This is the cottage we call The Cook’s Cottage, although it never really did house the cook. I think it was built out of weatherboards from the old homestead, for James’s grandparents to live in while the new house was being built in the 50’s. Up until about three weeks ago, it housed Abbie, Annie and Christine. Here they are at the Tumbarumba races – it was great to see the girls out of their active wear travelling clothes and all frocked up in dresses raided from my wardrobe. And they won prizes in Fashions On The Field!
As the girls were getting ready to move on, Christine did a bit of cleaning and put her hand through the wall. The plasterboard had been eaten away by bees. I had been watching them creep in under the weather boards near the chimney and knew that we really should do something about the new tenants…but secretly I’d been harbouring Pooh Bear fancies for a bit of local honey. Lewis from Wales arrived last week and is keen to take up residence, but we have bees to deal with first. It has been surprisingly hard to find apiarists prepared to come up here, and even the poisoners visit the area just once a month. With all the talk about bee populations suffering globally I’ve been loathe to massacre our little guests. A bit of web research revealed that getting bees out of wall cavities is really hard, especially in autumn when they are settling down to hibernate and don’t want to go anywhere.
Further local enquiries led us to Hank and he visited today. He’s 86 years old and very busy, but he made time for us and how we enjoyed his visit. He told us that his family had been bee keepers since the 1600’s, and that he got his first hive at the age of seven. He tried smoking the cottage, but the bees kept escaping through gaps in the weatherboard. I watched from a safe distance as he pulled the comb out of the wall and bought me a precious bowlful. Eating honey is another one of the things pregnant women shouldn’t do. Making experimental video of agitated bees is another. I gave both a crack, with results still in progress. I can tell you that I sampled just a tiny drop of the honey and that the sting on my belly wore off after I applied tea tree and emu oil. I am also pleased that filming in slow motion has masked the transition from affectionately cooing monologue to a hearty bout of swearing as I tried to get the workers out of my hair.
James is feeling very run down, so I fed him damper and home grown honey – just processed by mashing the comb against a sieve. I’m sure this is an inadequate processing technique, but hey. If it’s good enough for the bear…
I asked James how the old ladies in community just reached in and poked the honey out of hollow didgeridoo logs. No smoke, no nets, no stuff. Bit of a joke, that one, he replied. Native people don’t get stung.
I come from a long line of dairy maids, and should be focusing on a house cow and the cream separator, but now we are seriously considering a setting up a hive of native bees.
There was a lot of buzzing as we took coffee on the front lawn and discussed a site for this winter’s vegetable patch. Turns out Hank has gardened here before, and he gave us a prescription for our lemon tree. On our return to the cottage, we found the place had been invaded by thousands of robber bees, attracted by the smell of the honey. All coming and going with take-aways, like a CBD crowd. A most beautiful bustle through the dappled autumn light. The opposite of the desired outcome but strangely exciting and very pleasing to me.
Hank left a box in the hope that the queen might settle into it over night. I gave him some persimmons and quince. He’ll be back tomorrow morning with lettuce and silver beet.