Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Stinger: Honey

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I don't hate Capilano. This blog will explain in a roundabout way as to why. However, the number one reason is that I personally know quite a number of people (a significant portion of the people I work for) that supply Capilano with honey. And yet, there are more reasons. First, it's interesting to know what is honey. And you're likely to assume that it's made from bees. However, if you come from Asia the definition and how it's created is entirely different. Professor Noberto Garcia informed us at congress that, unlike honey in the western world, honey in Asia is processed by humans through a 'honey factory'. The bees do the initial work of collecting the pollen and storing it in the hive... in steel tubes within the hive to be precise. Once the bees turn the pollen into honey, but before it is mature, the tubes are removed from the hive and taken to a factory to be extracted and mixed in with rice syrup, corn syrup and/or pass. You see, the Asian definition of honey hardly mentions the word 'bees'. It attributes honey's beginning to bees but that's where it ends. It talks about honey as being a sweet syrup. The western definition is solely based around bees doing all the work to create the end product.
Asian honey is produced in such a way that it constitutes as honey fraud in the west. Honey fraud can also include using resin technology, the masking of the geographical and/or botanic origin or feeding hives during a nectar flow.
At the moment, Australian honey exports are in decline and what we're importing is in greater quantities but certainly not quality. 73% of the imported honey comes from China. Before you get upset, remember that half the crap in our houses started out in China.
Back to Capilano. Yes, they import. However, they're one of 34 (yes, thirty four) Australian companies that import honey. As I've mentioned over and over on Facebook, Capilano have various labels: the masthead label (Capilano) and other labels (like Allowrie). The Capilano label is all Australian, the Allowrie label contains imported honey.
As a consumer, you can get angry and slag off Capilano all you want, however, consider this: loud, angry and disgruntled people having a go at Capilano importing honey is having a knock-on effect on the WHOLE honey industry. You have the knowledge, read the labels, buy Australian, buy masthead products. This is how to make a statement.
This is working in America. David Hackenberg, who runs a huge honey and pollination business from Pennsylvania, is part of a co-operative with other producers. They have their own label, Sam's. People know that Sam's is American. People are checking the labels. Sam's sells for a higher price than imported brands yet people are still buying it over cheaper honey from other countries. They like food provenance, they like to support their own economy. Consumers are buying smarter.
There's no use in getting angry and ranting on Capilano's Facebook page about the fact they are importing honey when THEY ARE ONE OF MANY.
I repeat: read the labels, buy Australian, buy masthead labels, pay that little bit more. Buy from the farmers market, I don't care. Just know that the power to buy Australian lies with YOU and buying Australian produce is the biggest statement you can make.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

The Stinger: What My Job Is

Over the course of the next week or so I will be doing a series on the Australian Honey Bee Industry. If you have any questions, keep them in mind, they may actually be answered in the blog series. At the end of the series, if they're not answered, the final blog post will be created to answer them.

Most people don't really understand what my job is. My role is Bee Biosecurity Officer for PIRSA (Primary Industries and Regions South Australia) and I have equivalents in NSW, Vic, Tas, WA and there will soon be a Bee Biosecurity Officer in Queensland.

I am not a beekeeper. I don't have to be a beekeeper. I don't particularly want to be a beekeeper while I'm employed in this role.

My role is to educate and encourage compliance in beekeepers in South Australia. I have two compliance angles: the Honey Bee Industry Code of Practice; and the South Australian Livestock Act. Another education aspect of my role is to help beekeepers be able to identify various bee pests and diseases and what to do if they find them.

My role is not to save the bees. It is to save the beekeepers from themselves or each other depending on the situation. "Saving" the bees is a topic I will cover later.

The position is industry funded. In a convoluted way, I work for Plant Health Australia and PIRSA. This is all complicated so I will not elaborate further.

One of the worst bee diseases in Australia is called American Foulbrood. Undetected, it can kill a hive. It's highly infectious and therefore, easily spread. This is the main bee disease I focus on though there are others. American Foulbrood is not uncommon and is a notifiable disease in every state and territory. Most beekeepers are pretty good at dealing with it themselves, some require help which I am willing to provide and some are just plain rogue and their path usually comes with a fair bit of anger, frustration and disappointment as a result.

I do not deal with federal issues. I have no control over honey imports from other countries  (covered in a later blog) or the use of chemicals  (covered in a later blog). I don't hate Capilano  (covered in a later blog). I just do my job as best I can for the industry that pays me in a fashion that is clearly set out by my two employers.

