Monday, October 6, 2014

Building a Palace-takes a team!

Well maybe not quite a real palace, more like a two bedrooms in the forest. They also happen to be the best buildings at Lofty Meadows, hence the affectionate term- "The Palace". It was always our plan to build a real house one day but for many reason we have decided that simply building bedrooms is the bester option. Finally after much planning, designing and redesigning this little humble abode is nearing completion. Once again we could not have done so much with all of helpers. Right back to three years ago with Yann from Quiberon, Fr. who cleared the site of trees and scrub for us, Jakob, Pippa and Derek who helped us dig the holes, Pramesh, Jakob and Michael who carried many barrows full of concrete up the hill, Steph, Luke, CyCy, Tom and Baptiste who helped me fetch over 700 lineal metres of timber and Luke even built much of the structure....and the list goes on! We are happy and grateful to have so many amazing people come to Lofty Meadows and work with us. There is still much to do with the tricky part being the finishing touches. Making it comfortable and most importantly rat and pest proof. As with any house in this area once rats and marsupial mice get in-they never leave. We will make sure that they can not get in at all so we do not have to battle with them nesting in the walls and ceiling.

Sourcing second hand and affordable timber has been absolutely essential. We mostly use our local demolition yard Caylamax for windows, doors, roofing and much more. I love Saturdays at Caylamax, wandering around discovering all the latest materials- they have whole kitchens, bathrooms, timber of all shapes and sizes but all sorted, de-nailed and measured, fencing, and anything really that has been pulled out of domestic and industrial buildings that they think they can sell.  The price difference is huge and the quality is often very good. If we built the same building using al new materials it would have cost three times the price.

I also like to keep a look out for cheap or free timber on ebay or Gumtree. I recently won over 700 lineal metres of good quality hard wood decking for $200. I was so ecstatic even though it did involve hiring a trailer and 5 people to move it all, it is incredibly good value for a fine product. The work load was shared by quite a few helpers and now we have built the new deck and the rest is de-nailed and stacked neatly waiting for the pool decking project. Which reminds me -time to order the sand for the new(second hand) pool pad we are going to build this afternoon!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Building Giant Puppets at Lofty Meadows

It doesn't happen everyday but we do occasionally build giant puppets here at Lofty Meadows. Unfortunately that can mean our deck and shed is overtaken by machines, material, paint, and giant pieces of puppets. A little bit of chaos for a lot of creativity! This is all part of living creatively-you have the joy of making exceptional pieces but the blood, sweat and tears of trying to make it all work. Keeping the space organised is absolutely essential but also really hard- "where are the scissors?", "has anyone seen the tape measure" are common questions. We are always on a quest to find the best way to organise equipment and materials and love it when we find a system that works.
Our most recent giant puppet project was building 5 metre Giant Medieval Court Jester and Greenman for the Medieval Festival at The Abbey Museum. Bonnie, Henry, Dave, myself and the full gang of Lofty Meadows Helpers worked hard for weeks. We could not have done this without Max, JoKo, Victor, Mathieu, Coco, and Emmanuel. So much work in building, painting, screen printing, sewing, construction, testing and finally performing. In the end Bonnie, Dave, Henry and I were away for the final performance and we were very lucky that our gang of helpers were able to help. They travelled up to Bribie Island for us, made the final adjustments and performed with the two giant puppets over the two day festival. This meant they had free tickets to an absolutely unique festival to run around with Giant Puppets-fun times!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Harvesting Sweet Sticky Honey..for the first time!

YUM! This was a very momentous occasion for Lofty Meadows-it took us quite a while to get to this place. Starting the adventure into beekeeping felt like we were sneaking into someones else's backyard. I felt that it is one of those skills that would be better left to experts or the dogmatic self-sufficinado that spent many years researching Earth Garden articles to pull it off. Jason and Lisa, our friends from school, helped blow off those hesitations. They have a suburban block with fruit trees, chickens and Kenyan Top Bar Hives...and delicious honey. Dave's DIY instinct kicked in and before long found some plans online and he had built our first top bar hive.
Confession time- some times the experts are right! Damn it! The next step was to buy a queen and Jason and Lisa gave us some starter brood and bars. We had to get the queen from a traditional Langstroth Hive keeper. Apparently they don't view top bar hives too kindly and then he pointed out that we were coming into winter and we were starting the hive at the wrong time. We ignored him but he was right-damn it!

Our first attempt was no good- they did not have enough time to build up the honey reserves in time for winter.The position of our hive may not have helped- under the banana trees so it would get very shady and cold in the winter. We felt terrible-like a bad bee mummy and daddy. We pretended it never happened in our shame and may have gone on to never try again. If it weren't for Jason and Lisa. No worries they said we'll just give you some more-SWEET! Given the second chance we started in spring this time and have enjoyed a good six months of bees pollinating the gardens. Yesterday we decided it was time for a small harvest day and Toby was bravely calm and helped with the harvest.
We just took the top off-gave them a sprinkle of icing sugar- used the hive tool to separate some bars lifted them out, dusted off the bees and then we had a container full of the coolest looking honey comb. So simple- although Dave did get stung a few times- Toby and I were fine with no stings. I love the fact that you don't need to smoke the Bees as they do with traditional beekeeping. It is all part of the magic of beekeeping-remaining calm with bees flying around-knowing that if you do get stung it is really going to hurt! I love the challenge of remaining calm in the face of pain. Anyway we had a little surprise - the bees had built the comb perpendicular to the bars- not how it is meant to be-and we think because we put too many bars in to begin with. But we were still able to harvest about six combs-which has given us about 2kg of honey! The cool thing is there is a lot left in the hive- we harvested not even a quarter and will leave the rest for the bees to make it through the winter. 2kg Lofty Meadows Honey-YUM!