New Beekeeper

A local friend of mine, JohnZ, is starting out with bees. I gave him one of my hives a couple of months ago. John has donated a few useful items to my farm workshop so when he asked about bees, I was happy to help out!

The first inspection since the hive was moved went well. I was taking some photos and JohnZ was checking the hive. I got stung on my hand. Being a hero and not wearing my gloves at first.

JohnZ's New Hive

JohnZ’s New Hive

Inspecting Frames

Inspecting Frames

Brood Frame

Brood Frame

His property is about 10km from our farm. It is about 50 acres and several years ago he embarked on a large scale direct seed planting of shelter belts. All up I estimate there are now about 10 acres of shelter belts. These plantings are now providing useful bee forage and I intend to keep an eye on what is flowering when. The belts are now mostly eucalypts, mellaleucas and leptospernums. There were a lot of acacias planted in the mix, but these appear to have not done so well. In any case, the species that are left are excellent bee forage for nectar.

My  hives seem to have been struggling to find nectar around Feb-Mar. Not a lot is in flower so I am looking into what I can plant now to provide some additional forage during mid summer. We can always move our hives over to JohnZ’s.

These are some of the local species.

*  summer flowering

  • Eucalyptus kitsonia *
  • E. viminalas *
  • E. ovata *
  • Melaleuca ericifolia
  • M. squarossa *
  • Leptospernum continenale
  • L. lanigerum
  • L. laevigatum




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Poultry Auction 2013

We went to the Footscray Poultry Club auction on Sunday 24th Feb.  I was keen to get some OEG bantams to replace our brown bantams (OEG/Peckin Crosses). Kirsty was interested in getting some Gold Campines. We spent more than we should have on the following breeds :

  • Ginger OEG Pair $15
  • Duckwing OEG Pair $15
  • Duckwing OEG Trio $16
  • Corronation Sussex Pair $60
  • Gold Campine Trio $120
  • Blue Belgium Trio $45


Chooks Bought At Auction

Chooks Bought At Auction

Kirsty does not think the Ginger OEG cockerel is great, and he might have to go.

We decided to get the Coronation Sussex pair mainly to replace our existing Coronation rooster. He did not perform at all well this season, all the eggs were infertile.

The Campine trio was worth the money, they are very good birds. No one else bid on them.

I got into a bit of a bidding war on 2 lots of OEGs. In the end I concentrated on the one lot with the cockerel and let the other bidder win 3 lots of hens. The seller of two other lots of OEG (both pairs) lowered the reserve so I could not resist these lots at $15 each. Even though I end up with three roosters. Kirsty thinks the young Duckwing cockerel is good quality.

Kirsty could not resist a trio of blue belgiums ($45). No other bids.

So we ended up taking home 15 birds.

I will have to get busy building some more cages. But we can manage with the cages we have for now, after I put in a separating wall in the big cage.



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Radio Links


Here are just a bunch of radio links I found and liked.  I hardly use bookmarks so I am collecting links here.


Antenna Myths

How To Be A LID

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2 Meter Yagi Antenna

Down on the farm there are not too many VHF repeaters that I can get into. So I thought I would make a beam antenna and see if I could get into some 2m repeaters around Melbourne (about 160 km away).

Here it is clamped to a star picket about 2meters off the ground, pointed roughly toward Melbourne.


2m Yagi Testing

2m Yagi Testing


  • 3m x 25mm square aluminium tube $25
  • 3 lengths of 10mm round tube $17
  • screws and copper saddles $10
  • 12mm tube x 1m $2

The copper saddles are probably not a good choice as they will cause galvanic corrosion with the boom and elements. I plan to either insulate the copper or use some plastic saddles.

For the feed, I hammered flat, one end of some 12mm aluminium tube (about 13cm long) and slid the 10mm tube into it. These were screwed some plywood. The coax was screwed attached to the screws. This is a bit rough but worked surprisingly well, the VSWR was about 1.2.


