Saturday, 30 June 2012

Hippety Hop

As I've mentioned before, we have a family of kangaroos that pop in to graze our hill regularly.  We haven't seen them for a few days, not surprising given all the machinery that been thundering around.  But 12 of them turned up this afternoon.  The roos were baffled by the house sand pad and rocks that suddenly altered their grazing path up the hill.  They finally hopped up the driveway and came around behind the sand pad being every so nosy about everything.  Just lovely :-)
The roos are not the only ones that have been playing around near the sand pad.  Steve and I tramped about with bamboo stakes and a tape measure, marking out the position we want the house in readiness for the concrete guys who start the formwork on Monday (a week ahead of schedule yeehar!).

This is me pretending to do the dishes in the kitchen he he he.  And pretending is as far as it goes because we are planning to buy ourselves a housewarming present of a dishwasher - yes!  I think it's because I keep breaking wine glasses doing dishes in the shed sink...
Another shot of those gorgeous boulders.
 Steve was a busy boy today.  Just before the earthmoving guys finished, Steve asked Wade to cut a trench in the driveway so he could run four lengths of storm water pipe underneath.  They are for the water tank, two are for the rainwater going into the tank from the roof of the house, one is to run the water pipes from the tank pump back to the house, and one is to run electrical leads for the electrician to power the pump.  The electrical one has to be 600 mm down so it is underneath the rain water pipes, along with the pipe back to the house.
 So today Steve started digging the continuation of the trenches and adding more pipe.  Here he is with his pot of blue glue and his hacksaw.  Of course it rained halfway through all this, just when he was doing the gluing and couldn't abandon his post.  So a wet, bedraggled, knackered boy staggered into the shed later on.  He did good work.  Then we drank wine.  Was good.  :-)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Compaction AOK

It's 3pm on a windy, rainy day and the structural engineer has just been here.  He ran around on the sand pad doing multiple compaction tests and we have the big tick, good to go for the concrete slab - yay!

Things have been insane for the last 4 days, we had two semis bringing in sand non-stop for a day and a half, one guy on the earth mover, another guy on the excavator and another guy on the roller.  Apparently they have brought in and compacted about 450 square metres of sand - holy cow!

Look at the size of the rocks they brought in to stabilise the front of the pad.  I think they are fabulous!
Here are a few videos of what went on the last few days.

What with all this and the trees that needed clearing, we have excellent piles of future firewood all over the place.
 I must show you the inaugural use of the fish cleaning sink that was installed in the vegie patch.  Here we have Steve modelling the cleaning of a couple of flathead that Laurie caught (Steve, alas, caught zip).  Eventually we will set up a tap and hosepipe in the vegie patch, but for now the sink gets sluiced down with a bucket of water.
 I am excited, look at this lovely blossom.  It's a Kunzea - Solomons Pink.  I have planted about 100 natives about the place and to save money I bought tiny tiny plants, so nothing terribly exciting has happened to them.  So I was thrilled to bits to see buds forming on this little plant and impatiently watched every day until this.  Such a beautiful colour.
I've found yet another new bird and finally managed to get a focused photo of him as he flitted about.  This is a Western Spinebill, a nectar feeder.  That thrills me no end as this is the first nectar bird I've seen - our native bush here doesn't seem to have much in the way of nectar plants, so most of the plants I've put in are nectar plants, as I want to encourage more birds.  This little fellow has been visiting my heap of pot plants, some of which are flowering and dripping with nectar.  He loves kangaroo paws, a lovely red grevillea olivacea and the pineapple sage that I'm waiting to plant in my house garden later on.  

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Tonka Trucks

Well, it has begun.  The earth moving guys turned up on Thursday and boy have they moved some earth!  They have to dig into the site first, to remove the sand that is there (because apparently it is not the right stuff to compact), then replace it with a layer of crushed limestone and then compactable sand.  They are cutting out an area 24 metres by 16 metres for the sand pad.  Our house including the verandah is 20 metres across by 12 metres deep.

