Monday, 4 June 2018

Vroom Vroom

My goodness it's been a strange few months, life is only just starting to slowly normalise once again.  It's interesting how when being told a major organ in your body is playing up how it screws with your head, not to mention the tramping back and forth to appointments and dealing with horrible side effects of new medications.  In summary I have a heart that likes to beat to its own very crazy rhythm and the cardiology gurus decided that it would be better for my health to make it behave itself.  So, after many tests and trials of medication and then a procedure that unfortunately failed, I am now on another medication which thankfully is more agreeable.  More appointments to follow but hopefully we have found a status quo.

Anyway, moving on.  In the last blog post I had only just picked the olives, since then they have sat in brine for some weeks, and today was bottling day.  First I amassed all the bits and bobs that were needed.
 Into each sterilised jar I popped a sprig of rosemary, a slice of lime and a garlic clove, then in went the olives to an inch from the top.  Then I filled the jars with a mixture of 2/3rds 5% brine and 1/3rd apple cider vinegar, then added a centimetre of olive oil on top to stop any air getting to the olives. 
 17 wonderful jars of our very own, home grown, Frantoio olives! Technically Frantoios are more of an oil olive, they don't have a huge amount of flesh on them, but this was the first olive tree we bought when we knew no better, and it's the one that is fruiting.  We have two Kalamata trees but they are still young and haven't started fruiting yet.  The Frantoio olives are still very nice to eat, they have a nutty sort of flavour, so we are looking forward to sampling them in a month or two.  :-)
 Steve was also busy in the kitchen, cooking up some of our Granny Smith apples for making pies for the freezer, yum!
 This is a nice shrub in the back garden, a cherry guava, and I like the fruit very much.  A lot of people don't but I enjoy grabbing a few fruit from the bush when I go out the back.  I have to share the fruit with the birds, they are very partial to them too, and that's fine with me.
 There's nothing I like better that bee bums poking out of flowers.  These happy bees are having a marvelous time collecting pollen from my Kunzea.  This pretty pink Kunzea is known as Solomon's Pink.
 I'm still trying to get the perfect photo of the Red-Eared Firetail male.  This one is a bit clearer.
 ...and this one shows his profile.  They spend most of their time on the ground foraging around, I'm so happy that they are in the back garden now.
 Even though the weather is totally bizarre this year, we are starting to get the usual beautiful sunsets of autumn, except they are late.  I love the gorgeous red glow of the setting sun in this one.
 ...and the wild look of the clouds whipped up in the sky with golden glow of the sun behind.
 This was an afternoon when lots of people were burning off and there was a lot of smoke in the air, which ended up turning the sun pink.
 We decided to have a day out yesterday and took ourselves into Albany for the 2018 Albany Classic, a day of car racing around the streets of Albany town.  We parked down by the water and crossed over the railway line on the pedestrian overpass.  This is a photo of Albany's new silo art.  I am trying to like it, it is certainly different.  Steve thinks it looks unfinished and needs some background.  It is meant to be some sort of Leafy Sea Dragon.  Most people, including us, were unaware Albany even had these!  We were expecting something more well known, like whales perhaps.  Most people we know are not that impressed with the subject choice.  Anyway, it's better than a plain white silo hey. 
 We wandered up the lower end of York Street, admiring the shiny and lovingly maintained cars.
 Look at this beauty.  The main streets of Albany are closed off and become a racing track, it must be a massive effort to bring in fencing, concrete walls, remove the roundabouts and all other many tasks to bring the event to fruition.  The setting up happens overnight, as does the clearing up, to hats off to all who make it happen. 
 There are all sorts of races for differing types of vehicles, here's an older one roaring up Aberdeen Street.
 These ones are heading up Grey Street.
And for those of you that like car racing, here are a few videos we took...
These are a line of cars heading out for their particular race.  We were very taken with the beautiful, white, XK120 Jaguar coupe, it's all lovely and round,  in the middle of  this line-up.
Race in progress.  These cars have just roared down York Street, and have turned up Grey Street, left turn up ahead then they will tear down Collie Street.
Steve took this little video, his favourite car is in the race, I think it's the fourth car, a white one called a Shelby. 
It was a great day out, the weather was perfect and we toddled off home with throaty car sounds reverberating in our ears, the whiff of exhaust in our noses, glad that we'd made the effort to go.  :-)

