About Peasants

We are 'professional peasants' living on a small farm just outside Perth, Western Australia, growing veggies, ducks, chooks, turkeys, rabbits, sheep (Wiltipolls), guinea fowl, bees and even fish ('barra' in summer and trout in winter) in the swimming pool! We combine our day jobs with making the place work in as sustainable a fashion as possible.

McCarthy Park II

Time for a change….. and not something we expected to be doing after living at McCarthy Park for 30 years……… but…… we are moving to McCarthy Park II near the end of the year. Things have and are continuing to change a lot in our area, so we have decided to move.

When looking at what we wanted, we decided to ‘downsize’ from 10 acres to 5 acres, which still gives us plenty of room to keep the animals and grow the fruit and vegetables we want. It is exciting but somewhat daunting- after such a long time we have accumulated a lot, only some of which we will need!

The property we have found is perfect, with all the space we need, but not many fruit trees…… so we are relocating the orchard! We found Paul, a specialist tree locator and he has begun a month long process. The first stage is pruning the branches and digging around the roots.

Now we wait for up to a month for the trees to settle, before Paul and his crew return to move the trees down to our new property. It is a massive job, but we get so much delicious fruit from our 45 fruit trees we didn’t want to start all over again!

Watch this space!!!

August 2020

Well, what a year 2020 is! We are so lucky in Western Australia and so far are doing ok, but evidence around the world reminds us not to be complacent. Living on acreage is certainly useful for isolation, and for a level of sustainability. The orchard has been pruned and there is lots of new growth and flowers, the sheep have had lambs, the bees have managed the winter well and are cranking up, the paddocks have been sown and are growing well in the unusually mild winter we have had, and the citrus have continued to produce an abundance of fruit!

One set of twins and a single to our two ewes!
We were very lucky not to have a damaged hive- thank goodness for the strong marine ply cover we put on the top of all our hives!

It’s been a long time…….

After some time to renew and refresh the website…..we are back!

It has been a busy few months, with lots growing and happening, and is best said in pictures to get us back on track!

Beautiful fungi

Ducklings December 2020

Mama hen raising turkeys!
Over the summer we added supers to the horizontals, harvested, and removed them in April for the cooler weather.
We have had a bumper crop of citrus going on for months!
Stunning sunset, photo by Philby
Wheat and lupins sown and growing
Long necked turtle found away from the dam- we took it to the water, fingers crossed!

We were honoured to have a pair of butcher birds raise a family in front of the house!

Chilly spring!

Spring has sprung with chilly mornings and the days warming up. We have had two lambs, the turkeys have been laying for the last week, and the first goose egg yesterday….the ducks won’t be far behind!  It has taken a long time to build up a nice flock of Australorps again after the last fox attack, but we now have a lovely group of girls who are laying beautifully, and Louie the Bluey who looks after them just as he should.

nice flock of Australorps-black, blue and splash (with a couple of guinea fowl hanging around!)

first lamb of 2019

Despite the damp weather over winter, the bees have been active and held their own, and now look busier with the sunny days.

 

 

More fruit!

The orchard is now pruned and fertilised, and looks like being a bumper season. Apart from the citrus, the nectarines and peaches are looking very healthy with lots of flower buds. The loquat is bursting………

Loquats to come!

…….and the ice-cream beans are ripening….

Ice-cream beans, our first!

Fingers crossed for a great fruit season this year!

Delicious Citrus!

Our orchard is growing and producing! At the moment the citrus are just ripening, and look fabulous. It was great to plant different varieties that fruit at different times of the year. One mandarin tree has finished and the next is almost ready. Just love the bright orange of the mandarins and oranges, they look so fresh.

The lemon tree is also producing well, which is very timely as we have almost run out of frozen lemon wedges! And the main orange tree near the house also has an abundant crop again.

Horizontal Hives

This season has been one of the worst honey seasons for years apparently, all across Australia. We seem to have been quite fortunate that we haven’t had to feed our bees over summer, unlike some of the beekeepers in other areas.

It hasn’t been great for us either, with no honey harvest this season (apart from excess frames when we transferred from the Langstroth (in the billabong) to a Horizontal in December 2018. The bees have been able to build comb and fill cells with honey- hopefully providing enough for the hive to  manage over winter.

Fortunately the weather has been generally quite mild in our area, with plenty of warm sunny days (the garden really needs the rain, but the weather has been good for the bees), and even though it is late May they are still building supplies.

Both of the Horizontal hives have been reduced down to one side, making it easier for the bees to keep warm over winter. There are still a few WSP frames that were kept in the transfer from Langstroth to Horizontal, and several of these frames have comb built below the frame. We had hoped to be able to harvest these and replace them with full depths over summer, but it has been such a poor season we have had to leave them as supplies for the bees.

capped honey and comb built below the WSP frame

We also checked the Topbar for winter, removing three frames of drawn comb from one side that were looking quite old and had no activity/honey in them. We then brought the follower board closer in, reducing the overall size of the hive for winter.

Tobpar

The other side of the Topbar had freshly drawn comb, being filled with honey so we left this side as it was.

