Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We've been taking advantage of the fabulously cool weather this week to complete some missions outside.  Steve continued on with the cleaning up of the felled tree.  This photo was taken in October 2010 while we were in the process of dragging all the bits of tree into a pile. 
And this photo was taken yesterday, mission complete apart from the last load in the foreground.  Bits of tree gone, bracken slashed and grass mowed, a great job done.
In the meantime I got busy constructing a small vegie bed.  What I wanted to do was to make a small bed that was off the ground so the kikuyu grass couldn't get in and take over.  At the back of the shed I found a flat timber box that parts of the shed were delivered in.  It's been sitting out there in the weather and the thin base was looking a bit dodgy.... time will tell whether the whole thing collapses!  Anyway, I raised it up onto bits of wood to about knee height, which should keep the kikuyu and the bunnies at bay.
I had to mix up a concoction of goodies to fill the box, we are on a very sandy soil which water disappears through very quickly.  I ended up using bark and leaves off the forest floor, sand, sheep poo, seaweed and worm castings, all mixed up into a lovely goo.  This next photo is especially for Michelle, who cannot understand my joy of all things poo - here you are darling, a closeup of poo just for you.  :-)
Now, this box is about 1 metre square and I must confess that in my enthusiasm for my mission, that I may have been a little over zealous with the amount of seeds I've put in!  8 rows later, I am having a go at spring onions, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, spinach, garlic chives, coriander and dill.  My companion planting book tells me this should all work together well.  Whether the box is big enough to sustain the plants will remain to be seen!

I decided to mulch up some of the dead bracken that's around the place.  Big fronds grow on the perimeter of the forest.  When they die off they get very crunchy and brittle, perfect for mulching up. 
I want to use the mulched bracken on top of the soil in the box once the plants get big enough, so I decided to put it under black plastic to let the mulch compost  down a bit while I'm impatiently waiting for seeds to sprout and little plants grow.  To help it along I added some seaweed and some comfrey leaves, both of which I've heard are compost activators.  To finish up, a damping down with a couple of watering cans full of diluted Seasol, wrap up in black plastic and see what happens!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shed Baking

Life is going pretty well in the shed, we are getting a good night's sleep, we have the ability to shower and we can cook.  Cooking is a bit limited with a microwave and a bbq but we are managing.  Steve had a hankering today to make an apple pie, he is the pastry maker extraordinaire to who was I to argue.  Most of our kitchen gadgets are inaccessibly packed inside a 45 cubic metre storage unit, so some improvisation was necessary.

First the ingredients...
I would like to tell you that we used thickly sliced, freshly picked apples but alas our apple tree is merely a small stick at present.  Instead we used up a can of apple that has been living in the bowels of the pantry for a while.  Add to that some fresh blackberries, yum!
 Next, the pastry making.  What to use as a nice, smooth, large surface?  Why a melamine shelf out of the wardrobe of course!  And what about a rolling pin?  A new use for an empty beer bottle. 
 Pastry made, apple and berries stuffed in, lookin' good.
Pastry top on but no pastry brush to be found.  Open the multi-pack of paint brushes from Bunnings and continue merrily on painting the top with egg wash.
 A sprinkle of demerara sugar and the pie is ready for cooking.  Note the artisticly designed leaves on the top.

Now for the big test, can you cook an apple pie in a hooded barbeque?  The temperature gauge on it said it was hot enough so let's give it a try!

A bit of ingenuity was necessary to get the pie up off the barbeque plate so it didn't get a burnt bottom.  A little fossick through the junk corner and some suitable metal was found to balance the pie plate on.

Ta-dum!  It took quite a bit longer than normal but here we are, a cooked apple and blackberry pie!  Looks pretty good eh :-)
 The finished product, ready to have custard slopped all over it.  The consensus was that it was delicious!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chomp Chomp Chomp

It's raining, it's raining, tra-la-la.  Lovely lovely rain which has been steadily falling for most of the afternoon, filling the tank and giving the ground some needed moisture.  The temperature dropped accordingly and we happily donned ugg boots and cardies.
 


