Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Preserving The Goodness

What do you think is in the buckets?  Any ideas?  There is rather a lot of them.  Olives!
Do you remember a while back when I wrote about the 85 olives I harvested from our tiny little olive tree?  Well, I have a friend called Cori who laughed her head off about my 181 gram pile of olives, cheeky thing.  Anyway last week Cori kindly asked if Steve and I would like to visit her and Adrian's little farm and pick some olives that remained on their trees.  So we had a lovely time visiting them and admiring their fabulous orchard and olive grove.  A wonderful hour was spent on a balmy afternoon in the olive grove picking fat luscious olives, I tell you, I felt like breaking into Italian song!

Henry the Miniature Schnauzer was a perfect gentleman and was very nice to our Pepper the Miniature Schnauzer, he just sighed and lay on the floor when Pepper climbed into his comfy bed, decided it was much nicer than her bed.  And we are very spoilt, we came home with 4 buckets chockablock full of olives, plus a huge bag of lemons, limes and apples.  Thanks Cori and Adrian, we had a great time visiting you! :-)

On the way home from Balingup we bought 25 kg of butchers salt and the following day prepared  a couple of buckets full of brine, a glass of wine each, a chopping board and a knife each, and spent a couple of hours cutting a slash into each olive and tossing them into brine, where they will sit for a couple of weeks, with the brine being refreshed regularly.  There are two buckets of kalamata olives and two buckets of manzanillo olives. 
We have scoffed most of the apples, Fuji apples straight off the tree are a wondrous thing.  I have always wanted to make preserved lemons, I saw an episode of Food Safari on SBS once about Moroccan cooking and they use preserved lemons.  Basically you slit the lemons and pack them with salt and squish them into a big jar, adding lemon juice as you go so the lemons are submerged.  
Looks rather pretty don't you think.  I tried doing these some years ago but they went mouldy.  Hopefully this lot will be okay, I sterilised everything I used to prepare them so crossing fingers.  As to what I am actually going to do with them, well, I think some Googling is in order for ideas.
 
We bought a bag of beetroot from a roadside stall last week and I had a go at making a beetroot dip.  Oh my god it was YUMMY!  Beetroot, sour cream, salt and lemon juice all whizzed up together.
And now for your obligatory kanga photo.  They are getting closer and closer to the shed with their grazing, I took this shot through the shed window, this is one of the young lads who was turfed out of the pouch a few months ago.  On the count of three...... awwwwww, he's so cute!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bring On The Tank

We are well pleased, our water tank bed is ready.  A couple of weeks ago we had 10 cubic metres of crushed blue metal delivered and Steve laboured tirelessly barrowing it all into the 10 metre diameter circle we needed for 100 000 Lt water tank we have ordered.  Last weekend we put in a hard slog 6 hours together levelling it.  Steve  braced long pieces of wood together and attached the spirit level on top, and this was attached to a central pole so it rotated round.   Lots of raking, shovelling, cursing and checking later, it is done.  The tank is due to arrive in about 2 weeks which will be rather exciting, it's the tank for the house that will be built later in the year, but we plan to siphon the overflow from our shed tank into it over winter, so there will be water in it when we move into the house.
Time to pack up tools and head inside!  The weather timed itself well, it was fine all day while we worked and then we had a ripper storm not long after we had finished.  Ominous clouds eh!
Speaking of clouds, our downhill view faces WNW so our house will too.  In a perfect world we know it's best to face north to avoid hot sun in windows in the afternoon, but we love the view and it would be silly to not face it.  Instead we've extended the verandah roof outwards so it will protect us more in the late afternoon.  But the thing we've realised by facing the setting afternoon sun and the direction that most of the weather comes from, are the beautiful, varied skies we see.  We can see the fantastic cloud formations coming towards us, and in conjunction with the setting sun, it is very very beautiful. 
We are happily cranking up a fire every late afternoon now the fire ban is over until October. 
The only issue with this is that it makes our hair pong of smoke.  I decided to put the fashion stakes aside and look like a total dag and wear a beanie.  I was subjected to many rude comments and sniggers from my dear husband, but whose hair smelt lovely at the end of the night I ask you?  :-)
You may well have guessed by now that Steve and I love the birdlife around here, there are so many little birds in this area, some with the most spectacular colours.  Steve outdid himself by managing to capture a perfectly focused shot of a scarlet robin, so much so that when I cropped the photo down it is still in focus.  Isn't this a beautiful bird, and they get even brighter than this in breeding season, hard to believe eh.
There have been a lot of birds very interested in the new vegie garden that Steve has been busy constructing.  On this day we had a kookaburra being the sentinel.  Which is fine as long as he only eats bugs and snakes, he is not allowed to catch birds!  Actually the thing we often see the kookaburras eating are these gigantor lawn beetle thingies we have here.  Like the black beetles you find in grass but these ones are about 3 times the size, brown and fly into your face at night if you are outside and the light is on....shudder....  They make lots of crunchy noise when kookaburras gobble them up!  Their grubs underground are also massive too.
 
