Sunday, 29 April 2012

Golden Joy

One of our favourite things about living here is the abundance of beautiful small birds.  We are prepared to spend the time and effort netting the planned berry bushes and fruit trees, so that we can still love the little birds and still harvest some produce! 

One of the most beautiful of the small birds is the Golden Whistler, we don't see them often as they seem to spend a lot of time high up in the trees, but their call is unmistakeable so we know they are around.  You can imagine our delight whilst having a cuppa on the verandah, when this one sat himself on the compost bin, fossicked around my pot plants, ate a bee, poked around amongst the lettuce then flew off.  Wonderful.
Then not long after the scarlet robins came in.  They are a such show-offs, they love to sit on top of star pickets and fence posts, proudly showing off how lovely they are.  This one is a young male we think.
Steve has been a busy busy boy constructing the vegie patch fence.  He is digging down 1.2 metres to sink each pole and has just finished them all.  Temporary wire surrounds the beds for the moment while Steve has busied himself on the computer reading up on different ways to construct strainer posts corners.  It's all coming along very well and once it's finished there will be room for Steve to build another three big vegie beds inside the fence. Which is great as it gives us plenty of scope for crop rotation and leaving a bed fallow if we choose.  We plan to build the chook yard and house beyond the lower fence of the vegie beds.
I've been creating a new bed for my comfrey.  Where our shed was cut into the hillside, we have a cut slope behind it, about 1.5 metres high.  I've been digging into it to make a terrace/trench bed. One because I think the comfrey will like it as it should hold moisture fairly well, and two because I wanted to put in a plant that has deep roots, to help stabilise the soil on the slope.  Comfrey, once established, has very deep roots, plus I'm also going to try and grow lemon grass in the back of the trench as that has deep roots too.  I love comfrey as a garden aid.... I'm a compost fanatic and comfrey is a you-beaut compost activator, either by adding the leaves to the compost heap, or rotting them down in a bucket of water (with a lid, and positioned well away from your house, as it stinks!).
I am pleased to see that the natives I've been planting around the place are starting to establish and grow, to the point that I've started removing some of the green plastic protection sleeves that have been around them for 6-12 months.  Here is a nice, healthy kunzea.
 And this is "Little Nessie", Melaleuca nesophila.
 On a final note, we got this letter in the mail the other day.  Hooray, planning has been approved, just awaiting the issue of the building licence then things can start moving regarding our house.  Yay! :-)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

85 Olives

About 8 months ago we planted a small straggly olive tree.  For a tiny tree it has excelled itself, covered in blossom with tiny fruit slowly developing.
Harvest time came last week, da dum - 85 olives with a grand weight of 180 grams!
I did some googling about pickling olives and finally settled upon a method whereby the olives sit in brine for a couple of weeks, changing the brine every day.  You have to either slit or prick the olives first, this helps the salt draw the bitterness out of the olives.  I did some of each, seeing that this is the inaugural, experimental batch, to see if there is any difference.  Its important to keep the olives submerged so there is a glass saucer sitting on top of them.  It is all terribly exciting!  :-)
 Pepper, still in her pjs, is almost better thank goodness.  She was a very sick old girl with, to quote the vet, "the worst ear infection swab results I have ever seen".  Four types of hideous bacteria in her very sore ear.  We went home with an enormous bag of drugs and lotions, a lot poorer than before we walked in the door, but the change is quite remarkable.  She is a much happier little dog.
Grass is exploding out of the ground now we have had some decent rain, I am excited about the prospect of doing some mowing soon, because it is fun on Helga the ride-on mower, but also because I need some cut grass for my next compost heap.
I'm about to transplant these seedlings, they are called 'lettuce leaf basil', apparently because they have enormous leaves.  I hope they grow, basil is so yummy and to have plants where the leaves are enormous is exciting indeed!
This is the progress of my little raised box vegie bed.  Everything has grown like crazy, and I have had to thin everything out a number of times.
 I transplanted a heap of lettuce into the ground where my compost bin used to be, I moved it a couple of metres away, its the black thing in the background.  These lettuce have grown like the clappers.  I've had a couple of green salads.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than doodling through a garden, filling a bowl with bits and pieces for a salad.  I had green lettuce, red lettuce, baby spinach, beetroot leaves, rocket, dill leaves, coriander leaves, basil leaves, mint leaves, a titch of rosemary, garlic chives, pineapple sage flowers and marigold petals, all mixed up and sprinkled with a yummy mango vinaigrette I bought in Perth.  Heaven!
 A random final photograph.  We have many flies here, blah, but lately there have been some new types.  Enormous, fat things they are, I guess they are blue bottle blowflies?  But although I despise flies, I couldn't help being impressed with the beautiful colours on this one.

