. While not shown here, the property below us is also showing increased greenery on his open areas. We’re feeling pretty positive about our swales right now.

I’ve made an image here that you can click on to compare them side by side : Side by side.jpg

Also of note Is that the can see our new shed and first water tank, which is pretty exciting to us but probably not to anyone else. Hurrah for progress! Also, amazingly enough, if you zoom in enough you can see the plastic tape on the ground that we staked out to show the outline of where the buildings for our house will be. The level of resolution is crazy!

Another neat thing is you can see the start of Danielle’s circular Mandala garden quite clearly. You can see the first garden bed all done, the 6 trees in a ring in the center (which are no more than 4 feet high at the moment) and you can even see the faint outline of the tape on the ground marking the other 5 beds. These are actually complete now thanks to the wonderful people at our workshop/blitz on the weekend and I’m really looking forward to the next update on nearmaps in a few months. It’s a really neat way to mark our progress and see the effect we’re having on the landscape in real terms. I’m very excited to see our little area of the planet getting greener and more fertile and all the trees and plants growing to fill our property and our dreams.