There are loads of little silvereyes around now.  They are so sweet, although I have been told that I may not love them quite so much when they start scoffing our carefully grown berries!  I was amused to see this lot early this morning, breakfasting in the pig poo/straw compost pile.  I suppose if you don't mind getting dirty feet it would be a nice warm, steamy place to eat, with plenty of little bugs to fill tummies.
 
They are a real gang, doing everything in groups.  Here is a heap of them having their morning bath, presumably washing the pig poo off their toes! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stewed Jewels

Twice a year there is a market day at the nearby Torbay Hall, so we tootled along to have a look.  We bought some strawberry runners, a little lilli pilli tree in a pot, some garlic and shallots to plant, a banksia in a pot and a bag of quinces.  I had flashbacks to my teenage years when I spent a week on a farm and my friend and I found this gnarled old tree with a few misshapen fruit hanging off it.  We thought they were distorted apples but were told that they were quinces and we should cut them up and simmer them in sugar and water.  Well, 35 years later I can still remember how much we enjoyed eating them, so I snapped up the bag of quinces.
 
This is what they look like cut up ready to cook, much like cut up apples and with a faint hint of apple aroma.
But look what happens if you simmer them gently for a couple of hours, the quince turns a beautiful jewelled crimson colour.  And the scent is glorious, it becomes very perfumed and delicious.  And they tasted yummy yummy yummy!
We had a few days in Perth this week and on our return yesterday noticed our welcoming committee is feeling even more at home than usual.

Look at what we saw out the window this morning.  Two foxes, in the background of the photo, just down the hill where the kangaroos were yesterday.  It's the first time I have seen a fox in real life, Steve has spotted a couple around the place before now.  I was amazed at how big they are, I thought foxes were tiny things.  A bit of research tells me that this is probably a breeding pair, normally foxes are solitary animals but a pair will run together for 3 weeks before mating.  I also learned on the wise and wonderful internet what a fox sounds like, and I realise that I've been hearing it for the last week at night, I had thought I was hearing a bird call. Click HERE if you want to hear a fox call.
Whilst in Perth my dear children endowed me with Mother's Day gifts, thank you Michelle and Paul xxx.  This is what my charming daughter gave me along with an iTunes voucher, she obviously has me labelled as a wino LOL.  And my dear son gave me a bottle of gin!  Do you think I am giving out inappropriate messages about myself?  :-)   Actually it is good to stock up on drinkies, we will be allowed to use our outdoor firepit again in 2 days time when the official fireban for the year is over, and there is nothing quite as nice as sitting on the verandah on a cold night, with a roaring fire and a glass of something.  And I shall think fond thoughts of my children whilst imbibing.  :-)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Hun

