And on the 67th day….

… they swarmed. I must’ve done something right. My bees swarmed 67 days after I collected them as a swarm. Look who’s counting?

The weather in Sydney has turned tropical: every day is hot and humid. Then an afternoon storm rolls through. This then contributes to the humidity of the next day. I feel like I’m living in the tropics.

Bearding bees

The bees have been ‘bearding’ madly every day for the past three weeks*. They filled two warre boxes full of comb and brood (baby bees) in two weeks, so I nadired (added an extra bee box) with one box , to make a three box hive, but their mind was made up. Apparently, they decide about a month before they swarm the they’re gonna do it.

A few days’s later I had this sms conversation whilst away from home:

“The bzz r looking 4a place 2swarm like uder the house”
“Wtf??? Do I need to get another box?
“we’l c whr they go”

I put a call out for an emergency hive box, and managed to collect it on my way home. I set it up as a bait hive to try and lure the hive, but the girls had already made their mind up.

They swarmed the next day whilst I was at work.

I’m not supposed to feel it personally, but I feel abandoned.

I have helped the bees achieve their purpose, which is reproduce the bee colony.

But the statistic that 80% of swarms don’t make it doesn’t make me feel better. The fact that the monsoonal type weather is still ongoing has me a bit concerned, because Queenie needs to take a mating flight, and she might not make it back before the storm hits.

Fingers Crossed.

* established beekeepers will know that this is a swarm warning sign. I just thought it was bloody hot!

Rushcutters, Rushcutters Bay

A newish venture by the Keystone group. For me, the drawcard was the opportunity to get some Hawkesbury Valley produce from chef turned farmer Martin Boetz.

The space was a gorgeous space filled with plants, soaring ceilings, cosy nooks. We got a space in front of the window.

The main seating area:

You don’t get to sit in this area during breakfast/brunch time, and I forgot to take a picture of the space in front of the windows where I did get to seat.

The menu is deceptive. A lot of the items listed you *think* are freshly made on the premises. But fresh juice…Botannical brand… which you see at the markets, is not made on site. Similarly, the “goat’s milk smoothie”, although didn’t have the Willowbrae brand name, but had the *flavours* that they use and sell at the markets, had me on the scent of pre-packaged and prepared offsite. That’s not to diss those two excellent products, I just wish that the menu had made that more clear.

So I got tea. Rushcutter’s blend:

Rushcutter's blend tea

Yes, well, tea is hardly even made on site, but at least I knew what I was getting into. This tea infusion had juniper berries and dried apple pieces. It was very tempting to sneak my paw into the tea infuser and eat a few pieces of apple, but that would’ve reduced my tea flavour. So I only ate one.

I got the full rushcutters ($23.50):

The full Rushcutter's

Scrambled eggs, roast tomato, speck, rye, white sausage. This plate was loaded. The eggs were really creamy, I had trouble finishing them. The speck tasted like bacon! The onion jam had thick cut pieces and was like a traditional fruit jam. The white sausage was a bit of a non event. Traditionally it is a fresh sausage that is made in the morning and eaten before lunchtime. It doesn’t contain preservatives, hence the story shelf life. This white sausage had a strong lemon taste. The bread came from Meu’s, a brand which I’ve seen more frequently a multitude of farmers markets: taylor square, orange grove, castle hill and frenches forest.

Poached eggs with apple, parsley and water cress ($17):

Rushcutter's poached eggs

The dressing was really lemony, but the apple added a nice sweetness and contrasted with the bitterness of the watercress.

Somehow I forgot to get a coffee.

After breakfast, we visited the little shopfront just inside the front door. Tomatoes were $10/kg, with gorgeous sweet little cherry tomatoes. The grapefruit was $6/kg. Everything was then wrapped in heavy brown paper before being placed inside a large brown shopping bag. My loot for the day was $15.

Rushcutter's markets

I have been thinking about heading back to rushcutters for breakfast sometime soon…

Lemon, Almond and ginger protein balls

Searching the interwebs for ‘almond meal raw balls’ feels a bit odd. But the inspiration was this:


Spotted at Marrickville Markets. Yes, I only took a picture of the *sign* not of the ‘raw balls’.

I followed, mostly – ish, the recipe from petite kitchen, except I didn’t have enough desiccated coconut.

1 cup of desiccated coconut – I substituted with sesame seeds, chia seeds, rolled amaranth, desiccated coconut.
I also added 1cm knob of finely grated fresh ginger.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours:

Lemon, almond, ginger protein balls

I must’ve used young ginger, because it didn’t have that gingery ‘bite’ that I was looking for. It’s really important to use ‘fresh’ desiccated coconut. I found that I had an unpleasant stale taste from mine.

The end result was variously described as ‘really nice, because it’s not as rich as most protein balls’, and ‘too rich!’. You can’t please everybody. I later used the leftovers as the base for the allegedly raw caramel slice.