Until next time...xx

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Big Lesson Learned

If you saw these Navel oranges in the shops, would you buy them? Probably not.  I was thinking about how we are brainwashed by marketing and sales to only want perfect looking fruit, regardless of how they actually taste.  These are the start of our Washington Navel oranges, they look as manky as hell on the outside, having been battered by wind and scratched by a wire fence, but let me tell you, they are absolutely delicious, as sweet as can be and a delight to eat.  The tree is loaded with them and we are very pleased!
It was olive harvest day on Monday.  We managed to save our olives this year, we have one Frantoio olive tree that is now producing loads of fruit, but the last two years the green parrots have stripped it bare.  This year we netted it, and until two weeks ago the net did a fine job of keeping the birds out.  Eventually the parrots managed to chew a hole through the top of the net and we kept finding a couple of intrepid greenies inside, munching away.  So, harvest date was set before we lost them all again.
 After coaxing the net off the tree, taking nets off fruit trees is not much fun, branches grow through them and get caught up, it requires great calm and patience to remove the net intact, we set to work picking the fruit.  We were very pleased to discover that our clever olive tree had given us 4 3/4 kilos of fruit.  They are quite small but going on the one jar I pickled five years ago, they have a lovely, nutty taste.
 I spent hours putting a slit into each and every olive and they are currently soaking in water.  In a few days time I will sit them in a brine solution, where they will stay for 3-4 weeks, changing the brine every few days, then they will be bottled in a half brine half vinegar solution and the jars topped with a centimetre of olive oil to keep the air out.  After a month of that then we can eat them.  It's quite a process but worth it in the end.  We also have two Kalamata olive trees that are still quite small, but they are stubbornly refusing to flower and fruit, here's hoping they get their act together next season!
 The birds were all thrilled to see the net off the olive tree and they finished off the last of the olives right at the top of the tree that were too hard to reach.  It beats me what birds see in olives off the tree, they are as bitter as all hell!
I've started pruning the back garden and I'm being ruthless as a lot of the shrubs are very overgrown and leggy.  Above is the lavender which I've cut to almost ground level, it will be fine, they like a good hard prune.  It has created a new vantage point for this lovely female RedWing Fairy Wren to watch for insects to gobble up. 

I'm still trying to get a good photo of this beautiful RedEared Firetail male, fossicking amongst the limestone pebbles on the back steps.  He is another lovely little bird and we are thrilled to see them in the back garden this year, previously they kept to the bush undergrowth.
Speaking of birds, I have a sad story to relate, and from it we have learned a big lesson, never, ever underestimate a predator.  You know how the chickens have been escaping from the orchard and have been roaming around?  There was one chicken who couldn't jump the fence and was being left behind, so we started leaving the orchard gate open a wee bit, so she could squeeze through and join her friends.  What a stupid thing we did.  A fox, in broad daylight, snuck through the gap into the orchard and into the chook yard where it grabbed one of the ducks, then a little while later it also grabbed one of the chickens who were in the bush near the shed.  Steve was walking to the shed when the other chickens burst out of the bush towards him, and he realised that the fox has grabbed the other chicken.  He locked those three up and followed the trail of feathers and then found both the chicken and the duck's bodies, it wasn't until then that we realised the duck has been taken too.  Oh my goodness, we've been really sad about it, and felt like we let the duck down by not protecting her in her yard properly.  Because we've had no problems with foxes all these years,  we became complacent about predators, almost thinking that our little farm was immune to nasty things like that. Needless to say we have learned a huge lesson, the gates have been fortified to stop the chickens jumping over, the gates remain shut, and we are keeping a watchful eye out.  Nature can be very cruel.