We have a new worker to help us, this is The Hun (so named because he is a tiller.... ha ha ha ha ha).  Oh my goodness, what he can do in a small portion of the time it used to take us!  Our soil here is very compacted and as we are on a slope, rain tends to run off instead of soak in.  We contemplated hiring someone with a tractor to come and churn it all up, but instead invested in a good tool that will be a big help in the vegie patch and home garden too.
I had spent half a day with a hoe digging up this area to test the effects of rain run-off, and planting various seeds.  It was really really hard work, loads of matted roots and hard hard soil.  Once I got through that surface it was pretty good underneath, we are on a sandy soil here and we'll need to bulk it up with organic material such as compost.
Then along came The Hun, who zipped through another row in about 2 minutes!  It does still require muscles, manoeuvring him back and forth, but much less backbreaking that with a hand hoe.  We have about 2 acres of open ground and eventually we would like to till all of it, adding manure and sowing beneficial seeds such as clovers to improve the soil.  Not to mention how useful he will be tilling the vegie beds for new planting, and making adding compost and manure easy.... just plonk it on top and The Hun churns it in.  :-)
How is that for lovely fluffed up soil eh.  :-)  We figure The Hun is a good investment for our advancing years, as we get more decrepit, so the more useful tools such as these will be.
The vegies are coming along nicely.  This is the brussels sprouts bed, although a large number of rogue potatoes have popped up too - hey, the more the merrier I say.  Steve has been cursing the dastardly white fly that seems to adore the brassicas.  We are trying to be as organic as possible here so instead of spraying I tried some of these sticky yellow things.  They are meant to be used in a greenhouse but they seem to be doing the trick and have caught heaps of white fly. 
And on another topic entirely, I have joined an embroidery group down here.  I'm really enjoying it, it's giving me the chance to meet people with like-minded interests and everyone is very nice.  I ummed and ahed for quite some time as to what I'd like to sew, and not being one for being sensible, I have decided upon The Grand Plan.  I love free embroidery, thread painting if you will.  Scenic embroidery, pictures.  So I had a big think about what I am passionate about.

One of my favourite paintings is Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.  I love the movement in the sky and I thought his brush stroke style would something that embroidery could maybe follow.  So I'd like to have a go at, not necessarily recreating, but stitching a sky in the style of this painting.  I'd like to alter the position of the stars in the top left so they recreate the shape of The Southern Cross.
The bottom half of the painting I am going to change.  Instead of the big, dark, imposing cypress, I am going to stitch a representation of an old, gnarled jarrah we have.  I love it, it's the daggiest of all the trees we have here but there is something about it that I really love.  And instead of the small village I think I'm going to interpret the tiny distant lovely view we have through the trees.  Did you know that Van Gogh was a patient in an asylum when he painted this, and it is supposed to represent the view out of his window.

So that is The Grand Plan!  I am really excited about it, not having had a stitching mission for some years, it is nice to feel the stirrings of anticipation within.  I am going to spend quite some time reacquainting myself with different embroidery stitches in a sampler first, as I haven't picked up an embroidery needle for about 4 years.  Any maybe in about 5 years time it might be finished... ha ha ha.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Roly Poly Kanga

Look at this.  I've mentioned before that the resident kangaroos are getting more used to us being around.  Here is Steve in the vegie area, with the roos casually observing further down the hill.
But wait, what is going on here?  Is that really the big male lying ON HIS BACK! 
Yes, he is. I never knew roos lay on their backs.  In fact he spent quite some time doing roly polys on the ground, having a lovely time.  Then he just lay there on his back for a bit, sunbaking his tummy.  Then he regally stood up, shook himself off and hopped away.
Do you remember the small stash of olives I harvested off our little tree?  I've been soaking them in brine for the last two weeks, changing the brine every day.  Bottling day arrived - da dum - one jar of olives! One of my dear friends has mocked me for this 180 gram harvest, just because she had just prepared 15 kilos of her own olives - cheek! :-)  Let's call it a test run shall we, better to stuff up only one jar than 100 eh.  I can't wait to try them!  :-)
Steve has been very busy, we had 10 cubic metres of crushed blue metal delivered, for the floor area under the 100000 litre rainwater tank we've ordered.  The circular area to be covered with 6 inches of crusher dust is about 10 metres across and Steve has been busily carting loads of this into place.  He comes back into the shed looking like something the cat dragged after his hard work, poor love.  Nearly done.
Steve has also been continuing on with his vegie patch fencing.  He's been busily researching different methods of straining the posts before he puts the wire up permanently.  It's looking really good, although there was a bit of cursing to be heard when the straining wire moved the bottom of one of his perfectly aligned posts a titch.  :-)

And finally, another wonderful evening panorama.  Just beautiful.