Sure beats using a shovel!  Can't get over the size of these machines, and yet Wade, the operator can make that massive excavator line up to the centimetre and manoevre so delicately.
 Wade is digging it out and Mike is moving it.
 We decided to get Wade to shift the excess sand (and there is LOTS of it!) to an area below the house, just downhill of the vegies.  We have no flat areas really and it would nice to have a big flat area, plus permaculture principles say that terracing is good as it slows the movement of water down the hill and allows it to soak in rather than run off.  So that's the plan.  Look at the size of this earthmover, it's a monster, dwarfing Steve's car.
When the boys did the levels we were all very surprised to see how high the front right hand side is above the driveway.  I've marked it on the photo with a red line.  We are pleased with the height actually as it makes our little window of view all the more seeable, but Wade and Mike has to have a big think about how to stabilise the sand pad.
They decided to bring in some massive rocks to hold the sand pad firmly in place.  Big ones for now, then some smaller ones too, and they are being very thoughtful of ways to make it look nice so I can eventually plant some rockery plants in and around.
We were all surprised to see water appear mid back of the cut, we are on very sandy soil.  Going by the topography uphill from us on our neighbours place, it looks like there may have been an old creek bed in the area many years ago.  Very glad we found out now, we had heavy rain just before Wade started cutting into the hill, so we are probably seeing it at its worst.  He will cut drainage channels on Monday and fill them with crushed limestone.
 The view out the side shed window.  Big boys toys!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Tank, Tank, Here Comes The Tank

I've just checked the temperature in the shed, it's a chilly 11 degrees for 2 o'clock in the afternoon.  All night and all day it has rained and hailed, but that's okay because we have moved water out of our  full to the brim shed tank into the spanky new tank, so any rain we get is being collected again, instead of being wasted through the overflow pipe.  Look at the hail that has collected in the leaf filter on top of the water tank!

I am warm and cosy as I write this, because I have succumbed to sitting under the top quilt of my bed, with a hot wheat bag on my feet, gloves on my hands and two woollies on.  Luvly :-)  The other option would be to go outside and shovel gravel which warms up a body very quickly, but nah, I'll pass. 

The excitement of a few days ago was the arrival and installation of the new big water tank, to eventually connect to the house when it is built.  Our shed tank is a poly tank of 23000 litre capacity, and the new tank is a colorbond tank of 104000 litre capacity.  The poly tank was delivered and installed as a big plastic container basically, whereas the colorbond tank is built, firstly the walls, then a big liner is spread out inside and attached to the top of the walls, then the colorbond roof is built over it.  I find it amazing that the tank doesn't have a floor, all that water sits inside the plastic liner directly onto the tank bed, which is why it is necessary to make sure the tank bed is prepared well.

 The tank bed is on the left, below where the truck is parked.  The guys are unloading the tank bits.
 First level of the colorbond wall sheets being erected.
Top layer of colorbond wall sheets going up.
Roof struts being put in, just before they started unfurling the liner and attaching it within.  Not long before this the young bloke put his hand out to grab a colorbond sheet that the wind was about to pick up, with the inevitable result of slicing his fingers open.  Ouch!
Here is the ta-da moment.  The tank is finished, 13000 litres has been pumped into it from the shed tank (has to be done immediately to stop any chance of this tank blowing away in a storm!), and Steve has spread a huge heap of chunky blue metal around it to stabilise the tank pad.  A good job done.  :-)

Getting back to the cold, my nose is cold by the way, just sayin'.  I have been on a wee knitting binge in recent times.  I have always wanted to knit more but have never really enjoyed it, it makes my hand ache and I have never felt I've had control holding the needles or the wool.  Finally, after some research, I came upon a different way of knitting.  It's called Continental knitting and the only difference to that and English knitting is that you hold the wool in your left hand.  So my mission was to relearn to knit using this method.  I really like it, I feel like I have control of what I'm doing and it's comfortable for my hands.  So I've tread gently and carefully into beginner's alley and started by knitting myself a pair of fingerless gloves, which is basically a rectangle of knitting seamed with a hole for your thumb.  They are great, I wear them a lot round here.
Then I remembered that Michelle is always freezing at work, particularly her hands, so I continued my practicing by making her a pair too.  Mine are a bit short so I increased the length of the ribbing for hers and I think that works better.  The trickiest thing I found was to cast off loosely enough to allow the glove to be pulled on over your hand.  I can cast on loosely via the long tail cast-on, but have yet to find an equally stretchy cast-off.  I settled upon a method called suspended cast-off which is stretchier than what I used to do but will still keep my ears and eyes open for a better method.
 These are Michelle's fingerless gloves, hasn't she got lovely hands.
I am now trying to knit a beanie thing for a small person, have no idea if it's the right size though, will wait and see how it turns out!

