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The buzz about bees - book review

The more I learn about the bees, the more I'm fascinated by them and amazed at the things that researchers have figured out!  To be successful beekeepers we need to try to learn as much as we can about the bees in our care.  Some of the books on beekeeping use a kind of rote learning approach and tell you exactly what to do with your bees, but they can't possibly cover every situation, so you need to also learn to think for yourself using bee-knowledge to make the best management decisions for your bee hives.




The book The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism (affiliate link) was recommended by the awesome Rusty on Honey Bee Suite so when I decided that I needed to know more about bee biology, I purchased a copy (using Amazon credit from you guys clicking on my affiliate links, thank you!!).  This is a good-sized book, packed with information and wonderful close-up photos of bees (they look all fuzzy and cuddly at that size!).




I learnt so much from this book, I'm ju…

Making our own sausage mix

Our butcher is coming next week and he will do two beasts this time, so we are getting organised.  I've written a lot about butchering over the years and this will be our eighth and ninth animals killed on our own property.  On that last day, they will know no fear, maybe some curiosity (who is that strange man pointing that stick at me?) and it will be a quick end to a fairly peaceful and comfortable life.  Its not such an easy day for us, it can be quite emotional seeing the death of an animal that you've raised from a young age, not to mention physically draining putting all the meat away, but its all worth it to get the best quality meat possible.




One of the things we are doing this year is make our own sausage mix.  If you want to know more about home butchering in general, here are all the posts I've written in the past:

Homekill meat - some tips for beginners

Home butcher vs meatworks

Homekill butchering

Homekill butcher day - tips and tricks

Homekill beef - two small be…

Goat milk and honey soap - and a natural soap book review

I've been wanting to try making soap with milk for ages.  We haven't been milking our cows, so I was waiting for a friend to have enough goat's milk to spare.  I know I could just buy milk, but that seemed like a strange thing to do (you start to forget that milk comes from the shop when you've been milking a cow for a few years!).  Anyway, I was happy to wait as I had plenty of other soap to make.




While I was waiting, I also received a review copy of a new soapmaking book called The Natural Soap Making Book for Beginners: Do-It-Yourself Soaps Using All-Natural Herbs, Spices, and Essential Oils (Affiliate link), by Kelly Cable of the blog Simple Life Mom.  Kelly has an amazing Etsy shop full of soaps and natural lotions, so I am very excited that she has decided to share her experience and recipes in this book.  And seeing as it contains several goat milk soap recipes and my friend finally had some goat milk to spare, I recently got my chance to try goat milk soap.  …

What farm equipment do you need to get started?

If you've just bought a farm, large or small, you are going to need some equipment, but what items are essential?  Which can you buy secondhand and which ones should you buy new?  Here's what I think, I hope you'll share your own experience.  Of course, there are many different types of farming, so exactly what you need is going to depend on what you are going to do, so I'll write mainly about raising cattle and improving pasture.


You might start by thinking about getting a tractor.  I've written about buying a secondhand tractor and a new tractor.  The size of the tractor that you need will depend on the implements that you want to use, so you really need to figure out your implements.  In fact you can now get implements that run off a quad bike, so you may not actually need a tractor.
Implements that you might need include: Slasher - on most farms this will be essential for improving pasture and just keeping the yard tidyPost-hole digger - if you are going to be b…

Keeping the house warm in winter

It doesn't get seriously cold here, but its cold enough to be uncomfortable if we don't make some effort.  We are actually finding that our house up on the hill is warmer than down in the valley, and we are above the frost line, so that is a nice change, but it still gets down to 5degC overnight.  We have a woodstove, but we have to cut the wood ourselves, so you don't really want to use more wood than really necessary to keep the house warm.




There are three ways that heat is lost from a building:

Conduction - direct transfer of heat from a warm object to a cold object, this is heat lost through the walls and roof of your house to the cooler airConvection - caused by a flow of cold air, either draughts or air circulating around exposed windows Radiation - heat transmitted in the form of light waves, this can be another source of heat loss from windows, roofs and walls of your house.
When you understand how heat is lost, you can see the solutions for keeping heat in a build…

We don't have any cling wrap either

Last week I wrote about how we don't have a microwave and I really don't miss it.  So continuing the theme of "weird things about my kitchen", we also don't have any plastic cling wrap or paper towels.  And we haven't had them for so long I can hardly remember why we ever needed them.


