Thursday, September 6, 2007

Day 2 - Sydney and Environs

Day 2 – : A full day beginning with a hearty breakfast just off Liverpool street. The little restaurant had some problems because they are not set up for over sixty people the show up and be served a la carte from a menu of several breakfasts.. Tomorrow, they will change their mode of operation. They will open earlier and the same breakfast will be served to all.

We depart Sydney on the coach for Belgenny Farm, the birthplace of Australian agriculture, established in 1805 by John and Elizabeth Macarthur. It was based on convict labor and pioneered production of wool (Merino sheep), wheat, dairy products, horticulture and grapes. It is currently almost a museum but has been converted into a meeting place, with buildings walled in glass to produce a semi-outdoor setting for lectures and meetings, especially weddings. It also features special commemorative days, including Australia Day (January 26) Mother’s Day, The rum rebellion (last Sunday in June), Farm Sunday and the music, food and wine festival. The research institute is named after Elizabeth Macarthur and it is located on Elizabeth Macarthur Ave. Apparently, the place is named after Ms. Macarthur as she was the inspiration for it.

It is now part of the New South Wales Dept. of Primary Industries or DPI (formerly) department of agriculture). The reason the bee event was held at Belgenny Farm is because the DPI is in an uproar at present due to detection Equine Influenza, which has caused most movement of horses to stop and a team of scientists and regulators to determine where to go next (eradicate or “live with it”).

The same was true for detection of small hive beetle in 2002 and the “live with it” decision was made. The insect was spread due to the current drought, which caused much more bee movement around the state and country. The beetle research in area by entomologists is showing some results, similar to those in other areas where the beetle was introduced. So, there are studies on ground drenching, trapping and using chemical control.. A presentation revealed that a aluminum-foil-covered cardboard insert treated with insecticide would be a good control measure; at present the material fipronil is the active ingredient that seems most promising. There are discussions with Bayer about supporting the development of a product, however, it will be slow going since this kind of technology could be easily compromised by creative beekeepers as has happened in the past..

Other research reported on treatment options for European foulbrood and the use of the polymerase chain reaction to see what variants of Nosema apis are found in Australia. So far no Nosema ceranae has been reported.

Other research reported on treatment options for European foulbrood and the use of the polymerase chain reaction to see what variants of Nosema apis are found in Australia. So far no Nosema ceranae has been reported.

Lunch at the nearby golfcourse featured chicken or beef, regular potatoes, squash, corn and beans finished with trifle. There are many golf courses in Australia; the demand is principally from Japan where very few exist and are expensive to play. Relatively speaking Japanese can get economical, easy access to this popular past time in their country where excess land is extremely scarce.

After lunch it was off to see Blue Mountain Honey, a family owned place run by a previous pastry chef who has taken this skill and applied it to honey products. He has taken spices and flavors like cinnamon and boysenberry and added them to honey. He has also developed his own method for making a creamed honey. His shop contains many types of local honey that are unifloral in source. Of particular interest is that of Patterson’s Curse, an introduced weed responsible for the death of horses in this country. Another twist. We tried to buy honey to take to friends in Perth who are hosting us only to find out that honey cannot be sent to the state of Western Australia due to quarantine laws. If we want to give honey to folks in Western Australia, it must be purchased in the state.

We then visited a local queen bee breeder, Pat Carol, to see his operation. This is where the tour operators reveal themselves as unfamiliar with visiting beekeeping operations and tours. Many of us debarked the bus with no veils and wearing plaid and flannel shirts and were unceremoniously ushered into a bee yard, which also had two large dogs ambling about. No smoke was in evidence should any trouble from defensive bees develop. Fortunately, the bees were gentle and no stinging incident occurred. Clearly this beekeeper is quite small scale (2,500 queens per year), but he is ramping up his operation as there is boom on in beekeeping, along with other commodities, and a strong demand for queens, exacerbated by packages being shipped to the U.S. for the first time. He will have plenty of room to grow and could probably have learned a lot by spending more time with one guy on the tour, one of the world’s largest queen producers, Gus Rouse of Kona Queen Company.

Seat Belt Use: My partner found that the bus (coach) we are on has seat belts for all passengers. It turns out that in Australia since 1995, all passengers and drivers are required to use seat belts. The fine for not doing so is AU $250.00.

The day finished with the obligatory Sydney Harbor cruise. The Captain Cook, a three decker, picked us up at Darling Harbor Kings Pier Number 1, and we put out into the main harbor. The dinner was excellent and there was live music aboard. We sailed back and forth under the Sydney Harbor Bridge with its APEC sign, welcoming the dignitaries. The major attractions were the famed Opera House and a fully lit amusement park, Coney Island? of Sydney? Many police boats in evidence for the APEC; that evening we hear of the prank where a group of comedians, one dressed as Osama Bin Laden breached the multi-million dollar security system, arriving in a black limo at the foot of George W. Bush’s door.

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