"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Saturday 28 January 2017


OK, so January has rolled around. The heat is here, not as bad as some years and bringing a decent amount of rain too. The grass has come on and the cattle are looking fat and happy. The hens are laying well, the pigeons are breeding and the choko vine has decided to try for world domination by swallowing up the entire chook shed. Will have to see to that soonish. I like chokoes but there are limits. At the moment I am feeding Percy, our resident porker, on the excess chokoes and household scraps. I think I have the feeding balance right this year, he is neither too fat nor lean. We will know for sure in a week or so when he gets invited to dinner.
The bees are in full swing. I have been dividing off new hives as much as possible without weakening the parent hives. A few weeks before Christmas I moved four new hives down to the dry lands to test the local flora for nectar. I did an inspection a week ago and managed to bog my truck up to the axles. It appears they have had some rain. You wouldn't know this by looking at the surface which was hard and dry until you break through the crust. Then you find your self in a quicksand the consistency of wet glue... It was a *very* long day.
Which reminds me. For Christmas I received this from my wife.
Which soon became this courtesy of Karl (A blacksmith/jeweller mate mentioned in earlier posts)
and so today the young feller and I went out to the workshop and set up a branding line for the hive bodies yet to be assembled.
There was some maniacal laughter and cries of "IT WORKS!!!!! HAHAAAAHAAAA"
You will see it had a little difficulty on the timber frames. I found it needed a couple of love taps at the ends to bring the brand back to flat. I suspect it curled just a little when heating. Works just fine now though!
The branding is required by law in Australia to keep crooks at bay. I am also quite pleased the DPI gave me back my old brand number even though it had lain unregistered for some twenty years.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Who serves whom?

I know I do not usually make comment upon current politics. Nevertheless I feel compelled to voice my opinion in light of the behaviour of our current crop of political simians. This problem does not appear to be isolated to Australia either as even the most cursory glance at the news will show.
In short it appears they are pleading poor while ensuring big business gets bigger and their own pockets are well lined. Instead they wish to punish the people who have worked hard all their lives and paid their taxes accordingly.

In my opinion they appear to have forgotten they are the servants of the people, not the masters.

Recently I was reading about the history of my own people- the ancient Celts and came upon a very interesting form of leadership. In some tribes the King was chosen by the people and would rule with almost absolute authority with a couple of exceptions. It was his responsibility to ensure the prosperity of his tribe. Should the harvests fail or sickness affect the people it was his fault. The only other law was that he rules for a set term of ten years only! At the end of this time, or sooner if he failed in his duties to the tribe, he was put to death. No exceptions. This was considered a great honour and the men of the tribe would apparently eagerly compete for the chance to become the next king.
This was a society where the ruler was truly committed to the job! How far we have fallen.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

December update

I am sitting listening to Gary Moore playing Parisienne Walkways as I write this. It is moving, magical music, bittersweet and sad. So too it fits this past year in many ways.
2016 has been a long tough year. We have faced our full share of trials and then some but times like this have to happen.
We have lost several dear members of our family, Jasmine our oldest cat who disappeared one night. Probably into a big snake unfortunately. Such a risk goes with living in this area.
Also Sen one of our two youngest cats was run over on the road out front.
Most recently we lost our beloved jersey cow Annabelle. After giving birth this year she had a particularly bad case of milk fever and despite everything we could do to help she died soon after. Anna is keenly missed. Anyone who has ever had a house cow knows how they become one of the family, especially if she is a jersey.
 I often find it easier to let people go than animals I love. I have a lot more faith in animals.
On that, I myself continue the battle against depression. This has not made the year any easier for my family I know. Life is improving nevertheless and we are making plans for the future.
I have begun investing in the bees- expanding the hives and have begun researching the local area as much as possible. My previous experience of beekeeping was on the Darling downs under very different conditions to the north. Here there are many different types of flora to learn about, different flowering seasons and the ability to work the hives throughout the year with out a winter downtime.
The youngest Cloud farmer is also very interested in learning all about bees! So much so that I was forced to purchase a bee suit for him due to him forever getting too close to the hives unprotected when I had them open.
I too am experiencing the joy of discovering bees through my sons eyes. It is a wonderful thing to watch him gently examining a frame of brood or search for the queen.
I dearly hope he will find the same passion for these remarkable creatures as I have. It would be wonderful to be able to go working the bees with my son in the future. Even better if one day I could hand the business over to him!