Friday, 20 April 2012

We've been up in the big smoke catching up with friends and family this week.  I think the grass grew a few inches during those few days and Helga will have to do some work today.  The weather is turning at long last, we are starting to get more regular rain and the day time temperatures have dropped down to around 20 degrees - bliss! 

The frogs are becoming a lot more vocal, mostly in the winter creek bed, but there is a loud one just outside the shed that loves to sing most of the night.  A hunt in the gardening junk area found the culprit, a motorbike frog.  Isn't he pretty :-).  I love frogs.
You know how I love my dotty wellie boots, well I was rather distressed to find a split in one of them!
With the coming wet season, a split is not very conducive to dry, toast warm feet, so repair work was needed.
Not very pretty but it may give my boots a few more months before they get tossed.  I hope Target does another season of lairy boots so I can get some more!
We've got a new joey in the kangas in the paddock family.  I love how they poke their heads out of mum's pouch to nibble grass.
 We went down to Steve's secret fishing spot today, and guess what - I went fishing too!  First time in about 25 years.  And guess who caught the only fish worth keeping?  It was very nice with chips for dinner along with some skippy from the freezer.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Bits and Bobs

It's been a varied week since my last blog post, we had the pleasure of catching up with some dear friends visiting Albany from Perth a couple of times over Easter and I've also had quite a lot of slothful time.  Reading has hit the forefront and I knocked off a great fantasy trilogy by Trudi Canavan called The Black Magician Trilogy.   A totally trivial observation but one that amused my tiny mind.... we were driving to the Post Office to collect our mail and I idly noticed an Adult Lingerie Shop, but what amused me was that the shop next door was a Maternity Shop!

As I write this post at 8pm, it's pitch black, a really dark night outside and we thankfully have some cloud cover and cooler weather coming after a couple of really hot yucky days, I turn into quite a cranky pants when the weather is too hot so lucky for Steve we have a change imminent. :-)

In holes high up in a couple of enormous old dead trees near our boundary there are some wild bee hives and they are obviously feeling the heat too because for the last few days there has been a steady stream of bum-up bees drinking from the little bird bath near the shed.

We've recently had some splendid nights with a magnificent moon, and one night last week it looked spectacular shining a big halo through a bank of cloud.

After 2 1/4 years of owning this land, I have finally seen my first snake.  Behind our water tank we have positioned the overflow pipe into the bush, and have dug out a bit of a trench for the water to flow into.  I have taken to wandering in there to brush my teeth, and just beyond the trench is a tiny sun-drenched area surrounded by shrubby undergrowth.  I wandered in near the trench brushing away and happened to glance at the little sun pocket, only to see the rear end of a tiger snake slithering off into the bush.  I had obviously upset his morning sun bath.  I have discovered I am not particularly snake-phobic, I didn't run out screaming and waving my arms, I just calmly thought "oh, a snake".  In saying that we are very careful and keep an eye out for snakes, I usually make a habit of stomping through the bush like an elephant so no snake is surprised to see me.  Apart from this one!  Now we know that this is a snake spot we shall be even more observant.

Continuing on the wildlife front, we are really enjoying the local kangaroos, who must be getting used to our presence.  Usually if we move or make any noise they take off, but have this week taken to lounging nearby, and oblivious to us and our movements, as long as we keep a respectful distance.
In particular there is a small female kangaroo and her not-that-long out of the pouch joey, they spend a lot of time here whereas the others tend to come in in the late afternoon.  These two are really sweet, she is still letting him nurse but as he is way too big to hop in the pouch, he just pokes his head in for a drink.  Then she washes his face for him....aww.

