About Peasants

We are 'professional peasants' living on a small farm just outside Perth, Western Australia, growing veggies, ducks, chooks, rabbits, sheep ( Wiltshire Horns), guinea fowl 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.

Barge, barge black sheep!

Life on the farm always has its ups and downs. One of our old favourite ewe, Floppy Ears, gave birth to twins and sadly all died. It is always so upsetting when this happens, though we know it is the cycle of life and things don’t always go perfectly.

On the same day however, a neighbours sheep jumped the fence and barged into our property for the third time, so instead of getting her back over we went to the neighbour to discuss. He apparently had no idea where she came from, and didn’t like her because she led his other sheep astray! So ‘Barge’, named because of her nature as well as her size (she was obviously about to give birth) joined our small flock.

Barge, barge, black sheep

She quickly settled in and came up with the others for the evening feed, and although she is obviously a ‘bits’ (a bits of this and bits of that) rather than the pure Wiltipolls we have, we quite enjoy her.

Well, as expected, she gave birth yesterday……. to triplets! No wonder she looked like a barge!

Also as expected the lambs are ‘bitzas’ too!

Winter in the Orchard…..

This winter we have been blessed with great gardening weather, which enabled us to spend a lot of time in the orchard. Of course it is fabulous to pick fresh, delicious fruit straight from the tree- the flavour is always amazing! But to continue with this the trees need a bit of TLC. So, they have been pruned, fed with blood and bone, potash, trace elements and chicken manure (the citrus trees). The area around the trunks has been weeded, and the stone fruit sprayed with copper spray to reduce the leaf curl we are prone to get.

Winter 2017

 

Topbar hive harvest

We had the best harvest from our Topbar hive yet! After some trial and error that always seemed to result in too many bees dying, yesterday we perfected (we think and hope) our technique.

In our previous harvest, when we tried to remove the bars of comb, the comb broke leaving a sticky mass at the bottom of the hive along with lots of bees, which then had to be removed by hand. It was quite upsetting to cause so much destruction and we knew there had to be a better way. We had tried using a knife to separate the comb from the side of the hive  as it is always stuck, but there just wasn’t room to manoeuvre. We realised we hadn’t left enough working room by having all the bars within the follower boards.

As it was April and getting cooler and our aim in that previous harvest was to reduce the hive size ready for winter, we removed all comb from four bars and placed them outside the follower board at one end of the Topbar hive. Between the follower boards we made sure there was still some comb being drawn, and a couple of empty bars so the bees had space to add more comb and honey. We also hoped this would give us the working room we needed next time to slide the knife in to separate the comb from the sides of the hive.

And so it did. Yesterday’s harvest was the most successful yet in terms of the least damage to the bees (which was our main aim) and the least mess. Instead of a knife we used angled stainless steel cake icing blades, and they were just perfect for loosening the comb from the sides of the hive.

Using the cake icing blade to loosen the comb from the side of the hive

These angled blades and having the extra space made all the difference. We had bought three different sizes, and they each were useful at different times.

Angled cake icing blades

Opening the hive and removing the empty bars and follower board, we could easily use the icing blades to separate the comb from the sides with minimal disruption to the bees. The hive tool was used to separate each bar from the one next to it, and then it was easy to lift out the beautifully built comb.

Beautiful, whole comb removed cleanly from the Topbar

The bees were gently brushed off and the comb cut from the bar with a knife into a tub. The bars to be replaced inside the follower boards were left with 3-4 cm of comb, those to go outside the follower boards were left completely clean. All with no apparent distress to the bees- thank goodness!

Cutting the comb into the tub

When completed, we made sure that there were two to four empty bars at each end, then the follower boards, then a partially filled or empty bar (each end). Then we closed up the hive and walked away feeling much better than after the previous harvest!

Home made

It is great when we have an abundance, whether it is honey, vegetables, fruit, beeswax………….. there is always something wonderful to make to preserve the excess! The shelves are looking full again currently, after giving away considerable amounts to family and friends as Christmas presents. It is great to just be able to head to the produce room and select a chutney, herbed oil, home remedy, jar of honey, or what ever is needed, and it is so rewarding to make it in the first place!

full shelves in the produce room

Black cockatoos

The black cockatoos visit McCarthy Park regularly, both the red tailed and white tailed, and they never cease to impress with their noise and size! Usually it is quite small flocks that come by, but occasionally we get a very big flock like this one. Check out our post on Instagram here! Or on Facebook here 

Black cockatoos

The Carnaby’s Black- cockatoo is endangered, so we are thrilled they feel at home here, even if it is only for short visits.

 

Native bees

The warmer summer weather brings a lot of native insect activity, particularly the many native bees we get here in Western Australia. We have seen quite a few different kinds over the years, blue banded bees, resin bees, leaf cutter bees and these masked bees. Today, I set the camera on a tripod n front of the latest bee hotel, pressed record and returned 15 minutes later to find the top hole completely sealed. The video is amazing, really showing the perseverance of this small insect (it is alas too big to post, so a snippet of the end is all that we can post).

masked bees

Video of masked bee sealing nest

Giant Silver Perch!

We had a good harvest of silver perch from the swimming pool, using an adapted prawn net. We netted 8 fish, all of which were over a kilo, but the biggest of all was this one- an amazing 2.7 kg! We assume it was one of the original perch we put in 5 years ago, to get to such a size……… either that or it is a real greedy guts!

A whopper!

Leefcutter bee

Over the years we have seen the circular holes made by the leafcutter bee, but for the first time we had the camera on hand and photographed this amazing native bee in action making a nest inside a hole in the mortar between the bricks of our house. the location is a surprise, as it is right by the spade and tap that we use regularly in our front garden!

Heading for the hole with its neatly cut piece of leaf

Heading for the hole with its neatly cut piece of leaf

Entering its nest

Entering its nest

Twisting upside down to get into position

Twisting upside down to get into position

Leaving the nest ready to cut the next piece of leaf

Leaving the nest ready to cut the next piece of leaf

It was a fascinating process to watch! It took about 5-10 minutes to source and cut the leaf (not sure where from as it seemed to fly over the house). This is despite a rose bush being right next too it, which is often used and had some of the tell tale circular holes cut in it already. Once it entered the nest, it took about a minute or two before it flew back out.

Wonderful!