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Q&A Tools

Talking to Karl, an old friend of mine the other day. We are both tool fanatics in that we both believe in using quality tools. During this discussion I was bemoaning the dearth of good machetes to be found on the market. Now for Karl this is no problem, he is a jeweler/blacksmith/knife maker and so can put together pretty much whatever he needs. I however must make do or in this case alter what I have to make it serviceable.
Case in point was a pretty horrible example of a Chinese made machete. Oddly enough the steel was not entirely terrible and would hold an edge. The grip though was a true nightmare. Too deep in the hand, split through its length and fissured just under the knuckles enough to make it impossible to use without a glove. It was made from some unrecognizable timber and for some reason sat in the hand in such a way as to make it impossible to strike a clean blow- the blade would always twist in the hand as it landed.
In a fit of desperation to get a job done one day I tore the old handle off and ground the rusted old rivets out. I then quickly made up a new splint grip out of native sycamore and fastened it with stainless steel bolts. Five minutes sanding on the linisher and I had a comfortable and solid grip good enough to last until I could buy a real machete.
I then discovered I had entirely changed this tool. It now cut cleanly and struck precisely and with force. I could use it for hours with no trouble. That was around five years ago....

Friday 21 October 2016

October update

Four days ago Bonnie, our second house cow, dropped a beautiful little healthy heifer. We have named her Jessie.
She is soft and quite cuddly. Not at all afraid of humans. I was very pleased to see Alessa, our maremma, quietly standing guard in the paddock with the cows for the first few days. She still goes out to spend the night with them and keeps the wild dogs away.
Anna, first house cow, is due to drop her calf in another two weeks.
After the delightfully wet winter it has turned dry. Our tanks are running low and we are all a little on edge when it comes to using water. To make things worse some charming piece of vermin chewed a hole in an exposed section of water line from the tank that feeds the cows trough. Not at all happy I must say! I discovered the leak when the tank was nearly four fifths empty and managed to patch the line before burying it deeply to prevent further chewing.
We attempted to pump water from the creek down in the rainforest (we share a water line with our wonderful neighbours) but found the pump was unable to start for reasons as yet unknown.
On the plus side I can hear the frogs "calling the rain" outside. They seem pretty positive so I will assume they know what they are doing.

Times are a changing

I feel it is time for a change!
For those who do not know I have worked as a prison officer for nearly a decade now and it has taken its toll. PTSD and depression and so forth. I think I have finally had enough and so it is time to look in a new direction. This has presented me with something of a dilemma, what to do? What is available? I am not so young anymore and many of the more physical jobs are now out of my reach. I also have something of a lack of tolerance for fools nowadays ruling many of the service industries out! In fact I have quite had enough of working for other people altogether so the only realistic option is to go back into business for myself.
Now I have been a cabinetmaker for many years, I made fine furniture and historical reproductions. It was a fine job and I loved it. Unfortunately it is also a fickle industry as I was essentially selling luxuries, something people can do without in times of need (and quite rightly so). In addition the climate on our farm is ill suited to cabinet work- the rapid changes in humidity play merry hell with timber, especially if it is to be shipped to a customer in a dryer climate. So I was forced to reluctantly rule this option out.
Late one night as we finished a bottle of wine my wife commented that I had always loved beekeeping and could I not consider that as an alternative?
In my younger days I had been an avid beekeeper. I kept around forty hives and they kept me fed and the rent paid (I was living in share housing) when jobs were scarce. I absolutely loved the bees and was enthralled with their workings. I read avidly and discovered that bees operate only by their rules! They cannot be made to do anything and it is the beekeeper that must bend to the will of the bees if he is to be successful. For some reason I find this simple fact profoundly satisfying.
So the idea grew rapidly, I spent many hours over the next few months researching the finances and requirements. Looking at the market and need for honey as well as pollination services, wax, propolis and royal jelly. I was pleased to find the market is better than ever for honey and all services are in high demand. The area we live in supplies many good sites within a few hours drive of our farm. Overall it is looking very promising indeed. My doctor is also of the opinion that it would be an excellent therapy.
Plans are therefore afoot! I will keep you posted.