No fishing this week but we have been making a concerted effort to eat lots of the fish in the freezer.  What a chore eh.  :-)  It's been brilliant actually, and we've been varying between  plain fish, battered fish and smoked fish.  Yum.  Steve makes a terrific batter, I'm not a battered fish lover but he has converted me.  He makes a really really runny batter using his home brewed wheat beer, so it's just a thin crust on the fish, rather than the thick stodgy stuff I've only known.  This is what we had the other night...
And this is what it looked like before.  Top one is a silver bream, middle one is a rock cod and the bottom one is a wirrah, caught at Anvil Beach near Denmark when Steve and his mate Tony fished there about 5 weeks ago.  The rock cod was the yummiest.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

I love autumn, the relief of saying goodbye to hot, dry summer.  The temperatures are dropping to a civilised degree and the rain has started.  So we are busy getting into autumn planting of vegetables.  The pile of composted pig poo and straw we bought a few weeks ago has already proved its worth, seeds are springing up out of the ground where we've dug this into.
 Here is the first broad bean, it only took a week to come up!
 And here are some of the brussels sprouts.  Whilst photographing these it was noted that the leaves had holes in them.  Steve investigated, discovered some secret squirrel green caterpillars lurking under the leaves and swiftly despatched them.  How dare they eat our vegies!
 Here is my little raised bed.  It's coming on rather well don't you think.  The lettuce have gone mental and I am going to have to thin them out more.  My plan is to plant the extra ones where my current compost bin is.  I'm going to pull the bin off the compost because I want to upend the goodies inside, the uncomposted fresh stuff I'm putting on the ground in a new spot nearby and will replace the bin over the top, and then I want to gather up the stuff that has composted enough, to use elsewhere.  Then I want to transplant the extra lettuce into that ground, which I figure should be yummy and nutritious, plus sew some rocket seeds as well.

 Because our property was vacant land when we bought it, we are starting from scratch.  So we also have to construct the growing areas as well as plant things.  When we lived in Perth, there was no problem deciding where to put a vegie bed, it went where it fitted and that was that.  Here, where of our five acres, two acres is open ground, it is amazing how much procrastination has gone on about where to position the main vegetable garden.  Too much land to choose from!  We've tried to be sensible and considered things like proximity to the shed, water tank, vehicle access and the house, where the sun travels and where the shade from the big jarrah trees hits.  We have made a tentative start and the first few beds have gone in, and the timber has been bought from the local sawmill for the next 2 beds.
The sweet potatoes are in the first bed here, they have leafed back up nicely after being pruned by the kangaroos.  No further problems since Steve put the fence up.  The bed behind Steve has just planted up with potatoes.
 The other job we did today was to bottle the cider, which has been brewing for the last 2 weeks.
45 bottles of cider for me, 45 bottles of cider,
Take one down and pass it around,
44 bottles of cider for me, 44 bottles of cider..... :-)
 Yesterday Steve and I went into Albany to a historical pub for a celebratory lunch.  Why?  We've been married for 30 years, amazing.  It's been good, we are fortunate to have very similar ideals and dreams, we've had a good life together, raised 2 wonderful children and found terrific friends.  And now we both look at each other down here at the start of our mutual big dream, our hobby farm, and pinch ourselves that we are here and how happy we both are.  Wonderful.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Lords Of Power

One of my favourite places to visit down here is the Albany Wind Farm.  

It has 18 massive wind turbines, each with 65m towers and 35m turbine blades so if you look up at a blade right at the top it's 100 metres up in the air.  They are big!  And they make the most amazing, power-filled whoomph noise which gives me goosebumps when I get up close.  
 It's funny, whenever I see the turbines, they always remind me of the alien ships on the cover of  The War Of The Words soundtrack.  They give me goosebumps too.
The Wind Farm is really well set up with walk trails along the coast and you can actually walk right up under one of the turbines.  Did I already say the sound is incredible, it is incredible, the sound of raw power.  I love visiting in high winds when the turbines are at their true magnificence.  And I am so proud to live in an area that has about 75% of its power generated by the wind.
This part of the coast is called Sand Patch, it is really quite spectacular and the walk trail is very well maintained.  It actually forms part of the Bibbulmun Track.
 We are very fortunate to live in an area that casts a view over to the Wind Farm if we drive to the beach.  Every morning it's different, and always magnificent, particularly when it's very cloudy and the sun bursts through the gaps in the clouds and sparkles on the water.