Friday, 15 June 2012


Hooray, we have our replacement modem and are once again connected with the world.  :-)

Well, what is there to say about the last week except weather, weather, weather.  Rain, ferocious wind and hail on continuous repeat.  Our shed held up brilliantly, and our only damage is a couple of trees down on our boundary.  We didn't even lose power which is saying something, we fared better than a lot of people in Perth I think.

It has been rather chilly.  Her Majesty is faring well though, apart from a quick dash outside for a wee, she rarely ventures out from her warm little nest, wallowing in its comforts.
Last week I spent an afternoon bottling the olives that have been soaking in brine for a couple of weeks.  Look at this, 52 jars of olives, yeehar!  We'll leave them for a month now then see how they taste.  They are in 3 parts of 5% brine and 1 part white wine vinegar (except for some that have cider vinegar when I ran out of wine vinegar, I wonder how much difference it will make?) and a variety of additions such as lemon pieces, garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, chilli and coriander seeds.  I hope they are nice!
We are impatiently awaiting the delivery and construction of our new water tank, should be in the next few days.  Was meant to be 2 weeks ago and when we enquired as to the hold-up we found out that the local installer had decided to leave Albany to work in the mines!  So there is a team coming down from Perth to install ours and two other tanks.

In the meantime, we finally went and bought a water pump for our existing tank a couple of weeks ago.  Up to now we have only had gravity fed water, which can get a little tedious when hand-watering plants with a trickle from a hose.  Check out the water gushing from the hose now!
And this is the pump, a Davey pump, 35 litres a minute.
Steve has been busy building the final section of the vegetable growing area.  The fencing is all done and the beds are prepared and planted, and the pièce de résistance is the old kitchen sink for a fish cleaning/vegie washing area.  Steve built a framework for it and it empties into a thing called a food digester, which is sort of like a compost bin except there is a big basket section which is underground.  There the fish guts and skeletons can sit and rot down, enriching the soil but at the same time being (hopefully) stink-proof and vermin proof.  There is no tap attached to the sink, but we will run a hose down to the vegie area and set up a tap from that.  Here is Steve proudly displaying the sink, with feathered friends in the background.
Speaking of feathered friends, our family of six magenpies are amazing, they spend hours fossicking through the leaf mulched paths and planted beds in the vegie garden, sifting through finding bugs to gobble up.  They are very meticulous in their onslaught.
And when they have had enough of bugs, they warble at the door of the shed until we give them their rolled oats.
We have been blessed by the visits of friends recently.  Anne and Ian popped in with their friends John and Kim who have settled in Perth from Maine USA (sorry, forgot to get a photo!).  My friend and previous co-worker from Princess Margaret Hospital, Dot, happened to be at a quilt camp five minutes away, so I kidnapped her for a few hours to show her our little neck of the woods.
 And Steve's national manager from some years back, Peter, popped in with his wife Wendy.  They are from Victoria and are on a driving holiday around the country.
 Lovely to see you all! :-)
Ok, I think I've caught up with all the news now.  The rain has stopped so I might wander out and see how the plants have all fared overnight.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dead Modem

Our modem bit the dust a few days ago, thankfully a warranty job. Normal service will resume once Telstra mail us the replacement.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


We have had a lot of rain the last couple of days, a really good soaking.  Last night was forecast as showers with a possible thunderstorm.  Well!  About 1am we were woken up by the start of a 6 hour thunderstorm.  Never in my life have I experienced nonstop lightning and thunder for that period of time, it was amazing.  But even more incredible was the rain.  Torrential, nonstop rain, so loud on the shed roof that for a while we couldn't even hear the thunder!  The rain also went on nonstop for about 6 hours and every time we thought it was the heaviest we had ever heard, it got heavier!  We had a look at the weather bureau's radar imaging and sitting over Albany to Denmark was this huge red/orange/yellow heavy rain image.  And it just sat there, normally these images move on fairly promptly but oh no, this one just sat there, right over our shed I reckon!  Apparently we had about 100 mL of rain in that time, how about that!!  So, in the last 2 days, we have had our entire June average rainfall.