I studied the ARRL antenna book, and a few yagi design websites. In the end I spent some time adjusting the element lengths to get a broad VSWR response. This is the NEC file I came up with




GS 0 0 1.00000E-03 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00

GW 1 15 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 -5.03500E-01 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 5.03500E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 2 15 0.00000E+00 3.12000E-01 -4.77500E-01 0.00000E+00 3.12000E-01 4.77500E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 3 15 0.00000E+00 4.48000E-01 -4.38000E-01 0.00000E+00 4.48000E-01 4.38000E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 4 15 0.00000E+00 7.00000E-01 -4.33000E-01 0.00000E+00 7.00000E-01 4.33000E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 5 15 0.00000E+00 1.04900E+00 -4.28000E-01 0.00000E+00 1.04900E+00 4.28000E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 6 15 0.00000E+00 1.57000E+00 -4.23000E-01 0.00000E+00 1.57000E+00 4.23000E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 7 15 0.00000E+00 2.15300E+00 -4.18500E-01 0.00000E+00 2.15300E+00 4.18500E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 8 15 0.00000E+00 2.77700E+00 -4.15000E-01 0.00000E+00 2.77700E+00 4.15000E-01 1.00000E-02

GW 9 15 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 3.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 2.50000E-02

GE 0 0 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00

EX 0 2 8 0 1.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00

FR 0 11 0 0 1.20000E+02 5.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00

NH 0 0 0 0 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00

NE 0 10 1 10 -1.35000E+00 0.00000E+00 -1.35000E+00 3.00000E-01 0.00000E+00 3.00000E-01

RP 0 19 37 0 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 1.00000E+01 1.00000E+01 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00

EN 0 0 0 0 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00

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Battery Backup System

These days we rely on so many small gadgets such as phones, radios, LED torches.

I heard a podcast presentation with Steve Harris at I thought I knew all about electricity and energy. But I learned quite a few things. So I decided to put it all together and setup a small scale battery backup system topped off with a solar panel.

I already had 2 12v 7.2amp hour SLA batteries I got on special which I planned on using for powering a portable HF radio. And old 4.5watt solar panel. Assuming only 50 percent discharge, these batteries should be able to store about 80 watt hours of energy.

All I needed was a small inverter and a solar charge controller.

You can get small ‘can sized’ inverters cheaply (this one was $45 and has a USB charge socket too). Quite handy on its own kept in the car to recharge phones/laptops etc. Plugs into the 12v cigarette lighter socket.

The solar charge controller is an 8amp unit and cost $50. This will handle a 100 watt panel in the future.

A couple of rapid AA/AAA chargers were added to the mix. In the picture all the devices can be charged up from depleted to full from the batteries.

Battery Backup Charging Devices

Battery Backup Charging Devices

The 4.5watt panel is just enough to keep the batteries topped off and supply about 20 watt hours on an average day. This should be ample to keep these portable devices running indefinitely during a power failure or when out camping.

The only downside is that the inverter draws about 350mA (4.5watts) when idling. Need to remember to switch it off when not in use. It will drain the batteries in about 20 hours.


Some devices and their energy requirements.

Device        wattH   Number Total wH
Mobile       4.8         2              9.6
Netbook    47           1              47
Radio         13           1              13
Ebook         5            2             10
AA               2.4        8              19.2
AAA           1             8               8

Total 106.8 watt hours

Vehicle Use

This sort of system can also be run off the car battery system. With the engine idling (alternator current approx 50amps) this could drive a 600 watt inverter without draining the battery.

Larger System

To be a bit more useful the battery and solar panel need to be upgraded. Around $300 will buy :

  • 100 amp hour 12v marine battery
  • 800 watt inverter

Of course if we want to boil an electric kettle, a 2000+ watt inverter will be required. A 100 amp hour battery could boil it about 10 times before 50 percent discharged.

If anything, actually hooking up some batteries and inverters helps make you more energy literate.

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Nuc Boxes

I made up some Nuc boxes this season for swarms, removals and splits. Now I have a total of 7 Nuc boxes. Three of them are painted dark green with hangers attached (for swarm traps).

So far they seem to work pretty good. I have caught 2 swarms, and transferred a colony in a barrel to a nuc.

I made these for about $15 each, all new timber. With 5 frames they add up to about $25.

  • 19mm pine board rebated along the top for the frames
  • 9mm ply for sides, bottom and telescopic lid.


The 6″ hole saw came in handy for cutting out some disks from scrap 7mm ply. These make effective disc entrances. One of the holes is covered with fly wire for sealing up with ventilation.