Stay tuned for way more interesting stuff.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Bright Lights Big City

Adaptation to SA life is proving to be difficult for me at times. Remember that blog I wrote two and a half years ago called "Failing in the Big Smoke"? Well, that crud is still happening. 
I caught a bus to Nairne the other day. Not even slightly intentional. My destination was supposed to be Mt Barker. After calling the landlord for help it was all chaos and downhill from there. His gearbox played up, I ended up catching a taxi and I had Oporto's despite the budget not allowing it. At least the pups peed in my car and not all over his leather seats. Somehow, the old EJ clunked back into gear and made it home without the RAA.
That same week I went to the city for some training. I thought I needed to go to level six to be at the right place so I took the elevator that did floors one through twelve. When I realised my mistake, I took the elevator to level twelve and thought that I'll take the stairs the rest of the way up. The toilets just happened to be in the stairwell in this building and thank goodness some bloke needed to pee because without a pass I never would have got out of that stairwell.
I've been relying heavily on Google Maps to get me around Adelaide. The meltdown was real when it took me to Britannia roundabout. Nobody likes Britannia roundabout. 
And today I let a perfectly good bus drive past me because I had completely forgotten which buses were available to me to get back to Mt Barker. 
This is on top of almost falling asleep coming into Glen Osmond because the dogs... actually, no, just one female, adult dog, spent the night barking because she was pissed off that she was expected to sleep outside after I'd cleaned the cottage for an inspection and also that rodent that kept me awake due to its desire to gnaw on the bookcase even though I kicked and slapped the bejeezus out of that bookcase in an effort to strike fear into its heart and make it go away. Thankfully, there's a café near my bus stop so I got a cup of burnt dirt with added chocolate and a cookie which got me twitching throughout the day, but not mentally alert.
One day I may get this city/suburban thing down pat?

Sunday, 11 February 2018


I was asked before I left Katherine if I would continue writing my blog. I figured I would write if I felt like I would have something to write home about. So far, I have only been out a few times because generally after knocking off for the week I'm too knackered to go out. This has resulted in me being more of a  hermit than I was in Katherine. 
There's a bit of a bucket list of things I want to see and do during my time down here. However, the realisation that the weather will only be so nice for so long has just dawned on me.
I sat in the car this morning, not in any hurry to get out of it and stand at the bus stop. When I got in the car the thermometer said 11 degrees. I had seen it at that temperature before so I tried not to let it bother me but the moment I started winding my way down to Mt Barker that temperature dropped to 9 degrees and I screamed. Even though the refrigerant had hissed its way ot of the car's air conditioning system back in June last year, the heat still works fine... thankfully. 
Having come from South Australia you think I would quickly adapt back to this frozen state, but no, it's a bit difficult to wrap my head around the idea of such low temperatures when it's only frigging February. Winter comes and you'll find me dealing with the nights using three dogs, not two.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

I Accept No Responsibility

It all started quite innocently. It was the final meeting for the CWA for the year. Technically our Christmas party. Then, because of the kids, most members went home. I then blame Gill for the rest of the evening because next thing I know I’m crying out to a bunch of twenty somethings to stop feeding me Moscato. I was tiddly enough without their help. I had flash backs of the night I was on the rum and OJ at Wudinna Pub and Sharlee and Stacey were convincing me to part myself from the porcelain throne. I didn’t really want that to happen again.

If you want to see a spectacular show of mullets, this evening was perfect for such viewing. There was even a pair of cut-off, acid wash jeans to accompany one mullet. One mullet hung around a lot. I cacked myself with laughter at the crap he was trying to spin.

Toward midnight I hid under the table in the foyer of the Golfie. I was determined not to go to Kirby’s. The last time I went there with Stace I felt old and that the place was like a meat market. Somehow, some lady, who I think may have been called Brenda, was driving myself, Courtney, Jade and AJ Ben to the exact place I was trying to avoid. And somehow, during the night, we’d collected a number of AJ’s (aka Army Jerks for those who miss out on having a defence base near to them).

At Kirby’s Gill was trying to get yet more booze down my throat and yet I threw back water instead much to the amusement of many. I danced and danced with everyone. Soon attendees of Sam’s 40th birthday were dancing alongside us. Then I had some random ask me if I wanted a drink and a dance. Um, no. This was the point that I decided to get the hell out of there. Whilst grabbing my stuff random number two asked me for a drink and a dance. I told him I had a husband and two kids and that I was going home to them now. I then let security and Sam’s husband know I was going home because this is K-Town after all.

Stepping outside I looked down the street at the local vagrants and opted for a taxi for the pathetic distance to the house-sit and happily paid the minimum fare to get home safely.

Apparently, I’m going to hit the town again on the 1st of December if anyone wants to throw me a lifeline? Anyone?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


I sat there in front of 40 odd people listening to Sue read out all that I do in my life:
“She works full-time at the Department of Primary Industries and Resources, part-time as a waitress at a restaurant, she studies for a Bachelor of Law and a Certificate III in Horticulture. She’s also the treasurer for her local CWA and manages her own cattle herd” (I can mostly give Garry the credit for that last one but when I can get there to the station, I’m down there trying to contribute as best I can with what limited time I have).

When you hear someone else reading all that out it kind of hits you (what wasn’t mentioned was that up until the 26th of March I was also making fortnightly visits to a little, old lady, via the Anglicare Community Volunteer Scheme, until she passed away). This was the point that I realised I was trying to do way too much and somewhere in there I needed to eat and sleep. Something had to give. It did. The restaurant.