We've had a busy week, with 3 days of it spent in Perth catching up with family and friends.  Our other main mission was to clear up the remains of a big acacia tree we had to cut down about 18 months ago, as it was growing at such an angle over the driveway that we couldn't get any big trucks onto our property.  The main trunk was chain sawed up at the time, but the awkward top of the tree with its many itty bitty branches, we dragged to an out of the way spot and left it.  Over time the grass has grown long around it and we kept reminding ourselves that not only did it look like crap and was probably a lovely place for snakes to live, it was also not in keeping with fire safety management.
Steve spent a while dragging the bits of tree closer to the shed to be dealt with.  This is about a quarter of the branches to be cleaned up.  They are brittle and misshapen and a challenge to deal with, as we had to break them up into manageable sized bits.  I am sporting many bruises and scratches from being poked by sharp bits of wood!
 We have had this mulcher for many years, using it in suburban Perth to mulch prunings.  Whether it could cope with tough rural life remained to be seen, but it rallied and worked its little heart out.  A real workhorse.  Here I am, complete with safety apparel like a good girl, assisting the passage of branches down the chute, and watching the chewed up bits spit out the bottom.
The end result is a pile of wood chips.  Rather pathetic looking pile actually, considering the bulk of tree that was fed into it and the hours it took to produce! But it's in keeping with our ethos of recycling and reusing where possible, so we were well pleased.
 The mulcher handles an amazing size of branch but it does have its limits, so the larger pieces Steve cut up with the chain saw and we will use this lot for firewood.
This is where we are using the mulched wood.  This is at the side of the shed where I strung up a clothes line.  It's bare sand out there and the wind tends to whip the sand around, but now I have a nice wood chip floor instead.

Our mission is to become as self sufficient as possible, but as we are starting from nothing, we will have to wait a few years for fruit trees to grow big enough to produce, and there is a lot of work ahead building up our sandy soil with manure and compost so we can grow lots of veggies, but for now we are enjoying a small but very yummy tomato harvest from a tiny tiny area for growing.  Remember the King George Whiting Steve caught last week?  That's them on the plate and they were delicious!  We also resurrected our bread maker and filled the shed with the delicious smell of bread cooking.  It was a very nice meal.  :-)

Steve also did his handyman thing and strung up a light outside the shed.  We are still getting used to the novelty of having power here, and realised the other day that it's a pain in the bum not having light outside and what could we do about it now we were in the modern world and had electricity at hand.  I can now water my pot plants AND drink my wine at night and see what I am doing - thank you Steve.  :-)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chillin'

Steve went fishing yesterday with his mate Laurie.  They did quite well, a nice haul of King George Whiting, yummy.  The catch has been filleted, split up and bagged into meals.  We've unearthed our bread maker and a loaf is cooking at the moment - smells wonderful!  A haul of tomatoes from our tiny tiny vegie patch and I think we have dinner sorted tonight. :-)


 We've been trying to walk on the beach most mornings, we both have fitness issues to address! :-)  The water is amazingly warm so I've been for a couple of swims.  It's lovely, I haven't swum in the ocean for years and I admit to feeling somewhat childlike in the fun I've been having.



This is me being a domestic goddess, sitting under a huge peppermint tree next to the forest, mending some clothes.  Fancy that eh.  It was very pleasant, particularly when Steve turned up with a glass of wine. :-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rub A Dub Dub

It's been a 'bit of this, bit of that' couple of days.  Lots of sorting of paperwork and visiting Govt departments in town to change addresses (ho hum).  We found the laundrette and learned how to use it!  Amazing that we've never been to a laundrette before and our learning curve now includes the fact that the machines only take $1 coins. 

I have vacuumed the shed.  Truly.  You have no idea how much pleasure it gave me.  Truly. :-)

Steve has been busy constructing our fabbo bathroom area.  Up to now we have used a solar shower whilst standing in a bucket, and it was darn hard work hoisting those 20 litres of water above our heads.  Now we have power we pour the water into a 20 litres container at floor level, in which there is a small pump which pumps the water up to the shower head, which can be fixed or hand held.  We still stand in a big bucket but that is sitting in a wooden frame which now has a drainage hose snaking out to an area outside that I will plant up.  We only use environmentally friendly soap/shampoo/conditioner which is safe for plants.

Steve has also constructed a framework and we now have a shower curtain to help contain the water, and a curtain door to the bathroom itself. And the bathroom has a light.  It is terribly posh for a shed bathroom, well done Steve.  xx

 The shower that has made life so much easier.

The loo, with lighting!
 
The spiffing up area, complete with new powerpoints.  Nice to be able to use a hair dryer nowadays.

It's looking good eh, a homely shed.  Note we share it with Helga the Husqvarna, she's the orange thing in the background.  :-)

Off to visit some friends today, Steve is looking forward to going fishing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Backtrack to Farewell

The weekend before we left Perth, we were invited to a little barbeque, with 4 dear friends.  When we arrived we were surprised and thrilled to discover that there were more dear friends involved than we thought!  A well kept secret girls!  Wow, what a night, we were made to feel really special, it was very touching.
  