Monday’s Garden and Harvest

I’m trying so very hard not to count my apples before they hatch:


is one of my twelve (count them!) starkrimson cherries.

I have nibbled on some strawberries (when I can beat the snails/slubs/cockroaches/ants) to them, planted some rhubarb crowns donated by a friend, and watched the comings and goings of the ladiez:

Bearding bees
When it gets hot, they sit on their front porch and fan their wings, directing the breeze inside the hive. This kind of behaviour is called ‘bearding’. It’s similar to how a swarm looks when they’re out looking for a new home, and also how the bees cluster together inside the hive during winter to keep warm.

I’ve also discovered that if you let your radishes go to seed, you can eat the little seed pods. They taste hot and peppery, like a radish, but with less commitment:

Radish seed pods

One day, this head of butter lettuce just popped up:

Butter lettuce

the seeds must’ve just felt the right conditions had come along and started to sprout.

I think summer started two weeks ago. We’ve had record breaking temperatures, and top temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius almost every day.

Chestnut & Rosemary Cake

I first saw this slice at the red door cafe in Leura. It was served with sour cream and sugar syrup. I liked it so much (although I don’t think it needed the sugar syrup), that I wanted to try and make it as soon as I got home.

Chestnut & Rosemary Cake from Red Door Cafe, Leura:

Chestnut & Rosemary cake

Luckily, I had stocked up on some chestnut flour from Dijon Foods in castle hill. I think that the last cake I tried to make involving chestnuts was a chestnut chiffon cake… Using tinned chestnut puree.

I mixed the recipes from Australian Gourmet Traveller and Italyum. I later worked out that my copy of Silver Spoon also had this recipe, closer to the Italyum version.

I used 150g each of chestnut flour and plain flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, 50g almonds, and dried cranberries instead of sultanas.

My biggest hint: sift the damn flour. I normally don’t bother with this step, but I then spent a good thirty minutes hunting for the lumps in the batter. It was not worth the ten or so minutes that I saved at the beginning.

Batter up:

Chestnut cake batter

Eventually it turned very smooth, almost like a lotus seed paste, or indeed like chestnut puree. There was a slightly odd smell that I couldn’t place as I was mixing it.

I toasted my whole almonds, and then roughly crushed them with the mortar and pestle. This was to replicate the cake that I had eaten that morning.


Chestnut & Rosemary cake

This was just after 1 hour of baking including 10 minutes towards the end at 200 degrees to brown the top.

The cake was quite light and fluffy, unlike the one from the red door which I think had some almond meal in it and a lot more oil or butter. There was a slight bitter taste from the chestnut flour, but also sweetness and softness in the texture. If I go ahead with making a chiffon cake, the flour would work quite well.

I’ve still got 350g chestnut flour to practice with…

Ragamuffin steamed muffins, Leichhardt

I was in Leichhardt, it was Monday, and Penny Four’s was shut. No chocolate hazelnut log for me. But a few doors down the hill was ‘Ragamuffin’, featuring steamed muffins.

Hmm, like the authentic bagel, which has two cooking processes before you can eat it. Interesting ….

I was hungry, so I chose one sweet and one savoury muffin. $4 each.

Sweet (on the left):

Ragamuffin sweet and savoury

Lemon sorbet.

Once again, like a sweet gooey centre of a fancy chocolate, there was a sweet gooey centre of lemon filling, only visible to the naked eye with a slight colour and texture change.


Zucchini, fetta and pumpkin. Quite plain overall, but the inside had a gooey hit of pumpkin. If there had been salt, perhaps it had been steamed out.

Sun dried tomato and feta – Quite plain overall, but the inside had a gooey dollop of minced fetta and muffin batter. The picture doesn’t do it justice:

Sun dried tomato and feta muffin

On a whim, I also picked up a cold pressed juice ($5.5). Apple, celery, lemon, kale and ginger. It was very refreshing and didn’t taste too ‘green’.

On a later date, when I walked in, a couple were enjoying coffee and an intriguing looking muffin. “What are they having?” I whispered. Coffee cream caramel:

Coffee creme caramel muffin

The top had crunchy instant coffee granules, the *cream* (not cream caramel), formed the gooey centre. Sort of like a cookies an cream muffin, but coffee flavoured.

Ragamuffin Steamed Muffins
157 Norton Street, Leichhardt
0700-1500, daily except for Christmas.

Cause and Effect

Can you see what I see?

Cherry fruit set

Was it the application of ice throughout winter as part of operation chill? After all, with the extra month (210 hours, say; for a total of 360 hours over winter) on non-flowering indicating that the cherry tree thought that it was too cold
Was it the presence of a local beehive for the last month? (Happy one month birthday ladies)
Was it both, or was it neither?

I don’t care, I got me some fruit set!


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