Mum had finally sold the motel business (not the land) and is now semi-retired. Hospitality has become a choice for her now and not an all-consuming aspect of her life. Why should it be any different for me? I hated hospitality but it was my best fall-back on hard financial times. I’m certainly not rich now after spending almost 2 years trying to be friendly and courteous when I’d really rather throw plates of food at people. However, my car loan is paid off and that was my main aim. I achieved that a year ago so why the hell was I still there? Oh yeah, a few of the people I worked with. I felt especially guilty about leaving Bernie because she was so good to me, we’ve become good friends and we worked well together.

Now there is one extra night to study for that assignment that is due in two weeks that I’ve barely started because, quite frankly, Constitutional Law is not even close to being my strong point. And the textbook is about 3 inches thick.

Meanwhile, with the Certificate III in Horticulture done and dusted, I’m trying to do a Diploma of Agribusiness although the training organisation doesn’t seem to think that’s really important for me to complete.

After that trip to Melbourne I decided that, to prevent getting burnt out like I had in 2016, I was going to do things that make me feel happy and more relaxed. Even before Melbourne, I returned to the restaurant in the New Year having cut back my nights from 5 to 1. On most weekends I go riding with Di-Zee and/or Jodes. I’ve started and finished a number of books. Already I’ve had significantly less migraines this year than last. A minor addiction to Coke Zero aiding in that.

And now that we’ve ticked passed the half-way mark for 2017? A small road trip is planned for late September. And next year will likely have some momentous things to occur! ... But you’ll just have to wait for what they are until they actually happen!

Sunday, 6 August 2017


Some years ago, I wrote a blog, “What’s In It For Me?”, citing the reasons for volunteering and actively participating in community organisations and that there shouldn’t be anything in it for you because you’re supposed be giving back to your community. However, further contemplation on the topic has lead me to realise that sometimes there are some things in it for you and that it’s all driven by the karma bus (because everyone forgets that karma carries both positive and negative energies).

On Sunday, I had managed to be roped in to volunteering for the Katherine Ultra Challenge. I was nervous about saying yes as the task was to be a paddler in a canoe on the swimming leg of the Challenge first thing in the morning. I had not been in a canoe or kayak since 1996 when we had the annual “Aquatic Days” at school.

“Aquatic Days” contained a choice of kayaking, sailing or snorkelling from memory. I chose kayaking and would have chosen sailing if the group hadn’t already been full for that activity. It was the first time I had ever been kayaking and the instructor was a bitch. It ruined my mood for the rest of the day and had me believing that I was no good at kayaking and that I shouldn’t ever bother again.

So, swing round to 20 odd years later and here I was thinking “the swimmers will yell at me, the Gorge boats will yell at me, I will get in everyone’s way, I will clumsily flip my canoe and end up in the drink”. Many thoughts. The organiser, after being on the receiving end of twenty questions from me, assured me I would be fine so I accepted. I’m glad I did.

The 430am wake up was nasty but by 530am I was at the Gorge and ready to go with my squished bananas, camera and excess amounts of potted water. We headed up the first gorge in a small tinny which reminded me of my childhood on the River Murray, fishing with Poppa. We all then geared up and all paddled out around the bends in the second gorge and sat and waited in mostly silence. I had a quick conversation with a lovely lady called Neve after accidently crashing my canoe into hers but soon it was time to get into place.

Soon the gorge was filled with the sound of waves clashing, rapids smashing and waterfalls crashing as the competitors hit the river. Our calm waters were suddenly choppy with the movements of 60 odd swimmers. They headed around the bends and back again and their arms flapping into the water echoed off the walls of the gorge making it sound as though they were actually behind me. Those on the tail were struggling and I later discovered they dropped out. The woman in the lead put more and more distance between her and the next swimmer every time I saw her. By the time the swimmers were getting out of the water, having finished their swim, there were two noble stragglers left. Bigglesworth paddled beside one, I paddled by the other trying to shout the odd bit of encouragement. Then, with the finish line in sight, I accidently cut the poor sod off (massive apologies to Contestant No. 4). After alighting my canoe, I discovered that he was doing the whole Ultra Challenge by himself. Most people compete in teams and tag each other for different legs of the course. There are only a small handful that do the entire thing alone.  In the cross-country run, last I had seen Contestant No. 4, he had gained 2 places. I didn’t keep track of him after that.

I followed a bit of the Katherine Ultra Challenge progress for the rest of the morning for the sake of photos and seeing at what stages most people were at.

This is not an isolated occasion to have gained something out of volunteering. Each year that it is held I volunteer for the Women of the World Festival and on one of those years I got to meet one of my legal idols, The Honourable Sally Thomas AC. Other occasions that I have volunteered I’ve simply had a good time and met new people. So, if you volunteer without expectation, there may actually be something in it for you.
Competitors and their support crews waiting for the day to start

The swimmers progressing along the gorge

M. Desailly, one of the few entrants competing alone
The cross-country run to mountain bike switchover point

Kayakers heading to Low Level