There were decorations and the table was cleverly decked out as a farmyard theme, emphasis on chooks.  Reason being that I have promised the cross stitching ladies that when we get our chickens I am going to name them after them!  The ladies came up with a hilarious gift, a decadent chandelier type light to be used as an ornament in the chook house - photos when it happens! :-)
 
 Clever little farm related things adorned the table.  Here I am, minus glasses, trying to read the Garfield farm related comic placemat (thanks Amy!).
 
 This was the highlight of the evening.  My four cross stitching buddies managed to smoothly disappear and then reappear all wearing t-shirts with a photo of Steve and I on them, with "Farewell Steve and Dy" printed underneath..... I still do not know how I didn't notice them leave the room all at once!  Then they started singing, a fabulous song all about us to the tune of "Farewell Aunty Jack:", accompanied by maestro Andy who did a masterful job of keeping the key and the timing.
 
As you can see, the audience were enthralled and delighted and an encore was heartily called for.  If you want to have a listen to this fabulous performance by the Cross Stitching Quartet, then click HERE.

The finale was to sit in front of the tellie and watch a slideshow, with beautiful background music by Andy, of all our fun times together, plus the obligatory embarrassing photos of one's youth and one's non-sobriety.  A good laugh.  In fact the whole night was filled with laughter and good friends and good food, it was wonderful.  Steve and I can't thank you enough.   xxx

Saturday, February 11, 2012

H2O

It's 7.30pm and we are sitting on the verandah with a glass of wine (3 Drops - yummy - thanks for the gift ladies :-) ).  It's been a hot day today (well, 32 is hot for us in Torbay he he he) but now it has cooled off to 22 and it is as still as still.  There is not a sound apart from the odd cricket and bird call.  Tranquility personified.

The hot weather brings forth to mind the need for water.  It has been a dry summer so far and the new plants are struggling a little.  We have a rainwater tank which is full but as yet no irrigation pipes in place.  I have planted about 70 native plants around the property, for wind breaks and screening.  They are all encased in their little green plastic protective barrier held in place with 3 bamboo stakes, which helps to protect them from wind damage, bunnies and also provides a moister environment to try and keep them alive in drought.  It's hard work stomping around a few acres with a bucket 70 times to water, so instead we have devised a much easier system.....

 
This is Helga, Helga The Magnificent.  She is our ride-on mower, the very best thing we have ever bought.  She is a workhorse, and better still, she has a trolley to cart things around.  The solution to the watering of plants was to put a 100 litre container in her trolley, fill it with water from the tank, and drive to the plants.  I give each plant about half a bucket of water each, so 3 fills of the container and it's done.
Here is Helga in the field, making our lives easier.  See how dry it is at the moment.  But amazingly, of those 70 plants in their green plastic houses, only 3 have turned up their toes.  Good eh.
 
This morning there was lots of activity near the wood pile.  We are thrilled to discover we have Splendid Wrens on our property.  They are the most beautiful bird, what a colour blue they are.  A real treat to sit and watch them.  I've positioned a bird bath near where they hang out in the hope that they use it.  Great photo opportunities if they do.
There was quite a ruckus this morning in the tall trees.  These are Carnaby's Black Cockatoos, or White Tailed Black Parrots.  They are endemic to WA and are huge birds, about half a metre in length.  They are around at the moment because they love to chomp on gumnuts which are prolific in the trees at present.  

Another day in paradise.  :-)

Friday, February 10, 2012

So What Day Is It Today?

The days are blending together and with the routines of driving to work a thing of the past for now, we are having trouble remembering what day it is....what a shame eh :-)

Today was a less frenetic day, Steve worked on improving the shower area in the shed and I unpacked and found homes for more stuff. But apart from that.....


  We had a walk on the beach


 We had a good, healthy breakfast

 We enjoyed the wildlife.  Seriously though, don't you think this joey needs to leave home, that poor mother's pouch is almost dragging on the ground!

I finally, after 4 days actually did a boundary walk around our place.  We've been so tied up with inside the shed that I hadn't got around to it.  I am always surprised at the beauty around me, every time I see it.

Path through the peppermint tree forest.  It is always lovely and cool in here, a fabulous refuge from the sun.

 The big acacia tree is in bloom.
 
This is the new boundary fence that was put in a month ago.  I can't believe how straight it is, the contractor did a great job.

 
This, as far as I'm concerned, is The Magic Faraway Tree.  Isn't it a magnificent tree!  It's huge, it's another peppermint tree (agonis flexuosa) but it's an absolute giant, all gnarled and leggy and I just love it.


And this is our shed, our home for the next year or so, while our house is being built.  Gradually we have made improvements and it is now really quite comfortable.  Home sweet home :-)