Neo spends a lot of his time at night sitting in the window watching the creatures of the night that we can't see.  I expect he has seen the fox roaming around in the dark more than once.  It makes me wonder how often they are around. 
I had a trip to Perth last week to visit mum and dad.  I took the opportunity to give mum her Mothers Day present early.  My secret crochet task can now be revealed, a lap blanket for mum.  It's a light weight one, made of cotton, not for really cold days, but for just when you need a little something over your legs.  I'm really glad you liked it mum, I enjoyed making it for you.  xx
Water tank level for our records.  It's going well, the level is on the rise.
Until next time... xx

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Mystery Blob On The Floor

 The weather has finally turned, there is a chill in the air and we've had over 50 lovely millimetres of rain in the last week.  Steve has lit the fire a couple of times as the house has been getting a bit cold.  Neo has been freezing, he keeps roaming around trying to find warm places to snooze during the day.  He is very happy in this photo, have you spotted him yet?  Silly dag has parked himself in the wood basket!
 A decent amount of rain is not before time.  Some of the big peppermint trees down the bottom have been suffering badly.  This huge tree has split off nearly a third of itself, the leaves are very dry and sick looking.  The rest of the tree is okay we hope, and with the soaking rain we hope the dry, parched trees will recover.  It's interesting how one big tree is clinging to life, yet another, only 10 metres away is as happy as Larry.  Anyway, Steve has been busy with his chainsaw today, cutting this big broken section into next season's firewood. 
 It took him a while longer to clear up the fallen tree part, because he had helpers.  Helpers that got in the way.  These marauding chicken helpers!  They roam all parts of our property now, it is bizarre to find them right down at the bottom near the creek bed.  They are slowly turning over every square inch of our place, nary a bug will remain!  They are pretty savvy, they ran for cover the other day when an eagle was circling overhead, and when they were caught in heavy rain they all stuffed themselves inside the hollow base of an old Jarrah to keep dry. 
 But with all that intelligence, they still haven't quite got the hang of their Treadle Feeder!  They know food is in there, and if I put my foot ever so slightly on the treadle and they see it open the lid a titch, then they will step on it to make the lid rise and thus begin to eat, but they haven't quite made the connection yet that they can begin the process themselves.  Apparently they will in time, I hope!
 The kangaroos are enjoying the spate of succulent, green grass that is poking through after the rain.  Here is Elsa having a munch.
I came staggering out from bed minus glasses this morning, to make a cuppa, and in the dim light of the living room, noticed something little lying on the floor.  As I can't see a thing without glasses, I collected it up onto a piece of paper, found my glasses and looked to see what it was.  This is what it was, alas he was as dead as a doornail and stiff as a board.  A tiny little bat!  To be precise, it's a Chocolate Wattled Bat or Chalinolobus morio.  We know they are around as if we sit outside just before dark we can sometimes hear the faint clicks of their echo location and see the hint of something flying by.  Apparently they are known as a micro bat, and feed on moths and beetles.  We can't work out how this poor little fellow got inside the house, we can only surmise that as he is so tiny, he may have squeezed through a minute gap at the edge of the bird-proof cat netting around Neo's enclosure and then got inside through the open laundry door.  I suspect Neo may have had something to do with his demise in that case, although there isn't a mark on him.  Neo is an indoor cat for precisely that reason, but sometimes even that is not enough.  I'm sorry little bat.
 Another crochet project finished, an earflap beanie for Michelle.
 I ended up making quince paste with the 4 quinces from our tree.  Everyone raves about it with cheese, to be honest I don't understand the fuss about it.  It's okay but to me it doesn't quite go, maybe I need to try it with a stronger cheese?

