Monday, 14 April 2014

Nocturnal garden visitor

We had a tawny frogmouth visit our garden the other night. Tawny Frogmouths are found throughout Australia, with the exception of desert and rainforest areas. They are often mistaken for owls but they are more closely related to nightjars. We think they are beautiful birds and couldn't resist taking a photo.  It's not the greatest of photos, but hey, it was taken in the dark!

There are a few of these birds in our neighbourhood and from time to time we are lucky enough to see them in our own garden. Often seen in pairs, the pair stays together until one of the birds dies.

Tawny Frogmouths hunt at night and spend the day well camouflaged, roosting on a dead log or tree branch close to the tree trunk. They are extremely hard to see during the day. A few years ago there was one roosting during the day in a silver birch in the front garden of a house a few doors down the street. Very hard to distinguish the bird against the tree's branches and foliage. Unlike owls, the Tawny Frogmouth is almost exclusively insectivorous. They sit motionless on a perch waiting for food to come to them, catching it in their beak. When they visit us they seem to like to perch on the clothesline, as in the picture above. 

For those of you who have never seen one, here is a nice clear picture:

And now for the aw-that's-cute shot:

Mother nestling behind her 2 youngsters

We're lucky here in Australia - we have an amazing amount of unique birdlife. Although sometimes being so lucky can have a downside - like when the native rainbow lorikeets descend and proceed to strip the leaves off our fruit trees  :)

Images: 2 | 3 | 4

Monday, 7 April 2014

Hands-on beekeeping experience

There's a lot to learn about keeping bees. It's a really good idea to get a solid understanding of what you're getting yourself into before you commit to getting a hive of your own. Reading some books on beekeeping is a good start. Getting some hands on experience is the next step.

We all need to know what we're looking at when we open our hives.  Natural beekeeping places an emphasis on preserving the hive environment. While this translates into less openings of the hive, that doesn't mean natural beekeepers don't responsibly manage their hives. Understanding what you see when you open your hive is integral to responsible hive management. 

So where can you get some hands-on experience?  If you live in Melbourne then a good source of free beekeeping training is the Collingwood Children's Farm Apiary. We wanted to gain some experience opening a hive and knowing what to look for before we got our bees so that's where we went.

The Collingwood Children's Farm is a not-for-profit community resource which aims to provide country experiences for city people. It's located just 5 km from the centre of Melbourne along the Yarra River. Consisting of 17 hectares of paddocks, gardens and orchards, and with a large range of animals, it is open every day from 9-4.30 pm. It also has a cafĂ© and a Farmer's Market on the 2nd Saturday of each month which is well worth a visit.

The Apiary at the Collingwood Children's Farm is staffed by experienced beekeepers from the Melbourne section of the VAA. They kindly volunteer their time and effort to educate the public about bees and beekeeping.  It's open to the public on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month from 11-4 pm.  All you need is an interest in bees - protective gear and supervision is available if you want to get up close to a beehive.

The Apiary at Collingwood Children's Farm - with the city skyline in the background

An experienced beekeeper instructs a novice

For those content to view the action from further away there is a caravan with a window out onto the apiary. From inside the caravan you can view the beekeeping activities being undertaken. The caravan also has a window into an observation hive so visitors can get a close up view of bees inside a hive without the need to gear up or disturb the bees.

viewing the action up close and also from inside the caravan

We found that regularly visiting and volunteering at the CCF apiary was a great way to build up our confidence in preparation for getting our own hive. The experienced volunteers are friendly, patient and extremely knowledgeable - they're always happy to share their experience and answer questions.  These guys, some of whom have 30+ years of beekeeping experience, say there is no end to what you can learn about bees and beekeeping. 

We'd heartily recommend going along to the CCF apiary if you are thinking about keeping bees.  Suit up and get amongst it - you'll soon know if beekeeping is the hobby for you.

Images 1 | 2 | 3

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Wooden tables

We love a table that's been made to highlight the natural features of the wood.  These sort of tables work so well in all kinds of settings. Check out these beauties....

This rustic looking table looks right at home in an otherwise modern room:

Could this be the perfect coffee table?

Mark Tuckey 'oxo' coffee table in the home of Mark and Louella Tuckey

This simple style table is a perfect fit for a Japanese-style design aesthetic 

A lovely wooden table in a sophisticated kitchen:

Bar furniture not too far removed from its natural state:

Ace Hotel Rooftop Lounge/Remodelista
Rooftop bar, Ace Hotel, Los Angeles

And finally, how beautiful is this dining table by George Nakashima?

Wood really is such a perfect, sustainable and beautiful material.

Images 12 | 3 | 4 | 56