We love McCarthy Park 2, but ever since we saw it we knew ‘the oval’ would have to be revegetated. Not only did we want to reduce the amount of lawn (and mowing), but we wanted to reintroduce the native plants that would have been removed to make the large driveway turnaround. Doing this will provide extra cover and food for the native animals, and be much more sustainable than lawn. It will look better too!

We waited until June, so the weather was cooler and with the guidance of Apace WA who specialise in community regeneration, we have begun the preparations for a July plant out. Apace helped us design the space, choose plants that were native to the area, preferably fire retardant or resistant, and a variety of sizes and textures to improve the aesthetics.

First was removal of the lawn, then delivery of loads of mulch and crushed gravel for the path.

Then, several balgas (grass trees) were planted. These were purchased from and planted by Replants, a company that specialises in rescuing and on-selling grass trees from land that is being bull dozed. We were so very happy to get some lovely larger additions to go with the existing grass trees already there.

Once transplanted, all were burnt- including our existing grass trees that still showed plenty of couch within them.

Already it is looking better! But next came the pathways through ‘the oval’….

…..and then the spreading of the mulch. Now it all settles in for a while until July when the native tube stock will be planted.

Looking so much better already!

Beehives and aquaponics update!

After a huge effort to get the aquaponics up and running, it has been great to consolidate a bit this last month. The aquaponics has really got going and is loving its new position on the east side of the house. In summer we will need some protection from the easterly wind, but in this autumn weather it is really cranking!

System 1- the original system moved from the old house
System 2- newly established

Both systems are going very well with good plant growth and healthy fish.

Also going well are the beehives, which is surprising in a way as it is well recognised locally as being a very poor season. Where some have had to feed their bees all through summer, we have managed without that and even did a small harvest (12 litres) as we downsized for the winter months.

The newly established ‘bee room’ proved very successful, with plenty of room to extract and clean up.

Another finishing touch to the garden was the installation of a SubPod, a worm/composting system we are trying out as we decided not to bring our old worm farm (an old cast iron bath). So far it is great to be able to reuse those items the chooks won’t eat, such as tea bags, lint and tissues!

Edible garden, with herbs, bush tucker and the SubPod. Agapanthus line the garden beds around the house as they are considered fire retardant.

Fish and Aquaponics Reestablished!

In February we moved our yabbies and aquaponics system to the new house, but both to temporary areas until we had some paving completed.

We didn’t want to lose this 6 weeks of growth by emptying the grow beds!

After much thought, we decided to set up a second aquaponics system rather than run aquaculture as we had at our previous place. This will enable us to keep Silver Perch year round as we like to do, but also run Rainbow Trout over the winter months as usual. It also provides more space for growing edibles!

Over the Easter break, we finally set up our systems in the area that was planned for them. This was no mean feat! One system was new and easy to position and set up from scratch, however moving the existing system without emptying each of the three grow beds and their lush veggies was quite an accomplishment thanks to ingenuity, perseverance and sometimes brute force!

car wheel trolleys were perfect for relocating the yabby tank and the aquaponics grow beds!

Once the new system was set up and all the pipework complete, we used a spare tank to transfer the water and fish from the existing system.

Tractor buckets are very handy for that last bit of water!

With some planting out, we now had the new system up and running with over 60 Silver Perch. Now to tackle moving the established system……

A car jack was used to lift each leg of the grow bed enough to place the car wheel trolley underneath. Once all four were in situ, the whole grow bed was pushed into place on the other side of the house.

It was not without difficulties! But we succeeded!

The empty fish tank from the original system was dragged around and placed in position… and the pipework completed.

Next step was to return to our old place and get the Silver Perch from the swimming pool! The small tank borrowed from Cheidys Aquaponics was invaluable.

We ended up removing the pump and draining the swimming pool (using the pool water to transfer the fish over a few trips), and successfully transferred 120 or so fish from the pool to the aquaponics systems. Each tank has 90 or so fish in a variety of sizes from fingerlings to 40+cm long.

And we are now fully set up, with yabbies in the foreground and our two aquaponics systems on the right!

Summer 2021 update

Gosh it has been a busy time! After 30 years on 10 acres, there has been lots to do at both the old and new places. Here is a summary!

We are thrilled to once again have kangaroos around us! With a nature reserve nearby, there are plenty around and they are very adept at jumping the fences to get some nice green grass. We often see them on the road or in neighbouring paddocks too.

Kangaroo checking us out at the house
Mumma kangaroo with a joey in her pouch

Then there are the birds!! We see and hear so many native birds that we used to see occasionally in MP1, but now see in abundance, in particular Splendid Wrens and Scarlett Robins.

Two male Splendid Wrens
Scarlet Robin
Juvenile Butcherbirds
Carnaby Cockatoo
New Holland Honeyeaters

The insects also have been in abundance! Blue banded bees just love the white agapanthus in particular!

Laden Blue Banded Bee

These have all been very welcome distractions when there has been so much do do, including a considerable amount of lawn mowing, until winter comes and we replace some with native plants.

Sometimes night time was the coolest time to mow!

Our downsizing to 5 acres meant a reassessment of what we want to do, so (for now) we sold our sheep, geese and ducks, and gave away the top bar and Warre hives. We relocated our two horizontal hives one night when it was cool enough to lock them in for a few hours, and they are going well.

The chickens are safely installed in their new pen….

And… we have had our first nearby bushfire. While bushfires are always a concern, this was far enough for us to practice and refine our bush fire plan for the new property without being too stressed.

McCarthy Park 2.0

Well, we have now moved.. to a more genteel and easier to manage version of McCarthy Park. It is a massive move, starting with the orchard in October, moving into the house just in time for Christmas, and soon to come will be moving the animals once we have their areas set up.

We are still exploring our new surroundings and learning about how this house and its surrounding 5 acres works, and while it is definitely an easier place to manage there is also a lot we want to do to make it ‘ours’. There is a considerable amount of lawn, which come the cooler weather we will reduce and add more native vegetation. We also need to cover and pave an area ready for the aquaponics, develop a vegetable garden, prepare the bee area and of course complete the poultry yards.

As we are settling in and still watering the orchard trees by hand, we have observed an abundance of wildlife, including our first snake at this place in the first week we moved in! Thankfully, we were able to capture and relocate it to a more suitable area. We have also seen lots of birds and insects…… and are looking forward to exploring more with the camera in hand.

We get a fabulous view of the birdbaths we located in the orchard.
There are loads of Yellow-rumped thornbills
The Scarlett Robins are regular visitors near the house, as are the Splendid Fairy Wrens who we haven’t got a great photo of yet!
This is one of three baby Butcherbirds regularly calling for some food!
There are so many Red-capped Parrots, including lots of juveniles
We, of course, moved the Bee n Bee, the bee hotel, and within a day was being occupied in its new location.

While we are yet to complete the move with all the animals, we are loving McCarthy Park 2.0!


One tree we are not able to take with us to McCarthy Park ll, and will really miss, is this orange tree!

It has given us an almost endless supply of oranges, usually twice each year. Over the years we have given away kilos and kilos, made chutney, dried them, juiced them, preserved them…. and the all time favourite- orange brandy liqueur! Today we made 20 bottles, enough to give as Christmas presents! There are still plenty of oranges on the tree for another batch!

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!

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


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!