Until next time.... xx

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Tamarillo Thief

Michelle popped down for a visit a couple of weeks ago and she brought a cool little fisheye lens that she can attach to the back of her phone for taking photos.  She kindly allowed me to purloin some shots for the blog.  Aren't they great!
 I love the different way it highlights flowers, and the Magic Faraway Tree looks spectacular.  You can see how dry and brown the ground is under the trees.
 The nosy chicken had to stick its beak in for a look too.  :-)
 A few years ago I attempted to make Michelle a moss garden terrarium.  It was gorgeous, moss mounds, pebbles and Steve made a cute Hobbit door out of wood.  It didn't last very long unfortunately, the whole thing was gobbled up by a white fungi.  So, this visit, Michelle brought it down with her and we cleaned it out and had a go at redoing it.  We added a piece of Maidenhair fern for a tree too.  M reports that it has started to get a bit of white fluff growing again, she's opened the top up to try and dry it out a bit and see if that helps.  It's pretty though isn't it.
 Here are Michelle and Steve at Cosy Corner.
 And Steve and moi there too, we went for a little walk on a pleasant, sunny day.
Does anyone remember these?  They are Chunder Buns, a relic of the seventies.  Grated cheese, chopped celery and tomato sauce mixed together, dumped on halves of a bread roll then popped in the oven til melted.  Very yum.
 Here is the cat.  As the weather is cooling off he is constantly looking for warm places to nap.  He'll be very pleased when we start lighting the fire, which wont be far off now.
 This is what the cat has been getting up to in the wee small hours.  I picked a dozen tamarillos from my tree and dumped them in the fruit bowl.  Neo cannot resist fruit that had a stem attached, and in the dead of night will sneak up on the benchtop, purloin said fruit, then amuse himself batting it around the floor. 
 This is the last of the harvest from the vegie patch.  We are thrilled with the haul of Butternut pumpkins, first time we've grown them.  I made a batch of soup yesterday, it was lovely.  I have frozen some of the corn, I've been slack this time and just frozen them whole rather than stripping the kernels off the cobs.  It will be interesting to see how they are when defrosted and cooked.
 I finally made a start on dehydrating apple slices.  This was a small experimental batch, leaving the skin on.  I wont do that again, the skin goes a bit tough.  Since then I've done another couple of batches with the skin off, much better. 
 On the reptilian front, here is Voldemort who has temporarily taken up residence in the woodpile in the shed.  There are at least 3 big Voldemorts in the woodpile, and we have baby Voldemorts!  Very exciting!  There are three tiny little ones, like mini replicas of their parents, as long as a finger and not even as thick as a pencil.  So cute, and even cuter is that they can sometimes be seen riding on the big ones' backs....I am trying very hard to get a photo of that, not yet though, the babies are very skittish.
 If you look closely mid photo, you can just see the head of a baby Voldemort peeking out from behind the wood.  It is trying to get to the chopped grapes I've put on top, but it's not quite brave enough to come out while I'm there.  I need the parent and child photo to give you an idea of the size this space!
 My back garden is very overdue for a big prune, and yesterday I did a bit to start.  The birds have finished nesting now so I figured it's time to get on with it  Look what I found when I chopped down a big shrub near the back door.  At first glance it looked like a mound of dried grass in the fork of the shrub, about half a metre off the ground....
 but when I gently stretched open the tiny hole in the side, the wonder and technical brilliance of the (empty) nest became apparent.  Inside it is soft and watertight, coated with various fluffy bits that feel almost like they've been felted, it was very thick and strong and cosy in there.  I am pretty sure this the nest of the Splendid Wren.
 Here's one of the females peeking at me.  Clever little girl she is to make something so amazing.  No wonder she raised four fine children.
 I am very excited to see this bird again.  It's a White Robin, there were three checking out the back garden last week, and it's the first time I've seen them for about four years.  They are quite a bit bigger than the Splendid wrens and a lot shyer.  I hope they stay around.
 These are lovely birds too, the Western Spinebill, that chestnut colour around his chest is just lovely.  He is a nectar feeder, he's sitting on my Abutilon shrub where he feeds often,
 but he will be pleased too that the Bottlebrush are coming into flower now as well.
 For our records, this is the tank water level on April 1st.  It's gone down since then, gosh we are having a dry autumn although we've had a few little showers here and there, not enough to soak in but enough to green the grass a touch.  The kangaroos will be pleased. 
Until next time.... xx