Sunday, 13 March 2016

In the garden - they're back

It's that time of year again when large flocks of little corellas descend on our street to feast on the street trees. 

They're earlier this year - last year they visited us in May.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Hot weather and overripe bananas

We're having unseasonally hot weather for March, with the temperature in Melbourne hitting 39 degrees the other day.  On those hot days when the house warms up any bananas sitting in the fruit bowl go from ripe to overripe before you know it. I'm not a fan of eating overripe bananas au naturel so in our household we turn them into banana bread.  

Budget friendly and very easy to make, the recipe below gets a bit of a workout at PragSust HQ. It comes from an old copy of a vegetarian recipe book - the 'Naturally Healthy Cookbook'.

Banana Bread

  • 3 tblspn butter (we use a non-dairy version)
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 3 bananas, mashed (overripe is best)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspn salt (I don't bother with this)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

  1. Cream butter and sugar till smooth and light.
  2. Add the bananas and egg, incorporate well.
  3. Add the flour and salt,mix  well and add orange juice.
  4. Bake in 180 C (350 F) oven in a greased loaf pan for 1 hour or till done when tested.Turn out and cool.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Flow frames trial at Collingwood Children's Farm Apiary

It seems everyone has heard of the Flow Hive, regardless of whether they keep bees or not. As soon as someone finds out that we keep bees, they ask us about the Flow Hive and whether we have one.  To be honest, we haven't thought about getting oneWe use the 'cut and strain' method to harvest our honey (as described here), waiting until a box is full before harvesting. This means we generally only harvest once a year.  Not quite as easy as turning the tap, but still fairly straightforward.

If you don't keep bees you may not realise that honey harvesting is only a small part of beekeeping. Honest! The majority of the beekeeper's time is spent inspecting their bees, checking whether they have enough stores, and looking for any telltale signs of pests or disease. In spring - especially for urban beekeepers - the checklist expands to identify potential triggers for swarming. This is most important for maintaining good neighbourly relations :)

Okay, so although we aren't contemplating getting a Flow hive, we're still keen to see how they work in practice.  Fortunately for us, a set of 6 Flow frames was donated to the Collingwood Children's Farm Apiary to trial.  A lot of work was put by a VAA Melbourne section volunteer (go Mike!) into modifying a pre-built langstroth full-size box into one that was suitable for the flow frames. Mike's modified langstroth box is shown below.

Once the box was ready it was placed on a hive, below the pre-existing honey super which was nearly full. 

Flow Frames in middle box, solar panel for hive temperature sensor on top of hive

The bees were a bit slow to use the Flow frames, preferring to continue to use the top box.  Some honey was put in the Flow frames as you can see in the pictures below, which were taken in January.  It's worth noting that the frames are not really designed to be pulled out and inspected. They fit tightly in the box and are not easy to remove.

To encourage the bees to concentrate on the Flow frames, a few weeks later the top box was removed.  Once this was done, some capping of the honey was observed.  The frames still have a way to go before being full, but the bees are certainly using them. There are plans to harvest honey from the Flow frames in April so I'll be sure to post something about that

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Sewing repairs - boro inspired

Our linen pillowcases were showing some wear and tear:

Funnily enough, I had already planned to repair them before I went to the Boro exhibition. But after seeing that I was spurred on to get on with it.

I thought I'd replace the centre section of each pillowslip with a good quality (and hopefully long wearing) cotton.  I'd like to say that I was doing this in the full Boro spirit with fabric I already had on hand, but sadly no, I had to buy something suitable. 

I went with a Japanese quilting fabric, bought from Kimono House

First step was to unpick the pillowcases and then pin the fabric panel in position.

 Once the panel was sewn in place along the edges, the pillowslip was sewn back together and the edges interlocked.

And here's the finished product back on the bed:

 I was pretty satisfied with the result. It took a relatively small amount of effort and we should get many more years of good use from these pillowslips .