This morning we donned our wet weather gear and wellies and went down to have a look at our winter creek.  2 days ago it had just started flowing, just a trickle for the most part.  We could hear the tumultuous water long before we go to the creek.  It was insane, never before have we seen the creek so powerful.  Silt filled water was tearing through the creek bed and over the top, flooding out over the low lying areas alongside.  The waterfall rock was invisible under cascades of grey water and the edges of the lower parts of the creek were full of slippery grey mud.  The flat bridge of planks that Steve had made to drive Helga the ride-on mower over to the other side of the creek had been washed away, luckily not far so the planks have been rescued and will be repositioned when the water subsides.
 And go figure, as of  8am this morning, the sun had been shining, a light breeze is blowing and the temperature warmed up to a very pleasant 21 degrees.  We are very fortunate that our shed is intact, we didn't lose power, and apart from a few ruts in the gravel driveway, we have no damage.  What an experience! Nature is amazing!  :-)

I had a go at videoing the creek with my camera.  It's a bit dark as the weather was still yucky but if you are interested in having a look, here they are.  Ok, this is my first ever attempt at uploading or using a Youtube video, so I hope it works!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Fruits of The Earth

Olive report:
We have opened and scoffed nearly the whole of my one and only jar of pickled olives from our own little tree and I am pleased to report that they are delicious!  The addition of a small piece of citrus rind in the jar gives them a lovely flavour.  Note to self: put a few less garlic cloves in the jar next time, a tiny bit strong.

The four buckets of olives kindly donated by Cori and Adrian are still being brined.  We had a taste the other day but are still gagging on the bitterness, so they will need a while longer in the brine.  Some time next week we are hoping to have a production line of jars with lesser strength brine/vinegar/garlic/lemon/rosemary to pop the olives in to store and mellow.  Something to look forward to.  The Kalamatas are going to be a fabulous table olive I think, they are firm and fleshy.  The Manzanillos are softer and more ripe and I think will be great in cooking in particular.  It's all terribly exciting, having things stewing away in buckets and jars, knowing that you have the joy of tasting later on.

Speaking of other things tucked away mellowing, take note of the priority status of this item.  THIS, is 23 litres of stout, very slowly brewing and bubbling away.  As the weather is a little cool for brewing, this fermenter full of Steve's amber treasure (no, not quite right, stout is more like black sludge but we needn't be pedantic here :-) ), is lovingly carried outside when the sun is shining to keep the temperature up, and then it is carefully wrapped in a blankie to keep warm at night.  Almost ready to bottle.

Steve and his mate Laurie had a very successful fishing trip a few days ago.  Here is a deliriously happy Steve with a fish he has always wanted to catch - a hefty Queen Snapper.  OMG, it was delicious!
 And here he is again, still wearing that large grin, with his enormous mofo Pike!

Bird watch:   I was thrilled to spot a new bird.  Just look at the colouring on it, like someone has daubed it with a paintbrush.  After some research I can announce that it is a Red-Eared Firetail.  Gorgeous eh.  They hop around on the ground and it looks like they are gathering nesting material at the moment.

I was also very happy to spot an old favourite from Perth, the Willy Wagtail.  Such personality these little birds have, I love their tails.  I get a pang of reminiscence from childhood every time I see one, a tale of longing (remember this tale Wendy?) .....

When I was six, the primary school play was an Australian bush story, and the Grade Twos (of which there were only four of us) were to be one of two roles.  And one of those roles was a Willy Wagtail.  Oh, how I longed to be a Willy Wagtail.  I would have been resplendent in a black leotard with a white bib, a black skullcap, and, a magnificent cardboard tail, all painted stiff and shiny black with little white stripes, to be proudly bobbed by wiggling one's bottom.

The day finally came, the day we were informed of our roles.  My head shot up as my name was called, and eagerly I awaited the announcement....
"and you my dear, will be a gumnut".
A gumnut......

A gumnut got to wear a poo brown shapeless thing that was elasticated at the shoulders and thighs, and filled with crumpled newspaper (just like babysoft cotton wool - not!) to puff it out to the dimensions of a fat, shapeless gumnut.  Not to mention the poo brown skull cap with poo brown stalk thing sewn into the centre.

My heart was never in the role, a jolly gumnut I was not.  I hope the audience never noticed the sly dirty looks I was giving the two Willy Wagtails either.  Ah, the joys of childhood.  :-)

 And to finish off today's memoirs, have a look at this fantastic sunset.  Bloody brilliant!