Sunday, 29 April 2012

New Chainsaw Very Different to the Old One

Yesterday we bought ourselves a new chainsaw for use with various farm activities, including cutting firewood. Our old chainsaw has been proving difficult to start; understandable given it’s over 30 years old and has done a stack of work. It’s a Homelite, was manufactured in the USA, and in the scheme of things has served us superbly.

We researched several brands in making our decision on what to buy. The professional tree surgeon who cut down the massive tree out the front of our place a while ago recommended we go for either a Stihl or Husqvarna; and a neighbour suggested Echo. In the end we opted for a Stihl given they have a deal going at the moment where they give in $150 worth of extras at no additional cost, Husqvarna were slightly dearer, and Stihl still holds the reputation as the best quality chainsaw on the market.

After explaining our requirements to the salesman and bouncing ideas around we opted for the Stihl model MS 391 Farm Boss. Here’s a link to the Stihl website which gives all the technical information on the chainsaw we’ve purchased:

The following list summarises the features of the new chainsaw that are different to the old one:
  • Fuel mix is 50:1 rather than 25:1, and supposed to be more economical on fuel
  • Chain break safety feature as part of the front safety guard
  • Flexible handle fixings and materials to reduce vibrations
  • ‘Fancy’ plastic ‘toolless’ and locking fuel and old caps
  • Decompression valve to make starting easier
  • Duel air filter system, with the filter being right at the back of the saw to reduce fouling
  • Chain maximum RPMs is much higher than the old saw making it more powerful
  • A whole lot of stuff on the new one is polymer rather than metal assisting in keeping the weight down
  • Translucent fuel tank allowing ready checking of the fuel level
  • Single switch (“master control lever”) which incorporates the choke
  • Automatic bar oil feed to the bar and chain (rather than manual)
  • Spark plug is protected via a polymer hood
  • Sprocket at the tip of the chain bar helps further reduce friction between the bar and chain
  • Adjuster for severe winter operating (won’t really be needed by us)
  • Massive Instruction Manual (50 pages) pus a 57 minute DVD
  • Larger and more robust screws for the hood
  • Manufactured in Germany

We gave the new chainsaw a light work-out today. By the look of things it will be better to use and is certainly more powerful. The only ‘downside’ we can think of with the new saw is that there a lot more features all requiring servicing and able to cease functioning properly. Time will tell, but for now we are very happy with our purchase. It’s amazing to think that so many aspects of the new saw are different to the old.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Feral Control Netting and Sheep at times Don't Mix

We've been creating a house yard progressively which has included replacing some of the old original fence. We are not sure who told us about it but we liked and decided to buy and install 'Stocksafe-T' as the hinged-joint netting around the yard. It is specifically designed to keep out feral animals including "wild dogs, pigs and wallabies" however for us we just liked the way it looked. The product falls within the Waratah brand range and is manufactured by One Steel. There are 3 different heights and configurations but the one we chose is referred to in the trade as '11/90/15' which basically means it has:

  • 11 horizontal/line wires with the gap between each being (from the bottom up) 5 cm between the first and second wires, 7.5 cm for the next 5 gaps, 10 cm for the next gap, and 12.5 cm for the top 3 gaps.
  • 90 cm total height from top to bottom
  • 15 cm picket spacings (gap) between the vertical wires
Here is a link to the brochure on the OneSteel website:

In 2008 when we were planning the construction of 7.5 km of fencing our fencing contractor went to particular trouble to tell us that the way he constructs fences was better than other contractors because he has the Star posts align with the vertical wires in the fence. When the Star posts are not aligned with the vertical wires it creates variable widths in the individual panel sections which can be of a size where sheep can get their heads stuck when trying to graze vegetation through the fence. To be truthful at the time we did not take a lot of notice as we'd never seen or heard of sheep getting their heads stuck in fencing.