Fresh comb

We had a check for brood too, and several frames in saw plenty- capped and uncapped. The bees were becoming agitated so we didn’t continue to find the queen.

Brood in the topbar

Overall, while we certainly haven’t had a great season and haven’t harvested any honey, we are pleased that the bees seem to be doing ok. This is despite the poor season generally, and the fact that both Horizontals were transferred from Langstroths (and one of these was originally the Topbar that was demolished by a tree). Hopefully they will maintain over winter and be ready to move along in spring.

Aquaponics update

Our aquaponics system has become more and more acidic over time, and we need to add a small amount of potassium bicarbonate most days to maintain the pH close to 7. We know our bore water (which is all we have, not being on the mains water system) has a pH of 6.4, but also feel the amount of gum leaves that land in the system contribute.

The piles of gum leaves that build up on the ground over the course of the week (between blowing, raking and removing), also provided snake hiding spots (see January), something we were keen to reduce. So, we decided to cover the whole system and aquaculture system in the swimming  pool with a patio roof, built by Great Aussie Patios, who were great from start to finish. Although the area was basically just a very large rectangle, there were many different heights and roof lines to link to and they did a great job.

Neat and tidy aquaponics area

It has been the best thing! We designed the roof to allow plenty of light to the grow beds and pots, but also to provide tin ‘walkways’ for blowing the leaves off. The roof has so successfully reduced the amount of leaves! The pool, grow beds and fish tank have remained clean, as has the ground- reducing our work load enormously.

 

Snakes!

Living on a property we see snakes (dugites and tiger snakes) fairly often.If we see them in the bush we ignore them and leave them be, if they are around the house  or chooks or other animals we often try to move them on to the bush. We had animals (chooks, sheep etc) inexplicably die which we put down to a snake bite, and have had a few incidences of the dogs catching one and ‘playing ‘ with it, which has naturally been stressful for us and the snakes who often died.

Dugite

Tiger snake near the back door

We built a ‘snake lake’ to attract them away from the house a few years back, and recently decided we wanted to be more proactive, so enrolled in a snake handling course with well-known Bob Cooper and it was so, so worthwhile! We learnt so much about snakes,  their needs, habits and fears, but also a lot about the bush and of incidental life lessons along the  way, for Bob also delivers Outback Safety and Survival courses. We really recommend Bob’s training.

We bought the snake handling kit from him, and within a week had a dugite in front of the gate to the pool and aquaponics, in fact nearly stepping on it! We put the training and the handling kit to good use, successfully and confidently capturing the snake, placing it into a bin and relocating it into the bush at the very back of our bush (a long way from the house!).

One of the things we learnt from Bob is that snakes can climb a considerable height. We knew they could climb a bit as we had seen them escape over the side of the chicken run, but he said if there is a snake in the house always check above the door way before you walk into the room!! Well, we saw this dugite climb between a wall and a down pipe to above our head height before started heading down and we retrieved it with Bob’s specially designed deep-vee hook. It was truly amazing to see! Here is a video of a snake climbing in Gladstone, using its body in just the same way as our dugite.

Seeing a snake so close to the house (2 metres from the front door and in a totally paved area we often frequent) was a real reminder that no matter what we do and what care we take, snakes are a part of living where we do. We haven’t seen one that close to our house for a while, and it is easy to become complacent, but this was a big reminder that they could be anywhere and to always be vigilant.

STOP PRESS: The very next day we have also caught and released a tiger snake that moved across the front veranda!

 

McCarthy Park Bee ‘n’ Bee- Bee Hotel

It is generally suggested that providing homes for native solitary bees like this helps nature as so much of their natural environment is being removed. Bee hotels also provide the opportunity to observe our native bees more closely- some are so small we don’t even give them a glance and often think they are flies. Native bees and wasps are also valuable pollinators, and there are thoughts that the introduced honey bee may take over most of their food source so there are moves to increase community awareness about them.

There is also an argument against using ‘made’ bee hotels- mainly because they bring together various species that may not usually reside in such close vicinity, and with that there is the potential for disease to spread. It also provides easy access for parasitic wasps such as the gasteruptiid wasp which lays it eggs in the nests of solitary bees, with their larvae feasting on the host eggs and food supply provided by the native bee.

We have had various ‘bee hotels’ around the place for a few years, but they have tended to be hastily put together so not very neat (although they were certainly functional with many native bees and some small wasps taking up residence!). On our property there are also an abundance of natural homes such as holes in tree stumps, reeds, bamboo etc. We decided however to provide a more attractive (to us) bee hotel in a better location so we could observe more closely, so the McCarthy Park Bee ‘n’ Bee was created on the front veranda using an old cupboard.

McCarthy Park Bee ‘n’ Bee

So far it has proved a success, with resin bees (Megachile) and masked bees (Hylaeus), and some small solitary wasps taking up residence (even while the hotel was still being finished!).

Hylaeus nubilosis in its nest in a clay hole

Small wasp perhaps closing its nest in a block of wood

A Hylaeus and another bee close by

Hylaeus using bits of wood detritus to seal its nest