Many Australian families are moving towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle, a lifestyle with the ability to produce their own food. Food that is pesticide-free, additive-free and cost-free. This lifestyle provides the opportunity to not only have the freedom to produce food, but also the freedom for children to play and learn in nature,  freedom to help and protect the environment, freedom from bills by converting to solar energy or rainwater tanks… You could even call it a ‘free-change’?!

This type of lifestyle change can be big or small. For some families, it’s a few herbs in pots. For others, the entire garden may be converted to a vegetable patch. Others might get a couple of backyard chickens. For my family, it was a move from a suburban home to a five acre property a few months ago.

So far, we have had great success with producing eggs and honey!

We have nine hens (which our six year old loves to care for). They roam around the property during the day and give us over 40 eggs a week. Four of the chickens were rescued from an egg farm and you can see the difference after a few months living the good life.

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Check your local council regulations for keeping chickens. Here‘s some information if you are in the City of Cockburn.

Raw local honey is a sought-after commodity and we have been very pleased with our harvest so far. Our friends, family, workmates and members of the local community have been more than happy to purchase tubs from us to help offset the set-up costs.

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From my bee-keeper husband (seen below with our six year old): Home beekeeping is a very rewarding hobby, in that you are doing something for both yourself and the local area (pollination of fruit/veges/flowers), getting access to fresh, unadulterated, FREE honey, and having a close interaction with magnificent natural creature. We run two hives currently, and check them about every two weeks. The checks would usually take about an hour all up.

The main aims of checking them are:

  • to make sure they have enough room to grow and to store/make honey. If the bees get too crowded, they will look to swarm (split from the existing hive), and that will lead to lower production of your hive, as there aren’t as many bees. There can be in excess of 50,000 bees in a healthy colony. If the supers are full, you’d look to extract the honey, or add more frames to the hive so the bees can continue to work.
  • To make sure there are no diseases or pests in the hives, like foulbrood, mites or wax moth which can decimate your hive.
  • To make sure the queen is doing her thing, making babies so the colony stays healthy and strong.

To keep bees, you need an apiarist (beekeeping) license, and a hive. Some people can do the required work on their hive without suits, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. Suits are great, but don’t let them lull you into a false sense of security. I’ve been stung on the tip of the nose as they got me through the mesh when my nose touched it, as well as on the neck, when a ninja bee made it through a gap in my suit. You also need hive tools to work the hive boxes and frames, and a smoker to quiet the bees. 

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Our next home-grown produce projects will be fruit, vegetables, herbs and fish. We will soon be constructing a dam to help with draining and irrigation then an orchard, a huge vegie patch and aquaponics tanks. We also plan to have marron or yabbies in the dam.

So… how can Cockburn Libraries assist you in making a ‘free-change’ and moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle? We have lots of helpful resources!

Search our catalogue using keywords such as: Self-reliant living, Gardening, Vegetable gardening, Organic gardening, Fruit-culture, Herb gardening, Bee culture, Chickens and Small farms

Have a look at these areas of our non-fiction collection: Sustainable Living, Animals and House and Garden

Read these great magazinesWarm Earth Organic GardeningGrass rootsGreen lifestyle (electronic access)

You can also check out the City of Cockburn’s sustainable living events!

Disclaimer: my references above to ‘we’ and ‘our’ generally mean my husband and younger son – they do the vast majority of animal care and yard work. My older son and I are far more likely to be found with our heads in books!

Feature photo credit: Belle Verdiglione Photography