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Having eaten ourselves silly the day before everyone started fairly slowly. Breakfast was a similarly lavish affair to yesterday and we all sat around enjoying each others company and the delicious food that was in front of us. I had 2 multigrain weet-bix and several slices of multigrain bread with Rob’s homemade honey again. Rob was planning to harvest the honey for the year and he, Nick and Ian had suited up to prepare to visit the hives. We were all invited to watch and were able to get quite close as they visited each of the 6 hives in turn.

The hives were built with two or three boxes making each colony, the bottom – we were told – would contain the Queen and was where bees were hatched. The upper boxes were above a Queen excluder sheet which was a grill (which was too fine for the Queen to fit through but allowed worker bees to continue filling honey comb, therefore stopping her from laying eggs in them). These upper boxes contained 8 frames which were filled with honeycomb. As each was pulled out it was instantly clear when bees had filled them with honey as they had a slightly whiter coating which sealed the honeycomb matrix. Rob and Nick took a couple from each box and would leave the less filled frames in each box to collect another time.

Rob removed 16 frames in total from the five different hives. The last one had been quite ‘lively’ and despite using the smoke one bee had got under his net and stung him on the neck. He spent about 30 seconds sorting the net out and was back straight away to finish the box. The frames were loaded onto a barrow like device in two spare boxes and wheeled up to the tin shed. Inside, Nick was using a steam heated knife (a long, very flat knife connected with a series of hoses to a pressure steam heater) the knife took the waxy top of the honeycomb off exposing the golden honey in the comb beneath. Once both sides of the frame were cut open, two frames at a time were placed into a hand cranked centrifuge within a large drum and spun to remove the honey from within the comb. They honey sprayed out and onto the side of the drum before sliding down to the bottom of the drum where it was collected. The weight diffence between the frames filled with honey and those empty was quite staggering. Rob had estimated that there would be around 70 – 80 pounds of honey harvested from the hives.

I struggled to believe that there was anything like that amount being collected in the bottom of the drum as all I could see were very fine threads of honey being spun from the frames. When the tap at the bottom was finally opened it was incredible to see a thick stream of golden honey pour out and onto the sieve & filter and into the bucket that had been placed below.

The large bucket below was easily 30cm in diameter and 50cm deep. Two of these buckets were filled deep with runny golden honey. We had sampled it both as it came out of the hive with the honeycomb and again when being drained from the centrifuge. Both times were absolutely delicious and like nothing else I’ve tasted! By this point it was about half 2 and the temperature inside the shed – with 5 of us working inside alongside the steam heated knife – had rocketed up and we were all sweltering in the heat.

Having finished spinning the honey we went inside to have lunch. It is pleasing to know that traditions from the other side of the world continue here, the left over meat had been beautifully prepared by Ruth and Katy and was waiting for us on the lunch table. Rob ducked out towards the end and picked a number of apricots from the tree which had been heavily weighed down by the number growing on it earlier. They were very tasty juicy and quite ripe; the skins were fairly soft and peach like.

After lunch we started to clear up, pack the car and say our goodbyes and about an hour later set off for Melbourne. On the route home we drive through the nearest village (Mandurang) and on to Bendigo. At the third largest city in Victoria, it was quite interesting to see. The city was built upon the gold rush and was filled with many large old buildings which had clearly been financed by the profits from the heady days when the gold mines were active. There was also a tram system running through the city which again was clearly a remnant of the gold industry.

We continued our drive back to Melbourne on the freeway and popped into Woodend for tea at a bakery cafe, I had a pot of tea with Susie and we also shared a piece of delicious Red Velvet cake between two. It was slightly cherry flavoured and was the deepest red with a fine white icing. One of the sweetest cakes I’ve had for a while!

On arriving back in Melbourne I unpacked the car and Luciano prepared supper of the left overs from last week (mince and stew) to empty the fridge for our trip down to Wonthaggi. Another delicious meal. As we sat eating we realised that the sun was setting over Melbourne and it would be worth heading outside to watch the fruit bats. The air was thick with them as they left trees from the left of the house and flew high overhead to the right. I’m not sure where they were heading but ther large black silhouette against the darkening blue sky was really quite something to behold. Their wingspan must have been at least 50cm wide possibly more and their black bodies were clearly quite significant. They flew, not like the bats I’ve seen in France or the UK, who fly very erratically and seemingly randomly, but silently, in a smooth direction and more like large birds traversing the sky.

I spent the rest of the evening packing before having a go at the Bach double with Amy. I say ‘having a go’ as although I know it off by heart still I was playing on one of Amy’s very old instruments – a 3/4 size violin and a 10th size bow, long notes were something of a challenge! After the Bach double we made our way through a Suzuki violin duet, trio and quartet book. Some of the pieces were really good fun, including a clever Mozart duet which you placed on a flat table between two players both played from opposite ends as if playing normally (i.e. one played the same piece but upside down and backwards to the other, incredibly it worked!)

Insect bites update.
The trilogy of bites on my arm are subsiding along with the ones on my ankle and knee from the Great Ocean Road. However the three separate ant bites on my toes from Bendigo have swollen up to the size of a two penny piece and are very itchy!!

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