Friday 16 September 2016

Spring Update 2016

This year it actually feels like spring. This is not the usual in northern Australia as we usually get a more simple variation of only two seasons. Hot and dry or hot and wet, also known as winter and summer. It has been an unusually wet winter. We had not needed to pump water from the creek even once so far. This has been good for the grass but less than optimal for the outdoors jobs we traditionally save for this time of year.

Nevertheless we have managed to put a lid on the second household water tank that has languished lidless for a year or more. The lid or roof to a tank is important as it keeps the water therein dark and cool. This prevents the growth of algae and other such nasties that I would prefer to not have to drink.

Unfortunately other jobs have not gone so well. The hothouse over the veggie garden remains un-assembled. This is partly due to needing some materials but mostly due to my own overbearing inertia. We did attempt to get the tractor in there a few weeks ago to bore out the footings. However the bees began to object strongly due to the proximity of the tractor to their hives. Point taken, I will suit up next time I try.

A month ago, or so, we purchased six ex-battery hens to give us some sort of egg supply until we can replace our original flock after the quoll attack. Now I must say I was dubious indeed about getting ex-battery hens. I had done this once before when I was a much younger man and it was a terrible experience- The birds had spent their entire lives crammed into tiny cages and had no idea how to simply be chickens. They did not recognize any food but factory pellets, could not scratch and did not even know to move inside out of the rain let alone perch. I had to teach them all of this. Their beaks had been clipped so severely that they were left with a horny stub making it all but impossible to eat. On this point I will say that in my experience with poultry (of over some twenty-nine years) there is absolutely no excuse for beak clipping under any circumstances! It is a completely barbaric act akin to cutting the nose and lips off a child. For that matter there is no excuse for keeping any animal in battery conditions either.
But back to the case in point. The six ex-battery hens we purchased were certainly an improvement on my previous experiences. Although they had been beak clipped it was at least fairly moderate, not that I approve still, leaving them with a reasonable ability to feed themselves. They were a lot more alert and learned much more quickly even though I still had to teach them about scratching, perching and greens. My wife found it hilarious to see me squatting down beside the hens showing them how to dig for worms (Before anyone says anything, I used my fingers in the dirt! I did not scratch like a chicken with my feet...). I suppose it is good that they get a chance at a new life in a way.

In other news we have taken both cows off the milk (ceased milking) so they have a rest period before dropping their calves late this year. We are hoping everything goes well after last seasons shenanigans. Mind you, the two dairy heifers we raised sold readily and paid quite well upon sale, clearing a few bills. Bonnie's calf, Arthur, is growing well. He looks a lot like his dad, Francis, (We did not name him) although he has his mothers pugnacious attitude. He has been sent over to the neighbours place to spend some time with his dad and keep the grass down. He is developing a magnificent build and I hope to grow him right out to three years.

Today I am continuing the clean out and rearrangement of my workshop. Over the years my acquired tools and materials have threatened to smother any chance of actually working in there. So I have ruthlessly begun a major throwing out of rubbish, evicted the resident pythons, several rats (much to the delight of the cats) and one small termite colony in a pile of beautiful old laminate sheets I was storing for eventual use. Not too happy about the last. Then comes the process of storing all of my tools as well as the tools I have inherited from my father so that they will be safe and preserved. In addition I have given myself back a work place. I hope this will be my last clean out  before I build the new workshop.