Last month we had several instances where our pet lambs got their heads stuck in the panels of the '11/90/15' house yard fence. This is evident in the following photograph:
Fortunately for us and our pet lambs we were able to get the lambs out of their predicaments. From a behavioural perspective it was amazing how the lambs 'called out' when they saw us; alerting us to what was happening to them. We have subsequently made adjustments making it impossible for the lambs to get their heads through the fence in the locations where they were in trouble. We'll shortly replace all of the 'Stocksafe T' with standard sheep proof fencing.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Two Natural Beekeeping Hives on Order

On 14th and 15th April I attended a Natural Beekeeping Course at Alexandria in Sydney organised by Milkwood Permaculture and presented by Tim Malfroy. Tim owns and runs his own beekeeping business not that far from Blayney and Bathurst which he calls ‘Malfroy’s Gold’.

Some of the factors that influenced my decision to attend the course included:
  • We have ample trees here on Ochre Arch like Yellow Box that are known for producing nectar and pollen from which honeybees make excellent honey
  • During spring last year a bloke from Bathurst had 60 hives here. From this two major lessons were learned: 1. I’m not allergic to bees, having been stung at one stage when about 50 metres from the hives mowing firebreaks 2. Some beekeepers are lousy when it comes to giving landholders a share of the honey they harvest while their hives are on farms. Whilst we are happy to help others in their commercial endeavours we don’t enjoy being used – which in hindsight we feel we were by the bloke who had bees here in the spring.
  • Off the back of the above point we figure we might as well have our own hives which we will run for commercial gain if we find we can harvest sufficient quantities.
  • Jan suffers from hay-fever and from what we are told eating honey from local hives can help reduce allergic reactions to pollens. This is because the bees make their honey from tree species that can cause hay-fever.
  • We do enjoy taking on new challenges, and attending courses is always fabulous for learning new things and broadening networks and friendships.
  • Owning and managing hives under the Natural Beekeeping system requires minimal effort, aligns with natural cycles and processes, and is low cost. This is entirely consistent with our holisticgoal, especially when considering that there is zero need to plant additional trees or provide additional inputs into the landscape.
  • My mother’s father used to maintain honey bee hives when my mother was growing up and the experience of harvesting and eating the outputs was always a source of enjoyment.

One of our local wildlife enthusiasts did attempt to talk me out of attending the course, arguing that honeybees are not native to Australia and occupy hollows that could be used by native fauna. Whilst the argument is valid and we do highly value native biodiversity we already have honeybee colonies on the farm. I have also had one neighbour inform me we will not have any success in keeping bees due to the affects of chemicals used regularly in various farming activities. This may prove to be the case but we’d rather try and possibly fail than die wondering.

20 people attended the course at Alexandria, travelling from as far afield as Geelong in Victoria. Tim is an engaging and incredibly knowledgeable presenter, making the whole experience a complete pleasure.

The program also included a visit to a residential property in Sydney where two beehives are maintained. In this photo you can see one of the hives presently set-up in the chook-pen in the backyard. Apparently chooks and bees are a great natural fit as the chooks take no notice of the bees but help with pest control.

In this photo you can see one of the frames of honey being held by Tim for us all to see what goes on in the hive.

I don’t propose to go into all the details of what Tim taught us during the course in this post but plan on writing articles as we learn and experience more. That said, here are two excellent reference sources that give both the detail and an insight into what’s involved:
1. Link to a free PDF copy on the Malfroy’s Gold website of the main authoritative text book on natural beekeeping titled ‘Beekeeping for All’ by AbbĂ© WarrĂ©
2. Link to the Milkwood Permaculture ‘warre’ website tag where Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar have posted numerous articles complete with photographs on managing bees using the techniques Tim teaches and equipment he manufactures

We have just ordered two hives from Tim which we hope to have ready for bees to occupy in early spring of this year. The plan at this stage is to have one at the front of the farm in among the Yellow Box trees and another up the back in among the White and Grey Box trees.