I always thought that cling wrap was wasteful.  Not just from an environmental perspective, but I also didn't like spending money on something that I only used once.  When I was at uni and took sandwiches for lunch, I used to bring home the cling wrap and use it again until it didn't stick anymore.  One year when we did Plastic Free July (I can't remember when exactly - here's what I wrote last year) we decided to stop using cling wrap.  I used up the last of it recently when we were painting (its really hard to renovate without creating waste) - its handy for wrapping up paintbrushes and sealing paint temporarily, however I do not use it in the kitchen.

The pape…

Farm update - July 2017

The dogs are still sleeping outside on the veranda.  I think they are getting used to it.  Unfortunately if they don't sleep well, neither do we, as they are right outside our window.  I go out and put their coats on most evenings and I often find them like this: the little dog on the big bed and the big dog on the little bed.  I have to rearrange their blankets and put the right dog on the right bed.  The second photos shows the dogs in the correct position with their jim jams on...

So with winter solstice on 21st June, its now officially winter and its bittersweet to know that evenings are getting longer but summer will be back before we know it!  We have been pleasantly surprised to find that our property up on the hill is up to 5degC warmer than the valley most mornings, so we might get away without a frost up here (overnight temperatures have been 8degC, so the dogs are fine, but they would LIKE to be inside).  We have had the fire going most nights and its perfect for warmin…

The Hidden Life of Trees - a review

Every time I share a book review I include Amazon affiliate links, and if you use those links to buy things I gradually build up Amazon credit.  Earlier this year I used my credit to order a couple of books, which I finished reading ages ago, but haven't had a chance to share with you until now.  I just wanted to say again, thanks for using my affiliate links because it does help me to buy more books!




One of the books that I bought was The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World.  I had heard an interview with the author of this book on ABC radio national which had really caught my interest.  We own a lot of trees, as you can see in the image below.  Our property was on the market for a long time before we bought it because it has so many trees (about 100 acres of our 258 acres) and most are protected under QLD vegetation management laws, so they can't be cleared.  Farmers around here believe that trees are unproductive and wo…

We don't have a microwave

When the cabinet maker asked me where we wanted the microwave in the new kitchen I had a mental-blank.  I couldn't think where to put it and when I really thought about it, I didn't actually want a microwave.  We did still own one at that stage, but we hardly used it.  I find them kind of ugly and I don't completely trust them.  We haven't had a microwave in the new kitchen since we moved in Easter, and I really don't miss it.




There may or may not be reasons to not eat microwaved food, but personally I don't like the taste of it and I don't like the look the microwave, so I'm happy not to have one in my kitchen.  When I considered whether to include a microwave in the new kitchen, I could only come up with three things:

Defrosting meatHeating leftoversHeating wheat packsMore suggestions here if you have other uses for your microwave.
Defrosting meat without a microwave This one is pretty easy.  If you want a roast or a large chunk of meat, you do just hav…

Homemade leather dressing balm

I don't own many pairs of shoes, so I really like to take care of the shoes I do own.  My favourite pair are these leather boots that I bought in NZ a few years ago (sorry Brisbane, but you didn't have any nice boots).  I've had these boots for about eight years.  I don't get to wear them very often, I have to wait for our short winter, but I will wear them at any opportunity!  The key to looking after leather shoes is a good leather dressing and the right storage.




I've been using a leather dressing that I bought, but I ran out, so time to make my own.  Leather dressing is made with neatsfoot oil, which is the fat from the legs of cattle.  This has a different melting point to the tallow (fat around their body).  Neatsfoot oil is popular for leather dressing and available from produce stores and horse supplies.  Its actually liquid at room temperature, so I added beeswax to make it solid and more manageable.  And some lavender essential oil for a nice fragrance as …