NUCS With Entrance Discs

NUCS With Entrance Discs


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Tractor Stuck, Again


While slashing blackberries around the West dam, the bank gave way and the Fergy almost went in. Lucky for me.




The neighbour helped me pull her out with his Fergy 35.

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Pie Making

We purchased a pie maker over the holidays and had fun making over 40 pies, mainly for our lunches.
I made up two mixes, a vegetable curry type mix in the slow cooker with borlotti beans, potatoe, chilli & garlic from the garden and a chicken mix with some of this seasons young roosters and zucchini from the garden. With some left over pastry we made up a few apple pies with the first of this seasons apples.pies

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Food Storage

As we start to store more food I have noticed I am losing track of what we have.

A good skill to have is some basic inventory/accounting of food stores to :

* prevent wastage and spoilage
* ensure adequate supplies

Canned Storage

    We now can a lot of our vegetables and store a number of commercial canned produce. It is important to ensure that that all these stores a cycled properly.

A simple can rotation system can be constructed to make keeping track of can use-by dates easy. No need to manually track

I have started building a storage rack that will be a can FIFO system. It will hold 100 standard cans. If it works ok, I can build another one to stack on top of it.


Our home canned produce is not as much of a problem as we tend to consume all the bottled food with 12 months. It is rare that a jar of home preserve.

Dry Storage
We store some quantities of pasta and rice as we consume this quite regularly. As yet I have not figured out an effective way to rotate these stocks from storage bins to pantry. The medium term storage cupboard is occupied by an old speaker box which needs to be moved out of the way. I am thinking of constructing some basic shelving for the small plastic storage boxes to sit on. Each box contains about 2-4 weeks of food.

This is what I think will work :

* 6 boxes ( 2 rows three high)
* the top boxes are consumed over a few weeks
* empty top box is rotated to the bottom

Some work is involved shifting the boxes, but I can’t think of an easier approach in an confined space yet.

Alternatively, assuming there is enough room between shelves, the ‘current’ box simply has its lid removed so we know which one to take food stores from.


Our old freezer failed this week. It is a kind of blessing in disguise as it was a rather large 360 litre upright unit that consumed 1270KwH per year (about 3.5 kwh per day). We replaced it with a smaller chest freezer (208 litre) that uses 285kwh per year. This cost $445, so it a little over 12 months it will have paid for itself.

A chest freezer will require some more organising and maintenance than the upright model. So far I have read that it is common to use shallow cardboard boxes for storage trays. Some people use clipboards and check everything in and out of the freezer. I don’t think we will be organised for that but keeping bundles on rough chronological order should be enough.

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A very useful skill on any farm is being able to weld in order to make simple repairs and fabricate tools.

I am keen to learn to be a somewhat competent stick welder.

January 2013

So far I have tooled up and bought myself safety gear and some tools (clamps, brushes, rods etc).

I had a very old ‘handyman’ welder in my shed which I think I used once about 20 years ago. It is a fixed current device and was probably designed to use a standard ‘one size fits all’ handyman rod (probably 3mm). A local friend (another ‘John’) who is a mechanical engineer and has a great workshop gave me a few pointers and some scrap to practice on.

First Project

After making a mess on the scrap pieces I had a need to make a metal holder for a squid pole to be used as an HF antenna mast. John gave me his old Transarc transformer welder (he uses a more modern inverter unit now). This is much easier to use, and adjustable so I can use different rod sizes if necessary. John says just 2.5mm rods for everything. Sounds good.

I bought a metal cutoff saw because John told me to. He was right, a very useful tool for cutting angle iron, and metal pipes.

The antenna mount was simply a star picket with a couple of small lengths of pipe welded to it so the squid pole could sit in it. I got to use the cut off saw and fiddled around with the welder until it was working ok with the 2.6mm rods I had on hand. It was not a very neat job, but it works ok. I still need a lot more practice.


Metal Stand

I made a very simply stand for the potash barrel. I cut 40mm angle iron up with the cutoff saw and but joined them. Pretty rough, but good practice.

Potash Barrel With Welded Stand

Potash Barrel With Welded Stand

Potting Bench

Kirsty has put an order in for a potting bench which I will see if I can make from angle iron and some reo or metal fencing.

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